Calgary-born and L.A.-based artist Geoff McFetridge has been showing his work with the likes of Shepard Fairey, Harmony Korine, and Banksy since the mid-’90s, but he also has a foot planted in the world of commercial design, having been commissioned by everyone from Greenpeace to Pepsi. With his first-ever solo show in Canada on now at Toronto’s Cooper Cole Gallery, we look at the elements of McFetridge’s style.
Who is this guy?
Geoff McFetridge began as an installation artist and printmaker, falling back on the financial cushion of corporate design gigs. His client list is impressive: Nike, MTV, Greenpeace, Pepsi, and the New York Times are just a few of the corporations that have been drawn to McFetridge’s singular vision and style. He sees his design projects as opportunities to experiment artistically. “On the left you have the artwork and on the right you have the pure commercial work, but everything gets closer and closer together,” he explains. Right now, for instance, he’s working on a commission that involves blown glass—and seems pleasantly flabbergasted that he gets paid to play with new materials. McFetridge has also designed elements of dreamy feature films like The Virgin Suicides and Where the Wild Things Are. On top of all that, the artist also stays true to his street-culture roots by running his own skateboard company, Solitary Arts. He credits his current home base, Los Angeles, which he describes as “a city that’s literally in production,” as a driving force in his creative momentum: “It feels like the whole city is pushing you forward.”
What does he do?
McFetridge draws on the aesthetics of skateboarding for his clean, bold canvases. “If you’re speaking in the language of skateboarding, or punk music, you’re connecting with people,” McFetridge says. Yet his work resonates well beyond the skating community. He adopts tropes of the deck—recognizable imagery like people and bikes and sneakers, flat, bold colours, and clean lines—to suggest familiar ideas and emotions. In “Passing,” for example, one of the paintings in McFetridge’s current show, two cyclists ride by each other in opposite directions, yet the tension between them is palpable. McFetridge captures the exact moment they meet, a moment full of potential that we sense will go unfulfilled. The cyclists could turn to look at each other, they could dismount and chat, they could fall in love. But they won’t—they’re just passing. “You grow accustomed to working with the language of your culture and then you realize it’s actually universal,” he says. “I think every art director I know comes from skateboarding.” (Spike Jonze’s ears must be burning right now.) The simplicity of his images adds to their emotional weight: they make you feel something major. He’s clearly connecting with people: Even before McFetridge’s opening, Cooper Cole had received orders from as far away as Europe.
How much does it cost?
It’s been said that McFetridge undersells his art. His response? “Selling out shows is great. Getting the work out there is great. I just feel like I have a lot of work to make.” That said, expect to see his prices rise. In the ’90s, he sold his screen prints for about $40 each. Today, a McFetridge print goes for anywhere between $400 and $1,400. Considering he’s shown in Berlin, Paris, and Tokyo, these prices are modest. There are no fixed prices in the art market and appraisal guidelines are murky at best, but one thing is certain: You can flip that McFetridge at auction in the future for a pretty penny—if you can bear to give it up.
So, you wanna be Geoff McFetridge?
Looking to make a McFetridge knockoff? Be warned: To create one painting of even marginally similar quality, you’ll need to invest hard cash and many, many hours. Here’s why.
■ Chromacolour paint, 20 colours $13.39/250 ml
■ Brushes, 2 sable, 2 synthetic $83.72
■ Iwata G6 Eclipse Spray Gun $349.95
■ Iwata Power Jet Compressor, 3.5 litres $579.95
■ Pipe cleaners for cleaning the quick-to-clog spray gun $1.29
■ 3M Respirator Particle Filter Mask, box of 20 $39.95
■ Painter’s tape $2.99
■ Stretched canvas, 38″ x 48″ $44.99
■ Studio space (think your roommates will be cool with you spraying toxic, insoluble paint at home? Think again) $100+/month
TOTAL: $1,300 (approx.) for materials (based on prices at Toronto-area art stores like Midoco), plus rent on a studio space.
Geoff McFetridge’s solo show is on through Dec. 8 at Cooper Cole Gallery, 1161 Dundas St. W. 647-347-3316, coopercolegallery.com.