Dirtying up the local art scene

Nearly five months ago to the day, the hipster joint Czar in Ybor City was filled to the brim with, as one may imagine, hipsters. This time, the occasion was Dirty but Sophisticated, an art show bringing together a myriad of artists, styles, genres and expressions. The overwhelmingly positive response from both patrons and artists led the organizers to consider a follow-up show. Settling on Friday and aptly calling it Dirty but Sophisticated 2, the four-person board of directors set out to fine tune the idea for the show in order to increase the appeal of the result.

“We have such broad tastes in art and music, from rock (and) emo to hip-hop, and we wanted to bring them together,” said Brandon Dunlap, a USF alumnus and one of the organizers of the event. “We wanted to expose people to other types of art, and it was super successful. At the (first) show we saw hip-hop kids talking to emo kids and breaking down these barriers and walls. Some people came to see a specific artist but had the unique opportunity to see others.”

In a brand new scene with no precursor to clear the path, the first Dirty but Sophisticated was an attempt to append a notion of high art to the image of low-brow or street-influenced art, with which its artists were often associated. After the first show exceeded the expectations of all those involved, Dunlap said a second show was inevitable.

“We want to inspire others involved to have similar events. (Such a show) has a snowball effect – in the long run, it creates more opportunities for the scene to progress and grow,” he said.

It already has. The second installment of Dirty has drawn attention to itself in various ways. To begin with, one of the bands performing, DJ Le Spam and the Spam Allstars, is a national act with a sizable following.

“These guys sell out the Masquerade when they play alone, so we’re really honored to have them in the show,” Dunlap said. “We still want to give young artists and musicians a place, but as (the show) progresses, even the Spam Allstars (are going) to be involved.”

But primarily, Dirty is a forum for talented local artists such as the artist collective Red Labor, a collaboration between Josh Bertrand and Dave Rau. The two are former USF students whose work is the contemporary answer to applied art. You may have seen stickers for their newest project, Iron-On Resistance, plastered around campus. Designing T-shirts, wallets, jackets and posters with a retro, slightly used mindset and a clearly innovative way of tackling design, the boys present a local gateway to stylish art.

“We are democratizing art in a form more familiar to the people,” Bertrand said. “Sometimes the high-minded art, bizarre installations and abstract nonsense just doesn’t make sense (to people).”

Instead, Red Labor presents something usable and accessible: art in its most wearable form, shirts. The name for both projects stems from the artists’ appreciation of the social and political poster, though other artists contribute to Iron-On as well. Jay Giroux’s Sauver (that would be saw-ver) and Wes Demarco’s Blank Cartel are the other brands featured on the Iron-On Web site, all of which advocate the infiltration of art into all environments – rich or poor, corporate or proletarian.

At the first Dirty and Sophisticated, Bertrand, Demarco, Dunlap, Giroux and Rau all exhibited their works, whether solo or through a partnership such as Red Labor. This time around, they’re leaving more room to the new artists.

“This time it’s more of a learning experience where I got to organize the show. I got exposure through the first show and wanted to let other artists be seen in this one,” Dunlap said.

Though Red Labor will encore in the show, Bertrand can understand that as an organizer of the event Dunlap wants to exclude himself from the second Dirty show.

“(When curating a show), it’s better to focus the attention on organizing to make sure someone is showing through without having to worry about making a new piece for the show,” he said.

In addition to Red Labor, Dirty will feature works from 16 other artists. At the exhibit, a total of 10 artists are, or at one point have been, associated with USF. They are artists whom Dunlap and the rest of the board – Giroux and artists Michael Mendolusky and Vanessa Fernandez – met through attending art events. The diverse subject matter ranges from sculpture, painting and printmaking to photography, tattoos and graffiti.

The show will open at 10 p.m. with a fashion show of Sauver Apparel and Gioia, with hair by Tribeca Salon, the go-to place for a smart, trendy cut. With the Spam Allstars headlining at 2 a.m., the other bands, which include Auto-Automatic, Breakdown & Ramecca and D’Visitors, will take the stage in between. The show will be rounded out by DJs Blenda, Cub, Mega, Slopfunkdust and Tanner, who will spin throughout the night.

In the spirit of infusing art into society, the art covering the wall space of Czar will be for sale and a merchandise table will have prints and shirts more in line with a college budget.

“Prints and clothing are more affordable to students,” said Dunlap, who also said that displayed paintings can run into the hundreds-of-dollars range. “There will be limited-edition prints, and you can support a local scene and not spend hundreds.”

With the last show’s attendance nearing 800, Dunlap is wary of estimating exactly how many people will attend this time.

“Everyone who came to the first one is excited, and those who wrote it off are trying to make it to this one,” Dunlap said.

With a heavy promotional campaign that utilized diverse practices – from handing out flyers around town to a promo site through Myspace.com – the push for Dirty has reminded Bertrand of the long entrance lines of last fall’s show, which circled Czar’s building. He’s hoping for a repeat, maybe even more.

“Hopefully we’ll round some corners this time, too,” he said.

Dirty but Sophisticated 2 will be held Friday at Czar in Ybor City, located at 1420 7th Ave. Doors open at 9 p.m., and tickets are $10 at the door for those 18 and over.