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Laurence King

The cover of street artist D*Face’s book, The Art of D*Face: One Man and his Dog.

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The Art of D*Face: One Man and his Dog

By D*Face

Laurence King

November 2013

When I told people I was writing a book review on a street artist’s monograph, nearly everyone asked me “Is it Bansky?” “No,” I replied, “it’s about this artist called D*Face who is like Banksy, but different.” The promotional material for the book talks about Shepard Fairey and Banksy, name-dropping to give credibility to this apparently lesser-known urban artist. The foreword is by Shepard Fairey and the “B” word is mentioned a few times, but this book is entirely about D*Face — his life and work — and that’s what makes it unique.

I also wouldn’t classify this book as strictly an artist’s monograph, as it’s as much about D*Face as a person as it is a collection of his work. In the beginning, D*Face tells us how he got into art, how it helped him focus, and how his success has allowed him to create large-scale exhibitions, like the installation of two life-size “Zombie Oscar statues” in LA. The language is matter-of-fact and scattered with photographs of his work and inspiration. His work is inspired by pop art and graphic design and is often a critique of consumer and military culture. Some photographs are purely documentary of his works in the wild, such as his massive Lichtenstein-inspired murals. Other photographs are works in themselves — beautiful photographed collages of his workspace or pictures capturing him in the illegal act of installation.

After the initial chunk of text, the book becomes a series of short sections of text followed by comprehensive surveys of his work. D*Face talks about specific projects and exhibitions, telling us why and how he created them. As an urban artist, the creation of the piece is often as exciting as the finished work, and both are captured within the plates. You could spend 20 minutes looking at the pictures alone and make a snap judgment on D*Face’s work, but that would be like trying to understand the impact of a piece of street art without knowing where it was put — you just won’t get it. This book is effective because the text provides just enough context to appreciate his work, even if some of it seems derivative.

Urban art is compelling because it is dangerous and temporary. D*Face gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to be a street artist, and some of his insights are beautiful. In describing his experience of ice carving in the Arctic, he compares the fleeting nature of ice to urban art. “It’s temporary, and once made and positioned it’s no longer yours. Trying to retain ownership of the physical piece is like trying to keep ice in your hands; it’s just going to cause pain and frustration.”

After experiencing D*Face’s thought process and journey as an artist, you start to like the guy. His success is based on his drive to create something creative and wonderful, his love of danger, and his desire to make a statement. In short, D*Face is just a regular guy who became a street artist because he was passionate and worked really hard, and that’s definitely something to be inspired by.