A Modern Way of Letting Go: a Solo by B.D. Graft

18 June - 17 July 2022
Installation Views
Overview

B.D. Graft (Cologne, 1988) captured the attention of art lovers with his uncluttered compositions and playful drawing skills. Combining successful gallery expositions in Amsterdam, Seoul, Düsseldorf and New York with a growing audience of admirers on social media like Instagram and commissioned designs for Virgil Abloh (Off White), Graft has been part of a new generation of artists that successfully navigate the artistic interstices between social media and fine art. Throughout Graft’s work runs a deeply personal and carefully deliberated attempt to deploy playfulness and contingency as strategies for letting go and making a place for oneself in this world.

At first sight, B.D. Graft’s aesthetic fits in well with the new era of social media. Graft excels in his use of lush colors; the rich and creamy oil pastels he uses have an enchanting effect. Both in his choice of materials and in his gestural, playful way of drawing his work taps into the spontaneity and joy we experienced when doodling as children. The subtlety of this effect lies in the fact that Graft understands perfectly how to trigger that emotional memory in his viewers.

This explains Graft’s success on social media. Reframed and remediated these images appear in our personalized algorithmic feed like little gems that appeal to our taste for nostalgia and brightly saturated color palettes. But behind this superficial scrolling experience lies a deeply engaging critical reflection on life in hypermediated times, as well as a more personal story. Graft’s faux naive figurative style moves us away from hyper mediation: by way of our childhood memories of carefree drawing we are reconnected to how we once experienced homeliness and nature surrounding us.

The topics of feeling at home and letting go have taken on a bigger role in B.D. Graft’s recent work. Although easily one of the best things that happened to him, becoming a father also affected Graft’s predisposition to feeling anxious and worried. It brought on an increased sense of responsibility. In his search for a less stressed and more balanced way of life, the artist discovered stoic philosophy. This greatly helped him put things in perspective and learn to worry less about things outside his control; a development that has seeped into this new series of artworks. A Modern Way of Letting Go was named after a song by the Scottish band Idlewild that Graft loved as a teenager and is the artist’s interpretation of this transformative phase in his life.

The bees that made him insta-famous still swarm through his work as a recurring theme, but their colors are brighter and there is more room for messiness and happy accidents. As any young parent will tell you, happy accidents are part of life and you need to be able to just let go.

Like bees, life is fragile but also intimidating. It is this pendular movement between fragility and intimidation that Graft’s work tends to explore. His newest works, now on view in A Modern Way of Letting Go, express an enhanced sense of creativity, play and appreciation for contingency and happy accidents. But they also reflect on our hypermediated lives. In Lockdown (As Seen on Instagram) (2022) Graft pictures an imaginary home during extended periods of lockdown. He is looking for a way to let go, a way to rediscover something of life in a sympathetic unison with nature and finding one’s home in this world. And recent works like Botched Bouquet (2022) are messier than previous works, less calculated. A Modern Way of Letting Go embraces failure as a productive and essential part of art as well as of life.

 

Text by Bram Ieven

Works
B.D. Graft, A Day Outdoors, 2022