At first glance D*Face’s paintings could be confused with Roy Lichtenstein’s, but look closer and you’ll see skulled faces with speech bubbles that are more likely to read “I don’t understand how you died” than “Oh, Jeff... I love you too, but”.
Since rising to fame in the street art explosion of 2005, D*Face has painted his own reinterpretation of pop art on billboards, street walls and canvases across the world.
But although he draws strongly on imagery from pop artists like Lichtenstein, his work has a more sinister side.
“The one thing I felt about pop art is it didn’t ever have a strong underlying tone to it- it could just be anything and everything. I definitely felt like that about Roy Lichtenstein’s work, it didn’t really have a voice as such that was trying to articulate a view,” he says.
D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, seeks to question our relationship with consumerism and the things we choose to surround ourselves with. But isn’t that what Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Hamilton and other pop artists also sought to criticise?
“I never think pop art went far enough to critique consumerism,” says Stockton, whose works can sell for up to £60,000. “For me it was much more a celebration, and that’ what I’ve tried to bring forward in my work. When I’m working illegally on the streets taking over a billboard, I’m using the exact methods and mediums which are used to sell products.”
Stockton’s criticism of American-led consumerism was conversely born out of a teenage love for US culture growing up in the 1980s. “Everything about America seemed bigger and better: the skateboards, the fast food; it was very much an eighties mentality focussed on the US looking through teenage eyes.”
However, his latest UK show “New World Disorder”, questions the “invade now and ask questions later” philosophy that has pervaded US politics. Elements of the show are inspired by the story of former American football player Pat Tillman, whose death during a friendly fire in Afghanistan led to a cover-up.
Stockton insists the show is not a critique of the US government, but rather an exploration of pack mentality and the link between playing for your country as a sportsman and fighting for your country as a soldier.
His latest body of work on show includes over-sized baseball bats branded with the Coca Cola logo surrounded by barbed wire, and painted helmets with original bullet holes through them.
Despite his more recent move into sculpture, he hopes viewers will take away a similar message to his previous UK exhibitions.
“I’m not trying to be that guy that says ‘you shouldn’t buy Nike or drink Coca Cola’- I don’t want to be that contradictory. I just want to get people to question what they surround themselves with, and nothing more.”
“New World Disorder” runs at The Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 8QL from 7-23 June.