Swampy has long been an enigma in the art world. Like a proper cult-followed figure, his incredible photos of train-hopping across North America are nostalgic and an insight into a new wave of bohemian American that feels more like folklore than a reality. We have seen his works on paper in the past, when they have popped up through Chandran Gallery in various shows. But now on view at the San Francisco gallery is Safe In My Cave, a series of paintings by Swampy that combine both his almost mythical stature and his icons that have been seen across the country for years.
Read more below
Chandran Gallery in San Francisco is pleased to present Safe In My Cave, a solo show of new works by California-based painter, photographer, filmmaker and installation artist, Swampy. Safe In My Cave will be the artist’s second solo exhibition at the gallery, and the first since Chandran Gallery published his monograph of photography work, NBD, in 2015. Since developing a cult-like following through his train-hopping documentation, raw, grainy short films and eponymous character tag, Swampy has spent the last few years developing a body of paintings that makes up the bulk of Safe In My Cave. Where the artist has shown installation works based around drawings, illustrations and photography in recent years, Safe In My Cave will be a return to the painting works first explored in the 2011 exhibition, In My Room.
The exhibition will be on view from March 15 through April 3, 2019, and will be presented on both floors of the gallery. There will be an opening reception on March 15, 2019, from 6—8pm.
Throughout his career, Swampy has created an almost dream-like and nostalgic representation of contemporary American bohemian life. With rich and poetic photographic documentation of train-hopping and squatter lifestyles, to anarchy and punk rock roots, as well as a unique look at mark-making and graffiti culture, Swampy has developed what some may call a reluctant cult following. What appears to be an unconventional existence was transformed into a cinematic view of 21st Century alternative life in America. Somewhere deep in the heart of the American conscious is the idea of life on the road, of endless highways and train tracks that span across thousands of miles of land. And in that desire for a new folk history, Swampy and his friends traveled the train tracks of American and reimagined the beauty of the nomadic experience.
For Swampy, the paintings in Safe In My Cave are both literal and metaphorical explorations of the meaning of “The Cave” throughout history. Through his research, the idea of the cave became an enlightenment on both his personal growth as an artist, as well as his past experiences documenting his train travels throughout North America. “If you stay in your cave, it will lead to stagnation, especially when it comes to art,” Swampy writes of his new show. “The show is called Safe In My Cave, but it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, because a big part of the show for me is trying some new things artistically.”
The themes of the paintings touches on some of the concepts Swampy has explored through his short films: metaphors of romance, crime, personal growth, artistic experimentation, bohemian culture, optimistic nihilism and the ideas that youth can be self-defined. “When I first thought of the phrase ‘safe in my cave,’ I was either squatting abandoned houses in Oakland or living out of a backpack while riding trains around North America,” Swampy says. “It felt like a luxury to have a bedroom somewhere, and when I did, it just felt so good. My bedroom was my cave and, literally, ‘safe in my cave’ meant just that. I felt safe and happy in my zone. The phrase has grown a bit more complex as I grow older and realize that safety and comfort won’t take me everywhere I want to go in my life. You need to crack your shell, shake things up and leave your cave to learn and grow. Caves are the yin… but you need the yang, too.”: