On Target

Evan Hecox takes his art to the masses, one superstore at a time.

Of course, when Hecox's depictions of city landscapes and beat-up city buses began appearing on Target's throw pillows, memo boards and wall clocks earlier this summer, there were a few muffled groans from the enlightened hordes of the blogosphere. But for Hecox's peers, at least around Denver, the $19.99 price tag carried no shame. "Good for him." says Jason Thielke, a Denver artist and graphic designer. "You have to make money to be an artist. You can't starve your whole life. And more important for me, those projects are really good exposure."

It's not a matter of selling out, says Christian Strike, co-curator of the international traveling exhibit Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street Culture, which features Hecox's work. It's about keeping up with your fans -- those who've traded their Birdhouses for Audis, their Volcom for Armani. "Our generation is getting into important positions in corporations and advertising, becoming doctors and lawyers and politicians," says Strike. "And our generation was raised on things like punk rock and skateboarding and rap, and that's showing itself in the products we buy, the way we decorate our homes and the art we buy."

Plus, says Andenken's Mather, how else are artists like Evan going to spread their style to the masses when art institutions such as the Denver Art Museum aren't showing them any love? "He is easily the most famous young artist living in Colorado," Mather says of Hecox. "The DAM needs to have a piece of his, and they don't. First these guys get street cred, then they get commercial cred, and then finally museums get interested in them."

Evan Hecox lights up Target.
Mark Manger
Evan Hecox lights up Target.

So maybe now that he's a retail icon, Hecox will be getting a call from the DAM. Or maybe his crass commercial dabblings will bar him forever from the highbrow titanium walls of the museum's new contemporary-art wing. But Hecox can't ponder such thoughts right now: He's too busy scouring Target, looking for his lamp.

"I'm striking out so far," he says, meandering past candle sconces and picture frames, plastic spatulas and hot pots. Navigating around a red-clad Target employee, he finds a black shower curtain decorated with an inner-city bus, one of his images. "It's kind of cool," he says of the way the designer used his work. "I probably wouldn't have it in my house. Maybe I would have designed it a bit different. Though if I designed it, it would probably be in the dollar aisle right now."

Finally, tucked among faux-weathered wall clocks and contemporary-cool wall decor, there it is. The lamp. Hecox rushes over to it -- only to pause in surprise once he's taken a closer look at the shade, emblazoned with his fire escapes and streetlights and billboards. Bemused, he picks up the lamp and points at the stylized skyline -- which, for some reason, features cars hanging in the sky and buildings pointing into the ground.

"They put the graphic on upside down."

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