Books in the MCL: ROA Codex. Ann Van Hulle, with additional contibutions by Lucy Lippard, Johan Braeckman, Gwenny Cooman, Kathy De Neve, Robert Williams, and RJ Rushmore.

Ann Van Hulle, ROA Codex. 2019

ROA Codex,” a comprehensive exploration of the enigmatic Belgian street artist ROA, compiled by Ann Van Hulle with notable contributions from Lucy Lippard and Johan Braeckman and others, offers an unfiltered window into a decade of work that defies conventional artistic boundaries. ROA’s journey, beginning in the industrial landscapes of Belgium, extends to global outdoor canvases, where his art disrupts the mundane, evoking a primal connection to the natural world.

In this monograph, ROA’s artistry is portrayed as large-scale murals and an ongoing dialogue between our baffling constructed human existence and the animal kingdom. His work, often emerging from unexpected urban and rural backdrops, confronts the viewer with the familiar yet unknown. This juxtaposition of animals and architecture, depicted in stark monochrome, resonates with an uncanny sense of the creatures within and around us, often forgotten in our contemporary lifestyles.

ROA’s contribution to the iconic 2011 ‘Art in The Streets’ exhibition at MOCA in Los Angeles marked a significant milestone in his career, yet his practice remains unbound by location. His studio is as nomadic as his art, creating site-specific pieces deeply ingrained in the local context. ROA’s process involves scavenging materials from his temporary surroundings, each location offering new encounters and inspirations, further expanding his artistic narrative.

ROA Codex” is a testament to this unique approach, showcasing over 300 images that chronicle ROA’s global footprint. The book ventures deeply into the artist’s method of integrating local environmental themes into his work, emphasizing the critical state of our ecosystem and, by association, our culpability. His subjects, whether living, skeletal or somewhere in between, are rendered with a raw realism that challenges the viewer’s perception of nature and the expectations of street art.

The accompanying texts by various contributors meaningfully augment the visual narrative, providing context to ROA’s art and its environmental implications, and they offer insights into his unconventional methodology.

ROA Codex” is more than a collection of street art; it is an indispensable volume for those interested in the intersection of art, environmentalism, and the dynamics of urban and rural spaces. ROA’s work, far from being simply an artistic endeavor, is a poignant reminder of our often-overlooked cohabitants on this planet, and a call to acknowledge and protect them.

Text Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo      Photos Sebastian Kläbsch