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This Exhibit Pairs Pot Paintings with Their Own Strain of Weed

Cascio’s Blue Dream. Courtesy of L.A.V.C.

In his new solo show, Full Melt, which opens today at the new Los Angeles gallery Maitland Foley, fine artist and self-described hoarder Chris Cascio reflects on his obsessive personality. Growing up, it was Mad magazines and Garbage Pail Kids that got him going, but as as an adult he’s found himself perpetually preoccupied with the world of drugs. The obsession stems partly from his own drug use, which includes a heroin addiction he developed while at art school in San Francisco in the late ‘90s (and has since kicked) and, most recently, marijuana.

Cascio—known for his Drug Map paintings of pharmaceutical pills—has shifted his focus to cannabis in the interest of understanding how the names of certain weed strains end up becoming that strain’s identity. As the only drug he still indulges in, he considers the paintings more celebratory than provocative. “I don’t see marijuana in the same way that I see those [pharmaceutical] drugs. So when I was making that first weed painting I was putting in strains that were my favorite strains, making sure that it has more of a connection to my present than to a darker past,” he says.

White Widow, 2016. Courtesy of Maitland Foley

His work has found an appropriate home in Maitland Foley, a “green-friendly” contemporary art space founded by Rama Mayo and David Wilfert. The duo have tapped Cascio for their inaugural exhibition; the solo show Full Melt features a dozen of Cascio’s drug map paintings done in his signature neo-camouflage style, which “give a nod to both the fashion of street culture” and the “renegade journeymen who take the risk of cultivation to bring the product to market.”

Papers, 2016. Courtesy of Maitland Foley

Newcomer Maitland Foley puts a surprising spin on California’s burgeoning weed scene. “I knew from curating shows in the past that I eventually wanted to open a space, but realized that it had to be different than a traditional gallery to make an impact,” explains Wilfert. “So when Rama Mayo presented the opportunity to show art inside an alternative space situated between a marijuana dispensary and a foot massage parlor in the shadow of LACMA on Wilshire, all of the dots began to connect.”

Cannabis Flowers, 2016. Courtesy of Maitland Foley

To further emphasize their eye toward experimentation, Maitland Foley has created a highly befitting artist edition to mark the opening of Full Melt. The gallery has worked with the neighboring dispensary, LAVC PRE-ICO, to create a strain of weed called Cascio’s Blue Dream and a matching airtight cannabis container. “We realized that the only piece missing from [Cascio’s] consumption spectrum was the packaging, and reduced his Blue Dream painting to fit onto a canister,” says Wilfert. Special artist-signed editions of the canisters will be available through the gallery, and the dispensary will carry unsigned versions and prints from the show for their customers as well.

Cascio’s Blue Dream. Courtesy of Maitland Foley

Full Melt opens with a reception at Maitland Foley. Maitland Foley is located at 6130 Wilshire Boulevard and is open Wednesday through Saturday 1PM to 5PM, and by appointment.

Maitland Foley gallery teamed up with a dispensary to make a strain of weed for their inaugural exhibit, Chris Cascio’s “Full Melt.”

High art: how the creative world is helping legal weed rebrand itself

Artists, including Richard Prince and Kenny Scharf, are working with ‘creative cannabis agencies’ on campaigns to modernize marijuana’s stoner image

Richard Prince custom rolling papers and buds of John Dogg strain. Photograph: PR

Richard Prince custom rolling papers and buds of John Dogg strain. Photograph: PR

Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 17.12 GMT

I t’s July 2016. At Los Angeles art gallery Blum and Poe – the same venue that hosted Kanye West’s Famous sculpture – the air tingles with the sweet smoke of cognac-brined hotdogs and marijuana. Reggae plays on the patio, and the sprinkling of guests seems outnumbered by the security guards hulking against the dusk.

In a small back gallery hangs a lineup of 16 framed issues of High Times – the world’s foremost weed-focused publication – pulled from the archive by artist Richard Prince. Across the room, two employees from the high-end medical marijuana growers, Nameless Genetics, pack souvenir joints of their latest product, a boutique strain of weed called John Dogg, bred in the Prince’s honor and named after his alter ego. Go big on terps – AKA terpenes, the aromatic hydrocarbons that give marijuana its flavor – and John Dogg is the result. It’s an interesting mix: Blum and Poe; counterculture stalwart High Times; nu-age grower Nameless Genetics, and Prince. And it’s a meeting of the minds concocted by self-described “creative cannabis agency” Green Street.

Among the many ganjapreneurs looking to cash in on legal weed, Green Street has an unusually cultivated pitch. “I saw an opportunity to come into an industry and really create some great visual moments with artists and brands,” says creative director Darren Romanelli, who has collected contemporary art for around a decade. Romanelli, aka DRx, who also runs ad firm StreetVirus, is a marketing veteran, with clients from Coca-Cola to the Grateful Dead. Cross-pollinations with designers and visual artists have always been his specialty. A few years ago, during a campaign for vape brand Grenco Science (makers of the G-Pen), the path became clear.

“We noticed that there wasn’t a lot of great branding and great packaging,” he says, “and a lot of the imagery and artwork . felt a little lowbrow.” Romanelli and three others co-founded Green Street in 2013 to provide an option for those who wanted something different. “We wanted to bring some professionalism into what felt like an otherwise unprofessional space – very much the wild west.”

Green Street keeps offices in the penthouse of the historic art deco Wilshire Tower. Up the stairs, past an open-air kitchen where the firm hosts private release events – “activations,” in their argot – is a rooftop lounge surveying mid Los Angeles. The north parapet is tipped by a flagpole, which has become, in Green Street fashion, an occasion for artist projects. During the opening of a permanent installation by Kenny Scharf – a concrete hallway painted white, rigged with blacklights, and curlicued with the artist’s signature bug-eyed blobs and galaxies – they hoisted a flag Scharf made back in 1988: a druggy, grinning compass rose.

Fast forward to late November. Up the pole is a lightly frayed American flag. Proposition 64, a California ballot initiative, has effectively legalized cannabis statewide, some 20 years after the Compassionate Care Act sanctioned limited medical use. Yet there are gathering clouds: President-elect Trump’s nascent federal administration counts Nixonite drug warrior Jeff Sessions among its white nationalists. (Most colorfully, Sessions joked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan were OK folks until he found out they smoked weed. He’s also on the record saying: “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”) But cannabis law has always been a bit hazy. In 2010, even as Obama moved to decriminalize, the Drug Enforcement Agency momentarily stepped up raids. Green Street partner and legal counsel, Joshua Shelton, who also represents dispensaries, says he never tells his clients they’re fully in the clear. In states where weed is legal, new regulations can be confusing and untested. Meanwhile, at the federal level, marijuana remains a schedule I controlled substance – the highest classification, on par with heroin, and a notch above methamphetamine.

Artist Kenny Scharf has collaborated with Green Street. Photograph: PR

Despite the gray areas, Shelton compares the momentum of regulated cannabis to a snowball that, “at this point,” he says, “I’d be scared to stand in front of. These are self-made millionaires. They’re literally the American dream of a businessman.” But the problem is they’ve never done official business. Building an above-ground identity means courting more than the gas mask bong set – the new generation of legal weed companies needs branding. Passé, too, are the crass, low-budget sexy-nurse weed ads stuffing the high-numbered pages of the LA Weekly. For growers, advertising used to be dangerous. Now, it’s existential. Among those committed to what Romanelli calls “elevating” the industry, Colorado-based Cannabrand stands out for general professionalism and accessibility, while the clean-lined billboards of breeder THC Design are a far cry from shots of bikinis and buds.

Romanelli and Shelton’s first effort, arranging for Snoop Dogg to use the G-Pen vaporizer, is typical of the kind of social-media promotions favored by companies still shunned by TV and web. But endorsements from the avowed stoners of hip-hop and skate culture aren’t exactly groundbreaking. Enter “high art”. Green Street hopes established rebels like Scharf and Prince will lend weed and its derivatives a respectable aura. (They’re currently working on a Dennis Hopper Cannabis Company with the late actor’s estate.)

Artists, including Richard Prince and Kenny Scharf, are working with ‘creative cannabis agencies’ on campaigns to modernize marijuana’s stoner image