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DAIN and Marlene Dietrich – Persons of Interest

Posted on March 5, 2015

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BSA is in Berlin this month to present a new show of 12 important Brooklyn Street Artists at the Urban Nation haus as part of Project M/7. PERSONS OF INTEREST brings to our sister city a diverse collection of artists who use many mediums and styles in the street art scene of Brooklyn. By way of tribute to the special relationship that artist communities in both cities have shared for decades, each artist has chosen to create a portrait of a Germany-based cultural influencer from the past or present, highlighting someone who has played a role in inspiring the artist in a meaningful way.
 
Today we talk to DAIN and ask him why he chose his person of interest, Marlene Dietrich.

Over the last decade Street Artist DAIN has made many famous actresses from the silver screen his muse in his collages for the streets of Brooklyn: Betty Davis, Liz Taylor, Audrey Hepburn…all popular icons from an era he didn’t grow up in but has a fascination for. For him, the women of that era exemplified a time of demure glamour, one that didn’t need to disrobe to draw avid attention, leaving something to your imagination. His modern remixes that jump from walls and pop out of doorways on the street invariably grab the eye and garner a second look, creating a new sense of mystery that can seem futuristic and nostalgic at once.

The Brooklyn native and former graffiti writer told us that he thinks he gained his appreciation for mid-century Hollywood aesthetics from listening to his parents talk about their favorite stars and points to them as an influence on his work.I guess it was maybe my folks. They’re from Brooklyn – Coney Island. And they’re kind of caught up in that. One of my favorite movies is On the Waterfront. I remember being a little kid and my father telling me ‘You gotta see this movie’,” he says. “I love that stuff. I love black and white. You use your imagination in black and white.”

Born in Leberstrasse 65 on the Rote Insel in Schöneberg (now a district of Berlin) in 1901, Dietrich became a star of screen, stage, and music with a career that some would easily call legendary. While she became an American in 1939 and continued her career giving concerts and appearing in movies around the world into the 1980s, she also famously included in her singing repertoire a song called, “Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin” (“I still keep a suitcase in Berlin”).

“I chose Ms. Dietrich because she was one of the most famous German American actresses. She had a style and look that were both glamorous and exotic. I love the fact that she continually reinvented herself – not only within acting but as a show performer later in her career,” says DAIN

 

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DAIN in Brooklyn, 2011 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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DAIN in New York. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Check out the Facebook page for PERSONS OF INTEREST

See Full Press Release HERE

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A Mexican Mural “Manifesto”, Blackened Flag Colors, and Censorship

Posted on March 4, 2015

Striking and massive murals have been populating walls in Mexico City by international Street Artists in the last five years thanks to the emergence of a global Street Art scene, a rise in mural festivals, and the country’s heritage and tradition of institutional support for murals that further a socio-political mission. There hasn’t been much of the latter lately, however, and it is doubtful that a new politically charged mural campaign underway in certain central neighborhoods is likely to receive tax dollars for the paint and ladders.

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Erica Il Cane. Process shot. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo courtesy © Fifty24MX )

Without sighting a specific ill to address, the new mural initiative named “Manifesto” is challenging a select group of local and international Street Artists to express their opinions on weighty and topical matters through murals, “using art as a social tool to propose, reflect and inform.” Among possible topics that might be addressed, the manifesto for “Manifesto” says, are increasing poverty, glorified materialism, the exhausting of natural resources, a fraying social web, and a dysfunctional justice system.

At the heart of the matter of course is the still turbulent national discussion surrounding the series of violent events last September that resulted in the disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero, igniting a public spectacle of accusations, arrests, outrage and fear with each new gut-wrenching revelation searing the senses of Mexicans at all levels of society six months later.

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Erica Il Cane. Process shot. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo courtesy © Fifty24MX )

“This situation exposed a deep crisis in the power structures that has shaken opinions worldwide and has created a movement within our society where people are speaking out,” says Emilio Ocampo from FIFTY24MX, a gallery that shows the work of the artists and is securing walls in neighborhoods of Roma, Juárez, San Miguel Chapultepec, Centro Histórico, and Peralvillo.

Based on the response to the mural by Italian Street Artist EricaIlcane, however, “Manifesto” may be running into resistance against certain artistic speech, and censorship has suddenly appeared . The ribbon around the neck of a cymbal-banging monkey originally contained the colors of the Mexican flag but has now been painted black. The monkey was overlooking a street in a part of town central to political marches, and Ocampo says it “is always a very ‘sensitive’ part of the city.”

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Erica Il Cane. Process shot. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo courtesy © Fifty24MX )

So, he says, “The owners were a little bit scared about the ribbon around the monkey.” For those living outside of Mexico, no particular association may be made from the green, white, and red bands hanging around the monkey’s neck, but here it has meaning.

“It seemed to him (the wall owner) as a direct reference to the presidential ribbon,” says Liliana Carpinteyro, Co-Director of the gallery with Arturo Mizrahi about the significance of the “banda presidencial”. Many discussions took place between all parties and “In the end the artist agreed to change it,” she says.

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Erica Il Cane. Process shot. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo courtesy © Fifty24MX )

“You have to consider that this piece is located in the main downtown avenue where all the protesters pass through in their way to the Zócalo, where the “Palacio Nacional”, the national government headquarters, is located,” explains Carpinteyro.

Because many people were watching the creation of the wall and sharing images of it across their devices, the blackout sparked a lively reaction that included condemnation for cowardice. “This situation created a social media reaction, people were irritated and a freedom of speech dialogue happened,” says Carpinteyro, commenting on the outcry.

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Erica Il Cane. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo © Nasser Malek Hernández)

Unable to sway the building owner, the organizers were glad they could keep the monkey none-the-less. Ocampo sees the conversations and “the haters” as a positive development because the art and its censorship sparked just the kind of reaction people should be having right now.

“They wanted us to change the colors to black. But you know what? We like that censorship, and the reactions it produced. That also means that the message bothered someone. We love both images: with the tricolored ribbon and now with black.”

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Erica Il Cane painting it black. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo © Nasser Malek Hernández)

No stranger to controversy, the largely anonymous Italian BLU has similarly featured the banded colors of the Mexican flag in his mural but with bluntly acidic criticism – with the green appearing as dollars, the white as lines of cocaine, and the red a dripping liquid similar to blood. Framing the flag are military figures standing guard.

You may recall the coffins draped with dollars in the BLU mural that was censored at LA MoCA in 2011 during the “Art in the Streets” exhibition  – but so far this new one has not merited the same response.

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Blu. Process shot. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo © Nasser Malek Hernández)

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Blu. Process shot. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo courtesy © Fifty24MX )

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Blu. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo © Nasser Malek Hernández)

Just finishing her wall for “Manifesto” is the Colombian Street Artist Bastardilla, who uses a more subdued palette to depict cherubic writers with pencils for arrows afloat on an open text signed “Vivos Los Queremos”, circled by alligators in choppy waters.

Meanwhile Erica Il Cane has just completed his second mural yesterday; much less invective, but terrorizing none-the-less in its metaphorical circumstance. A snaggle-toothed and spotted member of the leopard family lowers his snapping smile upon five rabbits standing on hind legs as if to great him. One bunny even appears to offer a carrot. Another of los conejos is wearing an arm-band with the number “43”.

Ocampo says it is a little difficult to get new walls right now, but the organizers are not giving up. “Obviously the project will not be cancelled but we are still trying to get those permissions.”

“We think this incident is a reflection of the self-censorship that we decide to live in,” says Carpinteyro, “perhaps a result of living in a political system that for years has oppressed the weakest. But its also evidence that art has the capability to move people.”

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Bastardilla. Process shot. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo © Nasser Malek Hernández)

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Bastardilla.  Process shot. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo © Nasser Malek Hernández)

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Bastardilla.  Detail. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo © Nasser Malek Hernández)

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Bastardilla. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo © Nasser Malek Hernández)

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Erica Il Cane. MANIFESTO. Mexico City. February 2015. (photo © Nasser Malek Hernández)

“Manifesto” will include new works from BLU (Italy), Saner (Mexico), Swoon (US), Ericailcane (Italy), Franco JAZ Fasoli (Argentina), Curiot (Mexico), Bastardilla (Colombia), Ciler (Mexico), and Vena2 (Mexico).

Our very special thanks to Emilio Ocampo of FIFTY24MX Gallery @fifty24mx for his assistance with this article and to Nasser Malek Hernández @nssr21 for sharing his photos exclusively with BSA readers.

 

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This article is also published on The Huffington Post.

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Chris Stain and Charles Bukowski – Persons of Interest

Posted on March 4, 2015

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BSA is in Berlin this month to present a new show of 12 important Brooklyn Street Artists at the Urban Nation haus as part of Project M/7. PERSONS OF INTEREST brings to our sister city a diverse collection of artists who use many mediums and styles in the street art scene of Brooklyn. By way of tribute to the special relationship that artist communities in both cities have shared for decades, each artist has chosen to create a portrait of a Germany-based cultural influencer from the past or present, highlighting someone who has played a role in inspiring the artist in a meaningful way.
 
Today we talk to Chris Stain and ask him why he chose his person of interest, Charles Bukowski.

Street Artist Chris Stain picks German-born American poet, novelist, and short story writer Charles Bukowki as his Person of Interest and it’s not hard to tell why. In his stencils and projection paintings Stain has recalled the struggles of the working class in the US, a background similar to his own youth in Baltimore, Maryland. “I want to convey an authentic contemporary document that illustrates the triumph of the human spirit as experienced by those in underrepresented urban and rural environments,” he has said when describing his work.

Bukowski championed a grizzled hardscrabble unromantic depiction of everyday life that was informed by his own family dynamics upon moving to Los Angeles as a child with a funny accent and an abusive father. His stories gave an up-close view of ordinary lives of many of America’s poor, richly bleak with beauty in the ugliness, dread and drudgery – along with observations about coping mechanisms that could be self-destructive. In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife”,1  a typically dismissive and classist review of his work by mainstream press, but his multiple novels, short stories, and other writings were highly valued for giving voice to many fans who saw their own lives reflected in his art. He also showed that he had of a sense of tough humor.

“I guess the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them.” – from Ham on Rye

“If I bet on humanity, I’d never cash a ticket.”

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid one are full of confidence”.

“I do think that poetry is important though, if you don’t strive at it, if you don’t fill it full of stars and falseness.”

“I started reading the works of Charles Bukowski about 20 years ago,” says Chris Stain. “I can’t say I agree with all of his opinions but what keeps me returning to his books is his sheer honesty as he relates to the common people. Throughout his literary embellishments he maintains a certain amount of hope that I believe everyone can relate to as they traverse life’s pain and wonder. I feel honored to be able to create a portrait of this German born American poet in his homeland. “

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Chris Stain in Brooklyn (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Chris Stain in Brooklyn (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Check out the Facebook page for PERSONS OF INTEREST

See Full Press Release HERE

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CAKE and Käthe Kollwitz, “Persons of Interest”

Posted on March 3, 2015

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BSA is in Berlin this month to present a new show of 12 important Brooklyn Street Artists at the Urban Nation haus as part of Project M/7.  PERSONS OF INTEREST brings to our sister city a diverse collection of artists who use many mediums and styles in the street art scene of Brooklyn. By way of tribute to the special relationship that artist communities in both cities have shared for decades, each artist has chosen to create a portrait of a Germany-based cultural influencer from the past or present, highlighting someone who has played a role in inspiring the artist in a meaningful way.
 
Today we talk to CAKE and ask her why she chose her person of interest, Käthe Kollwitz.

CAKE is preparing a portrait of Käthe Kollwitz, the German painter, printmaker, and sculptor whose work spoke to the harsh realities of the human condition. “The broad spectrum of her artistic work embraces both crucial aspects of life suffering per se, poverty and death, hunger and war,” said art dealer, collector and artist Hans Pels-Leusden, who founded the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Berlin in 1986.

For CAKE, whose wheat-pasted paintings on New York streets since the late 2000s have spoken to her own observations on emotional and physical pain, addiction, and troubled family dynamics, Kollwitz is a natural kinship, a touchstone of humanity.

“I picked Käthe Kollwitz for so many reasons. She is an artist who gives to her subjects.  She gives dignity to the suffering in her work.  She takes the suffering, the hungry, the dying, the scared, and she gives them humanity, she gives them the gift of themselves again, despite the life circumstances they are in the middle of.

They are not presented as less than, and she has become an advocate for them. She wanted to give through her work – she wanted to help. She was completely dedicated to the work, and as an artist I connect with and value this deeply.

I look to Kollwitz to remind me that making work is a powerful way to connect to life, and to offer one’s self to service through making it. I cannot express enough the gratitude I have for this artist.  Some art has the ability to immediately bring you into the present moment, into your humanness, back into your soul, and when it does this, it is more crucial than just about anything I can think of.

Kollwitz’s work does this for me.  It breaks my heart and then heals it all at once.”

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A recent piece by Cake (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Cake (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Check out the Facebook page for PERSONS OF INTEREST

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