Brooklyn Street Art

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Vermibus and the Making of “Katherine”, Interview by Fer Alcala

Posted on December 10, 2018

Making art is brutal. Or can be. Ask Vermibus.

When the Street Artist is not taking over bus shelters and reconfiguring fashion ads into grotesque critiques of beauty culture, he has also been learning about analogic photography at Nau Bostik. The Barcelona-based cultural space has phenomenal education programs for artists to develop their skills with facilities equipped with one of the best photography laboratories in Spain.

But learning how to create a photographic print there kicked Vermibus’ butt – making him nearly quit in his pursuit to get it right.

Vermibus “Brutally Human”. Nau Bostik, Barcelona. 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

“One by one, the artist carefully applied liquid emulsion on sheets of 100% cotton paper of the highest quality. By contrast, the developer was applied with an expressive brush stroke, which makes each one of the pieces different and special,” says the official press release for the new print he created, called “Katherine.” It doesn’t say that he failed multiple times before he discovered that technique.

His perseverance is documented here on BSA today as photographer and cultural documenter Fer Alcala interviews Vermibus about his residency and the challenges he faced learning how to create this work.

Fer Alcala: So, you spent some weeks as a resident artist at Nau Bostik working on the Katherine print. At the same time, you were doing a workshop with some school students about adbusting, contrapublicity… Which came 1st: the creative process of the print, or having to do the workshop, where you ended up with the idea of developing Katherine at Bostik?
Vermibus: The print and the workshop were two completely different projects that took place at the same time. I was invited by Xavier Ballaz, from Difusorbcn, to give a two month workshop in Barcelona about counter-advertising from the feminism and gender theories perspective.

The challenge was to find a place where to live and work during this time in Barcelona, that’s how the art residency at Nau Bostik came across.

I was supposed to have a room and a studio there but, because of the characteristics of my materials (the solvents) we couldn’t figure out where to install it. So, I had to approach the residency in a different way.

Fortunately, Nau Bostik has an important relation with analog photography and also they have one of the biggest photo-laboratories from the country “La Perversa”. It was impossible not to feel inspired by this place.

Adapting my needs to the situation I end up develop my last print there.

Vermibus “Brutally Human”. Nau Bostik, Barcelona. 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Fer Alcala: If I’m not wrong, you’ve launched 3 prints to date, using a different technique in every one of them. Could you tell us a little bit about all this and how you have chosen each process? Is it kind of a challenge for you? Is it a matter of not repeating yourself?

Vermibus: After trying them, I think other artists can profit more from techniques like giclée and screenprinting than I.

When I’m creating, I like to have an experience and I want this one to be reflected in the final work. At the same time, I’m interested in the investigation and the developing of techniques that break boundaries and open new or forgotten paths. 

Vermibus “Brutally Human”. Nau Bostik, Barcelona. 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Fer Alcala: I had the chance of spending some time with you at the laboratory witnessing the developing of Katherine. I have to say that it was a very delicate, technical and magical process. Did you have to learn this technique from zero? What was the most stressful part of it? Did any ideas about quitting the project come to your mind?

Vermibus: I knew the very basics of analog photography and I knew what I wanted to do but I had to learn how to do it, almost from zero.

Of course, I had all the problems someone could have in a laboratory, literally every single one of them.

To be in a dark-room for long periods of time, when things are not going good can be devastating. The idea of quitting came to my mind many times.

But from my experience, when nothing is working and you are close to let it go is when magic happens. During the last week of the art-residency I found out that the main problem was the composition of the paper, so I decided to give a last push and I got a beautiful top quality paper that was decisive in the production of the print.

In the end, I could have everything ready on time with the results I wanted from the beginning.

Vermibus “Brutally Human”. Nau Bostik, Barcelona. 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Fer Alcala: Once Katherine was produced, you showed it in the exhibition context during Moniker Art Fair London. After all the hard work, were you happy with the results and the feedback you got from attendants, collectors, other artists?
Vermibus: The moment of showing your work is when all the pain has passed and you can enjoy. I really believe Brutally Human is the best collection of works I have done until now. The feedback was great, so it seems like the people enjoyed it too.

Fer Alcala: Is there any way to still get it?
Vermibus: I think Moniker Art Fair still have some prints left.

Fer Alcala: I would like to ask you a couple of things apart from the creative process of Katherine. I think that, while you were doing the workshop at the school, working on issues as beauty, the role of women in advertisement, gender… the La Manada rape media coverage was at its height. Did it influence the way you approached the work with the students?
Vermibus: Working with kids is something that I didn’t do before, so my approach towards the students, the profession and of course it was taken with massive respect.

I was preparing the lessons with a lot of care but adapting myself and the content to the needs of each moment So, what happened during that time with La Manada was the worst that could have happened to the girl, to her family and to womens rights in general but perfect to make young people understand the importance of respect and empathy.

Vermibus “Brutally Human”. Nau Bostik, Barcelona. 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Fer Alcala: You are developing your own solvent, which I think is great. Could you explain to us why you have decided to do it and give us some tips about the technical side of it?
Vermibus: Together with Elena Gayo, a renowned conservator and restorer from Spain, I’ve been developing my own solvent.

The idea had different goals: reducing toxicity, gaining molecular stability and understanding better my technique to be able develop it.

After months of work and infinite setbacks (similar to the process of the print) I found the correct proportion of “ingredients” to create my own solvent.

Visually speaking it leaves the painting slightly smoother than the old solvent and the molecular structure is much more stable because I control the ingredients. Also, I can modify the mix because I understand what each of the solvents does individually and all together.

But the most important is that we could reduce the toxicity drastically, from a commercial solvent that was carcinogenic, neurotoxic, mutagenic and reproduction-impairing to a solvent that produces no irritation through skin contact and inhalation. And that’s a big deal.

Vermibus “Brutally Human”. Nau Bostik, Barcelona. 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Fer Alcala: Is it something that you are doing for yourself or are you planning to produce it and sell it at a larger scale?
Vermibus: The solvent is absolutely adapted to my needs but who knows, maybe one day…

Fer Alcala: Tell us about your plans for 2019
Vermibus: 2018 has been a very decisive year. I spent most of my time reflecting on what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, but specially with who I’m working with and with who I’m not.

I have learned a lot this year and 2019 will be the moment when all what was learned will start to materialize. That’s all I can say for now.

Vermibus “Brutally Human”. Nau Bostik, Barcelona. 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

BSA Images Of The Week: 12.09.18

Posted on December 9, 2018


What a week! The New York Post cover says that Friday was a “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” for Trump, but who among us is surprised about #Individual1 ? No one in Brooklyn, or his hometown Queens, or the City of New York, for that matter.

Now this national disaster opera is a 24 hour a day rolling dumpster fire that sells ads for TV and media companies – with no desire by them to make it end. Or as Leslie Moonves said famously about this institution-eroding tragedy: “It May Not Be Good for America, but It’s Damn Good for CBS”.

And on that cheerful note, Happy Holidays to you! Sincerely. Best wishes to our Jewish friends now completing Hanukkah, to our African diaspora friends readying for Kwanzaa, to our Christian friends already in the Christmas spirit, to our pagan friends getting ready for Solstice, and to our atheist friends who are thinking positive about the New Year. We collectively are incredible and full or promise, if we can seize upon it and fulfill it.

And welcome to our last BSA Images of the Week for 2018! We can’t tell you how excited we are every week to share the new images of Street Art, graffiti, murals, and art in the streets that we find – mostly because their existence confirms the ever-present creative spirit that is flowing through the air like radio waves, waiting for us all to tune in to it and let it course through our minds and hearts. Next Sunday we present our Images of the Year and during this week will begin our year-end lists of top books, murals, postings of the year.

Then, as is our tradition, BSA readers will take over the site for the last couple of weeks of December to reflect on the year and tell us their Wishes and Hopes for 2019!

And here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring $smell$907, Adrian Wilson, Blake2018, Bond TruLuv, City Kitty, Dee Dee, Ever Siempre, Gnome Surf, Jilly Ballistic, Kobra, Raf Urban, SicKid, and Vinny.

Top image: Adrian Wilson plays with words to reflect our pop culture trolling both Warhol and Banksy. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Urban Landscape with graffiti. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Kobra (photo © Jaime Rojo)

City Kitty trolls Kobra. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Don’t point your gun at me Sir! Blake2018 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Jilly Ballistic appropriates an ad in the subway. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Bond Truluv in Leipzig, Germany. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Bond Truluv in Leipzig, Germany. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Bond Truluv in Leipzig, Germany. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Please do! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

$mell$ 907 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

LA’s SicKid (photo © Jaime Rojo)

SicKid (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Dee Dee (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Gnome Surf (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Raf Urban (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Vinny (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ever & Friends (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Utitled. SOHO, NYC. December 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Doug Gillen Writes: Ernest Zacharevic Is Sending An “SOS”

Posted on December 8, 2018

SOS ! The Earth is increasingly sending out this message. And increasingly artists are answering the call As we near the end of 2018 we feel indebted to Street Artist / fine artist/ activist Ernest Zacharevic for what has been one of the most impactful and important art projects to raise awareness for other inhabitants of the planet. Here in Sumatra he raises awareness and proposes exact actions to protect the Sumatran Orangutan and the environment.

Today we sincerely thank filmmaker Doug Gillen, better known as the funny, entertaining and informative founder of FifthWall TV, who illustrates with his words the aerial image of Mr. Zacharevic’s distress signal:

By Doug Gillen

I often wonder if an artist has ever actually stopped a war by writing “stop wars” on a wall. I don’t have access to any hard empirical evidence to confirm or deny this, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say, probably not. Gauging the impact of art is tricky. All too often well-meaning messages of positivity become lost in the ether of narcissism and capitalist conquests that flood our Instagram news feeds.

Ernest Zacharevic. Splash & Burn. Sumtra, Indonesia. 2018. (photo courtesy of the artist)

Every so often though something pops up, a piece, a project, a stunt and it stops you in your tracks, because you know it’s the real deal. This happened for me back at the start of the year when Ernest Zacharevic came good on his ongoing battle with the Palm Oil industry.

For two years running the Lithuanian artist has been running a festival of sort in Indonesia. For Splash and Burn he invites several artists to the country he now resides in to engage publicly with the theme of palm oil deforestation. The likes of Issac Cordal, Vhils, and Mark Jenkins have all stepped up to the plate but for me the real home run came when Zacharevic revealed he had bought 52hectares of unnatural palm oil plantation to it repopulate it with naturally occurring trees, native to the region. As he tore down the palm oil trees, he carved out a large scale “SOS” into the land in what is one of the most visually captivating and symbolic statements of the year.

It should be said that this project was not done by one person. It was only made possible thanks to groups such as the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS), the cosmetic company LUSH and a swath of behind-the-scenes and front line cogs that brought it together.

There are many known problems with the palm oil industry; it’s contribution to climate change, the unregulated black market, the forests are uninhabitable for wildlife, the list goes on. The industry is wreaking havoc on the region, particularly on the island of Sumatra, where Splash and Burn takes place. This was a small, but vital push back but more so, it was an artist coming good on their ethos, taking their vision to the next level to play their role in making the world a better place.



BSA Film Friday: 12.07.18

Posted on December 7, 2018


Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.

Now screening :
1. JonOne “Illuminier le Future” in Rabat with Montresso Art Foundation
2. ASU / Contorno Urbano / 12 + 1 Projects
3. COLOUR: Rolland Berry. Film by Aether Films
4. GDS from São Paulo crew Os Cururus in Montreal
5. Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker”


BSA Special Feature: JonOne “Illuminier le Future” in Rabat with Montresso Art Foundation

“I wanted people to feel what I feel: The joy of life,” says JonOne in this self narrated video that keeps the focus on the creative spirit and his new show “Illuminating the Future” in Rabat, Morocco’s capital, which rests along the shores of the Bouregreg River and the Atlantic Ocean. The kinetic action of his strokes and splashes are gestural bolts of energy at the top of this tower to be seen on all sides, an abstract beacon from this New York graffiti writer who metamorphosed into a Parisian fine artist.

ASU / Contorno Urbano / 12 + 1 Projects

“Leave the rationality of your brain and listen to your heart, what you feel, what vibrates,” recommends ASU the muralist painting the Contorno Urbano wall in Barcelona – as we wrote in September. Now comes the newly release video to give more context to his techniques as a calligraffitist.

COLOUR: Rolland Berry. Film by Aether Films

“America is dying because they forgot the instruction of how to live on Earth,” says the wise voice weaving across this minimalist tableau in monochrome and quietly thundering beats. Succinct, brief, hard hitting, well paced and scored – ultimately a missive of power and stark symbology from Aether Films.


GDS from São Paulo crew Os Cururus in Montreal

A uniquely spare documentation of the meditated, deliberate, and dangerous application of straight down pixação, São Paulo style, on the side of this Montreal building. How it is received in this northern part of the the Northern Hemisphere is not told, but as the drone camera rises to catch the cityscape, a mural by Kevin Ledo of Leonard Cohen in his old  neighborhood of Saint-Laurent takes the stage and you may wonder how that man of letters would see these new symbols, now two years after his passing.

“There’s a lover in the story
But the story’s still the same
There’s a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame”

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