Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. How Art Saved Swoon’s Life 2. The Masters: Futura 2000
BSA Special Feature: How Art Saved Swoon’s Life / The C Files with Maria Brito
In 2011 we had a show in Los Angeles called “Street Art Saved My Life”. It sounded like some humorous hyperbole but in reality, it was a sentiment we had heard many times in graffiti as well – including from tough-guy and tough-girl types who have told us with tears in their eyes that graffiti saved their lives. So the transformative power of art is not merely anecdotal at this juncture, and we patiently await the fields of science embracing it as well.
Witnessing the evolution of Street Artist/fine artist Swoon has been moving, and she’s generously opened the trip to you over the last decade. Because of this bravery, her painful growth and their accompanying revelations have enabled others to examine their own path. Certainly, you can relate to her when she says she realized, “There was damage. It was psychological and emotional… and it could be healed.”
“The thing about art-making for me is that it’s kind of like
this pole that is in the center of your world and that the wind is blowing and
your feet are off the ground and you feel like you are getting sucked away, but
there is one thing that you can hold on to.”
Dude, whatever it takes for any of us to be healed, let it
The Masters: Futura 2000
Essentially a tour through Futura’s creative and personal life, here you can see the fluid linearity of the creative spirit as it’s channeled through art, music, fashion, branding, the street and merchandising. We’re just thankful he shares the ride and gives us insights and observations along the way with his disarming humor and canny pronouncements.
psychiatrist, and anthropologist – probably in that order – DONT FRET is more
invested than you may appreciate at first, and the underside of American
division and inequality bubbles quickly to the surface when he is asked if the
country is beyond class.
“Whoever is saying that clearly has the luxury to do so.
Look at our cities,” he says.
~ Steven P. Harrington in the introduction to DONT FRET’s monograph, “Life Thus Far”
His Brooklyn residency has been a blur full of old buds from college, new bars in Bedstuy, and of course, sausage makers. He stands in the middle of an artist’s hazard zone of crumpled paper, opened pots of paint, and discarded laundry with brush poised in hand describing his recent quandary about finding a meat mecca in Bushwick and realizing that he couldn’t buy everything he saw once he spoke to the owner.
“She just started her own sausage company and we
definitely want to do collaborations,” he says. “There were so many sausages at
her place that I wanted to buy.” So you know he’s feeling comfortable here,
surrounded by fine meats.
His characters are all here, wondering aloud about physical
insecurities and decoding social navigation; cryptically critiquing the
absurdities of our class system and the underlying savagery of corporate
capital and the perverting power of cloying advertising across the culture. In
so many words.
Some hand-painted posters are still wet, some boards for future magazine covers (Thrasher, Sportsball Weekly, The New Yorker) have backgrounds prepared for him to paint featured personalities, a scattered pile of painted lottery players are grinning gamely from shiny Lotto cards, and larger new canvasses are built up with dense color and swarming symbols that dance around the heads of his imagined sitters.
“In this kind of stuff I wouldn’t say it’s autobiographical but they are definitely my generation of people navigating the city, looking at life and nightlife,” he says as you look into the rolling eyes of figures that have transformed into slot machines, perhaps hoping to win the jackpot. He points to his enthrallment with “The Simpsons” as he grew up and sees the bewildered savviness of the players in himself and in most of his peers as they navigate “adulting”. It’s chaos, but an entertaining one.
“There are clips of the Simpsons that go around in my head
again and again,” he says. “There is one with Bart and Millhouse find twenty
dollars and they get a Super Squishy, which is basically a crack squishy, and
they go on this bender,” which makes him laugh. He turns to the blottoed bloke
on his new canvas and describes the scene.
“It’s like a song and dance. They’re singing (and he breaks
into singing) Springfield! Springfield! It’s a helluva town! – and there is
this scene of them wandering Springfield,” he says.
You can see this is a stand-in for this month in the BK in this case and DONT FRET’s active imagination about the lore of this dirty metropolis. “You see this neon popping up, and the animation just swirls. And then it just wakes up to Bart, hungover in bed.”
“I don’t know, I always just like those images. For me, these are like Brooklyn and Manhattan,” he says with glassy star-struck dizziness in his eyes.
Catch DONT FRET tonight at his opening at the Bedstuy
Artists Residency, and you can swirl around colorfully with other symbols of
this time, and this electrified city full of promise. BSA co-founder will be there to sign his
introduction essay inside fresh copies of “Life Thus Far”, DONT FRET’s giant
A hummus plate is promised.
Thank you to Kathy, Erwin, and Marshall at the BedStuy Art Residency for your love and support to the arts. Always.
Today we visit the newest installations by Spanish artists who are participating in the community mural project that invites many disciplines and approaches to the public sphere, the “12+1 Project” in Sant Vicenç dels Horts, a neighborhood of Barcelona. In its third year, Contorno Urbano occupies a unique position in the public art world that stays clear of commercialism – as well as Street Art and graffiti – although it borrows from both. Today we see two of the newest participants and their walls.
Marking a decade as a muralist, Gonzalo Martin (1992) aka Taquen is a Spanish visual artist and illustrator with a clean linear style that may remind you of embroidery or stained glass design. His new wall for the Contorno Urbano 2020 program features a pigeon gently cradled in two hands. It calls to mind the fragility of life, and of nature.
He says that much of his work reflects a dialogue between our natural environment and our social behaviors. It’s a delicate balance, this organic relationship between us and our earth – and Taquen subtly appears to remind us that the balance is in our hands.
is where I find the best way to integrate ourselves,” he says.
shocks, without exaggeration, leaving a camouflaged footprint that will become
part of that environment naturally, without destabilizing it.”
His creative partner on this outing is Barcelona born Sonja Ben, who is creating a brash and athletic counterpoint to this world of Taquen, popping with color. Performance comes to mind, seeing these animated figures punching forward like characters in a video game, avatars of aspiration and adventure.
Using symbols as actors, her work is representing the real world – in a child’s language; processing the travelogue of the inner explorer as seen through anime and saturated digital colorways.
With his own particular brand of magic realism and optic art that is sometimes referred to as anamorphic, MrKas has a command of the fact-based world that enables him to fool viewers into seeing something else when they are standing in the right place.
A regular participant in Street Art festivals with commercial sensibility and the wide-eyed wonder of newly discovered adventure, MrKAS has a sense of humor as well, and he’s ready to play – at least with your perceptions.
Born in Porto and now living in Brussels, the aerosol painter has travelled to countries like China, Malaysia, UAE, Indonesia, Italy, Greece, Malta, France, the Netherlands with realism that goes askew.
Here back in his Portuguese hometown, MrKas
is spraying in multiple directions, playing with your perceptions some more in
an abandoned factory.
If you are wondering why you are seeing a lot more lumpen and average people than usual on the streets of NYC recently it may be attributable to the wheat-pasted everymen and everywomen from the Chicago humorist and existential list maker named DONT FRET.
Hand-painted and one of a kind, the painfully quotidian is also often entertaining, perhaps granting permission to not take yourself too seriously. With characters who are reacting to and possibly resisting the subtle indoctrination of civil society guidelines and values, DONT FRET is giving you a look inside his head as well. A devout Simpsons follower, he knows our foibles are freeing. Is there drama in the mundane? Of course. Humor in our contradictions? Without a doubt. Laughter at Street Art? Try not to smile at these, we dare you.
In Street Art and graffiti news, New York has had some “whole car” pieces on the subway line recently, including one that looked like a whole train! Old timers were rubbing their eyes. According to a local media outlet, legendary graffiti artist Chris “Freedom” Pape gave his assessment; “..based on the artist’s philosophy, he gives it an “A” but based on the quality of the graffiti on old subways, he gives it a “C”. Also a new film about New York octogenarian Street Artist Robert Janz opened this week at the Anthology Film Archives. Janz in the Moment is the passion project of Filmmaker Joanna Kiernan that features many corners and crazy details of New York’s streets that are familiar to us – and probably to you.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week from Miami, and this time featuring Add Fuel, Atomik, Bisco Smith, CRKSHNK, Dal East, Feik, Hysterical Men, Jilly Ballistic, Kai, Mr. June, Pure Genius, Rick Azevedo, WCKT, What Will You Leave Behind, Will Power, and Winston Tseng.
“Big Trash Animal” is the name of this series of installations for the UpNorth Festival by Portuguese Street Artist Bordalo II, here in a seaside city in the northern sector of Norway called Bodø.
The artist has been using his recycled sculptures as commentary on a modern culture of consumerism (and its deleterious effect on ecological matters) for the last decade or so, which great success.
are a marvel in their likenesses; his talents for evoking their character by
sculpting with people’s detritus are unrivaled. The connection he makes is
between mindless garbage-making and the lives of animals. It’s a powerful one,
a testament to the potential role of the Street Artist as a mindful citizen who
contributes to the greater good.
Last autumn he researched, collected materials, and methodically created 12 of these animals for a recycling company rooted to this seaside town of 50,000 which boasts the Norwegian Aviation Museum. In the case of this region, bringing Bordalo II is not simply to “artwash” a brand or city, as some companies and municipalities try to do.
According to UpNorth Festival organizers the region has laser-focused their attention on recycling – reportedly planning to reach the European Union’s target for recycling 65% of municipal waste by this year, about 10 years ahead of schedule.
Reading a press release from the events, it looks like the people of nearby Salten took it upon themselves to clear coastal waters of pollution a couple of years ago. “In 2017 they placed 50 tons of marine litter in front of the public library in Stormen.” The marine litter was collected as a stunt to motivate the community and show them that collecting litter is of great value.
Bordalo II has now given them additional ideas for what to do with it.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. “Gestures of Caring” Jan Vormann 2. Drones Printing Walls, Stop Us if You’ve Heard This One. 3. Dan Kitchener x Wynwood Walls 2019 4. El Mac: Making a mural of Hope in San Jose 5. Jeff Parker and the New Breed – “Max Brown”
BSA Special Feature: “Gestures of Caring” Jan Vormann
Gestures of Caring
Monuments. Architecture. Mosaics. Street Art.
These interests provided Street Artist Jan Vormann with a launchpad for a cute idea when he began repairing broken walls and filling in street crevices with children’s colorful plastic building blocks. Now along with those miniature interventions he’s added oil stains to his repertoire. He acknowledges the ecological disaster that these gorgeous iridescent patterns imitate, and says somehow these attractive mosaics may start maybe, in the best case, a discussion about it.
Here’s another conversation starter: The outdated and dirty fossil fuel industry continues to spill millions of gallons into our groundwater, streams, lakes, and oceans and has for decades. Also, most wars in this century have been about securing access to oil, or outright stealing it.
Jan Vormann – “Gestures of Caring” Bien Urbain 2019. A film by MZM Projects
Drones Printing Walls, Stop Us if You’ve Heard This One.
Katsu may have started this, or the original developers of a mechanized printer called SprayPrinter, both of whom we published years ago, but now there are other pretenders to the throne, like Urban Flying Opera. Let’s see them hit the high notes!
Dan Kitchener x Wynwood Walls 2019
El Mac: Making a mural of Hope in San Jose
Jeff Parker and the New Breed – “Max Brown”
Time to let go, do a few dance moves, relax and revel into the weekend with some serious masters.
Maybe its because animals are safe subjects to paint and make it
past the neighborhood censors, maybe its because they are handily metaphoric
when it comes to communicating a complicated or difficult idea. Maybe it is
just because they are cute and everybody on Instagram is going to offer a
clever rejoinder on your new painting in Miami, you cool dude/dudette.
From unicorns to hippos to lions and alligators, the street is
full of them right now around every corner in the Wynwood District and you can
still enjoy them until the neighborhood becomes so developed that they kill
them all. Well not all of them. One or two will still be creeping up on you in
the occasional abandoned lot that has a high tax bill or a hefty remediation of
toxic soil that still makes it too pricey for potential investors.
All of that wild conjuring aside, here is a selection of currently
running creatures of the gritty urban jungle in this humid and hot southern
city for you to marvel at.
You’ve probably already seen this wall by Elfo so its probably a boring topic. But we also enjoy his self-deprecation – after all he is marketing this wall to us to display digitally. Who knows if it’s even real. It’s better than just another portrait of 2Pac.
The Church of Santa Maria Novella, The Opera del Duomo Museum, the Uffizi
Gallery. Florence is forever tied to Renaissance art history and shares its
cultural riches with the world daily, including an endless stream of graphic
design and art history students who study in this Italian city every year. The
only drawback is, there is often a complaint by people creating art today that
there is only proper reverence and space given to those dead artists in this
city – not the ones whose hearts beat today.
Which may be why RUN and Basik had to run to a suburban area of the city to paint this new large scale mural. “Not much renaissance around,” RUN tells us. “Nothing like the center of the city with all the untouchable art from the past.” The Italian graffiti artist has matured into a fully realized modernist interpreter of form and sophisticated master of color on the street. Here he joins with Basik to depict a rumble between two wrestlers.
The style of these wrestlers may not be evocative of the style of “Hercules and Antaeus” by Antonio del Pollaiuolo at Ufizzi, but it definitely commands modern Florencians’ attention on the street today – a spectacular example of art on the street for everyone, not just a privileged few. In fact, RUN tells us that these wrestlers are more of an allegory for the people and the struggles people are having right now.
“We feel that people here are put in a constant challenge to combat conditions of poverty and ignorance.” Seeing this work here we are reminded of something BSA has been saying for some time; It is evident with the work of Street Artists globally over the last decade and a half that we have entered into a New Renaissance, but this time it is happening around the world. It is exciting to see this latest example present in the outskirts of Florence to help us put it into context.
Today we celebrate the life of and honor the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. on this very cold winters’ day in New York.
Among his many writings and speeches are the ones that ultimately identified the class system and the power dynamic that underlies systemic inequalities. While the country is now more than ever in the deadly embrace of an entrenched military industrial complex that looks to perpetuate its own income by starting wars, eating up the lions share of our annual budgets, we realize how some of MLKs harder truths about financial inequality were the ones that made him most hated as well because they threatened a status quo. As bad as it looks to you, it looks absolutely perfect to some.
As we have watched a precipitous decline in the average American’s standard of living in the last 40 years, we can now see that the poor are poor not because of some moral failing but because the system is deliberate; designed to keep them there. With robots and other forms of automation preparing to sideswipe the workers of the world in the next five years, MLK’s ideas about a guaranteed annual income seem not only fair and wise, but also pragmatic and prophetic.
Banner photo credit Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. locks arms with his aides as he leads a march of several thousands on March 17, 1965 in Montgomery, Ala. (Credit: AP)