Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. disCONNECT, a “Lock-Down” Artists Takeover
BSA Special Feature: disCONNECT, a “Lock-Down” Artists Takeover
London / 24 July – 23 August 2020
Today a series of videos from the artists takeover of this London home, a testament to the fortitude of organizers and artists who didn’t accept “Lock-down” for an answer. Yes, everyone practiced social distancing, and no, a large public opening event could not take place. But this may serve as one welcome new model for art in the time of Corona.
The video series is expertly produced by Fifth Wall TV and a small consortium of commercial/cultural partners including HK Walls and Schoeni Projects. Details at the end of the video parade.
Mr Cenz / disCONNECT / Fifth Wall TV
David Bray / disCONNECT / Fifth Wall TV
Aida Wilde / disCONNECT / Fifth Wall TV
Alex Fakso / disCONNECT / Fifth Wall TV
Isaac Cordal / disCONNECT / Fifth Wall TV
Herakut / disCONNECT / Fifth Wall TV
Zoer / disCONNECT / Fifth Wall TV
To find more about disCONNECT A “Lock-Down” Artists Takeover / London / 24 July – 23 August 2020 click HERE
Writing large messages with sticky post notes is part of the visual lengua oficina* for many whose career ladder has been in corporate offices for years, decades.
Stockholm based street artist Vlady shares with us a public application under a bridge that also triggers your memories of early pixelated video games with its digitally inspired message “temporary files”.
The meaning of the term “temporary files” is not familiar to the casual user of consumer-class computers. More likely your local IT professional can tell you dryly. As you think about it, you may see how it takes on a rather existential realm to the poet, as a temporary file is created to temporarily store information in order to free memory for other purposes. Mention “memory” and we realize that the vocabulary for man and machine are braiding together more daily before our eyes.
Here we are
at the dawn of Artificial Intelligence and our memories are at full capacity,
needing temporary files to store them.
Sydney-based social realist painter and muralist Fintan Magee has been burrowed in his studio for the last few months, wondering when he was going to be able to do some figurative painting. The plants have kept him company, and he finds it reassuring to watch them in the winter sun as he keeps himself quarantined from unnecessary contact with others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
while in the lockdown, I photographed and painted two small plants that I had
recently repotted and was keeping on my balcony,” he says as he scans over the
32 small still life works he created. It’s been a good exercise, working
outside his comfort zone perhaps – not photoshoots of subjects, no imagining of
them operating inside a new metaphor.
Now he shares
with BSA readers what the process looks like, and picks 9 of his favorite still-lifes
as a cross-section print for you to marvel. “The work documents the simple act
of keeping the plants alive during the lockdown. Each work took 5-7 hours to
make and allowed me to discard building concepts and focus primarily on the
painting process making each work a daily meditation, allowing reflection on
physical space and the passing of time while marking a day of the crisis.”
“What will you leave after you? What will be your legacy?”
For illustrator and muralist Erendaj, that is an open question to us as he reveals the skeleton beneath this soft skinned portrait based on the classical painting of the 19th century. Erendaj says that the painter Ernst Deger of the Dusseldorf School inspired him greatly, and “I had a strange feeling that that very image was ideal.”
painter completed one painting directly over another here in Penza, and he
slowly removed one while the camera recorded its progress. When the images are
rolled together for a stop action video one gets a sense of time passing over
this figure, who could be from a few different time periods. “I had to choose
just an image not attached to modern time or reality,” he says.
the streets for over 12 years, he says, and Erendaj estimates that he has created
over 100 murals in that time period. Now he is wondering about the impact that
an artist can make in history – or any of us really. And he shares his
manifesto here: “Many people live only for living. They leave nothing after
them. What is living – if you are already dead? Other people create … they
build houses, write books, draw pictures, create couples and families,” he says
before his parting shot “Make history before you go.”
Street artist and conceptual artist John Fekner participated in student demonstrations and peaceful moratoriums in New York in the 1960s, with his first outdoor work completed in 1968. When younger generations of artists are feeling inflamed about this spring and summers’ demonstrations it is helpful to remember that artists of each generation have been a crucial part of many, if not most, movements of social and political change.
With his new mini-retrospective in a space limited by Covid-19 considerations the exhibition is available to see only by appointment in Bayside, Queens, you can see that Fekner’s dedication to drawing our attention to our behaviors as citizens, cities, politicians, and corporations lies at the root of his advocacy.
Putting your mark on
society is an ironic way of describing the literal act artists and vandals engage
in when putting their work on the streets. While “getting up” for many is an
act of self-promotion or marking of territory, Fekner has often used his spray
paint and stencils to critique, to call-out the failure of societies to care or
take responsibility for their actions or inactions, and may trigger you to bear
Spraying “DECAY” on a rusting hunk of detritus breaks through the psychological defense systems you may array against “seeing” history and outcome. A blunt aesthetic written in a large format makes an impression – the simple act of tagging objects and surfaces of industrial and urban neglect is radical, a defiant gesture that calls the state and the citizen to account. By drawing attention, even cryptically, you may cause one to question – or even to regard these layers of debris as violence toward others, toward the natural world.
For A CHANGE, the show takes his 1981 painting and applies it broadly
to the running narrative throughout his work, as a proponent of self-reflection
and advocate of positive change.
“The economic imbalance,
the energy crisis, health insurance, pollution, and global warming increase
exponentially every day,” Fekner says in an overview of the exhibition, “all
compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. Many of our issues boil below the
surface, making it convenient to turn a blind eye.”
Meticulously curated, the exhibition is showcasing a selection of Fekner’s paintings, mixed media sculpture, and ephemera as well as a “sampling of art objects, photographs, books, and a glimpse into Fekner’s personal archive spanning a fifty-year timeline,” viewers can get a broader overview of the artists’ sincere belief that his art in the streets has the power to affect the world. “Although some of the work is decades old, their relevance resonates today, maybe with even greater urgency,” says his description.
BSA had the opportunity to ask Mr. Fekner about his work and worldview as we appear at a nexus of profound change.
Brooklyn Street Art: Looking back on the issues you contemplated fifty years ago, we can’t deny that things have indeed changed – but we are also discovering that things really didn’t change, especially when it pertains to race and poverty. How do you, as an artist confront this reality? Are you despondent?
John Fekner: The greatest ferment of change, I believe, is the risks that people are willing to take in the face of tremendous setbacks. This has been true throughout history whether it’s the storming of the Bastille to the toppling of Confederate monuments. I’m heartened by the courage I see today and despondent art doesn’t help.
BSA:What do you think about the concept of “voluntary human extinction”. Is it possible to just simply stop making more humans to save the earth?
John Fekner: I believe that optimism and the survival of the human race are hard-wired into our nature.
BSA:Rich countries are on a heavy diet of “consumerism” fueled by the endless appetite of tech giants for quarterly profits to appease shareholders. People spend money they don’t have. Most people don’t have savings and live paycheck to paycheck. What went wrong?
John Fekner: This is nothing new. The exploitation of the poor by the rich is the perennial struggle of humanity and will probably always be. There is no reason to stop fighting. We should never lose our courage and vigilance.
BSA:On Wednesday the CEO’s of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will testify before Congress. If you were the one asking the questions what would you ask them?
John Fekner: The greatest safeguard of capitalism in our country has always been the resistance to monopolies. My question would be: ‘What are you going to do to insure that your companies don’t monopolize and dominate every market?’
BSA: Can we still have hope? Is there still time to change course to save our communities?
John Fekner: If I didn’t have hope, I would stop making art.
Mr. Fekner asks us to “remind everyone they have to REGISTER in order to VOTE. Do It. Make A Change.”
A painted portrait of Emmett Till, who would have turned 79 yesterday, leads the collection of images this week. A 14 year old sweet faced boy who was brutally mutilated and killed in Mississippi by white men in 1955 for allegedly flirting with a white woman. He was a year younger than representative John Lewis, who was eulogized rest yesterday in Alabama and will lay in state at the Capitol this week. Our legacy of racism haunts us just as abhorrently this summer as it did sixty-five years ago, two hundred years ago…
But in many ways, you have to suspect that these raucous cries are the dying wheezing of racists who have lost the argument and frankly demographics, and it frightens them. They know that the new generations don’t support them, actually resist against them, are determined to light a new path toward reconciliation and healing and equality.
Covid-19 is out of control in the United States thanks to the utter mis-management and lack of leadership in the country. Yesterday, “150 medical experts, scientists and other health professionals signed a letter organized by a prominent consumer group and delivered to government leaders Thursday calling for new shutdowns to bring case counts down and ‘hit the reset button’ to implement a more effective response.” They forecast that we are going to hit 200,000 deaths by November 1.”
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Almost Over Keep Smiling, Billy Barnacles, Catt Caulley, Dyne Elis, Knor, Koffee Creative, Liza and the Clouds, Lorena Tabba, Maya Hayuk, Oliver Rios, One Rad Latina, Ron Haywood Jones, Siva Stardust, Snoe, and Zalv.
“I felt uncomfortable while confronting myself with the reports about the incidents every person has experienced,” says AKUT in his blog about the research he did into the Holocaust for his new project here.
“It’s unbelievable how one can ever cope with it – and it’s completely unacceptable that there are right-wing populists still gaining more support worldwide. One would think that we have learned from history, but present events prove us wrong regularly.”
And here now we have two people whose photorealistic eyes we can look into. One is Horst Sommerfeld, a Polish national who lived in hiding in Berlin for two years before he and his whole family were caught and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was the only family member to live after being liberated by the US army in 1945.
Nonetheless, Mr. Sommerfeld reported, “I have always lived in fear,” before his death in 2019.
The other portrait is of Bella
Shirin, a Lithuanian whose parents were survivors of the concentration camps of
Dachau and Stutthof. While she is determined to live in the present, her own
past is deeply impacted by her mother’s suicide in 1977 that occurred as a result
of her experiences in the camps.
LEST WE FORGET is a
multi-media project by the German-Italian photographer and filmmaker Luigi
Toscano, who has met Holocaust survivors around the world including in the US,
Germany, the Netherlands, Belarus, Ukraine, Israel and Russia since the early
2010s. This month a new mural by street artist/fine artist AKUT (Falk Lehmann)
pays tribute to two persons directly and deeply affected by the events of the
Rising six stories in Mannheim, Germany, this is the 35th mural since 2013 as part of a program to convert underutilized walls into artworks, the first freely accessible museum for mural art in all of Baden-Württemberg.
expresses the different ways of dealing with their fates, which is certainly
also directly connected to their respective personal stories,” says AKUT. “Horst
was traumatized directly, whereas Bella has indirectly experienced trauma from
her parents’ experiences.”
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. BustArt Says Goodbye to Berlin-Tegel 2. Transform the Tram Wait by MurOne in Barcelona
BSA Special Feature: BustArt Says Goodbye to Berlin-Tegel
A museum curating in public space is not necessarily new. Many eyes are watching with great interest as this museum in Berlin begins an academic approach toward selecting artists and artworks in public space in Berlin as Urban Nation Museum grounds its projects in its community and local history. The new work by street artist and graffiti writer Bustart is a direct reference to the nearby Berlin-Tegel airport, which will be decommissioned later this year.
Part of the
inspiration is from Otto Lilienthal, the German pioneer of aviation who became
known as the “flying man”, now cast through a 1960s comic strip version of
the modern hero gazing upward to witness the post-war middle class flying the
friendly skies. In a twist of irony, most people in this neighborhood will
probably enjoy their daily lives more now that the airport won’t be filling the
air with the sound of roaring planes overhead, allowing them to listen instead
to birds in the trees.
Art al TRAM by MurOne
these rough and rigid spaces whose only purpose is to walk through,” says Marc
Garcia, founder and director of Rebobinart, a Barcelona organization that
brings artists to the urban environment – developing projects with social and
cultural context considerations in public space.
mural takes on the space where people wait for the tram – a nondescript
netherworld, a metropolitan purgatory where you are nowhere, only between. The
Cornellà Centre TRAM stop is transformed by the Spanish artist (Iker Muro) who
has been making murals for almost two decades, combining figurative and abstract,
fiction, oblique narrative and vivid color. It’s the city, and its yours while
you wait to go to your next destination
Iker Muro is
a Spanish artist and graphic designer who has been making murals in Spain and
abroad since 2002. His work combines figurative and abstract art, conveying
both tangible and fictional elements through vivid colours and figures
influenced by the visual imagery in the cities where the artist paints.
that arriving in a place like this and finding a kind of art gallery is a
reason for attraction,” says MurOne, “I feel motivated by these kinds of
Today we go
to Barcelona in Spain, where the country held a memorial ceremony July 16 to
honor more than 28,000 people who have died there from COVID-19. This new mural
contemplates what it means to be connected, and considers what it takes to have
the architectural barriers as metaphor for the obstacles to connection, artists
Josep Fernandez Margalef and Rice created ‘Esperança’ (Hope) in the Granollers area of Barcelona.
“Even at a distance, hope
acts as a power that can bring us closer to each other, helping us to reach tomorrow. We honor connections, longing,
and a feeling greater than ourselves when we are alone; love, friendship, and
care all belong in this realm of being,” say the artists.
You have been seeing a number of rooms in this old Victorian home regaled and reimagined by a number of artists over the past few weeks as we have featured the installations for a unique exhibition called disConnect. Today we have artist Aida Wilde who speaks extensively here about every aspect of her installation and world view and how she created her work for this project .
“The inaugural exhibition at Schoeni Projects’ London space, a Victorian townhouse in South West London, the exhibition, Titled disCONNECT, transforms the period building – currently under renovation – with new site-specific works from ten urban artists working across seven countries.”
BSA: First tell us which room(s) were designated to you?
Aida Wilde: We were sent very concise floor plans and video of the house as were initially asked to state out preferences to which rooms we would like to take over.
From the off-set, I
was drawn to the most unusual and challenging spots in the house, like the walk
in master cupboard which was a little narrow with mirrors along it and a window
at the end of the little annex ….I also liked the wallpaper in the library but
again, that was a pretty conventional room- I’m not a big fan of the 4 walls/
window/box formula in spaces that I show art work in.
I like working with a
space that can interact and speak with the work… also sometimes I find that a
space can enhance and influence the kind of work being made…. They should go
hand in hand for me, especially when it comes to this kind of installation- in
a house….& if it doesn’t, it can shift context/perception and only be seen
conversations about stair cases and toilets which I have been know to have been
drawn to in the past so Nicole had suggested the downstairs loo (That she had
previously dubbed as the Nanny Loo) and it’s surrounding area which I was very
open to- so I began work based on the photos and videos I had been send. It
wasn’t until the very socially distanced site visit to the space that I knew we
had made the right decision. Everything clicked and was perfect for me.
BSA: Were the spaces intimidating, challenging, hunting or a walk in the park?
Aida Wilde: The spaces weren’t intimidating….I was more concerned about trying to execute the ideas that I had in a middle of a global pandemic, with a lot of the resources that I needed were either closed or operating on a skeleton capacity. There are still a couple things I could fabricate just because what I need was closed.
Fortunately for me, I
have a fully self-contained print studio to work from so I at least I knew that
I would be able to make most of the work here.
BSA: What first came to mind when you saw the space? Did you change your approach to the space a number of times?
Aida Wilde: I was very excited by the space, in particular the fixings and fixtures that were already there….. I had initially completely dismissed the small cupboard under the stairs, until the site visit and where I saw the big heavy safe inside. I don’t know a lot of houses/people who have a safe like that inside their house, so that sparked a lot of ideas about what I could put inside. I started playing with the idea of being safe/locked in/out, and that is when I came up with the idea of the “Pandemik Panik Room”. A contradiction in itself…. Where you would let out all your fears whilst still locked in inside…. But also, a place for safety, hiding and taking refuge inside of it, under the stairs. Made me chuckle.
It was always my intention from the beginning, that I would be doing asking people to be involved with the installation, initially via my social media platforms but later as lock down started to ease in the UK, I was able to run a Panik & Fear poster workshop for my neighbours. I live in a pretty sheltered artist warehouse complex, so I spread the word, put some posters up and people turned up outside my place on the day to get involved and make me posters to go inside the “Panik Room”. It was a beautiful sunny day, we shared, talked, created, laughed and got a little emotional, a very rewarding day. I love the fact that it is not only my voice in the house.
BSA: How did you arrive at the final concept?
Aida Wilde: In all honesty, it was very quick and organic. After initial conversations and half jokingly coming up with names like Nanny Loo and Granny Alley, these things already sparked off a lot of ideas. Dissecting the space into “Zones” / areas also helped with creating a pandemic narrative. I wanted each zone to represent a different idea and feeling that most of us might have gone through during our time in lock-down. There are several personal and emotional elements in the narrative like the Red flower/text pieces transcending up the stairs towards the light from the big window. Those pieces are my exploration of my thoughts about life, love and hope, mixed in with verses from the Persian poet and philosopher Rumi. I guess, it’s all about observation, silence, stillness and contemplation (which came with being in lockdown)
The Staying Alert
serigraphs were mostly sparked off by what I read and saw in the news… I call
these your infomercial doctor/school, you know the ones you may see in a
waiting room….warning you against the perils.
Also, I had started
to pick up a lot of discarded objects and materials that people were leaving
out on the street during the “Lockdown Spring Clean”. I know the thought of
bringing something inside your house left outside in a pandemic is absurd, but
it was good stuff and I had a little ritual where I would obviously pick them
up with gloves, bag them then disinfect immediately once I got them home. A lot
of the things I found also determined what I made them into and how I used them
in the installation.
I was going to print
some of my wallpaper poems to act like banners in the house on paper but I
found a big bag of beautiful white lace curtains one day… so this idea evolved
and I finally wrote them on the curtains which look so beautiful and haunting
on the lace with the light shining through them- They are like ghosts, so I
called them “Notes From A Phantom”
I think the curtains
are a great example of how ideas grew and evolved just by the substrate and I
love what they symbolise & the initial function of what curtains are
supposed to do…. So many correlations between lockdown and the outside world
and taking these curtains and placing them somewhere where they are completely
dysfunctional yet representing an ideology.
BSA: The wall papers are all so ornate…until you look closer…then all sinks in. Who would have thought terror could look so decorative. Like candy in a Florida motel. Did you have fun designing the wall papers?
Aida Wilde: I tend to have a lot of hidden sinister meanings behind most of my work- My fine art editions have undertone references to class, colonialism and the taboo. I also like to dissect things within my work. I want to make people stop and look a little bit harder. You know, we’re so used to everything being fast, especially visually; scrolling/swiping etc….. but this has been the perfect time for everyone to slow down and take in the things that we may have dismissed a million times before….so it’s a little bit about discovery and a surprise in the everyday. I wanted to capture this idea in the install. LOOK HARDER.
And I guess when you’re making work about a deadly invisible killer, you can’t instill any more fear and hysteria into people can you! I’m always striving to find a balance between creating something to communicate as well as making it desirable enough for you to want. I want my work to communicate in the most digestible, relatable and clearest way as possible. Art needn’t come with an instruction manual for you to understand it and feel it.
The “Pink Pop Spots”
as I call them have been with me for almost 15 years, they’re kinda my calling
card on the street as I don’t sign any of my work that’s put out, but people generally
recognise its me through them, and it was totally serendipitous that they resembled
the Covid-19 virus cells, and this is how we turned them into these little
mutating playful things. Forever involving.
With the emoji “Pandemik Mausoleum” wallpaper, I wanted to make something that was a nod to the houses past and complemented the original wallpapers that were already within it, but take it into 2020 obviously. As mentioned before, I really like the damask wallpaper in the library, so that sparked the idea of designing something based on the traditional damask design. Fortunately for me, my degree was in Printed Surface Design where I specialised in pattern for textiles and wallpaper, so again, this was a very comfortable and organic process for me.
I have been using Instagram and emoji subtly through out some of my street work for a few years now- For me, they are the ultimate universal world language to communicate through. From young to old, even my mother sends me an array of emoji based text messages. I had a terrible vision that what if the human population got wiped out because of Covid and a small section of my wallpaper was found some years later…. What would they be able to decipher from it?
A bit like the hieroglyphics you know, what information could you extract, so that was what was going through my mind when I was making it. It was very challenging to get the initial shape and repeat to the way that I wanted it. It did take weeks to complete but I had so many laughs along the way, the mere fact that I was sitting there making an emoji based design with a yellow man clutching a loo roll and Poo’s coming out of a toilet being showered was just ridiculous and surreal, I laughed a lot, still am. One of the hardest challenges was that I wanted to include so much more of the emojis that I really love, but I had to be very brutal and concise with the story that I wanted to tell, it was hard to strip it way back to what it is now. I am happy with it… it seems balanced.
systematic racism have been brought to the forefront causing further
questioning of our institutions and causing rifts between friends and even family
members. The global balance is definitely shifting with internal instability on
the rise. With the usual
deterrents of conflict on the decline, a possible uprising could take place globally…
so warfare indeed.
BSA: How can you explain that a Pandemic can devolve into political warfare? Shouldn’t it all be left to the scientists and the doctors?
AW: This is a very thought provoking question so thank you for asking this as I haven’t talked about the piece of work in the installation that you are referencing.
Seemingly a very accessible and disposable substrate, but a t-shirt has a multi-faceted role which can bring forth and highlight personal or political ideals… even becoming a walking billboard in the communication of subcultures and beliefs etc… I always say, “never underestimate the political power of a T-shirt.” Obviously, how you present the said T-shirt as part of an installation is another matter- In this case, I have displayed it in a zip lock Vacuum Seal bag which is supposed to encase and preserve it in a “germ and dust free” environment.
The original design
referring to ‘Germ Warfare’ was
made by Keith Haring in 1987 in reference to the AIDS epidemic and we even had
to consult Annelise Ream the director of collections at the Haring Foundation
to clarify the origins etc… as I could not find any information during my
research into the t-shirt. It really spoke to me and I was very clear that I
needed to adapt this design and bring it into 2020. There were just too many
similarities and circumstances between the epidemic and the virus that struck
an unnerving chord. Shivers…. It was very emotional.
Regarding the scientists…
we are at the mercy of them and on our leaders. Yes, we are in a race, the race
for a vaccine and a cure. We really don’t know the atmosphere and tension
that’s going on behind those secure lab doors but what I feel is that imagining
once a vaccine is discovered! The first question is going to be “who” &
“Where”. The next thing is going to be, will they share this finding freely, and
at what cost? Is it going to become about POWER & control, commodity and
ownership? It’s a bit like someone knowing how to make gold! The power is going
to lie with the people/country, which will discover the vaccine first.
I really don’t want
to think about the worse case scenario & which country finds it first-
because if it is the US and if in particular still under it’s current
leadership- WE ARE ALL FUCKED.
Perhaps not a germ
warfare but a political one for sure, especially in regards to disparity, who
and what is effected and deaths. We need to consider the demographics too…. Those
living in poverty, women, the youth & the displaced like the refugees all
come into mind.
With this great
power, conflict may arise- we have already witnessed what took place in our
shops & the carnage of empty shelves, the fights, the diversion and looting
of PPE/Masks from airports etc… so imagine what conflicts can arise from
someone finding a vaccine.
If things like democracy and economic independence have been keeping the peace thus far, the global recession and depression caused by the virus; these degradations could shift the economic balance within many countries, affecting trade and peace within nations. Especially with the fall of trade, Trump has already waged trade wars as we speak with reconfiguring the US supply chains from China and defunding WHO and widening the economic inequalities, which are a direct consequence of the pandemic.
BSA: How best would you describe your installation besides the obvious messages?
Aida Wilde: I would like it to be seen as a narrative. It’s a time capsule that captures a moment, thoughts, emotions, loneliness, pain, love and politics. It’s about collaboration, community and the voice of the many. The work will speak and shout…. And I really hope it stands the test of time. I tried my best to present a sympathetic and mindful view of what many of us have experienced during these unsettling and unpredictable time in our history. Our individual experiences, memories and traumas have been so varied, so I hope there is something in there that people can relate to individually. I also hope that I have brought some light & humour into the installation- We need to remember how to feel laughter again.
The URBAN NATION MUSEUM FOR URBAN CONTEMPORARY ART presents a six-decade retrospective of Martha Cooper’s photographs.
MARTHA COOPER: TAKING PICTURES
October 2nd 2020 – August 1st 2021
Curated by Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo
Skeme, the Bronx, 1982. Copyright Martha Cooper.
and personal artifacts, MARTHA COOPER: TAKING PICTURES traces her life from her
first camera in nursery school in 1946 to her reputation today as a world-renowned
This retrospective is the first documentary exhibition to be presented at the URBAN NATION Museum and it ushers in a new era for the museum under its new director Mr. Jan Sauerwald.
MARTHA COOPER: TAKING
PICTURES presents the photographer’s versatile vision of the world, with creativity
found on every corner. The exhibition opens with the images from Subway Art,
her landmark 1984 book with Henry Chalfant, now credited with jump-starting the
worldwide urban art movement. Martha’s photographs documented the secret subculture
of writers and the coded artworks they created illegally on thousands of New
York City trains.
are distinguished by their frank human vitality, with an eye to preserving
details and traditions of cultural significance. Many of her photographs have become
iconic representations of a time, place or culture. The exhibition will offer a
rare insight into Martha’s archives through previously unpublished photographs,
drawings, journals, articles, letters, and artifacts. As a lifelong and avid
collector, her private trove of black books, stickers, Kodak film wallets and child-made
toys will also be on display. Emphasis is placed on Martha’s extensive travels
and the artistic friendships that she has fostered internationally.
180th Street Station Platform, the Bronx, 1980. Copyright Martha Cooper.
Fans will recognize images
from her books Hip Hop Files (with Akim Walta, 2004), Street Play (2005),
We B*Girlz (with Nika Kramer, 2005), New York State of Mind
(2007), Name Tagging (2010), and Tokyo Tattoo 1970 (2011). As an
exhibition highlight, the original mock-up of her legendary book Subway Art
(with Henry Chalfant, 1984) will be on display, as well as artworks from her
personal collection including a pair of original paintings by graffiti king,
video installation called “The Rushes” will debut in the exhibition by filmmaker
Selina Miles, who directed the documentary Martha:
A Picture Story and premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in NYC.
An extensive section called “Martha Remixed” showcases the work of over
35 artists who have reinterpreted Cooper’s photographs or paid personal tribute
with portraits in an array of styles and mediums and locations. Unique to the
exhibition, visitors will see the new collaboration between Martha and multidisciplinary
Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic who will create a two-story mural onsite inside
immediately excited to be given the opportunity to present the world’s first
major retrospective of photographer Martha Cooper and to introduce her body of
work to URBAN NATION Museum visitors. We are interested in focusing on Cooper’s
photographic work and expounding on her working methods. In addition, we will
present her worldwide collaborations with artists and protagonists of the
street art and graffiti movement and provide audiences the opportunity to delve
deeply into the cosmos of Martha Cooper’s work. We are delighted to be able to
present and convey a unique compilation of photographs and artifacts from her
personal collections.” – Jan Sauerwald, Director of the URBAN NATION
Lower East Side, Manhattan. NYC, 1978. Copyright Martha Cooper.
Martha’s specialty is
documenting artistic process in public space. Her formal training in art and
ethnology set a unique template to better understand cultural practices and
techniques and her friendships with artists gave her close and personal access to
show materials, tools and techniques in detail as they evolve over several
generations. As part of this larger practice, Cooper’s iconic photos of
clandestine graffiti activities have proven to be a valuable record and an important
key to understanding the story of the movement’s proliferation around the world.
Martha’s curiosity has always driven her documentation. Her black and white photographs from her book Tokyo Tattoo 1970 (2011), represent her first foray into an underground art world and hidden practices. In Street Play she concentrated on the invincible spirit of city kids who are creatively rising above their bleak environment. Her photographs of 1980s breakers are the earliest published images of an unknown dance form at the time that became known as central to the definition of Hip Hop culture. As the first female staff photographer on the New York Post, Cooper sought out subjects to pursue independently. Her intrepid and sometimes risky pursuit of taking pictures has inspired many young people to pursue their own artwork and career paths.
Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo (New York) have been curators and
co-curators for the URBAN NATION Museum since 2015 (Project M/7 Persons of Interest, 2015, URBAN NATION opening
exhibition UNique. UNited. UNstoppable., 2017). They are also founders
and editors of the influential art site Brooklyn Street Art (BSA) since 2008, a
respected daily clearinghouse of the global street art scene.
“Martha’s style is
to dive in and be fearless, immersing herself in the moment – and she’s been
documenting what she finds around the world for six decades. That’s the
attitude we took curating this exhibition, knowing that each element captured
in her work is genuine and transient. It is our goal for visitors to be
transformed by her unique eye for a historic preservation of the ordinary that
is often exceptional – whether it is documenting the verboten process of making
1970s graffiti, capturing youths performing moves that were later called
“breaking”, the inking processes of Japanese tattoo culture, or the ingenious
games kids devised for play in New York’s abandoned neighborhoods,” say
Harrington and Rojo about MARTHA COOPER: TAKING PICTURES.
URBAN NATION MUSEUM FOR URBAN CONTEMPORARY ART Bülowstraße 7, 10783 Berlin-Schöneberg
Interviews will be
offered in prior with Martha Cooper, Curators Steven P. Harrington and Jaime
Rojo, and Director of the URBAN NATION Museum, Jan Sauerwald. Requests can be
send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We post images from a mural in Atlanta photographed a number of years ago by Jaime Rojo, as we remember with admiration, gratitude, and respect Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.
“I APPEAL TO ALL OF YOU TO GET INTO THIS GREAT REVOLUTION THAT IS SWEEPING THIS NATION. GET IN AND STAY IN THE STREETS OF EVERY CITY, EVERY VILLAGE AND HAMLET OF THIS NATION UNTIL TRUE FREEDOM COMES, UNTIL THE REVOLUTION OF 1776 IS COMPLETE” – John Lewis, March on Washington, August 28, 1963