November 2020

“Writing The Future”: Basquiat , Broken Poetics, and the NYC Cultural Context

“Writing The Future”: Basquiat , Broken Poetics, and the NYC Cultural Context

To accompany the exhibition “Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, a substantial catalogue has been released to support the show and place the artist in context with his time as well as his influence on the future as it pertains to contemporary art and so-called art in the streets.

Accessible and erudite, the catalogue unpacks the social connections, the various emerging music, art, and performance sub-scenes of “Downtown” and “Uptown” New York culture, the opaque underpinnings of the dominant culture, and the urban syntaxes that formed this young Brooklyn artist and his work in the 1970s and 1980s. To faithfully set the stage for this story; to conjure the atmosphere, the moment, the context that Basquiat evolved himself into, you would need to create an interactive urban theme park with an impossible set design budget, a cacophonous sound-music map, a handful of public policy and political advisors, an anthropologist, a warehouse of costumes, too many actors, too many attitudes, and even more drugs.

Considering the elements of this planetary system, one that drew protagonists into layers of swirling space in overlapping concentric patterns at a time where “high” and “low” distinctions were melting and crashing into one another, a viewer is still drawn physicality of the works and artifacts, the hand and the gesture. If you are going to talk about expressionism and its reaction to stimuli, you’ll also want to appreciate the tactility of this art-making process, one that was endemic to Basquiats’ daily existence in the studio and on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Editor of the “Writing the Future” catalogue, Liz Munsell, delves directly into that physicality in her essay, an experiential process that he shares with the viewer. “In several areas of the composition, Basquiat seems to have taken his own hands directly to the painting’s thick, wet surface, dragging his fingers across it into an area where he painted the hand of his self-portrait,” says Munsell. Willfully enigmatic at times and decidedly cryptic in his textual references, one cannot argue with this, an ultimate form of mark-making.

While Munsell is addressing something tangible, she is also witness to the spirit. We take it as an apt response to the greater challenge of decoding the works; presenting “the shattered poetics of Jean Michel Basquiat lyric memory cabinets.”

Basquiat scholar Carlo McCormick, who also happens to have been a full participant and observer of the ratty and glittering decline of New York during Basquiats’ rise, opens the book. Within his lyrical prelude to the artists’ ascent is a similar effort to place the moment; a sea of creative talents from privilege and without, trying their hand at sinking or swimming on the gallery of the streets, seizing a moment that reshaped a sleepy and self-satisfied gallery system that had painted itself into a proverbial white-box (and white-skin) corner.

“It’s all a crazy quilt conversation, talking in wild style tongues from the train yards to the writer’s bench, from bewildered commuters and savvy fans to the posturing politicians with their broken-windows theories in vandal squads, from little nightclub art shows and the ad hoc outposts like Fashion Moda and the Fun Gallery to a global stage of major exhibitions from the primal voice of mark-making to the sweet sounds of the studio, where a generation of outlaws joined that historical confab of painters in the culture of canvas. It’s got a beat hard-scrabbled out like the scratching of those early playground turntablists, but it’s all about the language, transmuted beyond easy recognition, private in the most public of ways, the insider voice of the outsider externalizing the interior. It’s pure jive, freeform and freestyle, the deceptions of code carrying the truth of the heart, the lyrics to all our collective pain, anger, alienation, and hope writ large like an aerosol atom bomb.”

Talk about shattered poetics.

In fact, art in the streets was a direct respondent to trauma, inequity, dislocation, and the effects of the flight of capital– and if certain populations found it discordant, it was possibly because it functioned as a funhouse mirror – distorted and vaguely threatening. While Basquiat was self-promoting in the venues and manners he was most suited, he was placing a bet that society was ready, or would be soon, for the platform and the content and the challenge.

“Graffiti had found the speed at which it needed to be seen,” the graffiti writer, fine artist and street style branding wizard Futura says in a quote.

By chasing it and learning how to read these writings on the wall we would gain a better understanding of what was to come in the future.  

Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation. Published by MFA Publications on the occasion of the exhibition currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Edited by Liz Munsell and Greg Tate with contributions by J. Faith Almiron, Dakota DeVos, Hua Hsu, and Carlo McCormick.

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BSA Images Of The Week: 11.22.20

BSA Images Of The Week: 11.22.20

Mint. Surf. Mirf. Smurf.

Good to see Mint and Surf on the streets again here in NYC. We wondered where they had gone.

Wishing all of you a Happy Thanksgiving this week, whether you are alone or with family, cooking a turkey or baking a pie, spraying a tag or slapping a sticker, collecting art or collecting bills. We hope that we can all count some blessings this week. Please stay safe from the Covid-19.

Here is our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Butterfly Mush, Dragon 99, Eye Sticker, Fours Crew, Graff Art Kings, HOACS, Invader, Michael Conroy, Mint & Serf, Mr. Can Do, No Sleep, Only Jesus NYC, Rawraffe, Roachi, Shniz, Shorty, Smells, and Surface of Beauty.

Mint & Serf / Mirf (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Surface Of Beauty (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Invader (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Roachi / Fours Crew (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Hoacs, Roachi, Mr. Can Do. Fours Crew (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Smells (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Rawraffe (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Street art proselytizing with this sticker campaign. Only Jesus NYC (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Only Jesus NYC (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Eye Sticker, Graff Art Kings. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
No Sleep (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Fuck Fuck Fuck Shit…exactly. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Shorty. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Thats the schnizzle. Shniz (photo © Jaime Rojo)
A tribute to Shorty RIP. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dragon99 for The Bushwick Collective. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Butterfly Mush pondering her options… (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Michael Conroy (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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Alex Senna: “Fronteiras” Teaser

Alex Senna: “Fronteiras” Teaser

A quick heads up for a new video with Brazilian street artist and muralist Alex Senna and contemporary Brazilian poet Marcelo Ariel that will debut on November 25th. Any time street art collaborates with another form of expression, we have the opportunity to gain a new appreciation for it.

Alex Senna. Fronteiras. (photo courtesy of the artist)

While international capital flows freely, we discover that boundaries for people are still in place – often to confine and conform. These Fronteiras may be personal, political, or matters of the state.

We’re looking forward to seeing and hearing these two artists’ collaboration in the wake of Senna’s dual walls for the Nalata International Street Art Festival, which took place in São Paulo a couple of months ago. It is an idea germinated from poetry, translated in paint.

Fronteiras (Borders) – Alex Senna. Teaser

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BSA Film Friday: 11.20.20

BSA Film Friday: 11.20.20

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

Now screening :
1. “Strength” from Pejac
2. Chant – Faith XVII
3. Spells, The Salton Sea – Faith XLVII
4. EDOARDO TRESOLDI, An Interview

BSA Special Feature: “Strength” from Pejac

Santander, Spain has suffered from COVID, of course, as has most of the country. Local street artist PEJAC says he wanted to contribute to his local hospital, the University Hospital Marqués de Valdecilla, by painting in public areas for people to enjoy. He says the common theme that unites the three distinctly different styles he used, is Strength.

“It’s a gesture of gratitude to the heath workers of Valdecilla, for their work in general and during this Covid crisis in particular,” says PEJAC

PEJAC / STRENGTH

FAITH XLVII / CHANT

Reliably enigmatic, street artist Faith XVII is using the medium of video to add impressions and associations to her works here on a text series called “Chant”. The irony of using the letter C that may call to mind Chase bank is drawn tighter as you see neighborhoods and walls probably redlined by corporate banks, or targeted for annihilation through neglect. In the context of our older societies, one may see in her work the power of chanting to focus a larger group to act in union with purpose, and power.

SPELLS / SALTON SEA / FAITH XLVII

60 miles south of Palm Springs, California, the Saltan Sea is disappearing, it’s shore moving miles in only a couple of decades, along with its population. Faith XVII is a Californian these days and she is here pondering the “beach” that remains, full of mercury, arsenic, selenium. California’s largest inland body of water now turns into dust, and Faith pours herself into the soil and the air that carries it; and the drought, well…  How this translates to her art on the street or in the studio, it is in alignment with her ongoing concerns about climate change – and you can be sure this project will appear again in her work.

EDOARDO TRESOLDI, An Interview

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Hyuro, May She Rest in Peace

Hyuro, May She Rest in Peace

Painting on the street for only eleven years, artist Tamara Djurovic made a sterling impression wherever she created her cerebral diagrams, empathic figures, dream-like compositions, frank diary entries, societal critiques and sly metaphors – most often in a monochrome palette.

For such a short career, how is it possible that she enabled her work to speak volumes to us and about us from so many walls? And how can we not feel shaken by her passing today?

Hyuro. Living Walls Atlanta, USA. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Born in Argentina and living for many years in Spain, she created her nom de plume Hyuro from her given family name. After first working with street artist Escif she was warmly adopted by an ever-growing street art family, her subtle humor and elegant self-effacing demeanor rather effortlessly opening doors over time to paint murals on the streets of the Americas, Europe, Africa… Her practice was studied, her process intentional, her dialogue with the passerby sincere.

Now she has passed in Valencia after struggling with a long illness for years, leaving behind a family, close friends, and many fans. You can also safely say she leaves a legacy as an artist, a colleague, and a person. We raise a toast to Hyuro, with many thanks, and if you can hug somebody, tell them they are loved.

Hyuro. Urban Nation Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Hyuro. Valencia, Spain. (photo © Lluis Olive Bulbena)
Hyuro. 20 x 21 Murals. Eugene, Oregon. (photo © Martha Cooper)
Hyuro. Transit Walls. Barcelona, Spain. (photo © Lluis Olive Bulbena)
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Paintings of “Centropelia” in Madrid by Juan Yksuhc

Paintings of “Centropelia” in Madrid by Juan Yksuhc

Juan Yksuhc is more oil-on-canvas than aerosol-on-steel, but he’s done the latter with the same fantastical figurative free-wheeling quotidian panache as the former. Rich tones and stretched torsos give way to static snapshots of real life, always rendered in a fevered fervor.

Juan Yksuhc. Centropelia. Madrid. (photo © Ricardo Hernandez)

Here in Madrid his paintings are episodic and serially thematic, you may say. Photographer Ricardo Hernandez seeks them, warmed with curiosity at their formal classicism, their nonplussed aplomb and sometimes obvious symbolism. It’s a different kind of lengua de la calle.

Juan Yksuhc. Centropelia. Madrid. (photo © Ricardo Hernandez)

Yksuhc in fact is not eager to be unpacked, preferring the graphic manifestation of a historical present to catch you in your moment, ready to walk into the world he’s just painted for you.

For example he tells us that this series “Centropelia” is an allusion to the conflicted realities bound within gentrification; as modern as it is historic with its themes of speculation, expulsion, and the spiraling economic violence of rent.

Juan Yksuhc. Centropelia. Madrid. (photo © Gema Rodríguez y Guillermo de la Madrid)
Juan Yksuhc. Centropelia. Madrid. (photo © Ricardo Hernandez)
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Everyday Healing Part 2: “Working With Trauma”. A Zine By Jessi Rado from Swoon

Everyday Healing Part 2: “Working With Trauma”. A Zine By Jessi Rado from Swoon

“When I first read Jessi’s zine I cried the kind of tears you cry when you feel seen and known in a loving way,” says New York street artist Swoon, who has made her own recovery from childhood trauma quietly and gently public in the last few years. An internal process of discovery that is central to her art practice, you may also discern related stories in the pieces she makes for the street.

Jessi Rado. Everyday Healing: Working With Trauma (Artwork © Jessi Rado)

Swoon is speaking of the second zine in a series we began this past Saturday – a zine that you can download for free. This one is about working with trauma that we or others in our lives have experienced. “It’s a beautiful book which speaks so simply and clearly to the condition of trauma, and to the footholds we can get in our everyday lives which will help us on our journey towards wholeness,” says Swoon.

Jessi Rado. Everyday Healing: Working With Trauma (Artwork © Jessi Rado)

She considers therapist and artist Jessi Rado to be one of those brave visionaries who is not afraid to “go there” and who uses their skills and their art to help people to heal. Using her workshops with The Million Person Project and Philly Mural Arts, Jessi has developed this very accessible booklet that may be helpful to you or somebody you care about. Working with the The Heliotrope Foundation and Swoon, we are proud to share it with you.

Jessi Rado. Everyday Healing: Working With Trauma (Artwork © Jessi Rado)

“Trauma and the question of how to heal from it has become a central part of my practice as an artist,” says Swoon. “What I have found over the years is that trauma is real, it’s not “just in our heads” and it can be healed from. There are many brave therapists at the frontlines of this field who are finding new ways to work through the nervous system and the mindful self to unravel the debilitating stress which holds people in destructive patterns of coping.”

Jessi Rado. Everyday Healing: Working With Trauma (Artwork © Jessi Rado)

DOWNLOAD EVERYDAY HEALING: WORKING WITH TRAUMA FOR FREE HERE

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Martha Cooper and BSA and “The New Humanity” 2021

Martha Cooper and BSA and “The New Humanity” 2021

So eager are we to rid ourselves of this year 2020,
some of us are already laying plans for humanity in 2021.

Martha Cooper in a still from video shot by Jaime Rojo for “The New Humanity” 2021.

“I really hope that we can put together the things that we have seen and the lessons that we have learned and work together so that we can achieve justice and equality for all,” says photographer Martha Cooper in this new video for “The New Humanity”, an art project by Lavazza for 2021.

Martha Cooper in a still from video shot by Jaime Rojo for “The New Humanity” 2021.

The video, shot by BSA’s Editor of Photography Jaime Rojo, follows Martha as she shows us the new project that she took on in response to being cooped up in her apartment this year.

Martha Cooper in a still from video shot by Jaime Rojo for “The New Humanity” 2021.

Shooting regularly out of her Upper West Side apartment window Martha captured thousands of people passing by a particular bench that she has officially adopted. The text on the placard is a joint effort by Cooper and Steve Harrington, the Editor in Chief of BSA, who proposed a few options for it at Martha’s request in the summer of 2018.

Martha Cooper in a still from video shot by Jaime Rojo for “The New Humanity” 2021.

Ultimately, she liked Steve’s “writer’s bench” idea, since it is a graffiti term and Martha’s well regarded for her preservation of graffiti culture history with her photography. Together they tailored her selection to its current form on a plaque which many New Yorkers have strolled in front of, sat upon, eaten lunch next to, and spent peaceful summer moments of golden slumber beneath.

“A writer’s bench of my own, a place to plan more adventures as I gaze upward to the windows of this captivating city.”

Martha Cooper in a still from video shot by Jaime Rojo for “The New Humanity” 2021.

In “The New Humanity 2021” calendar 13 photographers present their take on a possible vision the theme, each expressing their personal viewpoints and styles. Included along with Cooper are David LaChapelle, Simone Bramante, Martin Schoeller, Ami Vitale, Christy Lee Rogers, Steve McCurry, Joey L., Carolyn Drake, Denis Rouvre, Eugenio Recuenco, Charlie Davoli, and TOILETPAPER.

Alongside and in addition, there are 6 cultural “ambassadors” in the campaign – our personal favorite is true New York activist, performer, and poet Patti Smith. Don’t miss her performance of “Because the Night” that will send chills down your spine.

To see more about Martha and the whole campaign, check out



An overview of the New Humanity 2021 / Lavazza Calendar.


80 years ago the great actor and philosopher Charlie Chaplin delivered a “Final Speech” in the movie The Great Dictator. The words are so appropriate to our time that the speech could have been written today, as we slip into the Greater Depression and a rise of fascism in many corners of the world. We only hope we will find and retain our humanity again.




Editor note: Lavazza is not an advertiser with BSA, although Jaime did enjoy shooting video of Martha for her contribution to their campaign.

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BSA Images Of The Week: 11.15.20

BSA Images Of The Week: 11.15.20

Happy Diwali to all our Hindu neighbors here in Brooklyn and around the world. We hope you find some ways to celebrate safely over the next few days in this year of COVID-19. Diwali is a festival of lights that symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance”. We need that for sure.

A week after the US election was called, the current president is trying to foment discord and raise funds for himself, but with war-loving folks like John Bolton and Carl Rove jumping ship, can it be much longer until a stampede of similar careerists and military industrialists follow suit?

And while certain yellow newsreaders on corporate TV were desperate for open warfare in the streets in the days around the election, most people are just waiting until the inevitable capitulation. This has hardly been a bloody revolution, but keep trying Rachel and whatsisname?

Street art is reflecting the current mood in broad strokes and pointed ones. New Yorkers can never keep their big yaps shut, so the level of discourse may sometimes be crude and brash – but it can also be insightful, enlightening, and even an invitation for thoughtful exchange. It’s times like these you can be proud of the voices on the streets, which very likely will persevere.

Here is our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Baston714, Cake$, City Kitty, Dan Bennett, De Grupo, Faile, I Heart Graffiti, Lunge Box, Pure Genius, Reisha Perlmutter, Rubin 415, and Sac Six.

De Grupo positions Biden as Freddy Mercury singing “Weeeee are the champiiiiooons, my friend…”. Of course, there is no comparison. But you get the point. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
De Grupo (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Sac Six interprets Kamala Harris, the Vice President-Elect. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Democratic National Committee darling and Georgia Representative Stacy Abrams gets a tiara from I Heart Graffiti (photo © Jaime Rojo)
I Heart Grffiti pictures the reluctantly departing Trump on a bed of green leafy Covid-19. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
A bit more of a direct take-down from Pure Genius (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bela Lugosi or Rudy Guliani? Same difference. De Grupo (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Cake$ in The West Bank sprays a very unlikely silhouetted scene in Palestine. No child could possibly lift that wheelbarrow. (photo © courtesy of the artist)
Math, from Dan Bennett (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Scenes from a street debate – Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Scenes from a street debate – Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Reisha Perlmutter (photo © Jaime Rojo)
City Kitty, Lunge Box (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Faile says 2020 hit a pothole. Wonder what happens in ’21? (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Rubin 415 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Rubin 415 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Baston 714 goes over himself. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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Everyday Healing Part 1: How To Work With Your Own Pain. A Zine By Jessi Rado.

Everyday Healing Part 1: How To Work With Your Own Pain. A Zine By Jessi Rado.

A free zine today for you from Jessi Rado, an artist and therapist interested in helping those of us who have suffered trauma or one kind or another. It’s accepted knowledge among those who work with those struggling with substance abuse that it often is a direct result of trauma – a fundamental insight that may help us all re-set our thinking about addiction.

Everyday Healing Part 1: How To Work With Your Own Pain. (Artwork by Jessi Rado)

Ms. Rado’s new zine is the product of a program she collaborated in with street artist Swoon with the Mural Arts’ Restorative Justice Program in Philadelphia a few years ago. At this time when so many in our communities are already dealing with the wreckage of addiction and what it does to families, the stress of COVID-19 and economic insecurity only compound the fears and in many cases, suffering.

That’s why BSA is so happy to offer something constructive that can help!

Everyday Healing Part 1: How To Work With Your Own Pain. (Artwork by Jessi Rado)

The new zine is born from the program that Swoon participated in with Rado and storytellers Heather Box and Julian Mocine-McQueen; It “hosted a series of trauma-informed art therapy courses, followed by a month of storytelling workshops, designed to develop an understanding of the conditions and context of trauma that lead to and perpetuate lifelong addiction.”

Take a look at some of the simple and simply profound artworks and texts here, and download the PDF at the end of the posting. One day at a time, friends.

Everyday Healing Part 1: How To Work With Your Own Pain. (Artwork by Jessi Rado)
Everyday Healing Part 1: How To Work With Your Own Pain. (Artwork by Jessi Rado)

DOWNLOAD EVERYDAY HEALING PART 1 FOR FREE HERE

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BSA Film Friday: 11.13.20

BSA Film Friday: 11.13.20

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

Now screening :
1. A Series of TEMPERAMENTS / GONZALO BORONDO

BSA Special Feature: A Series of Temperaments from Gonzalo Borondo

As foul and as fickle and as steady and as sublime as the weather, so are the many temperaments of humankind. Seizing upon religious and scientific relics and our own yet rudimentary understanding of ourselves, Borondo brilliantly blends his ongoing experimentation with light, electricity, and layers of carved glass. Singular in the manner of its gentle pulsating, these new pieces are peculiar and familiar: at once alive, a laboratory specimen. Each temperament is deeply rooted in medicine and literature, all still encased in mystery.

TEMPERAMENTS / GONZALO BORONDO

TEMPERAMENTS / CHOLERIC / GONZALO BORONDO

TEMPERAMENTS / MELANCHOLIC / GONZALO BORONDO

TEMPERAMENTS / PHLEGMATIC / GONZALO BORONDO

TEMPERAMENTS / SANGUINE / GONZALO BORONDO

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INTI “Stardust” in Naples

INTI “Stardust” in Naples

A new secular icon today from Naples, and while this fresco is not quite Vesuvian, its sovereign purple and sunkissed golden tones and draped fabrics make it quite at home here in this historic city of classical antiquity.

INTI. “Polvera Di Stelle”. Naples, Italy. (photo courtesy of the artist)

Chilean street muralist INTI bespoke this vision in the Barra neighborhood, which its Wiki page says “has suffered much the same fate of urban decay as the rest of the eastern periphery of Naples, a fate that includes drugs and entrenched organized crime.”

And yet here rises the Polvera di Stelle (Stardust), a nurturing, protective maternal figure – though perhaps more Greta Thunberg than Sophia Loren – surrounded by mysticism and ancient-future symbolism.

INTI. “Polvera Di Stelle”. Naples, Italy. (photo courtesy of the artist)

“Look with the naked eye, without placebos or metaphysical aspirins.” INTI tells BSA. “Look without dogma, without wanting to rest on great truths. Look without easy answers that calm doubts, prevents us from seeing poetry in the uncertain and in the minuteness of our place in nature.”

The new mural is in collaboration with the Campania region and Jorit Foundation, says the artist.

INTI. “Polvera Di Stelle”. Naples, Italy. (photo courtesy of the artist)
INTI. “Polvera Di Stelle”. Naples, Italy. (photo courtesy of the artist)
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