Many people in New York and around the world breathed a collective sigh of relief this week when our native son from Queens got on that helicopter with his immigrant wife and A. left the White House and, B. flew to Florida.
But for this week anyway, the streets are saying let’s give Biden and Harris and this new administration the congratulations and the honeymoon they deserve. We wish them (and us) the best!
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Anna is a toy, Bastard Bot, CRKSHNK, Elfo, Jason Naylor, Lunge Box, Praxis VGZ, and Queen Andrea.
The winter city streets are frozen and foreboding right now.
It’s late January and, like many people in the Northern Hemisphere, you are venturing outside only out of necessity, or boredom with your Covid lock-down walls. With leafless trees, closed businesses, barren social calendars, and endless grey cold concrete to greet you – one wonders how nature can be so cruel.
In the face of these realities, Jennifer Rizzo at New York’s Hashimoto gallery decided to festoon the interior space with flowers and plants, curating nearly three dozen artists to create something LUSH.
It may seem odd to become fixated on this most traditional of subjects in the modern skew of our worldview. Somehow we cannot imagine art collectors beguiled by the natural world. But these times are crying out for new solutions, or at the very least, a salve for our psychic wounds. Hashimoto may be onto something indeed.
We asked Jennifer Rizzo about the new show, how she conjured it, and how her garden grows.
BSA:How many flowers do you have blooming in the gallery right now?
JR: So many! Thirty-three artists came together for this show, many of them incorporating multiple flowering plants and species into their works. Then there’s the actual flowering plants in the space. I think I’d need a field guide and a few hours to take an official count of all the lovely varieties blooming in the space.
BSA:Certainly there is a history of people collecting nature-inspired art, including landscapes and botanicals – but it hasn’t exactly been in “fashion” for some time. Is this show a reaction in some way to the current climate politically, socially, economic?
JR: In some ways it is a personal response to what we have collectively been living through this past year. We are all spending more time at home than ever, many gravitated to cooking, baking, picking up new hobbies such as musical instruments or gardening. For most urban dwellers, gardening happens on a windowsill. In times of uncertainly, I know I look for things that are comforting and in a way, familiar. Things that feel nurturing. What can be more beautiful, accessible, timeless than nature in art?
BSA:How do some of these works represent “modern” reworkings of this traditional theme? Can you give a couple of examples?
JR: I wanted the exhibition to present a survey of the scene, and see how contemporary artists are interpreting the subject matter, going beyond the traditional still life of a vase full of flowers, although works of that nature can be quite beautiful as well.
A few examples of artists who pushed well beyond the expected are;
Aldrin Valez’s small scale mixed media works, with figures dressed in fashion’s inspired by the prickly spikes of a cactus or the rounded petals of a flower. I love the concept of wearable art, and Aldrin’s high fashion interpretation of “make a piece inspired by the flowering species.”
Hola Lou’s abstract painting, titled Jungla de Noche. The artist’s boldly simple lines and minimal approach really pushed the concept, yet captured the rumbling energy of a jungle alive at night.
Jeff Canham’s whimsical cacti, housed in actual terra cotta planters. They are super playful, and have a flattened two dimensional quality even though they are three dimensional sculptures.
MC Marquis hand painted typography on vintage floral plates. The artist has been working on her plate series for a few years now, merging the traditional vintage plates with phrases that are topical and relatable.
LUSH Hashimoto Contemporary, New York curated by Jennifer Rizzo January 16th – February 6th, 2021
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening participants at Festival Asalto 2020: 1. Isaac Cordal 2. Elbi Elem 3. Akacorleone 4. Lida Cao 5. Diego Vicente 6. Karto 7. Marta Lapena 8. Sawu 9. Slim Safont
BSA Special Feature: Festival Asalto 2020
In Barrio San Jose (Zaragoza) the Festival Asalto mounted its 2020 edition in spite of, and perhaps because of, the very strange time that we are living in. Once considered an expression of the counterculture, illegal street art has evolved in some ways to spawn legal mural festivals that actually reinforce a sense of normalcy. The organizers and participants of Festival Asalto had to overcome logistical obstacles as well as the fears of many to mount the outdoor exhibition this year, and we salute them for their fortitude and successes.
“This is a celebration of them directly,” artist Helen Bur says as she describes her new six-story high painting in Ferizaj, Kosovo. Warm and idiosyncratic, it is a candid photo of local youth whom she paints in this once war-torn area. Even today, about 20 years after the end of hostilities and with the enormous “peace-keeping” US Camp Bondsteel nearby, a mixture of Albanians, Serbs, and Roma all are rebuilding a common life in the shadow of not-so-past events.
Given such taut social politics that govern the memories and leave their mark on the daily lives of residents, Scottish film maker Doug Gillen jumped in to record the observations and experiences of artists and local creators who were there for a mural festival. One current fashion for murals created for these public art events is to be “responsive” to the community. Undoubtedly you can see that many of these are reflecting the environment – including more literally the botanicals of the region.
Elsewhere Gillen captures the stories of locals, including one resident who recalls being ‘usurped’ by a ‘hooligan’ who took over her attic and who brought sex workers there during the conflict. You can sense the relief she feels to finally tell her story in a public way. These singular stories provide clarity and can be rather jewel-like.
Muralist Ampparito touches on the denial that is also in play as he describes his mural which addresses the ultimate non-controversial topic bound to engage a respectable constituency: weather.
“When you arrive at a place that you don’t know and you want to talk about serious stuff” the artist explains with a smile, “I think you have to be careful.” For both the sensitive and the coarse, it is a given; whether its political or personal self-censorship, it will enter the life of an artist at one point. “It’s like when you don’t talk about something, sometimes you say more than if you don’t talk about it.”
You can see how the commitment to acknowledging and participating with community is realized by a talented collection of artists – like the aforementioned Ampparito, Aruallan, Micheal Beitz, Helen Bur, Emilio Cerezo, Doa Oa, Alba Fabre, Ivan Floro, Maria Jose Gallardo, Retry One, Zane Prater, Vlada Trocka and Axel Void.
Artist and organizer Axel Void may embody similar contradictions as he describes goals of the pro-artist organization named after himself. “As with every Void Projects I’m trying to cut out the middle man and have a more direct reaction between the artist and the people.” That being said, the annual mural festival relies on private and institutional partners, staff, professionals, and the efforts of volunteers to mount it – as well as a biosphere of media professionals and amateurs and private platforms to help Void and the artists get the word out about their creations around the globe.
Executive producer Lebibe Topalli rests her finger carefully upon the local pulse, and she parses words gently when describing the challenges of mounting this event today as she thinks of Kosovo of two decades ago. To even have considerations regarding the ‘art world’ at an earlier time “would have been a luxury,” she says.
“The difference is best recognized by the people who have experienced it.” As the debate in the street art world continues about the elusive ideal mix of factors for the perfect mural festival, filmmaker Gillen helps capture those who struggle as well with their sense of responsibility to the community.
Produced by Fifth Wall TV in collaboration with the Kosovo Mural Festival and Void Projects
The streets have been anticipating the arrival of the new president and vice president for a few months now. Today it took place and the U.S. has a 46th President – Joe Biden and 49th Vice President – Kamala Harris.
Biden, Harris honor COVID-19 victims at ceremony on eve of inauguration.
A recognition by the highest officials in this land that 400,000 people have died in the United States of Covid-19. However the future looks for us with a new administration taking their role in the White House tomorrow, we know that the level of dedication to this illness will be serious and appropriate. We know that from today going forward we will have a unified, focused leadership pushing to get help to all the states, all of the country, all of the people who are sick, who are dying, who need vaccines, who need comfort and support and empathy in their time of grief. Our sorrow unites us.
Scenes from a video speak to the loss and the ceremony to mark it.
When you’re losing the argument, children learn that another strategy is to shift the focus and make it personal. If smearing or logic fails, a schoolyard bully may teach you that you can simply punch your opponent.
For years civil rights activist and minister Martin Luther King Jr. peacefully organized people and effectively made the arguments against segregation and for the full extension of freedom and agency to blacks in America as citizens. More declassified documents are revealing that opponents stopped at nothing to halt these ideas from spreading.
Using the power of the police and the power of the state, many whites attacked MLK from every angle and sustained repressive behaviors overtly/covertly against everyday Americans using the most despicable means and methods. They worked to erode support for them, shred their social networks, sow division, throw suspicion on them, smearing them as instigators and troublemakers and terrorists for demanding equal treatment and opportunity under the laws of their own country.
As we reflect on the events of the last year with such corollaries in the streets and in the “press”, we realize that a vocal and threatening minority of the US is still unwilling to accept its responsibility for systemic racism; they discredit all demonstrations of black and brown skin people as “riots” when most have simply been vocal demonstrations. On the other hand when you are reporting whites breaking through fences, windows and doors and marching inside the Capitol building in Washington – that is described by many as something else – something honorable, patriotic. During the events of January 6th the world also saw that the reaction of the police and the state to these primarily white marchers was very different, even ineffective, or strangely hospitable to the invaders.
“It is so relevant, and in some ways very tragic,” says film director Samuel D. Pollard of his new documentary film MLK/FBI. “Here we are in 2021 and America is still going through the same things that happened with King in the 60s.” He was speaking in an interview with the Toronto Film Festival about the FBI using wiretapping and various strategies to fan the flames of racism, rather than admit to our systemic racism, to apologize for, and to act to make whole.
Indeed as you watch the movie and see what can only be described as a cabal of entitled white government and police officials arrayed against King (thanks to newly declassified documentation), you wonder how the Civil Rights leaders ever managed to make one step forward. Unfortunately half a century later, we watch similar scenes unfold as they are shrouded in what Pollard calls ‘dog whistle dialogue.’
“(J. Edgar) Hoover was a hero for many people,” says Pollard of the FBI director who oversaw the wiretapping of MLK during intimate assignations outside his marriage and sent them to him and his wife – even writing to the activist encouraging him to commit suicide. No low was too low for Hoover to stoop to. “They were going to do it by any means necessary – bugging his colleagues, his house, anything they could.” A clear and growing threat to the established white order, all forces were marshaled to discredit him and frame MLK as a villain – and Hoover knew he had the support of the majority.
“He was a torch-bearer for ‘Justice and the American Way’ “.
Today we mark a holiday in the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. and not J. Edgar Hoover. At least it gives Americans an annual reason to countenance our status as a country in regard to equal rights and opportunity for all citizens. Invariably, we are reminded that while many things are better than they once were, there is much work to be done.
We were happy to speak with journalist Justin Kamp recently about subtle and fine distinctions in terminology surrounding street art as it pertains to street practice, fine art, institutions, and collectors. Here are some out-takes from his recent column on Artsy.
“The ascent of so-called street artists into the moneyed realms of the blue chip is not exactly a new phenomenon—it’s been nearly two years since KAWS skyrocketed to a new auction record of HK$116 million (US$14.8 million) with the sale of The Kaws Album (2005) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, which was followed six months later by the record-breaking sale of Banksy’s Devolved Parliament (2009) for £9.8 million ($12.1 million). These two mononym artists could be seen as the loosely defined category’s twin princes, despite their stylistic differences—KAWS’s vibrant cartoon riffs and Banksy’s wry stencils are two of the most easily recognizable, not to mention consistently lucrative, styles in contemporary art. But as collectors the world over continue to be fascinated with “Companion” figures and Girl With Balloon prints, the exact parameters of what constitutes “street art” remain nebulous. According to Charlotte Raybaud, head of 20th-century evening sales at Phillips in Hong Kong, the category comes with a certain amount of ambiguity baked in. “Street art is inherently hard to define,” Raybaud said. “It is difficult to categorize as sometimes it can feature graffiti, or other times more image-based work. The former oftentimes features alongside the latter, but I would say some uniting elements include the use of stencils and/or elements of reproduction, allusions to and questioning of everyday visuals or slogans, and of course its ‘street’ setting—or indeed proximity to its roots.” When highlighting street art works for potential bidders, Raybaud said she emphasizes both the above aesthetic elements as well as a piece’s conceptual underpinnings, which she said often center on themes of democratization.
Scholars of the category expressed similar views. Jaime Rojo and Steven P. Harrington, co-founders of the online street art community Brooklyn Street Art, stated that while graffiti art should be generally viewed as a distinct category due to its focus on lettering and authorial expression, the bounds of street art are more aesthetically slippery. “It may borrow heavily from advertising, branding, traditional mural making, and pop culture aesthetics or methods of creation and dissemination,” the duo said. While the category may focus more on figuration than graffiti, they said, it’s not limited to pictorial representation—conceptual, sculptural, electronic, and performance practices have been variously incorporated into the porous bounds of street art. Daniel Feral’s Feral Diagram—a riff on Alfred Barr’s similar diagram of the lineages of modernism for the Museum of Modern Art—maps the overlapping historical movements that congealed into street art’s interrelated practices, spinning a complex web of influences from Pop art and action painting to semiotics and the cut-up creations of Beat poetry…
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING “What Qualifies as Street Art?” by Justin Kamp for Artsy.
It’s a pity that the pandemic has kept so many people away from seeing great exhibitions in museums and galleries, among other things. At the Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo, street artist Swoon’s “Seven Contemplations” ran its course without nearly as many visitors as you would expect.
So we decided to show you the exhibition in a mini-tour. Who else could be your host today but the artist herself, Swoon.
I feel incredibly grateful to have gotten to continue creating large scale immersive experiences for people in a year when so many things were impossible, but when spaces of solace and wonder and creation are needed more than ever.
This exhibition contained a hidden layer, in the form of a series of meditation and contemplation prompts. Small seats were placed within the exhibition, and fixed-gaze meditation instructions given, alongside a set of contemplations for visitors who wanted to settle deeper than usual into the experience of the artwork.” – Swoon
Contemplation – The miracle, grace, forgiveness, that which is given without reason, that which arises spontaneously:
New life is given to us freely with each breath we take. Our cuts heal, our hearts pump blood without being ever asked, and every spring new flowers push up from under the snow. Are there ways that we can appreciate, or even mirror this spontaneously giving aspect of life? Think of a time when you became able to understand someone you had been angry with and so found yourself able to forgive them, or they you. Think of a bit of luck that changed your life, or a gift you were given whose generosity still surprises you. Sit and feel into the tinge of the miraculous that hangs around something as simple as a single breath or as wondrous as a second chance.
Contemplation – Medea, Fear and Suffering:
Sometimes terrifying events can scare us out of our skin. We become dislocated from ourselves and may seem to float outside of our bodies, or feel cut off from our lives. Suffering can make us reach for destructive behaviors or substances in an attempt to release ourselves from pain and anxiety. Can we use small instances of discomfort or anxiety to help ourselves learn to face big emotions when they arise? For just a few moments, recall something small in your day to day life that usually makes you uncomfortable or a bit anxious. How do these feelings show up in your body? Do you feel them in your chest or hands? Or in the quality of focus you are able to give to things that need your attention? Practice staying with an uncomfortable emotion, observing it, and allowing it to pass on its own. When we can sit with and experience the things that scare us, or the things we would like to escape from, we gain a great deal of strength and power. We become more able to chose how we want to react to the world around us.
Contemplation – Thalassa, Primordial self:
Who were you before you were born? Who were you before the earth was born? Sometimes our personal selves get stuck. The mind’s tendency is to fasten onto things it perceives as problems, or threats to self, and to ruminate there. Is it possible to step outside of our individual ‘I’ for a moment and give our consciousness more room to breathe? Sometimes a seemingly nonsensical question can shift our focus and connect us to a more spacious awareness. If you were to arise right now from the primordial sea, what form might you take?
Team: Curator Aaron Ott. Special thanks to Zack Boehler, Eric Jones, Kristine Virsis, Caroline Caldwell, Frances Segismundo, Andrea Tults, Marshall LaCount, Greg Henderson, Ryan McDaniel, Karl Mattson, Zach Prichard, Eileen Saracino, Carolyn Padwa and, the rest of the incredible Albright Knox installation team. All photos by Tod Seelie.
To learn more about Swoon’s “Seven Contemplations” click HERE
We are seeing more municipalities and institutions settle upon aspirational messages about the Earth and environmental issues every month now – a very common theme with murals in cities worldwide.
This new collaboration combines the skills of two former graffiti artists, Mrfijodor and Corn79, in Turin, Italy. The two murals interplay Mrfijodors illustration-inspired figurative elements and Corn79’s elegant language of abstraction to adorn the façade of the Museum A Come Ambiente (MAcA).
“The focus is on the balance between man and nature,” says Mrfijodor, “a balance that needs to be re-established.”
The project is possible thanks to the contribution of the City of Turin, Area Giovani e Pari Opportunità – Torino Creativa, and the Museum A come Ambiente – MAcA.