Artists

BSA Top 10 Stories Of 2019 As Picked By You

BSA Top 10 Stories Of 2019 As Picked By You

Greece, Mexico, Poland, Detroit, Brooklyn, Tennesee, Texas, Asbury Park in New Jersey. Your favorite BSA stories were not limited to geography. Aerosol, wheat-paste, yarn, soldered steel, cut stencils, rollers, photography, even plants; Nor were they contained by technique or materials.

Giving live plants away in a refugee camp, queer pride phone booth takeovers, a floriculture bus stop, a windswept installation constantly in motion at a seaside resort. We paid homage to foundational documentarians of graffiti and Street Art culture, watched an early 1980s French stencil originator travel through the US south, and provided a platform for one of New York’s most elusive writers who blasted apart definitions with his texts and sculpture – all while keeping his own profile on the serious DL.

The creative spirit appears wherever we look on the street, and luckily you love to observe and learn and get inspired by other’s work as much as we do.

Based on the traffic to the website, on social media, and in our email box, here are the top 10 stories that you loved the most in 2019 on BSA.


No. 10

The Dusty Rebel: “Resistance is Queer”

The Dusty Rebel. Hope Will Never Be Silent. In collaboration with #KeepFighting (photo © Jaime Rojo)

From BSA:

Who writes your history? Who would gladly suppress it?


By reviving and celebrating those who the mainstream historically underplays, undercuts, neatly overlooks, and otherwise de facto silences, a new takeover campaign on NY streets helps write the history of LGBTQ struggle, and keeps it just as relevant as this moment.

Photographer and journalist The Dusty Rebel now curates the same streets he documents and shares with BSA readers today his determined campaign to revive, preserve, propel forward the significant players and events that have fought in their myriad ways, with the admonishment to keep fighting. With “Resistance is Queer” he uses his images and his respect for LGBTQ history to ensure that the full spectrum of people are recognized for their contributions to this civil rights struggle for equality.

We’re grateful that he has taken the time to explain in detail the people behind the images and their significance to him personally as well as their role in a people’s history.


The Dusty Rebel: “Resistance is Queer” Phone Booth Campaign in NYC. Continue reading HERE


No. 9

Blek Le Rat Tours the US South

Blek Le Rat. Nashville. (photo © Brian Greif)

From BSA:

Tennessee and Texas Sample a Certain Street Savoir Faire

Look out for Le Rat!

He’s getting up in places down south that you wouldn’t normally associate with a French Street Artist, much less the one who started stenciling in a style and manner unusual on Paris walls in ’81 – an antecedent for much of what we later would call ‘Street Art”. 


Blek le Rat Tours The US South continue reading HERE


No. 8

“Evolucion de una Revolucion” Outside in Queretaro, Mexico

Martha Cooper. Evolucion de una Revolucion. In collaboration with Nueve Arte Urbano. March 30th, Queretaro, Mexico. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

From BSA:

“Martha Cooper isn’t only a photographer, she’s a historian as well and you are here with us today to pay homage to her work. Martha is my teacher and she taught me more than graffiti, she’s taught me the way in which we live with art every day. When we see a piece of art on the street we bring it into our daily lives. That’s precisely Martha’s contribution to our lives”

Edgar Sánchez, co-founder of the Nueve Arte Urbano festival.

Under the magical spell of the Jacarandas in full bloom, a spirit of Pax Urbana flowed through Queretaro’s lush public park Alameda Central this weekend as dignitaries from the city, including the honorable Andrea Avendaño, the Minister of Culture of the City of Queretaro, and the Nueve Arte Urbano team hosted the opening of an outdoor exhibition by famed photographer Martha Cooper.

The 101 photographs spanning four decades were enlarged and mounted in weather resistant vinyl throughout the park, representing the full range of Ms. Cooper’s continued focus on art in the streets.


Evolucion De Una Revolucion continue reading HERE


No. 7

Icy & Sot: Giving Plants and New Life to Refugees in Greece

Icy & Sot. Giving Flowers. Lesbos Greece. June 2019. (photo © Icy & Sot)

From BSA:

Street Art brothers Icy and Sot once again lead by example with their latest act of artivism at a refugee camp in Greece.

People chased from their homes by wars in places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are now part of a larger conversation in Europe as countries struggle to accept the massive numbers of refugees in the last decade. On the Greek island of Lesbos, the overcrowding of a camp named Moria has produced Olive Grove, a temporary place full of tents, but little nature.

With a goal of softening the hardship for people living here, Icy and Sot raised money through a print sale online and with the proceeds purchased fresh flowering plants to give away. “It was wonderful to see that actually put a smile on peoples’ faces for a moment,” they say in a press release.


Icy & Sot: Giving Plants And New Life To Refugees In Grece continue reading HERE


No. 6

“Martha: A Picture Story”. Shots from the Premiere and Movie Review

Selina Miles & Martha Cooper. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

From BSA:

First things first – Full disclosure; we are featured in the movie and we are close friends with both the subject of the doc and the director and we first suggested to the director that she was the perfect candidate to make a film about Martha Cooper. Now that we have that out of the way here are a number of shots from the premiere and our review of the movie:

Martha: A Picture Story had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this Thursday to an enthusiastic crowd that included big graffiti, Street Art, international press and film industry names, to see the highly anticipated documentary about the venerable photographer Martha Cooper by the Sydney director Selina Miles.


Martha A Picture Story. Shots From The Premiere And Movie Review continue reading HERE


No. 5

Riding the Rails in the Bronx With “Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977 – 1987”

Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

From BSA:

“We may have lost the trains, but we’ve gained the whole world.”

That’s a quote on the wall in the new exhibition at the Bronx Museum spotlighting the work of Henry Chalfant. The quote comes from Mare 139, one of the early graffiti writers of 1970s-80s trains in New York, referring to the now-scrubbed subway cars that once functioned as a mobile gallery for the young masters of cans throughout a metropolis that was in the grips of financial and social upheaval. Thanks to the work of artists and documentarians like Mr. Chalfant, the ephemeral works were captured, cared for, preserved, and spread throughout the world in the intervening years, in some ways helping to spawn a global interest and practice among burgeoning artists.


Riding The Rails in The Bronx With “Henry Chalfant: Art VS. Transit 1977 -1987 continue reading HERE


No. 4

F*cking REVS: Interview on BSA by Freddy Alva

REVS. Weld Up in DUMBO, 2000. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

From BSA:

“Graffiti ain’t something you do, it’s something you live,” says the text above a wildly lettered REVS piece in a 1996 photo taken in El Paso. If there is a New York graffiti/Street Art icon that you would identify with a credo like this, he’s definitely one. Self-secreted away from the limelight and distrustful of many of the characters that are on the graffiti/Street Art “scene” today, REVS is nearly a New York folk hero, despite appearing to be completely firm in his anti-establishment, anti-commercial views – rooted in punk and hardcore music and those values that helped form his sometimes shape-shifting character since the the 1980s.

REVLON, REVS, SHIESTA, AVENGE, FUCKING REVS, REVS SOUP, REVS NUKE…


F*cking REVS: Interview on BSA By Freddy Alva continue reading HERE


No. 3

“Nostalgia” Brings Floriculture to the Tram Stop in Łódź, Poland.

Dominika Cebula. “Nostalgia”. Lodzkie Centrum Wydarzen. Lodz, Poland. (photo © Michał Bieżyński)

From BSA:

As we move further from graffiti and mark-making in public art-making, is it a revelation that the desire to be seen, to have your voice heard, is the common denominator again, regardless of the form of expression.

In this case, a tram shelter in Poland preserves the natural world in resin, transparently.

Like a mix master, the artist here samples someone else’s handiwork and remixes it, adding a filter, chopping it up and repeating it.


Nostalgia Brings Floriculture to the Tram Stop in Lodz, Poland continue reading HERE

No. 2

Banksy X Mercedes: Is This a Parody??

From BSA:

Yes, of course.

This artists’ interpretation of a car ad that features Banksy’s work is a parody, a farce. No one would try to take one of Banksy’s Street Art pieces to help sell their luxury cars, claiming that his work is in public domain and therefore fair game for any use.

Similarly, if it was a mural on the street by Brooklyn Street Artist KAWS, whose fine art canvas sold at auction this week for $14.7 million dollars at Sothebys Hong Kong, Mercedes wouldn’t simply grab it and run the art behind their newest off-roader on Instagram to infer that “Urban” edginess.

Or would they?

“And now they have filed a lawsuit against me trying to strip away all of my rights. I feel like I am being bullied and intimidated,” says graffiti/street artist artist Daniel Bombardier (a/k.a DENIAL) in a statement regarding the luxury brand that is instead suing him along with three other artists, apparently for having the temerity to demand to be paid, according to an article by James David Dickson in The Detroit News .

Bombardier’s mural and the artworks of the other artists – James Lewis (a.k.a. Olayami Dabls), Jeff Soto, and Maxx Gramajo appeared in published advertisements for the company’s cars, apparently without permission. The artists hired a lawyer to contact the carmaker to seek redress, according to news reports, social media postings, and emails that fairly flooded us yesterday.


Banksy x Mercedez: Is This a Parody? Continue reading HERE


No. 1

Windswept Public Art at the Beach: Hot Tea’s New Installation in Asbury Park

Hot Tea. Wooden Walls Project. Asbury Park, NJ. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

From BSA:

They designed the Ritz, the Vanderbilt, the Ambassador and the Biltmore hotels in Manhattan, along with townhouses for the Astors, the Yacht Club, and apartment buildings on 5th Ave and Park.

They were also architects on the team for Grand Central Terminal, that Beaux-Arts centerpiece of Gotham with its high marble walls, majestic sculptures, and lofty domed ceiling.

Also, Whitney Warren & Charles Wetmore designed the Casino Building here in Asbury Park, New Jersey a celebrated historical magnet for thousands of tourists escaping the heat and seeking buffeting breezes. The soaring glass paned windows may remind you of Grand Central, but also of that illustrated postcard on the cover of the Bruce Springsteen album, and of colorful resort town living.

You’ll also see 5,760 pieces of colored yarn hanging from the beams above, forming a shape-shifting brick of radiating color that appears to levitate. The brand new installation by Street Artist Hot Tea is lifted and pulled and choreographed by the ocean air, dancing to the sounds of waves crashing, emulating the currents of the sea. 17 rows define the physical boundaries, but your imagination can go much further with it in a matter of minutes.


Windswept Public Art at the Beach: Hot Tea’s New Installation at Asbury Park HERE


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BSA’s 10 Top Pieces on The Streets 2019: A “Social” Survey

BSA’s 10 Top Pieces on The Streets 2019: A “Social” Survey

The moment you think you understand the street is the moment you begin to lose touch. Behavior on social media is also about as reliable as your Uncle Oscar after he’s had a few too many frosted rum balls and rosy red holiday cocktails. First, he’s twirling Aunt Marge to the Beatles on the living room rug, next thing he’s headbanging with your cousin Teddy to Bon Jovi on the back porch – and later you regrettably see him getting his freak on with a Missy Elliott classic as he waits his turn at the pool table in the basement.

So we rely on the numbers to tell us what is popular with our readers, and not surprisingly, you like everything! Little tiny stickers, massive murals, 3-D sculptural elements, even Lizzo running for president. These are the top ten pieces that got retweeted, shared on Instagram, commented about on Facebook and read about on the site. It’s not scientific, and it’s skewed through the lens of BSA’s POV, but these hottest pieces are still an indicator of the sentiments and tastes of fans on social; sophisticated, insightful, critical, dark mooded, conscious and funny AF. You’re just our type!

10. LMNOPI

LMNOPI. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

November was “Native American Heritage Month” in the US and has been since 1990 and ironically the growing right-wing extremism of the intervening decades appears to have further erased our collective knowledge of native peoples – so it’s the perfect time to find this new campaign of local natives on the streets of New York by Street Artist LMNOPI.

9. Abe Lincoln Jr. & Maia Lorian. A Presidential Parody

Abe Lincoln Jr. and Maia Lorian (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The public takeover of ‘street furniture’ and advertising kiosks continues as artists demand back the mindspace and public space that is sold or given to corporate advertisers or propagandizers. This duo brings complementary skills to the old phone booths with their own brand of political satire.

8. Okuda & Bordalo II Collaboration in Madrid.

Okusa San Miguel and Bordallo II (photo @ Jaime Rojo)

This Frankenstein duet on the streets of Madrid caught our eye this spring and you liked it too. By Spain’s Okuda and Portugal’s Bordalo II. Madrid, March 2019.

7. Oak Oak in Bayonne, France.

Oak Oak (photo @ Jaime Rojo)

A small stencil in Bayonne, France from Oak Oak resonates in its cheerful satire of pompous crass man-boys with bombs.

6 Lula Goce for NRNY Artsy Murals /Street Art For Mankind

Lula Goce for NRNY Artsy Murals / Street Art For Mankind. New Rochelle, NY. November 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Swan and the falcon depicted on the mural are actual residents of New Rochelle. They came and liked what they saw and decided to stay and raise their families there. A fitting real story as New Rochelle is a town where immigrants are welcomed and are an important part of the community.

5. I Heart Graffiti “Lizzo for President”

I Heart Graffiti. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A campaign for singer/songwriter/ rapper Lizzo capitalized on the stars meteoric rise in 2019 to the top of many charts. Considering the number of Democratic challengers on the debate stages this summer and fall, it seemed plausible that she was actually running. If she promised Americans to help the poor and working-class yet assured her corporate donors to screw them once in office, she could get elected too.

4. Judith Supine’s Luxury Cowboy/girl Ad Take Over

Judith Supine (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The brilliant collage surrealist Judith Supine was back with a new lasso this year, skillfully misleading audiences on the street with his free associations equating luxury fashion brands and 20th-century cancer product advertising. It’s a match made in Hell!. Welcome!

3 Nafir at Urban Spree in Berlin

Nafir (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Iranian Street Arist Nafir left this Instagram alienation indictment hanging in a hidden spot at Berlin’s Urban Spree playground this year, and for some reason, it struck a chord with many.

Do you want to talk about it? We’re not joking about suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255
List of International Suicide hotlines HERE

2. “Outings Project” for Urban Nation Museum in Berlin

“The Outings Project” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It began as a way of bringing fine art pieces from inside the museum to the Street, and “The Outings Project” has brought hundreds of artworks out into the daylight this way for a decade or so, thanks to French artist Julien de Casabianca. These particular dark angels have been cast out of heaven and are just about to hit the ground across the street from Urban Nation Museum, Berlin.

1. Sara Lynne-Leo struck a chord with her pain commentary on the streets of NYC

Sara Lynne-Leo (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A relative newcomer to the streets in New York, Sara Lynne-Leo keeps her small scale pieces well-placed, if your eyes are open. A comedian and social observer, her character’s pains and insecurities are played out in magnified emotional tableaus that quickly capture the severity and make light of it at the same time. This one must have really captured the zeitgeist of a troubled time across modern societies, where one pretends a wound is made bearable with an optimistic sunny perspective, even if the situation may be life-threatening.

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BSA HOT LIST: Books For Your Gift Giving 2019

BSA HOT LIST: Books For Your Gift Giving 2019

The ephemeral qualities of art in the streets are effectively contradicted by this site, and we have captured much in the time we’ve been documenting the scene. Even, so, it is primarily digital, our work, our gift to you. If you want something of more lasting value, buy a book.

This year we had the pleasure of reviewing a number of books, and even appeared in a few ourselves with text and photos. If you’re looking for a lovely gift for the graffiti/Street Art/ Urban Art/ Contemporary Urban Art fan in your life, have a look at this list – our Hot List of 2019.

Futura 2000 “Full Frame” by Magda Danysz

From BSA:

Futura Goes “Full Frame” by Magda Danysz

One benefit of being ahead of your time is that you can paint your own rules, discover your own voice, set a standard. A drawback is that you may have to push forward on your own before you gain support for what you are pursuing. The key is to keep moving.

As Futura pulls fully into the frame of contemporary artist, its important for upcoming artists to remember that he had a long route – including being a bike messenger on Manhattan’s untamed streets to provide for his family – while he was waiting until the rest of the street and art world caught up with him. Now that Street Art has confirmed that his abstract explorations on subway trains were an early sign of what was coming, brands and gallerists and collectors often call. “Full Frame” helps appreciate the body of work he developed during that time.

Hendrik Beirkich: “Siberia”

From BSA:

Hendrik Beikirch Traces Lives and Memories in “Siberia”

A corollary to 2015’s “Tracing Morocco” by German street artist Hendrik Beirkirch (aka ECB), a new book travels to meet the rugged inhabitants of Siberia’s countryside in the Russian Federation. The results are starkly genuine, impressively authentic.

Again indulging us in the deep crevasses of many a weathered façade, Siberia invites you to meet the people whom he has met in his travel and presumably befriended, given their ease as subjects. A part of the Jardin Rouge stable over the past few years, Beirkirch has followed the lead of founder Jean Louis Haguenauer, the Frenchman who moved to Russia in the early 1980s and found his own odyssey outside the city to be formative to his character, leading him to write the introduction to the handsome tome.

“Graffiti In New York Hardcore” by Freddy Alva

From BSA:

Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore

A welcome and necessary addition to any graffiti academic’s library comes Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore, carefully documented by Freddy Alva. A thorough recounting of the birth and growth of graffiti through the lense of punk and hardcore scenes after 1980, Alva presents a parallel evolution of a scene as it was interpreted by a largely white constituency of rockers, anarchists, and rebels who grew up in and around New York at that time.

Alva is careful to give due to the graffiti scene that is more often identified as the roots of this practice of urban mark making; the hip-hop culture of primarily black and latino youth during the 1960s and 1970s. As the neoliberal corporate capitalists took over Wall Street and the Reagan White House, a different sort of graffiti writer was often showing up on the street – and often on stage as part of a hardcore band.

“Smashed: The Art Of The Sticker Combo” by I Will Not

From BSA:

SMASHED: The Art of the Sticker Combo by “I Will Not”

Anyone born after 1960, and that includes most sticker artists on the street today, has a positive association with the humble sticker. From “smiley” and “gold star” rewards stuck to the top of your grade-school class papers to scratch-n-sniff or puffy stickers to MAD magazine product parodies for Quacker Oats and Minute Lice, a lot of kids grew up with good feelings about slaps.

Over the past two decades a serious community of sticker designers, traders, artists, exhibitors and collectors has emerged – virtually assuring that public bathrooms in heavy metal/ punk / hip hop/ alternative music clubs will be covered top to bottom or ‘smashed’ with stickers. Adhesive equivalents of a business card or portfolio sample for many artists, musicians, philosophers, anarchists, and wise guys/gals, stickers are a quick and relatively inexpensive way to get your message out to the world.

“The Rap Quotes Coast To Coast” by Jay Shells

From BSA:

Jay Shells: The “Rap Quotes” Book

Context and placement are key to the success of Street Art. Jay Shells’s project, “The Rap Quotes” more than meets those standards. Indeed his project might be one of the most relevant examples of street art responding to a specific time and place in history that you’ll ever see.

We’ve been repping Jay Shells (Jason Shelowitz) for years since we first found his text-based signage on Brooklyn streets in the oddest of locations. Within a short time they began to make sense, and then brilliant sense – since they acted as a GPS for some of your favorite rap lyrics. 

“What if somehow these lyrics existed visually, in the exact location mentioned?” he says to illustrate his original idea.

“Flowers” by Michael De Feo

From BSA:

Michael De Feo “FLOWERS”

Amid the detritus of the urban cityscape in decline, it is a welcome contrast to see a dandelion or wild daisy sprouting up from a crack in the sidewalk. Not only is it a reminder of the original inhabitants of the land you are standing on it is an ever-present truth that the plants and the trees and the animals will inherit the earth again, no matter what grand ideas you have for it.

The simplest symbol of nature in the layered debris of urban margins, and a decorative one, is the flower that Micheal De Feo has been “planting” on walls since the early 1990s. The practice has sustained him through many cities and travels abroad, introducing him to artists and fans and collectors, eventually pushing him into explorations of contemporary art.

“Street Art Las Vegas” by William Shea and Patrick Lai

From BSA:

“Street Art Las Vegas” Takes a Tour Beyond the Strip

Before there was a scene in Las Vegas, there was a scene in Las Vegas.

Not in just the shimmering, drink slamming, dice rolling, pink-fur bikini with a rhinestone choker kind of way – that’s the real Las Vegas scene that you may think of – but in the urban art scene as well.

In this context, the Las Vegas graffiti/Street Art scene that existed in the 1990s and 2000s that led up to a massive “Meeting of Styles” in 2012 was lively and varied and leaned more toward lettering, handstyle, and characters. Later, beginning in 2013 with a music/art festival called “Life is Beautiful”, a select group of international Street Artists was paid by public and private interests to help the city tap into a growing interest in urban decoration with eye-popping murals.

“Stencillists / Pochoiristes” by Serge Louis

From BSA:

“Stencilists / Pochoiristes” Cuts Across the Street Scene Gallantly, with Serge Louis

Enthusiastic authors like Serge Louis can make Street Art sing, even in print. His new “Stencilists/Pochoiristes” is a finely illustrated hardcover of iconic images from the street. The carefully selected plates are placed within interviews in French and English.

The 17 stencillists whom he has selected are from a populated field of possibilities but he captures a fair range from his travels in Europe – with a few from the US to compliment them.

“Utility Writers” by MRKA

From BSA:

MRKA Gives High Marks to “Utility Writers” in Unique Street Tome

When academics and post-modern esoteric poets plunge into descriptions of graffiti sometimes they proffer colorful didactics and clever terminology like “mark-making” and “gestural” to describe the tagging practice. Conceptualist, graffiti writer, and multimedia artist MRKA takes a step toward the mundane and discovers a new kind of poetry with his “Utility Writers”.

“Stickers Vol 2: More Stuck Up Crap” by DB Burkeman

From BSA:

Stickers Vol. 2: More Stuck-Up Crap from DB Burkeman

In the Street Art continuum that presents itself to the passerby on city streets, the early practice of hand-drawn tags on stolen postal stickers eventually morphed into mass-produced slick runs of personal branding and large scale one-off hand rendered/cut paper pieces wheat-pasted with a brush. This story, ever-evolving, is more inclusive than some may think of when you talk generically about “slaps” on a door or on the base of a streetlamp in the city’s visual dialogue. For the book Stickers Vol 2, author DB Burkeman takes a wider survey of the practice, however, and in his second compendium, he goes where BSA has always followed the creative spirit; wherever it leads.

Dont Fret “Life Thus Far”

From BSA:

Dont Fret: “Life Thus Far”

Nothing to lose your head about, but you’ll be thrilled to hear about the long-anticipated release of the new monograph by the ingenious troublemaker and largely incognito Chicago Street Artist DONT FRET.

Emerging on the streets for a decade or so with painted wit and misshapen characters wheat-pasted where you least expect them, he’s the sharp observer and human humorist whose work is as brilliant as your cousin Marlene, as funny as Johnny at the funeral home, as handsome as the guys behind the counter at Publican Quality Meats.

Well, maybe not that handsome.

Various & Gould “Permanently Improvised”

From BSA:

Various & Gould and a Collaged Human Future: “Permanently Improvised”

“Our early conceptions about a future robot world were made from what we knew about automation and mechanics. Thankfully the surrealists and Dadaists were there to help us with flying ships made of tea pots and mystic, amiable metal helpers soldered and screwed together with spare train pistons and kitchen implements. Our helpers were all carefully oiled and pumping, marching in a mathematical concert through dry-ice fog, propelling herky-jerky humanoids up the path to the thoroughly modern world.

Do Rabotniki exist? They are already here. It just took Various & Gould to remind us.”


~ Steven P. Harrington in his essay “A Mixed and Matched Future-Past: Robotiniki” for “Permanently Improvised: 15 years of Urban Print Collage” by Various & Gould

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Dont Fret “Life Thus Far” : Harrington and Rojo Contribute to New Book

Dont Fret “Life Thus Far” : Harrington and Rojo Contribute to New Book

DONT FRET GETS IT, AND HE GETS YOU.


BSA contributes introductory essay and photos to the first giant compendium to represent the Street Art career of the ingenious Chicago humorist DONT FRET.


Dont Fret (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Sociologists and anthropologists and art school fellows like to say that the artist is having a dialogue with the street, with his peers, and with society. In ways that are more fundamental and resounding than most, the Chicago Street Artist named Dont Fret is certainly offering an entreaty to you to engage with him and his characters in a thoughtful analytic dialogue. He is also hoping for a laugh.

After two and a half years of preparation, DONT FRET debuts his first full-length book on Schiffer Books in time for the holidays, and it was worth the wait.

Brooklyn Street Art’s Jaime Rojo contributed photography to the new book, and BSA’s Editor in Chief had the honor of writing the introduction. We excerpt part of that essay hopefully to provide illustration to the DONT FRET experience:



“An American working-class street art satirist educated on Polish Broadway, Don’t Fret is a preeminent Chicago Street Art humorist, graffiti writer, documentarian and acute observer of everyday people and their distinct cultures now melting into one another. Thanks to a newly muscular gentrification even these are getting stamped out altogether by better-heeled settlers. This is where Nelson Algren, the “bard of the down-and-outer” documented the seamy and wild side of Chicago in the 1940s and 50s in books like “Neon Wilderness” and “The Man With the Golden Arm”. Like the author, Don’t Fret is incorporating the character of the street into his work. Unlike Algren, and more appropriate to this time, his work is also Meta – the actual characters on the street are represented here in his art on the street.

He doesn’t recreate the city, he captures it. When it comes to the neighborhoods of Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Ukrainian Village in Chicago, Don’t Fret is reviving his memories as a kid growing up there. His is a pronounced psychological and emotional attachment to these places, even if the weather is freezing six months a year and he thinks all of the local sports teams suck, including, yes, Da Bears.

Dont Fret (photo © Jaime Rojo)

‘My parents said I was always funny as a kid and always a bit of a troublemaker,’ he says of his inquisitive mind and sarcastic tongue even back in 3rd grade when his parents took him out of public school and put him into a charter school. ‘This was the mid-90s and charter schools were still a new thing in Chicago. The thing about this school was that the school’s chief benefactor was a Saudi oil company, and the majority of the school’s teachers were ex-military. So even though it wasn’t military school, it definitely felt that way,’ he says. ‘I was constantly in trouble and talking back to teachers,’ which is no surprise.

‘I think I once famously asked a history teacher who was obsessed with China if he was a communist – smart-aleck type stuff. It taught me really early on to always question the authority and your surroundings. I think I’ve found humor and satire as a way to deal with the dark times.’ Dark Times, a simple accurate description for this age, writ large with a roller by Don’t Fret on a canal facing building in Hackney Wick, London, and also the name of his art collective. Similar to his work at home, he studies the common usage and phrases of other cultures that he visits to coin clever word twists and to impart his own sense of irony.

He’ll concede that memories of the city in his youth are sometimes blurry and malleable in the face of time and a sea of gentrification that has transformed his neighborhood, but he doesn’t feel pressure to be absolutely factual, just accurate and true in his impression. Once clearly defined ethnic enclaves of Northern European, Polish and Ukrainian descent, the imposition of a class-dividing freeway and a flood of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in the 1960s and 70s created a swirling pool of marginalized communities who were trying to make a life at the time he arrived. “



Dont Fret (photo © Jaime Rojo)


This is Dont Frets’ city and romanticism would ruin it probably. Stiff looking normal people of various postures and problematic fashions plod up and down the grey sidewalks together and individually. Streetlife is shared in the unpredictable rhythm of daily occurrences; buses and cars with puffs of pollution coming out of their tailpipes, a stern traffic cop writing a ticket while standing by a car, a man on a red brick stoop tipping a bottle of beer into his plump cartoon lips. Our foibles and ridiculous qualities are highlighted along with the hilarity of our unremarkableness through various status signifiers and cultural details, each superseded by our oddities.

Work is never far from food and food is never far from beer and beer is never far from Da Bears and The Buff. Yes, the Chicago Buff; that brown paint that pops up and plagues Chicago graffiti writers and Street Artists and that is famous in other cities. You’ll always have an hour of stories about “the Buff” at any graffiti barbecue in Chicago.

‘Someone once said there are only two constants in life: death and taxes,’ he warms up. ‘They clearly also forgot about the buff. I don’t have the statistics on this, but if I was a gambling man I’d be willing to bet the city of Chicago spends more money on the buff then they do on public arts, so what does that say? There have been countless times I’ve put up a piece at 2 AM and come back to photograph it at 9 AM and its already been painted shit brown. It’s interesting that that’s the color they chose as well, right? Like who got that contract, to create surely thousands of gallons of shit colored paint to spray across the city?’ ”


Two excerpts from the essay, “You Are Here. Dont Fret.” by Steven P. Harrington

Dont Fret (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dont Fret (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dont Fret (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dont Fret (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dont Fret (photo © Jaime Rojo)
DONT FRET “Life Thus Far”, is published today December 9th by Schiffer
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BSA Images Of The Week: 12.08.19 / Chihuahua Special

BSA Images Of The Week: 12.08.19 / Chihuahua Special

Andele! Welcome to Mexico!

Northern Mexico can be arid and beige and green – and also very colorful. We were swinging through Chihuahua recently and captured some pieces on walls and freights that represent the current Mexicano sabor on the street – a mixture of calligraphy and straight up lettering skills, figurative pieces as well.

So here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring AEO Crew, DCH, Dos, Dosis, Gear, HB, JPK, Osea, PERISR, Si Loco, Siete, Spy!, Tees, Tiest, and TNO.

Dosis . Gear (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Siete (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Siete (photo © Jaime Rojo)
SIS (photo © Jaime Rojo)
SIS (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Gear . SIS (photo © Jaime Rojo)
HB (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Hbl (photo © Jaime Rojo)
HBL (photo © Jaime Rojo)
TNO (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Tees . Spyl (photo © Jaime Rojo)
AEO Crer (photo © Jaime Rojo)
PERISR (photo © Jaime Rojo)
PERISR (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
JPK . DCH (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Tiest (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Rekles (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Si Loco . Osea . Dos (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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“Neo-Muralism” for TÀPIA in Spain

“Neo-Muralism” for TÀPIA in Spain

B-MURALS PRESENTS TÀPIA BY AXEL VOID

A Neo Muralist Movement. Is this what we’ll call it?

Axel Void. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)

Artist/curator Axel Void is framing it this way when inviting 24 artists to Barcelona for TÀPIA (“walls” in Catalan). Figurative muralism also comes to mind as you look over these new walls of Nau Bostik.

Graffiti writers, Street Artists, contemporary artists: all of these participate in this impermanent show, each in their own expression of realism, and poetic realism, as long as we’re feeling like coining a term.

Axel Void. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)

Traditionally in ‘street art’ these walls and spaces have presented themselves as vulnerable to the interventions of artist,” say organizers. “Blurring the edges of this physical, yet metaphorical division, between the idea of private and public.”

We’re pleased today to present original photos of the murals that were executed outdoors in conjunction with the exhibition.

Axel Void. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)
Axel Void. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)
Jofre Oliveras. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)
Jofre Oliveras. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)
Jofre Oliveras. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)
Jofre Oliveras. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)
Cerezo, Fafa, Pollo7. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)
Cerezo, Fafa, Pollo7. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)
Cerezo, Fafa, Pollo7. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)
Cerezo, Fafa, Pollo7. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)
Cerezo, Fafa, Pollo7. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)
Cerezo, Fafa, Pollo7. TÀPIA at Nau Bostik with B-Murals in Barcelona. 2019. (photo © Fer Alcala)

“Tapia” is currently on view at B-Murals in Barcelona. The exhibition ends February 29 2020. Click HERE for more information and to see the artworks in the exhibition.

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BSA Film Friday: 12.06.19

BSA Film Friday: 12.06.19

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

Now screening :
1. “Realm: Shanghai” Vhils directed by Jose Pando Lucas
2. ARTRIUM, Moscow. (part 1)
3. Faith XVLII x Philadelphia, ‘The Silent Watcher’.

BSA Special Feature: “Realm: Shanghai” Vhils directed by Jose Pando Lucas

Like other fashion and luxury brands, certain contemporary art galleries are commissioning higher-end film quality videos to put muscle behind the marketing. Naturally, some artwork is camera-ready, infused with the potential for storytelling that creates the “rich content” that social media thrives on, and aids sales teams in the gallery space and at art fairs. Portuguese Street Artist Vhils has director Jose Pando Lucas along as sophisticated seer; The artist once again bringing a storyline into savvy focus, capturing your imagination with his.

“I remember the story I was told,” intones the mystical modern while staring into the camera. “That in time I would know my place in this world.”

The tone is perhaps meant to reassure an unsteady heart in a chaotic modern world, to center oneself in a dislocating environment. Viewed as an appealing sales tool, it also skillfully fortifies a self-image of the entitled powerful class who are pre-ordained or chosen to dominate and to lead. Anonymous and existential mournful stares through city windows and at bus stops, the artworks under construction are born of destruction; mottled, rough-hewn, defiant in the city’s margins.

Tradition struggles for its place amidst amazing new technology and rapidly growing infrastructure. The artist posits himself as working man pounding on walls, without airs of class. With this art in your home you are keeping in touch with the common, the everyday insecurities, for you are citizen. You can afford it because, after all, you are also a ruler.

“Nobody really got the answers they longed for.”

“Do we live as we dream?”

“Who else can hear me right now?”

Youthful, fashionable, under constraint, free of constraint, traditional and unconventional power players laying plans quietly, focusing a pent-up hunger for more. This is the ocean of wealth and capacity that will define epochs, not decades.

It ends sweetly, a bon mot that suggests a sense of human camaraderie among competitors of this race. But it is an uncertain connection, born more of wistful desire for a pleasant resolution than actual brotherhood or sisterhood.

“Yesterday is gone. This moment has ended.”

VHILS – REALM (Shanghai, 2019) A film by Jose Pando Lucas

ARTRIUM, Moscow. (part 1)

An educational insight into the people and the place.

Unusual in the Russian Federation, if not the commercialized western cultures which have willfully merged graffiti and Street Art culture to the point of quotidian, The Artrium combines a shopping mall with murals by Street Artists. What is remarkable is the list of names who regale this city skin with new pieces inside and outside, bringing to life an otherwise normal grey and beige block.

Astounding to discover in the center of Moscow, the outdoor gallery boasts artists such as Shepard Fairey, Felipe Pantone, Tristan Eaton, Ben Eine, PichiAvo, Okuda San Miguel, Pokras Lampas, Faith47, WK Interact, Faust, and Haculla. Average visitors may not grasp the remarkable collection of talents, but if you are shopping in this capital city, you wouldn’t want to miss this opportunity that captures a stunning moment in the rotation of the Street Art universe.

Faith XVLII x Philadelphia, ‘The Silent Watcher’. By Chop ’em Down Films

In the words of Faith XLVII;
‘I come from a country that is seething with the frustration of uncontrollable violence and woman abuse, xenophobia , class and racial divide.
And have moved to a country where there seems to be a fundamental crisis in the very soul of the nation.

We know this ache of our lands.
And we all know personal ache.
Everybody has their struggle to bear.

And with the weight of the world on our shoulders,
we must still be able to live with empathy
We must somehow keep our hearts open.

The words on this wall are a reference to the City Seal of Philadelphia with calls out for brotherly love.
This is no small commitment.

It also references a quote ‘Optimism is a strategy for a Better Future.’
Paying tribute to Noam Chomsky who was born in Philadelphia and is 91 years old this year. .

The harsh experiences of life can easily make us fall into a negative world view,
or inner psychological depression.
But we each have the ability to transform this base metal of knowing suffering,
into the gold of higher aspiration.

The name of this mural is ‘The Silent Watcher’
We can be the silent watcher, who knows, who loves and who endures.’

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Icy & Sot: Studio Visit and New Faces of Humanity

Icy & Sot: Studio Visit and New Faces of Humanity

An in-studio visit today on BSA with Street Artists Icy & Sot. We were happy to check in with them and talk about new techniques they are discovering and creating to make art recently. Remembering the astounding sculpture they created during our curation of the opening exhibition at the Urban Nation museum a couple of years ago, where they created an eerie steel immigrant family silhouette; people who were harrowingly trying to pass through a steel wall. Recalling the power of that piece we were interested to see the evolution of this 2-D method of conveying the features of an individual yet representing the aspirations of humanity in a much broader way.

Icy & Sot. Studio Visit. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In the seven years since we first met them, having just arrived from Iran in Brooklyn, we have witnessed such a rigorous, considered set of ethical guidelines in their choices of subjects and techniques, even as we could see their personal and professional evolution. Minimalist, even spartan, they hue to a simple line that is personal and yet universal.

These new profiles in steel are an example of new tools they have personally crafted from discarded items.  

“We used to walk like every day around here,” says Icy as he motions out of the grimy factory window of their Brooklyn studio to the industrial truck traffic below on the street.

Icy & Sot. Studio Visit. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“We found this rusty shovel and we said, ‘What are we going to do with this?’” he says as he twirls the wooden shaft in revolutions, the profile of a man cut out of the shovel’s blade. Once they collected a number of the discarded diggers and developed a way to saw them into shapes and smooth their rough edges, they decided to make a number of them.

“Then we did this series about working-class people,” Sot says. Lined up and leaning forward on the wall, the sculptures seem like they might talk in gruff and frank voices, might tell you about their toil, or speak of the soil.

“We wanted to cut them out like ‘workers’ profiles,” says Icy.

Icy & Sot. Studio Visit. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

They tell us about a grouping of the shovels shown this spring in Lisbon at Underdogs Gallery, owned and operated by Street Artist Alexandre Farko aka Vhils. The exhibition, named “Faces of Society” expanded the new cutting technique to include other materials like the brush of a hand-broom, the brass plates of the scales of justice, a sawed briefcase full of money, a pair of leather gloves smashed one upon the other. For followers of the artists, these new works all recalled the people-shaped holes in chain link fences that they have been cutting in recent years as well.

Icy & Sot. Studio Visit. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Aside from this reductionist approach to art-making, they have also been developing a unique process for applying paint with the inner core of a cutout. By specifically smearing paint directly to the metal shape, pressing it on canvas or parchment, and pulling away, the remaining paint gives the impression of movement and action. One series called “Dreams” features the guys singular focus on color, and on metal to create streaming portraits in red, green, blue, yellow, bronze, copper, gold and silver.

The artists then showed us their technique for creating these new paintings, a simple and possibly profound revelatory form of portraiture that infers stories in its streaks, suggests individual character in each rhythmic pulling back of the painted blade. When on display at Underdogs, they called this series “What is Love?”. A good question, as usual.

Icy & Sot. Studio Visit. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Icy & Sot. Studio Visit. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Icy & Sot. Studio Visit. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Icy and Sot’s piece for “Faces of Society” at Underdogs Gallery in Lisbon entitled “What is Love II”
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Jacoba Niepoort Lets Go in Fanzara

Jacoba Niepoort Lets Go in Fanzara

Danish painter Jacoba Niepoort captures a figure mid moment, usually in movement and gently touched with romantic realism.

Jacoba Niepoort. MIAU Festival 2019. Fanzara, Spain (photo © Jacoba Niepoort)

Here in Fanzara, Spain her new mural for the MIAU Festival is in two distinct parts, separated by bricked wall, interconnected by a chord. The malleable wire of energy seems to envelop the nude as she reaches toward a winged being which is taking flight, thin rope in claw.

This looks like a powerful creature. You may imagine this whimsical scene taking a difficult turn as soon as this bird is airborne and the entangled figure is dragged along behind, haplessly scraping along the ground and banging into houses, cars, and bushes until lifted up above the trees.

Jacoba Niepoort. MIAU Festival 2019. Fanzara, Spain (photo © Jacoba Niepoort)

Hopefully that doesn’t occur.

Niepoort tells us that this is scene not to be taken so literally.

“The mural is about the process of letting go of those things we have a hard time letting go of,” she says. Given the moment she has depicted here, there is little time remaining to let go.

Jacoba Niepoort. MIAU Festival 2019. Fanzara, Spain (photo © Jacoba Niepoort)
Jacoba Niepoort. (NEMO’s on the left) MIAU Festival 2019. Fanzara, Spain (photo © Jacoba Niepoort)
Jacoba Niepoort. MIAU Festival 2019. Fanzara, Spain (photo © Jacoba Niepoort)
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56 Years in the Game, ZLOTY Goes Big in Paris

56 Years in the Game, ZLOTY Goes Big in Paris

Ernest Pignon-Ernest, Jacques Villegle, Blek le Rat, Miss Tic, Jef Aerosol. Each of these important French Street Artists can rightly claim their mantel in the history of this movement. The one who is more often associated as being one of the first, if not the first Street Artist is Gérard Zlotykamien (Zloty).

Gérard ZLOTY Zlotykamien. Paris, 2019. (photo © Galerie Mathgoth)

His silhouettes or “Ephemeres” predate both Philadelphia’s Cornbread and New York’s Taki183 by a couple of years, so the argument goes, but due to the illegal nature of the practice and the fondness for the anonymity of graffiti writers, we may never know the answer. One thing is for sure, very few Street Artists from the 1960s are climbing 20 meters up a wall in Paris today, spray can in hand, to complete a new fresco.

Gérard ZLOTY Zlotykamien. Paris, 2019. (photo © Galerie Mathgoth)

Pushing 80 years old, Mr. Zlotykamien has been active since 1963 – a serious career of whimsical, funny and possibly frightening stick figures rendered with a quivering can and dislocated appendages afloat. Using the negative space as well, the elements gather as cells in a petri dish, scattered with meaning, an inner calculation. It’s childlike, subconscious, surreal, a cousin to Miró, perhaps, now looming above your head on this wall in a cozy neighborhood. We thought it may represent a man strolling with his walking stick.

Gérard ZLOTY Zlotykamien. Paris, 2019. (photo © Galerie Mathgoth)

After standing in the shadows of massive photorealistic and lushly illustrated murals of more recent vintage in cities around the world, the simplicity and purity of Zloty’s new work is frankly refreshing, and it reverberates. He says that he presented three options to members of this community, and this one was the one that was chosen. Now working here with Mathgoth Gallery, Zloty’s legal work is taking a grand scale.

Long Live Zloty!

Gérard ZLOTY Zlotykamien with the team. Paris, 2019. (photo © Galerie Mathgoth)
Gérard ZLOTY Zlotykamien. Paris, 2019. (photo © Galerie Mathgoth)
Gérard ZLOTY Zlotykamien. Paris, 2019. (photo © Galerie Mathgoth)

This project was realized by the Mathgoth gallery, with special thanks for the support of Paris Habitat and APY’ART paintings.

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Ángel Toren & Joan Tarragó in Sant Vicenç des Horts, Spain

Ángel Toren & Joan Tarragó in Sant Vicenç des Horts, Spain

A duo of wall painters show us their very different approaches to graphic design, illustration, and sign painting in these two new pieces completed last week in Sant Vicenç des Horts, Spain.

Joan Tarragó. “fight plastic portal” Contorno Urbano Foundation. 12 + 1 Project. Barcelona 2019 (photo © Clara Anton)

Joan Tarragó paints his “Fight Plastic Portal” with his “fusion of graphic language, ancient symbolism and surf influences,” he says. The wrapping line-work its pulsating natural energy washes over you in waves of turquoise and curving black lines. If these patterns look familiar you may have seen his work on facades and skating courts in places like Miami, New York, Japan, and Bali.

Joan Tarragó. “fight plastic portal” Contorno Urbano Foundation. 12 + 1 Project. Barcelona 2019 (photo © Clara Anton)
Joan Tarragó. “fight plastic portal” Contorno Urbano Foundation. 12 + 1 Project. Barcelona 2019 (photo © Clara Anton)

Ángel Toren elevates the “tag” of traditional graffiti writers as interpreted by theater posters and cinemas by employing optical play, geometric sharpness, crisp layers of color and dimension. The skills are so focused that you forget this is by hand, by can, by brush.

Toren says his work “focuses on the tri-dimensionality of space, depth and perspective as a dance in the composition.” His 2 and 3-D color plays have appeared as abstract and pop-informed graffiti stays true to his roots while pushing the boundaries of the accepted idea of a piece that was first defined by train writers.  

The walls are part of an initiative from Contorno Urbano, a community based public art effort which is beginning a new edition of their 12 + 1 project in Sant Vinceç del Horts, featuring interventions on Rafael Casanova’s street walls. The temporary installations ride two months, to be replaced by a new duo.

Ángel Toren.“Infinite Space” Contorno Urbano Foundation. 12 + 1 Project. Barcelona 2019 (photo © Clara Anton)
Ángel Toren.“Infinite Space” Contorno Urbano Foundation. 12 + 1 Project. Barcelona 2019 (photo © Clara Anton)
Ángel Toren.“Infinite Space” Contorno Urbano Foundation. 12 + 1 Project. Barcelona 2019 (photo © Clara Anton)
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BSA Images Of The Week: 12.01.19

BSA Images Of The Week: 12.01.19

Welcome December! Welcome final month of the decade!

Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week with 1 Up Crew, Bergero, Dirt Cobain, Disturbanity, Goal, Felix Gephart, Konozco, Lego Party, Leonardi, Lik Mi, HOAC, LOL, Phetus, Rice, Traz, TWC Krew, and Yard5 Festival.

Rice (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dirt Cobain . Butterfly Mush (photo © Jaime Rojo)
LOL (photo © Jaime Rojo)
TRAZ (photo © Jaime Rojo)
HOACS (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bergero (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Phetus (photo © Jaime Rojo)
TWC KREW (photo © Jaime Rojo)
1UP CREW (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Goal (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Felix Gephart with Disturbanity for Yard5 Festival at Urban Spree Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Konozco (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Lego Party (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Lik Mi (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Leonardi (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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