We continue today with our interview with Analí Chanquia and Vanesa Galdeano, who together are known professionally as MEDIANERAS. Today we talk about what it is like to travel the world painting, how they address concepts of gender in their work, street artists’ responsibilities to society, and how Social Media has affected their practice
BSA:Your work together has given you the opportunity to travel around the world participating in international street art festivals in numerous cities. What is the benefit of the existence of street art festivals to the artists and to the public? Is there a benefit?
Medianeras: International street art festivals have contributed to making street art mainstream. We do not criticize this fact, but we conceive it as a natural evolution of the activity. In our case, urban art festivals have allowed us to carry out our work in different cities and travel the world. Above all, they benefited us by providing us with the necessary infrastructure to carry out murals of murals in large dimensions in places that we would not have reached otherwise.
BSA: Can you recall a specific experience when painting in a foreign city/country that made a deep impression on you, big enough that influenced your work and made you transform or change or modify your art in any way?
Medianeras: Each experience, each trip, and each new project is always a new challenge and therefore implies growth both in our work and in us as people. We have been growing with the activity, and we believe that it has changed us.
BSA: Since you began painting together have you seen any movement from institutions and organizations that favor including more female artists in their lineup? Was it difficult for you at the beginning of Medianeras to get work outside Argentina? Did moving to Barcelona make things easier for you in terms of getting commissions in Europe?
Medianeras: Yes, we have witnessed how the number of female artists in street art festivals has increased over the years. We believe that there have always been many women who paint in the streets, but it has been in recent years that recognition and visibility of some more have been given. We are now somewhat appreciated for our work, but it’s been a difficult road for us. So many talented women have been painting on the street forever, but many of them did not have the visibility they deserved until a few years ago. Larger walls have gone primarily to men. We believe that this has to do with the prejudice toward women in stubbornly patriarchal societies. This situation has been changing in recent years, and now we are meeting more and more women who have been given an opportunity to grow with their works of art and the space to communicate their own vision.
Before moving to the city of Barcelona, we traveled every year to Europe and other countries to carry out our work. Although the geographical location was a bit far from some destinations and this meant longer and more expensive trips, we have always been able to do it despite the difficulties.
Moving to Barcelona facilitated access to commissioned works simply because it was closer.
BSA: In some of your paintings we experience a visual illusion of your characters coming from inside the building’s walls. You create an environment where the forms are in movement but also the characters strike a defiant pose. Is this a way in which you are challenging the public to interact with your work?
Medianeras: Yes, these characters are empowered and are in a challenging pose for a matter of scale since they are always bigger than the viewer and look at them from above. Conceptually, the representation of these characters is due to an intention to express an intention.
BSA: You create portraits, sometimes with an abstract quality to them. Who are your subjects? Do you know the men and women depicted in your work? How do you choose them?
Medianeras: We don’t know the characters that we represent because they are created digitally. Basically what we do is distort or change the faces so that they look strange. Many times we mix faces from different photographs and in turn, divide them into color planes of different darkness.
We want our works to convey the message of a broad concept of gender. We believe that once the rigorous distinction between men and women comes to an end, we will see the development of freer social relations and generations of people who are less concerned with what they should be and more attentive to what they could be.
BSA: Do you think artists have a social responsibility to address the problems affecting our society today with their art?
Medianeras: Not necessarily. Each artist decides whether or not they want to work to address these social problems. All individuals whether they are artists or not have certain social responsibilities when living in societies. Urban art is important as a tool for the appropriation of public space. It is also political action. It is very important for the communities to express themselves in their streets since these are the places that we inhabit as societies.
The objective that we have always shared was the need to make public art, whether it’s a mural, urban intervention, or mosaic because we believe that there is where it lies the right place for our work.
We consider that public art is the most honest way to create our artworks and that anyone has access to them. We are not interested in making art for an elite that understands or appreciates it or that handles certain codes. It is art for everyone. Medianeras was born with a shared desire to move and create our work in different places and for different communities.
The important thing about urban art is that it expands this offer, making it accessible to everyone and democratizing access to culture. The main goal is to live the experience of creating public work, of engaging a community. That’s what we’re looking for and what fully gratifies us.
BSA: Do you think that Social Media has influenced the artistic output of street artists? Do you think that street artists have slightly changed their work in favor of a more welcoming and larger Social Media presence?
Medianeras: Yes, definitely. We believe that artists think about social media when making artworks since many times social media are a medium to show the work. Perhaps the media and the way you show your work is as important as the work itself. Many of these are created for these networks,
In general, we believe that the digital world has permeated the world of art and has changed the way artists work. We also believe that these modifications are not limited to the world of art but to the societies of the world in general.
Jim Bachor puts his mosaics in potholes. It is unusual for sure. Even absurd.
When it comes to the topic of ephemeral art, absurdity is part of the street art game.
“This work is my mark,” says Chicago street artist Jim Bachor, and he points to the ancient practice of making mosaics as his inspiration. The artist began his project of laying tiles in the street as a way to advertise his fine art website online but found the practice to be addictive. These days he doesn’t just create random images of a bag of chips or a bouquet, he’s tiling details of masterworks from the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection.
He says he has developed a process of working in the broad daylight that makes him nearly invisible in a busy city and uses precautions not to get hit by cars because, “with two 16-year-old boys at home, I purposely avoid situations where the risk isn’t worth it.”
BSA talked with Bachor about his practice on the street, and how to have a sense of humor about it all.
BSA:Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists all despise potholes; you on the other hand are attracted to them like urban pigeons are attracted to sidewalk pizza. The Biden administration just signed a milestone infrastructure bill…are you concerned you’ll run out of potholes?
JB: I am not. I think potholes are an unsolvable problem. Unless cities decide to pull up all their asphalt streets and replace them with expensive concrete ones the problem won’t go away. I sympathize with city governments; unless how streets are fabricated changes, it’ll remain an unsolvable problem. Plus fixing streets keeps people employed.
BSA:Have you ever traveled in time and found yourself thriving during the Byzantine Empire? The work of the mosaic artists from the 15th century is still assiduously studied today. Your work is far more ephemerous. Do you wish your potholes creations were preserved for future generations? Are you always cognizant of the fact that most likely your work will be destroyed?
JB: I have traveled back in time but much earlier, more like the height of the Roman Empire, maybe around the 1st century AD. While it would be great for my pothole art to last for generations, this itch is scratched with the majority of my other work which isn’t pothole art. My fine art pieces have the chance of lasting a very long time – all while still looking the same as when they were first created. I purposely keep most of my pothole art relatively simple to fabricate. I can’t sell the original artwork stuck in the ground, only limited edition prints of it.
BSA:Is it your intention to send messages to people with your art on the streets or are you looking to amuse them, make them smile, and inspire them?
JB: It’s really kind of to poke fun at ourselves and the times we live in. Juxtaposing potholes (which everybody hates) with unexpected subject matter that everyone loves (like junk food or flowers). Kinda like an Easter egg hunt. Unexpected grins. Someone once said that unexpectedly running across a piece of pothole art is like seeing Jesus’s face in a tortilla. Sounds about right.
BSA:The Greeks used mosaics to build roads; while they were at it, they figured, well let’s make patterns with the little pebbles we are using…you are filling potholes with mosaics on the streets also with patterns and images…do you find the similarity amusing?
JB: I’m not so sure about the premise of this question! Greeks did some of the earliest mosaics in pebbles but I never heard of them using them in the construction of roads. I’d need to see proof of this!
BSA:Are you aiming to simply repair roads with art while you are at it, or are you using the potholes as canvas, sort of site-specific installations and road reparation is the farthest thing in your mind?
JB: It’s truthfully a case of “potholes as a canvas.” The initial idea for the campaign was to hopefully draw attention to the artwork on my website (bachor.com). The repair wasn’t part of my thought process. Trying to draw attention to the pothole problem wasn’t part of my thought process. Pothole art is kinda like an open-air gallery that’s open 24 hours a day to anyone interested.
BSA: Have you ever gotten cease-and-desist letters from the municipalities to prevent you from creating art in their potholes? Do the authorities consider you a vandal?
JB: Never. I’ve never had direct contact with anyone in any city government. I’ve never heard anything directly from authorities about what they’ve thought about my work. However, once the New York City Department of Transportation learned of a campaign I did there (“Vermin of New York”) back in 2018 through a New York Post reporter – they pulled up all of my installs within a week! It’s the only time anything like this has ever happened.
BSA:Sometimes, you take inspiration from existing artworks to create your own works. Do you prefer pop and contemporary art, or do you feel equally comfortable with classic pieces of art when designing your mosaics to install on the streets?
JB: With the exception of my recent “Master Pieces” – which featured details of masterworks from the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection – I really don’t look for inspiration from other people’s work. Although I know I’m inspired by what I’ve been exposed to in life I don’t go out of my way to look for inspiration. I think about ideas that are funny or interesting and just go from there. There’s certainly a nod to modern consumerism in some of my work that you can trace back to my years in the ad biz.
BSA:We find a sense of humor in some of your mosaics. Do you find yourself thinking that you are creating mischief on the streets with your art? Is that your intention? To be mischievous?
JB: Yes! I love the absurdity of it all. Who would spend all this time making a mosaic of a bag of Cheetos and then installing it in the street? Ridiculous. Fun. Unexpected. I like the idea of someone walking down the sidewalk and catching a glimpse of something in the street that shouldn’t be there. And it gets more interesting from there… Who doesn’t like an unexpected surprise?
BSA:When you make a mosaic on the streets in a pothole you leave it there. Can’t sell it. How do you finance your work? The cost of your materials?
JB: Yep. Each install runs about $100 in materials to produce. In the case of this year’s “Master Pieces” series, it was much more as they were fabricated entirely in expensive Italian glass. They are mostly self-financed. In the past, I’ve done Kickstarter campaigns to help pay for them. These days sales of limited edition prints of the pothole art installations help recoup costs and hopefully turn a profit.
BSA: We assume that your work is always illegal (if you were to wait for permits nothing would ever get done, correct?). Do you work under the cover of the night using a helmet light? When you work during the day without a permit, do you feel in danger from speeding cars, bicycles, skaters, and crazy drivers?
JB: If I had originally asked for permission from the city to do this we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The campaign would have never happened. I still don’t know if it’s illegal or not! My guess is if it were illegal I’d know about it by now. I started out doing installs at night to be covert about it. But it just looked more suspicious not less. I settled on mid-morning or mid-afternoon to avoid rush hours. People have their own lives to lead and if you look like you should be there no one notices or cares. Yes, there is an element of danger, but I try to be careful as this would be a really stupid way to die. Especially with two 16-year-old boys at home. I purposely avoid situations where the risk isn’t worth it.
BSA:People who live in a large, congested metropolis like NYC often find themselves coming out of the subway tunnels feeling a bit disoriented and not knowing North from South, therefore walking a long block before realizing that they are headed in the wrong direction. Can you think of a practical way of helping these poor, helpless souls find their way with your installations?
JB: I have thought about this as I’ve experienced being disoriented as you say. Why not simply install a giant N in the ground with an arrow pointing north? It would go a long way to quickly getting people where they want to go.
BSA:The end of winter is pothole heaven. Do you find yourself feeling restless come April?
JB: Like a squirrel that is hoarding nuts, I try and build up a supply of pothole art pieces over the winter. Once it (hopefully) warms up in April, I can hit the ground running.
In the first of a two-part posting, BSA takes you to the 17 million-strong Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see one small street art festival with a lot of heart.
Kin-Graff4 is the fourth edition of this project spearheaded by artist and entrepreneur Yann Kwete, who invites local, national, and international artists to come for a week of painting and special events. This year the theme of the hand-painted mural festival was primarily related to health topics and social issues – as well as a tribute to some of Congo’s favorite musical performers.
American photographer Martha Cooper traveled to the Congo with her cousin Sally for yet one more adventure. They both arrived home in New York with many stories to tell – mostly about how much they enjoyed the people they met there. “From portraits to complex lettering to entire murals, these guys are super talented,” Sally says.
There were 13+ artists (including one female) who first designed their graffiti pieces at a Kin-Graff workshop held at the French Institute of Kinshasa, Martha tells us. Many of the writers belong to Moyindo Tag Nation Crew @moyindo_tag_nation, so you may want to check them out.
The two cousins spent most days dodging foot traffic through the congested streets, marveling at some people’s ability to balance all manner of goods on their heads while navigating with grace through the sometimes chaotic byways. When painting one main wall with brushes and ladders, participants at the festival told personal stories about what it is like to be an artist in this city, and introduced them to friends and family.
“This long wall was in a very central section of the Bandal Municipality with continuous car traffic and passers-by on foot,” Martha says, “A ditch ran parallel to the wall, and these dedicated writers leaped back and forth as they worked.”
We’ll interview Yann Kwete tomorrow for Part II, but please enjoy these Martha Cooper exclusives (and a few from Sally!) of Kin-Graff4 from Kinshasa for today. We begin with a full body condom being painted to remind passersby that safe sex is everyone’s responsibility.
Filipino wheat-paste street artist Brayan Barrios has been placing his work on the streets of Manilla since the 2000s and shares with BSA readers some of his recent work today. Illustrated in a hatched hand technique that may remind you of linotypes, Barrios creates one-off pieces that he places in doorways, on corrugated walls, abandoned lots and other marginal areas of the city. These are all his neighbors and he is documenting their lives.
An artist and activist, Barrios always has issues of social justice on his mind. He uses his posters to pay tribute to people in the community who inspire him, sharing a personal insight into the hardships of life and the character of the city. We asked him to tell us about his work on the streets and margins of Manilla.
BSA:The people whom you depict on your work are ordinary humans doing their work, resting or reading. Are these people whom you know personally. Did you ask them to pose for you? Brayan Barrios: Some of my subjects are people I know personally – like the woman with the sewing machine — a late community leader, and the child freeing a bird – whose mom is also a community leader. They are people I would regularly encounter during my volunteer work in Payatas, a community in Quezon City known to be the dump site and junk capital of the metro. Most of my subjects are studies from either photos I took or random sketches.
BSA: Could you please describe your technique for creating your work? BB: My ideas always come from the most common doings of the basic masses, especially the workers and peasants during my experience of interacting with them. I would brainstorm around such ideas and then draw them directly on what we call here a “Manila paper” which is somewhat similar with kraft paper and then paste them on the good spots where more people can see them.
BSA: By representing these individuals on the streets with your portraits of them are you giving them a place in society or celebrating their existence? BB: I chose these ordinary people from the grassroots sectors to celebrate their existence as a vital part of the society. In my recent works, subjects are reading books or newspapers to fight grave disinformation and an historic revisionism campaign perpetrated by the current and upcoming regime. I also love putting up images of working class like the one in the window, sipping coffee with the call to abolish Endo Contractualization on his shirt.
BSA: Are all the wheat-pastes in one city or do you travel the country to put art up elsewhere? BB: My recent works are around different cities in Metro Manila. But I would love for my artwork to be seen by people in more sitios, barangays, towns, or cities around the Philippines and beyond.
BSA:Your country just elected a new president. He’s from the same family that ruled the Philippines for many years. The outgoing president could be described as a tyrant. Do you use your art to express your disapproval of how politicians are handling the problems of your country? BB: Definitely. I take it as both a responsibility and an honor as an artist to use my work to expose and fight tyranny and all other forms of oppression, and most importantly, cherishing the people’s struggle.
Assemblage and collage don’t get much attention in the street art scene, let alone the graffiti scene, perhaps because these art-making techniques will not typically trigger police sirens and lights. You may be thoughtfully arranging a composition of found wood and metal elements from a nearby dumpster on the derelict wall of an abandoned building at 11 pm for no apparent reason – but that hardly reeks of vandalism. There’s no wild tagging scrawl, no aerosol cans, no bubbles, no drips, no silver fill, no dramatic fence-jumping. For that matter, this kind of work can look like fence-mending. Now that you think of it, assemblage and collage-making may be precisely an ideal vehicle for subversion.
Hyland Mather has been pounding together assemblages on the street for more than a decade – a gathering of the discarded of society into new relationships, new families. He’s been scanning the city horizon and collecting for a while – doing it so long that sometimes he feels like he may be a hoarder, but this search and rescue operation continues apace. His collections of objects are more like orphans given new homes, not discarded but simply lost. Whether drawn from city margins, dumpsters, post-industrial heaps, each element is adorned and joined with others. Maybe it is just an extension of the Western world’s consumerism of the last half-century, but perhaps it is also an inclusive practice of making sense from the chaos, finding great value and beauty in the discarded.
Now dividing his time between living in Portugal and in Amsterdam, and curating for STRAAT museum in Amsterdam, the Denver artist also collects and represents other artists and creates street-based artworks in many cities – a unique blending of elements, roles, and families that further evolves his profile. Here in a hotel lobby at the center of a Jersey City arts center revival, his found elements are appropriate; moving and mobile and newly combined and interconnected in an act of his ongoing global/local travels.
He calls the two-part installation his “Ocean of Being.” If their shapes, symbols, textures, and relationships are biographical, the stories are subterranean. Curated by DK Johnston for The Arts Fund, Mr. Mather tells us that it is an installation of two significant works named Viking Frolic Bar and Black Bottom/Foggy Eyes, “paired together for the first time as a massive installation of assemblage and collage.” Wood, acrylic, aerosol, objects, paper, canvas, frame; all gathered and working alongside, in tandem, in a constructed harmony unified by a calmed, natural palette and tied together with string, a “geometric component floating lightly above”.
Additional works completed in situ and for other projects are on display- gallery works and works on paper from what he calls his ‘Emblematum’ series.
“These text-based pieces use imagery harvested from the pre-war (1930’s) Dutch magazine, Panorama, and post-war (1950-1960) photography from period photo journals,” his description says. He was aiming to “create a dreamlike collage behind ambiguous but uplifting slogans like the project title, ‘Ocean of Being’.
BSA spoke to Hyland Mather about his work, his influences, his strings, and his new indoor exhibition.
BSA:Is this your first project in the USA after two years of the Covid Pandemic? If so how did you feel being able to travel again to execute your work as an artist?
Hyland Mather (HM): Actually, I guess you could say I was lucky, I had a bit of a ‘golden ticket’ in terms of travel documents during the height of the pandemic with a European residency permit and a US passport. I did a bunch of large mural projects in the States in 2020 and 2021 and was in Philadelphia for an exhibition at Paradigm last July. I will say it was an odd combo of super easy and super eerie traveling when the planes and airports were nearly empty.
BSA:“Ocean of Being,” which is the title of your exhibition, does it refer to seeking balance, silence, meditation? The oceans are vast, and one can imagine being in the middle of them in complete silence, but not necessarily at peace since they can be turbulent and dangerous.
HM: You’re pretty right on about this. I took the title from a Hindu idea, Brahman Ātman. Where Brahman represents the unfathomable, immeasurable vast ocean of space, consciousness, and time and Ātman represents a tiny sample, or a water droplet in that ocean. In the Lost Object installations, the objects in the install are a small sample representing a vast ocean of discarded objects that are around us everywhere, all the time.
In the text-based works on paper, the collage backgrounds under papercut slogans make a kind of balance, where the slogan itself is like a cup of water and the collage underneath represents a vast ocean of imagery associated with the words. The string paintings, Linea Pictura paintings, are also related to the Brahman Ātman meditation where the soft, loose, abstract backgrounds form the ocean upon which the crisp floating lines hover over…like a droplet of water in the air when waves collide.
BSA:Is your predilection for using found objects in your art purely as art materials or are you being conscientious about the environment by creating as much as you can with discarded objects?
HM: This is an awesome question, and I think about it a lot. In the beginning it was never about the environment, it was purely meditation and aesthetic. However, over time, especially working with recycling centers and junk yards when collecting materials, I’ve come to really see what’s going on with waste and it is, and I mean this sincerely, insane.
I remember once going into the recycling center at the University of Oregon and seeing a huge industrial size hospital style laundry basket just filled to the brim with old CD’s. The woman who ran the program was in shambles…she just pointed at the CD’s and said something like, ‘We’re a conscientious university town and there is just no way we can even begin to put a dent in how much recyclable trash there is even in our community’. It was pretty sad to see this front line activist super disheartened.
I do have this dream project to work with some major player like Amazon, Ikea or Walmart to create a partnership where I make things with the mountains of stuff that they destroy when people return things. I just can’t wrap my head around how their PR departments would spin that … first they’d have to admit how much stuff is destroyed.
BSA: What’s is the process for your text-based series? Do you come out with the text first then you find the images for the background? Or is it the opposite?
HM: The text works (Emblematum) are about wide ideas expressed in simple language. An expression like ‘Under The Sun’ has so many possibilities for interpretation…like a pretty day at the beach, or wild flowers on the prairie, or something darker like desertification, or inmates busting up rocks. Almost always it’s the text first, then the collages underneath, but the collages themselves are often fun to compose separately. It’s an enlightening exercise digging through old magazines and gauging the temperature of culture from a time period that is not so far in the past.
I have a lot of old Dutch Panorama magazines from the 1930s and 1940s that I found behind an old book store in Amsterdam. Panorama was comparable to Cosmo or something like that… it’s crazy to look at one from say late 1939 or early 1940 and there is absolutely no temperature of the war that was already raging in Poland and Czechoslovakia, and in a few short months would overrun the Netherlands as well, yet it’s still just ads for toothpaste and puff pieces on fishing.
BSA: In your Linea Picture series one experiences the rigidity of the string and the beauty of the geometry but at the same time the soft yarn plays with the soft brushed, curvilinear work on the canvases. How would you describe this dual personality?
HM: This is such a flattering description, thank you. I’m happy with this work. This is the newest part of my practice and I feel like it’s taken me many years to arrive here. I’m not sure I can say it much better than you just did. String has been a tool I use in my work for a long time. I love how delicate it is and yet when stretched taut how precise it is. It’s kinda fetishy. The abstract painterly backgrounds are super meditative for me to make and put a great deal of peace into me as I’m working on them, but as artworks these pieces don’t feel complete for me until the string components are added, and a balance is achieved. I also really enjoy the shadow casting that the floating strings have on the surface of the canvases.
Ocean of Being is a project by artist Hyland Mather (@thelostobject), hosted by Canopy Hotel of Jersey City. The exhibition is curated by DK Johnston, founder of The Arts Fund.
A warmly modern and well-rounded direction today from graffiti writer and contemporary artist Augustine Kofie as his sampling mentality pauses over the O, a symbol of lasting inspiration for artists of many centuries, backgrounds, and mediums. Presenting a parallel between these new cuts of commercial pressboard and the relationships he has with expanding circles of people and culture, his influences and techniques of the assemblage are freshly discovered.
Preparing for his new exhibition “Rotationships” opening at Heron this weekend, Kofie likes to discuss his very disciplined approach to nearly obsessively collecting “pressboard, a heavy, multi-ply paper stock used in packaging and office supplies from the 1950s to the 1980s.” Culled from estate sales and flea markets primarily in the LA area, Augustine says he has a respect for the time period as well as the people who collected these modern relics of a genuinely middle-class age that is all but disappearing.
Viewers of the new show will instinctively adjoin with these sleek color palettes and clean diagrammatic renderings of lines, shapes, text. Each repurposed element here is related to its neighbor – chosen and applied in the instinctual way that a DJ isolates and reapplies sonic elements, spoken words, atmospherics, and rhythms when recreating aural compositions. Using these elements in their original state, he pulls and plays the appropriate hues, timbres, and materials from his archive. It’s a system he has developed over time, a meticulously ordered collection which he says is “archived by color palette, thickness, and category in vintage industrial file cabinets.”
The new player at the front of the show is the never-ending circle, previously having played a supporting role in his graffiti, murals, assemblages, and painting – now standing on its own, whole, balanced, and in charge of everything around it. It’s a solid direction, and a reassuring one, to see this self-made artist who learned how to hone his style from his graffiti forebears, now exploring the possibilities confidently and even coining words, like “Rotationships”.
BSÅ: We often think of you as a retro-futurist because of your distillation of imagery and text and patterns and color templates from mid-century Americana and the way you bring it forward. What do you think fascinates you about those times long before you were born?
AK: I have always had a very materials-driven aesthetic. I can relate that interest in materials from the past with a kind of archaeological or historical inclination, especially towards refuse—the things that histories don’t consider important enough to preserve. Sometimes nostalgia plays a role, but most the time it’s not about personal memories so much as respect for a time period and for the craftsmanship of that time, the respect for materials.
BSA: The focus of this show often revolves around the completed “O” shape – whether oblong, or squashed, or perfectly circular. It’s a family of shapes we don’t usually associate with your compositions of the past. How did it emerge – was it conscious? Was it sudden or gradual?
AK: Rounded corners, partial oblongs and circular forms have always found a way into my street and studio artwork, but they’ve always played a secondary role as a support system for sharper lines and more angular shapes. In this series, the rounded shapes are front and center, while the linear, ghosted patterns that appear in the background and help to construct the foreground are now the supporting cast.
Typically, when I would build a collage background before laying my painting on top, there was always this window of time looking at the work when I would think, ‘I would love to stop right here and leave it as it is, highlighting the varied materials. It took some time to suss out how to do it in a way that would allow the collage to stand on its own, and the circles became the way to do it. They anchor the work in a different way. Circles are also much harder to implement through this kind of collage because of the thickness of the materials, so there is a lot more of my hand in those shapes. Maybe I needed to find a place for that, since usually painting would be the place.
BSA: A central part of your art making is the disciplined process of collecting ephemera and materials and organizing and cataloguing them for future use. Can you talk about why this is so appealing?
AK: In a way, all of my artmaking stems from a deep need to make order out of chaos. Finding and then cataloguing ephemera is a perfect manifestation of that basic urge. It always finds its way back to hip-hop production, to the art of sampling records and plunderphonics, to deconstructing and overlaying sounds of the past to create new compositions and sound. It’s fascinating and limitless, and there is something about a sampling mentality that shapes everything I do. Over time, as I dove deeper into this kind of collecting, I became more knowledgeable of what was out there—what materials were made in different decades, what survived. I’ve also perfected my archiving system, which is part of the pleasure of it all. So I’ve been able to narrow in on my tastes and focus my collection, and all of that made this series possible.
BSA: How do you see your formative graffiti writing career as it continues to evolve into this fine art practice? Can you tell us about a through line that has continued in your work as it has grown in the last two decades?
AK: There’s a strong self-motivation and discipline that comes from pursuing your art on the streets. I didn’t study art in the academic space, but graffiti has its own art history, its own traditions. My through line was always to be respectful of the materials and the work, to respect those who came before, and to build something new, to establish my own space that allowed for creative expansion. I feel that this series does that.
A soundtrack for ’ROTATIONSHIPS’, a solo exhibition at Heron Arts San Francisco, March 12, 2022
For every solo exhibition, the artist creates a soundtrack. The music is assembled as part of the work process, which is both sonic and pictorial. This vaporware like mix blends late 80s ’skinemax’ era soundscapes, including up-cycled sophistso-pop saxophone and lo-fi telefilm intermissions and poignant dialogue relevant to the exhibition theme and tone.
All tracks re-recorded, chopped and mixed by: A. Kofie for 4x4Tracktor Mastered by &e @ BENDYmusic, Inglewood, Calif.
Up-to-the-moment street art today from Polish artist M-City (Mariusz Waras), who converts the façade of a Gdansk warehouse into a social media primer on how to support the people of Ukraine. Sharing a border with this post-Soviet state which has just been invaded by Russian forces, Poland is acutely affected by the implications of possible further aggression – as are the Baltic states and the rest of Europe.
The short list asserts that many social media users may not be fully cognizant of the implications of their posting actions – especially during wartime. M-City took to the walls today to instruct some best practices in these painted advisory messages on how to create your digital ones.
In additional acts of irony, he posts these street art messages on his social media channels – and we publish them for the BSA audience as well.
BSA:Where is this located? M-City: It’s located in a very well-known building which part of Stocznia Gdańska, now Stocznia Cesarska. It is part of the Imperial Shipyard where the workers’ movement, Soliderność (Solidarity), was born.
BSA: What would you like people to understand? M-City: Our Social media landscape is full of fakes and is full of superficial messages. Because of this, many people have a bigger challenge to make their messages visible when they try to organize something and help the Ukrainians.
BSA:Did you create this for a local audience, or specifically an international audience. M-City: It’s in English because now this is a global problem. I wanted to create simple sentences so everyone can understand.
BSA:Are you personally affected by the invasion? M-City: No, it’s still far from us. But I have a lot of friends in Ukraine and I painted there a few times. Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus are next to our border. Many Ukrainian people are working here now. They arrived here mostly after the beginning of this conflict years ago.
Perhaps more studied than the typical aerosol vandal, Tuco Wallach works for days in studio to prepare his works that go into the public sphere. Stencils based on his merged photo collages emerge as wood cutout Humasks, a uniquely titled campaign of figures he puts out under cover of night, or out in broad daylight, in his hometown in France.
Sometimes alone, often as a project with friends or with his family, Tuco shares his ideas and the process of putting work in public with his two young boys and his wife and others who those close to him. His craftsmanship is meticulous, precise, and his mind is immersed in a fantastic world that lies just inside one thin slice of yours.
He carefully cuts and finishes these “woodshapes”, and they are never far from him. “I always have a few ‘woodshapes’ with me and shoot them in streets or landscapes,” he says.
This summer his characters were stuck to walls, or posed in natural scenes long enough for him to photograph them, the magic captured for posterity. Tuco’s is an ongoing practice, one that entertains him and connects him with people, rather than separates him. Because his characters are shy, perhaps, they like to wear masks. He calls them “humasks”
We asked Tuco a few questions about his new campaign:
BSA:What is the new campaign “humasks” about? Tuco Wallach: After mixing for a long time humans and animals (“manimals”), I wanted to explore a new area : the masks and humans. I’ve always been very interested about masks in popular culture, movies, music… the subject is “infinite” for me. I began to make my first “humasks” just before the pandemic… Maybe the meaning has changed now. Perhaps it sounds a little “cliché”, but I wonder who’s behind the mask? We all are always wearing different masks with family, friends, and colleagues.
BSA:What is the process for selecting a figure for whom you will create a humask? Tuco Wallach: It depends – but my process doesn’t really change. All my drawings come from my pictures (not necessarily the masks). I shoot unknown people and I add a mask to their figure later, and create my stencil from that result. Sometimes the mask influences me regarding how I choose a figure, sometimes it’s the contrary. I make tests and and at some point, I feel it’s right.
BSA:When you have added the mask, does the figure become a new character? Tuco Wallach: Definitely it does for me. Each time the new figures become my ‘little friends”. They have a parallel life in my mind, like super heroes 🙂
BSA:There is a certain anonymity in putting street art up in public places. Do you wear a mask sometimes in public as well? Tuco Wallach: No. Just my cap and my bike. If I was wearing a mask when pastings my “humasks” I think it may become too complicated.
Something completely fresh today from artist Adele Renault, who tells us she is thinking about the beauty of nature more than ever. With this new mural of green leafy covering in Liège, Belgium, she is beginning a series she will call Plantasia (#plantasia) and will be developing into a new solo gallery show focusing on the plant world. It’s as old as the hills and the forests, but this new focus feels fresh to this aerosol master. We asked Adele how this new direction began to grow.
BSA: Millions of people worldwide are finally venturing out without masks, and many countries are opening up after a horrific year during the Pandemic. You are not an exception. You are painting murals again—only this time with a new direction. Now you are painting plants. Did the lockdown and the isolation make you re-think the direction of your career?
Adele Renault: I never really stopped painting, luckily murals were considered like construction, and most murals could still go ahead; we are fortunate. It’s probably the only cultural sector that hasn’t been completely devastated. Traveling was an issue, of course, and many events got canceled or perpetually postponed. What the lockdown allowed me to do (just like everyone else) was to slow down a bit, and for me, that meant more time for gardening/planting. That’s a passion that’s literally been “growing” my whole life without me even being aware of it.
As a kid, I always had to help my mum in her large vegetable garden, sometimes fun, sometimes felt more like a chore. But I was subconsciously gathering up all that information being passed down to me—the moon calendar, what to plant when, how to prepare the earth. And then, like so many, I lived in cities where gardening didn’t have a place.
Until I moved to L.A. and was fascinated by the vegetation at every street corner, everything and anything seemed to be growing. And then a revelation came when I realized I was enjoying growing things in pots, didn’t even need to have a patch or a backyard.
I occasionally went to help my friend Ron Finley in his garden, and that’s where I realized you could have a massive garden, all growing in pots if you are surrounded by concrete. And pots are actually fun; you can compose pots like a painting, put together different things that grow at different speeds or heights, play with colors and textures. So right now, I spend a lot of time growing stuff indoors in pots and veggies outside.
BSA:Why did you choose plants as your subjects? AR: I’ve always painted the mundane, whatever was around me. People, pigeons. I see beauty everywhere and in everything, and for me, it was always about showing beauty where you least expect it, but the subject could have been anything. It never had to be “special” to be painted. Now, yet again, the subject chose me rather than the other way around. I spend more time looking at plants from up close, and so I end up painting plants. But it’s not an overnight decision. The seed was planted a long time ago, quite literally.
BSA: Will you paint plant life that is native to the country or city where you will be creating? AR: Probably, but not always. I will repaint the mundane, like stinging nettles or a cabbage leaf. Of course, I will sometimes make site-specific installations, but I also paint what speaks to me or fits a building. Right now, I am starting to work on a solo show. It will be in Belgium, and I am in Europe now, but I miss Los Angeles a lot, so I will probably end up painting some California plants.
BSA:What are your feelings about the color green? You’ll be using gallons of it moving forward. AR: I wouldn’t say I like green. When I buy clothes or shoes, I would never buy something green. Or paint the walls inside my house green! But I love green in nature. I think everybody does instinctively like green nature, green plants. And in a way, when I cover a building in a green leaf, well, I m quite literally letting nature envelop and reclaim a bit of manufactured concrete. Even though it’s not eco graffiti and spray paint isn’t quite “green nature” taking over, but it can at least symbolize it and inspire people for a greener future. I am obviously not the first or last person to paint plants, and I think it’s one of the natural subject matters, just like portraiture. But I hope to bring something new with my approach.
French Street Artist Julien de Casabianca is debuting a new series of photographs that may appear as a surprising departure from his previous multi-year multi-city OUTINGS project, but a closer examination contains many similarities between that one and “Grand Mozeur Feukeur”.
The street artist’s pastings for his OUTINGS Project featured scenes from figurative artworks, classical and modern, from museum collections. Julien de Casabianca wanted the images displayed on facades of buildings in public view rather than hidden away for a limited audience. By bringing outside these selected artworks from cultural institutions worldwide, the artist created a genuinely new category of street art, which doesn’t occur with the frequency you might expect.
From Poland to Mexico to Palestine and Vietnam, OUTINGS expanded to be many things at once, including a form of public service that exposed passersby to cloistered artists whose works were prized but generally unseen by the everyday citizen, therefore unconsidered. Everyone was required to re-think the artworks as well as their pre-conceptions of propriety.
Sometimes partnering directly with local art institutions, Casabianca traveled the world, bringing images into the light of day. Considered anew in this city street context, these excised images took on newly discovered relevance, weights, and character. While some appeared as ghosts of the past, others were remarkably contemporary in these modern surroundings. With the implied or explicit imprimatur of academics and art institutions, his novel approach to art on the streets was timely and of our time, short-circuiting convention and garnering countless press articles in cities and cultures widespread.
For one campaign, he selected only “sex scenes,” as he calls them. Motivated by his disappointment at the lack of sexual themes in the street art scene, Julien de Casabianca isolated duos and polyamorous parties engaged in the erotic arts. “It was my first step of questioning sex, gender, and body in street art,” he tells us in an exclusive interview. A redefining of the street art scene, which can be ironically conventional considering its unconventional origins, was necessary.
“My pasting work used characters taken directly from classical paintings – and I put them in the streets,” he says. “There were dozen of sex scenes – heterosexuals and homosexuals – extracted from classical paintings.”
The impulse to expose audiences to these images was liberating, leading him to publish a manifesto on the streets of his home city, Paris. The long screed excoriated his fellow street artists worldwide for what he perceived as their lack of bravery and possibly hypocrisy by avoiding explicitly sexual scenes.
One excerpt says, “What’s wrong with you guys? Street artists are the purest of them all, then? The least ballsy, apparently. The least boobsy too.”
Today, following his own counsel, Casabianca presents a personal campaign in photographs that again introduces themes infrequently seen on the street, this time using himself as muse and canvas. As LGBTQ issues have mingled with a volley of newly coined terms and freshly minted (often self-appointed) experts in the academy, the media, and the street, many everyday persons have continued to navigate through life with seemingly new definitions of gender identity. This new campaign may clarify, or not.
As an artist familiar with both public display and figurative artwork, Casabianca models here his unique flair for fashion. He also displays a previously little-known relationship with gender, sexuality, and our coding guidelines for classification of each. In this new project, he models dresses that he has collected, each endowed with several associations and assumptions.
As in the OUTINGS project, these photographs are excised from their original intended context, if you will, and given a new venue for consideration. Along with the quality of materials and construction, the viewer will evaluate categories such as “day” or “evening,” occasion, income level, social status, age, gender, sexuality, sexual availability, and degrees of masculinity or femininity.
“This new series of pictures presents my body as a form of street art. I do not see the body used in street art either, but I believe it can be a kind of contemporary art performance,” he says in his description of the new project he’s calling “Grand Mozeur Feukeur.”
Paired with footwear that is not typical for the styles of dress, he poses with some deadpan expressions, occasionally appearing as solicitous, coy, non-plussed, or decisive. You may even say they are a parody of the poses in classical antiquity or fashion magazines. This is a very personal act of self-exposure, and the project reveals his questioning of identity and the paradox of self-expression – and society’s propensity for categorizing.
In total, “Grand Mozeur Feukeur” is a very intimate, provocative presentation that may surprise and draw closer examination by viewers. Grand, severe, and even humorous, the performer/muse/artist places himself against a “typical” scene of urban aerosol graffiti tags on walls. – It’s not exactly street art, yet you can imagine some of these images may end up on the street in a city near you.
“This work questions gender,” he says. “There is a malaise in the masculine aspect in our society at this moment, and I’m uncomfortable with manhood. I’m not gay; I’m a boy-girl, maybe. I’m attracted to women but not attracted to the heterosexual way of being. I identify as queer, and I’m sexually attracted to people who identify as this as well. Heterosexuality is a lifestyle. I may be something like a cross-dyke, because “dyke” at one time was a slang term for a well-dressed man. A well-dressed man for me is a man in a dress. A man cross-dressed.”
BSA interviewed Julien de Casabianca about his new project:
Brooklyn Street Art (BSA): Can you talk about what led you from your previous street art project to this new one? A number of those pasted works focused on sexual and erotic themes. Is the new project related to each other in any way?
Julien de Casabianca (JC): My OUTINGS work uses characters removed from classical paintings to paste them in the streets. I pasted a dozen sex scenes extracted from classical paintings in Paris streets, and I published the series in Nuart Journal. Some were heterosexuals in nature, and some were homosexual. So this was my first step in questioning sex and gender in street art. And I discovered how sex and gender are rare in street art.
Sexuality is seldom discussed, except in a way meant to be comical. Homosexuality is rarely addressed, except in a political way, in defense of visibility, for example. Rarely are these themes presented for just what they are: sex and love. So once I realized this, it opened my eyes, and I decided to continue to work on these queer questions.
BSA: The dresses present a traditional look at female gender roles. Here they are contrasted with perhaps more modern classic male presentation. How is a costume/dress selected?
JC: These are only “old lady” dresses, grand-mother style. I’m fascinated by kitsch and how there can be a beautiful state in the sublimation of ugly. I think these dresses fit me really well. Since I was 15 years old, I always wore these dresses when I went to a queer party. I did not intend it as a travesty or an absurdity, not just to “dress up.” It is just because I’m beautiful in it! I don’t act like a girl. I’m a man, with my virility intact, and I’m absolutely not androgynous. And some are funny, yes. I have a huge collection, around 150.
BSA: The footwear and socks are frequently well-matched to the color scheme of the dress, yet they are not directly related to the style. Is this intentional?
JC: Yes, I’m a sneaker addict, and I always wear sneakers, even in a dress. And I’m in urban style all the time, and it’s my job, so I wanted absolutely to create this mix between old-school and contemporary.
BSA: Does posing before heavily graffitied walls make these modeling sessions more “street” or “urban”?
JC: Yes, I’m a street artist, and this wall is in my home. There are two ways to connect this series of photography in the continuity of my street art work: the urban style association of the sneakers and the walls covered in graff.
BSA:Are you challenging gender roles and definitions, or are you expressing identity and sexuality?
JC: This work questions gender. There is a malaise in the masculine in our society. I’m uncomfortable with manhood. I’m not gay; I’m a boy-girl, maybe. I’m attracted to women but not attracted to the typical heterosexual way of being. I identify as queer, and I’m sexual attracted to people who identify as this. Heterosexuality is a lifestyle. Maybe I am something like a cross-dyke, because people used to use “dyke” as slang for a well-dressed man. And a well-dressed man for me is a man in a dress. A man cross-dressed.
BSA: Is there comedy here?
JC: There is comedy too, sometimes, because I’m funny in my life and the photographs are my work. But these styles are from my nightlife. At my house, my decor is full of old-lady stuff. I’m in love with those things. They are deeply moving.
BSA: In terms of society and your personal evolution, could this project have occurred in 1991? 2001? Or is there something about 2021 that makes it feel “right”?
JC: It has been an incredible evolution in the last few years in the overall recognition by people of the variety of genders that exist. Ten years ago, people would have regarded my looks as travesty or comedy, period. I’m not either one, not traditionally hetero. I’m queer. During the day, I wear what could be considered a “heterosexual urban” style – maybe androgynous. At night I’m wearing old lady dresses while keeping my virility and masculine behavior.
We’re honored to be interviewed by Miss Rosen in the photography magazine Blind. Here is the introduction of her article with a link to the full story.
By Miss Rosen for Blind Magazine.
“If graffiti changed anything, it would be illegal,” street artist Banksy said. Jaime Rojo and Steven Harrington of Brooklyn Street Art reflect on the relationship between street art, activism, and photography.
Though we are surrounded by omens portending the future before it occurs, many refuse to read “the writing on the wall.” The confluence of graffiti and political action dates back to the Biblical story of Belshazzar’s feast when a disembodied hand scrawled words on the palace wall in a language no one could understand. According to the Book of Daniel, the young hero deciphered the message and warned the king the great empire of Babylon was going to fall.
The parable, contained within the larger story of apocalypse, is uncannily timely given the resurgence of graffiti and street art, two of the most vital, viral forms of contemporary art. Long intertwined with photography and activism, today’s “writing on the wall” has become the medium of the proletariat in the fight against the oppressive power structures dominating everyday life around the globe.
Throughout history artists have taken to the streets to draw attention to the issues at stake in the hopes of radicalizing the populace. From the use of wheat-pasted posters in the 1910 Mexican Revolution and John Heartfield’s anti-Nazi and anti-Stalinist crusades of the 1930s to 1968 student uprisings in Paris and Mexico City, artists have long taken to the streets to expose the corruption of political institutions. Although their works are local and temporal, photography has played an integral role in preserving and distributing their messages far and wide.
“Humans have always had the urgency to leave their mark behind. Walls and rocks have been their canvases for millennia,” say photographer Jaime Rojo and editor Steven P. Harrington of Brooklyn Street Art. “By the 1980s, graffiti writers like Lee Quiñones routinely addressed social and political topics when using New York City subway trains as canvases. Likewise, street art in 2020 has referenced police brutality, structural racism, feelings of alienation, disgust with politicians and a vast economic chasm that is shredding the fabric of society.”
Click HERE to continue reading the full article in Blind Magazine…
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer focusing on art, photography, and culture. Her work has been published in magazines and websites including Time, Vogue, Artsy, Aperture, Dazed, and Vice, as well as books by Janette Beckman, Joe Conzo, Jane Dickson, Arlene Gottfried, and Allan Tannenbaum. As publisher of Miss Rosen Editions, she has produced books including the legendary hip-hop epic Wild Style: The Sampler by Charlie Ahearn (2007), Do Not Give Way to Evil: Photographs of the South Bronx, 1979–1987 by Lisa Kahane (2008), and New York State of Mind by Martha Cooper (2007).
Blind is a magazine that invites you to take the time to see, read and understand the language of photographers. Photography reveals not just what our senses perceive, but also how our sensibility acts: what moves us, touches us, and binds us.
Steering away from potentially inflammatory political content or street beef of the past on this high-profile wall with a New York street art/graffiti history, the current occupants of the Houston Bowery Wall are more focused on allegory, and community. Featuring a fleet of volunteers and a mural full of history and aspiration, Raul Ayala thinks of this wall as a teachable moment. The artist employed many of the 21 days that this mural took to complete to do just that: teach.
With ten talented young artists/activists from the locally-based Groundswell NYC community organization, Ayala planned and painted various phases of the mural together while under the gaze of curious New Yorkers who paraded by hour after hour while the artists painted. Included in that team were Gabriela Balderas, Charlize Beltre, Brandon Bendter, Junior Steven Clavijo, Jennifer Contreras, Maria Belen Flores, Hafsa Habib, Cipta Hussain, Karina Linares and Gabriel Pala.
Ayala describes the piece as “opening a portal,” and you quickly realize that it is a portal of the mind to imagination and inspiration. “For me, building imagination and sharing knowledge alongside a younger generation of artists is a great manifestation of the fruits of this shift,” he says. “With this mural, we are also bringing inter-generational participation into a future that honors our past while actively creating a different path of existence.”
BSA talked to Raul about the mural and his experience painting it. Below is the interview:
BSA: At both ends of the mural you have depicted two masked characters. One on the left is wearing what seems to be an Aztec mask with the skyline of Manhattan in the background as he pulls down a monument. The one on the right is a black man at the moment when he is either about to put an African mask on or at the moment when he’s taking it off. Could you please describe the significance of both characters and how they relate to each other in the mural?
RA: Masks have always been a part of culture and are the recipients of many powerful archetypes; they are a space of connection to different realms of existence. In recent times, due to the pandemic, the mask has become necessary protective gear and is part of the current cultural landscape. With the masks depicted in the mural, I wanted to drive the conversation towards a more ample understanding of the mask as it relates to specific cultural heritages. Black, brown and indigenous solidarity is a constant effort in my practice. I strive to practice solidarity in the themes I paint and also in the way a lot of my murals are made. I think of mural-making as a learning space, where I get to have conversations with my peers and my students. African and Indigenous (Wirarika/Huichol) inspired masks have a lot in common, as one of the proposals for the idea of “opening portals” that is the overarching theme of the mural.
also a symbolic connection. In the Andes, where I come from, the Jaguar is a
very powerful spirit animal related to water. The Black Panther as a representation
of Black Power has a lot of cultural relevance as well and I wanted to hint to
those connections. Many passersby have referenced one of the masked people as
Chadwick Boseman. Even though it was not necessarily my intention, I love that people
-especially younger generations- read that on the mural.
BSA: There’s a skeleton with his arm around a skull character in a suit holding what seems to be a scepter. What are these two doing in the mural and who are they?
RA: The whole mural is an allegory of our current times. For me, part of the work that needs to happen is to address systemic oppression and white supremacy as prevalent forces that are endangering our relationships to each other, to our ancestry, and to the natural world. The two characters represent these forces. There are also a lot of symbols relating to these structural powers: There is a big fish eating small fish and an Icarus falling, both as cautionary tales of a late capitalist society and its extractive, individualistic strategies.
BSA: Can you talk about the women that are making a quilt? Who are they? What do they represent? Why are they making a quilt?
RA: Textile arts at large, including practices like Quilting Bees have been spaces not only of resistance and resilience but also spaces to pass on knowledge between generations. I wanted to depict a pluricultural, multigenerational circle of women. I believe these are great examples of the kind of relationships that will sustain and create health in these times. Additionally, the designs are another type of “portal.” They are traditional symbols in different cultures; the women in the back are creating a “tree of life,” a traditional African American quilting design. The women at the fore are holding a Chakana, which is a very important symbol of the Andean cosmogony.
The central character is dressed in a Whipala, an emblem that represents indigenous peoples from the Andes. The animals that are coming out of the designs (with the exception of the hummingbird, which is a migratory bird) were part of the ecosystem of that very location before colonization. I took the information from the Welikia Project, a map that overlays the city with the ecosystem of Mahannata before 1609. I would also like to acknowledge that my partner Fernanda Espinosa, an oral historian and cultural organizer has been a great help in imagining this side of the piece, and with who I often collaborate.
BSA: The flowers on the mural are very similar to the Moon flowers one sees in NYC in full bloom at night during the summer. Are these Moon Flowers?
RA: It is great to hear all the different readings the public has. In the end, it is about what people take and interpret themselves, I love that the flowers can also be Moon Flowers. I wanted to bring the idea of passing on traditional knowledge through generations. The plant depicted is Guanto, a plant that has been used as medicine in the Americas for millennia.
BSA: The female character holding a seed or a seedling. Can you talk about her and the seed she is holding?
RA: This is another allegorical character that is both using plants as medicine and holding the seed as a symbol. For me, it talks about the idea of the future. The title of the piece is “To Open A Portal,” this seed may be seen as a sort of key to that portal; a key that requires sustained care so the fruits of the labor can be enjoyed in a possible future.
In Kichwa, one of the indigenous languages of the Andes, we can say that we are living through a Warmi (female) Pacha (time/space) Kuti (shift). These seeds also represent that Warmi Pachakuti. In a way, this speculative approach to the future that has a strong female character at the center is an homage to Octavia Butler’s oeuvre. The figure above is also a historical character, Harriet Tubman. These are proposals to enter a new monumental landscape, not necessarily to depict one main person, but the sets of relationships and changes they have created through their actions.
was your experience painting in such a prominent spot with so much noise and
RA: I really enjoy working in public space! The conversations that I witnessed and that the mural and activity sparked were very interesting. A lot of people told me that they see themselves in the characters and that was one of the biggest compliments I have received. There were also some people triggered by what was perceived as an attack on “white culture.” For me to question white supremacy and celebrate protests in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, allow us to place this shift in the context of History. When monuments are brought down, a sort of portal to a different reality is being created. I see this seemingly aggressive act also as an opportunity to manifest different futures: when a symbol that stands for the values of civilization is put into question, domination and power imbalances are being contested too. This portal allows us to walk through the pain and find futures where we consider the way in which we are not only connected but also dependent on each other.
BSA: Your assistants were also your students. Where do you teach?
RA: While I am a visual artist, teaching has always been an important part of my practice and one that I center often. I started first teaching art in a project I started in detention centers in Quito many years ago. Since then, I have taught with multiple projects and organizations. With Groundswell, I have had the pleasure to teach for about 7 years. This project was in collaboration with them and it really was the only way it made sense for me to do this wall. I have been witnessing the growth of these young artists for some time now and I feel very proud of them and what we have done together. My responsibility as an artist is also to educate the younger generations of artists of color.