Street Art Book Review

“Born In The Bronx” Expanded: Joe Conzo’s Intuitive Eye on Early Hip Hop

“Born In The Bronx” Expanded: Joe Conzo’s Intuitive Eye on Early Hip Hop

Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop

Yes, Yes, Y’all, it’s been a decade since this volume, “Born in the Bronx,” was released. The images here by photographer Joe Conzo seem even more deeply soaked in the amber light of early Hip Hop culture from the late 1970s and early 80s, now taking on a deepened sense of the historical.

As the city and the original players of this story have evolved through the decades that followed the nascent Hip Hop era, it’s clearer than ever that this was nothing less than a full-force eruption, a revelation that cracked and shook and rocket-fueled an entire culture. Thanks to Conzo it was captured and preserved, not likely to be repeated.

The book is masterfully edited by Johan Kugelberg, the true visionary of this project, who established and has overseen the growth of a collection of memorabilia and history for the Hip Hop History Archive at Cornell University – which now boasts a quarter million items. A modestly thick hardcover, it’s rich in its choices. Posters, handbills, album covers, original lyrics by performers, stunning portraits backstage, on stage, on the mike, and on the street; this is a world you can immerse yourself into quickly and without pretension.

Born in the Bronx is full of gems, insider observations, interviews, and personal hand-drawn artworks. One critical cornerstone is a timeline from Jeff Chang that begins in 1963 as the boastful but failed Urban Planner Robert Moses constructed the Cross Bronx Expressway – painfully destroying and displacing people and families, severing culturally significant, vibrant areas of the borough and producing a dangerous malaise.

An ensuing blight only fueled the “white flight” from the city, leaving a growing number of dispossessed black and brown neighborhoods that suffered for decades afterward.  His timeline ends in 1986 with Run DMC going platinum and a drug war ramping up to see a booming prison population. With these events as bookends, you know the music, art, dance, fashion, and performance culture that grew out of the Boogie Down was going to be commanding and resilient.

Afrika Baambatta recounts a foreword to Miss Rosen, LL Kool J does a brief “kick-off,” the Cold Crush Brothers hit the stage, and the packed crowd is enthralled. To get the full story about how to document the scene, check out Joe Conzo’s account told to Miss Rosen – the story of a shy chubby boy – the son and grandson of community activists who became his high school’s resident photographer and who parlayed subsequent connections into an exploration of music, performance, and the burgeoning Hip Hop scene at the moment it was happening.

For a richly rendered graffiti context, there is a fully realized recounting of the people and the scenes that informed it in an essay by Carlos MARE 139 Rodriguez called “What You Write?” With it, you get a true sense of a an exciting merging of music, aesthetics, society, street, creativity, and community.

The book closes with a very personal but pertinent poem, it’s short verses ducking and spinning and swaggering with pride at what the Bronx gave birth to; a global culture that continues to resonate worldwide and rock the bells.

“No ends could be made
For the price we would pay
Economically strapped
No time for a nap

‘Cause this is about to go down

The boogie down was burning
And my people yearning
Just to get a piece of the pie
My mind’s eye

Was as big as the sky”

~Luis Cendeno AKA DJ Disco Wiz, from “The Land Before the Rhyme”

BORN IN THE BRONX: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop. Expanded edition published in 2020 by 1xRUN with support from ROCK THE BELLS & BEYOND THE STREETS. Detroit, MI. 2020.

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“Unsmashed” A Street Art Sticker “Field Guide”

“Unsmashed” A Street Art Sticker “Field Guide”

The street sticker, be it ever so humble and diminutive, is profligate and sometimes even inspiring. An amalgamated scene that is anonymous, yet curiously stuck together, the organizers and sponsors of so-called sticker jams have been overwhelmed in recent years by thousands of participants.

Hand-made one-offs to slick mass-produced and custom die-cut by the hundred, these adhesive back expressions of personal branding may depict characters, slogans, witticisms, or satirical skewing of pop culture memes. Collectively these are the DNA of a global game played out in the street and in public spaces, a silent dialogue that yells quite loudly.

Artist and organizer IWILLNOT has compiled, organized, archived, and preserved this collection as a ‘field guide,’ he says, and another artist named Cheer Up has laid out page after page. It is a global cross-sample from 60 countries and a thousand artists – a treasure trove of the witty, insightful, snotty, and sometimes antisocial street bards of the moment, seizing their moment to speak and mark territory.

UNSMASHED: A Street Art Sticker Field Guide. Compiled by IWILLNOT, Designed by Cheer Up. A Collection of 1,229 full color sticker designs by 1,000 artists from more than 60 countries. Published by IWLLNOT and Cheer Up. December 2020.


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Street Art Today 2 by Bjorn Van Poucke : An Update on 50 “Most Relevant” Artists

Street Art Today 2 by Bjorn Van Poucke : An Update on 50 “Most Relevant” Artists

A worthy companion to the original tome, Bjørn Van Poucke and Lanoo publishers extend the hitlist of favored muralists that he & Elise Luong began in Street art/ Today 1 – and the collection is updated perhaps with the perceived cultural capital many of these artists have garnered since then.

Replete with full-color plates from the artists’ own collections and garnished with brief overviews of their histories, creative background, and philosophies, the well-designed and modern layout functions as an introduction for those unfamiliar with the wide variety of artworks that are currently spread across city walls as large scale opus artworks in public space. As organizer and curator of The Crystal Ship mural festival in Oostende, Belgium, Mr. Van Poucke has had his pick of the litter and has showcased them during the late twenty-teens.  

“It feels like the peak of street art’s identity crises is finally behind us, and we’re witnessing the re-birth of a new, reinvented scene,” says writer Sasha Bogojev in his introduction, and who could disagree. This has always been true of the organic form of subversive street art. Published on the eve of Covid-19, surely we know that everything has changed again, and the scene is reinventing itself once more – perhaps closer to its roots this time.

With some interviews with artists and insights from selected cultural observers, the artists work is collected into groupings that help organize stylistic themes including Abstract, Figurative, Realism, and Urban Interventionism, Part 2 will make a quick study for collectors and fans alike.

Street Art Today 2: The 50 most influential street artists working today. By Bjorn Van Poucke. Published by Lannoo publishers, Belgium.

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Leon Keer: “Break Glass In Case Of Lost Childhood”

Leon Keer: “Break Glass In Case Of Lost Childhood”

One of the challenges in creating a book about anamorphic art is presenting images that tell the viewer that they are being tricked by perspective yet hold onto the magic that this unique art conjures in people who walk by it on the street.

Leon Keer. “Break Glass In Case Of Lost Childhood”. Published by Lannoo Publishers, Belgium, 2020

In a way, that brass skeleton key that allows entry into another world is precisely what Dutch pop-surrealist artist Leon Keer has been seeking for decades to evoke in viewers’ heads and hearts. Some would argue he is preeminently such; certainly, he is the wizard whose work on walls and streets has triggered memories for thousands of children and ex-children of the fantastic worlds they have visited.

“You develop your senses all your life. Through what you experience, you involve affinities and aversions,” he says in his first comprehensive bound collection of gorgeous plates entitled In Case of Lost Childhood Break Glass. “Your memories shape the way you look at the world. When it comes to reflecting my thoughts, my memories are key. I needed to feel some kind of affection or remorse towards the object or situation I want to paint.”

Leon Keer. “Break Glass In Case Of Lost Childhood”. Published by Lannoo Publishers, Belgium, 2020

Looking through the various venues he creates with and within, you can find an imagination that fully entreats you to join in the fun. Whether they are street paintings. floor paintings, anamorphic rooms for you to pose in, experiments in augmented reality brought alive on your phone, enormous land art paintings, or oddly shaped painted canvasses, Keer is not keeping the fun to himself. You are the welcomed and necessary ingredient that will supremely complete the scene.

Los Angeles art dealer Andrew Hosner writes an introduction to the book, representing Keer to collectors and curating his work commercially. He is felicitously taken by the artist’s ability to conjure a familiar yet unusual world, describing the mind-melt that occurs during a typical Leon Keer encounter. “Bending your perspective, and opening your mind along the way, has never been more rewarding.”

Leon Keer. “Break Glass In Case Of Lost Childhood”. Published by Lannoo Publishers, Belgium, 2020

As you turn the pages, you wonder what some of the stories behind the pieces are, and he’ll often give you a clear description of what was going through his mind when he created it or what the particular significance is to him. You may also marvel at his dedication to preserving that precious world that each of us once lived in. Ingenious, witty, technically precise, Keer is a responsive and trustworthy guide.

Leon Keer. “Break Glass In Case Of Lost Childhood”. Published by Lannoo Publishers, Belgium, 2020

“Every day I try to be a child, but when I look in the mirror I am reminded that time is marching on,” he writes. “Gray hairs in my beard and a receding hairline make me realize that my childhood years are far behind. Yet my curiosity is never burned so bright.”

Leon Keer. “Break Glass In Case Of Lost Childhood”. Published by Lannoo Publishers, Belgium, 2020
Leon Keer. “Break Glass In Case Of Lost Childhood”. Published by Lannoo Publishers, Belgium, 2020
Leon Keer. “Break Glass In Case Of Lost Childhood”. Published by Lannoo Publishers, Belgium, 2020
Leon Keer. “Break Glass In Case Of Lost Childhood”. Published by Lannoo Publishers, Belgium, 2020
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BSA HOT LIST: Books For Your Gift Giving 2020

BSA HOT LIST: Books For Your Gift Giving 2020

It’s that time of the year again! BSA has been publishing our “Hot Lists” and best-of collections for more than 10 years every December.

In this year that has been so heavy and difficult for many of the BSA family we thought it would be inappropriate to do things the way we always do, out of respect for this moment. The one list that we feel good about this year of course is our shortlist of some of our favorite books from 2020 that you may enjoy as well – just in case you would like to give them as gifts to family, friends, or even to yourself.


From BSA:

Crossroads, the new monograph from Alice Pasquini is full of the young daring and confident girls and women whom have been traveling with her since she began painting walls around the world two decades ago.

Rendered in aqua and goldenrod and midnight, withstanding winds and rains, these figures are willing to be there as a testament to the daily walk through your life. A survey and diary of her works and experiences, her style is more human than international in its everyday appeal, advocacy gently advanced through the depiction of intimate personal dynamics and internal reflection.

Perhaps this quality alludes to the invitation of interaction, the ease of integration with the public space in a way that the cultural norms of her Italian roots influenced her.

“In Rome, where I grew up, everything is urban art. Any little fountain or corner was made by an artist. And there were always a lot of expressions of freedom in this city,” she says in an interview here with writer Stephen Heyman.

Alice Pasquini “Crossroads” Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy, 2019


From BSA:

Bill Posters knows his street art and activism history.

From Beuys’ practice of ‘social sculpture’ and John Fekner’s blunt upbraiding of urban planning hypocrisies to AIDS activists using street art to shame government homophobia and the paint-bombing of a Mao portrait that led to the arrest and torture of the artists/activists for counter-revolutionary propaganda, he’ll give you a solid foundation on precedence for this rebellious art life in “The Street Art Manual.”

He also knows how to yarn-bomb.

And myriad other techniques for freelance intervening in city spaces that you own, that all of us own, but which are often commandeered for commercial messages, political propaganda messages, or commercial-political propaganda messages – otherwise known as fascism.

“The Street Art Manual”; Rebel Artivism and Good Manners with Bill Posters

The Street Art Manual by Bill Posters. The Street Art Manual new US on-sale date is now Sept. 8th. 2020. Published by Laurence King Publishing Ltd. London, UK. 2020.


From BSA:

Taking a decade long view of your creative life can be astoundingly instructional if you are brave enough; perusing over the body of work that you have taken with eyes focused and blurred may reveal broad outlines and finer features of a creative life-path – a psychological mapping of the inner world and its outer expression with all its impulses, longings, expressions of received truths and newly discovered wisdom.

Franco Fasoli aka JAZ has looked over his last decade (2009-2019) of work as a street artist and fine artist and offers you the opportunity to examine his public and private side as well in this new two-volume compendium. Painting on the streets since the mid-nineties and his mid-teens in his hometown of Buenos Aires, the visual artist knew his path would be a creative one. His family and role models, comprised of well-schooled artists and educators, had provided a foundation of critique and appreciation for him to build upon from the earliest years.


Artist Franco JAZ Fasoli Goes “Publico Privado”

Franco Fasoli. Privado. Publico Privado. Jaz Franco Fasoli. 09-2019


From BSA:

Belgium’s ROA, whom we have featured in perhaps 30+ articles, put out his “CODEX” monograph this spring, and while sitting inside your lockdown we thought you would enjoy freeing your mind to travel the world with him.

A gypsy by nature, a naturalist by practice, he has investigated and heralded the animal world, complete with its heartless savagery. Accurately depicting many of the most marginalized and endangered specimens, this uncanny portraitist spooks you with the scale of his animals, draws you in to their presentation without guile.

Willing to let his work do the talking, ROA is still anonymous after more than a decade on the global street art stage. Following his own path, we recognize his achievements here, and wish him good travels wherever he goes.


ROA “CODEX” Reveals His Wild World Wanderings


From BSA:

In addition to lush photo spreads of Martha’s documentation over 6 decades, we have essays written by art critic, curator and author Carlo McCormick, UN Executive Director Jan Sauerwald, author and photographer Nika Kramer, author, curator, and Hip Hop historian Akim Walta, National Geographic chief photo editor Susan Welchman, curator of prints and photographs at the Museum of the City of New York Sean Corcoran, and the curators of this exhibition Jaime Rojo and Steven P. Harrington.

The hefty hardcover, a richly illustrated and modernly designed book, is timed for release simultaneously with the exhibition opening this Friday, October 2. In addition to the essays, we have 40 quotes about Martha from her peers, artists, authorities in photography, folklore, graffiti, and Hip Hop, along with long-time friends and her family. The cover of the book features a photograph rarely seen of graffiti writer Skeme train surfing in NYC taken by Martha in 1982. The introductory texts to each of the 10 sections are written by author and curator Christian Omodeo.


“Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures”


Published by Urban Nation Museum Berlin & Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo
.


From BSA:

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

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

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


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


From BSA:

With precision and guile Sandra Chevrier has painted a female world that is sophisticated, unreachable and appealing, whether painted on canvas, street mural, or stuck to a wall in the margins of a city. The characters who are punching and pouncing and swooning across her faces are reflective of her own hearts’ adventures, seamlessly rolling and intermingling with those epic storylines and dust-ups with superheroes and villains of yesterday.

Perhaps it is because of this sense of inexactly placed nostalgia, in “Cages” we are aware of the ties that bind us, the roles that we hold – whether chosen or imposed – and we’re rooting for these Chevrierotic women to win – as they scream and cry and swing for the rafters, looking for the way out.

“A dance between triumph and defeat, freedom and captivity, the poison and the cure,” stands the ambivalent quote on the page facing her black and white photo by Jeremy Dionn.

A closeup of her face, her hand horizontally obscures the lower half, her index finger raised to allow Sandra to see, to study and assess. Without question this artists’ work is more than autobiographical – these expressions offer a stunning sense of mystery, an understanding at the precipice, an adventure-ready to occur.

Sandra Chevrier: Cages. Published by Paragon Books and designed in San Francisco, CA. by Shaun Roberts. August 2020.

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Sandra Chevrier and “Cages”

Sandra Chevrier and “Cages”

With precision and guile Sandra Chevrier has painted a female world that is sophisticated, unreachable and appealing, whether painted on canvas, street mural, or stuck to a wall in the margins of a city. The characters who are punching and pouncing and swooning across her faces are reflective of her own hearts’ adventures, seamlessly rolling and intermingling with those epic storylines and dust-ups with superheroes and villains of yesterday.

Perhaps it is because of this sense of inexactly placed nostalgia, in “Cages” we are aware of the ties that bind us, the roles that we hold – whether chosen or imposed – and we’re rooting for these Chevrierotic women to win – as they scream and cry and swing for the rafters, looking for the way out.

“A dance between triumph and defeat, freedom and captivity, the poison and the cure,” stands the ambivalent quote on the page facing her black and white photo by Jeremy Dionn.

A closeup of her face, her hand horizontally obscures the lower half, her index finger raised to allow Sandra to see, to study and assess. Without question this artists’ work is more than autobiographical – these expressions offer a stunned sense of mystery, an understanding at the precipice, an adventure ready to occur.

Arranged chronologically over the last decade you can witness in her works ample evidence of her refinement of technique and reverence as an artist and as an individual; struggling between revealing and hiding, adding human dimension or remaining an object. Selected swatches of superheroes form collage masks across a steady parade of beautiful female faces and forms, their drama stirred and everpresent, lying in wait until confidence takes root.

Gorgeously designed and laid out; alternating between large matt-finished plate portraits and small sketch paper inserts, the book conveys warmth and clarity even as her superheroes remain mysterious. These cages, however they present themselves, are glossy and refined. Are they empowered, or are they objectified? The lines are blurred. Her femmes are imbued as more than just the fatale who lures one into a dangerous or compromising situation, but these figures may also revel in mystery itself, just beyond your arms reach.

Inquisitive, strong, and full of imagination, Chevrier may surprise everyone when these figures eventually take off their masks. Until then, the enchanting mysteries continue.

Sandra Chevrier: Cages. Published by Paragon Books and designed in San Francisco, CA. by Shaun Roberts. August 2020.

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“Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures” – Sneak Peek at the Book

“Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures” – Sneak Peek at the Book

As we prepare to open the Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures exhibition this weekend, we wanted to let you know that we are publishing a handsome catalogue with UN to accompany the show.

In addition to lush photo spreads of Martha’s documentation over 6 decades, we have essays written by art critic, curator and author Carlo McCormick, UN Executive Director Jan Sauerwald, author and photographer Nika Kramer, author, curator, and Hip Hop historian Akim Walta, National Geographic chief photo editor Susan Welchman, curator of prints and photographs at the Museum of the City of New York Sean Corcoran, and the curators of this exhibition Jaime Rojo and Steven P. Harrington.

The hefty hardcover, a richly illustrated and modernly designed book, is timed for release simultaneously with the exhibition opening this Friday, October 2. In addition to the essays, we have 40 quotes about Martha from her peers, artists, authorities in photography, folklore, graffiti, and Hip Hop, along with long-time friends and her family. The cover of the book features a photograph rarely seen of graffiti writer Skeme train surfing in NYC taken by Martha in 1982. The introductory texts to each of the 10 sections are written by author and curator Christian Omodeo.

At 230 pages, the new book is published by Urban Nation Museum For Urban And Contemporary Art, Berlin, and Steven P. Harrington / Jaime Rojo (BrooklynStreetArt.com). The book will be available for sale at the museum’s gift shop and on view for you to peruse in the Martha Cooper Special Projects room.

Designed by Krimm Studios in Berlin, the project was greatly shepherded by Dr. Anne Schmedding, who edited with us along with Martha. The entire project was carefully managed by the brilliant Christiane Pietsch. Our sincere thanks to everyone who has worked studiously alongside us this year during many Covid-caused complications to produce a handsome tome we can all be proud of.

More about this project in a future posting.

Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures
Curated by Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo

Opening weekend

Opening:

Friday, October 2nd, 2020: 8 – 11 pm

Extended opening hours:

Saturday, October 3, 2020: 10 am – 10 pm

Sunday, October 4, 2020: 10 am – 8 pm

URBAN NATION Museum, Bülowstrasse 7, Berlin-Schöneberg

Livestream Opening Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures

Click HERE for more details about the exhibition.

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ROA “CODEX” Reveals His Wild World Wanderings

ROA “CODEX” Reveals His Wild World Wanderings

Belgium’s ROA, whom we have featured in perhaps 30+ articles, put out his “CODEX” monograph this spring, and while sitting inside your lockdown we thought you would enjoy freeing your mind to travel the world with him.

A gypsy by nature, a naturalist by practice, he has investigated and heralded the animal world, complete with its heartless savagery. Accurately depicting many of the most marginalized and endangered specimens, this uncanny portraitist spooks you with the scale of his animals, draws you in to their presentation without guile.

Willing to let his work do the talking, ROA is still anonymous after more than a decade on the global street art stage. Following his own path, we recognize his achievements here, and wish him good travels wherever he goes.

ROA CODEX. Published by Lannoo Publishers. Tielt, Belgium, 2019.

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“The Street Art Manual”; Rebel Artivism and Good Manners with Bill Posters / Dispatch From Isolation # 34

“The Street Art Manual”; Rebel Artivism and Good Manners with Bill Posters / Dispatch From Isolation # 34

Bill Posters knows his street art and activism history.

From Beuys’ practice of ‘social sculpture’ and John Fekner’s blunt upbraiding of urban planning hypocrisies to AIDS activists using street art to shame government homophobia and the paint-bombing of a Mao portrait that led to the arrest and torture of the artists/activists for counter-revolutionary propaganda, he’ll give you a solid foundation on precedence for this rebellious art life in “The Street Art Manual.”

He also knows how to yarn-bomb.

And myriad other techniques for freelance intervening in city spaces that you own, that all of us own, but which are often commandeered for commercial messages, political propaganda messages, or commercial-political propaganda messages – otherwise known as fascism.

His new book on hacking public space is one of the most instructive, constructive, serious and light-hearted romps through your world with new eyes. He has mastered a balance of educational and fun, sane and irreverent as he takes you methodically with text, photos, and cleanly modern diagrams through practices such as graffiti, stencils, paste-ups, subvertising, large-scale murals, yarn bombing, guerrilla theater, dropping banners, light projections, launching paint projectiles, and mastering aerial art via drone.

One may say that it is a handbook for taking back your voice in a sea of disinformation to advocate for a point of view. But don’t take yourself so seriously, dawg. Also, mind your manners. For being a rule breaker, Bill Posters wants you to be gentlemen and gentleladies and gentlepersons – Don’t just hit the streets as a hormone-fueled dunderhead who rides roughshod over others in a toxic, abusive way.

Check out his list for how to do the most fundamental of forms, graffiti. The “DO” list includes admonitions to “say something more than your name. Stick up for those less privileged”, which may sound like a tear-jerking sermon. But then he also tells you not to bring your cellphone to the train yard, which just seems logical.

In the “DON’T” list he suggests you don’t go into train yards without experienced writers, and he implores aspiring aerosol mark makers to be original, “Focus on developing your own voice and your own style.” In many ways, Bill Posters is the supportive dad you never had, which probably would have helped you avoid this whole vandalism lifestyle to begin with.

But since you are a vandal or are unwittingly breaking some municipality’s law by wrapping a sculpture with crochet to look like a clown, he does offer direct advice on dealing with authorities, knowing your rights, knowing what your options are, and knowing that some times police actually like your art and might let you off if you don’t act like a jerk.  All that said, this book is not about breaking laws, it’s philosophically about reclaiming public space and having a voice in your society.

“Throughout history, people have used creativity to push against conformity in search of experiences that create more meaning,” he says in his introduction. “Street art, and its predecessor, graffiti, are two art forms that do just that.” 

And when doing your subversive or society-saving art installation under cover of night, elsewhere he recommends, “Don’t forget to scope things out and check for onsite security. Dogs are a real issue when you’re stuck on a fence, hanging there like a tasty human sausage.”

The Street Art Manual by Bill Posters. The Street Art Manual new US on-sale date is now Sept. 8th. 2020. Published by Laurence King Publishing Ltd. London, UK. 2020.

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

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


Various & Gould. Permanently Improvised. Editors Various & Gould. Published by seltmann+sohne. Berlin 2019.

The Berlin based Street Art/fine art duo have released a colorful patchwork overview of 8 major campaigns they formulated for the street in the last decade and a half and present their practice in a series of analytical essays ranging by urban/art intellectuals, activists, and experts including Jan Kage, Steven P. Harrington, Toby Ashraf, Alison Young, Luis Muller Phillip-Shohn, Ilaria Hoppe, Anne Wizorek, Mohamed Amjahid, and an illuminating interview with the artists and Polina Soloveichik. The two open their kooky-cryptic inner fantasy world to the reader and to fans who have wondered how their idiosyncratic method works, and what a world of hybrid thought will produce in our future.

Various & Gould. RABOTNIKI. Essay by Steven P. Harrington. Permanently Improvised. Editors Various & Gould. Published by seltmann+sohne. Berlin 2019.

The medium sized hardcover book features instructive and illustrative images of their collaged works placed illegally in the streets, created in studio, presented in the gallery, and in one case, Papier-mâchéd upon public sculptures of Marx and Engels. Intelligent, inquisitive, infused with riddles, the work is delivered with sincere scholarship and humor – even during the process of creation, public interaction, and mid degradation due to the natural elements.

Various & Gould. CITY SKINS. Essay by Jan Kage. Permanently Improvised. Editors Various & Gould. Published by seltmann+sohne. Berlin 2019.

Professor Young discusses V&G’s broken glass abstracts in the context of law reforms that have used the “broken glass theory” as excuse to demean and exploit targeted populations, and Phillip-Sohn looks at their recent bus-stop installation campaign called “Broken Screens” and he observes a fragile technology that, when shattered and inert, “makes us all too tragically aware of how dependent we’ve become on these devices.”

Various & Gould. FACE TIME. Essay by Toby Ashraf. Permanently Improvised. Editors Various & Gould. Published by seltmann+sohne. Berlin 2019.

Viewers get a greater appreciation of the tribe-like mentality humans possess just beneath the veneer of civility – the dry timber only waiting to be sparked into flame.  The “Wanted Witches” campaign placed 13 portraits of people who are framed as modern pioneers in respect to social issues. Painting them with phosphorus and encouraging you to light a match on them takes public interaction beyond the realms we’re familiar with. The carefully planned and executed installation on city streets powerfully presents the saint-like sacrifice of people who push ahead of us, sometimes burned at the stake as witches – whether literally or perhaps via a hostile media and politicized rhetoric.

Various & Gould. BROKEN WINDOWS. Essay by Alison Young. Permanently Improvised. Editors Various & Gould. Published by seltmann+sohne. Berlin 2019.

Up to their elbows in paste, ink, paper, and possibility, at the root of much of V&G’s work is an examination of identity; its malleability, its fluidity, even its perceived relevance in societal strata. The through-line in many projects is apparent in its meditation of our flexible selves: Identikit interchanges personalities and keywords to present tensions and examine associations. St. Nimmerlein mocks the arbitrary power of declaring sainthood with fictional personas who surely don’t deserve it. Face Time is a Dadaist study that combines the likenesses and features of many into implausible yet familiar glitch-humans. The aforementioned and early Rabotniki mixes and matches bodies, parts, genders, classes, and identities in a handmade heart-conscious way.

Spread over a decade and a half many of these projects overlap and recombine, creating and reflecting a global evolution we are undergoing- a convulsive re-examination of nearly everything and everyone. The question they may be asking is, “What is the sorting method we will use to recategorize our social and political groupings?”

Using techniques that are reassuringly un-digital, the stunning power of V&G’s mission, even if subliminal, is its intuitive ability to explain our current state. With subtle nods to robotics, androids, AI, identity politics and our innate human creativity, the duo cannily constructs the present and predicts the future, with a sense of humor that we are going to need.

Various & Gould. BROKEN SCREENS. Essay by Luis Muller Philipp-Shon. Permanently Improvised. Editors Various & Gould. Published by seltmann+sohne. Berlin 2019.
Various & Gould. SAINT NIMMERLEIN. Essay by Ilaria Hoppe. Permanently Improvised. Editors Various & Gould. Published by seltmann+sohne. Berlin 2019.
Various & Gould. WANTED WITCHES / WITCHES WANTED. Essay by Anne Wizorek. Permanently Improvised. Editors Various & Gould. Published by seltmann+sohne. Berlin 2019.
Various & Gould. IDENTIKIT. Essay by Mohamed Amjahid. Permanently Improvised. Editors Various & Gould. Published by seltmann+sohne. Berlin 2019.
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“New Orleans: Murals, Street Art and Graffiti” by Kady Yellow

“New Orleans: Murals, Street Art and Graffiti” by Kady Yellow

With extensive biographies, careful detailed analysis and research, and generous page real estate dedicated to art, artist, and process, “New Orleans: Murals, Street Art, and Graffiti Volume 1” by Kady Yellow is a thorough look at a street scene in one of the US’s most storied cities.

Kady Yellow – New Orleans: Murals, Street Art & Graffiti. Volume One. Self-published. 2019

The author tirelessly documents with a sense of the history while drawing out stories that illustrate the present in a scholarly way. A blend of left and right brained appreciation and analysis, this first project by the young author gives a sense of environment and community as it contributes to the practices of graffiti and art in the streets.

“It became clear that New Orleans has a remarkable new story to tell, a story of its street art scene,” says the author. “In telling that story, I sought to respectfully and delicately collect the history of the art in two neighborhoods of New Orleans by way of research and interviews with the artists themselves.”

With anthropologically framed storytelling applied to a very eclectic selection of art practices and styles, Perry includes personal accounts of aspiration, pragmatic descriptions of craft, and a frank examination technique – all presented within the context of a local story informed by the international one.

Interspersed in the book are school primer features like an urban art terminology glossary, a New Orleans timeline tracing benchmarks in its graffiti/Street Art history, a street mural map, and a number of small essays and media article quotations – each providing one more perspective for examining the nature of this organic people’s art movement. If a city’s graffiti/Street Art scene can be fairly captured in a moment, this book has clearly made it a priority and has more than succeeded.

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

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.

DB Burkeman. Stickers Vol. 2: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art. (aka More Stuck-Up Crap) Rizzoli, NYC, 2019.

In practice, there are few strictly “sticker artists”. More often there are artists and taggers who also use stickers as part of their public practice which may include painting, aerosol tagging, freehand marker tagging, printing, wheat pasting, sculpture. By adapting the techniques and language of advertising, propaganda, and branding, artists have seized the opportunity to have a voice in the public sphere that is more often only reserved for commercial interests.

Street Artists’ practices of self-promotion are indistinguishable from those of commercial or political interests – and why not? The public space has always been used as a battleground for ideas, a marketplace for attention, a proving ground of identity and power, a theater for capturing imagination, a Socraterial classroom for presenting and probing ideas and the examination of our assumptions about them.

DB Burkeman. Stickers Vol. 2: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art. (aka More Stuck-Up Crap) Rizzoli, NYC, 2019.

In a fiercely democratic way, with a very low admission price, all motivations are presented here, and all of them are flawed, and all of them are perfect.

Burkeman’s sophisticated examinations of sticking practices are equally wide in his survey – his own full immersion into art, music, performance, consumer psychology, pop culture, and advertising giving him a comprehension and appreciation of its seeming seamlessness. 

DB Burkeman. Stickers Vol. 2: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art. (aka More Stuck-Up Crap) Rizzoli, NYC, 2019.

Burkeman’s introductory essay addresses topics ranging from billboard busting, culture jamming, market forces and Warhols’ bananas – admitting that his baseline appreciation has not waned even as his own study lead him ever deeper and deeper into an ocean he still hasn’t fully fathomed since launching his first sticker volume, Stickers: Stuck-Up Piece of Crap: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art.

“Even after ten years of having this adhesive monkey on my back, I’m surprised that I can still get a kick out of the conversation that happens on the street when someone puts up a sticker,” he says. “It’s like a radiating signal to have others put their own stickers up next to it, as if to say, ‘hey, what’s up?’ The result is a cluster of paper and vinyl personalities.”

DB Burkeman. Stickers Vol. 2: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art. (aka More Stuck-Up Crap) Rizzoli, NYC, 2019.

Keeping it contemporary, he also calls in experts from this idiosyncratic world of expressions to further your appreciation for the sticking practice as a reflection of society and a catalyst for it – from the Street Artist Invader to the blue-chip curator/innovator Jeffrey Deitch to fans/visionaries like Stretch Armstrong, C.R. Stecyk III, Dante Ross, and The Super Sucklord.

Using his first book as calling card, many doors have opened to Burkeman, enabling access to collections and rarities, deep dives into the crates, selections of unknowns that you would otherwise not have access to – let alone the opportunity to appreciate. You also get a selection of stickers for your own collection by serious names, including Bast, Lister, Shepard Fairey, Skullphone, Futura, Ron English, and Neckface.

“Cheap, immediate, and unapologetically in your face, the sticker remains the go-to, lo-fi expression for many a band, brand, and fan,” says Don Letts, a founding member of Big Audio Dynamite, among other things. Clearly, the images and messages sent and received using this method have been a boon to those looking to have a voice, and the sticker practice will continue apace. Undoubtedly, DB Burkeman has it covered.

DB Burkeman. Stickers Vol. 2: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art. (aka More Stuck-Up Crap) Rizzoli, NYC, 2019.
DB Burkeman. Stickers Vol. 2: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art. (aka More Stuck-Up Crap) Rizzoli, NYC, 2019.
DB Burkeman. Stickers Vol. 2: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art. (aka More Stuck-Up Crap) Rizzoli, NYC, 2019.
DB Burkeman. Stickers Vol. 2: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art. (aka More Stuck-Up Crap) Rizzoli, NYC, 2019.
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