Street Art Book Review

Jay Shells: The “Rap Quotes” Book

Jay Shells: The “Rap Quotes” Book

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


Jay Shells: The Rap Quotes Coast To Coast. Dokument Press. Sweden, 2019.

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

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

Since that time the artist has taken his Rap Quotes across the country (Philadelphia, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles), faithfully hunting down streets and neighborhoods and corners and businesses referenced by a host of recordings from classic rap era and a few of the new kids on the block as well.

“I’ve always had a serious passion for lyricism, partly because I’ve always been envious of people who are gifted with words,” he says in his new hardcover book that documents the 5 year campaign. It is gratifying to see him out scaling the telephone poles and climbing ladders with drill in hand to post these signs. They are a semi-permanent claim to public space and people’s history at the same time; a recognition of an art form of writing that rarely gets such laudatory treatment.

See the video at the end documenting the process – which Shelowitz credits as being the force that encouraged him the most. “My friend Bucky (Turco) ran a magazine and website called Animal New York, and when I told him about the project, he wanted to be involved. He introduced me to his newly hired photographer and videographer, Aymann Ismail at a party on a Friday night in early March 2013. We hit the streets early the next morning to get the 30 signs up, with Aymann document the process. About a week later, they posted the video and photos with a short write-up, and the rest is history.”

Check out some photos of the book in the mean time.


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

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

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

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

The sticker artist and curator named “I Will Not” has rallied together thousands, even hundreds of thousands of stickers by artists from all over the world during the last few years to mount sticker shows inside of the gallery space – taking the concept of a group show into near infinity. A solo practice intended for public campaigns, the global interconnectedness of this scene is irrefutable, enabling entire galleries to showcase a massive amount of work at once, including these from the DC Street Sticker Expo.

Like most subcultures, this one has a semi-tight set of rules and conventions and customs. For example, it is common to share your stickers in packs with other artists, but you are expected to put theirs up in your city. As in graffiti and Street Art, it is also verboten to obscure another artists sticker with yours on the street and any violation of this rule may result in “beef”, or a street grudge and public rivalry.

A book like “Smashed” can only come about with the complete passion of an author like IWillNot, who shares his infectious enthusiasm for the sticker game in this softcover volume. Here are some images from the book, as well as a link to learn more about it.

iwillnot. SMASHED: The Art of the Sticker Combo. DC Street Sticker EXPO. 2018
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Hendrik Beikirch Traces Lives and Memories in “Siberia”

Hendrik Beikirch Traces Lives and Memories in “Siberia”

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

Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018

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

Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018

“The work produced is a testimony, a memoir,” says Haguenauer, “These modern faces that hark back to the past, these women and men immortalized on canvas, ambassadors of their trades and their regions on walls around the world, convey another image of the largest region on the planet and of a sadly little-known country, of which we wish to provide a new vision. It is the everyday women and men, passionately living their trades, who are the heroes of this new project.”

Indeed there are few signs of artifice or romanticism in the sure-footed subjects here, and you are offered a glimpse of their context with some of these new portraits. Seeing them translated to grand scale as murals spanning towers is remarkable, and one can only imagine what impact they have on the people who live in or pass through these neighborhoods.  Scattered through a number of cities, there is a familiar feeling in each of these strangers, perhaps feeling like family to some.

Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Nina. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018

“Untainted by any attempt at idealization, the faces of  those portrayed tell the story of real life,” says Arne Zyprian in an opening essay. “Paradoxically, these anonymous guises pictured on a vast scale on the sides of buildings offer a break from the overall anonymity of the cities and give them a face.”

Interspersed with canvasses and murals are observations that attempt to examine why we find the singular visages so compelling. There is a temptation to look at a new people in cultures different from our own as the exotic “other”, to simplify their existence by what we can observe on the outside, or to project our own inner dynamics on to the faces that we see.

Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Nina. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018

One thing is for certain, Beirkirch has found through technique and experience a way for each of these people to become somehow relatable.

“Hendrik pours all of his love for humanity into his portraits,” says Jean Louis. “There is never any aggression or bitterness in these people.” Perhaps that is how most of us would like to be seen as well.

Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Vlasov. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018
Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Vera. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018
Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018
Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Aleksandr Pavlovich. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018
Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Tatyana. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018
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“Few Moments Ago I Was Here” says Klone

“Few Moments Ago I Was Here” says Klone

Stateless.

Klone is prowling between states, transitory and without volume, beams of light and color washes and flickers of memory, or false memory. The Ukrainian born, Israel bound Street Artist is as good with the unforgiving street as the undefined gallery, muting features from common characters and tracing shadows, summoning foxes, crows, cats as guardians and confidants.

Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.

A mark-maker on the streets of Tel-Aviv since the 90s, his practice is by necessity within a hidden realm, and if you stay there long enough, it becomes yours; carefully and boldly speaking, summoning folklore and mythology, mastering the art of masked meaning and inference.

Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.

Tagging and graffiti gave way to other urban traditions he has been eager to author, organic in his methods for discovery. His expanding practice of multiple disciplines has led him to the street and into the gallery and back to the street in Europe, the Middle East, the US, back to Kiev. This collection of excursions appears natural, rendered and even intimately warm even when mimicking, forgetful, fragmented.

Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.

Even his “Movement” chapter, a section of selected works laid out in stop motion frames, stays safely within an imaginary place, fables of connection, disconnection, alienation. Perhaps most powerful are his ‘digital interventions’ imaginary hybrids of photography, illustration, aspiration. Hulking eyesores of uninspired architecture or remote land masses are embraced, supported, frolicked within, rested upon.

Here I am, even though you do not see me.

Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.
Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.
Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.
Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.
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