All posts tagged: Art Book Review

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

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

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

Utility Writers by MRKA. Wallplay. NYC

Paying homage to the physical expression as well as the visual one, MRKA re-frames the fluorescent utility symbols that construction crews communicate with and rely upon. Here he helps you see it as art and communication in his uniquely bright look at mark-making. In interviews with professionals who he features spraying the streets, you also learn that there is a certain pride of creation that overlaps the braggadocio of graffiti writers who hit up walls across cities.

A limited edition book that was released to commemorate the solo exhibition that he procured in Manhattan last fall, “Utility Writers” also presents the MRKA’s own crafted alphabet derived from the directional urban hieroglyphics that we see and are blind to on our daily trip through the city.

Perhaps it is their individual flair and sense of expression to which he is most drawn; It’s “the endless possible interpretations of these symbols, and ultimately the individuals involved, who write,” he says when describing his experience capturing the collection of works on New York City asphalt and its sidewalks between 2016 and 2018.

“No matter where humans are or go, there is a good chance you may find a mark or story being told,” says Brazilian pixação writer and billboard crusher Sabio in an essay in which he tells us this need to leave something in public space is universal.

“The human hand can hold things, but more importantly it can mark a surface. For thousands of years we have left the writing on the wall, or in many cases, the ground. Look around you and find secret messages calculated and hidden everywhere. We live in big cities and a performance of shapes exist right beneath our feet.”

Study the method, study the panache, study the complete alphabets he has distilled, and you can understand the intensity of dedication MRKA employs to help draw the parallels.

“…As the book shows, both construction workers and graffiti writers share a bent toward creative expression through letter forms,” says filmmaker Selina Miles here. “I think this book suggests that if these two seemingly disparate groups have so much in common, maybe the compulsion to write your name on shit is just one of the basics of human nature.”

Utility Writers. Designed and edited by MRKA. Cover Spray by Lebron718. NYC.

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

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

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

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

Stencilists / Pochoiristes by Serge Louis. Editions Maedia. Collection Brigadier Plipp

In the intro from Samantha Longhi, who wrote a weekly stencil column here at BSA years ago – in addition to being a gallerist and former editor of Graffiti Art magazine – you get the sweetest memory of a Miss Tic stencil being buffed in her neighborhood, and a sense for how it rocked her world.

“I had truly lost it that day. I felt that this ‘Birth of Venus’ that was re-interpreted by the Parisian stencil artist literally belonged to me,” she says. “It was the stencil I looked at every day, morning and evening, and I had made it mine. It was the beginning of everything for me.”

Ben Spizz. Stencilists / Pochoiristes by Serge Louis. Editions Maedia. Collection Brigadier Plipp

You can tell that this is the same level of appreciation that Mr. Louis invests in his book, with ample space given to the artists to express their specific approach to the lunacy of art on the streets.

“The first trigger was living with two graffiti artists when I was a student,” recalls stencillest Jaune talking about his introduction coming from graffiti. “They would go out tagging at night, putting up small works in the streets… This is how I discovered the graffiti movement. I was very interested in the fact that artists could, just like that, write something completely unauthorized on walls! But I didn’t want to do it myself because visually it wasn’t me. The second trigger was the stencillist Banksy.

Billi Kid. Stencilists / Pochoiristes by Serge Louis. Editions Maedia. Collection Brigadier Plipp

Speaking of the famous Bristol-born stencil artist, there are a couple of topics that recur throughout these interviews; most of these 2nd/3rd generation practitioners point to their pioneers like Blek Le Rat, Banksy, Mis Tic, Jef Aerosol, Ernest Pignon-Ernest, and C215 for setting the standard. The second topic that comes up frequently is that cutting stencils is a time-consuming practice and it is far more involved than most people appreciate.

The photorealist Niz talks about her work in a way that many artists can appreciate. “If you were working with a regular job, if you work an eight hour day, you come home and all your creative energy has been used for something else. Because actually, you need to have time and energy to think about your stencil. You need to execute it. You need to look for materials and do all that stuff. So, unless you are rich and wealthy and you can afford a lot of free time that is disposable, it is challenging doing stencils!”

Dipo. Stencilists / Pochoiristes by Serge Louis. Editions Maedia. Collection Brigadier Plipp

” …you have to carry this wet and sticky template around with you, which adds some serious complications to bombing. Secondly you have to have some type of tight spray can control to pull it off. Thirdly there is a lot of thought to put into stencil design prior to painting. I think anyone that has ever tried stencil art and is actually pulling it off, would agree with me.”

Jaune. Stencilists / Pochoiristes by Serge Louis. Editions Maedia. Collection Brigadier Plipp

From painterly and multi-layered, to the simplicity of symbols, in the vernacular of advertising, or with a knowledge of art history, the collection represents a good cross section despite the limited size of the list. In his essay, the author is an idealist, and a philosopher – revealing his engagement to be as civic as it is poetic.

“Stencillists are first and foremost profoundly human. And radically humanistic,” he writes.

“They release citizens to express themselves… their criticism of the world is essential and vital for us. They take risks. They raise awareness. Stencil artists radically change how we look at things, as a passerby or as a resident, making us more attentive and more alert to the urban condition..”

Jinks Kunst. Stencilists / Pochoiristes by Serge Louis. Editions Maedia. Collection Brigadier Plipp
Logan Hicks. Stencilists / Pochoiristes by Serge Louis. Editions Maedia. Collection Brigadier Plipp
Raf Urban. Stencilists / Pochoiristes by Serge Louis. Editions Maedia. Collection Brigadier Plipp
Spencer. Stencilists / Pochoiristes by Serge Louis. Editions Maedia. Collection Brigadier Plipp

Maedia Publishing will host a book signing on June 1st at 212 Arts Gallery in Manhattan. Click HERE for all the details.

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Michael De Feo “FLOWERS”

Michael De Feo “FLOWERS”

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

Michael De Feo FLOWERS Abrams Books. New York, NY. 2019

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

Michael De Feo FLOWERS Abrams Books. New York, NY. 2019

“Conceptually, I had stumbled upon something that made sense to me on so many levels,” he says in his new hardcover book,”Flowers”, published this spring by Abrams, New York.  “Using whimsy and beauty, I was inspiring smiles and also making connections to ideas about the cycle of life and the ephemeral nature of all things.”

The collection of early images of this simple flower popping up in many streets and scenes remind you of your connection to nature and to his art, almost taking it for granted.

Michael De Feo FLOWERS Abrams Books. New York, NY. 2019

“You learn from watching your artwork set roots in a city,” say the Street Art duo Faile in their intro to the book, “causing people to pause in an alley or on a side street, to stop and look: You see the city in broader terms.”

Now expanding in studio to abstractions and a gestural piling-up of brushstrokes around and upon commercial figurative photography and more recently over top images of classical painting, De Feo is refining and redefining his practice. The newer works are well suited for magazine covers and living room walls as he transitions to a decorative contemporary oeuvre. But the simplicity is still there, happy to be in your world.

“Oh so you’re the flower guy!”.

Michael De Feo FLOWERS Abrams Books. New York, NY. 2019
Michael De Feo FLOWERS Abrams Books. New York, NY. 2019
Michael De Feo FLOWERS Abrams Books. New York, NY. 2019
Michael De Feo FLOWERS Abrams Books. New York, NY. 2019
Michael De Feo FLOWERS Abrams Books. New York, NY. 2019
Michael De Feo FLOWERS Abrams Books. New York, NY. 2019
Michael De Feo FLOWERS Abrams Books. New York, NY. 2019

If you are in NYC this Thursday, April 25th Michael De Feo will be hosting a Pop-Up party, exhibition, book signing and the release of a new special print in celebration of his book FLOWERS. The Pop-UP will be held at 198 Allen Street from 6:30 – 9:00 pm on April 25th and on Friday, April 26th from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

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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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Futura Goes “Full Frame” by Magda Danysz

Futura Goes “Full Frame” by Magda Danysz

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

Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.

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

Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.

Self named Futura 2000 when that sounded futuristic, Lenny Gurr has done more painting on canvas than he realized since the early 80s and his style has continued to evolve and clarify.  

“Just for people to finally get a look at my work – I feel like a lot of what is being revealed hasn’t really been seen,” he tells us as he describes the nearly 300 page yellow tome “Full Frame,” published by Drago and organized by Magda Danysz. Among the richly illustrated pages, Danysz presents important benchmarks in Futura’s steadily growing career and personal life that bring the evolution closer to the reader.

In terms of the visual language in these sketches, diagrams and canvasses, there are a wealth of orbs and symbols and sprays and washes and stellar interstellar journeys that you have never seen before. Evolution appears to be natural for Futura, his pores and nerve endings collecting signals, firing synapses, pushing deep into imaginary worlds.

Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.

Influences run from expressionists, abstractionists, modernists, punks, the race to the moon and the moonage daydreams of city hippies everywhere. His recurring circle motifs are as much about his internal mind and world as they are about the cosmos.

A sense of balance in the chaos is always present, the palette choices impeccably on point, sharply sweet and frequently daring. Is this fantasy or diary? If Futura hasn’t flown to most of these places, it’s not because he hasn’t tried. But we’re treating these pages and frames of eye-popping other-worlds as evidence that he has.

Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.

“I think for the most part people appreciate survivors,” he is quoted in the book. Few survivors could be so freely percolating with ideas and graceful in their delivery.

Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
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Igor Ponosov Enlightens with “Russian Urban Art: History and Conflicts”

Igor Ponosov Enlightens with “Russian Urban Art: History and Conflicts”

An academically sourced opinion-based essay in book form that looks to art, social, economic, and geopolitical movements during the start of the 20th century to better understand the evolution of Urban Art in post-Soviet Russia, Igor Ponosov delivers a welcome reconstruction of the timeline and movements that bring urban art to this day.

With the renewed interest in public art and muralism that has erupted over the last decade in many so-called Western cities it is good to learn how the public space in Russia has been catalyzed not-only by Hip Hop and new graffiti forms from Europe but also the history of Avant-garde art movements and Soviet Muralism in Russian Urban Art: History and Conflicts.

With a thorough yet brief recap of a dozen decades of art/social movements, Ponosov illustrates that it is a slowly but widely fluctuating wave of events and sentiments and social-political upheaval that brings art to the street over a century; during times of relative liberalism in artistic freedom during the Tsarists one century ago contrasted a short time later with abolishment of political expression of the Stalinist era that heralded state power and monumentalism, suprematists, and propagandizing the public. Interestingly it’s the constructivist and the realism aesthetics that are currently being repurposed for much of the colorful commercial and state-funded muralism that is happening today on massive Moscow and St. Petersburg walls, and Ponosov helps to illustrate, if not disentangle, the movements that co-evolve over the previous century.

It may prove fascinating to graffiti writers and Street Artists to learn the trajectory and timing of the arrival of Hip Hop culture in the USSR and how it proved itself an enthusiastic student to what was originally an organically occurring series of artistic practices within a mix of communities. The “expansion of Western culture” into post Soviet Russia, as he describes it, occurs a decade (or more) after the original birth of hip hop, yet the importation retains many of the same art practices and ethos during the cultural translation.

The evolution of Street Art on the scene may have been quicker due to immediate digital communications and because of the new practices having similarity to pre-existing mural and fine art practices in Russian cultural history as well as global graffiti ‘jams’. Similarly, the rise in international ‘street art’ festivals looks like it has influenced events here as well as the co-opting/ cultivating of non-political eye-candy murals for commercial and gentrification goals.

It’s enlightening to learn about the rise of something called ‘Actioning’ that recalls the Situationists, and urban performance as part of the thawing post Cold War Glasnost approach to public space. Equally riveting are Posonov’s observations and interest in the more modern, less flashy conceptual street practices and the diverse nature of expressions that defy classification in typical Street Art terms that he describes as a “Partizaning” – a phenomenon of socially engaged street art.

“The tactics and numerous actions of the activists of the Partizaning movement, organized over the course of several years, reflects the ideals of collectivism, metal assistance and responsibility,” he writes of a practice that defies the commonly held assumptions of Urban Art as being antisocial and purely vandalism. “They are intended to restore citizens’ faith that global changes are possible even when working on a local level – be it a staircase, a yard or a neighborhood – through the discourse of urban planning.”

Densely compiled, amply illustrated, and providing an endless series of sparks for future fires, Mr. Posonov makes the discussion open and easy to access, adroitly staying free of corrupting jargon or self-important Art-speak that proves empty. Consider it a concise, reliable eye-opening primer that you can reference into the future to appreciate the evolution of Urban Art in Russia.

Igor Ponosov. Russian Urban Art: History And Conflicts. Moscow 2018. Published in collaboration with Street Art Museum, St Petersburg, Russia.

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Invader: “Invasion Los Angeles” Book and “Into the White Cube” Exhibition

Invader: “Invasion Los Angeles” Book and “Into the White Cube” Exhibition

One thing that some Street Artists do when their work enters the white cube is drop the “street” from their official moniker, instead preferring to be known simply as an “artist”. The decision is possibly to rid themselves of any subtle class distinctions or otherwise negative connotations that a potential collector or curator may have with the “street artist” label.

Other artists formerly known as “Street Artists” feel limited by the title because it doesn’t include all of their new interests and their complete practice – or because the term itself has evolved in their mind and the mind of the public to mean something unfavorable that they do not like to be associated with.

When it comes to the internationally renowned Street Artist Invader, its not a consideration – the street is in his DNA. His cryptic tile-made street practice is so proliferate across the world and so much a part of the metropolis like in his hometown of Paris that his art is literally and psychically fused with the city.

The dude even has a global app that helps fans in about 80 cities to track and document his works, and some of the most dedicated have clocked thousands themselves. Now with two decades in the game and nearing age 40, the maker of thousands of pixelated video game characters and pop culture archetypes on walls has released an updated edition of his 2003 Los Angeles Invasion Guide and he stretches himself creatively with a new exhibition that opens this weekend at Over the Influence Gallery in LA.

Called “Into the White Cube’, the show will have more than 50 new mosaic ‘Aliases’, an Invader LED piece, large-scale pin buttons, and an Invader Cinema. The event is huge, even for a Street Artist who can claim 200 pieces on the streets of Venice, Downtown LA, Los Feliz, at the LAX airport and even the HOLLYWOOD sign.

Today we have new images from Invasion Los Angeles 2.1, a breathtaking survey of his work there since 1999, introduced by artist, musician, and writer Bruno Blum who puts his finger on the pulse of this compulsive campaigner in his first “invaded” US city.

“Invader lives for his art. He has a passion for what he’s doing. He’s a diehard. In ‘street artist’, there’s the word ‘street’. Invader is from the streets; and not from the Beverly Hills streets. He’s got fire in the belly, he’s got what it takes and he’s got it down,” writes Blum.

Full of personal accounts that shed a light on his process and mind and featuring shots of placements that are ingenious, often witty, banal, baddass, and seemingly impossible, the collection is a finally a revelation into the compulsive commitment that a Street Artist brings to the game. Helpfully, it also includes street maps.

Invasion Los Angeles 2.1 / Updated Edition 1999 – 2018. A Book By Invader. Published by Control P. Editions. France 2018.

 


Invader “Into The White Cube” first solo exhibition in Los Angeles will open this Saturday, November 17th at OverUnder The Inlfuence. Click HERE for further details.

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El Seed Illuminates Ways to See Others with “Perception”

El Seed Illuminates Ways to See Others with “Perception”

The perception you may have of Tunisian calligraffitist el Seed’s new limited edition hefty white-box tome is that it will contain austerely designed blue chip contemporary works, a book meant to be stacked for aesthetic impact on the toniest of coffee tables. But often perceptions won’t give the full picture.

And el Seed is the first to tell you that in this deeply personal account of his art project across fifty buildings in Mashiyat Naser, a neighborhood of Cairo over two years ago. Born of his personal need to challenge himself and to add more to his career as a respected muralist, his original concept of working in this neighborhood of 70,000 recyclers was informed by his own assumptions, perhaps of helping a community known in the city as Zabbaleen, or “garbage people”.

Over the course of the project he and his team describe through interviews and with his own diary style how their own eyes were opened. It is an incremental revelatory experience that paralleled the quote that he stylized throughout the pattern of his piece, “Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eyes first,” from the writings of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a fourth century Coptic Bishop.

Scaling the power networks seems as natural to el Seed as scaling a massive wall, and he demonstrates his acumen for winning the approval and involvement with his project from the Othodox Church religious leader Father Samaan, whose permission is used to open doors in the community for painting. With the project the artist also garners the attention of  MoMA in New York, specifically Glenn D. Lowry, who introduced him at Art Dubai after the project was completed and who writes the introduction to this book.

But here the artist tells you that nothing prepared him for his own personal transformation plunging himself into the neighborhood. With time he says he realized that he had an incorrect perception of the people who recycle the city’s garbage and that he received the larger gift from them.

Through photography and interviews el Seed illustrates his own learning process as well as his own teams meeting the social, political and physical demands of such a public artwork. By following the story the reader gains appreciation for the process and the nature of life there in a part of the city that even his first taxi driver was hesitant to drive into. Despite the impressive massive public artwork that can be seen in its entirety from one specific vantage point, it almost feels to the artist that the art was secondary to the project.

“The project helped establish a dialogue, create a connection. Looking back, we understood that this was born out of recognition,” he writes. “We approached a rejected community and involved it in a piece of artwork. They were part of the creative process by their presence, their looks, their smiles and their proffered hands. There’s no doubt that’s how we got through it, despite the steep streets, unsteady houses, unexpected electricity cables and heaps of garbage.”

The neighborhood has garnered international attention in recent years, drawing a string of international ‘news’ crews who produce shallow, sensationalist and ultimately degrading pieces, a series of bad experiences that have left locals feeling far more suspicious of outsiders – especially those with probing questions and camera equipment.

Mahdi is a photographer/videographer who has worked with el Seed in the past and who followed the team throughout the weeks of installations capturing not only the community, the architecture,  and the painters but also the various livestock that are raised on roofs or in backyards in this dense part of the city – contributing to an often overwhelming acrid smell. As the documenter of the Perception project Mahdi says that he gradually realized that he had misjudged the folks who lived there.

“I was not so convinced that these people really like their life or that they were not bothered with any details of their job until the day I interviewed Abu Atef,” he says. “That man and his wife were proudly announcing in front of my camera that it is their job to collect the trash from the big city and that without them Cairo would be full of trash and dirt. They were so proud and happy with their life; I’ve never seen people as happy as them. The life in that neighborhood is hard, the work is so hard, but their smiles are stronger.”

One of the team painters says that although the work of using less-than-optimum hand cranked lifts to paint poorly constructed brick walls day after day in intense heat caused him to discover “some muscles that I had no idea existed in my body,” the bonds he made were stronger than any other job he’d had.

“The connection that we had with the community was insane. I worked with people for years in offices and for different companies but I didn’t stay in touch with anyone. I worked for three weeks with these people and the team, and we are still in touch.”

“After a few days the light they had inside of them started to come out. I stopped judging them and I started to see who they really are. I’ve never seen people who work like that in my life. They never stop, they work almost every single day and they only have one week off during the whole year. And they are smiling all day long. I still remember the family of Uncle Bakheet while they were sorting the trash, laughing and joking with us. This project made me “wipe my eyes”.

The photographs are genuine, generous, and not sentimental. The prose a bit sweetened, the emotions expressed not always flattering, the descriptions even-handed, the vulnerability a gift. In the end, the artist says that he and the team were amazingly proud of the massive anthromorphic mural and the group effort that made it happen. They and the neighbors were also thrilled with the effect of the large black lights that turned the fluorescent underpaint of the white areas into a miraculous view – a secret for the audience until the moment the switch was thrown. What resonates is the deep emotional connection that appears to have affected so many of the participants; lives that were indeed transformed by art.

“In the touching and colorful tranquility of their existence, the exceptional and unique community of the Zaraeeb offered us a valuable philosophy of life, of inevitability, equanimity, humor, human values, hard work, generosity and determination,” says el Seed.

El Seed PERCEPTION Published by Point à la Ligne. Milan, Italy. 2018.

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“Ex Animo”,  Eight Years of Poetry by Faith Forty Seven

“Ex Animo”, Eight Years of Poetry by Faith Forty Seven

Worn workers, wild beasts, a bloom in the rubble.

Prayers of supplication and longing, racing teams of stallions and master felines of fury, the exhausted figure of a dream barely still illuminated, a wistful stage in the plundered urban landscape, or a plundered life.

This is what she does to you. As Faith IXVII leaves her stolen stanza, her massive mural in washed hues, her tributes to a moment lost in a city that would leave you to die if it had its way, she makes you make poetry.

“Artists are driven to leave a mark, something that will tell their story, or the story of their time,” writes Jacqueline Flint when speaking of the South African artists installation work. Whether stories she has found, constructed, or caught in the ether as they drift by, Faith has left many tales for you to unpack in cities from Wuhan, China to Chinatown in New York City to Goa, India and Portland, Washington.

In EX ANIMO you can see where she’s been waving to you from, even as you passed by, or beneath.

Published by Drago and edited by Roger Gastman, the handsome volume captures the opus works and gallery installations and hidden gems on temporary construction walls and pillars holding the highway, all part of the modern vocabulary of Street Artists who weave themselves into the fabric of the megapolis. But there is much more if you care to see it.

“Anyone can make art in the streets but a rare few create socially impactful content, and there is no denying that Faith’s work has transformed perspectives among her global audience,” writes Kristin Farr in her essay, and it is true that the width of a mind and heart can be pushed a little further with these hard won truths.

“A language of empathy borne in a scream of rage, hurled like a Molotov cocktail but given the wings of metaphor and the grace of allegory,” writes Carlo McCormick in the introduction,”Faith’s work on the streets commands all the monumentality of public art yet whispers its deepest secrets in the hushed tones of prisoners and stowaways, travelers whose journeys demark the limits and possibilities of no where else to go.”

Whether it is the rhythm of the lunar cycle or the steady, now racing, beating of blood through hearts and lungs, its a meditative measure of Faith that appears on our streets pointing to our folly and our burning fire within. Often it is a poem that rises inside.

Faith XLVII. “EX ANIMO’ THE WORK OF FAITH FORTY SEVEN/ 2010-2018. Drago Publishing. Rome, Italy, 2018

 

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