All posts tagged: Art Book Review

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

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

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.

Considering the elements of this planetary system, one that drew protagonists into layers of swirling space in overlapping concentric patterns at a time where “high” and “low” distinctions were melting and crashing into one another, a viewer is still drawn physicality of the works and artifacts, the hand and the gesture. If you are going to talk about expressionism and its reaction to stimuli, you’ll also want to appreciate the tactility of this art-making process, one that was endemic to Basquiats’ daily existence in the studio and on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Editor of the “Writing the Future” catalogue, Liz Munsell, delves directly into that physicality in her essay, an experiential process that he shares with the viewer. “In several areas of the composition, Basquiat seems to have taken his own hands directly to the painting’s thick, wet surface, dragging his fingers across it into an area where he painted the hand of his self-portrait,” says Munsell. Willfully enigmatic at times and decidedly cryptic in his textual references, one cannot argue with this, an ultimate form of mark-making.

While Munsell is addressing something tangible, she is also witness to the spirit. We take it as an apt response to the greater challenge of decoding the works; presenting “the shattered poetics of Jean Michel Basquiat lyric memory cabinets.”

Basquiat scholar Carlo McCormick, who also happens to have been a full participant and observer of the ratty and glittering decline of New York during Basquiats’ rise, opens the book. Within his lyrical prelude to the artists’ ascent is a similar effort to place the moment; a sea of creative talents from privilege and without, trying their hand at sinking or swimming on the gallery of the streets, seizing a moment that reshaped a sleepy and self-satisfied gallery system that had painted itself into a proverbial white-box (and white-skin) corner.

“It’s all a crazy quilt conversation, talking in wild style tongues from the train yards to the writer’s bench, from bewildered commuters and savvy fans to the posturing politicians with their broken-windows theories in vandal squads, from little nightclub art shows and the ad hoc outposts like Fashion Moda and the Fun Gallery to a global stage of major exhibitions from the primal voice of mark-making to the sweet sounds of the studio, where a generation of outlaws joined that historical confab of painters in the culture of canvas. It’s got a beat hard-scrabbled out like the scratching of those early playground turntablists, but it’s all about the language, transmuted beyond easy recognition, private in the most public of ways, the insider voice of the outsider externalizing the interior. It’s pure jive, freeform and freestyle, the deceptions of code carrying the truth of the heart, the lyrics to all our collective pain, anger, alienation, and hope writ large like an aerosol atom bomb.”

Talk about shattered poetics.

In fact, art in the streets was a direct respondent to trauma, inequity, dislocation, and the effects of the flight of capital– and if certain populations found it discordant, it was possibly because it functioned as a funhouse mirror – distorted and vaguely threatening. While Basquiat was self-promoting in the venues and manners he was most suited, he was placing a bet that society was ready, or would be soon, for the platform and the content and the challenge.

“Graffiti had found the speed at which it needed to be seen,” the graffiti writer, fine artist and street style branding wizard Futura says in a quote.

By chasing it and learning how to read these writings on the wall we would gain a better understanding of what was to come in the future.  

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.

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Artist Franco JAZ Fasoli Goes “Publico Privado”

Artist Franco JAZ Fasoli Goes “Publico Privado”

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.

Publico. Privado. Jaz Franco Fasoli. 09-2019

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.

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

Now with many miles of travel on his personal odometer and introduction to greater opportunities and institutions his visual output is here codified, examined, and assessed in printed and bound form, to be respected and valued. As observed in an essay by his street painting compatriot Elian, “Today it is no longer about what physical space we select for each of these terms and their respective experiences, it is about extremely sensitive decisions on what we decide to transport from mental territories to others.”

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

Extremely sensitive is an appropriate descriptor. These massive and fragile and indestructible works all respond to weighty matters of history, struggle, nationalism, mythology, archetypical roles; now mingled uncomfortably with the ethereal nature of modern living that collapses, compresses, cheapens aesthetic values and relationships. Here is adolescence clamoring for maturity, idealism melting with monsters of the imagination, truth abutting uncomfortable irony.

In “Publico: Privado” JAZ has invited you to go on the trip with him. Artist, teacher, and curator Diana Aisenberg writes in her essay, “I imagine the work as a ship, a means of transport, as close to teleportation. It is the one that moves and finds its place, there where it is necessary.”

JAZ. Publico. Publico Privado. Jaz Franco Fasoli. 09-2019
JAZ. Publico. Publico Privado. Jaz Franco Fasoli. 09-2019
JAZ. Publico. Publico Privado. Jaz Franco Fasoli. 09-2019
Franco Fasoli. Privado. Publico Privado. Jaz Franco Fasoli. 09-2019
Franco Fasoli. Privado. Publico Privado. Jaz Franco Fasoli. 09-2019
Franco Fasoli. Privado. Publico Privado. Jaz Franco Fasoli. 09-2019
Franco Fasoli. Privado. Publico Privado. Jaz Franco Fasoli. 09-2019
Franco Fasoli. Privado. Publico Privado. Jaz Franco Fasoli. 09-2019
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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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Alice Pasquini – “Crossroads”, The Intersections Between Internal and External

Alice Pasquini – “Crossroads”, The Intersections Between Internal and External

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.

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

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

Alternating between aerosol rendering, ink sketches on paper, and the sharpened portraiture of street stencils in hidden places, Pasquini can distill a moment that is perhaps remarkable, perhaps everyday noblesse.

“I have discovered that art is a universal language,” she says. Working in the streets I have found myself in countless situations, whether exhilarating, educational, or expected. I receive immediate feedback, whether it be surprise, joy or curiosity of the passerby, irrespective of age or culture.”

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

Elsewhere in an essay addressing the still-current imbalance of representation of males and females in the Street Art scene internationally, she speaks of a social aspect to her practice, a fulfillment of her desire to engage and encourage women to be themselves and be present, fully immersed in public life.

“Maybe women are presented with a behavioral model that limits our liberty to be ourselves. They tell us how we should be. By painting the women I see, I try to show to them – like a mirror – what they could be but what they repress. It is an incitement for women to do what they wish to do.”

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

With page after page of images in these Crossroads, the artist presents many people, not unlike herself, and undoubtedly extensions of her.  Tender, confessional, timidly hiding in plain view, these figures are public expressions for introverts, observers and dreamers who must confront the harsh chaos of the metropolis, but who are happier without the tumult and able to conjure beauty without the drama.

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

Longtime stalwart friend, advisor, and manager Jessica Stewart gives readers a warm and close view of the artist and her practice, adding a timbre needed to fully appreciate the work.

“I’ve often remarked to Alice that she’s lucky that she knew what she wanted to do since she was a child. I sometimes think that she doesn’t realize just how rare it is to not only have that calling but to be fearless enough to follow your heart. Through her example, who knows how many others will be brave enough to also take the leap.”

Alice Pasquini “Crossroads” Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy, 2019
Alice Pasquini “Crossroads” Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy, 2019
Alice Pasquini “Crossroads” Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy, 2019
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Dont Fret: “Life Thus Far” to Be Released

Dont Fret: “Life Thus Far” to Be Released

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

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

Well, maybe not that handsome.

“This is place-based Street Art, a running commentary on life in this neighborhood that captures the off-the-wall imperfect nature of humans in a pock-marked and still proud American city after capital leaves it, slowly imploding, coasting on fumes, hopefully rallying, quickly stratifying into luxury lofts and the rest of us,” writes Steven P. Harrington in the foreword to this hefty chunk of comedic meat. Peering through these pages, the feeling is inescapable; Somehow you sense like you know DONT FRET’S people – probably because many of them came directly from these streets.

An image by BSA’s Jaime Rojo in DONT FRET’s new book, “Life This Far”, published this December by Schiffer

We wanted you to have an opportunity to take a quick look inside the massive quirky tome yourself, because it is as eclectic and disarmingly insightful as this sidewalk bard and documentarian, and to let you know the book release is in December. Also, DONT FRET’s got a special gig going for its release with a limited edition screenprint and original sketch with signature in the book.

“I think you have to live life like you are invincible,” says the artist on the back cover of Life Thus Far, “but I also think you have to live life understanding that that sort of thinking is a result of a serious psychological disorder.”

We’ll talk to you more about this in a few weeks, and with the artist, and we’ll find out about his circuitous route to the streets of working class Chicago, how a fish rots from the head, the significance of the original Billy Goat on lower Wacker, and why Studs Terkel is more relevant today than ever.

DONT FRET “LIFE THUS FAR” Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, PA. 2019

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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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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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