All posts tagged: Artmossphere

BSA Writer’s Bench : “Why Monuments?” by Carlo McCormick

BSA Writer’s Bench : “Why Monuments?” by Carlo McCormick

Like graffiti writers sharing black books and styles, BSA Writer’s Bench presents today’s greatest thinkers in an OpEd column. Scholars, historians, academics, authors, artists, and cultural workers command this bench. With their opinions and ideas, we expand our collective knowledge and broaden our appreciation of this culture ever-evolving.


by Carlo McCormick


Why Monuments?


Perhaps, caught up in the energy of street art and graffiti, we do not pay quite so much attention as we should to it being something we might otherwise call public art. Consider that public art as a form goes back through centuries of municipal planning and myriad private and public interests that are concerned with how community identity may be constructed and represented. It is shortsighted not to acknowledge how much of public art has long been about monuments.

Perhaps this perspective is a bit of a stretch for many. Certainly, the motives and purpose of those expressions that we see on a street or a subway are impossibly far from how monuments function as public art, not to mention the significant differences between them in terms of scale, materials, and permanence.  But if street art is a distant unruly and mongrel descendent of the public monument, they are nonetheless related.

However absurd comparisons may be, my concerns and involvement with art as it exists on the streets remains inseparable from my somewhat perverse fascination with monuments, each somehow bound together as opposite ends of the broader conversation called public art- which is, after all, the visual manifestation of both what we want to say and what we want to be remembered.


Most bad ideas are meant to die, but some haunt you year after year like a bad case of recurring herpes.


Monumental Book Project Spurs the Worst

Oddly, they both occurred to me simultaneously when I organized a show many years ago in Milan’s mid-Eighties. It included several graffiti artists mixed in with their contemporary art peers who were active then in the East Village Downtown Scene. This was actually not so common at that time when there was not so much curatorial or critical comingling between what had emerged on the trains and that which had been born through more formal studio practice.

The graffiti movement was still nascent and pretty much invisible to art world eyes at that time. One way I thought of to put New York graffiti in context for an audience then was to contrast it with something we all had – the world over; really ugly monuments to people whom we largely don’t know or care about. This presented a great idea – to create a book compiling examples of the very worst monuments internationally.

I had no idea what would happen.

For months after I began the project, people I didn’t even know were contacting me to report the really crappy statue in their little town square. And this was before the Internet; can you imagine what it is like to get bad photographs of awful public art in the mail? It was a kind of aesthetic pornography. Needless to say, I never did that book.

Most bad ideas are meant to die, but some haunt you year after year like a bad case of recurring herpes. This unlikely and unfortunate confluence between two impossibly incompatible forms of public art festered in the back of my mind for decades as a latent aberration.

Corfitz “To His Eternal Shame, Disgrace and Infamy” 1664, Copenhagen

It erupted again many years later when, in visiting a photography show of portraits of graffiti and street artists in Copenhagen I stumbled across a modest, ancient monument in the garden of a local museum there. It was, in the whole lineage of sculptural atrocities I had witnessed in monumental art, the most ugly monument imaginable.  Originally erected in 1664 on the former grounds of a once powerful man named Corfitz (he had married the daughter of the king), after they had demolished the grand estate that had stood there.

The monument remembers an infamous and still reviled traitor with the following words:

“To his eternal shame, disgrace and infamy.”

Here was a history, redolent with hate, regret, and disgust, I could relate to. Here was a public artwork of monumental shame I could salute. It reminded me of the curse tablets, tabella dexionis or katadesmos, of the Greco-Roman period in which the gods were called upon for all sorts of unspeakable retributions against specified individuals.

Spiteful markers of public malevolence, like an enraged sect of lawn sculptures, they might be a worthy form to return today. Certainly, they would better than the insipid feel-good positivity slogans that are so common these days.

A curse tablet (Latin: tabella defixionis, defixio; Greek: κατάδεσμος, romanizedkatadesmos) is a reference to the practice of creating a small tablet with a curse written on it from the Greco-Roman world. The tablets were used to ask the gods, place spirits, or the deceased to perform an action on a person or object, or otherwise compel the subject of the curse. (Wiki)

But we are not there yet. In fact, the longer I think about all this, the more certain I am that I will never quite get there, wherever that may be. Sometime later, Nuart, the street art festival and conference out of Stavanger, Norway, which habitually indulges my worst follies, did allow me to lecture on the idea of monumental shame.


Cold War, Soviet Era, and Fallen Soldiers

Still, it was not until Artmossphere, a street art biennial in Moscow asked me in 2018 to curate their forthcoming edition, did I consider that I might finally get to say what I needed to. Most importantly, I would do so by working with artists I cared about, who were well versed in public art – if perhaps somewhat allergic to the history of monuments.

The idea, to assemble a show of newly made monuments by artists who typically work in the ephemeral and express themselves in terms that are more personal and idiomatic than civic and official, was in large part inspired by a particular feature of the largest public space in Moscow, Gorky Park. Here, in an area colloquially called The Park of Fallen Heroes, were all the monuments produced in the Soviet Era – 700 of them, all strewn about, laid to rest like forlorn memento mori to a failed empire.

MUZEON Park of Arts in Moscow (formerly The Park of Fallen Heroes) (copyright source: Rusmania.com)

MUZEON Park of Arts in Moscow (formerly The Park of Fallen Heroes) (copyright source: Rusmania.com)

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – CIRCA AUGUST 2016: MUZEON park of arts (formerly calledPark of the Fallen Heroes)

To date this recontextualizing of our ignominious legacies into delineated margins, statuary ghettos so to speak, seems the best solution for the world over to consider how and where to park their problematic past. There is another similar site in Budapest called Memento Park, which plays a great backdrop for James Bond dodging bullets in Golden Eye, and has an apt mandate.

“This park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described, built, this park is about democracy. After all, only democracy is able to give us the opportunity to freely think about dictatorship.”

Monument to the Soviet Army – A pop-inspired repainting in Sofia, Bulgaria, 2011 (Creative Commons)

I’m perhaps a bit more skeptical than that when it comes to the virtues of what we call democracy. Still, in all this, there is to be a spirit of disentangling ourselves from history just enough to allow real artists a chance to imagine what they think needs to be celebrated and how we might memorialize the ideals of the present.

Somehow nasty cold war nostalgias seem more entertaining when wrapped up in a bit of 007 intrigue, the atrocities of tyranny abstracted by an erotic fetish of the other. So perhaps a Bond movie might be the best way to go there, but Moscow has this extra incentive in an apparent law that allows almost any type of unsolicited public art so long as it is done as a memorial, as if the act of remembrance forgives all aesthetic sins.

The Lenin statue before its Darth Vaderesque “de-communization” (left) and after (right)
Photo: qz.com

The infamous statue of Feliks Dzerzhinsky is brought down in Moscow in August 1991 (photo Alexander Zemlianichenko (AP)

There is such a cultural power to that, like being able to eat as much as you want so long as every bite tastes like Proust’s Madeleine, a trigger for the force of sudden recollections. This law should be adopted everywhere, and street artists must consider this as a legitimate defense going forward. Even weary old flaneurs like me could use it. “Was I urinating in public officer? No, I was making a monument to the time in everyone’s life when they just have to pee.”

Covid of course dashed those plans for Moscow, as the pandemic did for so many others, and at this point there is no telling if a monuments-based Artmossphere will find life in the new history we now enter. But who would have even thought in such a short time between conception and non-fruition that such a whack idea could now be so central to our social, cultural and public art discourse?


..it will not bode well for the fate of our contemporary monuments if we do not find a better way to address the afterlife of those monuments that are no longer so appropriate.


“The Lost Cause” Narrative from the US Civil War

I have been thinking a lot about a new kind of monument for a long time, but today I feel fortunate that artists, scholars and activists are thinking in even more radical yet practical ways than I could have ever conceived. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that in 2020 a total of 160 Confederate monuments were removed from public display, and this gesture of mass censure was felt globally as many countries came to reassess the sculptural legacy of their colonialist exploits. In the United States, even with this widespread eradication, there are some 2,100 symbols of the confederacy still awaiting their date with woke history, and some 704 of them are monuments.

A timeline of Confederate monuments. Click to enlarge.

In America we do love to smash shit up almost as much as we like shooting things, so perhaps all these tokens of “The Lost Cause” narrative, minted in the south but largely manufactured in the North, are doomed to this wave of violent iconoclasm, but it will not bode well for the fate of our contemporary monuments if we do not find a better way to address the afterlife of those monuments that are no longer so appropriate.

The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee stands behind a crowd of hundreds of “alt-right” during the “Unite the Right” rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Va.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Robert E. Lee statue (defaced) Duke University, Durham, NC 2017

An image of George Floyd is projected on the base of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, Monday, June 8, 2020, in Richmond, Va. The statue was a focal point of protests over the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Steve Helber / AP)

Perhaps we can combine their destiny with the rising efforts to repatriate all the treasures we’ve looted over the years, pass them on to the peoples who have suffered the most at their cruel hands to enslave, rape, and debase. Better that than leave it to the clueless hordes of college kids who somehow skipped history class on their way to knowing better deciding what to do with Lincoln (who never thought the black man near equal to the whites but just believed they needed to be free) as a way of purging their own entitlements.

Protesters try to pull down a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square near the White House on Monday, June 22, 2020. (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

A statue of Winston Churchill is protected before protests in London. (Photo by Matthew Chattle/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Might we also consider a way to ritualize our destruction of the past – to transform it into some communal sacrifice designed to maximize the symbolic and cathartic act of abnegation? Now that we are all too civilized to enjoy the spectacle of public executions, maybe we can channel our collective bloodlust into the ceremonial slaughter of our forefathers in effigy.

White Bronze Monuments advertisement in Ann Arbor Courier 1887


Scientific American 1885

National Fine Art Foundry ad 1892

Any monument that speaks to the ideology of oppression or the wealth accrued through exploitation needs to be extricated from the heart of our public spaces. But to treat them as effigies to be defaced, toppled or thrown in the nearest body of water seems to re-enact cycles of abuse going back to the lynchings that accompanied their consecration. It would be nice to think we can be smarter than a mob when it comes to cultural artifacts, no matter how despicable they may be.


Destruction, Preservation, and Old/New Historical Narratives

Voltaire probably got it right when he said, “History never repeats itself. Man always does.” We’ve been defacing the visages of the powerful and unceremoniously toppling monuments for a very long time now. Defacement is a ritualized power trip, found in many African cultures where masks functioned as highly coded visages of empowerment.

That power trip lurked in the systematic castration of countless Greek and Roman statues, and was epitomized by General Napoleon ordering his troops to shoot the noses off the sphinxes when they marched through Egypt. If monuments must fall, as most eventually do, let’s offer them the ultimate indignity of just lying there unattended in their neglect, a new kind of picturesque in the spirit of all those 18th Century paintings of ancient ruins – updated to meet the visual standards of our post-industrial ruin-porn photography.

Vintage engraving of Napoleon Bonaparte before the Sphinx, after the painting by J L Gerome.

Repurposing our monuments, especially in this time of ecological awareness and knowledge of growing scarcities certainly makes some sense. Though certainly a far greater artistic loss than, say, any works by the preeminent Confederate monument sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekial, you have to appreciate how rather than simply dispense of Michelangelo’s Statue of Pope Julius II (aptly known as the Warrior Pope and much admired by Machiavelli) the good citizens melted it down and turned it into a cannon. It was almost as poetic as the second life given a statue of James II in 1689 when it was similarly melted and turned into church bells.

If we begin all this with the premise that most monuments are rendered ugly, vulgar, and pointless over time, can we recognize what importance they may have much further down the line of history?

A statue depicting Christopher Columbus is seen with its head removed at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park on June 10, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

Don’t you agree that these things are better when planned? What we are experiencing now in cities across the Western World is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to imagining a revisionist history. It is nothing yet compared to the wholesale destruction of didactic artifacts that ensues with the collapse of an empire. Julius Caesar once ruled over much of the world, but you don’t find statues of him on view in all corners of his former domain. Let’s guess that whatever survived the turn of history to end up in a museum is probably worth something, historically if not artistically. It’s hard to hold a grudge for that long. Value eventually accrues to all that is discarded.

Toppling a statue of Saddam Hussein On April 9, 2003 In Baghdad, Iraq. (Photo by Gilles BASSIGNAC/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Protesters throw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into the Bristol harbor during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Bristol, England. 2020. (Photo by Ben Birchall/AP)

In recent memory certainly nothing compares to the massive purging of Soviet statuary that followed the fall of communism in 1989. In the Ukraine alone five and a half thousand statues of Lenin were pulled down in the main period of Leninfall in 2013 and 2014. You can’t blame any populace for wanting to take revenge on the surrogate likenesses of those who have made their very lives so miserable, but for all our righteous rage let us always keep a place in our heart for the example of Alexandre Lenoir who did so much to save historic monuments during the French Revolution.

A statue of Lenin is pulled down in Kharkiv, Eastern Ukraine. (Wikipedia)

As curator of the Museum of French Monuments, a once-grand museum founded only two years after the Louvre opened, Lenoir facilitated a way that paved the route for those immense treasures eventually to return to great cathedrals like Saint-Denis and Notre Dame – as well as to museums ranging from the Metropolitan in New York and the Victoria and Albert in London. Many of the greatest works from the Medieval era were preserved; establishing the very notion of heritage that is central to our cultural understanding of preservation. If we begin all this with the premise that most monuments are rendered ugly, vulgar, and pointless over time, can we recognize what importance they may have much further down the line of history?


Tamed down from whatever irascible grace they once possessed, their works began to fit an increasingly narrow aesthetic bandwidth of unsophisticated acquisition boards more concerned with not offending anyone than provoking a meaningful public discourse.


Blanding and the Effect of Corporate Perverting of Public Art

I cannot presume my cul de sac of concerns regarding the history of monuments would have much, if any, relevance to contemporary artists working in public space or to activists set on dismantling their coercive strategies, but I can hope we all find a way to keep considering these issues in some measure.

For one I would like all my friends who are killing it right now with an ongoing prolific schedule of massive public and private commissions to look at what happened to some of the great modernist sculptors when corporate art replaced the public monuments in the post-war period. It is not hard to see the deleterious effects on the work of artists like Isamu Noguchi, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, and Claes Oldenburg when they started churning out their art in increasingly formulaic fashion. Tamed down from whatever irascible grace they once possessed, their works began to fit an increasingly narrow aesthetic bandwidth of unsophisticated acquisition boards more concerned with not offending anyone than provoking a meaningful public discourse.

Far be it from me to judge how any artist makes their money, or even how much money they want to make, but we would all do ourselves a service if we keep in mind the fundamental difference between street art that serves the spirit of the people versus corporate monumentality that serves the interests of a narrow-minded few.

Vito Acconci, “House of Cars” (MOMA catalogue)

Vito Acconci, “Proposal for Spanish Landing” (MOMA catalogue)

These are all only questions, or problems as they may be, and it is never the job of any critic to tell artists what to do, only to simply applaud what is done well. I cannot help but think here of Vito Acconci, who after being a poet turned performance artist, existed for a number of years as a public art sculptor before finally ending his career in his last clownish dance with disquieting subversion by impersonating an architect.

His public art was hardly much of a market success and it often flirted with outright disaster, as when he unwittingly buried a plane in the ground outside an airport where a major plane crash had occurred. However his radical efforts ranged from burying a house upside down in the ground so that you made your way climbing to the top floors by subterranean descent to a spectacle of two cars fucking through the windows of the World Financial Center. That work suggested a less predictable and complacent position for public art. Perhaps it is one that is exhibited by few today and one that fewer are working toward – aside from, say, Brad Downey with his monument to Melania Trump in Slovenia.

Brad Downey with Aleš “Maxi” Župevc created a statue of First Lady Melania Trump in Slovenia, 2019.

To re-imagine the monument today maybe we might best do so not by an act of collective amnesia but by embracing their role in memoriam; that is to remember the function of memory. There’s no telling where this will lead us, perhaps to no more than a post-modern pastiche that will be just as problematic to the future as our inherited pasts are to us. But we may garner more from contending with the language of history than eradicating it in a campaign of erasure.


Repurposing, Mockery, Monumental Abuse and Vulgarity

Kara Walker (Photo by Jaime Rojo)
Kara Walker “A Subtlety: or the Marvelous Sugar Baby
“an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant” with Creative Time, 2014
 

Some of the best monuments of recent years have done just that: either by repurposing the language of monumentality to fit contemporary concerns, such as the Guerilla Girls “Code of Ethics” erected on the High Line in 2019, Jeffrey Gibson’s “Before you Enter My House It Becomes Our House” in Socrates Sculpture Park 2020, Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” a sphinx made out of sugar shown at the old Domino Sugar factory in 2014, her “Fons Americanus” at the Tate in 2019, Ai Wei Wei’s “Fountain of Light” remake of Tatlin’s Tower out of glass crystals now at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Kehinde Wiley’s “Rumor’s of War” that debuted in Times Square in 2019, and Zhao Zhao’s “The Broken Officer” of 2011.

Production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film, “Krzysztof Wodiczko: Monument for the Living.” in Madison Square Park, NY © Art21, Inc. 2020.

Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot, “The Rapids” on the Potomac River. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as the River of Blood.
It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River
Donald John Trump

There are effective ways of making mockery of monuments’ historical certainty in ways that range from the “River of Blood” plaque at one of Donald Trump’s golf clubs in Virginia that falsely claims to be the site of a fictitious Civil War battle and Joseph Reginella’s “Ed Koch Wolf Foundation” monument to the many tourists who go missing in New York City every year that he put up in Battery Park in 2019.

Other aesthetic and political interventions are created on pre-existing monuments such as Krzysztof Wodiczko “Monument for the Living” that did in Madison Square Park in New York in 2020, and the “Restoration” series by the Guyanese descent British sculptor Hew Locke first shown at St. Thomas the Martyr Church, Bristol.

Parliament’s bust of Cromwell turned to face the wall by Labour Party member Steve Pound in Parliament. Photo courtesy @labourwhips via Twitter.

Lastly, we might also consider those artists who have made monumental the abuse and disabuse of monuments, such as the artist who put up a bust of York, the enslaved lone African-American member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, on the vacant plinth of a toppled monument in Portland, Oregon, or the ongoing “Proposals for Monuments” series by Sam Durant, artworks that themselves function as an archive for the expanding history of toppled monuments.

Hew Locke, Washington, Federal Hall, 2018

Hew Locke,”Colston (Restoration series)” 2008 (Photo by Indra Khanna)

Hew Locke, Columbus, Central Park, 2018 Chromogenic print with mixed media

Hew Locke, Souvenir 10 (Princess Alexandra), 2019
mixed media on antique Parian ware / Souvenir 8 (Edward VII in Masonic Regalia), 2019
Sam Durant Budapest, 1956, 2018 (Graphite on Paper)

However the myriad approaches to this problem of our monumental shame may vary, what is plainly clear is that no matter how we try to dismiss monuments as ugly and vulgar, or wipe them away as simply wrong, their unwanted and unwarranted presence will be with us for quite some time.




(photo by Tessa Hughes-Freeland)

Carlo McCormick

Carlo McCormick is an art and culture critic and curator based in New York City as well as the author of numerous books, monographs, and catalogs on contemporary art and artists. His curatorial exhibitions include The Downtown Show: The New York Art Scene, 1974–1984 at New York University (New York) and The Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Magic City : The Art of the Street (Dresden and Munich, Germany and Stockholm, Sweden), Elements of Style at Seoul Art Center (Seoul, Korea), and RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder (New York).

McCormick was Senior Editor at Paper magazine for over 30 years and has contributed to several art publications, including Art in America, Art News, and Artforum. Among his many books are Trespass. A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art, co-editor (Taschen Books), City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti From the Martin Wong Collection, co-editor (Rizzoli), Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation, contributor (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), and Futura: The Artist’s Monograph (Rizzoli)



Opinions expressed on BSA Writer’s Bench do not necessarily reflect those of the editors or BSA.

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OKUDA Boldly on Russian Permafrost with Artmossphere / Yakut Biennale

OKUDA Boldly on Russian Permafrost with Artmossphere / Yakut Biennale

OKUDA is melting! Even in sub-zero frigid weather like this!

OKUDA. With Artmossphere in collaboration with the National Art Museum of the Republic of Sakha. Yakutsk, Russia. (photo courtesy of Artmossphere)

As the US Midwest suffers a once in a generation “polar vortex” over the last few days, it may be hard to believe but that level of freezing cold is typical January weather in Yakutsk, Russia, where the average day in this city of 300,000 is −38 degrees celsius (−37 farenheit).

Yakutsk temperature reading during the Okuda sculpture installation (photo copyright Мария Васильева)

Spanish Street Artist and fine artist Okuda, who deals in powerful displays of tropicalia geometric color in his murals and sculptures, ventures far afield here- or should we say far atundra.

Sasha Krolikova, who curated this project with Artmossphere and the Yakut Biennale of Contemporary Art, says this is the world’s northernmost sculpture created by Okuda. The area is being developed into a modern urban space for recreation and sports and cycling area (it will be warmer this summer, promise). She says the installation is with the support of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Sakha and appears on the embankment of Sajsary Lake in Yakutsk.

OKUDA. With Artmossphere
in collaboration with the National Art Museum of the Republic of Sakha. Yakutsk, Russia. (photo courtesy of Artmossphere)

“We had a lot of work to do with the colors,” says Krolikova, “because they don’t look the same as in Spain when they have been exposed to this cold.” A melting skull with a spiked mohawk in technicolor, the capital city of Sakha Republic is going to have this Okuda for a long time – since it is made of steel. Not many people are likely to see it until spring here however, we are guessing.

OKUDA. With Artmossphere
in collaboration with the National Art Museum of the Republic of Sakha. Yakutsk, Russia. (photo courtesy of Artmossphere)
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Largest Mural in The World in Vyksa, Russia, Says Artist Misha Most & Artmossphere

Largest Mural in The World in Vyksa, Russia, Says Artist Misha Most & Artmossphere

Organizers at Artmossphere are calling this new mural in Russia the largest mural in the world. They say that representatives of the Guinness World Records are considering its inclusion in the collection of world records.

Misha Most. ArtOvrag in Vyksa, Russia. June, 2017. (photo © Courtesy of Artmossphere)

Celebrating the 260th anniversary of the metallurgical plant in Vyksa and the 25th anniversary of the United Metallurgical Company (OMK), the Moscow based painter, street artist and a graffiti-writer Misha Most and five assistants took 35 days to paint this 10,800 square meter mural this spring. Presented to the public as part of the urban art festival ArtOvrag in Vyksa, Russia.

Thematically, Mr. Most says he looked to stories in science fiction a half century ago – many about our current time. It includes elements related to scientists, chemistry, psychology, robotics, androids – basically stuff you see today going to the shopping mall, ad agency, or factory floor.

Misha Most. ArtOvrag in Vyksa, Russia. June, 2017. (photo © Kirill Makarov)

“I included into the scheme six stories taken from the past and present of the Vyksa smelter,” says the artist. “I think the workers can easily recognize them. If you look at the wall from left to right, you can grasp the development of the plot: from small – to greater, from research – to creation, from idea to result.”

Organized by the Artmossphere Studio creative association, who continuously are pushing the boundaries of street culture, high culture, and community engagement, the winning mural was chosen from 260 applications from 34 countries to the “Vyksa 10000” open competition and juried by artists, designers and architects.

Misha Most. ArtOvrag in Vyksa, Russia. June, 2017. (photo © Narodizkiy)

Misha Most. ArtOvrag in Vyksa, Russia. June, 2017. (photo © Narodizkiy)

Misha Most. ArtOvrag in Vyksa, Russia. June, 2017. (photo © Narodizkiy)

Misha Most. ArtOvrag in Vyksa, Russia. June, 2017. (photo © Courtesy of Artmossphere)

Misha Most. ArtOvrag in Vyksa, Russia. June, 2017. (photo © Courtesy of Artmossphere)

Misha Most. ArtOvrag in Vyksa, Russia. June, 2017. (photo © Courtesy of Artmossphere)

 

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BSA Images Of The Week: 09.11.16

BSA Images Of The Week: 09.11.16

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BSA-Images-Week-Jan2015

It’s the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 in New York. It will be a quiet day for us.

We hope.

So, here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Bast, Elian, EQC, Hama Woods, MCA, Mundano, Robert Montgomery, SacSix, Sayer, Shok1, TomBob, Zachem, and Зачем.

Our top image: Elian in Moscow for the first edition of Artmossphere 2014. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Plastic Jesus does his bit to stop this mean, selfish, racist, dishonest, greedy little man to become king. If he succeeds we’ll all lose – Even those who think they support him. The stench will reach us all. World War II didn’t just happen from one day to the other. It built up. It simmered. It took shape while people were distracted. Yo, this is surreeeus. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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EQC fashions a Loteria Card with an image of you-know-who. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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TomBob take on the proverbial See No Evil. Hear No Evil. Speak No Evil. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-robert-montgomery-tor-staale-moen-nuart-2016-stavanger-09-11-2016-web

Robert Montgomery’s installation for NUART 2016 Tou Scene indoor exhibition. Stavanger, Norway. September 2016. (photo © Tor Ståle Moen)

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Unidentified artist. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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And now a little of the old soft-shoe shuffle. Hama Woods in conjunction with NUART 2016. Stavanger, Norway. September 2016. (photo © Tor Ståle Moen)

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Shok1 for  Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art (UN) at Lollapalooza. Berlin 2016. (photo © Nika Kramer)

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BAST (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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A filthy piggy by an unidentified artist. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-zachem-%d0%b7%d0%b0%d1%87%d0%b5%d0%bc-jaime-rojo-09-11-2016-web

Зачем in Moscow. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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MCA toying around in Chelsea (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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A tribute to Gene Wilder as the original Willy Wonka. SACSIX (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Mundano giving a shout out to recycling and recyclers in NYC.(photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Mundano (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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SAYER in Moscow. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-jaime-rojo-09-11-2016-web

Untitled. Manhattan, NYC. September 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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Artmossphere Dispatch 4 : The Opening

Artmossphere Dispatch 4 : The Opening

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This week BSA is in Moscow with you and Urban Nation for Artmossphere 2016, the 2nd Street Art Biennale, a group exposition introducing 26 Russian and 42 foreign artists who were shaped by street art in some way. Also present are international curators, museums and galleries who have significantly intersected with urban art in recent years.

Artmossphere co-founder and curator Sabina Chagina pulled off a second edition of this biennale last night in Moscow – not an easy feat. But with 11 curators and nearly 70 artists from here and around the world, the multi-discipline show unveiled on time and was well attended – with a steady stream of curious fans coming through the space today as well.

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Sick Boy’s installation found a number of kids to climb the ladder and take the slide (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With the air of an art fair (minus the sales associates and plus the soaring arched windows) and work often so far removed from street practice that you may refer to it simply as Urban Contemporary, there is a palpable enthusiasm and curiosity here about what this “movement” might be bringing.

Most if not all of the international artists have intersected with illegal Street Art in cities around the world and this work has often evolved from the practice. Perhaps beneath the surface or just above it, there is a certain defiance and a critique of social, economic, political issues and systems.

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A child exits the Sick Boy “The Rewards System” installation. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Elsewhere the presentation is primarily aesthetic, very muted or so similar to previous mid-20th-century art schools as to appear separate from what one may recognize as the urban art of the last two decades. Similarly, the inclusion of graffiti is only occasional and is presented as part of the greater whole today rather than its genesis role.

Adding together a press conference, a Moscow superstar DJ, virtual reality headsets, interactive displays (otherwise known as selfie-with-art opportunities), major private business sponsors, cultural ministers, government grants, and official accreditation, this is a professional and polished presentation of a global culture that has filtered through the lense of the street.

Here are a few select shots to give you an idea of the feeling during the opening of Artmossphere 2.

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Brad Downey and Alexander Petrelli performed Brad’s huckster mobile art-selling installation on the floor of the bienalle, where Brad used his laser-like sales skills to sell his own work. Mr. Patrelli is known for his unannounced appearances at Moscow openings wearing his “Overcoat Gallery”. This was reportedly his 461st such appearance since 1992 and his flashing overcoat contained original Brad Downey artworks for your perusal.

If you missed those pieces, Brad was also drawing portraits of guests with a thin white posca marker on clear plastic at the afterparty. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Brad Downey and Alexander Petrelli (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Canadian-via-Brooklyn Li-Hill reflecting on his newest painting/installation. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Jaz (Franco Fasoli) completed this emerging subterranean power horse and rider in a Moscow studio days before the opening. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Galo stood among his characters in his paint splashed installation. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Minneapolis based Hot Tea’s whack-a-mole inspired interactive piece drew many wiley participants popping up and down within it. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Katie & Jesse created this batik fabric here in Moscow and stretched it on a frame, illuminated from within. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Steve Harrington chats with the contingent from Museum of Street Art who took the train from their city of Saint Petersburg to see how Artmossphere interpreted the idea of ‘invisible walls’. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Artmossphere curators at the press conference. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Sepe, Denis Leo Hegic and M-City at the afterparty. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Coincidentally, or not, fireworks filled the night sky over Red Square as artists and curators and organizers all headed to the afterparty at a club a few blocks away. Um, completely magical. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Artmossphere Dispatch 3: Remi, Luka, Ito and the Move Toward Contemporary

Artmossphere Dispatch 3: Remi, Luka, Ito and the Move Toward Contemporary

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This week BSA is in Moscow with you and Urban Nation for Artmossphere 2016, the 2nd Street Art Biennale, a group exposition introducing 26 Russian and 42 foreign artists who were shaped by street art in some way. Also present are international curators, museums and galleries who have significantly intersected with urban art in recent years.

A few more hours until the opening of the Artmossphere Biennale and we have seen many very successful installations – from the aesthetic to the conceptual, painterly to the sculptural, pure joy and pure politics.

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Brazil’s Paulo Ito recreated a comedic industrial-looking street scene over come by the mythical powers of the can-wielding graffiti writer. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In a word, when Street Art and graffiti artists pass the precipice into a multi-disciplinary exhibition such as this, one realizes that this scene has become an important tributary to contemporary art – and one with staying power that very well may re-direct the flow.

Perhaps the street practice is just a training ground for some or these artistss, a formative touchstone for others. It’s up to you to divine what the through-line is among these pieces, as diverse as the collection is. We think that there is a certain defiance present in many works, and a healthy skepticism toward existing hierarchical structures, but that’s just us projecting perhaps.

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Alex Sena. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Claudio Ethos. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Remi Rough is known for his smartly soaring abstract geometry in painted murals and smaller scale works, and for Artmossphere he wanted to strip his typical practice back to the basics, approaching a white box with one undulating graphic composition.

“My idea was that Moscow’s a bit ‘over the top’,” he says, and he decided to pare the audacity and go for simplicity, which actually takes courage.

“I said ‘you know what?’ – I want to do something with the cheapest materials that you can possibly get. These two pieces literally cost about 3,000 rubles ($50). It’s felt material, it’s like lambs wool. I think they use it for flooring for construction.”

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Remi Rough. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I wanted to do something peaceful and calming and to use natural materials – something that’s different from what I usually do – but I use the folds in the fabric and the pink color – two things that I usually use a lot.”

And the crisply painted pink dot? “The circle takes it back to the wall and takes it back to the kind of perfection that I like to get. I love the imperfection of the fabric as well – I love the rough edges – a kind of counter-perfection. For me this interpretation of my own work was quite freestyle.”

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Misha Buryj. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Moscow’s Alexey Luka is also challenging himself  to stretch creatively by taking his wall collage installations of found wood and converting them into free-standing sculptures.

“For this biennale I tried to make something different so now I am going from the assemblages to 3-D.”

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Alexey Luka. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“My work is made from found wood – I use what I find on the street and with my shapes and my graphics –  so it’s kind of an experiment with three dimensions,” and he says most of this wood is sourced here in Moscow. We watch him completing his singular wall piece and notice that he has painted many eyes into the composition.

“In the 2-D piece I try to combine very simple geometric shapes with the eyes and make a huge composition on the wall.” Perhaps these eyes are Muscovites?

“They are just like observers,” he says.

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Hot Tea. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Minneapolis-based artist Hot Tea usually does huge colorful yarn installations that transform public space, but for the biennale he is taking the conceptual route. The walk-in room is based on the Whack-A-Mole game. With white fabric stretched wall to wall at chest level within the cube, meter-wide holes are cut which a visitor can crouch under and rise above.

Visitors/participants will experience the physical separation of space, and perhaps contemplate facing one another or ignoring each other – with absolutely no other visual distraction. It is something he says he hopes will draw attention to how many walls we have allowed ourselves to distract us from human interactions.

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Gola. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Spiritual, scientific, and environmental topics are often intertwined in the works of Italy’s Gola, who has bundled Moscow branches and buried something glowing and golden within them.

These days, he’s being a bit more formal in his approach. “Now I’m trying to go in a kind of didactic way always – a little bit more more environmental stuff. Yes, I think it’s important.”

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Finok. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Mimmo RubKandy. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Torino’s Mimmo RubKandy recreated the Moscow Olympic village from 1980, now a home for hundreds of families, and a hip-hop graffiti scene as well. The soaring towers are painted in scale with tiny graffiti tags, throwies, extinguisher tags, and the like – at the base and on the the roofs.

Curator Christian Omodeo tells us that these are taken directly from the artists investigations of the site as it exists today. It is striking that the scale reduces the impact of the graffiti – yet when experienced at eye-level it has a potency. Accompanying the towers are framed photos of the current site via Google images, including blurred faces and logos.

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Mimmo RubKandy. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Mimmo RubKandy. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Artmossphere Dispatch 1 : L’Atlas, Sepe, Martha, and All Female Graffiti Jam

Artmossphere Dispatch 1 : L’Atlas, Sepe, Martha, and All Female Graffiti Jam

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This week BSA is in Moscow with you and Urban Nation for Artmossphere 2016, the 2nd Street Art Biennale, a group exposition introducing 26 Russian and 42 foreign artists who were shaped by street art in some way. Also present are international curators, museums and galleries who have significantly intersected with urban art in recent years.

August is the month and August is the name of the driver and Russian graffiti/Street artist who is taking us through Moscow in his car with Martha Cooper to discover fresh new work by L’Atlas on a tall wall in a parking lot.

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L’Atlas. Artmossphere. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As you ride the scissor lift on hydraulic legs higher to get the right shot in the late summer sun and see the final strokes of L’Atlas’ bar coded geometry, you may find it purely abstract. It’s actually his name.

The French graffiti writer explains that his linear roller piece is an evolution from his first days spraying tags in more traditional ways.

“You know my idea is always to write my name in the same manner that I used to do in graffiti,” he explains, “It’s not so easy to see my name – like you cannot read it the first time. It’s about form, it’s about color, geometry in relation to the architecture.” Here the color is red, because we’re in Moscow, he says.

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L’Atlas. Artmossphere. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It is not unusual for passerby in other cities to stop and take photos and ask questions about the art or the artist.

Do passersby stop and ask questions about his work here? “No they have not asked me anything. Really nobody has asked me anything. I don’t know why. Normally everyone wants to know what I am doing.”

Many people were asking questions at the all-girl graffiti jam named “Code Red” at an artist compound/mini-mall/exhibition space we stopped at. Of course most of them were questions to Martha Cooper, who was stopped every few meters and asked to sign a black book or pose for a photo, which she happily and gamely did.

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Code Red. All Girls Graffiti Jam in Moscow posing with Martha Cooper. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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A Code Red participant selfie with Martha Cooper. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This was her second time here today; she had checked in earlier on the progress of the female writers, many of whom are a bit shy when approaching her. One young buck, however, nearly demands that she write exactly the name of his crew as she dedicates something in his book and asks that she pose in one picture with a t-shirt and one holding her camera.

As ever, Martha is gracious to the last fan.

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Sepe. Artmossphere. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Back at the Manege – the massive neoclassical building west of Alexander Garden that once held horses from the Kremlin and is now being built inside to house the Artmossphere Biennale. We show our passports and go through the metal detector and see Sepe, a Warsaw-based artist here with Urban Nation, atop a ladder rolling out a multilayered structured chaos across a huge wall.

His sketch taped on the canvas indicates that there will be forms arranged across this bed of color as the composition progresses. We’re intrigued by his description that is based on this year’s theme of invisible walls and the boundaries of personal freedom.

“It is more like my interpretation,” Sepe tells us. “It is just about the people who are behind everything – who are using others as puppets to do whatever they want.”

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Sepe. Artmossphere. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Of course, rewards are sought by everyone, and Britains’ Sick Boy is on a ladder of his own painting the outside of what will be a rewarding interactive pleasure house. He calls the project The Rewards System and he shows you where people will climb a ladder and descend down a slide into the darkened house where they will set off a series of sensors that activate a variety of multisensory lights and tantalizing patterns – then you exit on your hands and knees through a too small square door.

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ETHOS. Installation in progress. Artmossphere. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“The concept of the show is about invisible walls so I was thinking about there being barriers in your life and I thought about the reward of endorphins one experiences for achieving a task – a small amount of endorphins. So I thought I would build a house that signifies the reward system,” he explains with that wry smile you’ve come to expect from an artist who calls himself “sick”.

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Miss Van. Artmossphere. Moscow International Biennale of Street Art. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The rest of the show production is well underway and many artists are busy painting, sculpting, papering, suspending, or otherwise plotting. Miss Van has brought a carpet to hang, and is going through a brand new set of pieces on paper that she’ll be hanging for the show.

It’s a lot of activity and people will be working late into the night to prepare for Tuesday’s opening. We even get the chance at revealing to the world our non-existent command of the can inside a newly erected metal shed. Yes, Brooklyn is in the дом !

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August with Martha Cooper. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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The full piece by Kostya August. Moscow. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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BSA Images Of The Week: 08.28.16

BSA Images Of The Week: 08.28.16

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“Back in the USSR” comes to mind as we touched down in Moscow yesterday to see and speak with the 60+ Street Artists who are creating this impressive 2nd Street Art biennale “Artmossphere” just a stone’s throw away from the Kremlin, Red Square and The International Military Music Festival that runs all week as well. We’ll be bringing you new stuff all week as part of our partnership with Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art (UN), investigating the creative process with artists, curators, and the organizing force behind all of this event.

In the mean time, we bring you work from New York and elsewhere in this week’s fine edition of BSA Images of the Week.

So, here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Aduk, Buff Monster, Crisp, Hiss, Lena Shu, Logan Hicks, Olek, and Wolfe Work.

Above: Logan Hicks. Detail of his mural “Story of My Life” on the Houston/Bowery wall,  which pays tribute to the personal and professional friends and family who have helped him in the last 10 years in NYC. New York City. August 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Logan Hicks at work on his Houston Wall mural. New York City. August 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Logan Hicks. Detail. Houston Wall. New York City. August 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Logan Hicks. Houston Wall. New York City. August 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Olek Our Pink House for Kerava Art Museum. Finland. August 2016. (photo © Olek)

Our Pink House is a new crocheted covering for a house (the second) by Street Artist OLEK – this one associated with Kerava Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition Yarn Visions, which will place the spotlight on knitted, crocheted, tufted and embroidered works.

Drawing an analogy of protection and safety in these pink crocheting patterns that stretch from the top of the chimney to the foundation of stone, this building in Kereva in southern Finland, where many bombs fell during The Winter War of 1939-40. Olek says she is concerned about the 21 million people worldwide who lost their homes due to war and conflicts in 2015 and she wants to create community based projects like this one to draw attention to the topic, and to provide some healing as well.

This particular project enlisted the help of a large group of volunteers, immigrants and women from a reception centre for asylum seekers who she brought together to crochet this covering. “Our Pink House” is about the journey, not just about the artwork itself.  It’s about us coming together as a community.  It’s about helping each other. We can show everybody that women can build houses, women can make homes,”she says. – OLEK

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Nailed it! Hiss is caught up in the Pokemon Go craze that has captured the attention of children, teens, and a certain photographer we know who is a perennial child at heart. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Buff Monster (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Buff Monster (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Buff Monster (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Wolfe Work (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Unidentified Artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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CRISP (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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ADUK (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Lena Shu in progress for Artmossphere – Moscow International Biennale of Street Art 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Unintended collaboration on the streets of Moscow.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Untitled. Moscow, Russia. August 2016. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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