As people across the country mourn George Floyd and mark the anniversary of his killing, many have been joining marches and memorials across the country and city. According to press reports, the nationwide unrest in the streets spawned by his killing a year ago was historic in reach and number coast to coast. That may be why the officer who killed him actually was convicted this spring – a rarity.
We’ve changed, but not enough. Regularly we are re-traumatized by recordings of violence toward citizens in an uneven display of ignorance and fear. We like to say we are better than this, but sometimes it’s hard to prove it.
Until all men and women are free, none of us truly are.
From The New York Times today:
“People came to pay their respects to George Floyd on Tuesday at the site of where he was killed last year, placing flowers, some bowing their heads in reverence and others making the sign of the cross.
Vernon Rowland, a father of two who lives two blocks from George Floyd Square, came at about 9:30 a.m. to pay his respects.
‘Folks have talked about this place being holy ground and the suffering he experienced,’ Mr. Rowland, 43, said. ‘I see it as holy when you go and see the outline of his body.’”
The winds of change are gathering force and weaving together – social, political, financial, environmental… and it is all being reflected in street art today. Ironically, because media in the US is addicted to money and misdirection and is completely disinterested in the poor and working class as a whole, thoughtful analysis that pops off city walls seems unadulterated, capable of giving you more truthful assessments of what is missing, what is out of whack, and who’s gotta take action. Your face here.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Adam Fu, AJ LaVilla, Antennae, Black Ligma, City Kitty, CRKSHNK, De Groupo, Hearts NY, Novy, Pork, Surface of Beauty, The Greator, Winston Tseng, X Rebellion NYC, and Zuli Miau.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. Plain Brutality Again: Jacob Blake. 2. INDECLINE: Get Dead – Pepper Spray 3. Shepard Fairey: Arts Vote 2020
BSA Special Feature: Plain Brutality Again: Jacob Blake
The violence against black people continues. The latest shooting of a black American citizen by the police took place in Kenosha, Wisconsin where a police officer shot Jacob Blake on Sunday.
Mr. Blake, a father, a son, a brother, and uncle, was shot seven times by the police as he leaned into the driver’s seat of his car resulting in Mr. Blake being paralyzed and unable to walk and under intensive care at the hospital. Yet he is being handcuffed to his bed. Mr. Blake was not carrying a weapon.
Are we only to add his name to the endless list of black and brown people brutalized and killed? Here we post a recent short film that examines this moment in American history as well as through the lens of system racism.
Voices from the Black Lives Matters Protests ( A short film) Vanity Fair
INDECLINE: Get Dead – Pepper Spray
An amalgam of blinding rage and graffiti, anti-authoritarian self-destructive vandalism melded into a demand for the end of state-sponsored violence played out to a raspy-voiced tirade and gutter-crunch guitars and drums. Many of society’s contradictions are here on display for all to see.
An outstanding and unprecedented cohesion of many communities has been on display in cities across the United States this spring and summer as “Black Lives Matter” is painted across the streets in expansive letters. In New York City, where the marches are wide, the speeches are forceful, and the conversations go deep – this panoply of painted colors and patterns is no joke.
The slogan, a rallying cry that is objectionable to some and painfully, obviously necessary to others has been painted in myriad styles across city streets in 8 prominent locations; Brooklyn (2), Staten Island, Harlem, Queens, The Bronx, and Manhattan (2) – making it a mural program that is truly All-City, as the graffiti writers used to say in the 1970s and 80s.
On a serious and joyful day in July, we donned our masks and met up with photographer Martha Cooper to safely shoot and talk with members of the Tats Cru, and a number of other artists, activists, community members, media, and elected leaders along Center Street and Foley Square in the City Hall section of downtown Manhattan to see the installation of one of Manhattan’s two BLM street murals. (The second one is on 5th Avenue in front of Trump “Tower” – a soaring glitzy paean to shallow values and a deep disdain for civic ones, but that is a well-worn critique we’re all tired of). This site is only yards away, a five-minute walk, really, from “a graveyard where historians estimate there may have been as many as 10,000–20,000 burials in what was called the “Negroes Burial Ground” in the 1700s.”
As you scan through these photos taken by Martha we notice the determination in the body language of those involved. The weight of the moment escapes no one this time as police and state violence seem to have tipped the scale this spring and summer in the US. It is as if everyone is awash with layers of history – drawing direct connections to the present in this, a society whose very foundations are built upon enslavement.
Intertwined is a celebration of the struggle, and of the colors that artists can facilitate to help us tell our individual and communal stories as the city proclaims something that wouldn’t be necessary if it were obvious in all our actions and across our societal systems.
“I’m very, very supportive of the arts and I think that the Black Lives Matter movement needs to incorporate the arts, whether it is murals on plywood, or poetry, or prose, or music, or this amazing outdoors public art on the street. People relate to the arts, they can express themselves in a much more dramatic way,” said Gale A. Brewer, Manhattan Borough President.
We wish to thank Martha for sharing her photos with us for this article.
Additional Information and Resources:
The mural was conceived in a partnership with Black Lives Matter of Greater NY and Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. Spearheaded by WXY Studio, the project was supported by a group of architects and allies. Artists installed the mural July 1-3, 2020.
If you are not seeing opinions and theories being expressed on social media or raging cable, you can always go to the streets today, as the voice of the people is marching out to grab a soap box and yell their opinion. Faced with a daily firehose of government neglect and corporate disinformation, you and your neighbors are either being tricked into hating each other of divining the truth.
You may not agree with the sentiment of the street artists who are going out right now to paint or wheatpaste their art and perspectives, but somehow you have more empathy and trust for them than the millionaires behind microphones on screens wherever you look.
Shout out this week to a new kid on the block, an artist named Stickermaul who puts out a smart array of messages using collage, hand written text, pasted text, photos, and USPS stickers to convey a number of quick socio/political messages in Manhattan. The new voices right now are informing us of the evolutions/revolutions that are taking place.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Bella Phame, Coby Kennedy, Elle, Live Thoughfully, Lust Sick Puppy, Mad Artist, and Rono.
Please tell us again about that two-party system we hear about every day. Why does it look like one party? Have you heard about this new documentary coming called “The Swamp”?
Maybe its the time in quarantine but the quality of the workspersonship on the streets these days appears to have increased overall – perhaps because artists have much more time to pour into their paste-ups, stencils, paintings.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Amir Diop99, BK Foxx, Black Ligma, Captain Eyeliner, City Kitty, De Grupo, Downtown DaVinci, Epizod Tagg, Panam, Texas, Zuli Miau.
A painted portrait of Emmett Till, who would have turned 79 yesterday, leads the collection of images this week. A 14 year old sweet faced boy who was brutally mutilated and killed in Mississippi by white men in 1955 for allegedly flirting with a white woman. He was a year younger than representative John Lewis, who was eulogized rest yesterday in Alabama and will lay in state at the Capitol this week. Our legacy of racism haunts us just as abhorrently this summer as it did sixty-five years ago, two hundred years ago…
But in many ways, you have to suspect that these raucous cries are the dying wheezing of racists who have lost the argument and frankly demographics, and it frightens them. They know that the new generations don’t support them, actually resist against them, are determined to light a new path toward reconciliation and healing and equality.
Covid-19 is out of control in the United States thanks to the utter mis-management and lack of leadership in the country. Yesterday, “150 medical experts, scientists and other health professionals signed a letter organized by a prominent consumer group and delivered to government leaders Thursday calling for new shutdowns to bring case counts down and ‘hit the reset button’ to implement a more effective response.” They forecast that we are going to hit 200,000 deaths by November 1.”
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Almost Over Keep Smiling, Billy Barnacles, Catt Caulley, Dyne Elis, Knor, Koffee Creative, Liza and the Clouds, Lorena Tabba, Maya Hayuk, Oliver Rios, One Rad Latina, Ron Haywood Jones, Siva Stardust, Snoe, and Zalv.
Welcome to BSA Images of the Week. The weather has been beautiful in NYC and the organic art popping up on the streets is still forcefully advocating for social and political solutions amidst great upheaval, even while…
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Adam Fujita, Almost Over Keep Smiling, Billie Barnacles, Black Lives Matter, Bosko, Detor, Downtown DaVinci, Eric Haze, Fumero, Insurgo, Marco Santini, Marina Zumi, Praxis VGZ, Sara Lynne Leo, and Who is Dirk.
The New York street artist who works under the moniker “Almost Over Keep Smiling” reinterprets slightly this Boston warning poster telling anybody who was black in a “free” state like Massachusetts or New York to stay away from the police because the federal government had passed a law empowering people to capture them and return them to slavery.
The Act was one of the most controversial elements of the 1850 compromise and heightened Northern fears of a “slave power
conspiracy”. It required that all escaped slaves, upon capture, be
returned to their masters and that officials and citizens of free states
had to cooperate. Abolitionists nicknamed it the “Bloodhound Bill,” for the dogs that were used to track down runaway slaves.
The Act contributed to the growing polarization of the country over the issue of slavery, and is considered one of the causes of the Civil War.
“When I was stood there on the plinth, and raised my arm in a Black Power salute, it was totally spontaneous, I didn’t even think about it. My immediate thoughts were for the enslaved people who died at the hands of (Edward) Colston and to give them power. I wanted to give George Floyd power, I wanted to give power to Black people like me who have suffered injustices and inequality,” says Jen Reid in an interview with DeZeen about this new piece called “A Surge of Power”.
remarkable substitution was placed here on July 15th, only 8 days
after a sculpture of the slave trader Colston was toppled from the same place. Various
publications give the previous occupant honorable descriptors like 17th/18th-century Bristol merchant and
philanthropist – as if it is an act of magnanimous charity to be a philanthropist
after you’ve made your money from extracting years of free labor from people
whom you’ve enslaved.
Jen Reid had struck this pose atop the empty plinth and according to published
accounts artist Marc Quinn shot a photo of her at that moment, black beret over
voluminous locks, fist punching the sky. In consultation with Reid the artist
created a monument to that moment – resin and steel cast from a 3D print. With
a team of about 10 the new sculpture rose in the early morning hours.
Public space often affords artistic or aesthetic expression only for the
privileged, the moneyed, those given permission by “experts”, or corporations
who foist their message there. Street artists have been creating new monuments
in the last decade and a half, often surreptitiously placing them overnight,
sometimes so subtly that the new works don’t attract attention for many days. Once
focused primarily on aerosol exclusively, this new generation consider a panoply
of artful interventions and “culture jamming” to be as virile and pugnacious.
Here a glistening black heroic figure is well within the wheelhouse of
Quinn, who is not considered as a street artist, per se. Moved by the message,
he seized an historic moment to use the tools he is familiar with and the voice
he wields to collaborate with someone else marching and living in the thick of the
structural racism that is being protested, studied, acknowledged, denied.
When it comes to offering opinion about art in public space, it is not surprising how many people take responsibility or a sense of ownership of projects, feel personally gifted or wounded by the presence or absence of a sculpture. The removal of many public sculptures in the last months has thrown the conversations into tumult, raising topics previously squelched or avoided. In an era that is pregnant with the possibility of radical transformation, more people are invested across the culture than at any time in recent memory.
Up and on
view only a day, the City of Bristol has removed this triumphant figure of Jen
Reid. One wonders if these city leaders are always so rapid in their response
to all of their duties. Considering the reports of positive reviews from a majority
of passersby during the sculpture’s first day in public, snatching it from
public space with such dispatch smacks of silencing speech – especially when
you learn that the previous sculpture of Edward Colston – the deputy governor
of the Royal African Company –
had reigned freely over the spot for 125 years.
The writing is on the wall, literally, throughout the street art and graffiti scene right now, and you’re forgiven if it is confusing. We’re confused. We’re also clear on a few things.
The silent storm of Covid-19 has battered our doors and now is simply caving in the roof. The open rift between races and our legacy of disenfranchisement of our own is on parade. The one party system disguised as two stands by; quietly and deliberately offering no big ideas or massive structural programs to backstop the economic collapse either, content simply to hand out the contents of all the cupboards to friends.
The prediction from the first piece below doesn’t sound like the prophetic future shock of Gil Scott Heron as it did when he released it. Rather, its a given. While social media is still relatively unregulated, that is.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Amir Diop99, Melvin Q, Michaelangelo, Mustafina, and Pedro Oyarbide.
Occupy City Hall is a movement that appears to bear a very close resemblance to the Occupy Wall Street movement nine years ago. Born with the protests against police brutality and the murder of George Floyd, this movement created an encampment located on Centre Street next to City Hall Park and near The David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building, named after the 1990s mayor.
Occupy City Hall is open 24 hours a day and at the height of the protests it drew hundreds of people who joined the activists with their demands to trim the NYPD budget at least $1 billion from the police department’s current $6 billion budget. During the debates and passing of the new budget at the beginning of July the City appeared to have cut a billion, but critics say it was some fancy footwork that gave the appearance of giving citizens what they demanded.
We went to the camp on a day just after the encampment had experienced heavy rains and suffered an early morning raid by the police. It had an unsettled atmosphere, with some raging outbursts and some quietly warm generosity exhibited among the primarily young crowd. Guess everyone needs a sense of balance these days. The encampment has a communal library, a space for drinking tea, room for meditation and, a sign-making workshop. Most people are welcomed and it also provides a safe space for homeless people in need of a hot meal, a place to rest, and clean clothes.
Now these New Yorkers are calling the location “Abolition Park” and as the encampment evolves it continues to be a very well organized community of people with volunteers serving hot meals, distributing protest kits, water, and first aid for those in need of it.
It’s when you have an opportunity to see a piece of art on the street in person. The combination of portraits, graphic design, and text treatments may spring more from the imagination of those in the design fields but up close you can get an appreciation of the warmth and vulnerability of the figures as well. The stories that are told are down to earth, universal, and here for you to bear witness to.