All posts tagged: Black Rat Projects

Heads Up! Swoon Says You Will Die

New show by Mike Snelle is about death, and Swoon Carves a Human Skull

Memento Mori in Latin translates as ‘remember that you will die’

Street Artist Swoon spoke to us yesterday about the 18th century skull of a woman that she spent weeks carving for a new show of Memento Mori inspired art for the Museum of Curiousity. Gallery owner Mike Snelle has transferred Black Rat Projects and is now dedicating his time to this curious effort, one which Swoon says has captured his attention for a while.

“Mike set up the Memento Mori show because he has kind of long been obsessed with how people reckon with their own mortality,” Swoon explains in her Brooklyn studio, “He studied philosophy at Cambridge partly out of an obsession with all of these kinds of questions like, ‘how do we die?’.”

In fact Memento Mori refers to a number of traditions throughout many cultures (German, Victorian, Mexican, Tibetan, others) of examining death and its role in our lives. The new group show is perhaps a more frank look at death than some of the traditions – but even those contain elements of light-hearted humor, so that may be an incorrect characterization.

Swoon. “A Slender Thread” Hand carved human skull, Book, Paper Cut Outs, Pill Bottle. (photo courtesy © Museum of Curiosity)

“It’s about wonder,” explains Mike as he speaks about the dream reliquary sculpture Swoon spent a week installing, “This exhibition mixes historical objects with contemporary interpretations of the theme and brings together an extraordinary selections of artworks.” Later he rattles off a list of other curiousities guests will see that include a hippo skull, a taxidermied ostrich from 1785, and paintings and carved human skulls commissioned specifically for the show.

And what about Swoon’s new contribution, a carved skull design that includes a symbolic birthing and her distinctive hand designs emanating from the natural lines and curvature of the cranium?

“I was wondering ‘what subject matter is befitting of this, something of this gravity?’ ,” she says of the carving project on this skull that came from a trader of artifacts who assured her of its rightful origins,  “So I thought about it and I thought that the only thing that seemed to make sense was to draw a birthing scene. So I ended up doing the birthing scene and then created a lot of patterns around it.”

The Connor Brothers take a decidedly humorous and ironic approach to the Grim Reaper. “Death Calls” Acrylic on canvas. (photo courtesy © Museum of Curiosities)

While she was deeply interested in the project and is gratified with the results, she felt a certain sense of weight was upon her during the experience – partially because of the subject matter and partially because of her own examination of mortality, her family, her experiences. Naturally all of these elements contributed to the outcome, including the choice of the accompanying book and medicine bottle that she chose to adorn and serve as foundation for the skull.

“I really felt that I was re-sacrifying the remain. It was already in a museum. That was why I thought long and hard about what kind of a scene could really be equal to the subject matter, because you don’t feel like it is something that you can do casually. So one of the German traditions is that they often put it on a Bible. But at the time I was carving it I was looking at my bookshelf and I took down a book that is called “The Slender Thread”. It is about a woman who worked on a suicide hotline and about her experiences with trying to talk people down from suicidality,” she says as describes the serious considerations that went into her choices.

“I was thinking about this woman’s work and about my own thoughts about mortality and people’s relationship to that in their own life and so that became the book that I used.”

Dr. Viktor Schroeder Memento Mori With Heilige Schrift, 2013. Cast human skull, 19th Century Bible, Victorian syringe and pocket watch , taxidermy butterfly. (photo courtesy © Museum of Curiosity)

Brooklyn Street Art: That is some powerful imagery and symbolism that you chose to work with. What did it feel like – what kind of relationship did you have to the skull over this period of time?  What was it like to let go of it?
Swoon: I was really glad. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t an easy piece, you know? It felt like there was a heaviness that is not present in almost any other work that I have done and I was glad to be done with it. Like I said, you chose to be in the process of contemplating mortality and this has been tied into my own process of trying to understand.

In all creative endeavors there is a certain amount of anthropological and historical at play and Memento Mori may be more so, even as it sometimes includes humor by way of  bringing to the fore a topic that many modern Western cultures find difficult to grapple with.

“It is a really respectful treatment of the subject,” says Swoon of her contribution, “ and it is out of a serious inquiry.”


From the Dance of Death by Michael Wolgemut (1493)

18th Century Memento Mori, Carved Human skull. (photo courtesy of Museum of Curiousity)

Artists exhibited for Memento Mori include:

Butch Anthony, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Mat Chivers, Darren Coffield, The Connor Brothers, Nancy Fouts, Tom Gallant, Keaton Henson, Heretic, Saira Hunjan, James Lavelle, Michal Ohana-Cole, Marcos Raya, Dr. Viktor Schroeder, Jim Skull, Paul Stephenson, Kai & Sunny, Swoon, Ian Wilkinson,  Brian Adam Douglas and AVM Curiosities.

Memento Mori Opens on May 17th and continues until June 20th. 15 Bateman Street, Soho, London.


Please note: All content including images and text are ©, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!


Read more

Black Rat Projects Presents “The Museum of Curiosty” A Group Exhibition (London, UK)

Black Rat Projects

Swoon “Dream Reliquiary” (photo © courtesy Swoon Studio)

Our new show opens Thursday night. It’s about wonder and is a modern Museum Of Curiosity. Swoon has been over for a week installing the Dream Reliquary sculpture and we also have works by Tessa Farmer, Butch Anthony, Candice Tripp, Nancy Fouts, Giles Walker, Jessica Harrison, Taylor Shepherd, Delaney Martin and Oscar Rink. As well as lots of curiosities – hippo skull, taxidermy ostrich from 1785 and so on.


Read more

Black Rat Projects in Conjunction with The Corey Helford Gallery Present: “Letters From America” A Group Exhibition. (London, UK)

Letters From America



Celebrated graffiti and street artists from the US invade London

for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games

Opening June 30, 2012

Outdoor installations at the London Pleasure Gardens

Gate 1, North Woolwich Rd, London

Opening July 4, 2012

Gallery Exhibition at Black Rat Gallery

Arch 461, 83 Rivington Street, London


RISK, Ron English, SABER, and TrustoCorp


“LETTERS FROM AMERICA” continues its UK invasion with an all-American Independence Day celebration on Wednesday, July 4 at Black Rat Gallery. Open to the public, the exhibition transforms the London tunnel into a bunker of America’s most wanted artists, showcasing new works from RISK, Ron English, SABER, and TrustoCorp. Gallerists Jan and Bruce Helford add, “Corey Helford Gallery is proud to be bringing U.S. artists to a UK project of this “Olympian” scale and finishing with a celebration of four of the top U.S. street and graffiti artists – RISK, Ron English, Saber and TrustoCorp – in a gallery that’s been home to some of the finest street artists in the world, Black Rat Gallery.”

The exhibition of paintings and sculptures will feature an original Bob’s Big Boy statue customized by RISK, as well as SABER’s famous flag series, which serves as a commentary about the National Healthcare System and his personal challenges with it. For the show, SABER will unveil first Union Flag piece, titled “The Flag Of The National Healthcare System.” “Quite literally, I paint for my life,” he says. “Every painting I touch, I try to envision my pieces on a travel into the future as a record of the great emotional value as well as artistic merit that can only be matched by someone living under such extreme conditions during these tumultuous times. I only hope that after I am gone, these pieces will be hung on the walls of a different era where we as nations care more about nurturing its citizens than perpetuating the system of profit over life.”

The opening reception for “LETTERS FROM AMERICA” at the London Pleasure Gardens is free and open to the public. Outdoor installations will be on view until December 2013. The opening reception at Black Rat Gallery is private and by invitation only. All of the artists will be in attendance on opening night, and the show runs through July 18, 2012.


London Pleasure Gardens

Gate 1

North Woolwich Rd

London E16 2BS


Black Rat Gallery

Through Cargo Garden

Arch 461, 83 Rivington Street

London EC2A 3AY

Read more

Swoon In Kenya: The Equality Effect and “160 Girls”

Fighting a War on Girls

Abuse of a child is against the law worldwide. Unless international laws are enforced, it makes no difference.

Brooklyn based Street Artist Swoon is lending her name and her talent to a legal organization which seeks justice for women and girls who have been raped and otherwise abused.

The fine artist whose work has appeared in the street, galleries, and museums over the last decade recently visited eastern Kenya with Mike Snelle, Director of London’s Black Rat Projects, to participate in planning discussions for a project they will be doing this year in partnership with Equality Effect. The international organization of lawyers works to protect children and women around the world in conjunction with rescue centers, as well as to ensure that their rights are respected.

While in Kenya, Swoon lead a series of art workshops at a rescue center for girls between ages 4 and 16 years. These girls are part of project called “160 Girls” and its purpose is to take the Kenyan government to court and cause it to enforce existing international laws to hold perpetrators of violence accountable for their actions. Seeking justice and empowerment for girls and women, the campaign and association rely on contributions to assure that these girls see their day in court. Swoon intends to lend her name and efforts to raise funds and awareness throughout this year with plans for an auction and a special piece she is creating about the girls.

Swoon in Kenya (photo © Patrick Njeru Njagi)

Aside from laying plans for the program Swoon participated and taught a workshop on making colorful masks and head dresses with some of the girls in the center. The power of creativity in healing cannot be doubted, and participants reported how much fun it was to create their art project. Hopefully this workshop and others like it will continue to help the girls feel empowered and to gain self-confidence through having an outlet of creative expression.

Swoon with Fiona Sampson, The Executive Director of Equality Effect and a girl with a new mask she created. (photo © Patrick Njeru Njagi)

Below are some photos of the workshops and the outstanding results of the students creativity.  Please note: BSA has blurred some of the girls’ faces to protect their identities.

We talked with Mike Snelle to learn more about the organization and his involvement with Swoon.

Brooklyn Street Art: How did you first learn of Equality Effect and why is their work important?
Mike Snelle:
Fiona Sampson, who runs Equality Effect came into the gallery one day and she sent me an email afterwards. Her email address is @theequalityeffect, which seemed to be an interesting address so I looked up what they did. Reading their website I knew what they were doing was really important so I reached out to see if there was any way we could help.

Swoon in Kenya (photo © Patrick Njeru Njagi)

I also thought that Swoon might be interested too.  The Equality Effect are basically a human rights charity who are looking to use the law to protect and enforce people’s human rights. International human rights laws already exist to protect the vulnerable but are often not enforced. What the Equality Effect do is take on governments on the behalf of the people whose human rights are being violated. I think this is part of what is necessary to affect deep lasting change.

Swoon in Kenya (photo © Patrick Njeru Njagi)

Brooklyn Street Art: What role do you find galleries and artists can play in helping an organization like this to reach its goals?

Mike Snelle: I feel like this is a conversation I have been having with artists like Swoon and Matt Small for several years; How to be an artist, or for that matter a gallery, and to contribute to the wider world and not stay within the limited confines of the art world. The art world is a funny isolated place and it feels important to reach outside of its boundaries to connect with people who are affecting change in the real world. For me it’s about how to represent artists, do shows and sell works but not wake up with that empty sensation that you could be doing more with your life. It’s about using the skills and contacts you have from the art world and then diverting those resources in a different direction.

It’s particularly rewarding to work with artists because they can offer an on-the-ground experience, as well as help in raising awareness. This is an uplifting, creative, joyful experience for the kids. Following this there is a fundraising element. In this case an auction with the first work being a portrait of one of the girls made by Swoon.

Swoon in Kenya (photo © Swoon)

Swoon working on her piece at the workshop in Kenya. (photo © Patrick Njeru Njagi)

Brooklyn Street Art: What was your experience like during your time with the workshops at the rescue centre?

Mike Snelle: I am still processing it a bit. It was simultaneously hard and joyful. You are working with twenty-five children between five and sixteen, all of whom are engaging, fun, creative human beings doing something fun and joyful. At the same time each of them has a difficult and traumatic story. It’s an intense experience.

There were some really amazing people there and I guess that most of all I feel like I  learned about a kind of compassion that some people have which is enduring and powerful and that somehow doesn’t exhaust the person who has it. And something about how the most effective change is possible by listening to people on the ground who understand the community they are from in a way that’s impossible to do from the outside where you can only impose a preconceived idea of what is needed in a way that is inevitably inaccurate. I think this is what the Equality effect do really well – partner with people on the ground and listen to what they need.

Swoon’s completed piece. (photo © Patrick Njeru Njagi)

It was also important for me watching Swoon and Dana and Paulie-Anne and seeing that the more “present” you can be and more open you are, the easier you can create genuine human connections.  And you know, kids have an amazing resilience, and the joy they get from making things is the same joy that I recognise from my own children. It was a lot, this trip. I think I’m still learning from it. We saw a hospital there that had been built but didn’t have any equipment in yet. They had raised the money for the building but not for anything else. Asking about it we were told that if you believe in something, and just start it, then other people believe too and it will come to be. This seems like a thing. I’m rambling. It was a little overwhelming.

Swoon in Kenya (photo © Patrick Njeru Njagi)


Students lining up to show off their brand new creations. (photo © Patrick Njeru Njagi)

Swoon in Kenya (photo © Patrick Njeru Njagi)

Swoon in Kenya (photo © Patrick Njeru Njagi)

An elaborate head dress completed. (photo © Patrick Njeru Njagi)


The Equality Effect is a non-profit organization that uses international human rights law to improve the lives of women and girls.




Read more

Black Rat Projects Present: “Invisible Cities” Swoon, Banksy and Sheparad Fairey (London, UK)

Invisible Cities

Our first show of the year will open on Friday 24rd February. Invisible Cities features secondary market works by Banksy and Shepard Fairey alongside works by Swoon. This diverse group of artists are eponymous with the current Street Art movement in their retrospective cities.  While these three artists work in very different styles addressing a range of different themes and concerns, what unites them is their creation of Invisible Cities; laid out over the pre-existing landscape in unexpected places – in these we find moments of unrestricted creativity and human connection. We will be holding a preview evening for Invisible Cities on Thursday 23rd February from 6.30pm – 9pm.

the black rat projects
through cargo garden
arch 461, 83 rivington street
London EC2A 3AY

tel: +44 (0)207 613 7200
fax: +44 (0)207 739 6304

Opening Hours – Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri 10-6 Sat 10-4

Read more

Fun Friday 12.02.11


Welcome to Friday!

1. New Video from The Paris Underbelly Project
2. The Underbelly Project Art Show
3. “UR NewYork” solo show “Breaking and Entering”
4. Swoon’s “Murmuration” (London)
5. “Wild Life” a group show that includes Dan Witz and D*Face at Stolen Space Gallery
6. Xenz presents his solo show “Cloud Cuckoo Land” at Blackall Studios in London
7. Skount solo show at the Aalborg Hotel in Amsterdam
8.”Wallflowers” a group show that includes LUDO at Carhartt Gallery in Weil Am Rehein Friedlingen, Germany
9. Romanian Artists Allan Dalla and Cosmonotrip (VIDEO)

New Video from The Paris Underbelly Project

See our story of the Paris Underbelly on Brooklyn Street Art  and Huffington Post from this past Monday.

The Underbelly Project Art Show

Opens today to the general public at Art Basel at 78NW 25th Street at 5:00 pm. There will be a book signing at 6:00 pm with many artists in attendance.

UR NewYork solo show “Breaking and Entering”

In Miami today, a solo show by two New Yorkers who keep it real.

See some BSA Picks for Art Basel 2011 click here:


Swoon’s “Murmuration” (London)

In London Swoon’s new solo show “Murmuration” opens to the public today at Black Rat Projects:


Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

For further information regarding this show click here.

See BSA’s posting on Swoon yesterday for behind the scenes photos.

Also happening this Weekend:

“Wild Life” a group show that includes Dan Witz and D*Face at Stolen Space Gallery in London. To read more about this show click here

Graffiti and Fine Artist Xenz presents his solo show “Cloud Cuckoo Land” at Blackall Studios in London. To read more about this show click here

Skount solo show presented by Amsterdam Street Art at the Aalborg Hotel in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. To read more about this show click here

“Wallflowers” a group show that includes LUDO at Carhartt Gallery in Weil Am Rehein Friedlingen, Germany. To read more about this show click here

Romanian Artists Allan Dalla and Cosmonotrip (VIDEO)

Come on! Lay down in the paint with me.  Give it up for Romania and breaking in a puddle of color. Please try this at home!

Read more

Swoon Prepping “Murmuration” for Black Rat

Street Artist and fine artist Swoon has been laboring in London for the past weeks to prepare art for her upcoming show “Murmuration” at Black Rat Projects. The actual installation has just begun and Mike Snell says it’s “still early days” but they’ve sent us a few behind-the-scenes shots to give BSA readers a glimpse of the developing world of Swoon.

Swoon in action while rocking out to some jams. (photo © Mike Snelle)

Swoon. “Sambhavna” awaits installation at Black Rat  (photo © Mike Snelle)

Swoon. “Move it a bit more to the left…”  (photo © Mike Snelle)

Things are still a little unsettled in the orchestra pit, with violins and tubas and sheet music all akimbo. Swoon.  (photo © Mike Snelle)

Swoon soaring upward while an assistant helps with the installation  (photo © Mike Snelle)

Read more

Black Rat Projects Presents: Brian Adam Douglas AKA Elbow-Toe “Due Date” (London, UK)

Elbow Toe

Never seen in public before, Brian Adams Douglas’ new massive (5 x 7) and three months in the making painting “Memory of You” will be the central focus of his new solo show.

Brian Adam Douglas – Due Date
March 10 – April 8, 2011

Black Rat Projects
Through Cargo Garden
Arch 461, 83 Rivington Street
London EC2A 3AY

Black Rat Projects is pleased to present our next project with Brian Adam Douglas. Due Date, his first solo show in the UK, will be on view from March 10 – April 8, 2011. The opening will coincide with the launch of a book about his work, Paper Cuts, published by DRAGO.

Under the name Elbow Toe, Brooklyn based artist Brian Adam Douglas has been pasting his distinctive woodcuts, stencil work, large-scale charcoal drawings and collages onto the walls of cities all around the world throughout the past decade. His diverse practice is anchored by an interest in the human gesture as a powerful form of communication, one charged with unspoken narratives and he continually transforms public space into a stage for these private moments.  The scenes in his most recent body of work focus on the bewildering act of parenthood.  Just as he builds a finished image through the meticulous layering of tiny individual bits of coloured paper, so the meaning of the image is woven through layers of references to historically and culturally established narratives. This kind of intertextuality has become the foundation for the development of his distinctive style. The result is a sophisticated visual language where personal metaphors begin to communicate universal truths.

In Douglas’ work family life is a staged performance, animals are manifestations of human emotion, intense pattern breaks the jagged surface and functions like an ancient Epic storm: as his characters fight to find their balance the viewer holds their breath.

Artist’s Statement:

“For my first solo show in the UK, Due Date, I am exploring my preconceived notions of parenthood and the opportunities for growth that come through that process. I am presenting a series of narratives that flirt the line between fact and fiction; they are moments of autobiography that have been extrapolated to become allegories.  As an artist in the process of trying to become a parent and living in one of the most parent-centric sections of NYC, I am keenly aware of the mania that strikes at the heart of parents young and old. In these paintings I am addressing fears (loss of individuation as well as of the proverbial unknown), the strengthening of bonds in times of crisis, the issues of trying to become a parent later in life and the wisdom gained through the process of parenting.

The work is divided into two groups: a set of images on panels, and a set of images on paper. In the more fully realized works on panel, all the actions are taking place in staged environments. The elements surrounding the figures are merely cardboard props, strictly for the purpose of giving the action of the figures a point of reference. The action of the figures is the reality of the image, everything else is just window dressing. The paint drips and splashes act as abstract gestures clearing things away yet never managing to obscure the events occurring on the stage. In the works on paper, the events being described are contained in a sea of white. By the very nature of the presentation the gestures and relationships are isolated and distilled.

The current body of work builds upon a process of art making that I have been refining for several years. I refer to the work as paper paintings rather than as collage. I see each piece of paper as a brushstroke rather than as a juxtaposed idea. Each brushstroke is selected for it’s color, value and texture, rather than it’s imagery”. Brian Adams Douglas

To read BSA interview and studio visit with Elbow-Toe click on the link below:

Read more

Swoon Goes to Zambia to Teach and Create

In March Brooklyn Street Artist Swoon, artist Matt Small, gallerist Mike Snell (of Black Rat Projects), and blogger RJ Rushmore (of all went to Kabwe, Zambia to teach art classes at a school called Robert Shitima School.  The classes covered a variety of art-making techniques including print-making, linotype carving, portraiture and collage.

One of the students that Swoon met
One of the students that Swoon met in Zambia

A shanty-town about 130 km north of Lusaka, the capital, the population of Makululu is estimated at 80,000 people and is frequently referred to as one of the worlds largest slums.  Many of the students at the Robert Shitima School are from the town and are orphaned and/or live on the streets.

A cut paper piece by Swoon
A cut paper piece by Swoon at the school.

Swoon and Co. were at the school thanks to Zamcog, a non-profit with a less than 2% overhead, that is working to create sustainable change through improved educational opportunities.  Children receive K-9 schooling at no cost at the non-denominational facility, which is run by The Brothers of the Sacred Heart.

One of Swoon's mirrored pieces.
One of Swoon’s mirrored pieces.

The approximately 200 kids were very excited to learn new art-making techniques and to use the art supplies the team brought to share. Said RJ, “They were painting their bikes, found wood, the occasional piece of paper and anything they could get their hands on.” At this point the school is working to provide more basic needs for the students, so the three days in which the students learned about art were an uncommon opportunity for each kid to engage in their creative side.

<<<.>>>…..<<<<><><>>.><>>><<>.  .<., .,,

(all photos courtesy Heather Macionus)

To learn more about Zamcog, go HERE

In case you missed it, this was Swoon’s piece from our auction on Saturday.


Read more