The brilliant illustrator of fantasy and firey allegory, BLU, championed the cause of the Rog Factory squat in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in 2016 with a centrally framed handgun in pink and red. In that heated moment the community of artists and activists had fended off developers, construction thugs, and even some kind of fascists attacking them or trying to chase them from the property.
The encroachment of private capital on community spaces often provokes a rallying cry of artists like BLU, a never-ending battle to preserve human-scale projects that are full of idiosyncrasy, warmth, and democratic ideals – they may say. “Autonomous spaces across Slovenia and Europe are being cleared at an alarming rate,” says the Rog site, “and in their place, there are polished facades that hide a lack of imagination.”
As with all graffiti/street art/murals, we accept the fact that part of their definition implies ephemerality – but nevertheless, city dwellers also do become attached to it sometimes. Over time an artists’ work on the street, even if originally done illegally, can implicate itself into our lives, becoming part of our daily experience of a city, effectively defining it in some way.
That’s why the loss of this painting is worth noting – and why locals decided to let it go in style with a festive paint party. When gentrifiers floated the idea of preserving the work, BLU resisted vehemently, says photographer/ethnographer Martha Cooper, who documented the wall this summer. She tells us of a more jovial way concocted to bid “adijo” to BLU.
“So with Blu’s blessing,” she says, “some artists organized an effort to fire homemade bazooka paint guns to cover the mural. They had 7 guns and several hundred bullets filled with different colors of paint all greased up and ready to fire.” A splattered goodbye that again echoed the militancy that some feel about defending their squatter rights.
The plan was abandoned finally however due to a strong presence of security – and possibly because using guns, however playfully, could be misinterpreted and end badly, but we are surmising. After all, BLU’s “gun” was full of creative ways to dismantle the patriarchy, including an ode to Woody Guthrie’s guitar, and later on Pete Seeger’s banjo; an admonition to use art powerfully in a battle for people.
“I have photos of the gun mural which is composed of peaceful ‘weapons,’” Martha tells us. “There is an inscription on the guitar which says, ‘This machine kills fascists.’”
As the summer wound down, we heard from Sandi Abram, the Ljubljana Street Art Festival director. “The municipality has begun the demolition of the Rog Factory front facade, which means Blu’s mural will also be demolished probably by the end of the week.”
Luckily for all of us, documentarians like Ms. Cooper have preserved it beautifully for posterity.
BSA has been here with you for this entire decade – an honor and a privilege. Reviewing the many interventions and events we witnessed and shared with our readers, we realize that this grassroots people’s art movement is reflecting our society in fundamental ways and reaching deep as well as wide. Here in roughly chronological order we recount for you a Top 10 for BSA that have impacted our way of seeing art on the streets.
The “Girl In The Blue Bra” – December 2011
Oppressive regimes worldwide have a few
commonalities. One of them is patriarchy. Over the last decade we have seen
many female artists rise powerfully to smash it, harnessing their rage and
power and taking their voice to the street.
There were countless images that encapsulated the ferocity and the tenacity of the protesters during the Arab Spring uprisings in Cairo, Egypt in December of 2011. One image, in particular, captured the attention of the media and the public. The image is commonly referred to as the “Girl In The Blue Bra”. The image depicts a young woman, whose identity remains anonymous, being beaten and dragged by soldiers as she was taking part in the protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo, against Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Her face is veiled and her jeans are still on but as she was being dragged by the soldiers her abaya came undone exposing her bare torso and revealing her blue bra as a soldier was about to kick her in her abdomen.
While the image exposed the abusive practices and of power of the military in Egypt – it also swiftly sparked ferocious reactions around the globe, particularly with women who subsequently staged their own march in Tahrir Square in Cairo to demand the end of military rule.
Among the artists who carried the Blue Bra theme to the streets was one artist, Bahia Shehab, whom BSA and its readers helped to get a movie made about Street Artists in the Arab Spring, called Nefertiti’s Daughters, directed by Mark Nicolas. Later we were the first to debut a scene from it at the Nuart Festival in Norway (“#Activism on the Street Now”), and years after that Nuart actually hosted professor Shehab. This is a small world, this Street Art community.
The actions of the young woman, the
violent response of the military, and the overwhelming support of the public,
in general, sparked a new wave of feminism in Egypt and inspired artists to
create and display their artworks on the streets in protest.
“Art In The Streets” Opens at LA MOCA – April 2011
Art in the Streets was the first major U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art, curated by MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch and Associate Curators Roger Gastman and Aaron Rose, an exhibition tracing the development of graffiti and street art from the 1970s to the global movement it had evolved to. BSA was there to capture and share some of what was happening.
“Yes, Banksy is here. The giant ‘Art in the Streets’ show opening this weekend at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles gives a patch of real estate to the international man of mystery who has contributed greatly to the worldwide profile of what is soon to be, maybe already is, a mainstream phenomenon known as street art. A smattering of his pranksterism is an absolute must for any show staking claim to the mantle of comprehensive survey and an excellent way to garner attention. But “Streets” gets its momentum by presenting a multi-torch colorful and explosive people’s history that began way before Banksy was born and likely will continue for a while after.
The show is an audacious multi-platform, colorful endeavor; part history lesson and part theme park bringing about 50 years of graffiti and street art history, it’s influences and influencers, under one roof. Then there is the stuff outside. Engaging and educational, “Art in the Streets” makes sure visitors have the opportunity to learn how certain tributaries lead to this one river of swirling urban goo, mapping connections between cultural movements, communities, and relationships within it. When it does this, the museum system effectively differentiates its value apart from a mere gallery show. “
Banksy’s NYC Residency – “Better Out Than In” – October 2013
An unprecedented city-wide near daily installation of works in New York established a new high-water mark in the flood of Street Art that took many cities in the 2010s. The British Street Artist played to a media capital in such an effective campaign that even the least interested residents became familiar with the elusive prankster.
A Genuine October Surprise for New York Street Art Friends and Foes Alike.
“In a series of communiqués beamed from his website, the global Street Artist Banksy gave graffiti and Street Art followers a near-daily jolt of mystery and mouse clicking that had people looking at every street scene as a possible Banksy by the time it ended. While few can confirm the exact level of involvement the actual artist had in the five boroughs, if any, none will deny that the Banksy brand underwent a major “refresh” this month that again put his name on the lips of those who had begun to forget him and many who had never heard of him.
Thanks to this masterful marketing campaign billed as a month-long ‘residency’ on New York’s streets, many thousands were talking about him daily on the street, on television, radio, social media, in galleries, studios, office cubicles, art parties, and the mayors’ office. By effectively combining the sport of treasure hunting with humor and populism, each new cryptic appearance of something-anything gradually conditioned some grand art doyennes and the plainer mongrels amongst us to drool on command and lift a leg in salute to the curiously still anonymous artist and the team who helped him pull it off.”
The Brooklyn Museum’s Exhibitions with Swoon, Faile, BÄST, Haring, Basquiat, ESPO, JR Expand Knowledge, Appreciation
One cultural institution in New York City and indeed in the United States has been notable throughout the decade for its commitment to organizing exhibitions where graffiti, street art, and the artists whom have shaped it are given recognition for their contribution to the arts. The Brooklyn Museum’s leadership, including former director Arnold L. Lehman, current director Anne Pasternak, and Sharon Matt Atkins, Director of Exhibitions and Strategic Initiatives have been channeling resources and focus to the study, promotion, and exhibition of the works of important figures in the contemporary graffiti and Street Art movement. It notable that the museum has in its permanent collection the works of distinguished graffiti and Street Artists dating back to the dawn of the modern scene; something that other important cultural institutions in New York City that are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of modern, contemporary, and American art lack in their collections.
It’s for this reason that we
have selected the Brooklyn Museum as one of the top ten graffiti and street art
movers of the decade. Predated by 2006’s “Graffiti” exhibition the museum has
mounted several important presentations during this decade that have not only
been blockbusters but they have contributed to the cultural enrichment of all
New Yorkers and the expanded discussion of the relevance of these art forms to
established canons. Here are some highlights:
“Keith Haring: 1978-1982, a traveling exhibition first shown in Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna and The Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, introduces a period of his work not often examined, taking you up to the edge of the seemingly sudden international fame he experienced as artist, activist and public figure through the rest of the 1980s.
… At a time when the small-town boy was developing his visual vocabulary as an artist, Haring was also discovering himself as a man in the world and in a city that he found endlessly fascinating and worthy of exploration. Capturing his spirit of hands-on experimentation, the show is almost entirely comprised of works on paper with one collaborative piece on plywood with his contemporary Jean Michel Basquiat, paper collage, video, and documentary photos.”
“Sharon brought me in here and said, ‘What is interesting to you in the building?’ and I really love that because the thing about working on the street is that you are always thinking site-specifically. And so that thinking has to translate into your work in all places. For me, if I make something in a museum I want it to be very site-specific and this is probably one of the most site-specific pieces I’ve ever done,” explains Swoon.
Under the advice and guidance of an engineer, the artist also modified her design process to allow for foundational considerations like truss sections and lift points. “I showed him an initial model and he showed me an engineered system and then I built another model based on the system that he engineered.”
It is probably unusual for a grand museum to be so amenable to the requests of an artist for a site-specific piece that literally inhabits the furthest reaches of space, and Swoon says she recognizes the leeway she received. “You know, they have been really adventurous in letting us create this. We’ve been sort of pushing a lot with the creation of this piece.”
For Matt Atkins, the opportunity to bring an internationally known street artist and neighbor into the museum has been the result of just over two years of planning. ‘It’s been so wonderful working with Swoon to realize her vision for this project. This is the first time we’ve really used the full height of the 72-foot dome, so it’s quite spectacular. I am thrilled to see her boats back in New York and for them to have this new life. The underlying ideas about climate change in the installation also make this project an appropriate tie into the Museum’s focus on activism with our other exhibitions and collections,’ she says.”
“In Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks, now running at The Brooklyn Museum until August 23rd, the genius of his fragmenting logic is revealed as a direct relationship between his private journals and his prolific and personally published aerosol missives on the streets of Manhattan’s Soho and Lower East Side neighborhoods in the late 1970s and 1980s.
These notebooks were for capturing ideas and concepts, preparing them, transmuting them, revising them, pounding them into refrains. In the same way his text (and glyphic) pieces on the street were not necessarily finished products each time; imparted on the run and often in haste, these unpolished missives didn’t require such preciousness.”
“FAILE may be a religious experience this summer at the Brooklyn Museum, but only one of the hallowed installations is called Temple. The seedier, more dimly lit venue will surely have the larger number of congregants by far, bless their sacred hearts.
Celebrating the duality and appropriation of words, slogans, and images have been the bailiwick of the duo since they first began hitting Brooklyn streets at the turn of the century with their stencils and wheat-pastes on illegal spots and neglected spaces. In FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds, their new attention-commanding/refracting exhibit organized by Sharon Matt Atkins at the Brooklyn Museum, these guys pour it on, compelling you into a complex panoply of possible re-imaginings of meaning that reference pop, pulp, myth, art history, 50s sci-fi, 60s advertising, comics, punk zines, consumer culture and their own pure artistic and branded fiction.”
Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To A Seagull) is one of 3 new exhibits inspired by the historic attractions of Brooklyn’s seaside.
“Graffiti artist-turned-sign painter Stephen Powers is dreaming of Coney Island and he is bringing a colorful collection of found and freshly produced signage that evokes a forgotten era to climb the columns of a Brooklyn Museum gallery.
Given the boisterous parade of brands and logos into museums that is happening as part of the institutional funding and programming mix, it’s fun to see the ninth episodic installation of this traveling ICY SIGNS shop here; its simplicity and guile recalling amusing persuasive techniques from the mid-century American advertising lexicon. Simultaneously, for those who have been lucky enough to sicken themselves on cotton candy and The Wonder Wheel, the new show imparts a rather reassuring and seedy nostalgia for Coney Island, complete with an inexplicable hankering for a thick beef hot dog.”
“A retrospective at Brooklyn Museum currently showcases the photographic works and public projects envisioned and created by French Street Artist JR. Covering roughly two decades of work, JR: Chronicles dedicates an in-depth examination into his practices and personal philosophies when creating – as evidenced by this collection of his murals, photographs, videos, films, dioramas, and archival materials.
Brooklyn Street Art: JR created a new digital collage for this exhibition featuring a thousand or so people individually interviewed and photographed. Can you tell us about what criterion he used for selecting his subjects? Sharon Matt Atkins: JR’s main focus was on capturing the rich diversity of New York City. As such, he photographed people in all five boroughs of the city, including many neighborhoods that were new to him. While he did invite some guests to participate, most of the people were passersby or business owners and workers of local stores. “
Blu and Street Art – Banksy & Co.
Curated by Christian Omodeo, Luca Cinacabilla, and Sean Corcoran. March 2016
BLU buffing his own works in Bologna took the news cycle, his legion of compatriots armed with rollers and bucket paint. But it was the show that he was reacting to that brought thousands to the museum space to discuss the rightful place of Street Art, graffiti, and the relevance of preserving it for posterity.
“The contested Banksy and Co. exhibition contains, among many other works, walls removed from a privately owned abandoned building in Bologna that were painted by BLU. Displaying the walls and his artwork without his consent so angered the painter that he rallied artists and activists to help him snuff out all his remaining murals and paintings in this Northern Italian city last week. (See A BLU Buffer Talks About the Grey Action in Bologna)
The heavily attended Friday night opening of Street Art – Banksy & Co. at Palazzo Pepoli – Museo della Storia di Bologna was curated by Luca Ciancabilla, Christian Omodeo, and Sean Corcoran and features roughly 250 historical and contemporary works spanning about fifty years and highlighting a number of movements within the so-called Urban Art genre. On balance it appears that 90 percent of the works are studio works, paintings, sculpture, videos, original sketches, and ephermera and were probably collected in a more conventional way and the tagged posters, stickers, metal doors, and wall fragments are viewed in the context of the whole scene.”
“Reality TV is usually completely devoid of reality. That isn’t the exact comparison Andreco said on his Facebook page but we thought it was a fitting analogy. Street Art in a museum or gallery can sometimes feel like taxidermy.
Andreco actually said ‘Deciding which wall to paint or not to paint has always been one of our free choices. This operation, to uncork the walls and move them elsewhere, oversteps this freedom.’ Fair enough.
Of course, that is not the primary reason why activists and Street Artists joined in to help BLU paint over the many murals that he completed on Bologna city walls over the last two decades or so. In an English titled press release on the Italian website Wumingfoundation the artist lays out a multi-layered justification for destroying his own murals, many of which have become beloved landmarks around the city and which have helped make him an art star in some circles.”
American conceptual, activist and street artist John Fekner, whose art and his art partner Don Leicht were represented in the exhibition Street Art: Bansky & Co weighs in the controversy by saying:
The bottom line is: what’s done in public-doesn’t remain in public. There’s no protection for artists who trespass. It’s the chance one takes outdoors.
If you create illegal art murals, street rules are always in effect:
You can’t stop a drunk in the middle of the night from pissing on your wall.
You can’t stop a bulldozer from razing your work.
You can’t stop a neighborhood anti-graffiti squad from painting over your work.
You can’t stop a well-dressed thief in a suit, or their hired slug with a chisel from removing your wall work and hauling it off to their laird, garage, museum or art market.
“Under any circumstances, don’t immediately and irrationally react. If your original aspirations were to be an artist- then just do what you were meant to do: be an artist. Don’t double shift and be a night watchman patrolling the streets to try and thwart thieves of your work. Unique temporary outdoor creations engender a public conversation that includes everyone: art lovers and art haters, lowbrow and highbrow, and everyone who interacts with your public work.”
Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art Opens in Berlin – September 2017
We had the unique perspective of being two of the foundational curators who made this exhibition happen and made the doors fly open to thousands of visitors, so it only made sense that we covered the opening that brought much promise to the institutional recognition of Street Art, graffiti, and its move into Urban Contemporary.
“This week is Art Week in Berlin, and you just stole Art Week,” said a handsome and intensely opinionated German to us as we leaned on the arm rail of the M.C. Escher-inspired walkway before a Carlos Mare139 sculpture and above the capacity crowd on Saturday night at the Urban Nation Museum of Urban Contemporary Art (UN).
Not sure if that was the exact goal, but we get his larger point; the UN has just made a massive entry into a number of societally and culturally influential minds when it comes to the relevancy of Street Art and graffiti to visual culture and art history. This movement into so-called Contemporary began as early as the 1970s and has overcome and weathered cultural and market ebbs and flows – persisted, if you will – yet somehow institutions have been wary of this work and these artists and unable to fully embrace their importance, you decide why.”
Five Pointz: A Legal Case For Urban Artists Shifts the Focus – February 2018
“In a ruling that many graffiti and Street Artists interpret as a validation of their artwork and which may spawn further legal claims by artists in the future, Brooklyn Judge Frederic Block, a United States Federal Judge for the Eastern District of New York, awarded $6.7 million in damages to a group of 21 artists in the high profile case of the former graffiti holy place in Queens called 5 Pointz.
Under the leadership of artist and organizer Jonathan “Meres One” Cohen, also a plaintiff, the award is in response to a suit that cried foul on the overnight destruction of multiple artworks on building walls without consultation or notification of the artists.
Citing provisions of the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act that grants artists certain “moral” rights, the artists claimed that their artworks on the 5 Pointz compound that was owned by real estate developer Jerry Wykoff were protected and should be afforded certain rights and considerations.
Arts and intellectual property lawyers and judges will now be examining the implications of the ruling and citing it as an example in arguments about art created on walls legally and possibly those created illegally as well. In a city that prides itself as being a birthplace of graffiti and Street Art, many artists and wall owners must ask themselves if there will need to be an additional layer of the agreement before an aerosol can is held aloft.”
The New York Times Publishes DONDI’S Obituary – February 2019
In an unprecedented posthumous publication of an obituary, this year The Times acknowledged something that it had so far failed to do; the contribution of graffiti writers to the cultural and art canons deserves serious recognition. By publishing the iconic image of DONDI taken by Martha Cooper that burned “Subway Art” into the mind’s eye of many generations of graffiti writers, the “paper of record” caught up with one the the scene’s leaders and heroes.
“First things first – Full disclosure; we are featured in the movie and we are close friends with both the subject of the doc and the director and we first suggested to the director that she was the perfect candidate to make a film about Martha Cooper. Now that we have that out of the way here are a number of shots from the premiere and our review of the movie:
Martha: A Picture Story had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this Thursday to an enthusiastic crowd that included big graffiti, Street Art, international press and film industry names, to see the highly anticipated documentary about the venerable photographer Martha Cooper by the Sydney director Selina Miles.
The electricity was in the air as Director Miles and producer Daniel Joyce along with the just-arrived Australian members of the “Martha” crew looked for their seats in the Village East Cinema. After a brief introduction by Miles, who told the audience that the film had been a great pleasure to make, the curtain went up to reveal the mother of the superstar art twins Os Gemeos on the big screen. She is sitting at her kitchen table in São Paulo remarking how her boys used to draw on everything, including fruit, and how Cooper and Chalfant’s 1984 book “Subway Art” changed their lives forever. With their story as a backbone for the film, the theme of personal transformation is repeated in a hundred large and small ways for the next hour and twenty minutes. “
Street Art and Activism Takes Larger Share of the Cultural Stage
decade that is coming to an end has seen its share of natural disasters, human
rights violations, atrocities of large scale against humanity, corruption at
the highest levels, the reversal of hard-fought policies to protect the planet
and keep our air and water clean. We have witnessed with despair the
renaissance of hatred based on people’s nationalities, their skin color, their
religion, their choice of attire, their level of material affluence and their
have seen progress as well. Women around the world have been freer to speak
their mind against oppression and abuse of power thanks to social movements
that have flourished around the world in big cities and small towns. Our LGBT
brothers and sisters have scored numerous legal battles in their favor thanks
to enlightened lawmakers and judges who have searched deep inside their
intellect to find the right answer to make sure everybody is treated equally.
Likewise, our peers whom we need to advance our cause have taken seriously the
responsibility at the ballot box to make the correct choice with policies that
will bring relief to those who have less than we do.
and artists have often reflected back to us the world we live in, it is for
this reason that we have chosen Street Art and Activism as an important action
in this decade. We have always championed the work of artists who imbued their
art with a strong sense of social urgency. It is with their art that they talk
to us in the hopes to change one mind, one action, one concept, one attitude
towards the goal creating a common good. There are many of them currently
active on the streets. This wouldn’t be the appropriate space to list all of
them but we would like to give you some highlights:
“This past Sunday, February 17 at La Plaza de las Tres Chimeneas (Three Smokestacks Square) in Barcelona an international group of artists participated in the first ‘No Borders Festival.’
NO BORDERS is a grassroots organization that was created to raise awareness about the refugees, to demand their acceptance, and to raise funds through debates, art, and documentaries.
They say they want to raise the uncomfortable questions – which will undoubtedly lead to uncomfortable answers as well. To paraphrase the text on their website:
‘Do we settle for a society that violates its moral and legal obligations to refugees? A refugee is a person who flees – Flees because he is on the losing side. Because he thinks, feels or prays differently than those who point him with their weapons.’
As usual, artists are bringing these matters to the street for the vox populi to debate.”
An Art, Science and Climate Action project by Andreco
“And the statement isn’t hyperbole, according to AIR-Ink, the company that made his ink, which is “the first ink made entirely out of air pollution,” they explain on their website.
The unique art-making material is part of the Italian Street Artist / Activist’s most recent installment of his Climate Art Project, which he orchestrated on the streets here in New Delhi for the St+Art Festival this year. Part of a global, multi-city installation and demonstration, ‘Climate 05 – Reclaiming Air and Water’.”
” ‘Actions Speak Louder Than Ass Ads,’ says a new stencil-style printed poster by New York’s epic, if sometimes cryptic, street commentator of four decades, John Fekner. Anyway, who will argue with that?
“Post-posters is a cooperative proposition about
public billposting,” says French conceptual street anarchist
Matthew Tremblin about his new project with hit-and-run situationist street
posterer Antonio Gallego. Together they reclaim space
with individually produced posters and they invite artists from around the
world to do the same.
Over a two month period the creative place-makers are facilitating an international crew of artists to post posters on the occasion of the double exhibition by Banlieue-Banlieue group* (°1982, Poissy) taking place in Strasbourg, at both AEDAEN and the Syndicat Potentiel. “
“By putting these images of people of color, women, LGBTQ+ folks on the street with their blunt-force sentiments addressed to would-be harassers, she not only stands with them, but Tatyana has also used her work and vision to give them the courage to stand proud, assert their voice and to take public space.
After all, it belongs to the public.
“Women are not outside for your entertainment”, a startling
truth for some guys that pointedly highlights abusive behavior toward women on
the streets of Brooklyn and many cities around the world. Brooklyn Street
Artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has been targeting daily oppressive experiences of
marginalized people with her campaigns of art on the streets – and in the
Addressing themes of social justice, racism, LGBTQ+ rights, and sexist street harassment, her beautifully drawn campaigns on wheat-pasted posters and painted murals across the globe have brought attention to issues sorely in need of addressing during hostile rhetoric from some men in the highest offices.”
“This spill and these events did not happen in San Diego or Palm Beach. The story doesn’t affect wealthy white families and cannot be used to sell shampoo or real estate. That’s probably why we don’t see it in the press and never on the talking-head news. Street Artist Jetsonorama is not only a photographer who has been wheat-pasting his stunning images of people and nature on desert buildings for over a decade, he is also a doctor on the Navajo reservation, a human-rights activist, and an erudite scholar of American history as it pertains to the poisoning of this land and these people. Today we’re pleased to bring you this long-form examination from Jetsonorama’s perspective on a complicated and tragic US story of environmental poisoning and blight that affects generations of native peoples, miners, military personnel, and everyday people – and has no end in sight.
Most alarming is the news the current White House administration is endeavoring to mine uranium here again.
‘Private companies hired thousands of Navajo men to work the uranium mines and disregarded recommendations to protect miners and mill workers. In 1950 the U.S. Public Health Service began a human testing experiment on Navajo miners without their informed consent during the federal government’s study of the long-term health effects from radiation poisoning. This study followed the same violation of human rights protocol as the US Public Health Service study on the long-term effects of syphilis on humans by experimenting on non-consenting African American men in what is known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment from 1932 – 1972.’ ~ Jetsonorama”
“As part of our core commitment as a non-commercial platform that has helped hundreds of artists over the last decade+, BSA significantly helped Escif to raise money for his Indiegogo fundraiser in Spring 2017 when we promoted his “Breath-Time” horticultural project heavily as he planted trees to reforest Mount Olivella in Southern Italy.
Today BSA debuts REWILD, a new
tree-related project by the Spanish Street Artists – just as the Global Climate
March is spreading to cities around the world, including New York.
The concept of the short film is
simple: can’t we just push the “Rewind” button?
‘The narrative runs in reverse, rewinding the clock on deforestation to undo the damage caused by the unsustainable production of one of the world’s most versatile commodities. Beyond the industrialisation of the land, we end at the beginning, a thriving ecosystem alive with wildlife. The concept mirrors the real world action of the Sumatran Orangutan Society and their partners in reclaiming land on the borders of the Leuser rainforests to rewild them with indigenous trees, expanding the boundaries of one of the most biodiverse places on earth.’
Finally, a stunning custom soundtrack by Indonesian composer Nursalim
Yadi Anugerah captures and carries this into another world, which is
A Scholarly Eye On Artistic Interventions in Public Space
The excitement that pours from city walls in Lisbon is palpable, an animated mix of graffiti, Street Art, murals, sculpture, and the traditional artisan tiles. Like the famous Bacalhau dish of Portuguese cuisine, it all can be mixed together almost a thousand different ways and each surprising recombination can be loved for its unique character.
To appreciate the varied elements playing into the Street Art scene here, you won’t find greater insight than by touring with Pedro Soares-Neves, and he’ll make sure you won’t leave without understanding the forty years that have contributed to the scene up to this point.
Most visitors are overtaken by the sweeping views, the heart of the old city in the valley, the winding Bairro Alto streets full of colorful illegal artworks, the ancient bricks, traditional azulejos tiled buildings, tiny streets, sloping topography, endless staircases and retro-style cable cars that are climbing impossible inclines – each slaughtered with colorful graffiti tags.
Now an international destination for many Street Artists, the growing number of murals here is remarkable, if not outstanding. Soares-Neves can look at the huge variety of expressions on the street and explain why the art is here now and how it fits into a greater context of a historical city that has gradually embraced nearly all expressions of modern art-in-the-streets.
A self-described fan of urban history Pedro is one of the few scholars in the global urban art scene who calls graffiti writers “authors”, quite possibly because he was one himself in his early teens here during the city’s first stage of graffiti proliferation in the early 1990s.
“I am kind of an architectural urban history fanatic,” he says proudly but in a confessional tone. Completing his doctorate in Design and Urbanism this year he is also co-organizer of the Lisbon Street Art & Urban Creativity Conference and the Street Art & Urban Creativity Scientific Journal.
A lifelong Lisboan born at the same time the revolution from the dictatorship was born here in the mid 1970s, Soares-Neves tells the story of urban art as a progression of social movement, individual engagement, immigration, urban planning, importation of culture, commercial incursion and coalescing of local artists as a quasi-professional network.
As you ride in his 4-door family SUV-hybrid with kids toys and storybooks scattered across the back seat, you gaze along the historic spice trade waterfront and the Jerónimos monastery and museum row, swerving through the central “filet mignon” of the ornamented city to the outskirts, which he calls “the back-office”.
He gestures at the trains and wooded walls and areas where he once painted graffiti , to some of the current crop of throwups along the highway and to wall murals that have been commissioned by municipal, professional, and commercial interests. As the trip unfolds the story is not quite linear of course, and city history intertwines with personal history.
As is its personality, art-in-the-streets shape-shifts and redefines itself, creating new alliances, reconfiguring the balance. For example, currently Lisbon city leaders are working with former vandals and art school professionals to create programs of large colorful murals on soaring public housing towers.
The adjacent neighborhood of older single family houses laid out like suburbs features Soare-Neves’ own curated walls done by more conceptual artists who play with ideas about public space as well as aesthetics. The Portuguese +MaisMenos– directly intervenes with stenciled words here, creating quizzical conundrums for passersby and the French experimenter Matthew Tremblin who brings an online poll results via bar charts posing an existential question about Street Art.
A truly unique insight into the rather omnibus experience of this urban academic, we actually get to look at two eras of Pedro’s own personal history as an artist are here as well, only blocks away from one another.
One Soares painting is on a low wall encircling a park. Part of a graffiti wall of fame (which he helped organize), it shows his 1990s affinity for character illustration and experimentation with letter styles. His more recent installation is a mixed media paint/land art derivation that converts disused construction materials and a habit-formed footpath leading up a grassy knoll to a numerical wall.
Again, the spirit of experimentation here is what is core to his art practice. Perhaps this is why his personal philosophies toward public space lean toward the organically Situationist act of creation, a practice that can be extended to all of the public and to the moment of inspiration.
Following are many images captured in Lisbon during our tour interspersed with this history of the last few decades courtesy Soares-Neves and our own research.
Speaking with Pedro about the early graffiti of the 90s you capture a perspective on two important cultural factors that steered its direction.
The first is that through the lense of the liberators of the Carnation Revolution in the 1970s the style of aerosol bubble tags and characters recalled the earlier people-powered community murals and represented “freedom” in their minds, whereas cities elsewhere in Europe would have thought this painting indicated vandalism or a breakdown of the social fabric.
Secondly, the fascination with graffiti was spurred by the children of African immigrants from former Portuguese territories of Angola, Mozambique and Capo Verde who moved to Lisbon after wars with them ended during the revolution. Now second generation teen immigrants from two cultures, they were looking for self-identity, according to Soares-Neves.
“They found resonance in this Afro-American and Latin American thing that was going on during the 80s so they connected with it and used it for language.”
Quite possibly they were reacting to class and race prejudice and they identified with brothers and sisters in the music videos of American commercial hip hop culture. Seeing the exciting growth and the implied power of graffiti writers, musicians, and bboy movies like “Wild Style” in the 1980s, the expression of graffiti was alluring – a welcome visual art and anti-establishment practice that created identity, community, and newfound respect among a select peer group of cool kids.
“Actually it started with bboying culture in the mid 80s and then in the early 90s it started with a visual language of it,” he says, explaining the progression.
His own teenage aestheticism extended to characters, and a fascination for punk or “rough” magazines and the illustration stylings of artists in the classic Chiclete com Banana magazines. “I had this relationship with drawing and cartoons and this kind of stuff – this popular culture sort of thing,” he says.
His talents as an artist were well prized among his peers until he was nearly outshone by a graffiti writer from Capo Verde, a classmate who threatened Pedro’s status as the school artist; a funny story he explains this way:
“At that time in my high school I was ‘The’ guy who was doing the best cartoons and all this kind of stuff,” he says, reflecting on his celebrity. “Suddenly he did a big piece on the wall! So I was the king of the ‘drawing thing’ and this motherf***er came here and did a big and colorful piece!”
BSA: ..and everyone knew about it of course. Pedro: Yeah of course it was much more visible than what I did. So I started to interact with the guy.
Pedro’s personal history with graffiti began there and never stopped. After starting on walls and greatly enlarging his own illustrations and experimenting with letter styles, he and his peers grew to about 10 or 12 writers and the graffiti scene appeared to blow up from there.
A community of writers from many backgrounds spread across the city practicing one-upsmanship in technical skill and logistical daring, operating singularly, in small groups, or the occasional Wall of Fame project. Because there wasn’t a strict evolutionary lineage of style, many young artists developed their own in the laboratory of the street, not necessarily related to the hip hop culture but adapting from their own culture.
By the late 90s and early 00s he feels that the scene suffered a sort of malaise when purely commercial murals began to take parts of the wall inventory and change the character of some areas. It was a development he deeply disliked for its perversion of a freer art practice yet he appreciated it for the employment it provided to professional artists. The city also borrowed the vernacular of graffiti for public service announcements painted as murals.
The mid 2000s began to reflect the influences of artists like Banksy and a new sort of community comprised of artists from old school graffiti writers and new generation Street Artist began to coalesce in Lisbon he says. Additionally the later 2000s began an increasing flow of international Street Artists and graffiti writers who began avoiding Barcelona after that city started cracking down on their famed urban art scene.
“They (artists) started to add a few other languages to try to surpass this previous period and also began dialoguing with the new things that were happening in Street Art,” he says of the witty skewering of pop culture iconography, introduction of fine art illustration styles and the use of newer art-making methods.
“It was starting to really have lots of people doing stencils and paste ups and this kind of stuff all around. It started to influence the younger generation and that put some pressure on the older generations, who started to do that themselves.”
Visual Street Performance and the Crono Project
A collective guild comprised of artists from both graffiti and Street Art like HBSR81, Hium, Klit, Mar, Ram, Time and Vhils joined together in the mid 2000s and called themselves Visual Street Performance (VSP). A professional/DIY effort, they began to organize large events and an annual exhibition through 2010 that expanded the vernacular to hybrids of fine art and elements of pop, character illustration, photo realism, surrealist fantasy, found object art, abstract expressionist, more traditional graffiti and graphic design.
Pedro had been studying abroad in the Czech Republic and Rome for a few years, “And when I came back I noticed a different panorama. There were lots of younger kids with totally different skills and with that approach of making money out of it,” he says with a mixture of admiration and possibly concern at the professionalism entering the equation.
“They managed to invent themselves,” he says, “and also within the exhibitions the kids like Vhils were born from these,” he says as he talks about the commercial aspects of the cultural scene with connections to an aerosol art brand, print makers, and related clothing projects.
A notable commercial and marketing milestone that married Street Art and urban culture with the image of Lisbon itself took place in 2010-11 when the year long Crono project, curated by Soares-Neves, Angelo Milano (of Fame Festival), and local Street Artist Vhils (Alexandre Farto), brought rising stars of the moment to a high profile block-long series of ornate Art Nouveau and shuttered buildings along a heavily traveled strip in the city, Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo.
The Internet’s volleying of fresh images of pieces by the Italian anti-corporate BLU, the hallucinatory dream illustration style of Brazilian graffiti twins Os Gemeos, and the lyrical storytelling of Spanish 2-D SAM3 alerted the Street Art worlds’ knowledge of Lisbon, and the project quickly became a destination for travellers.
Soares-Neves sometimes speaks about the commercial appropriation of the street art vernacular in his academic work and in some ways it appears that the unexpected success of the Crono Project unsettled him as well. The curators had worked with the city to finance the project with an intention of giving opportunities to artists and fostering new aspects of the public art conversation, but according to Soares-Neves the high profile of the project undermined their own anti-establishment sentiments when city leaders recognized that a comparatively modest investment had ballooned into a successful city “branding” campaign.
Possibly this is a cautionary tale that underscores the incremental dangers present when subculture crosses the rubicon into simply “culture”. There is always the fear that the original philosophies encoded in a subculture will be irreparably transformed, candy-coated, cheapened, or worse, excised.
Recently closed London-based Street Art print pioneers “Pictures On Walls” lamented in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way on their website in January when describing the evolution of their 15 year old business this way, “…inevitably disaster struck – and many of our artists became successful. Street Art was welcomed into mainstream culture with a benign shrug and the art we produced became another tradeable commodity.”
The city seems like it is absorbing all of these changes well, and the variety of faces and styles of public artistic intervention that you see scattered throughout it feel vibrant and necessary. The city continues its 25 year heritage of organic graffiti and entertains international writers and has the occasional Walls of Fame. Elements of unsanctioned Street Art exists as well and neighborhoods are accented by the new generation of muralists with mad skillz.
Then there are those who are a little harder to categorize, like the subtle reworkings of traditional Portugues tiles with modern icons and patterns by Add Fuel and the prized sculptural pieces across the city by the trash-recycling animal naturalist Bordalo II, who just had a massive solo exhibition in November.
The contemporary urban artist and international Street Art star Vhils is a company at this point: operating a studio in a few cities, here running a gallery, a studio laboratory program for young artists, a street art tour business, and partnering with city art programming initiatives as well as brands. Somehow he still finds time to create artworks in the streets, including a recent portrait collaboration with Shepard Fairey in Lisbon and LA.
At the end of our tour marathon Pedro Soares-Neves takes us to the Centro de Informação Urbana de Lisboa (Lisbon Urban Information Center) where we climb the stairs through the airy modernist foyer full of scholarly readers to discover a small scale maquette of the entire city that we have just been traversing.
Fanned out for you before the shiny blue Tagus River, perhaps 15 meters at its full expanse, the topographic features of the city are much less daunting when viewed from this perspective. As Pedro walks around the perimeter of the mini-city and points to neighborhoods, regions, the forest, the airport, the old city and the newly gentrifying areas of Lisboa he recounted stories of expansion, retrenchment, privatization, skullduggery and deliverance.
Thanks to him we appreciate graffiti/ Street Art/ urban art truly in its context of this city, its history, its people and the built environment like never before.
With gratitude to Pedro Soares Neves and to Raul Carvalho, General Manager of Underdogs Gallery for taking the time to talk to us, for sharing their knowledge and insights with us and for showing us around Lisbon.
BSA in Lisbon comes to you courtesy BSA in Partnership with Urban Nation (UN).
Street Artist Escif organized with other artists to fight the commercial development of seaside land in Valencia last month. With the help of other socially responsible artists including Aryz, BLU, Borondo, Escif, Anaïs Florin, Hyuro, Luzinterruptus, Daniel Muñoz “SAN”, Sam3 and Elías Taño, Escif and local organizers are publicly pushing a message that shows the local council what it means when citizens are engaged.
According to the organizers La Punta is a hamlet of orchards and gardens located in the south of the city of Valencia where more than 15 years ago the “Logistics Activities Zone” (ZAL) project of the Port of Valencia decided to chase hundreds of people out of this land to give to developers as a new port initiative.
Well, that failed spectacularly, probably because funding fell through due to the global financial crisis, and 15 years later development has not happened. The land has begun to evolve and return to its more natural state and a local farm economy has sprouted up. Meanwhile city planners are hoping they can conjure up another way to use these public lands for private profit.
But grassroots organizers say they want the public/private predatory folks to step back and let citizens decide what to do with this area. Thanks to this new “SenseMurs” public art initiative that is drawing a lot of critical eyes to the matter, more citizens may actually get a seat at the table. Well organized and great communicators, on March 10 and 11 the artists and activists gave tours of the murals of SenseMurs, called a press conference, threw a concert, and opened the doors to other citizens for their participation in the process.
“Within this context, neighbors and associations are trying to bring attention to this reality in order to negotiate with the Administration and start a public participation process,” says the art collective Luzinterruptus in an email, “where it will be decided how these lands will be used and to mend the injustices committed against the neighbors so another chance is given to the deported families to return and work the lands of l’Horta de la Punta.”
Enjoy these shots of the installations from Martha Cooper and two from Juanmi Ponce, starting off with the one and only BLU.
A: ¿ Porqué HAY LECHUGAS ?
B: Pues porqué alguien plantó semillas en esta tierra fértil, les puso agua y dejó que el sol hiciese su trabajo. Imágino que es un ciclo natural. La tierra es generosa y muy prospera. A poco que la cuides, te regala lechugas como estas.
A: No me refiero a eso. Mi pregunta es porque escribes la frase HAY LECHUGAS.
B: Ah! …pues porque hay lechugas!
This week BSA is in Mexico City in collaboration with Urban Nation Museum of Urban Contemporary Art (UN) to see what is steering the scene on the street, meet artists, visit artist compounds, museums, galleries, and studios – and of course to capture the wild and dynamic Street Art and graffiti scene here. Where Mexico City goes in art and culture makes big waves elsewhere in Latin America, and its Street Art scene has been quickly evolving in the last decade. Join us as we investigate the character and players in this modern/traditional city of more than 21 million people.
Mexico City this week was full of graffiti tags, large murals oozing with character, astral techno hippie dudes, strong women, slick talkers, traffic jams, street protests, stories about the 43, couples kissing on park benches, rooftop tours, men in suits, professional ladies in really high heels, smoothly running buses, sustainable community gardens, pick-pockets, indigenous people selling crafts, police with high pitched whistles, wannabe hipsters, live rock bands, tacos, craft beer, poinsettias, quesadillas, chille rellenos, pulled pork, nopales, avocados, tortas, Frida Kahlo, babies, Bohemia, marijuana smoke, and ultimately, Ricky Martin singing for hundreds of thousands of people free in the Zócalo.
We’ll catch you up on on the details soon.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Arty & Chickle, Blu, Curiot, DFace, El Mac, Erica Ilcane, Escif, Herakut, Interesni Kazki, Maria Guardado, Retna, ROA, Saner, and Sego.
Every Friday we invite you to stop by and take a look at new videos that have been submitted or recommended or we just tripped over in the alleyway.
We call it BSA Film Friday and it doesn’t exist only online these days – we take the show to lectures in classrooms and museums and festivals to show people what kind of dope, strange, illuminating, elevating, soaring, and pedestrian films are being made about artists working in the public sphere.
Today we’re giving you the BSA Top 15 Videos from 2016 – the ones that garnered the most traffic and conversation online. We are never quite sure what you will find interesting, so to see this collection of videos all together gives us a good idea that we have some of the smartest and savviest readers !
Included with each one is an excerpt of what we said for the original posting.
“Selina Miles has just directed an epic excursion through the pleasant looking Collingwood and Fitroy areas of Melbourne and the graffiti culture there. The prolific and talented writer Sofles rides and runs center screen on this guided tour of his aerosol stomping ground and this (nearly) one continuous shot drone film is a revelation. Again Miles pushes the documentation category forward, going beyond merely recording toward capturing, creating a sense of drama, certainly poetry.
Omar Musa grabs you with his words before you even know where you are and holds your heart tethered to a string and pulling you along these streets and alleys and back lots. Many times this piece is soaring in its singularity and its sense of collaboration.”
No. 14 Chump for Trump. Ron English x The Sutcliffes
“Seeing the new Ron English mural of Donald Trump in Bushwick, Brooklyn last week we were reminded of the video he released in April with a soundtrack by The Sutcliffes, a Beatles tribute band. It uses footage from Trump rallies and commercials interspersed with illustration and animation in an approachable folky way. Once you go down the rabbit hole of Trump satire and parody videos that have been made in the last year, you’ll find enough to begin a film festival.”
“Risk talks about his evolution from a kid in New Orleans sketching in his notebook at school to getting up with a crew in LA, painting all over public space and property to gain a higher profile and retain the thrill of hit-and-run, and some highlights of his professional career. In route from illegal to legal he developed a reverence for color, form, and technical experimentation and aspirations for museum quality work and large scale public sculpture. Just don’t tag his stuff please.”
“Some simple stencil activism well placed can be very effective. Vulgar, absurd, playful. Call it what you want, but Mathieu Roquigny is the first one we have seen do it. Do not view during your morning donut and coffee.”
“A gorgeously ambient tribute to New York through the eyes of a visitor who takes some alternate routes through the city along with the more obvious ones to capture vignettes of mundanity and of wonder. Rowan Pybus shoots this city poetry as a series of visual stanzas stacked unevenly, accompanied by the occasional Faith47 mural (she has accumulated a few in NYC now) as well as the wistful sound recordings of lemurs by Alexia Webster that melt into the gentle audio cacophony of the street as designed by Jonathan Arnold.
The combined passages allow you to slow down and contemplate the whirring city and a handful of its moments as sweet parenthesis in this run-on sentence called New York. Okay, that’s enough, move along now, no standing.”
“It is funny to see this video stamped with the name “Street Art, Utsira ” because Utsira is an island with about 200 inhabitants off the coast of Norway, and there not many streets. Also, this piece is not on a street.
Regardless, french roof painting couple Ella & Pitr made a trip there recently and squeezed in one of there cuddly characters, who looks like he is on the lamb from the huge childrens story book that he escaped from. Stay tuned for some exclusive shots and reportage on the making of this piece and their upcoming show at the local pub!”
“HERA + AKUT=HERAKUT – a back-to-basics introduction to Herakut today, since new fans are joining the fold and need to become acquainted with a duo that has been on the street around the world for years and has been moving into galleries for a while also.
Here at the white box Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles for their “Masters of Wrong” show it is a different view entirely from the street surely, including paintings evenly spaced across white walls as well as an area for a more immersive environment.
Outside, “The wolf that wins is the one you feed” is the Cherokee wisdom they paint on the side of the local high school, and in the commercialization of the Street Art world, we see this enmeshed dichotomy more daily.
Let the softly kinetic paddling of the marimba escort you through their political and social commentary, now more overt and obvious and satirical than ever, as they show you their new show and their new works for exhibition and for sale.”
“Directed by Julia Cave and originally shown on the BBC documentary series OMNIBUS in December of 1976, this was actually the second half of a program that followed a tour through the art gallery scene of Soho.
A hidden gem that surveys the variety of opinions held by citizens, historians, police and front stoop sociologists about the graffiti scene on trains and the streets, the story is measured and inquisitive. It’s without glamour, although there may be guile.”
“Graffiti writers and assorted urban artists have a romantic fixation with the steel monsters that snake through our cities and across the backyards and fields of entire countries. For the urban art culture subways and freights have distinct but overlapping associations with freedom, wanderlust, a daredevil mentality, … and Brazilian brothers Os Gemeos have just created their latest ode to the subway train in Milan – almost as big as any writer’s dream.”
Artist David Choe writes “This trip to Cambodia was not a news trip, we were there strictly to spread the message of love, light, beauty, joy, free expression and creativity. I didn’t realize how many millions of musicians, artists, writers and creative people had been murdered in the Cambodian genocide, so I wanted to bring the best artists in the world to Cambodia, a country that has virtually no murals or street art. Our goal, working through the #IglooHong Foundation, was simple: to spread some light, joy and beauty to a country with such a dark past.”
The Restoration of Blu for “Street Art Banksy & Co”
“Part II of a behind the scenes look by Good Guy Boris at the controversial show in Bologna that features art works by BLU and others that were originally not intended to appear in a museum, like most things in museums.
Here we learn about less sexy topics like copyright law and one lawyers interpretation of the realistic expectations of artists when painting illegally and legally as it applies to copyright in Italy and France. We also receive a quick education about traditional and modern techniques for the restoration of works for archival purposes, which is why people will be looking at these things long after you and we are gone.”
“On the occasion of his show last fall at New Image Art in Los Angeles, artist/street artist Anthony Lister had an emotional meltdown. Told with the help of top name graffiti writer RISK, gallery owner Marsea Goldberg, and the artist himself we learn about a tumultuous personal backstory that informs his experience while creating new works on the street and for the show. Especially rewarding in this new short directed by Mark Simpson is an unobtrusive examination of the artists gestural technique, a revelation in itself.
Additionally, the performance artist Ariel Brickman on stage at the show opening is the personification of Lister’s fantasic/heroic/treacherous figures; a spot-on example of his work come to life.”
Pixel Pancho: “Teseo e il Minotauro” in Rome
“In a city steeped in art history where every camera shot looks like a classic movie scene you have to be cognizant of the critical analysis that will be directed at your new mural from every Giovanni, Adriana, and Luca who are walking by or hanging out of the window.
These are the countrymen and women of Pixel Pancho so he takes it all into consideration and presents a classic of his own, merged with a steam-punked futurism of robots who are rather romantic in their own way.”
“Narcelio Grud has a track record of transforming public space in an unassuming manner that actually engages people directly. Here is his latest urban intervention – a music box for pedestrians to listen to while waiting for the light to change.”
“Murals have an entirely different function in the urban environment than Street Art and graffiti, although some folks use the terms interchangeably. One of the time-honored functions of a public mural in many cities has been the “memorial mural,” the one that recalls a person or people or a significant event that has impacted a neighborhood, even a nation. Because it is artwork mounted publicly, it can be used as a meeting point for people in a community to gather and talk about it, trading stories and impressions and gaining understanding. At its’ worst, a memorial mural can be superficial or overwrought, moralizing, even stunningly unartful.
Sometimes however, it can provide to a community a sense of pride or history, and it can be empowering. Other times there is a mental, emotional catharsis that takes place with the artwork providing a forum, a safe space to discuss the undiscussible in a public forum or simply to share in a common sense of loss, or experience some sense of healing.
‘It’s not mere decoration, but deals with ethics,’ says Giulio Vesprini as he paints this mural remembering Camp No.70 Monte Urano, a WWII prison camp a mile or two from the sea and Porto San Georgio, in Italy. ‘So it has been very important to me that I could give my contribution.’ “
We dedicate this compilation to the filmmakers who bring so much joy, knowledge and awareness with their artistry and technical wizardry every day and especially every Friday from BSA Film Friday to all of us here at BSA and to our readers. Cheers for a wonderful 2017…
Thought provoking, curious, underplayed. There is a certain circumspect quality to the Street Art scene in this seaside city in Spain that ranks third in population but which may be vying for the Street Art title that once was held securely by Barcelona.
Admittedly it is an unthankable task to try to characterize the urban art of any city, but the eclectic street works like those found in Valencia’s neighborhoods like El Carmen, with its peculiar configurations of streets and plazas and little in-between places, are often a trifle more cerebral in their culmination. With challenging riddles and allegories you’ll find yourself studiously unpacking meanings and subtext with these often small and midsize works that call to you, rather than scream.
Yes, Valencia inherited the grafiteros romance and hip-hop aerosol aesthetic in the late 20th century, as many cities around the globe did, and you can see ample evidence of those fame and style influences here as well. However there is an almost Lo-fi illustrator vibe in Valencia and many figurative pieces are singular, influenced by cartoons and modernly ironic illustration styles, from deadpan dry in black, grey, and white to fully realistic and photorealist aerosol portraits.
It is not unusual for works to have a message or point of view, where symbols stand in for sentiments and metaphors abound. The “cute” quotient may also be lower than many cities, as is the need to fill in a background to occupy space. In a genre that can get very cluttered, with pieces chock-a-block and smashing into one another with no discernable through-thread, Valencia looks like it can give artists the space, and artists are using that space effectively.
Reality TV is usually completely devoid of reality. That isn’t the exact comparison Andreco said on his Facebook page but we thought it was a fitting analogy. Street Art in a museum or gallery can sometimes feel like taxidermy.
Andreco actually said “Deciding which wall to paint or not paint has always been one of our free choice. This operation, to uncork the walls and move them elsewhere, oversteps this freedom.” Fair enough.
Of course that is not the primary reason why activists and Street Artists joined in to help BLU paint over the many murals that he completed on Bologna city walls over the last two decades or so. In an English titled press release on the Italian website Wumingfoundation the artist lays out a multi-layered justification for destroying his own murals, many of which have become beloved landmarks around the city and which have helped make him an art star in some circles.
The galvanizing event is a 250 piece museum show opening in a few days that is entitled “Street Art: Banksy & Co” at Palazzo Pepoli – Museo della Storia di Bologna in which Blu says his work is slated to be displayed without his authorization as taken directly from the streets. This practice of high-profile (read: high potential market price) works being removed and showing up at auction, gallery, or museum or elsewhere for sale has embroiled debates in the last decade about artists rights, property owners rights, intellectual property, societal/cultural impact.
BLU, for those who do not know, is a prominent and respected name in Street Art and mural art whose work and thousands of photos of it on websites and blogs has made him globally known. His stop-action videos of his installations were ground breaking and are the stuff of legend. Thanks to all of his hard work and international exposure his fine art work commands a very nice price and many look to see what he does next.
Since Banksy’s walls started to be taken in whole and resold, the conversations about the phenomena has shaken the street art and contemporary art world. Closely discussed are the philosophical true intentions of artists and the rightful expectations of “the scene” as interpreted by myriad artists, fans, curators, academics, and random passersby; Does the artist hold all rights to the use of the physical and aesthetic work in perpetuity, even when done illegally or in violation of ordinances without consent of a property owner or community?
Further, if it is determined to be an act of vandalism does the artists forfeit their right to determine its ultimate use, or do they retain any say in the matter? If the wall owner had no contract with the artist, verbal or written, are they entitled to do with it as they wish? Can it be sold or destroyed by someone else or only the artist? Can a piece of art that is signed, hashtagged, or URL’d be considered advertising and not regarded purely for artistic merit? Can a city, neighborhood or culture lay claim to an artwork that has withstood the passage of time in public space where people become familiar with it and actually fall in love with it? Is it a cultural icon owned by many, part of a greater heritage? Should any act of restoration be taken, or does that violate the purity of its intent? And which holy book of street art scriptures contains the guidelines and rules that will be universally accepted?
The statement attributed to BLU also says he is angry that a wealthy banking concern which has fought against free speech historically is sponsoring the show, that it appears the show is capitalizing on a form of expression that does not rightfully belong in a museum environment, that promoters are leveraging his name and reputation to legitimate their show, and that the city has demonized artists in the past for doing the very same activity that is now being lauded – revealing a fundamental hypocrisy.
BLU has destroyed his own work in protest as recently as December of 2014 when he decried the gentrification of certain neighborhoods of Berlin. He wanted to deny real estate interests the opportunity to use his work to sell buildings or apartments. It’s an irony faced by many an artist in the street today – knowing that the changing of a neighborhood may be at least partially traceable to the desireability of the area thanks to attractive murals.
On his own website, Blu published this statement:
“a bologna non c’è più blu
e non ci sarà più finchè i magnati magneranno
per ringraziamenti o lamentele sapete a chi rivolgervi”, says the artist.
Our ability to translate is not great, but generally he is saying something like, “Today in Bologna there is not any more BLU and there won’t be any. For thanks or complaints go to the Magneranno magnates.”
One very large portion of the exhibit for example previously was shown at the Museum of the City of New York under the guidance of the same curator, Sean Corcoran, who brings this New York art to Italy. With historic 1970s and 80s trainwriter names like Lee Quinones, Futura, Daze, Lady Pink, and photographers Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant on the roster, it is from the collection of artist Martin Wong who was a personal friend to almost all of these artists and a collector himself.
The collection is owned by the museum (Mr. Wong died of AIDS related illness in 1999) and, having seen the full show from which this emanated from, and knowing personally many of the artists represented here, we know that there is little, if any, art taken from the streets. We also feel assured that most, if not all, of the artists on display from the Martin Wong Collection were proud that this work was preserved and displayed in a museum, since so much from those decades simply doesn’t exist anymore. These are paintings, studio work, photographs, sketch books, and drawings of fine artists who also had practices on the streets (or trains); true pieces of NY history.
However we do not know about the other two collections and cannot make any reliable observations about them.
Editors Note: A previous version of this posting included quotes from a person with whom we had an email discussion. Because of possible miscommunication we did not realize that the person did not wish to be quoted. Those references have been removed and the current posting reflects this.
Exactly a year ago we were in Berlin as invited guest curators by Urban Nation Museum’s Director Yasha Young to curate the 7th Edition of Project M. Our exhibition, “Persons Of Interest” was aesthetically rich and culturally relevant in the windows and on the facade of the under-renovation UN haus, and the positive feedback we received lasted a number of months. Each artist had dug deep in their research and were inspired to bring a Brooklyn-Berlin historical and contemporary story to the street in a meaningful way.
The indoor exhibition at the museum’s headquarters overflowed onto the streets on opening night as well; with artists, fans, curators, honored cultural muses, and officials from Berlin’s formal arts infrastructure all abuzz with the exchange happening in Kreuzberg.
As Ms. Young and her teams continue to build the cultural foundation of UN with a dizzying array of programs, initiatives, and artists this year leading to the official opening next spring, we remark on her singular vision as a cornerstone of the museum.
With a finger on the pulse of many movements within the current Urban/Contemporary scene Young has made some bold and sharp choices to get an institution like this underway. With a clear sense of the potential that this global scene has always shown, Young has harnessed goodwill and top talents in the urban arts community and is gradually attracting the eye of more formal institutions. Undoubtedly in many ways UN has already made history.
So to mark a year since our first show with UN we’re looking at a treasure trove of photos of works on the streets that we didn’t publish at that time. This city is singular in it’s permissiveness to graffiti and street art – a tacit but undeniable appreciation for its eclectic contribution to contemporary art, the life of the culture. Berlin also somehow understands the intrinsic value of supporting artist communities. A laboratory on the streets, Berlin continues to afford art space to take shape before your eyes.
BSA readers told us by your direct comments and online sharing – that you love our coverage of Street Art festivals: 8 of the top 15 postings in ’15 were about them.
The rest of the most popular stories can be described as being about powerful personalities and consequential work on the street that is not simply visually impactful but is backed by a story that runs deeper.
Following are your top 15 postings from the year on BSA and our articles on The Huffington Post along with an excerpt from the original posting.
“Striking and massive murals by international street artists have been populating the walls of Mexico City for the last five years thanks to the emergence of a global Street Art scene, a rise in mural festivals, and the country’s tradition of institutional support for murals that further a socio-political mission. There hasn’t been much of the latter lately, however, and it is doubtful that a new politically charged mural campaign underway in certain central neighborhoods is likely to receive tax dollars for the paint and ladders.
Without sighting a specific ill to address, the new mural initiative named “Manifesto” is challenging a select group of local and international street artists to express their opinions on weighty and topical matters through murals, “using art as a social tool to propose, reflect and inform.” Among possible topics that might be addressed, the manifesto for “Manifesto” says, are increasing poverty, glorified materialism, the exhausting of natural resources, a fraying social web, and a dysfunctional justice system.”
“Initiated by Aarau-based graffiti/street/fine artist Malik in May of 2012, the project eventually corralled 17 street artists, all but one from Switzerland, to enter the confines of the new high security Lenzburg Prison to paint murals on exterior walls, courtyards, hallways, and common areas.
‘I was looking for a new challenge and a new and exciting project where I could show my art,’ says Malik and while the 18 month project originated with his vision of getting a nice wall for himself, quickly the project grew far beyond his expectations to become an educational, sociological meditation on the penal system, the appropriate role of art within it, and our collective humanity.”
“Instead of being hunted down for catching a tag or bubble-lettered throw-up, a couple dozen graffiti/street art painters are invited to hit up Coney Island this summer — and since we’ve just marked the unofficial first weekend of summer in New York — we’re bringing you the first three freshly completed pieces.
Part of “Coney Art Walls”, the muralists began taking the train out to this seaside paved paradise that is re-inventing itself once again, this time courtesy of art curator Jeffrey Deitch.”
As marches have continued across the country in cities like Ferguson, Oakland, Baltimore, New York, Dallas and Cleveland in the past year addressing issues such as police brutality and racism, the south is taking down confederate flags on state houses and the US is mourning another mass shooting.
Now as Americans everywhere are pulling out and waving the stars and stripes to celebrate freedom, this new powerful installation on a Brooklyn wall reminds us of what New York poet Emma Lazarus said, ‘Until we are all free, we are none of us free.’ ”
” ‘It felt like I gave a birth to an oversize baby without any pain killers. I had to pull the black magic to make it happen. Physically and emotionally drained. Was it worth it? Absolutely YES,’ she types onto her Facebook page to let friends and fans know that she has finished the seven-day marathon of crocheting and directing a full team of volunteers and St+Art Delhi organizers. Triumphant, she stands atop the woman’s shelter, a one story structure of corrugated metal and concrete 40-feet long and 8-feet high, with a fist in the air, a symbol of celebration as well as a show of solidarity with the sisterhood of those who helped her make it and those will seek refuge here when other options have been exhausted.”
“Now I don’t want to create any new festival, any new brand — just want to keep the name as simple as possible,” he says of Lodz Murals, an ongoing program that functions year round rather than focusing specifically on a short-term festival. With all responsibilities for organizing, promoting, and working with city and private business under one roof, Michał says that his vision is to create the same sort of iconic image of Lodz with murals as Paris with the Eiffel Tower.
“I would like that people on the global scale would think of Lodz as a city with exceptional public art,” he says grandly while acknowledging that public art shines in many other cities as well. “When you are thinking about public art, one of the first places that you will see in your mind’s eye is Lodz. Of course, comparing the mural project to the one of the most important “pearls” of modern architecture is pure overstatement, but I would like to create this type of mechanism, this type of association.”
“We don’t know for sure if it was our current funhouse mirror atmosphere that drove the Wall\Therapy festival in Rochester, NY to choose this years’ themes. It may simply be a way of organizing artists whose work reflects these notions back to us and to illuminate one specific growing trend in street culture and murals.
Surely Magritte, Dali and Ernst would be very pleased by the uptick of modern surrealists and practitioners of the bizarre, fantastical, and dream-like in galleries, in the public sphere, and throughout popular culture in recent years.”
“As we mark the halfway point of this decade and see the institutional discussions of Street Art taking form while academics try to place it in the canon of art-making and decide upon the nature of its impact, they do it with the knowledge that gallery shows, museum exhibitions, high-profile auctions, individual collecting, lifestyle marketers, and public festivals of many configurations and aspirations are already embracing its relevance. No one can possibly gauge this story in all of its complexity but some will capture its spirit. Being on the street helps.
One way to get a pulse on the present is to attend shows like Nuart and witness the diverse stratagems that artists are using to engage their audiences and judge if they are successful at realizing their intentions. With a deliberately mixed bag of thinkers, feelers, documentors, aesthetes, and pranksters culled together for your edification, this show stokes the discussions.”
“The gates are open to the new public/private art project called “Coney Art Walls,” and today, you can have a look at all 30 or so of the new pieces by a respectable range of artists spanning four decades and a helluva lot of New York street culture history. We’ve been lucky to see a lot of the action as it happened over the last five weeks and the range is impressive. These are not casual, incidental choices of players lacking serious resumes or street/gallery cred, but the average observer or unknowing critic may not recognize it.”
“Barcelona was known as a city at the epicenter of a bustling lively organic street art scene in the mid 2000s. Today that has greatly been cracked down upon by authorities, but the Spanish city now boasts a mural festival called Open Walls, which celebrated its third edition last month with public works spanning a great number of influences and styles. Of course there is still plenty of autonomous, non-comissioned street art to be seen as well.”
“In ‘Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks,’ now running at the Brooklyn Museum until August 23, the genius of his fragmenting logic is revealed as a direct relationship between his private journals and his prolific and personally published aerosol missives on the streets of Manhattan’s Soho and Lower East Side neighborhoods in the late 1970s and 1980s.
These notebooks were for capturing ideas and concepts, preparing them, transmuting them, revising them, pounding them into refrains. In the same way his text (and glyphic) pieces on the street were not necessarily finished products each time; imparted on the run and often in haste, these unpolished missives didn’t require such preciousness.”
“This is No Limit, the second installation of murals done primarily by street artists in Borås, a pristine and pleasant city about 45 minutes east of Gothenberg. With the leadership of artist Shai Dahan and organizers Stina Hallhagen and Anders Khil the local tourism office works year round to promote this festival and the quality of the pieces are top notch due to the careful choices of international big names and up-and-comers.
In addition to this diversity, the scale is varied with massive walls like those by the Chilean Inti and Poland’s Robert Proch, and more personal-sized installations in surprise locations around town by American illustration artist David Zinn and New Jersey’s sculptural stencilist Joe Iurato.”
“It could be the name influencing our perception, but in one way or another it looks like these artists are chosen for their down-to-earth hand hewn approach. Sometimes decorative, sometimes storytelling, there are familiar themes and motifs that play well to their local audience as well as the virtual gawker.
Even with two dozen artists, it isn’t bloated: no logos or product tie-ins or DJs or high flying scissor lifts scaling massive multi-story walls with abstract surrealism, hyper photo-realism or dark pop human/animal/robot hybrids here – yet. Well, we take that back on the surrealism score; Pixel Pancho is here with a brood of chickens bobbing their industrial mesh necks atop fired tile bodices, hunting and pecking their way toward the beach, and Miami artist duo 2alas & Hox created a portrait of a boy with a partial mask overlay that calls to mind cyborgs (and Sten & Lex). But here in the loungey bare-foot tropical DR coastal area, even Pixel Pancho mutes the hues toward sun-bleached pastels, more easily complimenting their surroundings.”
“And so it made sense last week when Dippie skillfully merged imagery spanning five centuries, two continents, and two distinctly different art movements. Call it a measured miracle, a ratherish revelation that Dippie completed a deftly realized mashup of Raphael and Keith Haring, with the Madonna del Granduca holding Haring’s icon-symbol that is variously referred to as ‘Radiant Baby,’ ‘Radiant Child,’ and ‘Radiant Christ.’ ”
“French Street Artist YZ Yseult has begun her own campaign to pay tribute to the fierce female fighters of the 19th Century West African country of Dahomey, who are more commonly referred to as Amazons. A startling narrative of female power not often heard today for some, but as YZ is researching her own history as a descendent from slaves, her portraits reflect a personal impetus to tell these stories with a new force. She has named this series of strong warriors on the street ‘Amazone’.”
It’s good to be asked to write an essay once in a while as it makes us take a step back and more fully examine a topic and appreciate it. On the occasion of Nuart’s 15th anniversary and it’s accompanying print publication last week Martyn Reed asked us to look at the street art / urban art / graffiti scene and to give an analysis about how it has changed in the time that the festival has been running. The essay is a long one, so grab a cup of joe and we hope you enjoy. Included are a number of images in and around Stavanger from Jaime Rojo, not all of them part of the festival, including legal and illegal work.
Technology, Festivals, and Murals as Nuart Turns 15
Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo
Nuart is turning 15 this year and like most brilliant teenagers it is alternately asking you challenging questions, finding you somewhat uncool, or is on your tablet ordering a new skateboard with your credit card. Nuart started with mainly music and is now mainly murals; an internationally well-regarded venue for thoughtfully curated urban art programs and erudite academic examination – with an undercurrent of troublemaking at all times. Today Nuart can be relied upon to initiate new conversations that you weren’t expecting and set a standard for thoughtful analysis of Street Art and its discontents.
We are in the thick of it, as it were, this great expansion of a first global grassroots people’s art movement. Give it any title you like, the flood of art in the streets that knocks on BSA’s door daily is unabated. We admit that we often get caught up in the moment and forget to study our forebears, Street Art’s progenitors and contributors – and that we sometimes are unable to appreciate the significance of this incredible time. So we are happy when the Nuart team asked us to take a long view of the last fifteen years and to tell them what we see.
As we mark Nuart’s milestone, we see three important developments on the Street Art scene while it evolves: Technology, Festivals, and Murals.
And just before we discuss these three developments in Street Art we emphasize what has stayed the same; our own sense of wonder and thrill at the creative spirit, however it is expressed; we marvel to see how it can seize someone and flow amidst their innermost, take hold of them, convulse through them, rip them apart and occasionally make them whole.
What has changed is that the practice and acceptance of Street Art, the collecting of the work, it’s move into contemporary art, have each evolved our perceptions of this free-range autonomous descendant of the graffiti practice that took hold of imaginations in the 2000s. At the least it hasn’t stopped gaining converts. At this arbitrary precipice on the timeline we look back and forward to identify three impactful themes that drive what we are seeing today and that will continue to evolve our experience with this shape-shifting public art practice.
Hands down, a primary genesis for the far flung modern embrace of Street Art/Urban Art/Graffiti/public art lies in the booster rocket that propelled it into nearly everyone’s hands; digital communication and all its sundry technologies. From the early Internet websites and chat rooms accessed from your desktop to digital cameras and photo sharing platforms like Flickr in the early-mid 2000s to ever more sophisticated search technology and its accompanying algorithms, to blogs, micro blogs, and social media platforms, to the first generations of laptops and tablets, iPhones and Android devices; the amazing and democratizing advance of these communicative technologies have allowed more of us to access and share images, videos, experiences and opinion on a scale never before imagined – entirely altering the practice of art in the streets.
Where once there had been insular localized clans of aerosol graffiti writers who followed arcane codes of behavior and physical territoriality known primarily to only them in cities around the world, now new tribes coalesced around hubs of digital image sharing, enabling new shared experiences, sets of rules, and hierarchies of influence – while completely dissolving others.
As old guards re-invented a place for themselves or disappeared altogether, a new order was being remixed in front our eyes. There were a lot of strangers in the room – but somehow we got used to it. Rather than making street art pieces for your local peers, artists began making new compositions for somebody’s phone screen in London or Honolulu or Shanghai.
Cut free from soil and social station, now garden variety hoodlums and brilliant aesthetes were commingling with opportuning art collectors, curious gallerists, unctuous opinionators, punctilious photographers and fans… along with product makers, promoters, art-school students, trend watchers, brand managers, lifestyle marketers, criminologists, sociologists, journalists, muckrakers, academics, philosophers, housewives, and makers of public policy. By virtue of climbing onto the Net everyone was caught in it, now experiencing the great leveling forces of early era digital communications that decimated old systems of privilege and gate keeping or demarcations of geography.
Looking forward we are about to be shaken again by technology that makes life even weirder in the Internet of Everything. Drone cams capture art and create art, body cams will surveil our activity and interactions, and augmented reality is merging with GPS location mapping. You may expect new forms of anonymous art bombing done from your basement, guerilla image projecting, electronic sign jamming, and perhaps you’ll be attending virtual reality tours of street art with 30 other people who are also sitting on their couches with Oculus Rifts on. Just watch.
Thanks to the success of festivals like Nuart, myriad imitators and approximaters have mushroomed in cities everywhere. Conceived of philosophically as a series of stages for the exhibition of artistic chops with the proviso that a cultural dialogue is enriched and moved forward, not all festivals reach those goals.
In fact, we have no reason to expect that there is one set of goals whatsoever and the results are predictably variable; ranging from focused, coherent and resonant contributions to a city to dispersed, unmanageable parades of muddy mediocrity slammed with corporate logos and problematic patronage.
Some festivals are truly grassroots and managed by volunteers like Living Walls in Atlanta or MAUI in Fanzara, Spain. Others are privately funded by real estate interests like Miami’s Wynwood Walls or business improvement district initiatives like the L.I.S.A. Project and LoMan Festival in Manhattan, or are the vision of one man who has an interest in Street Artists, like the now-discontinued FAME festival in the small town of Grottaglie, Italy and the 140 artist takeover of a town in Tunisia called Djerbahood that is organized by an art dealer.
In some ways these examples are supplanting the work of public art committees and city planners who historically determined what kind of art would be beneficial to community and a public space. Detractors advance an opinion that festivals and personal initiatives like this are clever ways of circumventing the vox populi or that they are the deliberate/ accidental tools of gentrification.
We’ve written previously about the charges of cultural imperialism that these festivals sometimes bring as well where a presumed gratitude for new works by international painting superstars actually devolves into charges of hubris and disconnection with the local population who will live with the artwork for months and years after the artist catches a plane home.
Nonetheless, far from Street Arts transgressive and vandalous roots, the sheer number of Street Art/Urban Art/Mural Art festivals that have popped up – either freestanding or as adjuncts to multi-discipline “arts” festivals – is having the effect of creating a wider dialogue for art in the public sphere.
As artists are invited and hosted and scissor lifts are rented and art-making materials are purchased, one quickly realizes that there are real costs associated with these big shows and the need for funding is equally genuine. Depending on the festival this funding may be private, public, institutional, corporate, or an equation that includes them all.
As you may expect, the encroachment of commercial interests is nearly exhaustive in some of these newer festivals, so eager are the merchants to harvest a scene they had little or no hand in planting. Conceived of as vehicles for corporate messaging, they custom-build responsive websites, interactive Apps, clouds of clever #hashtags, company logos, Instagram handles, branded events and viral lifestyle videos with logos sprinkled throughout the “content”.
You may recognize these to be the leeching from an organic subculture, but in the case of this amorphous and still growing “Street Art Scene” no one yet knows what lasting scars this lifestyle packaging will leave on the Body Artistic, let alone civic life.
Stylistically these festivals can be a grab bag as well with curatorial rigor often taking a back seat to availability, accessibility, and the number of interested parties making nominations. While some festivals are clearly leaning toward more traditional graffiti schools, others are a hodgepodge of every discernable style from the past fifty years, sometimes producing an unpleasant sense of nausea or even tears over regrettable missed opportunity.
Clearly the quality is often uneven but, at the danger of sounding flip or callous, it’s nothing that is not easily remedied by a few coats of paint in the months afterward, and you’ll see plenty of that. Most art critics understand that the metrics used for measuring festival art are not meant to be the same as for a gallery or museum show. Perhaps because of the entirely un-curated nature of the organic Street Art scene from which these festivals evolved in some part, where no one asks for permission (and none is actually granted), we are at ease with a sense of happenstance and an uneven or lackluster presentation but are thrilled when concept, composition, and execution are seated firmly in a brilliant context.
Finally, murals have become big not just in size but popularity. Every week a street artist is exclaiming that this mural is the biggest they have every made. It is a newfound love, a heady honeymoon, a true resurgence of muralism. Even though you can’t rightly call this legal and sanctioned work true Street Art, many former and current Street Artists are making murals.
Un-civically minded urban art rebels have inferred that Street Art has softened, perhaps capitulated to more mainstream tastes. As Dan Witz recently observed, “Murals are not a schism with Street Art as much as a natural outgrowth from it.” We agree and add that these cheek-by-jowl displays of one mural after another are emulating the graffiti jams that have been taking place for years in large cities both organic and organized.
From illustration to abstraction to figurative to surreal and even letter-based, this eclectic injection of styles won’t bring to mind what one may typically associate with the homegrown community mural. Aside from the aforementioned festivals that are festooning neighborhoods, the growth in mural-making may be attributable to a trend of appreciation for Do It Yourself ( D.I.Y.) approaches and the ‘makers’ movements, or a desire to add a personal aspect to an urban environment that feels unresponsive and disconnected.
Philadelphia has dedicated 30 years to their Mural Arts Program and relies on a time-tested method of community involvement for finalization of designs and most municipal murals have a certain tameness that pleases so many constituencies that no one particularly cares for them.
The New Muralism, as we have been calling it, that is popping up is often more autonomous and spirited in nature than community mural initiatives of the past with their ties to the socio-political or to historical figures and events. Here there are few middlemen and fewer debates. Artists and their advocates approach building owners directly, a conversation happens, and a mural goes up.
In the case of upstart community programs like the Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn, one trusted local person is ambassador to a neighborhood, insuring that community norms about nudity or politics are respected but otherwise acts purely as facilitator and remains hands-off about the content.
On that topic, effectively a form of censoring often takes place with murals – another distinguishing characteristic from Street Art. Given the opportunity to fully realize an elaborate composition, normally wild-eyed and ornery aerosol rebels bend their vision to not offend. Sometimes an artist can have more latitude and you may find a mural may clearly advocate a political or social point of view, as in recent murals addressing police brutality, racism, and inequality in many US cities, anti-corruption sentiments in Mexico, and pro-marriage equality in France and Ireland.
This new romance with the mural is undoubtedly helping artists who would like to further explore their abilities in more labor-intensive, time absorbing works without having to look over their shoulder for an approaching officer of the law. It is a given that what they gain in polished presentation they may sacrifice as confrontational, radical, contraventional, even experimental. The resulting images are at times stunning and even revelatory, consistent with the work of highly skilled visionaries, as if a new generation of painters is maturing before our eyes in public space where we are all witness.
Despite the rise in festivals and mural programs and the growing volume and sophistication of technology for sharing of the images, Street Art is still found in unexpected places and the decay of neglected spaces. As before and well into the future these self ordained ministers of mayhem will be showing their stuff in the margins, sometimes identified, sometimes anonymous, communicating with the individual who just happens to walk by and witness the work. The works will impart political or social messages, other times a simple declaration that says, “I’m here.”
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening :
1. Roma Street Art Tribes as Captured by Dioniso Punk
BSA Special Feature: Roma Street Art Tribes as Captured by Dioniso Punk
Gwen Stacy Parts I and II
Disorderly, discordant, and richly chaotic, these two videos are centered around the Italian street art paintings and artists whom you will recognize from our earlier postings on community/gallery organized urban art programming – but within the context of historical art publicly displayed, peoples movements, patronage, fascism, the classics.
Dioniso Punk allows everyone to talk – neighbors, artists, organizers, curators, public philosophers, elected officials, psychologists, sociologists, entrepreneurs, posers, professors, historians, students, an opera singer, the petite bourgeoisie, international visitors and hapless puzzled opinionated locals.
Discussions at panels cut into impassioned discussions by senior women in the courtyard or didactic examinations in the street – some for illustration, others for whimsy, none to be ignored. More of a fact finding mission than cogent analysis, you may find it difficult to follow the narrative and so it is better to let go and allow yourself be battered by the insights and observations delivered with the jumpy cuts and uncompleted thoughts and discussions, preferring instead to sink into the tribe of the humans, here selectively displayed for your pleasure and hopefully, edification.
(turn on the CC (closed captioning) if you do not speak Italian)
Featuring interviews with Solo, Gaia, Diamond 0707, Maupal, Best Ever, Bol23, Jerico, Guerrilla Spam Sen One, Sabrina, Dan, Stefano Antonelli (999 Contemporary,) Marta Ugolini (Galleria Ca’ D’Oro), Agathe Jaubourg (Pasolini Pigneto), Alìn Costache (YUT!), Edoardo Martino (Villaggio Globale), and Eleonora Zaccagnino (Acid Drop).
Special Guests: Mp5, Alice Pasquini, Mr. Thoms, Jessica Stewart, Sandro Fiorentini (La Bottega del Marmoraro).
Murals by Blu, Roa, Borondo, Etam Cru, Space Invaders, C215, Hogre, Herbert Baglione, Sten & Lex, JB Rock, Ernest, Pignon-Ernest, Etnik, Axel, Avoid, Sbagliato, Jim Avignon, Fin DAC, Jef Aerosol, Seth, Zed1, Ericailcane, Clemens Behr, Caratoes, Momo, Derek, Bruno, Kid Acne, Mto, Alexey Luka, Tellas, Moby Dick, Philippe Baudelocque, Mr. Klevra, Lucamaleonte, Diavù Kocore, Agostino Iacurci, Danilo Bucchi, Jaz, Desx, Reka, Lek & Sowat, Hopnn, Matteo, Basilé Alberonero, Ex Voto, Andreco, Moneyless, Nicola, Verlato, Ludo, L’Atlas, Escif, and Pepsy Zerocalcare.