Welcome to BSA Images of the Week. The outcry over the Russian invasion of Ukraine has overwhelmed all other news “coverage”.
In his State of the Union speech this week Biden even conflated sanctions with domestic inflation – but it was already 7.5% annually for a full year before the Ukraine invasion. Using that logic, Putin is also the reason you have no Medicare for All, and the reason there is no student loan debt forgiveness.
New York has so many beautiful communities and we value our Russian and Ukrainian neighbors. We refuse to demonize a whole community collectively, and hopefully you do too.
However repugnant the idea, let’s look for a diplomatic solution on the world stage to this crisis if it is all possible. We all have too much to lose if we don’t try in this incredibly difficult moment in history.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: Pear, Subway Doodle, Txemy, Calicho Art, V Ballentine, Under Wave Walls, Mike Raz, Tony Tuan Luong, Manuel Alejandro, Smetsky Art, Deborah Kass, Lady Vday, Sage Gallon, and Michael Neff.
Highbrow art institutions have coalesced behind a small recurring collection of well-known graffiti/street artists in recent years, granting them a lot of space and a powerful entrée to blue-check media parties, blue-chip platforms, and blue blood collectors. The bigger (and frequently well-funded) names are often the easiest to explain to an unfamiliar general audience of art viewers and, of course, will appeal to that younger demographic everyone is after. It shouldn’t surprise anyone when even the New York City Ballet spawned a series of collaborations with street artists in the last five years to bolster flagging attendance due to aging and, well, dying fans.
Graffiti and street art have long since become bywords of edgy culture that can be commodified and proudly owned by all strata of incomes and stations, and our interest in all things street abides still. Brands have ironically manipulated pop icons and sprinkle paint splashes, drips, and bubble tags across everything from ladies’ clutches to watches to vapes. Fashion continues to dip into this well of light anarchy as a signal of cool rebellion, as sold across a gamut – from couture Saint Laurent to off-the-rack Walmart. Sometimes the imagery or lettering is easily recognizable as a particular artist’s style on the products for sale. Other times a staff graphic designer has skillfully approximated the stencils, wheat-pastes, and drippy tags without steering into copyright infringement territory.
Street Artist Shepard Fairey is probably best known for making art and commerce symbiotic with the interplay of his screenprints, stickers, vandalism, street art, and the Obey brand, and Keith Haring literally opened his own Pop Shop store in Soho way back in the 1980s; his illegal vandalism in the subway being de facto advertisements for products you could purchase above ground. Banksy’s movie title Exit Through The Gift shop may have been intended as a sarcastic critique, but everyone now considers it a command. Curatorial considerations may not be explicitly tied to the development of product lines, but the discussions of both may happen in the same marketing meeting.
Today, the real power players in the cultural currency game are the artists who can market their own products, sometimes commanding licensing fees simply for being featured on retail platforms and venues. In the case of KAWS: What Partyat the Brooklyn Museum, the sales of the Brooklyn artists’ “Companion” toy collectibles exhausted supply within hours of the opening, and the mania of buying multiples in multi-visit daily shopping trips created lines so long that they backed up into the exhibition. The museum store began posting strict buying limits and regulations of items sold.
On a recent weekday, eager groupings of friends and family arrive into the Brooklyn Museum lobby with palpable excitement, and nearly all pose in front of the towering 18-foot high wooden KAWS sculpture, “Along the Way.” Our guide, Sharon Matt Atkins, Deputy Director for Art, tells us that the response to the show in terms of attendance has been robust. As we wend through the galleries, we see guests in their teens and twenties often posing before sculptures and paintings, imitating the forward bending head, cradling their face in hands with a mocked portrayal of being overwhelmed. The striking of poses in front of artworks is possibly as much a part of the museum experience as excitedly identifying which pop culture character or famous painting had been appropriated for an X-eyed portrait. Those images are spread across social media, and the KAWS character is seen by many more.
After the show, guests queue in line to the store to pick up a catalog, tote bag, lapel pin, or other KAWS product. Artists names like Matt Groenig, Charles Schultz, and Hugh Harman may not trip off the tongue, but their repurposed characters like the Simpsons, Snoopy, and Mickey have all been burned into western mass culture history. Those nostalgic and reassuring associations are captured by KAWS repeatedly and altered with modest modification.
Matt Atkins observes that KAWS discovered the power of pop references to manga and anime in the subculture Otaku were crucial to forming bonds with Japanese people in ways that language would not allow during his trips to Tokyo in the late 1990s. The power of that kind of cross-cultural communication stayed with him and is offered as an explanation for referencing commonly known images. Indeed, this method of reinterpretation of pre-established icons and personalities has been employed on the street for many years, including right now with street artists like The Postman who reworks famous images of celebrities and characters like Syd Vicious, Elton John, Willy Wonka, Boy George, Grace Jones, and Elvis Presley. The contemporary acid-pop treatment he pours on the photographs is eye-catching in doorways or alleys. If you like what you see on the street, you can go to his website store to purchase them as prints or customized aerosol spray cans. Before ‘always on’ connectivity, these bridges between art and collecting were never so seamless.
As new rules in street art and commerce come online daily, perhaps we’ll be developing new terminology to describe and novel ways to define the roles of museums, exhibitions, and stores. Similarly, norms about patronage, fandom, art history, civic engagement, and cultural literacy, no doubt, are evolving at a rapid pace in ways previously unconsidered.
As in the ‘woke’ culture that the art world is trying to enter, we’re having difficult but necessary conversations revolving around identity politics and systemic, historical inequities. Maybe we should also discuss the role of commerce in mediating decisions about which rebellious graffiti or street artists we are heralding or overlooking.
What clinches the final decision when granting a gallery or exhibition replete with all the trimmings? In an art practice born from typically marginalized sectors of the dominant culture originally, who is currently getting the brunt of the attention, and why? What role does consumer culture, pop sensibility, and commodification of our creative commons play when selecting which artists from the graffiti and street art fields are elevated – and which ones are not. As always, there are few obviously correct answers. But the questions may lead us in new directions.
KAWS: WHAT PARTY
February 26–September 5, 2021
Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing and Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, 5th Floor
For museum’s hours of operation and tickets click HERE
A year ago NYC went into complete lockdown. Spring went on without us. Holed up in our homes we missed the burst of new life such as the myriad of flowering trees of New York, pear trees, peach trees, cherry trees, magnolia trees, the empress tree, dogwoods…
We missed the daffodils and the tulips on the sidewalks and the wisteria vines climbing on the front of brownstones. The burst of color and fragrances that permeate the city during the Spring is unmistakable. Nature comes alive and with it our desires to go out and celebrate the new beginnings.
Spring is also a cultural season. New exhibitions open and with that, the cultural life of the city begins in earnest. Indoor and outdoor cultural offerings abound with you presented with many choices to select from.
Now there’s an optimistic feeling of a renaissance after a year of sacrifices and suffering, loss and despair.
Most of the city’s museums, gardens, and parks are open to the general public in a limited capacity. Please always check with the institutions’ guidelines and policies before you go. Most if not all of them have requirements that must be observed prior to visiting. So please plan your visit and have fun.
From graffiti writing on the street to art products to massive sculptures in public spaces, the career evolution of Brooklyn’s KAWS embodies graffiti-street-art-urban-art’s commercial moves into the mainstream in an unrivaled way. Now the Brooklyn Museum hosts KAWS: WHAT PARTY, where you may not be able to determine the fine line between exhibition and store display.
The press release says, “Adapting the rules of cultural production and consumption in the twenty-first century, his practice both critiques and participates in consumer culture,” so you are forgiven if you want to put some of these ‘Companion’ items in your cart and head for the register. Also look forward to seeing graffiti drawings and notebooks, paintings, collectibles, furniture, and those bus-stop posters that he high-jacked advertising spots with.
Also, “Teaming up with Acute Art, a digital art platform directed by acclaimed Swedish curator Daniel Birnbaum, KAWS presents new augmented reality works, allowing visitors to interact virtually with his sculptures using their smartphones to create their own experience.”
KAWS: WHAT PARTY February 26–September 5, 2021 Curated by Eugenie Tsai
The pronounced disparities and hypocrisies of society are now on display and on parade in our politics, on our multiple screens, in our bank accounts, our hospitals, our music, our schools, our neighborhoods, and in our Street Art — which again proves an apt and reliable reflection of society, despite the fog.
While our politicians and political machines and corporate media and cultural institutions are now being questioned more openly and often for their alliances, their entrenched classism, and exploitation of the rank-and-file, you can see those dynamics reflected in the messages and alliances that are occurring in Street Art as well – and questioned more often as well.
Will a torrent of populism be unleashed? Will our institutions fall or further erode? Who knows. As ever, one must be vigilant to spot the colorful wolf in populist clothes, often right in front of you in black and white.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street featuring Adam Fu, Albertus Joseph, Anthony Lister, Captain Eyeliner, COSBE, CRKSHNK, JR, Poet Was Taken, Praxis, Sara Lynne Leo, Vivid Trash, Will Power, Wing, and WK Interact.
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 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.
His most recent and one of his most original ideas has been to use the techniques of professional film compositing to impart a permanent, living aura for what may otherwise be static collaged works. With high res digital works working in concert, the life of the subject takes on an additional dimension, juxtaposed as it is with other figures they may or may not have ever interacted with.
Often in these recent projects you have the opportunity to see and/or hear personal recordings of the person through interviews for the piece. The centerpiece and partial namesake of this show is the new large-scale mural of more than one thousand New Yorkers whom he chose to feature, accompanied by audio recordings of each person’s story as told to him and his team.
Many of these concepts and philosophical observations, including sociopolitical commentary on a number of hot-button issues of the day, may feel familiar to fans and Street Artists around the world – particularly over the last decade and a half. Here you can see that with the number of resources and teams that he can amass, JR is able to create the ideas with a sense of largesse and garner greater audiences, putting many of his works before many more.
Epic is a word often used to describe the projects, and when you see the JR: Chronicles exhibition you can understand why.
We spoke with the curators of the exhibition Sharon Matt Atkins and Drew
Sawyer about their experience with this exhibition and how JR is defining new
areas of photography with his use of it in public space.
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.
Brooklyn Street Art:It may be that there has been a return to
black and white photography in
the last decade – so much so that one may not register the significance
that JR employs it for expression almost exclusively. How do you think
the limited palette aids his work in telling his narratives? Drew Sawyer: In
many ways, JR’s use of black and white photographs is in direct
opposition to contemporary photojournalism and the digital circulation
is images. His close-up portraits may recall the work of earlier
documentarians, such as Gordon Parks and Dorothea Lange in the United
States, but JR’s decision to print them on inexpensive paper and paste
them nearby counters they ways in which images often circulate in the
global media far away from the places where his collaborators live. Also,
the monochromatic images certainly stand out against the colorful built
environments in which JR typically installs them.
Brooklyn Street Art:As you deeply analyzed his career and its
various phases, what would you
say is one of the through-lines that you see in his practice as it
evolved? Sharon Matt Atkins:
Our show is centered on his projects that have been created in
collaboration with communities. From his earliest photographs
documenting his graffiti writer friends to Inside Out with more
than 400,000 participants in 141 countries to his most recent mural The
Chronicles of New York City, JR has sought to give visibility to those
often underrepresented or misrepresented.
Brooklyn Street Art: How has JR used his work in a new way that may prove to be inspiring to photographers and fans of photography? Drew Sawyer: For JR, photography is just one part of his collaborative process. His work is really about bringing people together, lifting the voices of others who rarely have control over their own representation, countering narratives in the global media, and shifting the discourse around specific issues and events. He started his practice before there were social media apps like Instagram, which now provide platforms for many people to do the same in a digital form. Since then, JR has explored how new technologies can help him tell and share more stories. I hope his process inspires other artists to use photography in similar and new ways.
“Since 2017 JR has been creating participatory murals inspired by the work of the Mexican painter Diego Rivera in the first half of the twentieth century. In the summer of 2018, JR and his team spent a month roaming all five boroughs of New York City, parking their 53- foot-long trailer truck in numerous locations and taking photographs of passersby who wished to participate. Each was photographed in front of a green screen, and then the images were collaged into a New York City setting featuring architectural landmarks. More than a thousand people were photographed for the resulting mural, The Chronicles of New York City. The participants chose how they personally wanted to be represented and were asked to share their stories, which are now available on a free mobile app.”
– text courtesy Brooklyn Museum
“In January 2009 JR carried out another iteration of Women Are Heroes in Kibera, Kenya, one of the largest slums in Africa. Following close dialogue with the community, JR covered rooftops with water-resistant vinyl printed with photographs of the eyes and faces of local women. The images both transformed the landscape and provided protection from the rain.
The train that ran along the Kibera line was also covered with photographs of the eyes of women who lived directly below, and images of the lower halves of their faces were pasted on the slope beneath the tracks so that as the train passed, their faces were completed for a few seconds. The idea was to celebrate, or at the very least to acknowledge their presence. Of his projects, JR has said, ‘I search with my art to install the work in improbable places, to create with the communities projects that promote questioning. . . and to offer alternative images to those of the global media.’ ”
– text courtesy Brooklyn Museum
“On October 8, 2017, for the last day of the Kikito installation at the U.S.-Mexico border, JR organized a gigantic picnic on both sides of the wall. Kikito, his family, and dozens of guests came from the United States and Mexico to share a meal. People at both sides of the border gathered around the eyes of Mayra, a ‘Dreamer,’ eating the same food, sharing the same water, and enjoying the same live music (with half the band’s musicians playing on either side). “
– text courtesy Brooklyn Museum
JR: Chronicles is curated by Sharon Matt Atkins, Director of Exhibitions and Strategic Initiatives, and Drew Sawyer, Phillip Leonian and Edith Rosenbaum Leonian Curator, Photography, Brooklyn Museum. This exhibition is now open to the public. Click HERE for dates, times and directions.
Image Description A (see earlier in article) “As the first photograph in what would become JR’s Portrait of a Generation, this image launched his career. The series was initiated when Ladj Ly, a filmmaker, and resident of Cité des Bosquets (called “Les Bosquets”), a public housing complex in the Parisian suburb of Montfermeil, invited JR to collaborate on a project in the neighborhood.
JR said of the image: ‘I took this picture when I was eighteen. It was the first time I went to Les Bosquets. If you look carefully in the back, you can see small posters from Expo 2 Rue—and I wrote ‘Expo D Boske.’ The kids asked me if I could take a picture of them. This photo of Ladj Ly filming me was the first one on the roll of film, and I felt something special had happened. This image is very emblematic of my work and of the message of this project with Ladj.’
This photograph was also the first large-scale image that JR and his friends wheat-pasted in the neighborhood prior to the riots there in 2005. It appeared as the backdrop in photographs accompanying newspaper articles and television footage about the uprising, thereby becoming JR’s first published work. “
– text courtesy Brooklyn Museum
Image Description B (see earlier in article) “In 2013 JR learned that the housing towers in Les Bosquets were going to be demolished, so he revisited the Portrait of a Generation project. Using images from the original series, he and a team pasted portraits in the building before it was destroyed. He recalled, ‘We couldn’t get authorization to paste inside. So we got plans from the former inhabitants, and we entered at night, twenty-five of us, and spread out over all the different floors. We pasted eyes in someone’s kitchen, a nose in someone else’s bathroom, and a mouth in a living room. . . . When we came down, the police arrested us, but they couldn’t understand why we had just spent hours in this building that was about to be destroyed. The pastings were so big that they couldn’t see what they were. The next day, when workers started the demolition, the portraits were revealed, little by little, while the cranes were ‘eating’ the building. Only the people who were in the neighborhood that day witnessed the gigantic spectacle unfold.’ “
Now that we think of it, all of these topics are directly and indirectly addressed through our Street Art as well.
Hope you are out strolling today in your neighborhood looking for Street Aart, in a park looking at the leaves on the trees, or outside the city in an apple orchard or pumpkin patch. Do anything you can to strike a sense of balance – we all need it!
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring Alex Face, Buff Monster, Chapter 23, Dan Kitcher, Elyaz, The Pansy Project, Inside Out Project, JR, Michel Velt, N.Dergund, Mishka, Little Ricky, Nass, Rubin415, Shiro, Tar Box, and Winslow World.
“Make sure you wear the headphones!” says beaming Brooklyn Museum Director Anne Pasternak as she greets visitors to the exhibition “David Bowie is…” this week and indeed the audio experience is peerless as you glide from section to section of this 5 decade journey through the creative life of a Renaissance artist of the late 20th century. Curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, this final destination of the traveling show feels like he is coming back home to us. Most likely it felt that way for visitors in the other cities as well.
From Aladdin Sane to Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke to his Serious Moonlight period, from his supergroup Tin Machine to his “Saturday Night Live” costume fronting Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias to his “Earthling” trench coat and his final album “Black Star” released days before his death two years ago, it is an overwhelming exhibition that unequivocally celebrates the ever-changing influential chameleon without pandering or dipping into sentimentality or awkward acclaim.
Intersteller to interdisciplinary to intergender, the eternal searcher leaves details of his discovery along the trail for us to follow like so many scattered stars; multiple pages of handwritten lyrics with occasional corrections, sketches of costumes with quirksome commentary and original research, videos of ground breaking performance like his blue eye-shadowed opus “Life on Mars, his own original German Expressionist styled paintings including one of Iggy Pop in Berlin, and hundreds of costumes like the patterned bodysuit by Kansai Yamamoto and the The Blue Clown, or Pierrot by costume designer Natasha Korniloff for his “Ashes to Ashes” video and the cover of Scary Monsters.
A New Yorker for the last couple of decades of his life, we were accustomed to regular sightings of him on the street or stage and news of his latest forays so seeing this level of personal detail almost invasive, as if spying on your neighbor. But at David Bowie is… the access feels unprecedented and no matter how much we see and hear and learn about the many interests and talents of David Bowie, there are invariably further questions about this performer who created barrier breaking characters and inhabited them as voracious avatars of his own discovery and ours.
Coinciding with the Brooklyn Museum exhibit Parlophone is issuing the following three limited edition David Bowie discs:
Welcome To The Blackout (Live London ’78), a 3 x LP unreleased live set recorded live during the ISOLAR II tour at Earls Court, London on the 30th June and 1st July 1978 by Tony Visconti, a Brooklynite who produced Bowie on 14 of his albums, Let’s Dance (Full-length) a 12” single featuring full length version of the demo and live version and Bowie Now, a White vinyl LP issue of US promo only compilation with new interior artwork.
For those who felt that they lost a friend when David Bowie died two years ago, a new exhibition organized by The Brooklyn Museum will bring him back to you for a moment. For those who refuse to speak about him in the past, David Bowie is makes perfect sense to name an exhibition. As renaissance man whose work continues to influence the route of music, fashion, and culture, David Bowie is still here in New York City.
Of course Bowie’s image is always reappearing in the streets of New York and other cities, as it did before and now more after his passing. A touchstone for many creatives and artists, his image is a reminder to pursue your own vision, however outside the norm. Eventually they catch up. Or not.
Organized by Matthew Yokobosky, Director of Exhibition Design, the exhibition includes about 400 objects drawn mainly from the David Bowie archive, including more than 60 original costumes, handwritten lyric sheets, original album art, photographs, and videos, including rare scenes from the Diamond Dogs tour in Philadelphia.
Last month Choir! Choir! Choir! teamed up with David Byrne and a TON of singers in the Ford Foundation lobby of the Public Theater during the Under the Radar Festival to sing ‘Heroes’ written by David Bowie and Brian Eno
“We passed upon the stair,
we spoke of was and when,
although I wasn’t there,
he said I was his friend,
which came as some surprise.
I spoke into his eyes,
“I thought you died alone
a long long time ago.”
“Oh no, not me,
I never lost control.
You’re face to face
with the man who sold the world.”
They’re not coming here to dine at the Olive Garden or take a tour through the Target.
They’re here for “Hello Dolly”, “Hamilton”, and “Cats”. They’re here for Billie Joel at the Garden, “Springstein on Broadway” and the “David Bowie” opening at the Brooklyn Museum. They’re here for the virtual reality exhibition “Celestial Bodies” at the Museum of Sex, Picasso and Marina Abramović at MoMa, and the 34,000 items in the Met’s Costume Institute. They’re here for Jazz at Birdland, punk at Manitobas, the singers at Joe’s Pub and dancing at “The Dirty Circus” party at House of Yes in Bushwick.
Whether its EDM or country music, Ai Wei Wei or Shepard Fairey, they’re reading about the arts from writers in the The New York Times, ArtForum, Hyperallergic, Time Out, The Village Voice, Daily News and right here.
The creative economy of artists, actors, dancers, musicians, photographers, curators, designers, art directors, architects, producers, writers, authors, painters, poets, coaches, trainers, teachers, filmmakers, lighting designers, stage designers, software programmers, prop makers, furniture designers, singers, chefs, hairdressers, makeup artists, fashion designers, and yes, Street Artists all are the contributors to the valuable cultural lifeblood of New York City.
And all of these people need a place to live and work, to create, to practice, to try and fail, and to try and succeed.
They also need to be able to pay the rent. That has been less and less and less possible in the last three decades at least with skyrocketing prices chasing low and medium income people from one neighborhood to the next.
These cultural creators have been moving from abandoned neighborhood to neglected neighborhood – in the process most often making the neighborhood more desireable – and then pushed out by the real estate investors. An effort to stem this unfair, brutal and insulting process, activists and artists created The Loft Law, which saved thousand artists in the 1980s and 1990s and it protected many Live/Work creative spaces and the cultural richness of the City that Never Sleeps. A second wave of Live/Work spaces were given protection via Albany in 2010 in a 2nd Loft Law that covers creatives who brought neighborhoods around the city like Williamsburg and Bushwick back to life as desireable creative meccas.
We’re writing to support all artists who give to this city and would like to assure that our elected officials, landlords, and the Loft Board remember their responsibility to respect and protect the rights of tenants, their families, their children, their grandchildren, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers.
Many tenants in the last couple of years have questioned whether the protections afforded under the Loft Law are being run over roughshod or ignored altogether, according to many artists you’ll speak with. There are accusations that hard-won rules are being skipped over, artists are being coerced, that clearly defined processes are being foreshortened and rammed through without input.
It’s an old story, a swinging of the pendulum of justice toward the people and away from the people, but one that needs to be righted occasionally. At this moment, with the Mayor so clearly expressing a desire to protect the rights of the New York creative industry for affordable safe loft Live/Work spaces, it seems possible.
Here is the press release for a protest by 475 Kent tenants today at the meeting of the New York City Loft Board.
While the branches on the trees in front of the Brooklyn Museum are not quite popping with buds it is a short time until they will be flushed with blossoms and then leaves, obscuring the view of some of the new site-specific signs just installed by Stephen Powers.
The signs on the plaza, many humorous and coded, were originally created for a project he did with the New York City Department of Transportation a couple of years ago and they follow a theme of “emotional wayfinding” that he has been playing with in much of his sign-themed work for a while.
The effect is almost decorative, to see so many of these clustered in one area – and a reminder that Street Artists have been using all variety of street poles as a means of expression for at least the last 20 years with regularity. This may be the first time we have heard of a museum acknowledging this means of communicating in public space, and Powers is a good ambassador for the technique of communication practiced by so many.
Of course this installation is in concert with the announce extension of his show inside the museum, Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To a Seagull), which was going to close this week but has been extended until August 21. The show, which features Powers and other sign painters occasionally in person painting (check museum schedules) is organized by Sharon Matt Atkins, Vice Director for Exhibitions and Collections Management, Brooklyn Museum.