All posts tagged: Burning Candy

Welling Up a Little? That’s the Street Art “Community” Feeling

Welling Court Mural Project Opens Over the Weekend in a Queens Community; Many Street Artists Contribute

There can be a bit of grand posturing around the word “community” especially by people (or corporations) who spend more time chasing the Gravy Train than climbing on the Love Train. And swimming in an acid-tongued media landscape that keeps saying we’re are a giant polarized society simply bubbling with animosity, you could be forgiven for not leaving your house, let alone breaking bread with your neighbor who is different.

JMR
JMR (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

New York people prove that lie to be wrong every day – we are a hugely diverse lot- our different mother tongues alone could lick a frosting bowl the size of Shea Stadium.  And yet mysteriously all of us weird different kinds of people are all getting along with each other day after day – sometimes we even enjoy each other!

Dan Witz
Dan Witz (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Burning Candy
Sweet Toof from Burning Candy Crew (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Welling Court Murals, a project with Street Artists in a neighborhood in Queens, New York, came to fruition on Saturday and the results were as colorful and eclectic as we are. While the people on the block barbecued and danced and played games, kids chased each other and rode their bikes and took many pictures of Street Artists doing their thing on the walls- spray cans, paint brushes, wheat paste, and markers busy.

Darkcloud, Celso and Ron English
Ron English, Darkcloud, Celso and Deeks (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Saturday was the “show day” for this project that the folks at Ad Hoc Art, with Alison and Garrison Buxton at the helm, have been “community organizing” for a long time.  However, by no means is it the end of the project, as new friendships and alliances were forged and a neighborhood has a new panoply of street art to look at, ponder, and hopefully be inspired by.

Clint
Clint (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Welling Court Mural Project was one of the most cohesive “community” events we’ve seen in a long time.  Street Artists plus an engaged neighborhood of very nice people… delicious home-made foods, music from Latin America and India/Pakistan, adults, kids, painting, asking and answering myriad questions, posing for pictures in front of pieces — all proving again that the arts can bring people together.  A sincere “Thank you” to Ad Hoc and Allison and Garrison and all the artists for putting your best out there for others to share.

Gia, PMP, Leon Reid
Gaia, PMP, Leon Reid (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Michael DeFeo
Michael DeFeo doing a little inside joke on that Banksy character (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

M City (detail)
M-City (detail) (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Minetta, Chris Stain
Nineta, Chris Stain (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Overview with Royce Bannon. Matt Siren, Robots, Burning Candy and Too Fly
Overview with Michael DeFeo, Royce Bannon. Matt Siren, Robots, Burning Candy and Too Fly (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Remi Rough and Stormie Mills (detail)
Remi/Rough and Stormie Mills in their first ever New York piece (detail) (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Lady Pink, Cycle
Lady Pink, Cycle (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Swoon
Swoon (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ron English
Ron English (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Veng RWK
Veng RWK (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Tristan Eaton
Tristan Eaton (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Welling Court Artists include: Alice Mizrachi, Beast, Chris Mendoza, Chris Stain, Celso, Cern, Cey Adams, CR, Cycle, Dan Witz, Darkclouds, Daryll Peirce, Don Leicht, Ellis G, Free5, Gaia, Garrison & Alison Buxton, Greg Lamarche, JMR, John Fekner, Lady Pink, Leon Reid, Matt Siren, M-City, Michael De Feo, Mr. Kiji, Pablo Power, Peripheral Media Projects, R. Nicholas Kuszyk, Remi/Rough, Ron English, Royce Bannon, Sofia Maldonado, Stormie Mills, Sweet Toof, Swoon, TooFly, Tristan Eaton, and Veng RWK.

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Interview: Inside the “The Thousands” and Swoon’s lock box with Michael “RJ” Rushmore

Interview: Inside the “The Thousands” and Swoon’s lock box with Michael “RJ” Rushmore

After spending most of 2009 in preparation, Michael “RJ” Rushmore is one week from the opening of “The Thousands”, a retrospective survey covering artists of the last few decades that led to what we’re calling “Street Art” today.

Nick Walker for The Thousands (courtesy Michael "RJ" Rushmore)

Nick Walker for The Thousands (courtesy Michael “RJ” Rushmore)

As editor and author of the popular blog Vandalog, RJ has been taking readers on a tour of the Street Art scene from his unique perspective.  Encouraged by his father, an avid and prodigious collector of street art, the recent high school graduate has labored for much of the last 5 months to pull together this show – reaching out to artists, collectors, authors, publishers, you name it.

When RJ first told us about his idea for a “pop-up” show in London, we thought it would be a small affair with perhaps one or three of the larger names and examples of work in an inflatable shop on cobblestone streets. But like so many young people energized by the excitement garnered in an exploding new movement, RJ has worked feverishly to grow this show into what he hopes will set a standard.

Swoon Box Contents

More inside looks at this Swoon Box below (courtesy Michael “RJ” Rushmore)

A tribute to his dedication and sincere regard for the work and the artists, “The Thousands” will feature many of the antecedent contributors (or pioneers) to the scene (Jenny Holzer, Blek le Rat, Futura 2000) as well as the better known artists that have come to symbolize the current explosion that began in the first half of this decade (Swoon, Banksy, Shepard Fairey) and many others of equal interest.

As if throwing a show of this scope was not enough RJ also created a book to accompany the show, published by Drago, one of the few small presses that have seriously and knowledgeably  documented the growth of the graffiti-to-street art scene.  With dedication, focus, and maturity, RJ navigates the back alleys and side-streets to bring this show in the heart of London to fruition.

Skewville from "The Thousands" (courtesy Drago press)

Skewville from “The Thousands” (courtesy Drago press)

Brooklyn Street Art: What sparked your interest in curating this show of Street Art? How did the whole process start?

Michael “RJ” Rushmore: I think it was an idea that I’d had brewing in the back of my mind for a while, but I wasn’t taking it seriously until last January when I met with another street art blogger who proposed a similar idea about a having a street art retrospective. Eventually, we went our separate ways and I continued to develop the exhibition further. This is the show that a major museum should put on, but so far nobody has, and I hope that The Thousands helps to change that.

Brooklyn Street Art: “The Thousands” – is this a reference to the rise in this new wave of street art since 2000?

Michael “RJ” Rushmore: While probably 95% of the show is work from the last ten years, that isn’t where I got the name. It’s probably a more succinct explanation though.

The show’s title comes from a short story by Daniel Alarcón called “The Thousands”. The story is about this community that is built by society’s outcasts and dreamers and they build their city out of the discarded and disused materials of the city they used to live in. So that reminded me of street art and the street art community.

 

sdf

Veng from Robots Will Kill featured in “The Thousands” from his piece at the Mark Batty Urban Arts Fest in Brooklyn last month (courtesy Drago)

Brooklyn Street Art: Are most of the pieces in the show privately owned?

Michael “RJ” Rushmore: Yes. More than 2/3rds of the artwork comes from private collections. I wanted this to be as much like a museum show as possible, almost a pop-up museum, and the way to do that is fill the show with amazing pieces from private collections.

The process of finding work has at some times been a challenge because I don’t know every street art collector in England, but it’s also been a unique opportunity to view some truly spectacular collections.

 

Chris Stain (photo Jaime Rojo)

Chris Stain will be represented in “The Thousands” (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: What piece surprised the hell out of you?

Michael “RJ” Rushmore: I’m saving pictures of this particular piece until after opening night, because I want people to come into the gallery not knowing exactly what to expect, but Roa’s piece is very cool and different. When Roa was in London recently, we spoke about his piece for The Thousands. He told me to wait and to trust him, that it was something special, so I did. Then he sent me the jpegs and I was definitely surprised. All I will say for now is that the piece is on venetian blinds.

 

Brooklyn street artists Faile will be in "The Thousands" (courtesy Drago)

Brooklyn street artists Faile will be in “The Thousands” (courtesy Drago)

Brooklyn Street Art: The show also has a handsome book to accompany it. What was the experience of putting it together?

Michael “RJ” Rushmore: Everybody at Drago, my publisher, has been extremely supportive of the show and the book. I would even say that Paulo, Drago’s founder and head guy, was the first person to actually believe that The Thousands was going to happen and not be a complete train wreck. So working with them has been good fun. But the process of putting together a book in such a short amount of time was very stressful and even led to a few days of working 12 hours straight on the layout and design.

The best part about the reading book was also my favorite thing about putting it together. The book is split into sections, and most sections cover one artist. Since everything was already organized by artist, I was able to get a number of other artists and art world personalities to write about their friends and favorite artists. For example, Know Hope has written about Chris Stain and Elbow-toe has written a piece on Veng.

 

Swoon Box

A hand-made box by Brooklyn street artist Swoon that will be in “The Thousands” (courtesy Michael “RJ” Rushmore)

Brooklyn Street Art: The Swoon Box for “The Thousands”; Did she construct the box herself or was it a found box that she then later decorated?

Michael “RJ” Rushmore: I’ve never asked Swoon, but I would guess that she constructed the chest. It looks like the wood is salvaged from a bunch of different sources, and the hinges are so mismatched that the lid can’t sit parallel to the walls of the box.

 

Swoon lock box (top detail)

Swoon lock box (top detail)

Brooklyn Street Art: It could be a time capsule, or a lock box of mementos and inspiring objects. What do you think?

Michael “RJ” Rushmore: Right now, I think of it more like a lock box, but 15, 20, 30 years from now… the meaning will probably change with time as street art and Swoon become more or less important. Maybe one day Swoon will be written about in art history books and the box will be seen in an entirely different light. But at its core, and for my family, it will always see it box as a lock box.

There is this old deerskin chest in my house that my family calls The Treasure Box. It’s been in my dad’s family for generations and dates back to some time in the 1800’s. It’s full of old letters and locks of hair and things like that going all back though more than 100 years of Rushmore family history. My family and I see The Swoon Box as very similar to our Treasure Box, so we will always see The Swoon Box as full of mementos and not just a piece of art history.

 

Inside the Swoon lock box. (courtesy Michael "RJ" Reynolds)

Inside the Swoon lock box. (courtesy Michael “RJ” Rushmore)

Brooklyn Street Art: What’s your favorite object in the box and can you describe it for us?

Michael “RJ” Rushmore: I usually like to get a behind the scenes view of things, so my favorite pieces in the box are the sketches for pieces that eventually became familiar Swoon images. In particular, I think the drawing for Zahra is a favorite. The sketch is beautiful, the end result is one of my all time favorite images by Swoon and I happened to meet Zahra earlier this year as well as her child.

 

Swoon's "Zahara" (courtesy of Black Rat Press)

Swoon’s “Zahara” (courtesy of Black Rat Press)

The Zahra sketch is pretty abstract, you can tell that there is a woman, but it’s really rough and seems to be more about the colors than any details about Zahra’s features. Without the image of a rising sun that is in both the sketch and the end result, you wouldn’t even connect the two pieces.

Swoon Box Contents

Swoon box has an original sketch for “Bethlehem Boys” (courtesy Michael “RJ” Rushmore)

Swoon's Bethlehem Boys as seen on the streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Swoon’s “Bethlehem Boys” as seen on the streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn. (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: If you have a show in ten years called “The Teens”, what do you think we might see in it?

Michael “RJ” Rushmore: What really interests me right now and what I’ve been noticing lately is the continuing fusion of graffiti and street art. In most cities that have graffiti and street art, somebody is trying to merge the two cultures. In London some of those artists are Part2ism, Sickboy, the Burning Candy crew, Kid Acne, ATG crew, Elate and Word To Mother. Maybe that’s just my particular interest, but I’ve heard Pure Evil say that he is seeing something similar.

So if my taste is anything to go by, a decade from now I would like to see a show with classically trained painters showing off their lettering style and hard-core train bombing kings painting with a brush and telling everybody why Lee Quinones is their hero, except we won’t even notice the supposed role reversal I’ve just described.

And of course, since I’ll be nearing 30 years old, I’d want to include some artwork by actual teenagers to help support the next generation of street art/graffiti/whatever we’ll be calling this in ten years time.

Swoon box's contents

What are you looking at? (Swoon courtesy Michael “RJ” Rushmore)

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“The Thousands” features artists Adam Neate,  Aiko,  Anthony Lister,  Armsrock, Banksy, Barry McGee, Bast, Blek le Rat, Burning Candy, Chris Stain, David Ellis, Elbow-toe, Faile, Futura 2000, Gaia, Herakut, Jenny Holzer, José Parlá, Judith Supine, Kaws, Know Hope, Nick Walker, Os Gêmeos, Roa, Sam3, Shepard Fairey, Skewville, Swoon, WK Interact

November 18 "The Thousands" opens

November 18 “The Thousands” opens

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Martha Cooper’s Influence: Inspiration, Imitation, and Flattery

Martha Cooper’s Influence: Inspiration, Imitation, and Flattery

For the silly folks who consider themselves ordained to be critics, the prodigious street art scene in New York just bubbles with possibilities.

One of the favorite criticisms of a street artists’ piece today is its’ lack of originality, whether because it closely resembles the style of anothers’ work already on the street, or because it seems like an outright appropriation.  Imitation is not always interpreted as flattery.

It’s a fine line to tread for any creative person – dancer, singer, fashion designer, or stencil artist – when they decide to “pay homage” to the work of another, or merely to love it so much that is serves as an “influence”.   One recent discovery on the street by New York street art photographer Jaime Rojo included this wheat-paste of a pretty famous image from the New York photographer, Diane Arbus, smacked onto a bed of tropical flowers by Shin Shin:

Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, New York City (1962), by Diane Arbus. On the right

Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, New York City (1962), by Diane Arbus. On the right street artist JC2 colors the grenade red. (photo Jaime Rojo)

A quick search of the Arbus image reveals that it has served as inspiration for other street artists here,  and here, and here, and here, and even in Spokane!  Diane Arbus passed away in 1971 and this is one of her images that has passed through the years into the popular conscience.  A case could be made that the image somehow belongs to the people to do with it as they wish, invoking new meanings or recall old ones.  Maybe.  Ask Che Guevara.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-WEB-copyright-jazirock-Martha-Cooper

Ready for Anything! Martha Cooper as shot by Jazi Rock

Martha Cooper has been taking pictures for more than fifty years. Yes, you read it right. With a continuously curious mind and sharp eye, Martha Cooper takes photos wherever she goes (including  Japan, Afghanistan, Guatemala and Surinam, to name a few), and it is a rare day you will see her without her camera draped around her neck.

Well known in the New York City graffiti and Street Art scene, she’s seen her images in National Geographic, Smithsonian and Natural History Magazines as well as several dozen books and journals.  Her photographs of New York’s streets and people are also burned into the minds of thousands; particularly the minds of young artists worldwide who examined their own creative skills after laying their eyes on “Subway Art”, the book she and Henry Chalfant published a quarter century ago.  Many have since used Martha’s work as inspiration for their own.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-Dondi-by-Martha-Cooper-and-Grotesk

Cooper’s now iconic image of graffiti writer Dondi was the inspiration for the work by Grotesk on the right.

Ms. Cooper is no diva, but she is direct. Well traveled and warm, she smiles and laughs easily when talking with most people, and when the subject is photography, she easily shares her knowledge and opinion with you. In the past few years, a number of artists have been inspired by her work, and while humble, she is proud of the ongoing influence it has had.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-WEB-Easy173-does-Dondi-by-Martha-Cooper

Easy173 did a mural (left) based on her photo of Dondi (right) (photos Martha Cooper)

Brooklyn Street Art: How do you feel when your work is appropriated and re-purposed by another artist?

Martha Cooper: I’m flattered the artists are actually looking at my work and liking it well enough to create something new based on it.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-Martha-Cooper-Fire-hydrant-Nazza-LP

This image from “Street Play” by Martha was reinterpreted by Nazza on an LP vinyl. (photo Martha Cooper)

 

Street artist Chris Stain credits the photography of Ms. Cooper for shaping his own view of art and culture, and her impact can not be overestimated in his view.  He has poured over the pages of her books for years and internalized the imagery as well as the messages they convey about urban culture, the hip hop movement, and people.

“Martha’s influence on my work began back in 1984 when I first stole a copy of ‘Subway Art’. Graffiti hadn’t been documented so intimately (except by writers) in my opinion up until this point. I sat for hours day after day studying the photos, turning the book sideways and upside down trying to come up with my own styles.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-Chris-Stain-incorporates-Martha-Cooper

“Urban Harmony” (upper right) by Chris Stain incorporates 3 of Martha Coopers images into one of his pieces (2 shown here)


 

 

Had it not been for her initial documentation I don’t think graffiti or hip hop would be the world wide phenomenon it is today. With the release of ‘Hip Hop Files’ a few years ago I got more of an insight into her photo journalistic work; Once again she was capturing the essence of the birth of a movement.

When I look at those photos today at 37 I feel like I’m 11 years old again.  I am met with the same excitement as when I first witnessed them. But more importantly I have the same hope that people can build their dreams out of seemingly nothing.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-Chris-Stain-Amsrock-Copyright-Martha-Cooper

Chris Stain and Armsrock pose for Martha Cooper in front of some of Chris’s work that was influenced by Martha’s photographs. (photo © Martha Cooper)

 

 

 

I came across ‘Street Play’ and immediately connected with the photographs of kids playing in their neighborhoods. This time I contacted Martha and asked permission to work from some of the pictures. She kindly obliged. Since then I have worked from a number of her photographs.

Her work speaks to me directly not only because she is from Baltimore but because she goes to the “heart” of the matter.  Whether its Dondi hanging on and painting in-between subway cars, Ken Swift floor rockin’ at Common Ground, or a child holding his pigeon to the sky on a rooftop, Martha’s work is undeniably not only the most prolific but some of the most important documentation of organic cultures and city life to have grown out of New York and America as a whole.” – Chris Stain

Brooklyn-Street-Art-Martha-Cooper-and-Burning-Candy

“Among the artists who have ‘re-interpreted’ my photos include the Burning Candy Crew in London.  Henry Chalfant and I were recently there for the London release of ‘Subway Art’ at Black Rat Gallery and Burning Candy painted a lot of canvases from Subway Art.”

Brooklyn-Street-Art-Train-Writers-SweetToof-and-the-original-Martha-Cooper

Whistling while they work, these goulish Sweet Toof train writers influenced by photos by Martha Cooper in “Subway Art”

Brooklyn Street Art: Did you think that eventually your work would be influential to a generation of artists and photographers?

Martha Cooper: Not at all. I would say that my work is pretty much unknown to artists and photographers of my own generation so it’s especially gratifying to connect with younger artists and photogs.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-Martha-Cooper-Boy-Armsrock-Grenade-Jaime-Rojo

An image by Martha Cooper on the left was interpreted in a large mural street artist Armsrock did with Chris Stain in Brooklyn at the end of July. Says Martha, “I took that photo on the Lower East Side (of Manhattan) in 1978. Don’t know who the boy is or anything more about his drawing. The photo is part of a series published in my book ‘Street Play’.” (photo on right by Jaime Rojo)

 

see a video of the mural above being created here

Brooklyn Street Art: What’s your impression of the current state of street art in New York?
Martha Cooper: Well I’m definitely not an expert or any kind of art historian so I can’t give you a definitive evaluation. However  I love walking around and being surprised by all the fresh stuff going up all over the place. If it weren’t for street art, NYC would be turning into a bland and boring city.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-Defiant Youth-Martha-Cooper-and-Shepard-Fairey

“Shepard Fairey has also worked with two of the images from ‘Street Play’, says Martha. Fairey selected five of the troops from this group of toughs when creating this poster called “Defiant Youth” this year. (photo Martha Cooper, poster Shepard Fairey)

 

Brooklyn Street Art: Why aren’t there more female street artists?
Martha Cooper: I have no idea. I wish there were more. I’m working on another little sticker book, this one about the smaller name badges. I couldn’t find even one active “Hello My Name Is” female stickerer. Do you know any?

Brooklyn-Street-Art-Cooper-Fairey-Skateboard

Shepard Fairey only slightly changed this image of kids jumping off a fire escape onto a pile of mattresses when he converted it into a stencil. This spring and summer a version of the image was made by Obey’s clothing line into skateboards, caps, t-shirts, and bags along with others of Martha’s “Street Play” photos.  (photo on left Martha Cooper)

Brooklyn Street Art: When you hit the street, camera in hand, do you consider yourself more of a photo-journalist, or an artist?
Martha Cooper: Neither–an ethnographer.

Brooklyn Street Art: Do you have a word of advice to a street art photographer starting today in New York?
Martha Cooper: Back-up!

– Good advice from a person who has catalogued perhaps hundreds of thousands of images of graffiti and street art over the last 30 years. We continued our dialogue about the use of Martha’s images over the years, and she added this clarification, I’m pretty much a purist when it comes to my own photography. I absolutely hate when designers want to mess with my photos. I want my photos to be used as I took them. However, when an artist wants to take one of my photos and turn it into a completely different piece of art, I don’t mind at all.

To paraphrase Martha and the critics, the guidance one would offer to a street artist (and any artist) is “Be original”.

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Special thanks to Jazi Rock, who at 12 years old “was infected by the graffiti bug when he saw Martha Cooper’s infamous book circulate around his neighborhood” of Baltimore.  See more at his website.

Photo of Martha above by JaziRock – his website JaziRock.com is HERE

 

See Martha Cooper this weekend with her newest book "Going Postal"

See Martha Cooper this weekend with her newest book “Going Postal”

 

Martha Cooper will be at the MBP Urban Arts Festival this Saturday October 3rd in Bushwick Brooklyn. A multitude of street artists, musical acts, skaters, vendors, and live painting events will be there. You can learn more about the festival HERE.

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The day before that on October 2nd, Martha Cooper will be at The New York Art Book Fair.  Stop by the SCB booth (Z-01).

Friday, Oct 2nd
2pm – 4pm: Daze, Ghost and Papermonster (with dirtypilot.com online gallery)
4pm-6pm: Martha Cooper (photojournalist/NY graffiti scene documentarian), author of Tag Town, Hip Hop Files, and Street Play

Saturday, Oct 3rd
11am – 1pm: Alain “KET” Maridueña (hip hop artist/activist)
2pm – 4pm: Ron English (contemporary pop artist)

You can learn more about the Book Fair HERE.

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Read Martha Cooper’s Blog on Juxtapoz

Read Martha Cooper on 120z.Prophet

“Subway Art” 25th Anniversary Edition

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