The evolution of an artist’s practice is something we feel very privileged to observe over time and we revel in the successful steps forward that any artist takes, preferring to see it as an act of courage. Street Artist Isaac Cordal is currently taking a big jump forward, consolidating his strengths and doubling down on his convictions in ever more powerful ways for his new exhibition entitled “Ego Monuments”, now showing at Galerie C.O.A. in Montreal, Canada.
His vocabulary intact and increasingly sophisticated, something tells you that it is all synthesizing and gathering with the momentum of a storm. Here he is mocking the clique mentality of the politburo, presenting his company men as a block of distracted dullards, each separately miserable and indistinguishable in their groupthink.
The image of one of his hapless figures as a crucified businessman with slightly ghoulish smirk taps into the themes of self-important sacrifice and holy reverence of so-many corporate heroes, frankly flagellating the idea of either. Elsewhere soaring pedestals lift the individual so high that coming down would likely result in death.
As a disarming collection of
installations in the gallery you may revel at the methods Cordal devises to
communicate the collective blindness pushing us further toward oblivion, his
blunt critique of consumer culture and mindless navel-gazing is a reassuring
mediocrity that warms you gradually– as the water rolls toward a boil.
“We are the new version of
colonialism,” Cordal says his new press release, “we are waiting for climate
change by sunbathing on the beach. We live permanently exposed, controlled,
leaning out to the public balcony of the social networks and Big Brother has
become our flat-mate.”
As we examine our public statues and the messages of our massive free-standing art in parks, Cordal suggests that size matters in this age of the SELF. “Monuments to the ego would be so big that it was necessary to change the scale of these works to place them into the gallery.”
Elsewhere he comments on the sorrowful narcissism that permeates the culture, as expressed by his figures here: “Almost all the sculptures that are part of the exhibition have their eyes closed, immersed in their smartphones or virtual reality headsets. Blind to their own reality, they don’t want to see beyond their own perimeter. ”
Isaac Cordal, “Ego Monuments” at Galerie C.O.A. in Montreal, Canada is open to the general public until October 12th.
As we draw closer to the new year we’ve asked a very special guest every day to take a moment to reflect on 2017 and to tell us about one photograph that best captures the year for them. It’s an assortment of treats to surprise you with every day – to enjoy and contemplate as we all reflect on the year that has passed and conjure our hopes and wishes for 2018. This is our way of sharing the sweetness of the season and of saying ‘Thank You’ to each of you for inspiring us throughout the year.
Founding member of the East German Ma’Claim Crew in the late 90s, Street Artist Case Maclaim is now subtly shimmering and rotating and blinking through your photorealistic memory, catching the sunlight and reflecting back patterns and surfaces and volume as he moves. His abstracted human gestures on walls internationally capture the attention of passersby who wonder if they are seeing something static or moving, painted or photographed. Here Case tells about a figurative tightrope he found people walking upon in Manitoba this year.
The Rope |
In June 2017 I was invited by the PangeaSeed Foundation to go to Churchill, Manitoba in Canada. Churchill is well known for being the capital of polar bears.
In fact the population of this species is alarmingly shrinking.
There is also archeological evidence of human presence dating back 4000 years, yet I have never seen a community suffering more from the man-made global warming than here. The melting permafrost is unsuitable for building infrastructure on, such as the railways they depend upon. In addition to this, massive storms and flooding are washing away the railroads making them unable to use for transportation of goods and people.
While taking the pictures of the railroad workers and chatting with them I realized how deeply these people are embedded with their homes. My hope for these hard working women and men is that their voices will be heard and that their government and the railroad company will finally support them and their future generations.
If you ever wonder who the government actually is, take a look under the highway of Toronto. You’ll see there that it is the people, as in We The People, who are holding up the roads in Underpass Park – thanks to Street Artists Labrona and Troy Lovegates (a.k.a. OTHER).
“OTHER did portraits of local residents and I did a crowd of people,” he tells us of the new spate of painting that measures 180 feet (55 meters) and 83 people. Friends since they were about 8 years old, the guys have each developed solid art careers at least tangentially reflected through their mutual love for graffiti and hopping freights across the massive and wooly North American continent.
So it is no surprise that idiosyncratic figures and their interpersonal dynamics have figured strongly into the distinctly different styles of painting over three and a half decades. Now more often illegal work is turning more often into legal mural work, as in the case of these portraits on these “Legacy Pillars” in Underpass Park, located between Cherry Street and Bayview Avenue, under the Eastern Avenue and Richmond/Adelaide overpasses. That is not to say that they have stopped hopping freights, graffiti gods forbid.
The area itself used to be industrial wasteland where kids like he and Labrona used to hang out, so it is significant to OTHER that the new project is beautifying and that there are shiny new condos nearby.
“I used to come down here for raves in the early 90’s in damp old brick warehouses,” he says on his Facebook post about the project.
He looks at a portrait of a balding chap in a short blue jacket walking with aplomb, eyes cast downward at his route. “I thought I would paint a working class Dude down here in remembrance of what was … a lot of the oldies come for walks to see all the shiny new aluminum condos and duck ponds and to play in the park with their grandchildren.”
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring ABOVE, City Kitty, Corn79, Crisp, D7606, Damien Mitchell, Dee Dee, EC13, Gregos, Hiss, Homo Riot, Imamaker, Invader, Mark Jenkins, MOMO, Olek, OneArt, Savior El Mundo, Stik, Wing, and Zimad.
We first called her the Christo of Street Art a number of years ago, and this latest project seems to finally confirm it. Olek created a two part installation for the Verket Museum in Avesta – in short it is about destruction and rebuilding. Above is the latest picture of the house she mounted the installation within – wrapped in meters and meters of pink crochet.
“Our pink house is about the journey, not just about the artwork itself. It’s about us coming together as a community. It’s about helping each other. In the small Swedish community of Avesta we proved that we are stronger together, that we can make anything happen together. People from all walks of life came together to make this project possible. Someone donated the house, another one fixed the electricity and Red Heart Yarns donated the materials. The of course, most importantly, many women joined us in the effort to make my dream a reality.
After I exploded the house I wanted to create a positive ending for them as a symbol of a brighter future for all people, especially the ones who have been displaced against their own wills. Women have the ability to recreate themselves. No matter how low life might bring us, we can get back on our feet and start anew.
We can show everybody that women can build houses, women can make homes. “
Have a look at some of the murals from this months MURAL festival in Montreal, which began in 2013.
There is no discernible theme among the collection here aside from many of them being technically outstanding. MURAL itself has become a very commercial gathering of food and lifestyle vendors, VIP events, a small art fair, hella-brands and djs and, you know, beards.
Klone Yourself and Phillipe Pantone are a couple of the artists pushing boundaries here, with the latter skillfully reproducing a 90’s computer art that is nostalgic and smartly updated in its 3-D rendering.
Our great thanks to photographer Daniel Esteban Rojas who did an outstanding job capturing these to share with BSA readers.
BSA was proud to co-sponsor the talk with DAZE, LEE Quinones, and Jane Dickson for the special reception at DAZE’s “The City is My Muse” show currently on exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, hosted by Sean Corcoran. The three are vital to the historical thread that reaches back to NY’s earliest graff days and it was evident from seeing their newest works as they each presented them on screen that they refuse to be nostalgic about the city – but prefer to be on top of it. Case in point was Lee’s opening the following night that showcased his new mural on the ceiling at the Indigo Hotel – his Sistine Chapel if you will.
Invader finished his 42 piece wave of tile installations in New York, according to reports, Banksy struck out with political pieces addressing immigration and xenophobia (videos at end of this posting), and Gilf! wrapped the façade of a Williamsburg bar with “gentrification in progress” tape to mark its death by market forces. As artists continue to grapple with socio/political events, the art of the street keeps mutating forward.
Side note: “Images of the Week” takes a hiatus for the next few weeks thanks to special Holiday programming. It returns in 2016.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Banksy, Bunny M, City Kitty, Cost, Daze, Dee Dee, Gilf!, Invader, Jaye Moon, Jordan Seiler, KET, Labrona, Lee Quinones, Lex56, Mint&Serf, Never, Pet Bird, Read, Sipros, Specter, Wing, and WK Interact.
Specter was in France last month with FKDL and Upian, among others. Here are some examples of paintings and ad takeovers in Paris as well as an abandoned factory called La Rodia in Besancon. The Brooklyn based artist tells us that “It was a trying time to be there but supporting my friends and creating some colorful distractions was more important.”
From The Guardian:
“Street artist Banksy has painted a depiction of Apple founder Steve Jobs on a wall in a migrant and refugee camp in France known as the Calais ‘Jungle’. The artist, who has never revealed his identity, released a rare public statement challenging the perception that migrants and refugees from Syria are a drain on Western economies, UK media reported”
“I did the bottoms and painted on all four sides,” says Labrona of the pillars full of people who are holding the structure up with their arms extended overhead. It’s a huge project he and Troy Lovegates (aka Other). spearheaded in Toronto this summer with 20+ artists with a fusion of funding from the city.
His figures may bring to mind the Greco-Roman’s of pillars in your past, but these figures are decidedly warm and decidedly Labrona. Other’s figures are more accurately described as flying overhead of Labrona’s a swarming mass of figures interlocked and bending as if swept along by a river or hurricane. If water ever actually rose to that level most like Torotonians would be comported similarly.
Also in this collection of Summer ’15 works are images of collaborations Labrona did with Gawd at the Upfest in Sudbury, Ontario.
Canadian Street Artist Fauxreel and Brooklyn’s Specter collaborated recently on a commissioned mural under a bridge to commemorate the 2015 Pan Am Games that are hosting world athletes right now in Toronto.
An unwinding corkscrew of fluorescent magenta hues springs across the ceiling to capture the energy of the games and, says Fauxreel, to depict the energy of a 1954 hurricane (Hazel) that caused severe damage to homes, businesses, and wildlife here along the Humber River. In their own depiction of graphical data that is often used to illustrate weather-related events, the two superimposed the out-of-control graphic on the somewhat surreal natural scene.
The mural is one of many spread along something called the Pan Am Path, an art component to the games. A social/community activist and observer, Fauxreel looks at the cataclysmic natural event and sees something positive. “As a result of this storm the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority for The Living City (TRCA) was born and spaces along the Humber, like Cruickshank Park where the mural is located, were redeveloped to the benefit of all Torontonians.”
New images today from Toronto where muralist Maya Hayuk completed an enormous multi-part kaleidoscopic piece at the Landsdowne Street underpass. Reprising the color palette you may most recently have seen for her “Chem Trails” composition on the Houston Street wall in New York, Hayuk rolled out the eye popping plaid for fall (and winter), a welcome contrast to the cold grey skies that are coming, and which will hold no power here.
“It’s about 300 feet long and more than 20 feet high at the tallest parts,” she says. Completed entirely by hand with cans and rollers Maya gives this stretch a lot of angular, drippy, jarring color to alert the senses and make your brain come alive.
Politically themed Street Art or murals have a long tradition – as long as people have had something to advocate for or against. The modern Street Art movement may trace its roots to political postering that came with the printing press or 20th century Mexican muralism or the 1968 student demonstrations around the world, especially in Paris – but artists have used and been used to communicate ideas and opinions in the public sphere much longer than this.
Today, whether it is the Arab Spring or the Occupy movement or simply a personal campaign to combat harassment by cat-callers or the economic violence of local gentrification, politically charged speech of one sort or another takes place on the street when artists give it voice.
“Decolonizing Street Art”, a festival an project that took place in August in Canada, convened with the idea that carrying issues directly to the public can affect opinions and possibly produce positive change for people whom the organizers would like to give voice to.
Since the high profile and increasingly moneyed version of the current Street Art festival scene is populated worldwide primarily by men with characteristics of the dominant culture, the organizers and participants of “Decolonizing Street Art” may also be commenting on that backdrop as well. Whatever the motivation, these are voices that not many hear or see.
Hosted in and programmed “on unceded territory, in so-called Montreal”, this handful of artists speak of the indigenous people of the planet and the history of colonialism, the Arab/Israeli conflict, the poisoning of the environment and its effect on humans and animals, and the rights of many marginalized categories of people.
With a concentrated effort this first entry into a still-forming circuit of Street Art festivals and programs worldwide, Decolonizing Street Art makes a formal statement about making space for more radical views comparatively than one typically sees. Whether it is native communities or disenfranchised poor or disappeared women, this effort aims to bring more voices to the street to speak their truth.
“It’s nice to install photo-based portraits that have permanency,” Toronto based Street Artist Fauxreel, otherwise known as Dan Bergeron, tells us. In his new series of works in the public sphere you’ll agree that it isn’t strictly Street Art since it is an approved and organized installation, but even so it retains the markings of a D.I.Y. conceptualized series that follows the vision of one artist. The subjects here are residents from the area who come to Grange Park in the morning to do Tai Chi exercises and possibly to glance upward at the Ontario College of Art and Design’s Sharp Centre that hovers above like a black and white checkered Memphis-Milano tabletop on multi-colored stilts. These new series of works were commissioned as part of StreetART Toronto.
This isn’t Fauxreel’s first project with the residents of this area. BSA first covered him in 2008 when we first met him after seeing his work on New York streets (see Regent of the People for Real). Bergeron’s work with the community is given a more durable quality this time than his earlier large wheatpastes and wood cut silhouettes of people on the street, mounted as they are on tiles but similar to his earlier works, they focus on populations within the community.
The human forms and various poses are grounding from a human point of view. They also appear to hover above the ground in a spirit-like manner as if astute talismen and erudite taliswomen for the neighborhood. Ironically, the models are posed in front of facades that have been hit up with various aerosol tags, yet the neighborhood they are hung in is as clean as Disney World.
While clearly this is public art, it retains some of the influences we have experienced with the sudden and immediate interaction one can have with photographic unilateral installations done by freethinkers and rebels on the Street Art scene. Let’s see how long these pieces run before being defaced or added to by those more traditional practitioners. Who knows? – maybe they will remain untouched.
Our final posting from Montreal’s MURAL festival gives you a sense of the the size, variety, and quality of the expanse of works on display over four days. With any luck, most of these will be up much longer.
If you are ever planning one of these ginormous parties of painting here’s a little advice: don’t plan to shoot photos of all of them during the actual festival because little things like rainstorms, supply shortages, surprising technical challenges, and artists fatigue will undoubtedly slow the progress.
Also raging parties and sudden love interests pull many a wayward heart away from the work to be done, and sometimes a parade of looky-loo new fans will ask 1,001 questions while craning their eyes up to you on the scissor lift. One or more of these eventualities always happens, nothing to be done about it.
“Some walls aren’t finished so I’ll try and get them tomorrow,” says photographer Daniel Esteban Rojas, who has been sharing these great images with BSA readers. Don’t sweat it Daniel, we understand, and these images are worth the wait!