We’re proud to announce that our exhibition Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures will be featured during the prestigious European Month of Photography (EMOP) in Berlin this October for Urban Nation Museum’s very first photography-based program.
The European Month of Photography is a network of European photo festivals which began in 2004 when photography enthusiasts in Berlin, Paris and Vienna decided to put photographic art at the center of public attention for one month at least every two years. It is Germany’s largest photography festival.
Today EMOP it is a network of photography and visual arts institutions from seven European capitals: Berlin, Budapest, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Luxembourg, Paris, and Vienna with aims “to confront expertise in curatorial practice in photography and the intention to develop common projects, notably exhibitions, including exchange of information about the local photographers and artists concerned with photography. Founding members include the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, the Cultural Department of the City of Berlin (Museumspädagogischer Dienst Berlin headed by Thomas Friedrich) and the Department for Cultural Affairs of the City of Vienna (director Bernhard Denscher).
Taking Pictures combine
photographs and personal artefacts in this retrospective that traces her life
from her first camera in nursery school in 1946 to her reputation today as a
world-renowned photographer. The exhibition covers Cooper’s wide range of
subject matter. Many of her photographs have become iconic representations of a
time, place, or culture and are distinguished by their frank human vitality,
with an eye for preserving details and traditions of cultural significance.
We’re grateful for this recognition
of the exhibition and look forward to participating in the EMOP 2020 this October
and we hope you can join us at Urban Nation – if not in person then please join
us ONLINE for our LIVESTREAM opening October 2 ! https://www.facebook.com/events/3400074053384213 All are welcome!
Our special thanks to our entire team at Urban Nation including but not limited to Martha Cooper and Director Jan Sauerwald and Melanie Achilles, Dr. Hans-Michael Brey, Carsten Cielobatzki, Sean Corcoran, Annette Dooman, Steve Fiedler, Seth Globepainter, Florian Groß, Sven Harke-Kajuth, Nancy Henze, Michelle Houston, Hendrik Jellema, René Kaestner, Kerstin Küppers, Nika Kramer, Barbara Krimm, Tobias Kunz, Jean-Paul Laue, Beatrice Lindhorst, Nicola Petek, Carlo McCormick, Selina Miles, Michelle Nimpsch, Christian Omodeo, Christiane Pietsch, Dennis Rodenhauser, Jens Rueberg, Dr. Anne Schmedding, Malte Schurau, Janika Seitz, Anna Piera di Silvestre, Skeme, Markus Terboven, Reinaldo Verde, Lennart Volber, Akim Walta, Samuel Walter, Rebecca Ward, and Susan Welchman.
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
In 2007 the anonymous graffiti artist Banksy painted a series of political works around Palestine.
Later there was a mad scramble by people to cut them down and to sell them to the highest bidder on a secretive and clandestine art market. One mural in particular that depicts an Israeli soldier asking a donkey for its papers created a furious response from many. It also sparked its removal – and eventual offer for sale.
An unexpected and riveting tale told through the perspective of a local taxi driver named Walid, the offending wall becomes the main character; shuffled through chaotic Bethlehem streets, ferried across the sea, featured at auction, brandished for collectors. The prejudices, perspectives, and startling insights on display never stop revealing themselves. Needless to say war, pacifism, greed, celebrity, fanboy-ism and occupation all make very awkward partners – providing an endless study in contrasts.
“One year after we saw it debut at Tribeca, The Man who Stole Banksy is enjoying a far wider distribution beginning this month through Amazon Prime in US and Canada. On the occasion of its mass release, we spoke to Christian Omodeo, a professor and curator in the field of urban art. More importantly here, Omodeo was a screenwriter on the film with Filippo Perfido and the director Marco Proserpio. We asked him to reflect on the origins of the film and how as a documentary it continued to grow and mature during its long journey to the big screen, and now the small one. “
BSA: Can you describe your role in the film, and how you watched it grow and mature?
Christian Omodeo: I first met Marco Proserpio in 2012 and we were working on this project until 2017. Marco was just back from Palestine, where by chance he met Walid, the main character of the movie. Walid told him that he had cut a Banksy painting with the intention of selling it on Ebay. Marco decided to do a movie about this crazy story.
He also wanted to describe the political situation in Palestine without portraying this community as victims as most of the media do. At the same time he did not know how to exactly deal with street art. Since that time we have worked together on the story. I carried ideas and stories that were related to Banksy’s involvement in Palestine and to the commodification of street art, while Marco was filming and looking at this story from his own point of view.
We traveled a lot and interviewed many people over a period of 5 years. In the end, we had enough footage to release 3 movies! While working on it our point-of-view on this story has totally changed. Looking at street art from a Palestinian point of view, while the Western art market was definitely consecrating it, gives you a totally different perspective on things.
This is something that has also been fundamental for me as a curator, pushing me to a more radical attitude towards the commodification of street art. Between 2012 and 2017, while new self-proclaimed “museums” of street art were popping out everywhere, I started to think about what a museum of street art should be and if it makes sense to put street art into a museum. I was seeing many nice collections of well-hung canvases, but this way of building up a street art narrative seemed to me to be very reductive, in parallel of what we were doing within the movie.
This is how my role on this project has changed from being only an author, I became an actor in the role of the curator of the Bologna’s exhibition which became known worldwide due to the reaction of the artist Blu – who defaced his walls in the city in response. People have mainly focused on Blu’s reaction against the foundation that financed the show, without looking at what was happening inside the museum – as well as seeing the new street art narrative we were putting together.
The movie shows this story at the end, but such a topic is so powerful than it would be for the movie or another interview!
BSA: The movie first appeared on the art film festival circuit a year ago. Now it is going to reach a far greater audience than that narrow selection of people. It more accurately mirrors the audience that street art is made for, no?
Christian Omodeo: Of course! We are happy to see the movie reaching a larger audience. This is what this movie was supposed to do since the beginning. We did not do it simply for a bunch of lazy ‘film buffs’ and festival “arty farties” as Filippo, who wrote the film with us, calls them. Unfortunately the movie industry has its own rules and once a producer and distributors come on board, you lose control of your work. Let’s hope that other platforms like Prime will distribute it in the future.
BSA: The story appears rather simple on the surface but then opens up to layers of complexity with themes of challenging power, revolution, commercialism, colonialism… How has your perception of the film changed since you first made it?
Christian Omodeo: It has not changed at all. It’s normal to me – it took me less time and effort to discuss a Ph.D. at the Paris-Sorbonne University than to work on this movie. This is why, at the end of the process, we felt quite sure of our conclusions.
What has totally changed however, it’s my personal and professional way of dealing with street art. Before my involvement with the movie, I was mostly dealing with its theoretical aspects. Today I am more focused on bringing these ideas into the real world, in taking real actions. These are things that I believe are always important to discuss. I’ve seen this clearly during some Q&A at some festivals – but we cannot just talk if we want to develop ways to work with a narrative around street art that doesn’t whitewash it. I’m working on a few projects right now. I hope to have some news soon to share.
Intergalactic Godhead and one of New York’s lost sons, the multidimensional Rammellzee is here, at least his pyramidic urn is. The train writer, performance artist, plastic artist, language master, mathematics interpolator, hip-hop pioneer and one of the original “Wild Style” and “Style Wars” alumni brings the big guns to Red Bull Arts.
Rewarded the instant you enter, the flying intergalactic battleships greet you at the door, leading you into the blissful blacklit abyss below, provoking a humorous inner sense of a warring gothic future. But first you can explore the brighter white-box gallery above with a small theater behind for video and various listening stations, photography, augmented with vitrines of emphemera and original texts from the audacious imagineer.
The largest survey of its kind of work by the artist, who passed away in 2010, this is a considered collection of images, writings, sculpture and costume that give you the idea that it only approximates the vast galaxy of histories and characters that the iconoklast panzerist stored in his imagination.
“These costumes remind me of George Clinton,” says experimental filmmaker and writer Tessa Hughes-Freeland maker and writer at the opening Thursday night for “Racing for Thunder”. She was one of many New York royalty from the “Downtown” and graffiti scenes of 80s-90s New York who were attending the flooded opening this week, including artists like Lee Quinones, Futura, Torrick Ablack aka Toxic, and John Fekner.
“I don’t remember him wearing all of these costumes,” says painter Jane Dickson as she looks at the mythical deities glowing and raging in the smoky haze.
“Actually I do remember him in that one at an event,” she says motioning to an intimidating fluorescent grill-faced figure in a stylize kimono. Her husband Charlie Ahearn, who directed Rammellzee in Style Wars, was interested in creating a movie solely about the artists many characters and his fully immersive commitment to the environments he built in his loft in the 80s and 90s.
The crowd coursing through the exhibit listens to recordings, watches raw video, drinks champagne, and wishes for decoder rings in the vain hope of peering into the mind of this child of the Rockaways who painted the A train and recorded music that influenced musicians as diverse as the Beastie Boys and Big Audio Dynamite, who dedicated a song to him.
The extensive collection, much of it never before seen, took more than a year to assemble and curate for Chief Curator Max Wolf and cultural critic Carlo McCormick, who created the exhibition with Associate Curators Christian Omodeo, Jeff Mao, and Candice Strongwater.
We captured a few details from the show during installation which we show here to whet your appetite and spoke with McCormick, who also knew the artist personally and took decisions about the exhibit with a precise appreciation for Rammellzee’s place in the canon of graffiti, post-graffiti, hip-hop, mathematics, and performance.
BSA:Part of Rammellzee’s story lies in the environments that he created to share with artists and friends – and to use as a laboratory. How can an exhibition achieve some of that same unique atmosphere? Carlo McCormick: The most tempting thing to do as a curator was to re-create “The Battle Station”, which was his home studio, and it was kind of a “life’s work” installation that way. But it just seemed that this was also Max Wolf’s project as well, who co-curated it, and it is also a focus to make these things be engaged and discreet.
You’ve got the whole thing: the Garbage Gods, Gassolear, and the Letter Racers. It’s kind of like his final showdown of good versus evil. But we wanted to allow it to be in a fine art space so you could register as much of “the gaze” as you could looking at any other art.
It’s still black light illuminated; Rammellzee liked to paint all of his walls black. I know he did it at Barbara Braathen and Fashion Moda. One time he did this at this one gallery – the gallery owner left him the keys to the gallery to prepare the space. She came back the next day and really what he had done was he had painted all the walls black. She’s was like, “What?”
So we didn’t do that, we tried to give it a little bit of the privilege of the white space because now he is dead and it is better to be in conversation with that whole history with Western art.
BSA: Can you talk about going through the artwork and costumes that Rammellzzee and Carmela had stored away? What kind of thoughts and feelings were you experiencing? Carlo McCormick: Everything looked kind of squalid when it had just been pulled out of storage and from this other storage facility that Sotheby’s had.
It was sort of underwhelming because he was sort of working with bits of garbage and rags. And the costumes are really fly fashion but it’s really made on the cheap – its like “costume” instead of “clothing” right? It was all scattered about.
And there was someone who went all of the old performance photos and basically re-assembled all of these personalities – because they were not stored in a bag separated for each character. There were just racks of costumes and boxes of masks and things like that.
They had to put all of these elements together – so that was really amazing. But once it is all put together it is so much more magical. That’s kind of the way he collaged everything – he had an amazing ability to put things together.
This is just the first show so it has that honor but it is a dubious one because it is just a start and now there is the hope that more scholarship and more curatorial work and more work all around can go into Rammellzee’s estate and his legacy.
Considering that this was all done in a year with a pretty small team here at Red Bull, its amazing the amount of resources they pulled. How cool it is to think, “There is no way we can go through all of the ephemera” and then to be able to say, “Hey get Christian Omodeo in here to do the archives for this.” So it has been a really cool thing to make all of this happen because they allow you to entertain pretty elaborate schemes.
BSA:Was he thinking in terms of posterity and about having a great show in the future. Did he care? Carlo McCormick: I think, like a lot of people at that time, he had a really ambivalent relationship to ‘the market’ and ‘the art world’ and the gallery system and all that stuff for a moment there. He was very ambitious and he saw how friends of his were beginning to paint and people were paying attention and he goes, “Shit I can do that”.
So I think he didn’t always like the art world. I think he kind of really hated it in some ways but he attached himself to it for 10 years with the paintings and continued a collector base through his death in 2010. I’m sure, in his mind, he never would be forgotten. He was so important.
BSA:The artist had such a unique fantasy world in his imagination with galactic battles and love of the letters and projections into the future. Would you say he was acting as a character – or maybe that he became that character? Carlo McCormick: He was many characters. I think that one of the things that people are going to start paying more attention to outside of the obvious place in Hip-Hop and in graffiti art and what was going on in 1980s painting is the performance work. In that he is adopting so many fluid identities.
Also, as we were noting before when we were walking through it, he was crossing gender and doing a lot of things that are not typical for the work of that vernacular. He was doing a lot of it. With identity politics and performances now I think that a lot of people are going to look at that work with a different eye.
BSA:What influenced his mind? Why did he do what he did? Carlo McCormick: That’s the basic thing you know. When you read that first treatise – and he kept on doing these manifesto type things – even from the first one at this really early age, he was an incredible autodidact, all self-taught. There was just massive amounts of information of all sorts of theory and math and science and military. I mean it’s all over.
He’s an autodidactic and a polymath. So I don’t really know where all of it came from. Sometimes you just have to think “maybe he watched a lot of Transformers on TV!” Who knows.
BSA:Many people will be learning about this multi-dimensional artist for the first time. What do you want them to know about him and his brilliance? Carlo McCormick: I really hope the work can speak for itself. He was as conceptual as he was urban. I hate to poison the well. He is so open to so many readings. He is being grabbed now by other forces that are in the market and those are being brought to bear.
So for me one of the things here was to bring this from out of the community and from all of the artists he worked with and was friends with. One of the things was I didn’t want to be the only person speaking for Ram when there were all of these other people still around.
I would say “Come in with and open mind and expect it to be blown.”
“I try to make sure I’m presenting work from artists not necessarily because they’re popular,” Tina Ziegler told us a few weeks ago, “but because they are or have been influential and/or fundamental to urban & contemporary art’s growth.”
That may explain why D*Face was nearly sprinting to his wall in Greenpoint yesterday while Egle Zvirblyte was mounting the brightly sexified animals around the bar and the Skewville twins were sweating the details on their installation on a roll-down gate. Of course, since they are actual Brooklyn Street Artists the bros appeared as cool as the elevated JMZ train with the windows open.
For that matter, the action inside the exhibition spaces was also jamming, including Jasmine from Herakut, who was painting a passage in her distinctive handstyle across a booth here in this former merchant marine factory warehouse.
It’s the first Moniker International Art Fair in Brooklyn for the next four days with 27 exhibitors, a number of “artist residencies”, live mural painting, music performances by Princess Nokia, a “Street Heroines” talk with documentary director Alexandra Henry and a 5 Pointz history presentation with Meres One.
As the preparations for Moniker’s debut in NYC got underway we visited the location and found an energetic team busy at work helping the many artists and the galleries who represent them transfixed with the task of setting up shop, build the installations and paint the walls outside. Here’s a peek for you.
As we near the new year we’ve asked a special guest every day to take a moment to reflect on 2016 and to tell us about one photograph that best captures the year for him or her. It’s an assortment of treats for you to enjoy and contemplate as we all reflect on the year that has passed and conjure our hopes and wishes for the new year to come. It’s our way of sharing the sweetness of the season and of saying ‘Thank You’ for inspiring us throughout the year.
Christian Omodeo is an art historian, art critic, book collector, and streetwise diplomat at Le Grand Jeu, the cultivated webzine and urban art association. This year Christian was one of three curators for “Street art Banksy & Co. The urban state of mind” at Museum Palazzo Pepoli in Bologna, Italy, which he refers to as “one of the biggest retrospective ever dedicated to graffiti & street art, with more or less 300 artworks, photos, videos, documents coming both from Europe and US, and belonging to public and private collections.” It also sparked some controversy, a counter exhibition, and many heated conversations.
Today Christian shares with us the work of a graffiti photographer from Rome.
Title: A writer is using a fire extinguisher against security guard to escape easier in a trainline tunnel Location: Rome, Italy
I finally met Valerio Polici a few weeks ago, during Paris Photo. He was there to present his first artist’s book, Ergo Sum, that is actually part of my top ten 2016 books. Valerio, like the French Sylvain Largot, represents this new generation of photographers who are looking for different ways of portraying the 2010s graffiti culture. While looking at Ergo Sum, I stopped in front of A writer is using a fire extinguisher against security guard to escape easier in a trainline tunnel, because this photo from 2013 summarizes this attempt to show graffiti as an individualist fight for a right to the city.
These are the markings of at least some of the increasingly serious Street Art / Urban Art festivals that have emerged in the last few years thanks to calls for genuine scholarship and the creation of academic frameworks to help us understand something that began as a grassroots form of expression in the mid and late 20th Century.
Open Walls Conference in Barcelona this year featured new public artworks by Dumar NovYork, Fasim, Muretz, Roc Blackblock, Sam3, Sheone, Sixe Paredes, and Syrup; a relatively small roster of artists compared to larger commercial festivals – and one that is heavily weighted toward local talents.
But as an artist, researcher and educator in the fields of graffiti and street art, Javier Abarca will tell you that this fourth edition of Open Walls Conference holds the “conference” aspect on center stage, with heated debates about the politics of art in public space – and private space for that matter.
This years’ debate had as its central argument the propriety of bringing Street Art into the exhibition space, how, and under what circumstances. Among the questions posed were whether it is ethical to bring urban art into the museum or whether the arts true nature is to live out its natural life wherever it has been painted illegally.
For fans, collectors, curators and artists in the Street Art world, this will sound like a familiar debate in light of an exhibition this spring in Bologna, Italy that was controversial to some because it contained illegal works taken from an abandoned factory.
On panel were one of the exhibition’s curators Christian Omodeo, along with artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada, and Elena Gayo, whom Albarca calls, “a prominent Spanish restorer and head of a think tank that for the last two years has developed a set of ethical parameters for the conservation of street art pieces.”
We all benefit from examinations and cogitations such as these, and it is good to see a level of popular support to attend discussions, panels, and lectures that help shape and codify our understanding of such a widespread art movement/practice.
In addition the conference featured a publishing fair called “Unlock“, which was dedicated to graffiti and street art and gathered close to sixty publishers from Europe and America, a first for the field, say the organizers. Another first, they say, is the academic study of the British artist Banksy launched here in book form as Banksy: urban art in a material world, by Ulrich Blanché.
Finally the fair featured a lecture by British journalist Marcus Barnes, “who nearly went to jail last year for publishing a graffiti magazine,” says Abarca, as well as “a breathtaking reading of What Do One Million Ja Tags Signify? by Brooklyn artist and author Dumar NovYork.”
This week BSA is in Moscow with you and Urban Nation for Artmossphere 2016, the 2nd Street Art Biennale, a group exposition introducing 26 Russian and 42 foreign artists who were shaped by street art in some way. Also present are international curators, museums and galleries who have significantly intersected with urban art in recent years.
A few more hours until the opening of the Artmossphere Biennale and we have seen many very successful installations – from the aesthetic to the conceptual, painterly to the sculptural, pure joy and pure politics.
In a word, when Street Art and graffiti artists pass the precipice into a multi-disciplinary exhibition such as this, one realizes that this scene has become an important tributary to contemporary art – and one with staying power that very well may re-direct the flow.
Perhaps the street practice is just a training ground for some or these artistss, a formative touchstone for others. It’s up to you to divine what the through-line is among these pieces, as diverse as the collection is. We think that there is a certain defiance present in many works, and a healthy skepticism toward existing hierarchical structures, but that’s just us projecting perhaps.
Remi Rough is known for his smartly soaring abstract geometry in painted murals and smaller scale works, and for Artmossphere he wanted to strip his typical practice back to the basics, approaching a white box with one undulating graphic composition.
“My idea was that Moscow’s a bit ‘over the top’,” he says, and he decided to pare the audacity and go for simplicity, which actually takes courage.
“I said ‘you know what?’ – I want to do something with the cheapest materials that you can possibly get. These two pieces literally cost about 3,000 rubles ($50). It’s felt material, it’s like lambs wool. I think they use it for flooring for construction.”
“I wanted to do something peaceful and calming and to use natural materials – something that’s different from what I usually do – but I use the folds in the fabric and the pink color – two things that I usually use a lot.”
And the crisply painted pink dot? “The circle takes it back to the wall and takes it back to the kind of perfection that I like to get. I love the imperfection of the fabric as well – I love the rough edges – a kind of counter-perfection. For me this interpretation of my own work was quite freestyle.”
“My work is made from found wood – I use what I find on the street and with my shapes and my graphics – so it’s kind of an experiment with three dimensions,” and he says most of this wood is sourced here in Moscow. We watch him completing his singular wall piece and notice that he has painted many eyes into the composition.
“In the 2-D piece I try to combine very simple geometric shapes with the eyes and make a huge composition on the wall.” Perhaps these eyes are Muscovites?
Minneapolis-based artist Hot Tea usually does huge colorful yarn installations that transform public space, but for the biennale he is taking the conceptual route. The walk-in room is based on the Whack-A-Mole game. With white fabric stretched wall to wall at chest level within the cube, meter-wide holes are cut which a visitor can crouch under and rise above.
Visitors/participants will experience the physical separation of space, and perhaps contemplate facing one another or ignoring each other – with absolutely no other visual distraction. It is something he says he hopes will draw attention to how many walls we have allowed ourselves to distract us from human interactions.
Torino’s Mimmo RubKandy recreated the Moscow Olympic village from 1980, now a home for hundreds of families, and a hip-hop graffiti scene as well. The soaring towers are painted in scale with tiny graffiti tags, throwies, extinguisher tags, and the like – at the base and on the the roofs.
Curator Christian Omodeo tells us that these are taken directly from the artists investigations of the site as it exists today. It is striking that the scale reduces the impact of the graffiti – yet when experienced at eye-level it has a potency. Accompanying the towers are framed photos of the current site via Google images, including blurred faces and logos.