People came together at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to remember the victims of a racist attack in Hanau this week, vowing to stem the tide of right-wing movements in Germany and elsewhere. The more you see the remnants of the ugly past rearing their heads, the more determined we will all have to be to unify and celebrate our differences and similarities with equal enthusiasm.
promising sign of unity and community for us was the opening for the showcase
of works donated by artists to benefit Daniel Weissbach aka DTAGNO aka COST88
in Berlin on Friday night. The musical/art-making performances were enervating
and stirring – and there were so many people that the crowd on the sidewalk
outnumbered the crowd in the gallery area. Please support – The online auction
starts tonight and is refreshed with a new collection of art pieces donated by
the old skool and new in a hybrid of genres. Please check out www.getwelldaniel.de
We also saw this incredibly well designed and curated show called WALLS at Urban Spree – with powerhouse names in graffiti, street art, contemporary art, and even a couple of pieces of antiquity, all examining the implications and ramifications of figurative and literal walls. The essays in the small catalogue further explore. More on this show later here but please go see it if you can.
big find this week was this amazing collaboration of pieces on a wall with OS
Gemeos and various other dignitaries atop an art supply store in a rapidly
gentrifying neighborhood. Hope you enjoy the show here from our Director of
Photography, Jaime Rojo.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring 1Up Crew, Berlinsky, Black Land, Daze, ISE.THR, Kevle, Marina Zumi, Mira, Mode2, Os Gemeos, Shine, TFB, The Birds, VLK, WENU, and Zabou.
Gastman’s Massive Graffiti and Street Art Show Arrives at Epicenter.
“I’m really excited to bring this show to New York,” says curator, graffiti historian and urban anthropologist Roger Gastman, “because the city plays such a pivotal role in the origin and evolution of the culture. The iconic images of covered subway cars made graffiti famous worldwide.”
He’s talking of course about “Beyond The Streets” the hybrid exhibition that he mounted in LA last year featuring the work of 150 who have proved to be pivotal to the evolution of a fifty year global people’s art movement that includes graffiti, street art, and urban contemporary art. Filling over 100,000 square feet of new space in Brooklyn, this two-floor cross-section survey will feature artworks by many of the same vandals, graffiti writers, Street Artists, and art activists who hit NYC streets, created dialogue with passersby, and were sometimes chased by the authorities. To see them showcased here is to recognize that there is not just one route to take – in fact there are many.
“We have an incredible roster of artists for New York,” Gastman tells us, “and a brand new space in Williamsburg that has a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline as our backdrop.” Notably the lineup includes artists whose work BSA has documented on the streets in this very same neighborhood over the past two decades, including Shepard Fairey, Faile, Swoon, Bast, Invader, Aiko, and others. Ironically the appearance of free-range Street Art in the neighborhood has been seriously diminished since that time.
The exhibition is one more verification that a significant portion of the scene is being widely recognized for its cultural contribution and value in the contemporary art canon – a significantly fluid scene fueled by discontent and a desire to short-circuit the established routes to audience appreciation. Like large survey shows elsewhere, the takeaway is the significant impact street culture and its tangential subcultures continues to have on the culture at large.
Gastman says the New York version of “Beyond The Streets” will take an
additional interest at the role of music and art activism on the street, along
with immersive installations, a tattoo parlor, a special Beastie Boys
installation with artifacts and ephemera, a new 30th Anniversary
Shepard Fairey project “Facing The Giant: 3 Decades of Dissent,” and large
scale works by Gorilla Girls, Futura, Cleon Peterson, and Takashi
More news coming on programming and events, but the important opening date to know right now is June 21st.
“All in all, it will make for a really special show this Summer,” says Gastman.
BEYOND THE STREETS TEAM
Curator: Roger Gastman
Co-Curators: Sacha Jenkins SHR, Evan Pricco, David CHINO Villorente
A-ONE, AIKO, Al Diaz, Alexis Ross, Alicia McCarthy, André Saraiva, Barry McGee, BAST, Beastie Boys, Bert Krak, Bill Barminski, Bill Daniel, BLADE, Broken Fingaz, Buddy Esquire, buZ blurr, Carlos Mare, Carl Weston, Cey Adams, C.R. Stecyk III, Charlie Ahearn, Chaz Bojórquez, Claudia Gold, Cleon Peterson, COCO 144, Conor Harrington, Corita Kent, Craig Costello, CRASH, DABSMYLA, Dan Witz, Dash Snow, DAZE, DEFER, Dennis Hopper, Dondi White, Doze Green, EARSNOT, Estevan Oriol, Fab 5 Freddy, FAILE, Faith XLVII, Felipe Pantone, FREEDOM, FUTURA 2000, Gajin Fujita, Glen E. Friedman, Gordon Matta-Clark, Guerrilla Girls, HAZE, Henry Chalfant, Herb Migdoll, Husk Mit Navn, INVADER, Jane Dickson, Jason REVOK, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jenny Holzer, Jim Prigoff, John Ahearn, John Fekner, John Tsombikos, Joe Conzo, José Parlá, KATS, KC Ortiz, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Kilroy Was Here, LADY PINK, LAZAR, LEE Quiñones, Lisa Kahane, MADSAKI, Maripol, Mark Gonzales, Mark Mothersbaugh, Martha Cooper, Matt Weber, Maya Hayuk, Michael Lawrence, MIKE 171, MISS 17, Mister CARTOON, Nina Chanel Abney, NOC 167, Pat Riot, Patrick Martinez, Paul Insect, POSE, PRAY, Rammellzee, Randall Harrington, RETNA, Richard Colman, Richard Hambleton, RIME, RISK, Ron English, Ruby Neri, SABER, Sam Friedman, SANESMITH, Sayre Gomez, Shepard Fairey, SJK 171, SLICK, SNAKE 1, SNIPE1, STAY HIGH 149, Stephen Powers, SWOON, Takashi Murakami, TAKI 183, TATS CRU, TENGAone, Tim Conlon, Timothy Curtis, Todd James, Trash Records, UGA, VHILS, and ZESER
The show is developed in partnership with Adidas and Perrier. Additional support provided by Modernica, Montana Colors, NPR, NTWRK, Twenty Five Kent and WNYC.
“Anxiety is normal in an unjust society” says the new piece by Disordered in Welling Court, Queens, a working class neighborhood of New York where the latest Ad Hoc mural party was held a couple of weekends ago under the direction of Garrison Buxton. He started this festival with his former partner Alison Buxton nine years ago to create community here with a number of artists from across the graffiti/Street Art spectrum, and it has always been a great day to see families and kids interacting with artists on the street.
Anxiety rings true when the giveaways to business interests for nearly four decades under both dominant parties have gradually placed folks like these in this neighborhood constantly in fear of missing the rent, the grocery bill, the car payment, the cost of providing for their kids.
Some companies adore this dynamic exactly the way it is because when you are always feeling anxiety about losing your job and worried about paying the bills you won’t speak up to notify anyone when your boss is dumping poison in the river or placing his hand upon your seat. Imagine working so hard and getting paid so little that you are still relying on public assistance, as Walmart is known for now. Anxiety is normal for many today, and it is reflected in the art on the streets as well.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Cern, Caleb Neelon, Col Wallnuts, Damien Mitchell, Daze, Disordered, FKDL, Hellbent, JCBK, Joe Iurato, John Fekner, Lena McCarthy, LMNOPI, Maria Wore, Michel Velt, Never, NYC Hooker, Praxis, Queen Andrea, Robots Will Kill, Rubin415, Seeone, and Toofly.
A steel-wheeled graffiti train with Roger Gastman at the controls roars into LA’s Chinatown for a two-month stay at this station, a 40,000 square foot warehouse that houses “Beyond the Streets.” Originating at the streets and train yards of the 1960s and 70s, this express survey carries with it 100 or so artists and writers from across the last five decades as practitioners of graffiti, Street Art, and mural painting. Somehow, everyone gets represented.
Opening night featured many of the names associated with its earliest beginnings of the New York /Philadelphia graffiti scene like Cornbread, Taki183, Futura, Lady Pink, filmmaker Charlie Ahearn, among many others, including photographer Martha Cooper, who in addition to being an artist in the show, shares these photos with BSA readers. She also extensively shares her photos for the accompanying show catalog, providing documentation from the scene that exist nowhere else.
A diverse and almost overwhelming series of displays present the works in a way that can only hint at the thousands of artists who built this story, necessarily viewed through a wide lens: sculpture, photography, installations, and multi-media all join the canvasses and ephemera and Gastman’s collection of vintage paint cans. Smartly planned for the selfie generation, large pieces are presented almost as backdrop ready to be Instagrammed; a direction coming from the “Photos Encouraged” sign that is next to the wall covered with Retna’s original alphabet near the entrance.
Somewhat of a rejoinder to Art in the Streets, the eponymous graffiti and Street Art exhibition in 2011 at LA MoCA, Beyond the Streets takes a focused look at the multitudinous peoples’ art movement from the perspective of one of that first shows’ original curators, Roger Gastman. When arranging the two month exhibition that closes July 6th, Gastman says that his focus was to celebrate those with street cred, in terms of individual practice, and to combine that requirement with a respectable semblance of a studio practice.
Ultimately he looked for artists who have used their particular approach to expand the definition of art in the streets in some way. That definition by now has become quite wide and it’s also a tall order for any curator to find the common themes here and present them in a cohesive manner.
Beyond The Streets, compiled by Roger Gastman.
Both the accompanying catalog and exhibition take a welcome stance toward educating the audience in many ways, helping the viewer to decode this freewheeling graffiti and mark-making history with basic vocabulary terms, historical events, pop culture inflexion points and examination of tools of the trade all adding context. Catalog essays and interviews are incisive and enlightening, including wit, sarcasm and even the occasional admonishment – notably in the essay by author, filmmaker, and curator Sacha Jenkins, who has been documenting the graffiti scene for a least a couple of decades.
Studying the move of some artists from street practice to commercial gallery that began in earnest with early NYC train writers transitioning to canvasses in the early 1980s, Jenkins upbraids a disgruntled faction among old-school graffiti writers who he characterizes as perhaps intransigent in their stylistic evolution and unwilling to adapt with the game. Later in his essay he lambasts the overtly pleasant and narcissistic cultural newcomers who he sees as milk-toasting the scene with their adoration of pretty murals and shallow sentiments, obtusely ushering in gentrification and “leading up to hearing about how my mother’s building is going to get bulldozed for a hip residential building that has a hot tub in every apartment.” He also may be the only writer here so openly addressing race and class distinctions present during the evolution of the scene and now.
The selection of artists and writers in the book and exhibition, many of them friends and colleagues with whom Gastman has worked with in the past, offers a rewarding and accessible panoply of styles and views. With some study the visitor understands connections in a widely dispersed multi-player subculture that coalesced and continuously changed its shape and character. But even if they don’t, they still get an amazing amount of eye candy.
The catalog offers extensive sections like those devoted to The History of Spraypaint and Graffiti in Galleries, and offers petite exegesis on influencing factors and benchmarks that shaped the art form’s route like Mobile DJs, The ’77 NYC Blackout, the European graffiti scene and graffiti’s role in gang culture, hip-hop and hardcore music. The compilation aids and supports the fullness of a story that frankly requires many voices to tell it. Gastman even gives forum and exhibition space to activist and defiant guerilla gardener Ron Finley and the holistic urban horticultural oases that he creates in South Central LA, calling it his form of graffiti in empty lots of the city.
Martha Cooper with Taki 183. Beyond The Streets. (photo courtesy of Martha Cooper)
With insightful interviews of artists in the exhibition from talented writers like Caleb Neelon, Caroline Ryder, John Lewis, Alec Banks, Evan Pricco, John Albert, Shelly Leopold, and Gastman himself, there are enough colorful anecdotes and decisive signposts en route to help tell the stories of the artists and their individual approaches to the street.
“The artists do not share a singular style, since they are primarily united by a common element of their personal biographies – the fact that they once made their art in the streets,” says self-described novice to the Street Art / graffiti world, Adam Lerner, the Director and Chief Animator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. “There are, however some threads that run through the works.”
Beyond the Streets will help visitors find some of those threads for themselves and undoubtedly they will forge their own interpretation of art in the streets.
Most people commute to and from work. Some spend hours caught in rush hour traffic, trapped in their cars. Others use their bikes or skateboards or a bobbing, roaring ferry. Some lucky ones just walk. In New York City most commuters use the subway and the buses to get to their offices, kitchens, stores, classrooms, campuses, and after a while, the commute disappears.
On trains and buses we are packed like sardines, avoiding eye contact, keeping to our phones and books or staring at our shoes or out a window. Maybe you get a seat, otherwise you sway back and forth tethered to a silver bar, banging into others, observing or zoning out.
On your commute you may have serendipity, a discovery, a newly germinated idea.
You may feel ill, or fall asleep, or become riveted by an evesdropped conversation. Children’s faces pressed against windows, parents catching a catnap, helping with homework, putting on eyeliner. Actors practice lines, others rehearse standup routines. Lust is awakened, love blooms, loneliness aches.
The act of commuting in NYC is rarely solitary. Or quiet.
A lifelong New Yorker, artist Daze has found inspiration in the train lines the way many authors do, relishing and memorizing details. Since hitting up trains in the golden 70s-80s era, he has never lost his love of the daily commute and the millions of idiosyncracies. Now in his first ever solo exhibition in New York City, Daze returns to the subways and streets for inspiration, bringing vibrancy and color and a few ragged edges.
For “Daily Commute” the artist revisits some familiar spots, paying tribute to known and unknown characters in a familiar way of someone who knows the city very well, without condescension or sentimentality but with the respect for a city that takes you and shakes you and throws you away and embraces you and comforts you and reads you a line from a play or a poem. If you’re lucky.
We spoke to the artist about his love for his city and his experience on its streets:
BSA:You have never lost your love for New York and its public spaces. Can you talk about something that stays true about the city decade after decade?
DAZE: I think of New York as always being a rather inclusive and diverse city. It has a long history of both that continues till this day. These are a couple of the ingredients that would make it difficult for me to live anywhere else.In choosing subject matter I am always searching for examples that represent these qualities.
BSA:The palette for many of these new works is bright and saturated with vibrant color, even though the actual city can be more subdued and grey. Is this emotion, or possibly imagination at work?
DAZE: I actually have two approaches to creating the “look” of my paintings. One is a more monochrome affect which is usually in greys,whites,and blacks. They are part of a series I call the” Grey Scale paintings” although because there are little bits of color they are not truly monochromatic. These paintings are based on black and white photo’s that I shoot on film.
The other approach is to use make work that is more color saturated. I begin with a color that will establish the overall look or mood of the painting and then work from there. I think that even though my paintings are very urban there can sometimes be something tropical about them.
BSA:When looking at many of the paintings it strikes the viewer that perhaps you are attracted to portals, small viewers that allow one to see further inside a situation.
DAZE: The use of portals is almost voyeuristic. It’s the old looking out at the contemporary. I got the idea for this from my memories as a child. The subways had these portal shaped windows on all of the doors. I really enjoyed looking out of them and watching the neighborhoods change as I rode by.
BSA:One of your opus pieces in this show, which we had the pleasure of seeing at its genesis in studio a little while ago, features an iconic personality who creates his own splendid costumery, and has for years.
DAZE: The subject of the painting,” Masquerade” is Wendell Headley. He is an artist that I’ve known since my early days at Fashion Moda gallery in the Bronx circa 1982. When I first met him he would come into the gallery wearing these elaborate outfits that he made himself and just hang out. People would donate clothes and he would take the clothes apart, reconstruct them, and give them new life. He is not only a brilliant designer but truly a living sculpture.
Wendell is not someone that is trying to perform, his life is his art. I had wanted to do a portrait of him for a long time but I would only run into him sporadically in different areas of the city, usually highly populated areas.
One evening I ran into him in Times Square and I photographed him for a bit. It was really great because in the midst of all these people dressed up as Disney or Marvel comic book characters he was just being himself. He was embodying his art and that’s what defines him. I have a lot of respect for him as a creative.
BSA:Can you speak about P.P.O.W and its connection to the graffiti and Street Art scene and what it means to you to be having your solo show here?
DAZE: PPOW is an amazing gallery that is very much like a family to me. I was close friends with many of the artists that they show and represent so it feels very natural to be there. I’ve watch them grow over the years from The east village scene in the 80’s until now and always respected what they do and how they present exhibitions, no matter how difficult.
Being represented by them continues the dialogue I’ve had with people like Martin Wong and Charlie Ahearn. I don’t think they see my work as “graffiti”. I’m not trying to do graffiti paintings. There are elements of it that appear within the layering of my paintings but my work is more about the the urban diaspora of New York and what I have lived here.
Welcome to Sunday and the last free weekend of summer in New York before Labor Day. We had a fun tour yesterday with the two winners of the Magic City – Munich competition who won the opportunity to see the streets through our half cracked and mostly sunny perspective. The foot tour with Munich-based students David and Nesli zig-zagged through the Lower East Side and Little Italy before we ended with a fresh summer aerosoled view of ROA painting a brand new mural live in Brooklyn. Here as a visiting artist at a new residency in Bed Stuy, we had seen him earlier in the week in studio preparing new works of natures creature – a few shots here for you to enjoy.
Earlier in the week Shepard Fairey was here to create a new mural celebrating musician Debbie Harry and her band Blondie directly across the street from the former site of CBGB, The Village Voice announced it would not be a print paper after 60 years of culture and politics pumping from its downtown offices, and Brooklyn proudly hosts the Afropunk Festival – full of music, ‘tude, and dope street fashion by some of our BK’s finest style denizens. Already in Paris and London, next stops for Afropunk are Atlanta and Joburg. Hot!
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Daze, Dr. Scott, drsc0, Hank Williams Thomas, Invader, Shepard Fairey, Jason Naylor, Rx Skulls, ROA, Rober Janz, and Voxx.
New York’s jewel of free theater in Central Park is actually trending on Twitter, believe it or not. The production of Julius Ceasar features a Trumpian-looking lead character and it has inflamed people who haven’t heard of Shakespeare – which means a large swath of pretty/handsome bobble heads on US TV. The cautionary story actually has referenced modern leaders in productions historically in theaters in recent years and as a rule. There is even a story about Orsen Wells directing a version with actors in Nazi uniforms in the 20s or 30s.
And in other polarized news, the planned protest (and performance piece) in front of the Houston-Bowery wall is still scheduled for this afternoon. Artists and organizers have been reaching out to tell us about the protest along with possible other demonstrations which have been kick-started by the controversial choice of artist David Choe by Goldman Arts to paint the wall. Rape, Rape Culture, the normalization of sexual abuse, predatory behavior and attitudes toward women, and related issues will be in the discussion due to Choe’s own involvement in a possible rape scenario by his own account and his subsequent muddy explanations about it. Choe’s public apology yesterday via Instagram may have altered the calculus slightly but the bigger issues still prevail and many opinions on social media still question Goldman’s silence on the topic. Meanwhile, the wall has pretty much been dissed completely.
Finally, the drama of the Welling Court mural festival, which we actually do not know any drama about and which brought all sorts of community murals to this Queens working class neighborhood for the 8th year last weekend. We got out there to shoot a number of the walls without the crowds for you this week, and here’s a selection below.
So here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring A Visual Bliss, ASVP, Below Key, Cey Adams, Crash, Daze, Dek 2 DX, Dennis McNett, Dirt Cobain, Eelco Virus, Eyez, EZO, Ghost Beard, I am Eelco, John Fekner, Jonny Bluze, LMNOPI, NYC Hooker, Patch Whisky, Queen Andrea, Ramiro Davaro-Comas, Rob Sharp, Sean 9 Lugo, and Toofly.
An unusual amalgam of the interactivity of the street combined with the formality of a gallery environment, Magic City opened this fall in a converted factory in Dresden, Germany with an eclectic selection of 40+ artists spanning the current and past practices of art in the street.
With revered culture critic and curator Carlo McCormick at the helm alongside curator Ethel Seno, the richly marbled show runs a gamut from 70’s subway train writers and photographers like Americans Daze, Henry Chalfant, and Martha Cooper to the Egyptian activist Ganzeer, Italian interventionist Biancoshock, popagandist Ron English, and the eye-tricking anamorphic artist from the Netherlands, Leon Keer.
Veering from the hedonistic to the satiric to head-scratching illusions, the collection allows you to go as deep into your education about this multifaceted practice of intervening public space as you like, including just staying on the surface.
It’s not an easy balance to strike – some of these artists have heavy hearts and withering critiques of human behaviors and institutional hypocrisies ranging from 1st World treatment of refugees to celebrity culture to encroaching surveillance on individual rights, government oppression, and urban blight.
Magic City doesn’t try to shield you from the difficult topics, but the exhibition also contains enough mystery, fanboy cheer, eye candy and child-like delight that the kids still have plenty of fun discoveries to take selfies with. We also saw a few kissing couples, so apparently there is room for some romance as well.
“We believe that even the typical city is uncommon, and that the idiosyncrasies that make each city unique are collectively something they all have in common,” says McCormick in his text describing the exhibition. “This is then a celebration of the universal character of cities as well as a love letter to their infinite diversity. The special magic that comes from our cities is germinated in the mad sum of their improbable juxtapositions and impossible contradictions.”
Of particular note is the sound design throughout the exhibition by Sebastian Purfürst and Hendrick Neumerkel of LEM Studios that frequently evokes an experiential atmosphere of incidental city sounds like sirens, rumbling trains, snatches of conversations and musical interludes. Played at varying volumes, locations, and textures throughout the exhibition, the evocative city soundscape all adds to a feeling of unexpected possibilities and an increased probability for new discovery.
Obviously this Magic City cannot be all things to all people, and some will criticize the crisp presentation of a notably gritty series of subcultures, or perhaps the omission of one genre or technique or important artist. It’s not meant to be encyclopedic, rather a series of insights into a grassroots art and activism practice that continues to evolve in cities before our eyes.
For full disclosure, we curated the accompanying BSA Film Program for Magic City by 12 artists and collectives which runs at one end of the vast hall – and Mr. Rojo is on the artist roster with 15 photographs of his throughout the exhibition, so our view of this show is somewhat skewed.
Here we share photographs from the exhibition taken recently inside the exhibition for you to have a look for yourself.
Aiko, AKRylonumérik, Andy K, Asbestos, Benus, Jens Besser, Biancoshock, Mark Bode, Bordalo II, Ori Carino & Benjamin Armas, Henry Chalfant, Martha Cooper, Isaac Cordal, Daze, Brad Downey, Tristan Eaton, Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Fino’91, Ganzeer, Anders Gjennestad, Ben Heine, Herakut, Icy & Sot, Leon Keer, Loomit, MadC, OakOak, Odeith, Olek, Qi Xinghua, Replete, Roa, Jaime Rojo, Skewville, SpY, Truly, Juandres Vera, WENU, Dan Witz, Yok & Sheryo, Ernest Zacharevic.
Long before Bushwick Open Studios and the Bushwick Collective there was Ad Hoc Gallery in a part of Brooklyn better known for bullet proof plexi-glass at the corner deli than being any kind of artists haven. Kool kids were actually filtering in to find cheap rents and space in the early 2000s and Garrison and Alison Buxton and a few other closely knit creatives, teachers, entrepreneurs, and activists created a gallery/community center that welcomed Street Artists and graffiti peeps.
Their gallery featured solo and group shows that included Shepard Fairey, Swoon, C215, Chris Stain, Know Hope, and many others over a five year period and Ad Hoc provided an entrance to the contemporary art world. Somehow they did it in a way that honored the roots of the culture, not simply cashing in on it. Smart and worldly, they also had open hearts to other people’s projects. We even had our inaugural BSA show and book launch there in 2008, donating all the money to Free Arts NYC and selling work from an impressive number of talented artists whose name you might recognize.
10 years later the actual gallery is long closed and they moved to Vermont to get more space to raise their daughter Halcyon, but the Buxtons still sell art, curate the occasional show, and have stayed seriously in the New York mix by hosting an annual street mural jam called Welling Court for the last half decade. True to their community roots, they keep the roster very wide and inclusive. This year the mural painting continued long after the actual event, so we recently went back to Queens to catch the ones we didn’t during this summers jam.
Coming up this weekend there is a big 10th Anniversary party for Ad Hoc here in Brooklyn again, we thought we’d show you the murals we missed for the first collection of 2016 murals HERE. Hope to see you at this weekends Ad Hoc 10th Anniversary event at 17 Frost.
Curator Carlo McCormick quotes Novalis by way of describing this new exhibit of an eclectic blend of terrific troublemakers, pop-culture hijackers, and show-stopping crowd pleasers drawn from cities all around the Street Art/ graffiti /urban art scene today – and forty years ago. This is a welcoming walk of unexpected intersections that only McCormick and co-curator Ethel Seno could imagine – and pull together as a panoply of street wizardry that acknowledges activism, artistry, anarchy, and aesthetics with a sincere respect for all. It will be interesting to see how this show is viewed by people who follow the chaotic street scene today in the context of its evolution and how they read the street signs in this city.
McCormick, in his customary self-effacing humor, expects there to be some shit flying – as anyone who is involved in this scene expects from the hard-scrabble rebellious margins and subcultures that this art-making interventionist practice rises from. There also are a growing and coalescing mini-legion of scholars and academics who are currently grappling with the nature and characteristics of this self-directed art-making practice rooted often in discontent – now organized inside an exhibition that is ticketed and sold as a family friendly show.
In his descriptions of the public sphere, the writer, historian, author, and cultural critic McCormick often refers to graffiti and street artists messing with “contested space”. It’s an apt description whether we are talking about the public space in high-density gleaming metropolises or the bombed-out grid-less and polluted quagmires of human fallibility and urban un-planning that dot our globe; all public space its nature is contested.
Here is a place used by many artists to protest, agitate, advocate, or deliver critique – and many of the artists in this exhibition have done exactly this in their street practice, often pushing limits and defining new ones. Dig a little into many of the individual story lines at play here and you’ll see that the vibrant roots of social revolution are pushing up from the streets through the clouds of propaganda and advertising, often mocking them and revealing them in the process.
Ultimately, this Magic City experience is an elixir for contemplating the lifelong romance we have with our cities and with these artists who cavort with us within them. “Our Magic City is a place and a non-place,” McCormick says in a position statement on the exhibit. “It is not the physical city of brick and mortar but rather the urban space of internalized meanings. It is the city as subject and canvas, neither theme park nor stage set, but an exhibition showcasing some of the most original and celebrated artists working on and in the city today.”
BSA curated the film program for Magic City with a dynamic array of some of the best Street Art related films today presented together in a relaxed environment. In this video hosted by Andreas Schanzenbach you get a taste of the works that are showing that we draw from our weekly surveys on BSA Film Friday. Over the last few years we have had the honor of presenting live in-person to students and scholars and fans an ever-evolving collection of videos that speak to the spirit experimentation, discovery and culture-jamming outrageousness of urban interventions, graffiti and Street Art. The BSA Film Program at Magic City presents a survey of some of the very best that we have seen recently.
Magic City artists include: Akrylonumerik, Andy K, Asbestos, Ben Heine, Benuz, Biancoshock, Bordalo II, Brad, Downey, Dan Witz, Daze, Ernest Zacharevic, Ganzeer, Henry Chalfant, HERAKUT, Icy & Sot, Isaac Cordal, Jaime Rojo, Jens Besser, Juandres Vera, Lady Aiko, Leon Keer, Loomit, MAD C, Mark Bode, Martha Cooper, Oakoak, Odeith, Olek, Ori Carin / Benjamin Armas, Qi Xinghua, Replete, ROA, Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Skewville, SpY, Tristan Eaton, Truly, WENU Crew, Yok & Sheryo
The BSA Film Program for Magic City includes the following artists: Borondo, Brad Downey & Akay, Ella + Pitr, Faile, Farewell, Maxwell Rushton, Narcelio Grud, Plotbot Ken, Sofles, Vegan Flava, Vermibus
Some behind the scenes shots days before the Premiere
Just in time for this weekend’s Mermaid Parade, London’s D*Face is finishing up “Live Fast Die Young,” his beauty-and-the-zombie comic couple sipping an ice cream float at the soda counter. Austrian surrealist slicer Nychos has completed his dissection of a Ronald McDonald-ish character without a sketch; running, jumping, nearly flying through the air with aerosol in hand, flinging the spent cans over his shoulder blindly to skitter across the pavement. Baltimore-based freeform anthropologist Gaia is cavorting with passersby who want to take cellphone selfies in front of his painted wall that depicts exactly that; selfies taken in Coney Island.
This is a modern version of the multi-mirror funhouse in mural form, and Coney Art Walls is bringing it again.
22 new murals on standing slabs of concrete join a dozen or so that were retained from last summer to present an eclectic and savory selection from the old-school and the new. When it comes to art in the streets, a salty luncheonette of city-style treats is on a large public platter these days, with names like graffiti, street art, urban art, installation art, public art, fine art, even contemporary art. For some of those hapless gatekeepers of any of these respective categories, this show in this location presents degrees of discomfort and anger as many subcultural roots are now brought into the light in tandem with one another in a public display – funded by a real estate firm. For the artists and majority of fans, however, the trend is more toward delight and gratitude.
While you are unpacking that, consider that lead curator Jeffrey Deitch has often proved very adept at plumbing the aesthetic margins of our culture while rearranging and intermingling the parties, helping the viewer to appreciate their differences. This outdoor exhibit co-curated with Joseph Sitt provides a venue for a wide audience to contemplate the range of expression that New York streets have had over the last few decades, including a few artists who are trying this manner of expression for the first time.
As the Thunderbolt, Steeplechase, Cyclone and Wonder Wheel spin and swerve nearby and overhead, sending screams and personal projectiles into the ocean breeze, you have this paved lot full of paintings to peruse, lemonade in one hand and the cotton-candy-sticky hand of a sunscreen-slathered child in the other. Here you’ll see a large two-walled corner smashed with Coney Island themes by Bronx graffiti masters Tats Cru (Bio, BG183, and Nicer), a selection of hand-drawn wheat pasted portraits of Coney Island youth by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and 4 full-form sculptures by John Ahearn creating a modernist view of divers on the beach .
Tooling elsewhere through the loose labyrinth you come upon a monochromatic cryptically patterned tribute to Brooklyn-born Beastie Boys vocalist Adam “MCA” Yauch by Brooklyn tagger/train writer/artist Haze and a seemingly lighthearted abstractly collaged wall of mermaids by fine artist Nina Chanel Abney, whose work is currently on the cover of Juxtapoz. There is also a spectacular underwater-themed symmetrical fantasy topped by pylons bearing the likenesses of characters from “The Warriors” film by artist duo The London Police, and a stenciled “Last Supper” featuring heads of world currency playing the disciples and George Washington as Jesus sprayed across the face of a huge dollar bill by Iranian brothers Icy & Sot.
We often travel streets and neglected spaces in cities looking for signs of freewill artistic expression and often the creative spirit surprises us as it can be expressed in so many ways with emotion, agenda, and idiosyncratic point of view. It may be the plurality of voices one experiences surfing the Internet or the multi-cultural nature of living in New York with a continuous river of fresh arrivals mixing in with established and old-timers every day, but one comes to expect this variety of viewpoints and rather naturally creates accommodation for inclusion that celebrates without negating – and in many ways Coney Art Walls does that as well.
Oppositional viewpoints are present if you look: There are coded messages and obvious ones, critiques of corporate hegemony, issues of race, commentary on police relations, sexuality, religion, capitalism, community, the languages of advertising, movies, music, entertainment, local history, and examination of roles and power structures.
When tooling around this collection, you may wonder what, then, are the commonalities of this survey. Certainly there are the recurring references to Coney Island lore and aspects of performance and flimflam, oddity, fantasy, even the erotic. Naturally, there are elements of natural wonder as well, perhaps expected with the proximity to the beach and the ocean and the history of this place as a vacation getaway.
Aside from this, the connective tissue is what we frequently identify as what is distinctly New York – the plurality of voices. Arguing, making fun, praising, preening, bragging, lambasting, mocking, singing. Despite the continuous attempts by others to divide us, we’re strangely (very strangely), beautifully united.
Originally from Japan, Brooklyn’s AIKO has a double sided stencil sonnet to the romance of the sea. With “Tale of the Dragon King and Mermaids in Water Castle” Aiko tells a new version of Urashima Tarō, an old Japanese legend about a fisherman who rescues a turtle and is rewarded for this with a visit to Ryūgū-jō, the palace of Ryūjin. Says Aiko, “This piece speaks to my and all women’s fantasies; chilling hard super sexy in the beautiful ocean with friendly dragon who is super powerful and a smart guy – they are about going to water castle having good time.”
Coney Art Walls
2016 New Artists: Nina Chanel Abney, John Ahearn, Timothy Curtis, D*Face, Jessica Diamond, Tristan Eaton, Gaia, Eric Haze, Icy & Sot, London Police, Nychos, Pose, Stephen Powers, Tats Cru, and Sam Vernon. Returning artists who created new works: Lady Aiko, Mister Cartoon, Crash, Daze, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and Marie Roberts. 2015 Murals on display: by Buff Monster, Eine, Ron English, How & Nosm, IRAK, Kashink, Lady Pink, Miss Van, RETNA, eL Seed and Sheryo & Yok. There are also three community walls.
BSA has been promoting and supporting The Bushwick Collective and the artists who paint there from the very beginning.
Before The New York Times. Before Time Out. Before The Daily News and many other news or culture outlets. Before there were any videos of Joe Ficalora telling his story. Before Social Media turned every private act into an object for mass consumption. Before the street art tours. Before Street Art was a cottage industry in our borough.
As we celebrate five years of Bushwick Collective we have a question for you: Do you remember it’s original name before he changed it to Bushwick Collective? Joe contacted us out of the blue one day to ask us to curate some walls with him and to help him contact some artists and we immediately sensed a determination in Mr. Ficalora that was stellar. However, we never could have envisioned the huge daily festival it has become or how many people would celebrate or malign it.
Bushwick Open Studios was already in full effect by that time – another artists’ effort we were among the first to support – and Manhattan art fans were beginning to make the trek a little further out on the L train to Bushwick now that Williamsburg had been clobbered by consumers by the late 2000s.
The first Bushwick Collective party had a DJ and 10 muralists. Jim Avignon, KLUB 7, and Gabriel Spector among them. Unofficially included was the huge “return” of COST, who slammed an entire defunct garage shop with posters and paint – a site that he often returned to in the months that followed to revise and expand.
It’s been a rollicking and sometimes rocky ride with the Collective, with mostly the voices of fans and few detractors, including silly art-school gentrifiers who bemoaned the gentrification that these murals brought to the neighborhood. Also local graff writers felt disrespected or overlooked by what they perceived as an invasion, and you can’t blame them for feeling that way.
Mostly, it has been a celebration of the creative spirit in these twenty-teens in Brooklyn and we all know that this too is a temporary era, as New York is continually reinventing itself. Enjoy these murals smacked cheek-by-jowl for block after block by an international train of talents running through Bushwick today, because they are here for you to enjoy in this moment. Like David Bowie wisely told us, “These are the golden years.”