In this private commission on a house in Hamburg, Lapiz pushes Edward Snowden front and center, under a quote from him saying, “The hero is you.” The NSA-whistle blower is flanked by Obama writing the word “terrori..” and Angela Merkel checking her phone.
Lapiz tells us that Snowden “is highly regarded as he revealed to what extent we are spied upon, how our every move, email and action is recorded – even including foreign heads of state. However, in his own words, he is not a hero, instead he acted because of his moral beliefs and insists that everyone can be a “hero” and do the right thing. For the government, however, he is a traitor that should be jailed for life.”
A lot of people thought so, and the rise of commercial festivals and commissioned public/private mural programs probably brought more artists to more walls than in recent history. Judging from the In Box, 2016 is going to break more records. Enormous, polished, fully realized and presented, murals can hold a special role in a community and transform a neighborhood, even a city.
But they are not the “organic” Street Art that draws us into the dark in-between places in a city, or at its margins.
We keep our eyes open for the small, one-off, idiosyncratic, uncommissioned, weirdo work as well, as it can carry clues about the culture and reveal a sage or silly solo voice. It also just reinforces the feeling that the street is still home to an autonomous free-for-all of ideas and opinions and wandering passions. For us it is still fascinating to seek out and discover the one-of-a-kind small wheatpastes, stencils, sculptures, ad takeovers, collages, and aerosol sprayed pieces alongside the enormous and detailed paintings that take days to complete.
The main image above is from a vinyl subway advertisement that was high-jacked and we published it in February of this year on our Images of the Week posting. It’s small, personal, and very effective as you can see someone suspiciously similar to Batman is jumping out of the mouth of someone looking awfully similar to Hedwig of “Angry Inch” fame.
Of the 10,000 or so images photographer Jaime Rojo took in 2015, here are a selection 140+ of the best images from his travels through streets looking for unpermissioned and sanctioned art.
Brooklyn Street Art 2015 Images of the Year by Jaime Rojo
Brooklyn Street Art 2015 Images of the Year by Jaime Rojo includes the following artists;
365xlos43, Amanda Marie, Andreas Englund, Augustine Kofie, Bisser, Boijeot, Renauld, Bordaloli, Brittany, BunnyM, Case Maclaim, Casg, Cash4, CDRE, Clet, Cost, Curve, Dain, Dal East, Dan Budnik, Dan Witz, David Walker, DeeDee, Dennis McNett, Don Rimx, Ricardo Cabret, LNY, Alex Seel, Mata Ruda, Don’t Fret, Dot Dot Dot, ECB, El Mac, El Sol25, Ella & Pitr, Eric Simmons, Enest Zacharevic, Martha Cooper, Martin Whatson, Ever, Faile, Faith47, Findac, Futura, Gaia, Gilf!, Hanksy, Hellbent, Hot Tea, How & Nosm, Icy and Sot, Inti, Invader, Isaac Cordal, James Bullough, Janet Dickson, Jef Aerosol, Jilly Ballistic, Joe Iurato, John Fekner, Le Diamantaire, Li Hill, LMNOPI, London Kaye, Low Brow, Marina Capdevilla, Miss Van, Mr. Prvrt, Mr. Toll, Myth, Nafir, Nemos, Never Crew, Nick Walker, Nina Pandolofo, Old Broads, Oldy, Ollio, Os Gemeos, Owen Dippie, Paper Skaters, Pet Bird, Kashink, Smells, Cash4, PichiAvo, Pixel Pancho, QRST, ROA, Ron English, Rubin415, Saner, Sean 9 Lugo, Shai Dahan, Shepard Fairey, Sheryo & The Yok, Sinned, Sipros, Skewville, Slikor, Smells, Sweet Toof, Snowden, Edward Snowden, Andrew Tider, Jeff Greenspan, Specter, Stray Ones, Sweet Toof, Swil, Willow, Swoon, The Outings Project, Toney De Pew, Tristan Eaton, Various & Gould, Vermibus, Wane, Wk Interact
It’s not that the island has been bereft of murals of late – the Los Muros Hablan festival in Harlem has been through a couple of iterations way uptown, Brooklyn has the Bushwick Collective, and Queens has been hosting the Welling Court Project.
The irony lies in the fact that this Lower Manhattan Arts Festival (LoMan) is really the first codified effort to highlight the work of graffiti and Street Art creators in a section of NYC known from the 1970s-90s for the free-range street stylings of artists like Jean Michel Basquiat, Al Diaz, Keith Haring, Dan Witz, Jenny Holzer, Richard Hambleton, John Fekner, WK Interact, REVS/Cost, and artist collectives like AVANT, among many others.
In other words, on this baked concrete slab of downtown New York that was once a creative cesspool and Petri dish for on-the-street experimentation calling upon all manner of art making, today’s newly arriving young artists have no dream of moving in. In fact, most have fled in search of affordable rent.
Now the entrepreneurial spirit of a couple of guys, Wayne Rada and Rey Rosa, is luring artists back into Lower Manhattan, if only to paint a mural and help the tourist trade in Little Italy. That is how the L.I.S.A. Project (Little Italy Street Art) began three years ago, bringing in about 40 artists – a list that includes big names and small with varying degrees of influence on the current scene.
Despite the historically inhospitable demeanor of hard-bitten and often bureaucratic old New York greeting him at many junctures, Rada has had some measured and great successes along the way, convincing local wall owners to give a mural a try and raising funding from local businesses and art fans to help artists go larger.
So LoMan Fest’s first edition has finished this year, and along with a few volunteers, a smattering of helpful partners, and nearly continuous negotiations with local building owners, art supply companies, cherry picker rentals, and a collection of local and international artists, Rada and Rosa have pulled off a new event. Impressively it included large murals, smaller street installations, a couple of panel discussions, some live music performances, outdoor film screenings, a sticker battle, a live painting battle, live podcasts, a graffiti zine table, and a sculpture garden in an emptied parking lot on Mulberry Street.
“Struggle would be a good word. But like anything else when you are starting something for the first time you are spending a lot of time putting systems in place,” says Rada of the process. “There have been interesting challenges with the building owners and with the artists but when it is all said and done it has been all worth it.”
For a scene that was initiated by autonomous un-permissioned art-making on private property, the process of organizing graffiti and Street Artists to do approved pieces on legal walls may try the patience of the rebels who look on mural festivals as lacking ‘street cred’. But Rada sees it differently.
“You know there are people in this world that don’t appreciate this and I just want people to enjoy the pieces as long as they can. Isn’t the fun part of street art that moment when you turn the corner and discover it? That’s really what we are trying to do here. For me it’s a collaborative process of trying to find them a spot – which is also normally something bigger where they can take their time and really think it out. In turn, when that work is complete their existing fans enjoy it, and also it helps them get new fans.”
A final irony is that LoMan is joining a long list of Street Art-inspired mural festivals worldwide that you might have thought New York would have been near the front of.
Brooklyn Street Art:I imagine you’ve seen the rise of Street Art festivals and you’ve seen the character perhaps of specific festivals in different parts of the world. Do you think there is something specific about New York’s current Street Art scene that has a personality or specific voice? Wayne Rada: First of all I studied every single festival out there from Pow! Wow! to Nuart, every single one. I’ve also had conversations with people who coordinate those festivals so that I could do a better job with this. I just feel like New York is, and this is grandiose to say, the nexus of the universe for the art world. It just seemed there was something missing and it made sense to have something here.”
Given the history and the populations of NYC, maybe the strength is the diversity of styles and international artists who are drawn to this particular city to drop a piece throughout the year on rooftops, under bridges, on abandoned lots and doorways. After a minute, Rada decides that this may be what makes a festival like this distinctly New York.
“So in the art world there are so many artists and there are so many Street Artists – and Lower Manhattan especially is represented by something like 126 different cultures and many different races and languages that make up downtown,” he says, “so it makes sense to try to be as diverse as possible and have as many of those voices represented as we could – men and women, all ages, and all walks of life.”
Here’s your first look at LoMan, but it won’t be your last. Rada and Rosa tell us they already have 2016 all planned.
Witches are burned at the stake. Or hanged, drowned, beheaded. Ask the American Puritans.
Of course, demonizing and ostracizing and terrorizing never quite went out of style since those formative years of the US, and the global history of the race is rife with this inclination. From Salem to today, ignorance and fear can be stirred rapidly into hysteria, usually by an invisible hand. In a tumultuous period of finger pointing and fear mongering that is often laced with latent prejudice, it is possible to whip people into a fevered frenzy of sanctimonious vigilante vitriol to purge that evil that resides amongst us, and within us.
A riveting interactive witch hunt, complete with matches, candles, smart phones and QR codes, has just begun on the streets of Berlin – the creation of conceptual Street Artists Various & Gould. Better yet, you know many of the 13 ‘witches’, as they are people from modern times who have suffered fates of being accused and depicted as evil.
“That these people might have been persecuted and burned as witches in earlier times is a mere speculation here,” say the two artists, whose project encourages you to strike a match across the face of their screen printed posters and light a candle at the base of it. But whether or not these people would have been called witches in earlier days, there are other similarities V&G want to draw attention to. “They still have to fight for their ideas, their freedom, their dignity or in some cases even their lives today,” they say.
Who are you talking about, you ask? Edward Snowden is one – currently a polarizing figure for revealing the extent of spying the US is doing on world citizens and governments – is alternately spoken of as a folk hero and an evil traitor.
Yoko Ono is another – once vilified, now celebrated, for the very same violations in art and cultural orthodoxy. Also she broke up the Beatles singlehandedly for Christs sake. Also she’s a peace activist, so that is upsetting. Now widely considered to have been ahead of her time, Ms. Ono once felt the firey public disdain for her so adamantly that she wrote and performed a song in the 1970s entitled “Yes, I’m a Witch”.
V&G even had a little luck reaching out to some of their witches for the project and got some responses. “Yoko Ono said that she was touched by our mail, but was having an important event elsewhere, which was no surprise,” says Various.
Also, performance artist Marina Abramović is a witch, as well as Antony Johnson and a Pussy Rioter. The reasons for selecting the witches who include journalists, rappers, human rights activists, artists…. may be obvious to some, perplexing for others. Their controversial status is the space of the public mind in which they each hang.
Various explains, “In this respect, the witches series can be understood as a homage to the portrayed people and a reference to the intolerance of today’s apparently enlightened times.” Gould agrees, “Different-minded people are being scape-goated and demonized in the public just as they once were.”
Of the 13 witches you will see a variety of names and if you don’t recognize them you can use the QR code beneath it or go to the special website to read and hear audio giving biographical information in German and English.
Anne Wizorek, a feminist blogger and one of the portrayed witches will even be on hand to introduce the gallery show entitled “Witches Wanted – Wanted Witches” at Open Walls this evening.
Speaking of the installation and the reactions they have received to the witch hunt that spreads across the city, Various says they had been afraid of negative reactions but thus far there have been none. “Somehow we were afraid someone would maybe get our intention wrong or be mad … but so far reactions are good.”
In an increasingly polarized political atmosphere throughout the western world due to many factors, Gould says their imaginative project and execution of it hasn’t touched off controversy and has been really well received. “It was also very fulfilling for us to return to one of the portraits that we have in the street and to find some of the candles still burning!”
This witch-hunt in Berlin-Kreuzberg is not to be understood as a chase, but rather as an interactive scavenger hunt they say on www.witchhunt.eu/, where you can see the map locations and follow the hunt.
You can also follow the hashtag #WitchHuntBerlin on Twitter.