Festival d’Art Urbà Poliniza Dos may have an online presence that is difficult to access for the average street art fan. Still, the murals created for this ongoing urban art festival at the Polytechnic University of Valencia speak for themselves.
Brilliant productions and unusual investigations are created in and around the campus, engaging students and the local community to consider the role of art in the public sphere, its pertinence and meaning, and our relationship to it. Its direct and scholarly approach means that the public is invited, and artists are given an opportunity to share their practice with an appreciative and considered audience.
For more than a decade, this competition has selected from an open call for submissions and invited many of Spain’s curious thinkers, experimenters, interventionists, trouble-makers, street artists, and muralists to create new pieces for consideration, discussion, and appreciation. This program is where the work is done on the wall, inside the mind, and in the heart.
Recently photographer Luis Olive captured these murals from the 2021 and 2022 editions of PolinizaDos, and he shares what he found today with BSA readers.
Learn more about Poliniza Dos on their Instagram account.
Positions and opinions about war and conflict can be “mainstream” or they may be “fringe”, and historically they can switch positions after the wars are over. One thing is nearly always assured: General Dynamics, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin will be there to cash in on the opportunity.
Today as weapons are flowing into Ukraine and reportedly thousands of people are being killed and parts of Ukraine are being destroyed, Spanish street artist Escif creates a giant plume of smoke that emanates from a 100 Euro note in his newest mural in Valencia, Spain. Follow the smoke, follow the money.
Organizers and the artist say the new work is meant to illustrate the fact that the military industry has a lot to gain in a climate of conflict and armed violence and has the support of governments and financial entities to do so.
“That is one of the readings that can be made of this mural: there are always those who profit from conflicts like the one we are seeing in Ukraine,” says Escif about the painted work near the old Fe de València hospital. “In the last week, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, we have seen the stock price of the large arms companies, located almost entirely in Northern countries, rise”.
Sensible people may be looking for an off-ramp right now to avoid further escalation in this situation – perhaps even a way for Putin to save face so we can stop this before it spirals into a world war, a nuclear war, or both. But hope dims as you see a never-ending parade of corporate television “news” analysts representing the arms industry, who are rarely identified as such.
“The military path, continuing to spend on weapons and fueling the arms race between countries, can only result in war, never peace. As much as the opposite is repeated to us”, concludes Jordi Calvo, an economist who has a PhD in peace, conflicts and development, who researches the defense economy and is the coordinator of the Centre Delàs. One wonders if there is a path to peace in the current situation. The opposite, dearly beloved, is unthinkable.
We’ve had the privilege to travel to many cities and cultures over the last decade and a half, from Russian to Chinese to North African to Tahitian and Norwegian, to witness the affecting power of street art on cities, communities, and everyday people. Regardless of the street author’s intent, however earnest or carefully considered, we’re often surprised by the variety of interpretations that can arise from a singular work of art or intervention.
This new mural by the Spanish conceptual artist and social philosopher Escif for this year’s Ljubljana Street Art Festival (LJSAF), begun in Slovenia’s capital in 2019, is just far enough removed from the obvious to have triggered myriad interpretations. In the race for capturing imagination, adoration, and vilification, his seemingly simple, if unconventional, mural has scored a stunning trifecta.
Our reporter on the ground, the renowned photographer and ethnologist Martha Cooper, one of the few who have stayed active on the graffiti and street art scene continuously for the last five decades, tells us that she keeps thinking that we are witnessing a more pronounced movement toward work like this on the global stage. Describing how the unique curation by festival director Sandi Abram and the program directors Anja Zver and Miha Erjavec strikes a balance, Cooper says they chose what may appear as a quirky selection of artists to participate, “with an emphasis more on conceptual, political work than on aesthetics.”
“I’m wondering if this is a general street art trend or maybe just more prevalent in Eastern Europe,” she says. A veteran of the last decade’s evolution of street art festivals that may now appear as baldly commercial or trite “revitalization” efforts by moribund city councils, Ms. Cooper is fascinated by unusual festivals such as Ljubljana’s. It may be due to Abram’s pursuit of a Ph.D. in anthropology, but Cooper observes that her Slovenian experience was of a program “thoughtfully curated with some interesting and innovative twists.” Since this year’s festival theme centered on the preservation and documentation of street art, Cooper was an honored guest and speaker as well.
With a borrowed bear from a local school child’s wall painting, Escif created a re-contextualization of the original furry friend. Enlarging it to fill the wall of a two-story building and attaching a stolen slogan from a nearby graffitied wall, Escif declared that “ograja mora past” (the fence must fall). The reactions haven’t stopped since. Depending on the opiner, the deceptively simple mural is addressing the contentious issue of immigration with Croatia, the historical memories Slovenians have of Hitler, or the increasingly impeded flow of wildlife along historical natural routes through Europe.
When Sandi took Martha to shoot the original bear painting, Mojca, a teacher in Vodmat Kindergarten, shared a sense of optimism she had by witnessing the resounding waves of impact that rippled outward from the original project. “The goal of the project was for the children to develop the heterogeneous language of art. If by painting this bear we have impacted society and the environment, then we have accomplished more than we could have ever imagined.”
The thoughtful and resolute Escif, as ever, developed and delivered a manifesto on his piece, “The Fences Must Fall”, where he states that “Painting a big wall in a big city is a firm and decisive position” for an artist.
“I set out to find the truth that children paint on the walls of kindergartens. I cruised around the city streets, looking for the truth that crazy people spray paint on the walls. As I matched the truths of crazy people and children, of the walls of the former with the walls of the latter, the idea for the mural was born. An angry bear roaring ‘the fences must fall’.”
He continues, “As a foreigner, ignorant of the local reality, I couldn’t quite grasp what this mural was all about. Fortunately, it seems that the locals came to wise insights. Some seemed annoyed by the content. Others seemed happy and read it in a variety of ways. They spoke of the bears in Slovenia that the government wants to control. Of the cruelty of the border fence with Croatia, where refugees are harmed trying to cross it. Of the wild animals that can’t cross that fence either, locked in with no way to migrate. Of the fences that the government puts up to protect the National Assembly from protests. Of the problem of the privatisation of natural resources. And of many other fences that should be coming down everywhere.”
The simplicity of the design and placement are undoubtedly what makes it most magnetic; If you don’t understand the slogan, you want to. If you do understand it, you may crave the opportunity to respond.
“I found Escif’s wall much more interesting after I understood the story behind it,” says Cooper.
We spoke to directors Abram and Zver about the goals of this year’s festival and why they chose Escif to paint one of the larger, higher-profile walls of the Ljubljana 2021. We discussed how it became a somewhat emblematic piece that was at once surprisingly provocative and also caused dialogue in the streets. “To paraphrase what Escif said about his mural in Ljubljana: painting a mural is a political act, a responsibility, and a commitment,” they say.
“This is also true for the entire production of LJSAF – it is a commitment that requires the recognition that the festival is not a stable and fixed entity, but a heterogeneous and fluid mosaic of events, people, and creativity, operating at a micro and macro level. This is similar to Michel Foucault’s definition of heterotopias – a multiplicity of fragmentary spaces in a single place that allows for spontaneity. LJSAF is also about the experience as the essence of festivals – being part of the festival crowd means mingling with other creative bodies and forging new vectors of collaboration.”
Escif appears pleased with the effect as well, perhaps occupying the ideal role of an artist working in public space today in a meaningful way.
“The etymological root of the word ‘politics’ is anything that directs, conditions, or modifies life in cities,” he says. “So painting a big wall in a big city is a big political act, as it directs, conditions, and modifies the urban landscape. Consequently, it also directs, conditions and modifies the lives of the citizens.”
In many cases, we’d have to agree that well-placed graffiti can have a similar effect.
To read more about the history of Slovenia under Italian and German occupation during World Ward II and barbed wire fences click on the links below:
This time of year, it is hard to find people in Manhattan on the weekends – they’re “weekending” in the Hamptons, darling.
Not exactly the original setting you might associate with graffiti, street art, hip-hop, punk rock, zines, and underground art culture but where else can curators Evan Pricco and Kim Stephens sell these works on paper while sipping cool drinks poolside?
“Beyond the Streets” carries the mobile party to Southampton Arts Center this Saturday with a wide swath of styles – 500 works from over 100 artists in an art fair-sized venue. It may remind you of the Urban Air Fair tried in Manhattan in summer 2017, but this one has something that one didn’t: Roger Gastman.
If it’s here, it’s because it is quality work and has a connection to the roots of these subcultural scenes usually as well. Expanding now to the more nebulous category of Contemporary, you may be surprised to see more accessible interpretive variations on the themes. Let’s see that paper, people.
Artists include: Action Bronson, Addam Yekutieli, agnès b, AIKO, André Saraiva, Andrew Schoultz, Andrew Thiele, Andy Rementer, Aryz, Bert Krak, Brandon Breaux, Broken Fingaz, Bryant Giles, Camille Walala, CES, Cey Adams, Charlie Ahearn, Chloe Early, Chris FREEDOM Pape, Clark Fox, Cody Hudson, Conor Harrington, Craig Costello, CRASH, DABSMYLA, Daniel Rich, David “Mr StarCity” White, DAZE, DEFER, Emily Manwaring, Eric Haze, Ermsy, Escif, FAILE, Faith XLVII, Fucci, Greg SPONE Lamarche, Gustavo Zermeno, Hilda Palafox, House 33, HuskMitNavn, Ian Reid, Icy & Sot, Jaime Muñoz, Jamilla Okuba, Jane Dickson, JEC*, Jeremy Shockley, Jillian Evelyn, JK5, John Konstantine, Julian Pace, KATSU, KC Ortiz, Kelsey Brookes, Khari Turner, Kime Buzzelli, LeRoy Neiman, Linas Garsys, Liz Flores, Lucy McLauchlan, Lujan Perez, Maripol, Mark Mothersbaugh, Martha Cooper, Marshall LaCount, Matt McCormick, Maya Hayuk, Michael Vasquez, MIKE 171, Mister CARTOON, Neena Ellora, Nehemiah Cisneros, Nettie Wakefield, NUNCA, Otto183, Paije Fuller, Paul Insect, POSE, Rebecca Morgan, Reko Rennie, Rello, Richard Colman, RISK, Ron English, Ryan McGinness, Sage Vaughn, Saladeen Johnson, Scott Campbell, Sean from Texas, Senon Williams, Shantell Martin, Shepard Fairey, SJK 171, Sofía Enriquez, SNOEMAN, Spacebrat, STASH, Steve ESPO Powers, SWOON, TAKI 183, The Perez Bros., Timothy Curtis, Todd James, Troy Lamarr Chew II, Umar Rashid, Victor Reyes, Wasted Rita, Wulffvnky, Yarrow Slaps, Yusuke Hanai, ZESER, ZOER and 45RPM.
BEYOND THE STREETS on PAPER July 17—August 28, 2021 Southampton Arts Center, Southampton, New York, 11968
spooky set of images today from València, where an enormous torso of a
woman is set afire in the center of the city, billowing blackened smoke through
its cut severed body upward hundreds of meters into the air.
Only two years ago we gave you stunning photos by Martha Cooper of Okuda’s enormous geometric pop art sculpture aflame for this traditional festival (OKUDA Sculpture Engulfed in Flames for Falles Festival in València). The culmination of a city-wide street celebration that is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands in this city of 2.5 million. Now there is no one outside on Valencia streets.
Spain and most countries in Europe are closing their borders, going into some version of a 24-hour lock-down curfew, encouraging people to self -quarantine to protect against the spread of coronavirus.
Look at the images of the yoga posed woman with a face mask, cut in two, lit on fire, only her shoulders and neck, and head remaining. Is it violent? Is it poetry?
“Suddenly this image became a symbol of peace and calm, unity and solidarity,” says Spanish Street Artist Escif, the political sociologist who often infuses his figurative imagery with greater commentary on society.
Escif tells us that the Valencia government decided to burn just the body of the sculpture and to keep the face with the mask in the square – until this crisis ends. Surrounded by firefighters, this fire goes up. Yet this serene woman will remain after the flame is extinguished, what is left of her.
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
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. “REWILD” from Escif 2. Guido van Helten in Faulkton, South Dakota by Brian Siskind 3. How Artist JR Is Helping Connect Our Humanity Through Street Art
BSA Special Feature: “REWILD” from Escif
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 worlds most versatile commodities. Beyond the industrialisation of the land, we end at the beginning, a thriving eco system 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 possible.
Guido van Helten in Faulkton, South Dakota by Brian Siskind
A massive piece by the observant eye of Guido van Helten, who knows how to capture a spirit, a gesture, a knowing expression. Here on a grain elevator in Faulkton, South Dakota, his piece becomes a clarion, captured here by Brian Siskind.
How Artist JR Is Helping Connect Our Humanity Through Street Art |
The Brooklyn Museum will be unveiling an exhibition with the works of French Street Artist JR this October. Here’s a small video of him explaining how his work is a connector between humans.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. Escif: Magic Piano 2. Adele Renault: St+Art India. Lodhi Art Festival 2019 3. Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean Museum 4. OS Gemeos: Flying Steps at Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin
BSA Special Feature: Escif: Magic Piano
Spanish Street Artist Escif creates a museum installation that uses irony, sarcasm, and deep truths that we’re not always ready to see.
By hi-jacking some of the current interactive nomenclature enabled by augmented/mixed realities and the normalizing of tablet use, he alerts viewers to the connection of age-old mineral mining that is just as contemporary as the hi-tech gadgetry many have embraced.
Since you can use the device to contemplate human suffering and make music, it is an indictment of modern attitudes that dehumanize and turn real stories into a video game.
From the artist:
“Coltan is a mineral, found specially in eastern Congo, used to make cells and computer chips. Violent rebel groups are exploiting coltan mining to help finance a bloody civil war which is now in its 12th year.
The link between the bloodshed and coltan is causing alarm among high-tec manufacturers slowly they are beginning to realise that their products may contain the tainted fruits of civil war. Since the outbreak of fighting in august 1998: an estimated 5.4 million people have died; 45.000 continue to die each month; Children account for 47% of these deaths.
Magic Piano is a music installation. With the help of a tablet (that obviously contains coltan) you will be able to play the piano. Use the device to navigate on the wall. When you pass on the screen over a charater, a sound will be activated. If you push the character with your finger a sound loop will be activated. You will also activate the animation of each character.”
Adele Renault: St+Art India. Lodhi Art Festival 2019
“It lacks all the give and the breath of fresh art,” the
bespectacled art critic intones with all the weight of a final damnation.
“We need haters out there. They are affirmations that we’re doing something right,” says the streetwise pop star with clever sunnies and sans big hat.
Taking a break from the Banksy beat, Doug appears to put forth that supposition that Jeff Koons is proving once again that as long as you are a white guy and you reference European art history you are 80% on your way as an artist whose work will be collected and exhibited.
OS Gemeos: Flying Steps at Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin
A splendid hybrid that sends heartbeats racing, even
involuntarily, here is a trailer for Flying Steps and Os Gemeos as they interpret
“Pictures at an Exhibition”, the famous piano composition that has become a
showpiece for virtuoso pianists. Good to see museums of contemporary art truly
stretching, redefining the street and Street Art.
When Street Artists and graffiti vandals are looking for a spot in public space they sometimes claim a wall as their own – even if someone else owns it. It’s a bit of hubris, but it helps with the street credibility among peers. In the case of this neighborhood in Barcelona, the whole neighborhood owns the wall – and Street Artist Escif knows it.
Winner of a competition among 300 international and national Street Artists last summer/fall on which BSA was part of the jury, the Spanish Street Artist has now completed his new mural in Sant Feliu de Llobregat entitled “La pared es nuestra” (The Wall is Ours). The wall borders the central square of outdoor civic life in a community of working people who coalesced and actively fought government neglect and resisted private capital brutality in the 1970s to create streets, services, and public space for themselves here.
To commemorate that victory and the struggle that led to it, this true community mural was conceived and realized last month in a grand opening ceremony and celebration that invited a few generations of its proud inhabitants.
Known for his study and critiques of social, political and environmental undercurrents that form the framework of modern society, Escif worked with local leaders and the projects’ sponsors Contorno Urbano and Kaligrafics to conceive of and produce the result. The wall features a non-linear representation of historical events and popular/civic engagement that were necessary to transform the neighborhood. Referencing photos from the elders from the earliest days of struggle, the warmly flat characters and graphic elements are open and frank, focused the the central elements of democratic processes and the chaotic forms that can ultimately yield the right to self determination .
The greater message can provide inspiration to groups of individuals who are knocked back on their heels and yet find common cause, reminding us all about the power of the people.
In a statement about his perspective for conception and execution of the piece, the artist says that a galvanizing event on this very square provided him with greatest inspiration and many in attendance at the opening celebration would agree that his vision is perfectly realized.
“In May 1977 [during Franco’s dictatorship], the residents of the Sant Feliu neighborhood called La Salud managed to halt the construction of a gas station. Neighbors say that it was during the night, while the city was still sleeping, when some brave women and men decided to push a concrete mixer into the construction hole where the foundations were going to be established.
They covered the hole with soil and then they planted a tree. Legend has it that if a tree is planted on an occupied plot of land, nobody will ever be able to remove it. That was exactly the genesis of that square, a square that still belongs to the neighbors, the residents of Sant Feliu.
“ ‘La Pared es Nuestra’ [The Wall is Ours] is a retaining wall that rescues the voices of those who are gone, that keeps the voice of those who remain, and that suggests the voice of those who are yet to come. An inclusive wall made by and for the neighbors, it is a wall that can be heard, that contains the sounds of the neighborhood, of its history, and of its inhabitants. This is a wall that can be read, and that has as many readings as visitors who come to contemplate it.”
A new sharply political campaign championing the freedom of expression has caught fire in Spain in the last few weeks under the hashtag #NoCallaremos, and Street Artists are now adding their talents to the protest. Rather shockingly for a modern European nation, a rapper’s prison sentence for offensive lyrics was upheld in Spanish Supreme Court in February (Billboard) and that decision along with other recent events has sparked a number of creative protests across the art world in cities across the country. Today BSA contributing Street Art photographer Fer Alcalá shares his opinions and new images of the murals in progress with BSA readers.
THE NO CALLAREM PLATFORM
~ by Fer Alcalá
…or how some of Spanish top artists react against censorship and repression of the freedom of speech from the central government…
It’s now known worldwide: the Spanish government is imprisoning hip hop artists like Valtonyc and Pablo Hasel because of their sharp and truthful lyrics as well as sentencing people like you and me because of their critical posts on social media.
As a reaction to these acts against the freedom of speech that are more in tune with a well established dictatorship than with 40 years of democracy, some projects like the No Callarem (we won’t shut up) platform have raised their voices.
One of the direct actions organized by the platform for fighting against Partido Popular’s civil rights oppression was to film a video clip featuring some of the most renowned lyricists on the scene as Frank T, Elphomega, Los Chikos del Maíz, La Ira, Rapsusklei, and César Strawberry, among others, at the old La Modelo prison. The location is an accurate metaphorical scenario when you are seeing that your liberty is being cut off thanks to laws like ‘Ley Mordaza’.
The song ‘Los Borbones son unos ladrones’, which alludes directly to the Spanish monarchy, includes some excerpts from some of the songs created by rappers serving a prison sentence. The video clip for the song, which you can watch at the end of this article, has become viral and almost all media outlets in the country are speaking about this big shout-out in the name of freedom.
I was invited to witness the filming and painting session by local artist Javier de Riba, from Reskate Studio, who invited some fellow artists to paint at La Modelo walls as a part of the whole process. Franco Fasoli JAZ, Twee Muizen, Txemy, Joan Tarragò, Enric Sant, Milvietnams, Werens and Fullet gave a new voice to the walls surrounding that backyard, providing 2D images that perfectly matched the spirit behind the beats and the rhymes.
This is what Javi has to say about his collaboration with the project:
“Our involvement with No Callarem happened thanks to the Catalan rap artist Pau Llonch. He lit the spark for recording a clip against the Valtonyc and Hasel sentences. They wanted to do it at La Modelo no matter what and the No Callarem platform supported the action. We helped to spread the word for putting together a team with different languages together to visually enhance the video clip.
At the beginning, was what meant to be an ‘atrezzo action’ turned into a bunch of pieces that can be visited in the backyard of Gallery 4. In fact that backyard is not open to the public, but you can see it from the watch guard pit. We think that, from a conceptual point of view, it’s very powerful to keep those pieces locked – especially when thinking about how things are going in Spain regarding freedom of speech.”
Additionally it’s worth mentioning Reskate’s initiative about shouting against the suffocating atmosphere that we are experiencing here for some time: ‘Our idea is that every artist post one piece / illustration / painting / picture (old or new) supporting our initiative promoting freedom of speech in order to criticize the lack of democracy within the Spanish government.
Some of the hashtags that we will use are #NoCallarem #EzGaraIsilduko #NonCalaremos #NunVamosCallar #NonCararam,#NoCallaremos being the main one.
Visual artists from Madrid, Zaragoza, Almería, Oviedo, Valencia, Vila-real, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valladolid, Tenerife…are supporting this initiative. Some of them are: Malakkai, Escif, Paula Bonet, Aryz, Ricardo Cavolo, Enric Sant, Twee Muizen, Franco Fasoli, Hyuro, Javier Jaén, Boa Mistura, Conrad Roset, Jordi Borràs, Danjer, Cinta Vidal, David de las Heras, Juan Díaz-Faes, Chamo San, and Marina Capdevila, among others.
La Semana por la Libertad de Expresión (Freedom of Speech Week) is happening now, with different activities taking place all over the country. The funds raised from these activities will go to a resistance fund for the platform in order to defend all those people chased and brought to justice because of censorship and repression. You can check the whole program of the week HERE.
So, yes: we have a fight going on. Comedians, actors and actresses, musicians, journalists, visual artists, the guy / girl next door who is active in social media… It’s kind of a Russian Roulette game where, if you are critical with the established system and you are using 3rd grade humor as a weapon, you can end in jail. And all of it is happening in a country whose government is accused of being the most corrupt on the whole continent.
I have a very well informed friend who has been kind of disappointed with the absence of critical vision and combative behaviors from most of the big names in the local street art / graffiti scene. Thanks to initiatives such as No Callarem and the impulse of people like Javi de Riba, she is reconciling herself with this small, but powerful little world whose images have the strength for making important things happen.
Finally, I’d like to recommend that you check the publications under the hashtag #nocallaremos that are out, as there will be some fine and unique art being produced for the occasion in the upcoming days.
As it’s being said in Los Borbones son unos Ladrones:
– rap music is not a crime
– we need scratches, we need paintings
– I don’t dream about Versace, I dream about barricades
– …because of the poetry that still sleeps in the ditches…
Big props to Javi de Riba, Xavier Urbano and all the artists behind the No Callarem movement.
Street Artist Escif organized with other artists to fight the commercial development of seaside land in Valencia last month. With the help of other socially responsible artists including Aryz, BLU, Borondo, Escif, Anaïs Florin, Hyuro, Luzinterruptus, Daniel Muñoz “SAN”, Sam3 and Elías Taño, Escif and local organizers are publicly pushing a message that shows the local council what it means when citizens are engaged.
According to the organizers La Punta is a hamlet of orchards and gardens located in the south of the city of Valencia where more than 15 years ago the “Logistics Activities Zone” (ZAL) project of the Port of Valencia decided to chase hundreds of people out of this land to give to developers as a new port initiative.
Well, that failed spectacularly, probably because funding fell through due to the global financial crisis, and 15 years later development has not happened. The land has begun to evolve and return to its more natural state and a local farm economy has sprouted up. Meanwhile city planners are hoping they can conjure up another way to use these public lands for private profit.
But grassroots organizers say they want the public/private predatory folks to step back and let citizens decide what to do with this area. Thanks to this new “SenseMurs” public art initiative that is drawing a lot of critical eyes to the matter, more citizens may actually get a seat at the table. Well organized and great communicators, on March 10 and 11 the artists and activists gave tours of the murals of SenseMurs, called a press conference, threw a concert, and opened the doors to other citizens for their participation in the process.
“Within this context, neighbors and associations are trying to bring attention to this reality in order to negotiate with the Administration and start a public participation process,” says the art collective Luzinterruptus in an email, “where it will be decided how these lands will be used and to mend the injustices committed against the neighbors so another chance is given to the deported families to return and work the lands of l’Horta de la Punta.”
Enjoy these shots of the installations from Martha Cooper and two from Juanmi Ponce, starting off with the one and only BLU.
A: ¿ Porqué HAY LECHUGAS ?
B: Pues porqué alguien plantó semillas en esta tierra fértil, les puso agua y dejó que el sol hiciese su trabajo. Imágino que es un ciclo natural. La tierra es generosa y muy prospera. A poco que la cuides, te regala lechugas como estas.
A: No me refiero a eso. Mi pregunta es porque escribes la frase HAY LECHUGAS.
B: Ah! …pues porque hay lechugas!