A few weeks ago we saw a populist uprising invade one of this culture’s most sacrosanct public institutions out of anger and disillusionment, among other factors; generally a repudiation of what was perceived as a corrupt cabal who ignores the will of the people. Within days the news was full of stories of the State tracking down and cracking down on the dangerous insurgents and tracing their words and actions. Alliances were suddenly severed, fingers were wildly pointed, threats were issued, straw men swiftly collapsed. An historic quake, the tremulous ground is still shifting.
We’re don’t intend to oversimplify here, but you have to admit there appear to be parallels in these stories.
In the end, we see the ripples through street art. Actually, sometimes we see the antecedents to events like these as well – but we may not recognize them as such until later. One cryptic prophet and cultural critic from the street art world, Don Leicht, passed away this week after a very trying illness. His original use of the digitalized Invader predates the high profile street artist of the same name; his comic/cutting assessments of modern hypocrisy echoed across walls of New York as early as the inception of the video game itself. A long time trusted friend and creative collaborator with street artist John Fekner, Leicht was quickly memorialized with this new installation on the street (below).
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring 1UP Crew, Bastard Bot, Below Key, CRKSHNK, De Grupo, Don Leicht, Duke A. Barnstable, Ethan Minsker, Freedom, John Fekner, Maks Art World, Nick Walker, No Sleep, and Young Samo.
Reposted from John Fekner:
“Don Leicht (October 12th, 1946-January 22nd, 2021)Don was my fierce older Libra brother, colleague and collaborator throughout almost fifty years of friendship. Don was a passionate and devout painter who played by his own Bronx cool rules; whether as a teacher in the public school system in the South Bronx, or in his hand-written personal writings or hand-cut metal, plastic or cardboard sculptural works, all visually charged with a deep meaning and social purpose. His imagery could spark a laugh or a smile; but were intended to cause a reaction within a viewer’s heart, mind and soul.
Don was a steadfast bridge to carry me through my sometimes unwieldy behavior. He would provide answers with care, understanding and positivity; whether it was in person or through a 10-minute or hour phone call. Within our conversation (and with many of his friends), he would always repeat the message as to be sure that you ‘got the message’ and would act accordingly. Don always had a simple soothing solution: ‘Get one thing done by the end of the day.’
Don was preceded in death by his wife Annie; and he will be deeply missed by his two sons, Anthony and Nicky, who helped their father throughout his overwhelming health issues, especially in this past year.
Walk on dear friend. We celebrate your life work!”
They used to run from the Vandal Squad in this
neighborhood. Now people pay to see their art here.
Through the expansive glass wall on the 6th floor you can look down Kent Avenue to see the spot where a monster pickup truck with a heavy chain tied around a FAILE prayer wheel almost jackknifed on the sidewalk, gave up and sped away. Not that many Brooklynites saw that event in the 2000s – nobody walked here and few people drove through Williamsburg then except truckers looking for street walking ladies wearing high heels and spandex. Oh, and a serial killer.
Now visitors buy tickets to see a circular colonnade of FAILE prayer wheels here at 25 Kent – including the real estate developers and Wall Street professionals who displaced the community of artists whose work made the neighborhood attractive and “edgy”.
Along with Street Artists in this exhibition like Shepard Fairey, Bast, Swoon, Invader, Aiko, Dan Witz, Katsu, 1UP, and Lister, the FAILE duo put completely illegal artworks on walls under cover of night and threat of arrest in this same neighborhood then – transforming it with many others who are not in this show into an open gallery of the streets, placing Williamsburg on the map as New Yorks’ epicenter of the newly emerging Street Art scene.
The Nature of Graffiti and Street Art
As graffiti and Street Art are migratory and necessarily elusive by nature, this story is only one chapter in a volume of history that serious academics are now reconstructing and analyzing. With each passing year and published white paper, the practices of 20th century public mark-making are being examined in greater detail for archiving and for posterity. Not surprisingly, institutions, patrons, collectors, and brands are increasingly interested in this story as well.
When it comes to the anarchic subculture of illegal
street art practice and its influence on society, there are non-stop ironies
sprayed en route from verboten to Vuitton, and street culture has supercharged
the imagination of the mainstream and high culture throughout history – that’s
where the best ideas come from sometimes. Many seminal artworks from “the
scene”, as it were, represent much more than what you are seeing at first
glance. As art and cultural critic Carlo McCormick has described the iconic
Shepard Fairey ‘Hope’ image in Art in
America, many graffiti and Street Art works saved are “not a
fleeting pop-culture sensation but simply the latest crossover hit in a long
line of underground classics.”
The wide-ranging survey that is Beyond the Streets makes sure that you know where the roots are, and who many of the pioneers were. It is impossible to tell a complete story that includes scenes as diverse as west coast Chicano muralism, hobo graffiti, hip-hop commercial design, NY downtown artivism, Japanese low/hi contemporary, skateboard, tattoo, early train writing and a current romance with muralism, but BTS at least gives a serious consideration to each and offers you the opportunity to look further into them.
With the help of photography documentation from people like Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant, Jim Prigoff, Lisa Kahane, Joe Conzo, John Fekner, Bill Daniel, Maripol, and Dash Snow, the crucial importance of this work provides needed interstitial and contextual information that enables myriad stories to be elucidated.
Exhaustive, no. Exhausting, possibly. Pace yourself.
spent my life surrounded by graffiti and Street Art,” says the shows’ director
Roger Gastman “and you could say that I have been obsessed with understanding
the culture, its origins, and its evolution. It’s incredible to me how far it
With 150 artists whose practices span five decades
and various (mainly) American subcultures displayed in a maze of new walls in
this 100,000 sf, two-floor exhibition, the Beyond the Streets senior curatorial
team includes Gastman, filmmaker/ graffiti historian Sacha Jenkins SHR, Juxtapoz
Editor in Chief Evan Pricco, and author/ graffiti historian / graffiti writer David
CHINO Villorente. Each curator brings core competencies and knowledge of the
graffiti scene (Gastman, Jenkins, Villorente) as it has evolved to include the
Street Art practice and an eventual move toward contemporary art (Pricco).
“It’s absolutely phenomenal,” says Villorente, who says his history as
a graffiti writer compounds the impact for him. “I was glad that the show was
coming to New York because I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I couldn’t have
imagined it – especially when I think back on when I was writing on the trains
and doing illegal graffiti. To have of show of this magnitude is really
“We started writing in ’68 and here we are, fifty-one years later,” says Mike 171 as he gestures toward himself and crew writer SJK 171 when talking about how they began and continued writing their tags on the street in New York City. “This is the history right here,” he says, and you know you are about to be schooled about the plain realities of early graffiti writing. At the opening, you witness each guy tagging in a large dusty window here and realize the love for writing never actually stops.
“We were expressing something that was inside of us,” says SJK 171. “The streets were like ours,” he tells you against a backdrop of their work, Cornbread’s work, and of images full of one color, single line monikers that set the stage for the more colorful, character-driven pieces and burners a decade later, transforming trains into a rolling aesthetic symphony by the mid 1970s.
One of the actual “whole car” writers of that period, Lee “LEE” Quinones, here recreates a “Soul Train” car side on a canvas that looks like it could easily wrap an actual MTA #2-line car that he used to slaughter with cans in the middle of the night at the train yard. When describing the new work he said he was intentionally keeping it simple – perhaps owing the style to his earlier practice.
“I think this is one of Lee’s most amazing pieces,” says Charlie Ahearn, the director of the seminal 1982 “Wild Style” film that Quinones stars in. Ahearn self-produced that film which became an important distillation of the merging of graffiti with hip-hop culture during a pivotal moment in the history of both. Now also a professor of Hip-Hop, art, design, and documentary film making at Pace University, Ahearn is familiar with many of the artists work here, many relationships reaching back decades. “I told Lee that I liked that it was a one-off, that he painted all the color straight off without the embellishment, texturing, and all that stuff.”
Charlie’s twin brother John Ahearn is represented here popping out from walls as well, his sculptures serving as authentic portraits of people you may easily have seen on New York streets over the last four decades. Casted directly on top of the people themselves in a technique he has perfected, the placement of the sculptures gives life to the space.
Star Writers, Immersive Environments, Foundations
The individual clusters of work and canvasses by 1970s-80s train painters like Futura, Crash, Lady Pink, Freedom, Carlos Mare, Blade, Haze, and Daze and next gen graphic painters like Doze Green and Rime are complemented by a number of so-called “immersive” spaces here like the Mission Schools’ Barry McGee storefront with smashed window, and the Australian Pop duo Dabs & Myla’s eye candy floral walls with thousands of artificial fauna created in collaboration with Amelia Posada.
The high-profile graphic activist Shepard Fairey’s 30 year career overview takes a large area and encompasses all elements of his street and studio practice, and Bill Barminski’s cardboard home is open for you to explore with a wry smile, remembering the security room installation he did at Banksy’s Dismaland a couple years earlier.
also treated to a full rolling wall of Craig Stecyk posters that brings you the
sun and surf of California skate culture, sculptures by Mr. Cartoon and Risk, a
kid-friendly illustrated room with crafting supplies for young fans on tables
from HuskMitNavn, and an astute freight train culture educational display by
writer/painter/sculptor Tim Conlon (complete with a mid-sized Southern Pacific freight
on train tracks he and friends built), prints/photos by historian Bill Daniel, and
original drawings by the man some call the King of Hobo Art, buZ blurr.
are a self portrait as predicated on a first Bozo Texino person and I kind of
changed the image around,” says Mr. blurr, a legendary figure in denim
overalls, as he patiently describes his classic tag image of a railway cowboy.
is a writer motif – the pipe smoke is going up and then it is trailing back to
signify movement as the train goes down the track,” he says. “I worked in the
train yards and my job was as a brakeman. I had a little free time so I started
making drawings. I made my first one on November 11, 1971,” he says as he
recalls the state of mind that he was in at the time as he began to tag
freights with the image and text that came to him clearly – and may have
perplexed other travellers.
came from a confused state. I was questioning everything. I was putting kind of
cryptic messages under my drawings. It was anybody’s guess as to its literal
interpretation. I addressed some of them up to specific people but whether they
saw them or responded to them, I wouldn’t have any idea.”
it’s shipped in the crate its 550 pounds,” says Conlon as he stands by the 3-foot
high freight car re-creation on tracks and ties that is
hit with a couple of wild and colorful graffiti burners. “Here I’m going to
show you something,” he says as he pulls back the roof to reveal the narrow
coffin interior in rusted red. “So I’m going to hide some beer in here during
the opening party. This is like the fifth one of these I’ve made,” and he proudly
confides that one lives in the house of Robert Downey Jr.
Digging Deep to Take Risks
to rest on laurels and previous formulas of success, the show keeps a freshness
by presenting known entities pushing themselves further and taking creative risks;
a reflection of that spirit of experimentation we have always prized on the
writer Earsnot from Irak crew, now known professionally as Kunle Martin, said
he had been making work for the gallery containing elements of graffiti, but
felt they were too “safe”.
“Then my friend Dan said ‘you should go back to doing drawings,’” he says as he stands before figurative canvasses in black and white on cardboard. “I said ‘I can’t! It’s too hard! But eventually I began working in my studio five days a week, and I made enough for a show.”
Reflective of the attitude of Gastman toward artists in the community, he told Martin that if he made enough of them, he could place them in this show. “I think he was happy to hear that I was in my studio working. He’s been very supportive of it.”
color-drenched graphic/photographic collage style is featured with plenty of
space in large frames from Chicago’s Pose, who says he is letting photography
and geometry lead him away from his previous pop collage style that may have reminded
many of Lichtenstein. His inspiration here comes from his research into early
photos of graffiti writers running from police “I was
obsessed with John Naars photos and I have usually Norman Mailer as in
inspiration. Some of these photo references are from the Philadelphia Inquirer,” he says.
New York’s Eric Haze also dares himself to take a new direction with three canvasses featuring a refracted piecing-together of imagery and memories of this city in monochrome. Based on black and white scenes of the city by photographer and NYC taxi driver Matt Weber, the scenes capture aspects that are culled from imagination and impression. The centerpiece canvas captures an iconic piece of the Williamsburg waterfront that has been removed in the last few years by developers; the signage of the old Domino Sugar factory by the Williamsburg Bridge.
Mr. Haze said he meant it as a gift and tribute to
his wife, actress and longtime resident of the neighborhood, Rosie Perez who
used to see it along Kent Avenue as a kid. “He’s not afraid to take risks. He’s not afraid to go in the
studio and express what’s inside of him. When he brought me to the studio, he
says, ‘I have a surprise for you’,” she remembers. “I saw the beginnings of the
Domino painting and I was stunned into silence and I got teary-eyed.”
An expanded version of the show that first mounted
in Los Angeles last year, the collection is focused a great deal on the
American history of graffiti with a balance of East/West coast graffiti history
– in a way that may remind you of 2011’s “Art in the Streets” at LA MoCA. That
makes sense, considering Gastman co-curated that show as well.
“It’s both a historical and current look at where
the culture went and where it started and how widespread it is,” says
co-curator Evan Pricco, who perhaps provides a lynchpin view toward the big
name Street Artists who continued to push expectations in the 2000’s on streets
and in commercial galleries around the world. “With the space spread over two
floors it has a way better curatorial sense. I also think it does compete with
museums because it shows that this kind of work is on the same level. You kind
of have to present it in a way that feels very institutional and archival.”
So is Beyond the Streets
a graffiti show or a Street Art show or a contemporary art show? For artist
Kenny Scharf, who first gained attention during the heyday of Downtown
Manhattan’s art scene that benefitted from an interlude where rents were dirt
cheap and Wall Street was on a cocaine high, there is no need to categorize
what kind of art this is.
“You know I never liked labels or titles anyway so
even back in the early 80s I was pegged like ‘oh you’re a graffiti artist,’” he
says. “People feel the need to title and label so I’ll
let them to continue to do that but I don’t fit into any of them and I don’t
want to. I want to fit into all of them and none of them.”
Streets opened June 21 and continues through the summer.
Martha Cooper’s work as exhibited at Beyond The Streets New York
Beyond The Streets NYC is now open in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to the general public and will run until August 2019. Click HERE for schedules, tickets and details.
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.
It’s not all about the murals! A sacrilegious thing to say perhaps, especially on a Sunday, especially when we are in town to see fresh new murals at the Wall\Therapy festival in Rochester. But none of the artists will take us to task because everyone knows that the roots of Street Art and graffiti are in the un-permissioned work that happens underground in hidden spots that become revered; magnets for aerosol mark-making, veritable spray can galleries. These crumbling houses of the holy are foundational to the modern Street Art scene. After all, if the good Lord didn’t want teens to get high, have sex, and catch tags he wouldn’t have created urban decay.
So it was good to get to the dirty stuff with some help from an affable Roc native named Jason who showed us around some of the darker caverns in the city this week where you can get a sense of the conversations that bubble just below the surface. These places of decay feature some old school tags, rollers, characters, bubble letters, rants, political critique – the gamut. Also, homeless people, restless hoodies on BMX bikes, and funny smelling cigarette smoke wafting past you periodically.
We were really honored to speak at the museum Friday and to be introduced by the director Jonathan Binstock and Wall\Therapy founder Dr. Ian Wilson for our talk and show of a series of short films about the evolving Street Art scene globally. Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) is part of the University of Rochester and houses a huge encyclopedic collection of 12,000 works of art representing cultures from around the world and across millennia so to have the opportunity to share contemporary works from across this global grassroots art movement is especially gratifying and many in the audience came up afterward to talk about how inspiring this moment in art history is to them personally.
Typically academia and institutional support has been a few steps removed from this means of expression but the last decade and a half continues to see a shifting of perspectives by some who traditionally resisted the work in the streets. We’re just glad that we can continue to provide a platform for voices high and low, trained and self-taught, polished and in development – and the feedback we continue to get from you is that the work strikes a strong chord and we are grateful. Just to keep it real, here’s a tiny collection of work from Rochester’s organic urban art scene.
So here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring AX, Cash4, Eder Muniz, Freedom, FUA Krew, Icy and Sot, Jeff Soto, Mr PRVRT, ND’A, OverUnder, ROA, Smear, and Thievin Stephen.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening :
1. Miss Van, Victor Castillo, Easo Andrews in LA
2. Rallitox Invites You to Walk Over Immigrants for Free.
3. Kinetoscope: Angelina Christina x Ease One
4. Cranio in Breda, Netherlands for Graphic Design Festival
5. Michael Beerens: Captivity and Freedom
6. ICY & SOT Interview in Berlin for Vantage Point
BSA Special Feature: Miss Van, Victor Castillo, Easo Andrews in LA
This costume shop in Los Angeles got very lucky this spring when Barcelona based Miss Van visited and asked them if they would like their facade freshly painted. Along with local talents Victor Castillo and Easo Andrews, Miss Van created a bit of costumed magic that will undoubtedly increase sales.
The video is directed, shot, and edited by “Birdman”.
Rallitox Invites You to Walk Over Immigrants for Free.
A social experiment in Berlin this March by Street Artist Rallitox invited passersby to walk on top of Immigrants. A politically and socially charged topic in many countries today, Germany is struggling to strike a balance about where it stands on immigration. It is surprising how many people were willing to try it out, and how many nervously smiled as an upswelling of conflicting emotions were undoubtedly released in all participants, including those who watched.
Kinetoscope: Angelina Christina x Ease One
Slab City is sometimes billed as an isolated desolated off-the-grid sort of place in California so it was an adventure for Christina Angelina and Ease One discovered the remains of this abandoned water tank and transformed it into a circular mural. They call it The Kinetoscope.
Cranio in Breda, Netherlands for Graphic Design Festival
Sort of odd for a festival with this kind of name on our site but we clearly acknowledge the continuum of creativity extends beyond labels today. Brazilian street artist Cranio here provides a look at his technique with cans for creating his instantly recognizable figures.
Michael Beerens: Captivity and Freedom
Icy & Sot Interviewed on Vantage Point in Berlin
In March we were in Icy & Sots’ room in Berlin for the recording of this interview and it was great to watch. Check out the full interview below and go to their main site to hear more interviews as well (including one with BSA)
For the record, Rochester tops lists in terms of liveability, investment in new technology sectors, and has 91% of it’s citizens covered by health insurance – before Obamacare even kicks in. It has lost jobs and population due to stumbling giants like Xerox and Eastman Kodak and recent annual budgets have had significant shortfalls, but Rochester is putting up a good fight in the healthcare sector.
Dr. Ian Wilson should know. Which brings us to the second diagnosis. Ask the former Brooklyn graff writer now radiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center if Street Art is synonymous with crime and disorder, and he’ll tell you all about the healing power of Wall\Therapy and murals.
The just-concluded community art project he spearheaded landed local and international graffiti/urban/street artists in Rochester for 10 days of painting – bringing certain parts of the city alive with curious locals hanging out in empty lots and hanging out of slow moving car windows, watching artists with cans as they bob up and down on cherry pickers.
Co-curated this year with lead organizer Erich Lehman, Wilson has pulled off a stylistically wide-ranging collection of nearly 30 walls this year that go from aesthetically sweet to academically rooted. An apt balance, if you think of Ian.
It’s also been a balancing act to please all constituencies and manage to pull off something fresh; he’s dealt with a handful of outspoken critics who question every turn he’s made, yet the festival has been buoyed by a curious and enthusiastic under-30 youth culture whose minds explode with excitement at the thought of the global Street Art scene hitting their own city.
“Mural art can enhance the life experience – an arguable effect of the arts in general,” the doctor says only a little didactically. All week during Wall\Therapy locals and visitors were taking tours on the El Camino Trail, watching walls going up in the South Wedge, and discussing art and the ideas that the artists are working with – whether it’s a portrait of Trayvon Martin in a piece by New Jersey’s LNY, a gentlemen’s fist fight by Ireland’s Conor Harrington, or a tribute to the influence of Xerox on the city by Baltimore’s Gaia.
Add the local talents, a cadre of volunteers and photographers and some serious old-skool big graffiti names from NYC rocking styles that started it all, this year there was more action than a Saturday night ER.
Finally, Wall\Therapy is Wilson’s balancing act of bringing art to the people, and medical care to communities in need. Working with a group of colleagues, he has also embarked on a fundraising program to bring diagnostic equipment to people in the developing world who lack access – and he is now talking about cloud-based diagnoses by a pool of volunteer doctors around the world who can interpret the teleradiology scans remotely.
Can he get all the funding and the equipment and the artists and the walls all together at once? “Realistically, this will have to be done in stages or phases, like some of the procedures that I perform,” he says. If you’ve witnessed this years committed volunteers and organizers at Wall\Therapy, it is a fair assumption that these dual goals of art and healing will happen on a growing scale.
“There is no hope without inspiration. The two travel simultaneously, sharing the same bandwidth,” explains Wilson.
BSA gives a shout out for the valuable contributions to the Wall\Therapy over the last ten days by the artists, organizers, volunteers, and talented photographers. Special thanks to John Magnus Champlin, Erich Lehman, Ian Wilson, Matt DeTurck, Jason Wilder, Alex Stuart, Mark Deff, Lisa Barker, Mark Deff, and Josh Saunders. Shout out to Instagrammers @WallTherapyNY , @heliosunphoto , and @shotbywilder .
WALL\THERAPY began in earnest this weekend with a Friday kickoff party that welcomed arriving artists and the local community together and then jumped directly into the making of art with many murals going up on walls around town in Rochester simultaneously Saturday and Sunday. The dual pronged focus of WALL\THERAPY is a mural festival that draws Street Artists and graffiti artists from around the world to work alongside local artists and to raise awareness of people’s access to medical technology.
Street Art and medicine; You may wonder how the two are related, and the answer is that these are two of Ian Wilson’s greatest passions. A Brooklyn born graff writer who went on to pursue a career in teleradiology, Ian works long doctors hours at his regular gig in a local hospital and puts this WALL\THERAPY event together with partners, volunteers, and community members. Finally, he is working to bring imaging and diagnostic equipment to communities around the world who don’t have this basic tool to treat disease.
Since BSA supports people who actually give back, we are very happy to be the Media Partner for WALL\THERAPY and are proud of the artists who are lending their talents to this initiative in this northwestern town of New York State.
This year the roster has expanded to include an eclectic mix of a few serious old skool NYC graffiti names spanning 4 decades, a healthy handful of international and nationally known Street Artists that are defining the scene today, and some important local talents.
As a group they represent a solid lineup and are a reflection of the inclusive approach that WALL\THERAPY is taking, while skewing toward high quality. The list includes Bile, Binho, Case, Cern, Change, DalEast, Daze, Ever, Faith47, Adam Francey, Freedom, Freddy Sam, Jessie & Katey, Labrona, Lady Pink and Smith, Lea Rizzo, LNY, Mike Ming, Mr. Prvrt, Faring Purth, Pose2 and Range, ROA, Sarah C. Rutherford, and St Monci among others.
All week we will bring you exclusive new images of the creative progress and some insights into the personal stories of some of the artists as they create their works in this unique combining of art, science, and community inspiration.
Thanks today to photographers Jason Wilder, Alex Stuart, and Mark Deff for sharing these images with BSA readers.
BSA is totally psyched to be your source for hot exclusive images and a few scintillating stories that unfold during WALL\THERAPY, the Street Art festival anchored in Rochester, New York that is kicking off right about…. Wait! It already started! Here is your first dispatch.
FREEDOM – that’s what Street Art and graffiti means to a whole lot of people – is something that seems endangered around the world (including here), and is the name of a NYC graffiti writer who started off the 2013 Wall Therapy festival by painting in a………. wait for it…………. tunnel!
For those readers not familiar with Freedom Tunnel at Manhattan’s northern West End, it basically got it’s name from this guy because he held it down during the 80s and early 90s. Not only did he basically take up residency there for years, he also stretched his creative legs and let his mind free from the constraints of traditional graff lettering and style to entertain portraiture, pop art, advertising and even the Rennaissance. So how fitting that he’s debuting here in a tunnel, this time in the old Rochester subway, where he decided to return to pop influences that formed his youth.
There are a few artists who we identify as missing links, connective tissue, between New York’s storied graffiti history and today’s Street Art scene, and Freedom is one of them. He spoke with us about this trip back underground:
Brooklyn Street Art:In a way, it strikes us that there was more actual freedom to be yourself in this tunnel than the one that bears your name – whether because the original is now inhospitable or because it carries the weight of memories and associations, possibly even expectations. Is that true? Freedom: When I painted in the original Freedom Tunnel from 1980 to 1995 nobody cared, and that was great for me. It allowed me to fail — which I think is a big part of the artistic process. The tunnel wasn’t even called the Freedom Tunnel until 1990 and the works inside of it had no value. Today, when I do a piece there’s a whole lot more to think about.
Brooklyn Street Art:Did you scope around this tunnel for a good source of light to frame your work? Freedom: I spent the entire morning of my first day in the tunnel finding the right spots for the paintings. Admittedly, I miss the shafts of light from the Freedom Tunnel.
Brooklyn Street Art:Here in Rochester you returned to a personal nostalgia with advertising art, pop art, branding and that visual vocabulary. Some of your past work has also referenced European painting tradition and with some of the new Street Artists now making similar references (like Gaia, Dan Witz, Lister’s ballerinas and even Conor Harrington) do you have any inclination to knock out something painterly once in a while? Freedom: My large murals – even when they are painterly – are merely impressions. I like to think of them as drawings done in spray paint. If I was going to paint on a wall then I might as well go all the way and grid it and become a muralist, but that doesn’t interest me. I do more labor intensive works on canvas.
Brooklyn Street Art:Do you have a personal collection of ephemera that you are digging the most right now? Or is your collection primarily in your mind? Freedom: If there’s one thing I found out from when they closed down the Freedom Tunnel, it is that it’s a state of mind. When I decided to go back to buried treasure from my youth I Googled images from 1965 to 1967 and I tried to find things that had stuck with me. Thirty years ago I would’ve needed a more specific object, one that I had legitimately held in my hand. Today when I pore through the images I try to find things that are indicative of a bygone era. I’m fascinated by the terrible printing of the 60s – most of it is red, white and blue. That’s what I’m in to now, although it could change.
BSA is very pleased to start the weeks’ coverage of Wall Therapy with the voice of Freedom himself describing his experience as an essay sparked by the memories brought back from painting in a tunnel for the first time in almost two decades. He starts off by telling us how he used to retrieve treasure through street gratings, an apt metaphor for an artist who once turned a tunnel into a museum.
“When I was a kid in the 60’s my parents wouldn’t let me off the block.
I was, however, allowed to go ‘subway fishing’ on Lexington and 88th Street because it did not require me to cross any streets. The grating I fished through was located at a bus stop – which meant there were many buried treasures including: buffalo nickels, mercury dimes, baseball cards, political buttons, matchbook covers, a Green Hornet ring – the list was endless. I was able to fish out lots of great stuff with a string, a lock and a wet piece of gum.
When we moved to the West Side in 1967 I dragged part of my haul with me to my new neighborhood where I traded it for other pop culture ephemera. In 1980, when I started painting in the Freedom Tunnel these images began to re-emerge. Because of their proximity to a spot where (city) Parks employees got drunk and took naps, they painted over the paintings. I moved to a different section of the tunnel.
Thirty-three years later I had the chance to repaint some of the images that were dear to me. The original paintings were done in silver and black – after all, who would ever think of priming a wall?
Everything has changed. These paintings are not only done in color, the bottle cap is done with transparent paint. Tape and cardboard were used to make it a little crisper, and I had an amazing assistant named Justin from the Wall Therapy team who could point out mistakes while I was still on the ladder.
“I can’t believe it. I never expected this, ever.”
The Houston Street Wall was the site of a sidewalk surprise birthday party Saturday for photographer Martha Cooper, who was planning to stop by for what she thought would be a new mural shoot. The world famous graffiti photographer had no idea that artists How and Nosm had begun masking the letters of her nickname out of their mural at 7 a.m. to prepare for an all-star cast of some big graffiti and street art names from the last 4 decades to create a larger-than-life birthday card for her.
Thanks to speedy social media, a sunny early spring day, and her stature as an historic photographer of fortitude and integrity, the impromptu guest list ballooned throughout the day for this street side celebration, while the boisterous honking New York traffic rolled by.
By the time Martha and her cousin Sally arrived with wall organizer Meghan Coleman just after noon, the “MARTY” letters had already been half completed and she stood staring with mouth smiling and agape, waving at the cluster of photographers shooting her atop the Houston Street meridian. A second later she was laughing and racing across the street, camera in hand, ready to capture the painting action and get mobbed with well wishers. Cooper confessed to being pretty overwhelmed by the sight of her name so big. For her part, Sally, a confidant and buddy since they attended grammar school together in their hometown of Baltimore, busted out into tears.
Just inside of one day the famed wall that has hosted the likes of Haring, Scharf, Fairey, and Faile was suddenly regaled in eye-popping color and a variety of styles by Lady Pink, How and Nosm, Bio from Tats Cru, Freedom, Free5, Crash, Daze, Terror 161, Faust, and Aiko – producing a head spinning and sweet greeting to a person whom they all respect and admire for her work and determination. In addition to the steady flow of fans, writers, artists, bloggers and photographers asking to have a photo taken with one the few photographers of New York’s 1970s subway graffiti scene, a number of friends stopped by to have some birthday cake and watch the painting – like Wild Style director Charlie Ahearn, his brother artist John Ahearn, hip-hop photographer Joseph Conzo, and master sculptor Simon Verity, among others.
The brand new “Marty” mural is up for an incredibly short time, possibly only days, so if you have an opportunity or inclination, catch this personal and public display of affection for a lady who helped us all appreciate art in the streets.
“Public, Urban, Street, Unauthorized, Permissioned, Private, Graffiti, Vandalism, Fine Art, Installation, Throwie, Portraiture, Poetry, Sticker, Sculpture, Aerosol, Line Drawing, Wheat paste, Yes. All of it applies and all of it is part of a large conversation that has been happening in New York for about 50 years, probably before that. The intersection of art and the street is by nature open to the interaction of every person. At its core is an expression that is human, and the reactions to it are likewise. ” – Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo in PANTHEON: A history of art from the streets of NYC
When the erudite artist and alchemist Daniel Feral first talked enthusiastically in the summer of ’10 about his plans to mount a tribute to NYC graffiti and Street Art across the street from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in ’11, we surveyed the large display windows of the former Donnell Library with their grand sweep on 53rd Street in Manhattan, and thought, “Why the Hell not?” As months rolled by and we continued to communicate with Feral and co-curator Joyce Manalo, the once medium sized exhibition grew larger in depth and scope – each time.
Truly a grassroots effort that was free of institutional or corporate restrictions, the PANTHEON show was funded by a modest Kickstarter campaign and administered under a non-profit. Each role and skillset was donated, as was all the labor – freely given by people involved in the scene. When the windows were unveiled in April of 2011 to the thousands of daily passersby, their Pantheon dream had grown into a full fledged installation of historic and current NYC graffiti and Street Artists, a 426 page tome of academic quality and behind the scenes insights, and the new iconic “Feral Diagram” that was quickly snapped up for display and sale at the historic “Art in the Streets” show in Los Angeles.
PANTHEON, the book, was one of three published works that BSA was honored to write for and provide images for in 2011. In the process of building PANTHEON, the exhibit, many new ideas and relationships were born, and like it’s muse – graffiti and all it’s cousins, it continues to organically grow in influence in New York and around the world. As 2012 begins, Daniel and Joyce are beginning a publishing and curatorial company, Pantheon Projects. Together in 2011 the artists, writers, historians, academics, curators, and photographers in PANTHEON told a story about an organic movement over time, helping us to understand this moment.
For our part, BSA furnished a chapter in the book about the first explosive decade of Street Art in the 2000s in neighborhoods where it was most impressive and untamed, especially Brooklyn. “PANTHEON: A history of art from the streets of NYC” allowed us to put in context the importance of the public sphere and how people create in it, whether commissioned, approved, or otherwise.
“Brooklyn Street Art (BSA) has been watching, recording, curating, interviewing, and interacting with this scene and its many players and passing on what we’ve learned to readers on our blog, which now number into the thousands daily. As experts in a field of many experts and opinion makers and fans, we like to assess and synthesize the messages and movements among the madness that is the “Street Art Scene”. As artists and creative professionals in New York for 25 years, the primary draw for us is the creative spirit that is alive and well on the streets and its fascinating ability to continuously recreate itself without the dictate of any one overriding legislative body. This organic growth of art on the street is like seeing Spring eternally. It didn’t ask anyone for permission, and it defines itself. Un-bought and un-bossed, this is a truly free movement born of the people. Not that we are overly romantic about it, mind you.”
PANTHEON was the group exhibition on Graffiti and Street Art that took place on April 2 – May 1, 2011 at the former Donnell Library across The Museum of Modern Art. Daniel Feral and Joyce Manalo Co-Curated this show with 33 participating which included Abe Lincoln Jr., John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres, Adam VOID, Cake, Cassius Fouler, Darkclouds, Droid, El Celso, Faro, John Fekner and Don Leicht, Freedom, Ellis Gallagher, Gen2, Goya, Groser, Richard Hambleton, infinity, KET, LSD-Om, Matt Siren, NohJColey, OverUnder, Oze 108, QuelBeast, Royce Bannon, Sadue, Jordan Seiler, Stikman, Toofly, UFO and Vudu.
The 426-page catalog is a hybrid of scholarly journal, popular magazine, and graff zine. 33 artists from the 1970s through today tell their own histories, in their own words and pictures, while local writers and photographers give an overview of the cultural milieu. The catalog includes a dedication to Rammellzee by Charlie Ahearn, essay on the Feral Diagram by Daniel Feral, Street Art in the 2000s by Steven P. Harrington with photographs by Jaime Rojo, in addition to 20 essays, 20 interviews and over 400 images from the efforts of over 30 individuals.
Here’s Part II of our tour of the museum at the “Art in the Streets” show that opened a week ago at MOCA LA. The breadth and depth of the show must have blown away many of the potential critics, because the grousing never really materialized. For our part, the review on the Huffington Post of the show itself (Red Hot and Street: “Art in the Streets” Brings Fire to MOCA) and the images of stuff on the street in 4 0r 5 neighborhoods in LA (Hitting Up LA: The Streets Outside the Show) have been fodder for some conversation (and voting!) and it’s a blast to see how this graffiti/street art movement sparks such intense opinion and feelings.
MOCA Part II Images of the Week, this week featuring Banksy, Barry McGee, ESPO,Steve Powers, Craig Stecyk III, Ed Templeton, Freedom, Invader, Martha Cooper, John Fekner, John Ahearn, Kenny Scharf, Lee Quinones, Margaret Kilgallen, Nunca, Os Gemeos, ROA, and Swoon.
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 this soon to be, maybe already, 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 it’s 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.