Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. GAIA “Still Here”
2. Jorge Rodriguez Gerarda at DEN Culture Space in Barcelona
3. INO – BOMBER in Łódź 4. TrumpRat by Jeffrey Beebe courtesy of BravinLee Offsite.
BSA Special Feature: GAIA “Still Here”
“The ability to paint realistically is magical. And so it is nice to possess a little bit of magic,” says Street Artist, muralist, social observer, citizen anthropologist, lecturer GAIA as he talks about his new mural project in Providence, Rhode Island.
A student and avid practitioner of multi-sectionalism the 30 year old Baltimorian researched the area and its history long before he began the project in September. Invited by Avenue Concept and its residency manager Nick Platzer, the artist partnered with the Tomaquag Museum in Exeter and artist Lynsea Montanari, a member of the Narragansett tribe, who is depicted in the mural holding a picture of Princess Red Wing, a Narragansett elder who founded the museum in the 1950s.
Follow the process, and hear GAIA speak about the path in “Still Here.”
Jorge Rodriguez Gerarda at DEN Culture Space in Barcelona
Cuban-American contemporary artists and large-scale terrestrial public artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada has worked in culture jamming and degrees of détournement on billboards in the street but is featured here today for his recent project with the tender ephemeral charcoal drawings many know him for. Part of an initiative with the JET8 Foundation the artist is receiving an art and technology grant to be used to support social and artistic projects. More on that later, but in the mean time, here is his mural of his friend Desislava Staneva, a Barcelona based art curator.
INO – BOMBER in Łódź
A quick flick of INO’s “Bomber” wall that he did with Urban Forms in Łódź, Poland. Whose the bomber, you ask? Atlas of course. Look out below!
TrumpRat by Jeffrey Beebe courtesy of BravinLee Offsite.
The midterms are over, but Trump is still great TV! The corporate media loves him and hates him and is absolutely hooked on him because he keeps bringing them advertising money. Don’t worry, they’ll quit him in 2024. Promise!
Welcome to BSA Images of the Week. First we have a series of politically themed and powerfully timely images of ICY & SOT installations from their involvement with the third edition of the Crystal Ship Art Festival in Ostend, Belgium. With forced immigration caused by the war industry providing armaments to everyone including your cousin Judy, the even more disgusting flipside of all this is the xenophobic nationalism that is now spreading in various countries, treating refugees and immigrants like crap.
So Icy & Sot give us here the security fences that create prisons for people to keep them inside and out and, perhaps taking a page from Ai WeiWei, a floating vest installation in the local park – complete with the artists in a boat and daffodils on the grassy knolls. Right after that we have another life-vest themed piece, a mural by Gaia entitled “Requiem for Migrants, Requiem for the Liberal Order”.
Thanks to photographer Butterfly for her contributions here.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Adam Fujita, Barlo, Gaia, Icy & Sot, Not Art, Sidka Nubian, and the Reading Ninja
Street Artist and renaissance man Gaia tried his hand at developing his mural for the Grove Street Neighborhood in Gainesville, Florida in Virtual Reality recently and we have few new shots to prove it.
Part of a community mural revitalization project in the historic neighborhood, Gais features a magnolia/azalea framed duo of local prominent educator Wilhelmina Johnson and the beat poet Jack Kerouac. Together they are connected by literary and African American history, says the artist. Now they are connected by virtual reality as well.
Gaia hitting the high notes at the Civic Media center in Gainesfille Florida. Here he is painting in the air and in Virtual Reality as a parallel performance to the wall installation above.
Grove Street Neighborhood in Gainesville, Florida is founded and coordinated by Iryna Kanishcheva (Curator and Photographer) and Maria Huff Edwards (Project Coordinator). The project is coordinated by including Iryna Kanishcheva, Maria Huff Edwards, David Edwards, John Wilson, Rachel Sommer, neighborhood supporters Mary Mehn, Tom Salmon, and Greg Stetz. For more information please click HERE.
He calls them “fake walls”; these mockups of murals in Baltimore that feature adorable pets. With these clever photoshopped pieces of mural fiction the Street Artist Gaia is perhaps skewering the coy shallowness of mural festivals that encourage a content-free decorative approach, rather than a substantive historically/socially/politically rooted one.
If Street Art has been hi-jacked by mural festivals from some of it’s higher minded origins, the New York born, Baltimore based Gaia has raced quickly on hot feet in the opposite direction during the last five years – preferring to immerse himself in local history, sociopolitical developments, and the implied cultural ramifications of his work.
Partially as critique to one increasingly commercial trend in Urban Art “festivals” that contorts murals as vehicles for brand and lifestyle messaging or aims only to prettify and sanitize public space, Gaia keeps assigning himself homework when he’s asked to paint in a new city, and he wishes he had more time to study.
Today we would like to share with BSA readers a recent interview he did with Shelly Clay-Robison, an adjunct faculty at York College of Pennsylvania and at the University of Baltimore who teaches peace and conflict studies and anthropology – with the hope of furthering the discussion on some of the points he raises and which we similarly have been discussing over the last few years with you.
In the interview Gaia speaks to the trivialization of the mural as meaningful expression in public space, a frequent lack of community engagement in Urban Art festivals, and his own sensitivity to what he may describe as the overwhelming whiteness and educated privilege in a scene that in many ways evolved from lower income communities of color. We’re pleased that Gaia and Ms. Clay-Robison have allowed us to share the interview with you.
From STREET ART AND CIVIC DIALOGUE: AN INTERVIEW WITH GAIA
Shelly Clay-Robison:Should we call the work you have made outside and on architecture street art, mural art, or graffiti and why would terminology matter? Gaia: I would like to make a distinction that may seem insignificant, but is very important. Street Art, as I personally define it, is an umbrella term that seeks to explain any intervention understood as an artistic gesture, in a shared space, and must necessarily be illegal. The purview of Street Art entails anything under the rubric of contemplation or performance; tactical urbanism, painting, sculpture, etc. Murals on the other hand, are legal, sanctioned and are much more stringently understood as painting. Finally graffiti, as a tradition where the scrawling of a name becomes stylized, is a more pure action that is self-identified by its various participants as “writing” and not in fact “art.” Hence the continued relevance of the Street Art distinction.
SCR:So is it just an issue of legality then? Or are their social implications behind which type of work or medium is chosen? Gaia: I stress these distinctions so firmly because we are at an extremely problematic crossroads within this rhizomatic movement, where the mural in the Americas, traditionally understood as within the realm of celebration, especially of colonized and oppressed peoples, has been wrested from the control of community art, by the spirit of Street Art. What I mean to say is that the production of a mural in the United States has traditionally been a multilateral, consensus-based process, but now control is being wrested from civic groups and representatives.
Instead, the procedure of creating a mural is increasingly being determined by property owners with the power and means to circumvent community, and thus, facilitate work that speaks to an imagined, future audience. I call this a liberalization of the mural: international, highly skilled individuals, who have transitioned from illegal, singular authorship to unilateral, sanctioned mural production have created a race to the bottom that defies the old Works Progress Administration model of full employment and is instead more aligned with the 10-99 subcontractor economy.
Click the link below and automatically download a PDF of the full interview here:
It’s been a spectacular amber and golden and green autumn week when you’re able to ride your bike around and see a lot of great new and old Street Art and not break a sweat because the air is fresh and cool and the sun is spectacular.
And the streets are alive!
We found a new REVS, a new JJ Veronis and a big full-poster Clint Mario. Given the fact that two of the pieces are beautifully crafted metal sculptures and one is an ad take over in the subway, that gives you an indication that artists are active right now – and public space is being engaged. Get on your boots and take a hike, take your imagination and a sweatshirt in case you’re in the shade, and Street Art is out there waiting for you.
So here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Bies, City Kitty, Clint Mario, Downtown DaVinci, Elle, Gaia, Hooker, InDecline, JJ Veronis, REVS, RWK, Sable Elise Smith, and Sean 9 Lugo.
When you look at the corporate yellow journalism flashing across screens today, the shallow and sensational rhetoric may lead you to believe we are devolving as a race. In fact it is just the opposite in many quarters, so media literacy is more important now than ever to discern who is propagating this narrative, and to what ends?
Certainly many cultural observers deduct that man and woman have not progressed since prehistory and a new Baltimore mural by Street Artists Alfredo Segatori (Argentina) and Pablo Machioli (Uruguay) is a throw-back to our less-evolved selves. “I believe that cavemen still exist today and this mural is a like a mirror to look back at our roots,” says Segatori about the singular ‘Homo Naledi’ figure whose bones were discovered by anthropologists in South Africa in 2015 “We need to decide what future we want for our kids and if we want to move forward as a human race.”
The mural is part of a larger initiative including more than 20 street artists participating in a two continent cultural exchange between Baltimore and Buenos Aires, an outside component of a gallery show entitled “Roots”. The show is curated by Baltimores’ Richard Best of Section 1 Project and Matt Fox-Tucker of Buenos Aires Street Art along with local Gallery 788.
As Street Art and murals are continuing to bring more of the social and political themes to the streets in cities like Baltimore and Buenos Aires, traditional organizers of public art programming appear to be on the wane – perhaps because taxpayer funded initiatives have evaporated in most cities and more complex privately funded programs triangulate outcomes.
Actual grassroots organizers of programs like this, while still related to a gallery show, are more likely to respect intellectual rigor and are increasingly carving out their own curatorial niche. It is an interesting crack in the dialogue in public space where the final artworks often respond to society in more challenging ways, rather than producing only pleasing imagery and messages approved by committee or commercial interests.
For Segatori, this mural is a direct response to how we are behaving as a race – particularly toward one another. “I believe that in the world today there is still a lot of violence and intolerance so the idea of our mural is to show the reality of the society that we live in,” says Segatori of the new piece.
“There are people around us who are still forced to live in poverty, suffer from racism, discrimination and persecution due to the color of their skin.” Whether locals will take this message away from the mural is anyone’s guess, but the organizers of “Roots-Raices” say they hope to open the discussion between communities about how to assist in our collective evolution.
‘Roots’ brings together artworks by more than 20 street artists from Argentina and Baltimore exploring origins, cultural identities and social and racial history. Baltimore street artists who have created new artworks for the show include Gaia, Pablo Machioli, Paul Mericle, Billy Mode, Nether, Reed, Mas Paz, Ernest Shaw, Gregg Deal, Lee Nowell-Wilson and Toven plus photographs by Martha Cooper. Argentine artists represented are Alfredo Segatori are Nazza Stencil, El Marian, Luxor, Ice, Patxi Mazzoni Alonso, Maxi Bagnasco, Primo and Juan Zeballos.
Rafael Schacter Takes a More Nuanced Approach to the Migration Crisis
Commerce and technology have been eroding traditional constructs of the borders and boundaries, especially in the age of the Internet, satellites, transnational banking and trade agreements that create governing bodies that openly dismiss national sovereignty, integrity, identity, aspirations. Borders and boundaries are contested, guarded, or disregarded at will; open to international capital, porous to immigration, hardened by armies.
Daily they are in the headlines: Trump’s plans to build a wall along the US-Mexican border, Syrian war refugees immigrating across European borders, Israel and Palestine’s ongoing land and settlement disputes, even maritime territorial claims of China and the Phillipines in the South China Sea that were ruled upon yesterday – all reveal clues to our historically complicated relationships and geo-political perspectives.
Sorry, we’re using terms interchangeably, which Schacter will correct us on. Toward that end, we are pleased today to present Mr. Schacter, an anthropologist, researcher of street art, author, and lecturer, here on BSA to share observations and experiences from his most recent project, a fascinating show at the Street Art Museum (SAM) called Crossing Borders /Crossing Boundaries. Our thanks to the artists, only a small number of whom we are able to present here, as well as to the museum for sharing their talent and resources. A full list of the participating artists is at the end of the article.
~ from Rafael Schacter
In May of this year, I spent nearly four weeks in Saint Petersburg curating a large scale exhibition at the Street Art Museum (SAM). The Museum, set in a functioning factory on the edge of the city, is a mammoth site. The first plastics factory in the Soviet Union, the site became partially abandoned in the 1990s after the collapse of communism, and has since been taken over and partly given over to this new museum. Containing huge outdoor and indoor spaces, the museum is truly a dream location to work.
For the summer exhibition this year, we decided to focus on what has been termed the Migration Crisis. Rather than tackling this head on, however, something that I feel can often be crass and exploitative, something that I feel can often be seen to be utilizing peoples’ hardships for artistic ‘gain’, I sought to provide a concept that could explore the theme from a more nuanced angle.
The title of the exhibition, Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries, thus attempted to explore the differences between these two terms; words which are often used interchangeably, but are in fact quite distinct.
Utilizing the work of renowned sociologist Richard Sennett, borders were hence posited as zones of high organic interactivity and development, engaged, permeable spaces such as the zones between the land and the sea in which different species thrive, intermix and exchange. In contrast however, boundaries were understood as guarded, impenetrable locations, locations, for example, like the territorial perimeters of creatures such as lions or wolves.
Focusing on these differences, on the fertility and vibrancy of the border compared to the sterility and aridity of the boundary, we then commissioned 20 artists from around the world to produce works on this theme.
Working with artists from a background of street art as well as contemporary art, with video artists and photographers, muralists and artivists, the exhibition is thus truly multi-media and multidisciplinary. I was beyond impressed with the results, all the artists bringing an amazing set of ideas to the table and delivering them in the most fantastic of ways.
We had over 5,000 people come to our launch on May 14th, as well as a huge international conference on the topic of migration taking place in the museum on the same day. Living, working, eating and sleeping in the factory with all of the artists over the entire period of production was tough, to say the least. However the energy was unrelenting, with the artists and the whole team at SAM working without rest to deliver this incredible project.
I’m super proud of what we achieved, to both sensitively and critically explore this theme, to not just provide the traditional liberal consensus positionality but rather to challenge people’s thoughts and ideas on this topic. Who knows what effect it will have, if any. But I hope that the project can push people to think about the topic in a more nuanced rather than binary way.
Following the video are a few of the artists and their work for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries
Printed banner on chimney / Acrylic paint on oil barrels / Basketball hoop and backboard on containers, acrylic paint on asphalt
SpY’s deceptively simple yet conceptually ingenious interventions focus on the upturning of spatial and societal norms. Using irony and humour to create a dialogue with the viewer, SpY attempts to impress multiple readings onto a space, re-presenting it as a “frame of endless possibilities”.
His set of works here follow this method precisely. In particular, his giant work Go Home, at first an apparently aggressive, deeply antagonistic phrase (to put it mildly), plays with the variety of meanings that this expression can contain: the very ability to go home, for example, to return back to the place of one’s family, one’s birth, one’s life, is the very thing that most immigrants desire but simply cannot undertake (whether due to war or famine, economic or ecological pressures). To be able to go home is thus a privilege that not all of us have.
As with his famous method of renegotiating the set rules of sporting activities, provoking, as he says “disorder and chaos through context and content”, SpY’s works do not simply invert or subvert their spaces but playfully distort them. They “misuse” their environments to show the latent possibilities that lie within.
Scaffold, laminate photographic prints, flags, and spray paint and acrylic on containers / Acrylic paint on wall
Fillipo’s installation for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries explores different border zones throughout the globe. From the sea border of North and South Korea to that of Mexico and California; from Morocco and Mauritania to Cambodia and Vietnam; from the invisible border between Northern Mali and the disputed territories of the Azawad; to abandoned NATO bunkers at the Belgian Dutch border, these images present us with some of the most politically fraught locations on the planet which, somehow, contain a strangely alluring beauty. Alongside this, Filippo presents a series of Whatsapp conversations documenting his personal struggle to gain entry into Russia for this exhibition: a series of Kafkaesque scenarios in which he was sent from location to location in a seeming test of his resistance. The installation as a whole can be seen to bring together Filippo’s joint obsession with political, industrial and internet aesthetics.
His mural, A Revolution Nobody Cares About / Nobody Cares About a Revolution speaks, quite loudly, for itself.
Kirill’s work for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries arose through his correspondence with curator Rafael Schacter. Focusing on the barrier of language and the complexity of translation, the work is about the impossibility of understanding and the unwillingness to understand. As KIRILL says “I understood only a small percentage of what we discussed and so decided to make this the heart of the work”. It is thus the borders and boundaries of language that KIRILL takes aim. As he continues “there are two borders of misunderstanding: you see unfamiliar letters and you do not understand everything completely. Signifier and signified become equally incomprehensible. Or even it’s a familiar language, but still it is not clear”. Kirill’s work, although colourful and bright, is in fact the image of alienation. The image of the migratory and the incomprehensible.
Gaia and Mata Ruda have produced a monumental work for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries, a work which functions in the classical tradition of political muralism. Using imagery from the filmmaker Marc Silver and photographers Jonathan Hollingsworth and Alex Kurunis (both of whom show other work within the exhibition itself), Gaia and Ruda present us with an assemblage of figures and artefacts which together convey a dense narrative about contemporary migration. Including individuals and stories from the borders of the USA and Latin America as well as Africa and Europe, the artists also produced a group portrait of three Uzbekistani employees at the factory who work and live in the very site where the mural exists.
The story Gaia and Mata tell is one of inequality and injustice, a story of the imbalance of our contemporary global system. Yet within this it contains hope and strength, the strength of the individuals who strive to fight these inequities on a daily basis.
Nano4814’s half-abstract, half-figurative mural for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries demonstrates the strangely discomforting yet visually arresting style which we can now instantly recognize as his own. Frequently focusing upon the apprehension he has with his own work, Nano’s characters can often be seen to be in states of tension or strain (both literally and metaphorically), an angst reinforced by their compressed captivity within their sites. Moreover, his use of brick-walls, barriers, and wooden shards, symbols that act as leitmotifs throughout his work, play with the idea of boundaries as objects that encourage intrusion and trespass: Like masks, these borders both suggest and occlude a veiled truth, hinting whilst hiding, implying yet escaping. It is thus the very limitation that enables us to venture beyond.
Slides, DIA projector, flags, photographs, socks, coins, drawings in collaboration with Clemens Behr, SPY, Paco, and Fillipo Minelli, computer guts, digital prints, plastic, wood, plexi-glass, mounting hardware, sound installation, radio, headphones, cables, paint, chess set, soviet fabric, and industrial spools.
Double Yippie Hollow Super Power is a joint project between artists Brad Downey from the USA and Igor Ponosov from Russia. Taking inspiration from the parlor game “cadavre exquis” or “exquisite corpse” (a method by which a collection of words or images is collaboratively assembled), the pair have sought to combine the varying national symbols of their home nations into a new, exquisite set of iconic forms. The “unity of the opposites” that they have created – utilizing objects such as flags, coins, and anthems – plays with the sacrality of these national symbols, the almost divine status that they contain. Moreover, it alludes to the strangely intimate relationship that the two countries are entwined in. Whilst apparent opposites, common enemies, both locations create their identity through their connection with the other: the objects Downey and Ponosov have thus created contain both a critical and playful edge. They ridicule the stereotypes of both themselves and each other in the same moment.
2016, Korean ink on wall / Found objects, cement, and acrylic paint on wooden palletes
Jazoo Yang’s Dots series originates from her work in her native Korea, in particular within areas of the city going through the process of redevelopment. Using traditional Korean ink, and solely using her thumbprint (a marking used as a signature on important documents), Yang’s work sought to bring focus on the increasing amount of “redevelopment refugees” in the city
For Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries, Yang has expanded her Dots Series to incorporate the issue of refugees and migrants in Europe and further beyond. Working mainly on her own but also with immigrant workers from the factory itself, Yang discusses their stories, their histories, their existence with these individuals as they mark the wall together. These imprints act as a record of this moment whilst remaining entirely silent.
In Yang’s Painting Block Works, this theme of memory and regeneration continues. Exploring the violent so central to the contemporary city, Yang wants to ask how much we perceive our lives and make independent decisions within these oppressive environments. She aims to bring these problems to the surface through rebuilding them with the materials we so readily abandon, in Korea using objects from deserted houses and buildings, here in Russia using the detritus and ephemera of the factory itself.
The Final Frontier (Space) / Our House (In the Middle of the Street)
Laminate doors, wooden pallets, wooden battons, hinges, and acrylic paint / Acrylic and spray paint on wall
Mimicking and playing with their settings through a process of transformative deconstruction, Clemens Behr’s geometric shapes and abstract forms come to distort the viewers’ perspective, merging two and three dimensional spaces in a single plane.
His installation for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries acts as what he terms a “social maze”. Utilising one of the most classic example of borders/boundaries, the common doorway, the work explores the potentially empowering or inhibiting abilities of these structures: as one door opens, another closes, enabling some and disabling others in the same moment. As a participatory sculpture, its visual possibilities become endless. However conceptually it demonstrates how every decision we take effects those around us. Like many of Behr’s installations, this work was produced with what was at hand, in this case the products and detritus of the factory site itself.
Behr’s mural tackles another question however. Playing with the shadows and design of the adjacent fence, with the actuality of space (and time) versus the potentiality of painting, he questions the boundaries of art itself: Can it go beyond reflection to truly generate the new?
Acrylic paint on wall / Barbed wire, steel poles, metal fence, laminate warning signs
Eltono’s mural is a reaction to the absurd rationality of national boundaries. As opposed to the natural flow of borders (as can be seen in perhaps the world’s only natural country, Chile), the carving up of the planet’s boundaries happens at right angles: diagonal, horizontal, and vertical lines cutting up the planet into a perfectly linear patchwork.
As such, Eltono has created his own world map using a generative art technique; using a basic randomizer to choose a digit between 1 and 7, the numbers which emerge then come to define both the color of the country and its borders, indicating the direction that each color, and each boundary will thus take.
Unlike his mural, for his fence installation, Eltono presents us with the opposite of the rationality as seen within maps. Rather, he displays a perfectly irrational object, an upside-down fence. For Eltono, however, the inversion of the fence makes it something lighter, not an object that prevents our movement, but a compact object that can be upended “as if the wind had blown it upside down”. As he continues, “it’s not a massive obstacle anymore. A fence that can be flipped is a territory that can be freed.”
Merijn’s mural has a simple, yet vitally important message. His five globes show us the development from a basic binary of black and white to a densely colored, intricate, heterogeneous space. The final image thus shows us a planet in which, as Merijn says, “everything harmonizes. All the colors are there together and they all work and flow seamlessly with each other. Of course borders exist in many ways, but if we take it a step further and forget about the rules and just go with our feeling this is what I think can be understood as the ideal. That we should not be limited by the rationality of borders. Probably a bit of a cliché. But that’s how I see it and feel it”.
SUPERPROJECT, a two-man design operation spearheaded by visual artist Jasper Niens and industrial designer Thijs Ewalts, focus on computational design and digital fabrication, embracing art, architecture, engineering and technology. For Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries, they have created Four Zero, a space within a space, a location only accessible through four, tunnel-like entrances. Due to the curvature of the entrances, the visitor is not immediately sure where they will end up. As such, the work is about revealing and concealing, possibility and difficulty; once people enter the space they can either feel locked up and exposed or protected and safe within its embrace.
1001th Island: The Most Sustainable Island in Archipelago
2015/2016. Video, trash, fishing net and wood
Tita Salina’s 1001st Island is a work exploring the changing borders and boundaries of Jakarta. A city which is currently sinking between 2.9 and 6.7 inches per year, and which exists mainly below sea level, Jakarta is currently undertaking a huge land reclamation and producing a 32 kilometer sea wall to try and protect its boundaries, a project that will construct 17 new islands and take an estimated 30 years to complete. The installation presented here, a reproduction of an artificial island built by Salina and local fisherman using marine debris and litter, aims to highlight the negative impacts of the project, in particular the fact that the city refuses to fix the causes of its problems — namely, excessive groundwater extraction and inefficient waste management. Salina thus connects the reclamation and land issue with the human waste that plagues the ocean and the future of the traditional fishermen who live and work within this now perilous space.
ARTISTS Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries.
Alex Kurunis, Brad Downey, Igor Posonov, Clemens Behr, El Tono, Filippo Minelli, Gaia, Mata Ruda, James Bridle, Superproject ( Jasper Niens & Thijs Ewalts, Jazoo Yang, Jonathan Hollingworth, Kirill KTO, Martha Atienza, Merijn Hos, Nano4814, Rob Pinney, SpY, Tita Salina
Just in time for this weekend’s Mermaid Parade, London’s D*Face is finishing up “Live Fast Die Young,” his beauty-and-the-zombie comic couple sipping an ice cream float at the soda counter. Austrian surrealist slicer Nychos has completed his dissection of a Ronald McDonald-ish character without a sketch; running, jumping, nearly flying through the air with aerosol in hand, flinging the spent cans over his shoulder blindly to skitter across the pavement. Baltimore-based freeform anthropologist Gaia is cavorting with passersby who want to take cellphone selfies in front of his painted wall that depicts exactly that; selfies taken in Coney Island.
This is a modern version of the multi-mirror funhouse in mural form, and Coney Art Walls is bringing it again.
22 new murals on standing slabs of concrete join a dozen or so that were retained from last summer to present an eclectic and savory selection from the old-school and the new. When it comes to art in the streets, a salty luncheonette of city-style treats is on a large public platter these days, with names like graffiti, street art, urban art, installation art, public art, fine art, even contemporary art. For some of those hapless gatekeepers of any of these respective categories, this show in this location presents degrees of discomfort and anger as many subcultural roots are now brought into the light in tandem with one another in a public display – funded by a real estate firm. For the artists and majority of fans, however, the trend is more toward delight and gratitude.
While you are unpacking that, consider that lead curator Jeffrey Deitch has often proved very adept at plumbing the aesthetic margins of our culture while rearranging and intermingling the parties, helping the viewer to appreciate their differences. This outdoor exhibit co-curated with Joseph Sitt provides a venue for a wide audience to contemplate the range of expression that New York streets have had over the last few decades, including a few artists who are trying this manner of expression for the first time.
As the Thunderbolt, Steeplechase, Cyclone and Wonder Wheel spin and swerve nearby and overhead, sending screams and personal projectiles into the ocean breeze, you have this paved lot full of paintings to peruse, lemonade in one hand and the cotton-candy-sticky hand of a sunscreen-slathered child in the other. Here you’ll see a large two-walled corner smashed with Coney Island themes by Bronx graffiti masters Tats Cru (Bio, BG183, and Nicer), a selection of hand-drawn wheat pasted portraits of Coney Island youth by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and 4 full-form sculptures by John Ahearn creating a modernist view of divers on the beach .
Tooling elsewhere through the loose labyrinth you come upon a monochromatic cryptically patterned tribute to Brooklyn-born Beastie Boys vocalist Adam “MCA” Yauch by Brooklyn tagger/train writer/artist Haze and a seemingly lighthearted abstractly collaged wall of mermaids by fine artist Nina Chanel Abney, whose work is currently on the cover of Juxtapoz. There is also a spectacular underwater-themed symmetrical fantasy topped by pylons bearing the likenesses of characters from “The Warriors” film by artist duo The London Police, and a stenciled “Last Supper” featuring heads of world currency playing the disciples and George Washington as Jesus sprayed across the face of a huge dollar bill by Iranian brothers Icy & Sot.
We often travel streets and neglected spaces in cities looking for signs of freewill artistic expression and often the creative spirit surprises us as it can be expressed in so many ways with emotion, agenda, and idiosyncratic point of view. It may be the plurality of voices one experiences surfing the Internet or the multi-cultural nature of living in New York with a continuous river of fresh arrivals mixing in with established and old-timers every day, but one comes to expect this variety of viewpoints and rather naturally creates accommodation for inclusion that celebrates without negating – and in many ways Coney Art Walls does that as well.
Oppositional viewpoints are present if you look: There are coded messages and obvious ones, critiques of corporate hegemony, issues of race, commentary on police relations, sexuality, religion, capitalism, community, the languages of advertising, movies, music, entertainment, local history, and examination of roles and power structures.
When tooling around this collection, you may wonder what, then, are the commonalities of this survey. Certainly there are the recurring references to Coney Island lore and aspects of performance and flimflam, oddity, fantasy, even the erotic. Naturally, there are elements of natural wonder as well, perhaps expected with the proximity to the beach and the ocean and the history of this place as a vacation getaway.
Aside from this, the connective tissue is what we frequently identify as what is distinctly New York – the plurality of voices. Arguing, making fun, praising, preening, bragging, lambasting, mocking, singing. Despite the continuous attempts by others to divide us, we’re strangely (very strangely), beautifully united.
Originally from Japan, Brooklyn’s AIKO has a double sided stencil sonnet to the romance of the sea. With “Tale of the Dragon King and Mermaids in Water Castle” Aiko tells a new version of Urashima Tarō, an old Japanese legend about a fisherman who rescues a turtle and is rewarded for this with a visit to Ryūgū-jō, the palace of Ryūjin. Says Aiko, “This piece speaks to my and all women’s fantasies; chilling hard super sexy in the beautiful ocean with friendly dragon who is super powerful and a smart guy – they are about going to water castle having good time.”
Coney Art Walls
2016 New Artists: Nina Chanel Abney, John Ahearn, Timothy Curtis, D*Face, Jessica Diamond, Tristan Eaton, Gaia, Eric Haze, Icy & Sot, London Police, Nychos, Pose, Stephen Powers, Tats Cru, and Sam Vernon. Returning artists who created new works: Lady Aiko, Mister Cartoon, Crash, Daze, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and Marie Roberts. 2015 Murals on display: by Buff Monster, Eine, Ron English, How & Nosm, IRAK, Kashink, Lady Pink, Miss Van, RETNA, eL Seed and Sheryo & Yok. There are also three community walls.
They’ve been here since the 1950s, these silos for wheat and corn on the harbor of Catania on the east coast of the island of Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna. 28 meters tall and facing the Ionian Sea, they are now some of the largest canvasses in Italy by a small group of international and local Street Artists.
The “Art Silos” project includes works completed during an eight month installation begun in June 2015 as part of Festival “I-ART” organized by “Emergence”, thanks to Angelo Bacchelli, curated by Giuseppe Stagnitta. The artists taking part in the project were Okuda (Spain), ROSH333 (Spain), Microbo (Italy), BO130 (Italy), VladyArt (Italy), Danilo Bucchi (Italy) and the duo Interesni Kaxki (Ukraine), mostly all from the graffiti/Street Art world. A separately organized but related project on the harbor-facing row of eight silos was completed by one artist alone, the Lisbon-based Vhils.
The project’s completion at the turn of the year culminated in one of the largest Street Art/Graffiti artists’ collective shows in Italy held in the city’s main public gallery Palazzo Platamone, entitled “Codici Sorgenti” (Source Code), which was curated by Stefano S. Antonelli and Francesca Mezzano from Rome’s 999 Contemporary Gallery.
There is talk about the possibility that this exhibition of about 60 artists work will tour throughout Europe with its message of the historic roots of modern graffiti and Street Art along with many of its most impactful practitioners pushing into the contemporary art world.
According to Arianna Ascione in Artsblog.it, the gallery exhibition was “divided into three sections that tell the birth, interactive development and consecration of the (graffiti/street art) phenomenon” Indeed, the list contains works by 108, A One, Augustine Iacurci, Alexis Diaz, Alexone, Bo 130, Boris Tellegen (aka Delta), Brad Downey, C215, Clemens Behr, Conor Harrington, Crash, Delta 2, Dondi White, Doze Green, El Seed, Ericailcane, Eron, Escif, Evol, Faile, Feitakis, Gaia, Herbert Baglione, Horfee, Interesni Kazki, Invader, Jaz, Jeff Aerosol, Mark Jenkins, Jonone, JR, Judith Supine, Kool Poor, The Atlas, Lek & Sowat, Lucy McLauchlan, Matt Small, Maya Hayuk, Mensanger, Miss Van, Momo, Moneyless, Peeta, Rammellzee, Retna, Roa, Seth, Philippe Baudelocque, Sharp, Shepard Fairey, StenLex, Swoon, The London Police, Todd James,Toxic, and the aforementioned Vhils.
Ironically the genre-melting inclination of so-called “urban art” has eroded the silo mentality of many who follow these art forms as they become known, followed, collected, and exhibited; As a metaphor “Art Silos” may more accurately refer to the past and the dogmatic separation of genres such as graffiti, tattoo, illustration, ad jamming, and Street Art for example.
Although not strictly what you might call public art either, the scale of “Art Silos”, with its major artworks that typically may take years to be approved in large cities elsewhere, is an occurrence routinely happening in cities around the world.
For us this is one more example of the “New Muralism” that is enabling Street Artists to do major works in public spaces via non-traditional routes. On par with a public art works of other committee-approved sorts, this silo project was a private/public collaboration that made selections, secured funding and permissions from the harbor authorities, city figures, politicians and the manager of the silos themselves, according to VladyArt, who along with Microbo is one of the artists and a resident of Catania.
He says the size of the project and the power of the imagery combined with the process of watching them go up has drawn a lot of attention to the area lately. “The people here were amazed by our speed and the large scale operation. Catania had no large murals like this… this was the very first time for Sicily. They can be seen from far away and even from taking off from and landing at the airport – or coming by cruise line on the sea. It seems that nobody really paid that much attention to this spot before, and everyone is talking about it now.”
To understand why a project of this nature can happen so quickly these days, look no further than the location. As we have recounted numerous times, often these efforts are deliberately programmed to draw attention to economically challenged areas as a way of encouraging tourism and investment.
In fact VladyArt says that this historic region and city that dates back many centuries before Christ is having a very challenging time economically and socially and could use positive attention from a crowd that appreciates art. “Catania is somehow the most dynamic city of Sicily, because of its industrial and commercial features,” he says.
“Having said that, please be aware that the south of Italy is no way wealthy or an easy place, despite its beauty and lucky location in the sun. Almost the whole city is rough, I can name a many neighborhoods where this is the case.”
So it is all the more remarkable that a multi-artist iconic installation can happen here in Catania and people are exposed to a grassroots-fueled art scene that is currently galloping across the globe.
“Regular people around here don’t know much about the whole thing, street art and stuff,” says Vlady Art. “So, quite frankly they wouldn’t care much about Okuda, Vhils or Interesni. They never heard of them before and probably people will find hard to spell their names. They cannot catch the meaning or the purpose of this. They simply like what they see – they like this energy. They do get the ‘message’, the power of art.”
A lot of people thought so, and the rise of commercial festivals and commissioned public/private mural programs probably brought more artists to more walls than in recent history. Judging from the In Box, 2016 is going to break more records. Enormous, polished, fully realized and presented, murals can hold a special role in a community and transform a neighborhood, even a city.
But they are not the “organic” Street Art that draws us into the dark in-between places in a city, or at its margins.
We keep our eyes open for the small, one-off, idiosyncratic, uncommissioned, weirdo work as well, as it can carry clues about the culture and reveal a sage or silly solo voice. It also just reinforces the feeling that the street is still home to an autonomous free-for-all of ideas and opinions and wandering passions. For us it is still fascinating to seek out and discover the one-of-a-kind small wheatpastes, stencils, sculptures, ad takeovers, collages, and aerosol sprayed pieces alongside the enormous and detailed paintings that take days to complete.
The main image above is from a vinyl subway advertisement that was high-jacked and we published it in February of this year on our Images of the Week posting. It’s small, personal, and very effective as you can see someone suspiciously similar to Batman is jumping out of the mouth of someone looking awfully similar to Hedwig of “Angry Inch” fame.
Of the 10,000 or so images photographer Jaime Rojo took in 2015, here are a selection 140+ of the best images from his travels through streets looking for unpermissioned and sanctioned art.
Brooklyn Street Art 2015 Images of the Year by Jaime Rojo
Brooklyn Street Art 2015 Images of the Year by Jaime Rojo includes the following artists;
365xlos43, Amanda Marie, Andreas Englund, Augustine Kofie, Bisser, Boijeot, Renauld, Bordaloli, Brittany, BunnyM, Case Maclaim, Casg, Cash4, CDRE, Clet, Cost, Curve, Dain, Dal East, Dan Budnik, Dan Witz, David Walker, DeeDee, Dennis McNett, Don Rimx, Ricardo Cabret, LNY, Alex Seel, Mata Ruda, Don’t Fret, Dot Dot Dot, ECB, El Mac, El Sol25, Ella & Pitr, Eric Simmons, Enest Zacharevic, Martha Cooper, Martin Whatson, Ever, Faile, Faith47, Findac, Futura, Gaia, Gilf!, Hanksy, Hellbent, Hot Tea, How & Nosm, Icy and Sot, Inti, Invader, Isaac Cordal, James Bullough, Janet Dickson, Jef Aerosol, Jilly Ballistic, Joe Iurato, John Fekner, Le Diamantaire, Li Hill, LMNOPI, London Kaye, Low Brow, Marina Capdevilla, Miss Van, Mr. Prvrt, Mr. Toll, Myth, Nafir, Nemos, Never Crew, Nick Walker, Nina Pandolofo, Old Broads, Oldy, Ollio, Os Gemeos, Owen Dippie, Paper Skaters, Pet Bird, Kashink, Smells, Cash4, PichiAvo, Pixel Pancho, QRST, ROA, Ron English, Rubin415, Saner, Sean 9 Lugo, Shai Dahan, Shepard Fairey, Sheryo & The Yok, Sinned, Sipros, Skewville, Slikor, Smells, Sweet Toof, Snowden, Edward Snowden, Andrew Tider, Jeff Greenspan, Specter, Stray Ones, Sweet Toof, Swil, Willow, Swoon, The Outings Project, Toney De Pew, Tristan Eaton, Various & Gould, Vermibus, Wane, Wk Interact
We start this weeks “Images of the Week” with a new piece on the street in Paris and we end the collection with many more inspired by the same events. A large number of artists took to the streets Friday night and yesterday to express grief and solidarity for 129 people killed Friday in Paris by terrorist attacks.
In addition to the outpouring of expressions and opinions on social, electronic and print media, it is good to see painting employed this way in the public space because it provides a common sense of our physical place, a location for people to meet and discuss and grieve together. “We were just folk that needed to get away from watching the news and met up on the train tracks,” one artist tells us.
Many of the pieces called up the Latin phrase that has been an unofficial motto of the city of Paris since the mid fourteenth century Fluctuat nec mergitur (Classical Latin: flvctvat·nec·mergitvr) which is translated today to mean “Tossed by the waves but not sinking (or sunk)”. In the coming days we hope that this continues to be true, but also that the shock and pain of such events do not lead to a cycle of violence and inaccurate generalizations, as presumably the actions were intended to provoke. Even in these difficult times it is important that cooler heads prevail.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those families and friends who are in such utter pain because of these atrocious acts as well as others who are suffering because of war throughout the world.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening :
1. Roma Street Art Tribes as Captured by Dioniso Punk
BSA Special Feature: Roma Street Art Tribes as Captured by Dioniso Punk
Gwen Stacy Parts I and II
Disorderly, discordant, and richly chaotic, these two videos are centered around the Italian street art paintings and artists whom you will recognize from our earlier postings on community/gallery organized urban art programming – but within the context of historical art publicly displayed, peoples movements, patronage, fascism, the classics.
Dioniso Punk allows everyone to talk – neighbors, artists, organizers, curators, public philosophers, elected officials, psychologists, sociologists, entrepreneurs, posers, professors, historians, students, an opera singer, the petite bourgeoisie, international visitors and hapless puzzled opinionated locals.
Discussions at panels cut into impassioned discussions by senior women in the courtyard or didactic examinations in the street – some for illustration, others for whimsy, none to be ignored. More of a fact finding mission than cogent analysis, you may find it difficult to follow the narrative and so it is better to let go and allow yourself be battered by the insights and observations delivered with the jumpy cuts and uncompleted thoughts and discussions, preferring instead to sink into the tribe of the humans, here selectively displayed for your pleasure and hopefully, edification.
(turn on the CC (closed captioning) if you do not speak Italian)
Featuring interviews with Solo, Gaia, Diamond 0707, Maupal, Best Ever, Bol23, Jerico, Guerrilla Spam Sen One, Sabrina, Dan, Stefano Antonelli (999 Contemporary,) Marta Ugolini (Galleria Ca’ D’Oro), Agathe Jaubourg (Pasolini Pigneto), Alìn Costache (YUT!), Edoardo Martino (Villaggio Globale), and Eleonora Zaccagnino (Acid Drop).
Special Guests: Mp5, Alice Pasquini, Mr. Thoms, Jessica Stewart, Sandro Fiorentini (La Bottega del Marmoraro).
Murals by Blu, Roa, Borondo, Etam Cru, Space Invaders, C215, Hogre, Herbert Baglione, Sten & Lex, JB Rock, Ernest, Pignon-Ernest, Etnik, Axel, Avoid, Sbagliato, Jim Avignon, Fin DAC, Jef Aerosol, Seth, Zed1, Ericailcane, Clemens Behr, Caratoes, Momo, Derek, Bruno, Kid Acne, Mto, Alexey Luka, Tellas, Moby Dick, Philippe Baudelocque, Mr. Klevra, Lucamaleonte, Diavù Kocore, Agostino Iacurci, Danilo Bucchi, Jaz, Desx, Reka, Lek & Sowat, Hopnn, Matteo, Basilé Alberonero, Ex Voto, Andreco, Moneyless, Nicola, Verlato, Ludo, L’Atlas, Escif, and Pepsy Zerocalcare.