All posts tagged: Henry Chalfant

Riding the Rails in the Bronx With “Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977 – 1987”

Riding the Rails in the Bronx With “Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977 – 1987”

“We may have lost the trains, but we’ve gained the whole world.”

That’s a quote on the wall in the new exhibition at the Bronx Museum spotlighting the work of Henry Chalfant. The quote comes from Mare 139, one of the early graffiti writers of 1970s-80s trains in New York, referring to the now-scrubbed subway cars that once functioned as a mobile gallery for the young masters of cans throughout a metropolis that was in the grips of financial and social upheaval. Thanks to the work of artists and documentarians like Mr. Chalfant, the ephemeral works were captured, cared for, preserved, and spread throughout the world in the intervening years, in some ways helping to spawn a global interest and practice among burgeoning artists.

Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987″ takes one of the original titles that co-author Martha Cooper suggested for the book that they published together “Subway Art” in 1984. That tome, full of both of their images that captured different aspects of the wild and untamed urban scene, eventually gained regard as a ‘holy book’ in certain graffiti circles across the world. Chalfants’ academic and sociological profile with producer Tony Silver of some of the early graffiti artists in the form of the 1984 PBS documentary “Style Wars,” also cemented his reputation as an expert in a rapidly evolving scene that brought untrained artists and original voices to the streets and trains.

Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo) On display is the dummy of Subway Art, the book Mr Chalfant co-authored with Martha Cooper – “the Bible” of graffiti for graffiti artists and Street Artists worldwide.

The show is the second iteration of an exhibition curated by SUSO33 in Madrid, Spain last year at the Centro de Arte Tomás y Valiente. At opening night September 25th at the Bronx Museum the curator and artist were in attendance for the overflow crowd of artists and fans – many of whose work and faces appear in photos throughout the show. Visitors also got to see the original “Subway Art” book in its initial “dummy” form on display behind glass in its own vitrine.

Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Spread over multiple rooms filled with original photos, elevated train videos, and an impressive full-scale recreation of subway car facsimiles, the exhibit gives a rich survey of an epoch of an exciting tumultuous visual environment that rocked a city. The thunderous rumbling and screeching of trains adds an audio backdrop, somehow freeing these steel monsters from the past and making them temporarily contemporary. The raucous rebellious spirit of those times organically permutated and redefined itself in intervening decades, but Chalfant’s influence and dedication to preserving this potent moment provides ample evidence of the staying power of graffiti and its impact.

Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo
Photographer Martha Cooper shoots the feted Henry Chalfant at the crowded opening.
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo) Pictured here is Mare 139 standing before his quote is printed on the left wall. “We may have lost the trains, but we’ve gained the whole world.”
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Mr. Chalfant at the exhibition. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987 is currently on view at The Bronx Museum of the Arts until March 2020. This exhibition is free and open to the public. Click HERE for further details, schedule of events, and hours of operation.

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BSA Film Friday: 10.04.19

BSA Film Friday: 10.04.19

Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.

Now screening :
1. Gross Domestic Product – Banksy
2. New Stop Animation Project from Caledonia Curry AKA Swoon.
3. Henry Chalfant “Art vs Transit 1977-1987” Bronx Museum of the Arts
4. Street Art Summer Round-Up – 2019 from Fifth Wall TV / Doug Gillen

BSA Special Feature: Gross Domestic Product – Banksy

The doublespeak of Banksy very effectively demanded a whirlwind of media attention in the art/Street Art world once again this week. The anti-capitalist launched a full street-side exhibition while his personal/anonymous brand benefitted by the new record auction price of 9.9 million pounds with fees for one of his works depicting a “Devolved Parliament” full of apes – precisely during the height of inpending Brexit hysteria.

Gross Domestic Product / Banksy Installation. Video Courtesy Ash Versus


New Stop Animation Project from Caledonia Curry AKA Swoon.

Street Artist Swoon (Caledonia Curry) has been pushing her creative limits in a medium she is not known for, and the results are exhilarating.

Facing a backlog of fears and eager to go out of her comfort zones of that include linotype printing and wheat-pasting on the street – and the many projects building community – her last two years of study in stop animation are ready to be seen. Present her narrative practice and character in a surprising new way, Swoon takes chances bravely, and is ready to share her new work.

Her new exhibition with Jeffery Deitch is coming up in New York – but today we offer a sneak peek of what the deep diving Swoon has discovered.

Henry Chalfant “Art vs Transit 1977-1987” Bronx Museum of the Arts

Its here and the reviews have been glowing. One of the originals in documenting and providing platforms to artists and participants of art on the streets and trains, Henry Chalfant is please to present an impressive retrospective through next spring at Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Street Art Summer Round-Up – 2019 from Fifth Wall TV / Doug Gillen

Hop into the Doug soup of insight, mangled pronunciation and zealous fannery for projects and Street/public art concepts he wants you to remember from this summer.

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Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987 Opens at Bronx Museum

Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987 Opens at Bronx Museum


It wasn’t a fait accompli that Henry Chalfant was going to capture an entire graffiti train in late 1970s New York. He needed to devise a technique and plan his attack.

In much the same way that train writers like Blade, Dondi, SEEN, Mare and Skeme had to strategize, scope, and execute their hand-rendered work upon the rails under challenging circumstances and sometimes dangerous conditions, the photographic documentarian Chalfant had to likewise show up with his tools and skillz to document the work. He shot multiples in rapid succession by positioning himself, timing the trains, preparing his materials, and overlaying those images together end-to-end in a time-consuming methodology that he alone devised.

By presenting an ingenious visual anthropology, Henry captured for a greater audience the aesthetics and a more permanent record of the final product – at a time when most authorities and public sentiment saw little if any value in the work. This premeditated outlaw vandalism was also artistry, born with pure adrenaline by teenagers who were eager to make their mark in a rapidly declining US city in the midst of economic crises. When tags evolved to whole cars, whole cars became set pieces, and whole trains became a visual opus that swept into, through, and out of your view in minutes. By capturing and preserving them completely Chalfant ensured that future generations could appreciate them as well.

From the press release:
“He co-authored the definitive account of New York graffiti art, Subway Art (Holt Rinehart Winston, N.Y. 1984) and a sequel on the art form’s world-wide diffusion, Spray Can Art (Thames and Hudson Inc. London, 1987). Chalfant co-produced the PBS documentary, Style Wars, the definitive documentary about Graffiti and Hip Hop culture and directed Flyin’ Cut Sleeves, a documentary on South Bronx gangs, in 1993. He produced and directed Visit Palestine: Ten Days on the West Bank in 2002. His film From Mambo to Hip Hop was featured in the Latino Public Broadcasting series, Voces in 2006-2007, and won an Alma Award for Best Documentary.

Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987 is generously supported by KAWS, Michael D. & Kristin Elkins, David Forbes and Velda Turan, Janet Goldman, Hal & Jodi Hess, Supreme, Powerhouse Arts, Philip & Cheryl Milstein, Eric Firestone Gallery, Sacha Jenkins & MassAppeal, Rob Cristofaro & Alife, Shepard Fairy, Anne Brown, and Josh Rechnitz.”


The exhibition is also supported by the 190 backers on Kickstarter who donated to his outreach. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/568527850/henry-chalfants-first-us-museum-retrospective


Banner image:

Henry Chalfant
Dondi, 1980, 2013, 2013
Kodak Professional Endura Metallic Paper
17h x 65h in.


Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987

For more information about HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977-1987 and the museum’s hours of operation and tickets click HERE

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“Beyond The Streets” Opens in New York : Beyond Labels, With Roots

“Beyond The Streets” Opens in New York : Beyond Labels, With Roots

Look Who’s Back in the Neighborhood

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.

Faile. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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. 

Swoon. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Martha Cooper with BGirl Rockafelka. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Joe Conzo. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Scale, The History

Exhaustive, no. Exhausting, possibly. Pace yourself.

 “I 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 has come.”

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 special.”

Mike 171. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

“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.

Cornbread. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo). Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Lee Quinones. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.”

John and Charlie Ahearn. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

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

Dabsmyla. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Myla. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Shepard Fairey. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Bill Barminski. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

You’re 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.

John Fekner. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“These 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.

“It 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.

buZ blurr. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“They 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.”  

Tim Conlon. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“When 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

Not content 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 street.

Graffiti 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”.

Kunle Martin AKA Earsnot. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.”

Kunle Martin. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A fluorescent 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.

Pose. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Pose. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

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.

Haze. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.”

Rosie Perez. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Beyond Labels

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.

Kenny Scharf. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.”

Beyond the Streets opened June 21 and continues through the summer.

MADSAKI. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Blade and Doze Green. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Katsu. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Gajin Fujita. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Faith XLVII. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
John Ahearn. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Jane Dickson. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dan Witz. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
1UP Crew…it’s always a good thing to have your friends near by when you need them the most… Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
1UP Crew. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)ork. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Cleon Peterson. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Conor Harrington. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Felipe Pantone. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Beastie Boys. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nekst . Risk. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bast . Paul Insect. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Invader. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Ron English. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Patrick Martinez. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dust tagger. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Martha Cooper with Freedom. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
What’s left and soon to be gone of the old Williamsburg’s waterfront right across from Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

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“Beyond The Streets” Comes To Brooklyn in June

“Beyond The Streets” Comes To Brooklyn in June

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.”

Style Wars Car by NOC 167 with Door Open, Man Reading Newspaper, 96th Street Station, New York, NY, 1981. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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.

Guerrilla Girls at Abrons Art Center, New York, 2015. (photo © Andrew Hindrake)

“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.

Lil’ Crazy Legs during shoot for Wild Style, Riverside Park, NY, 1983. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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 Murakami. 

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

Producer: Ian Mazie & Pressure Point Creative


Tickets and hours of operation can be found at: BEYONDTHESTREETS.COM


FEATURED ARTISTS INCLUDE:

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.

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URVANITY 2018: 3 Days in Madrid

URVANITY 2018: 3 Days in Madrid

Today we go to the Urvanity New Contemporary Art Fair in Madrid to see some art inside and outside the fair and to hear about some of the programming happening there, courtesy of Fernando Alcalá Losa.


URVANITY New Contemporary Art Fair 2018

Or, “How we spent the whole weekend in Madrid enjoying art, friends and talks while censorship from the central Spanish government is choking the liberty of expression.”

The 2nd edition of Urvanity New Contemporary International Art Fair was our main focus of interest. With an exciting program including some of the most interesting galleries and artists from all over the world, 4 walls being produced in different areas of the Spanish capital and a more than attractive set of talks and lectures, we knew that we were going to make our weekend. But, of course, there was going to be more, much more…

Cranio. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

DAY ONE: Galleries

After sleeping a few hours, I started my little marathon outside the new Urvanity headquarters in the beautiful ME Madrid María Victoria Hotel for attending a round table about ‘Women in the cultural industry beyond feminist clichés’. With Alberto Aguilar from Urvanity moderating, I was excited to see what journalist Belén Palanco, gallerist Consuelo Durán and artist and friend Anna Taratiel had to say about all this arty world ‘dominated’ by men in these times when initiatives like La Caja de Pandora are rebelling against sexual abuse and the heteropatriarchy hegemony in the art world and fighting for visibility, justice and equality in working conditions and salaries.

Jan Kaláb. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Artists like Nuria Mora and Animalitoland, Sergio Bang, from Swinton & Grant Gallery, and Diana Prieto from MadridStreetArtProject were in the audience. Issues like education, quotes, discrimination, the toughness of being a female street artist, being out or inside the system, some critics to the female clichés and personal experiences were brought into the table. Being a heterosexual cis male, I don’t know if I’m the right person to say this, but I missed a more radical speech about the whole scenario and the role of women about making the necessary changes for reaching the place and conditions that they deserve.

Apart from this, Juncal Roig, Urvanity’s communication manager, had prepared a little gift with fellow artist Antonyo Marest. Last year, Marest had painted 4 walls in a nice courtyard inside the Hotel, so we did a small private shooting with the artist. It was fun, because we had to access the place through a window in one of the rooms. As Antonio said, imagine how ‘easy’ it was to move 6-floor wall scaffolding through that small ‘hole’. Watch out for Marest USA tour coming soon in the next months.

 

Jana & JS. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

‘The Impact of Urban Creativity in Cities’, a talk, as I said before, by Contorno Urbano founders, was next. Ninoska’s and Esteban’s explanations about some of their most important projects and about how to work with students, neighbors, the local authorities and the artists themselves really got my attention, although I was already aware about the details of their work. The never ending growing 12+1 project and, of course, the soon to come ‘Mural Salut Wall’ by Escif were some of the top hits of the lecture, including the announce of the International Tortilla Competition held this last weekend at Sant Feliu de Llobregat’s La Salut square as a part of Escif art residence in the city. Hyper fun 3rd grade by the artist that caused lots of laughs between the audience. Looking forward to see what Escif will create in the next months here.

 

Long but full of experiences day. Beer time and back to our place where a bunch of young adults were waiting for us celebrating Miriam’s (our host) birthday, singing songs with ukuleles at 2am and drinking bourbon. Fuck me: I’m getting old…

Jana & JS. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

DAY TWO: The day of Walls.

Good morning Vietnam! Slept 4 hours, dizzy head (if you can’t fight the enemy, join him) and García in groundhog mode on. I was starting to feel kind of nervous, as I hadn’t seen a wall yet, so I had a mission going on. Being lucky enough to know one of the best hosts that you can find in Madrid, I met Guillermo, from Madridstreetartproject ‘MSAP’, had some quick breakfast and began walking by. Guille was one of the people taking care of the production duties of the Urvanity walls. A veteran actor in the local scene, his way of seeing and understanding the urban landscape is outstanding.

Cranio. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Guillermo de la Madrid)

I had to leave Cranio’s wall for Sunday due to ‘logistic’ reasons. But, I was so glad to have the chance to shoot with Alexey Luka, as I had seen some photos about the WIP of his mural and I was loving it. After a small talk with the artist and the ‘formal’ presentations, I began shooting from the ground while Guille was struggling with drivers trying to not have them parking besides the crane.

Alexey Luka. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Then a little magical episode took place when Javier, a neighbor living in the building opposite to Luka’s wall, offered himself to give us access to the rooftop. Nicest human being ever, Javier told me that he was a military pilot and a great photography aficionado. It’s always surprising to me how people that don’t know you at all trust in you and open their houses to strangers like us, offering all the possible help because they are liking the project and/or the artists’ work.

Alexey’s wall was being a tough one to deal with. Guille, Rocío and the rest of the production team had to treat the wall twice with some special products because dust and sand were getting out from it. They lost 2 days because of this, but when I arrived there, everything had been solved and the artist was working hard. After dealing with a couple of issues, we head to the next wall… Before, I would love to say some words about Rocío here. We have just met maybe twice during all these years.

Alexey Luka. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Working and collaborating with MSAP, Mula Fest and Asalto among others, it’s always interesting to listen to her clever thoughts and knowledge about the whole scene, how she approaches the tours that she guides in Madrid and get to know a little bit more about the kind of person that everyone would love to have in their teams. You can check Rocio’s blog here.

Maybe Jan Kaláb’s wall was the most popular one during the whole weekend. Pedestrians were loving the mix of nice colors and soft shapes – so selfies, stories and boomerangs were spreading as flu. I just tried to include some human traffic in the photo. Maybe I have a thing with old ladies… Just maybe…

Alexey Luka. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Guillermo de la Madrid)

Xavier Eltono’s talk was one of my top moments of the whole trip. Although I follow his career since years ago, I hadn’t got any deep thoughts about his work. After I heard what he had to say about his art and about how he connect his studio work with the skin of the cities where he had intervened, I understood a lot of things regarding his philosophy and the way he interacts with the city.

Another thing that got my attention during his lecture was the fact of how many respected artists were attending the talk. Names like Zosen, Mina Hamada, Aryz, Rocblackblock, Daniel Muñoz SAN, Kenor, Anna Taratiel, Suso33, Aleix Gordo, Vermibus…were there showing respect for Eltono’s art and explanations. The academic world was also represented nicely with awesome Fernando Figueroa and Elena Gayo.

Xavier Eltono. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Xavier told me by email that this talk had been very important for him, so I asked him why: ‘I’m used to give talks, I do a couple every year and I actually really enjoy it. Doing it in Madrid though was a very different exercise. Even if I’m not Spanish, I became an artist in Madrid, this is the city where everything started for me. Talking about my work in this city was very challenging to me because I knew a lot of friends and a lot of artists I admire would be listening to me. It’s very easy to talk about your work in front of an anonymous crowd but in front of people you know and you care about is totally different! I was very nervous, but, according to the feedback I received after the talk, it looks like no one noticed it!!!

Tina Ziegler of Moniker Art. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Then, the main dish of the menu took place. ‘The Art Conference, by Urvanity’, hosted by Doug Gillen, from Fifth Wall TV and featuring some of the most important managers/curators/creative directors/promoters in the biz was meant to be the grand finale of Urvanity’s Saturday program. Tina Ziegler, Director of Moniker Art fair, Yasha Young, Creative Director of Urban Nation Museum, and Anna Dimitrova, Director of Montana Gallery, were adding some more girl power to the place.

Yasha Young of Urban Nation Berlin. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

FER: One of the most interesting things about the fair this year was the Talks Program. I couldn’t go to all of them because I would need to clone myself for attending everything, but was it intentional for you to enhance this side of the event? Do you think that these talks and lectures are useful for attracting a potential audience or are they more focused on an indoor point of view for people inside the art world? Why the 2 talks were the role and presence of women was more significant were moderated by a guy with a penis?

Sergio Sancho: For us the talk program it is a fundamental base within the fair. It is something that we want to keep on and give more importance and visibility. We think that the best way to understand this movement it’s from inside, giving voice and visibility to the main characters. About the moderator you are talking we think the gender its irrelevant. This year we wanted to give more visibility to women in a world where there is such an inequality and it has been casual that in the case of The Art Conference the moderator that Tina used it’s always a man and in the case of the talks opening program it has been Alberto the leader and we think it was the suitable person to do so.

 

Esteban Marin and Ninoska of Contorno Urbano Foundation. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

An impressive example of power, clear minds, commitment and, above all, tough work during several years in a penis based industry, these 3 forces of nature explained to us the main points of their careers, their way of working, their ethics, spoke about good practices and loyalty, some episodes about dealing with male chauvinism attitudes and how to get through all this without stepping forward.

Antonyo Marest. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

After personally meeting Ampparito and chatting a little bit with Octavi Serra and some other guys from Cúmul we ended the day talking and drinking beer in a relaxed atmosphere at some ‘Manolo’ bar in Madrid. Time to breathe, smile and relax.

DAY THREE: The art fair day.

And Sunday arrived. Keeping the military discipline of the whole weekend, woke up early, had some bad coffee while planning the morning and started my 3kms walk to check Cranio´s wall out. Sunday is ‘rastro’ day in Madrid, so some streets and squares of the area were flood with people that you had to avoid while trying not to kill yourself watching the screen of your mobile phone as it was compulsory for me to check the map and my old time friend Kini González was helping me out getting some invitations for colleagues.

Once of the few times that I was moving my head up, I almost crashed with some familiar guy. Rafa appeared suddenly in front of me with his eternal smile in the face. A friend from Barcelona, it had been years since we had seen each other, so it was a funny and nice coincidence to meet by chance 624kms away from our hometown. We continue our walk together speaking about life, anarchy, music and veganism and, at the same time, Guille was telling me the last news about Cranio´s work as we were all pendant of the keys of the crane for the final shot.

Jan Kaláb. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

As I was seeing that this wasn’t happening in the next few hours, I changed my plans and went to Luka’s wall as I wanted to take some photos from the crane. There it goes… Say bye to Rafa, put my stuff together and we went up for capturing some details.

As we were saying in Madrid, there’s a poker of photos that you should take while capturing, if possible, the whole process of painting a big mural: shots from the ground, shots from other buildings and rooftops, shots from the crane and the final shot. If you get decent photos from all these angles, you will come back home with a smile on your face… I missed Luka’s final photo, by the way, as he finished his work on Monday.

Alexey Luka. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Once we had arrived to Urvanity’s headquarters I started to check all the artwork that galleries like Montana, SC, Ink and Movement, Stolen Space, Fousion, Plastic Murs, Swinton & Grant, Station 16, Ruarts or Pretty Portal were exhibiting. I liked to see some personal faves like Enric Sant, Isaac Cordal, Sixe, SAN, Herakut, Deih, Hyuro, She One, Dilka Bear, Kofie, Jaune, L’Atlas, Stikki Peaches, Anna Taratiel or Guy Denning, having in mind that you don’t always have the chance to admire all these people’s work in one place at the same time. I also enjoyed to discover other great artists that were kind of new for me like Gregory Watin, Marc C. Woehr, Solomostry, Spazuk, Jaime Molina or Morik Marat.

I also spoke with some of the gallerists who were quite happy about the sales and the whole experience in general. Okuda almost did a sold out, Taratiel sold her bigger piece for Durán gallery, veteran Henry Chalfant and Enric Sant were also selling for Adda & Taxie. Vicente, from Plastic Murs, was much happier with the sales this year than he was in 2017 after seeing how Deih and, above all, Vinz had been successful during the fair. Dilka Bear for Fousion gallery also saw how some of her works were going to some collector’s homes.

Jana & JS. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

It was also interesting for me to know that Kofie ‘papers’ in Swinton & Grant had been sold even before than the fair officially started. Classic names of the scene like Gripface, Stikki Peaches, GR170 or Belin also sold in this year edition. On the opposite hand, Olivier, from Vroom & Varossieau, which exhibited one of the most powerful group of artists in the fair, told me that his sales had been better last year, maybe because of his high prices. As we say in Spain: ‘nunca llueve a gusto de todos’ (something like: not everyone likes when it rains).

I spent my last minutes at COAM trying to find Sergio, Juncal and Victoria from Urvanity’s team without success, as I wanted to say bye and thank them for the treat that they gave to us during the whole weekend. I really like when you get the chance of meeting personally people that you have spoken with by email and that you have interacted with on the social media, as it happened this time with Sergio and Victoria.

Okuda. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

So, this was it. We couldn’t leave Madrid without having a couple (a couple…yeah, right…) of vermouths with some old time friends and colleagues, feeling sad because of the ones that we missed and thinking about all the great moments and experiences that we had lived during the weekend.

Thanks A LOT to all of you who we spent some time with during those 3 crazy days, specially to Sergio, Juncal and Victoria, Miriam for sharing her home with us, Guille, Diana & Rocío for being there as always, Lara, Soledad and Rebekah, at Espacio SOLO, for being such great hosts and, of course, Audrey García for breathing and existing. ‘til next time Madrid…

Laurence Valliéres. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Laurence Valliéres. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Jaune. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Daniel Muñoz AKA SAN. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Guy Denning. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Augustin Kofie. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Herakut. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Hyuro. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Spok. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Henry Chalfant. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Isaac Cordal. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

JAZ. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Stikki Peaches. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Deih. Urvanity Art 2018. Madrid, Spain. February 2018. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

URVANITY ART MADRID 2018

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BSA Film Friday 03.17.17

BSA Film Friday 03.17.17

bsa-film-friday-JAN-2015

Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.

Now screening :
1. Mayonaize: Star Lyric Theatre
2. Ugangprosjektet. Drammen, Norway
3. Blade and Maze: From Here To Canarsie by Henry Chalfant

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BSA Special Feature: Mayonaize: Star Lyric Theatre

Melbourne-based artist Mayonaize has celebrated the letter-making craft long enough and often enough to have completely deconstructed it and allowed it to become gestural. A tattooist and Street Artist, the full-body choreography of this calligraffiti calls to mind the expanding school of text based artists whom first alerted us about the practice like Niels Shoe Meulman and Retna and even Jose Parla.

Watch Mayonaize here on the floor of theater in Fitzroy, working outward from the center using only white paint and a successively larger size of brush to create this mandella. Combined with the soundtrack from Tree and filmed/edited by Chris Matthews, it is just the beauty you needed to inspire you to access the creative spirit today.

 

 

Ugangprosjektet. Drammen, Norway

“I see Street Art and graffiti as part of a very long tradition of ours to embellish on the outside of buildings. It is so basic to our old ancient culture. We now have a contemporary expression that has the same job,” says Åsmund Thorkildsen during his narration of the various city scenes and art installations here for Dramman festival in Norway. A clean and sweeping survey of the graffiti and Street Artists as they work in different areas of this Norwegian city using a number of techniques with cans and brushes.

 

Blade and Maze: From Here To Canarsie by Henry Chalfant

A small documentary from a few years ago co-produced by Henry Chalfant, Sam Henriques and Jim Prigoff about the reuniting of Blade and Maze on a wall in Orchard Beach, the Bronx.

“The original design is by Blade. Dolores is there to recount her adventures going into the layups while Blade painted. Blades 1972 Thunderbird is featured. The mural is a theme inspired by outer space. One of the park workers who passes by to admire the wall likens it to The Chariots of the Gods, by Erich Von Daniken.”

 

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BSA Film Friday: 03.10.17

BSA Film Friday: 03.10.17

bsa-film-friday-JAN-2015

Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.

Now screening :
1. Rone: The Alpha Project
2.  FKDL – Petites Chroniques Urbaines
3. Irene Lopez León: 12+1 Contorno Urbano
4. The Batcave, Henry Chalfant, on The New York Times
5. Isaac Cordal “Giza Komedia”

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BSA Special Feature: Rone: The Alpha Project

In this new revelatory video Street Artist Rone appears to unveil romantic and healthy figures from beneath a veil in isolated patches. The austere minimalist soundtrack contributes to a disorientation, a feeling of suspension while a visual wonder appears before you. The ruins of industrial production are legion in parts of the West as manufacturing is now done in the East, so our artists again have discovered enchanting ways to make something remarkable with the tools at hand, even transcendent.

 

FKDL – Petites Chroniques Urbaines

Mon Film, La Femme Chez Elle.

Only two of hundreds of magazines collected from the fashionable Parisian ladies of the 1950s and 1960s that FKDL flips through. In his studio you find his materials carefully archived and labeled, a well of pleasant and smartly chick ladies to select from and to collage together. A painter before he was a street art, his muses have been many and now he takes his stuff to the street with part illustration, part collage, often upon a bright blue or phosphorescent pink thin synthetic backing. Here he shares openly with you how the process goes, how he first loved these ladies and how he came upon his style for the street, now for a decade or so.

FKDL recalls a moment of epiphany with clarity; “Right. I got it. I’m going to dress up my collage characters with more collages”.

Irene Lopez León: 12+1 Contorno Urbano

See the direct relationship between the studio practice and the mural painting here in this video with Spanish artists Irene Lopez León for the 12+1 wall.

 

The Batcave, a Graffiti Landmark in Brooklyn, Grows Up

The New York Times discovered the Batcave just as it is about to be developed, and invited Henry Chalfant, whom writer Matt A.V. Chaban regards simply as “a graffiti expert” to come along and speak about the rather hallowed site. The experience is multidimensional in this gorgeous video, with an opportunity for you to drag your mouse across the screen to glance around the room and ceilings while Henry talks.

“Though few individual pieces in the Batcave are particularly notable, Henry Chalfant, a graffiti expert, remarked on a recent tour how the totality of the art is what makes it special, a reminder of the “outlaw spaces” that once populated much more of the city.”

We found a few pieces that were notable in 2012 in our piece New York Interiors and Urban Exploring.

Isaac Cordal “Giza Komedia”

Follow Street Artist Isaac Cordal as he stages small scenes outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, where he has his current solo show at SC Gallery. The corrugated metal shelters mimic closely the undulating shapes of the Frank Gehry designed architecture of the formal museum across the street. We need to get this guy INTO the museum, instead of being kept outside. We will.

 

ISAAC CORDAL. “GIZA KOMEDIA”. SOLO SHOW. SC GALLERY BILBAO. from SC Gallery + Art Management on Vimeo.

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“Magic City” in Dresden : Exhibition of Street Artists and City as Muse

“Magic City” in Dresden : Exhibition of Street Artists and City as Muse

An unusual amalgam of the interactivity of the street combined with the formality of a gallery environment, Magic City opened this fall in a converted factory in Dresden, Germany with an eclectic selection of 40+ artists spanning the current and past practices of art in the street.

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Skewville. Children enjoying Skewville’s “tete-a-tete” shopping cart. Ernest Zacharevic’s mobile in the background. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With revered culture critic and curator Carlo McCormick at the helm alongside curator Ethel Seno, the richly marbled show runs a gamut from 70’s subway train writers and photographers like Americans Daze, Henry Chalfant, and Martha Cooper to the Egyptian activist Ganzeer, Italian interventionist Biancoshock, popagandist Ron English, and the eye-tricking anamorphic artist from the Netherlands, Leon Keer.

Veering from the hedonistic to the satiric to head-scratching illusions, the collection allows you to go as deep into your education about this multifaceted practice of intervening public space as you like, including just staying on the surface.

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Ernest Zacharevic mobile with a “listening station” on the left. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It’s not an easy balance to strike – some of these artists have heavy hearts and withering critiques of human behaviors and institutional hypocrisies ranging from 1st World treatment of refugees to celebrity culture to encroaching surveillance on individual rights, government oppression, and urban blight.

Magic City doesn’t try to shield you from the difficult topics, but the exhibition also contains enough mystery, fanboy cheer, eye candy and child-like delight that the kids still have plenty of fun discoveries to take selfies with. We also saw a few kissing couples, so apparently there is room for some romance as well.

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 A visitor to Magic City enjoys a “listening station”. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“We believe that even the typical city is uncommon, and that the idiosyncrasies that make each city unique are collectively something they all have in common,” says McCormick in his text describing the exhibition. “This is then a celebration of the universal character of cities as well as a love letter to their infinite diversity. The special magic that comes from our cities is germinated in the mad sum of their improbable juxtapositions and impossible contradictions.”

Of particular note is the sound design throughout the exhibition by Sebastian Purfürst and Hendrick Neumerkel of LEM Studios that frequently evokes an experiential atmosphere of incidental city sounds like sirens, rumbling trains, snatches of conversations and musical interludes. Played at varying volumes, locations, and textures throughout the exhibition, the evocative city soundscape all adds to a feeling of unexpected possibilities and an increased probability for new discovery.

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Olek’s carousel from above. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Obviously this Magic City cannot be all things to all people, and some will criticize the crisp presentation of a notably gritty series of subcultures, or perhaps the omission of one genre or technique or important artist. It’s not meant to be encyclopedic, rather a series of insights into a grassroots art and activism practice that continues to evolve in cities before our eyes.

For full disclosure, we curated the accompanying BSA Film Program for Magic City by 12 artists and collectives which runs at one end of the vast hall – and Mr. Rojo is on the artist roster with 15 photographs of his throughout the exhibition, so our view of this show is somewhat skewed.

Here we share photographs from the exhibition taken recently inside the exhibition for you to have a look for yourself.

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Olek (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Ron English (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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A MadC installation made with thousands of spray can caps. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Belgian urban naturalist ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Skewville . ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Skewville (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Daze (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Martha Cooper at the gallery. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Henry Chalfant at the gallery. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Bordalo II (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Andy K. detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Dan Witz (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Dan Witz (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Isaac Cordal. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Isaac Cordal (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Anders Gjennestad AKA Strok (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Icy & Sot with Asbestos on the left. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Replete (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Truly (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Leon Keer (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Jaime Rojo. A young visitor enjoying the Kids Trail through a peephole with Jaime’s photos inside an “electrical box”. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Jaime Rojo. The Kids Trail wasn’t only for kids it seems. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Tristan Eaton on the right. Olek on the left. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Aiko at the Red Light District. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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The Yok & Sheryo (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Herakut. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Herakut (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

Full list of participating artists:

Aiko, AKRylonumérik, Andy K, Asbestos, Benus, Jens Besser, Biancoshock, Mark Bode, Bordalo II, Ori Carino & Benjamin Armas, Henry Chalfant, Martha Cooper, Isaac Cordal, Daze, Brad Downey, Tristan Eaton, Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Fino’91, Ganzeer, Anders Gjennestad, Ben Heine, Herakut, Icy & Sot, Leon Keer, Loomit, MadC, OakOak, Odeith, Olek, Qi Xinghua, Replete, Roa, Jaime Rojo, Skewville, SpY, Truly, Juandres Vera, WENU, Dan Witz, Yok & Sheryo, Ernest Zacharevic.

 

Visit MAGIC CITY DRESDEN for more details, news, videos and the blog.

 


This article is also published on The Huffington Post

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“Magic City” Premieres in Dresden : Seno and McCormick as Alchemists

“Magic City” Premieres in Dresden : Seno and McCormick as Alchemists

40 Artists Up Along Main Street, 12 More in the BSA Film Program

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Curators Ethel Seno and Carlo McCormick in front of a new mural by German duo Herakut announcing the premiere of Magic City in Dresden. (photo © Rainer Christian Kurzeder)


 

“Nature is a petrified magic city.” – Novalis

Curator Carlo McCormick quotes Novalis by way of describing this new exhibit of an eclectic blend of terrific troublemakers, pop-culture hijackers, and show-stopping crowd pleasers drawn from cities all around the Street Art/ graffiti /urban art scene today – and forty years ago. This is a welcoming walk of unexpected intersections that only McCormick and co-curator Ethel Seno could imagine – and pull together as a panoply of street wizardry that acknowledges activism, artistry, anarchy, and aesthetics with a sincere respect for all. It will be interesting to see how this show is viewed by people who follow the chaotic street scene today in the context of its evolution and how they read the street signs in this city.

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Curator Ethel Seno with Managing Director Dieter Semmelmann and exhibition Designer Tobias Kunz cutting the ribbon at the premiere of Magic City in Dresden, Germany. (photo © Rainer Christian Kurzeder)

McCormick, in his customary self-effacing humor, expects there to be some shit flying – as anyone who is involved in this scene expects from the hard-scrabble rebellious margins and subcultures that this art-making interventionist practice rises from. There also are a growing and coalescing mini-legion of scholars and academics who are currently grappling with the nature and characteristics of this self-directed art-making practice rooted often in discontent – now organized inside an exhibition that is ticketed and sold as a family friendly show.

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Street Artist and pop mashup painter Tristan Eaton in front of his new mural wall at the premiere of Magic City in Dresden, Germany. (photo © Rainer Christian Kurzeder)

In his descriptions of the public sphere, the writer, historian, author, and cultural critic McCormick often refers to graffiti and street artists messing with “contested space”. It’s an apt description whether we are talking about the public space in high-density gleaming metropolises or the bombed-out grid-less and polluted quagmires of human fallibility and urban un-planning that dot our globe; all public space its nature is contested.

Here is a place used by many artists to protest, agitate, advocate, or deliver critique – and many of the artists in this exhibition have done exactly this in their street practice, often pushing limits and defining new ones. Dig a little into many of the individual story lines at play here and you’ll see that the vibrant roots of social revolution are pushing up from the streets through the clouds of propaganda and advertising, often mocking them and revealing them in the process.

Ultimately, this Magic City experience is an elixir for contemplating the lifelong romance we have with our cities and with these artists who cavort with us within them. “Our Magic City is a place and a non-place,” McCormick says in a position statement on the exhibit. “It is not the physical city of brick and mortar but rather the urban space of internalized meanings. It is the city as subject and canvas, neither theme park nor stage set, but an exhibition showcasing some of the most original and celebrated artists working on and in the city today.”

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Mixed media Street Artist Asbestos from Dublin, graffiti master/ painter Chris “Daze” Ellis from NYC, and Tristan Eaton from Los Angeles at the premiere of Magic City in Dresden, Germany. (photo © Rainer Christian Kurzeder)

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Curator Carlo McCormick with New York billboard/culture jammer and artist Ron English in front of his new wall mural at premiere of Magic City in Dresden, Germany. (photo © Rainer Christian Kurzeder)

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Dutch anamorphic art master Leon Keer with Polish crochet transformer/Street Artist Olek at the premiere of Magic City in Dresden, Germany. (photo © Rainer Christian Kurzeder)

BSA curated the film program for Magic City with a dynamic array of some of the best Street Art related films today presented together in a relaxed environment. In this video hosted by Andreas Schanzenbach you get a taste of the works that are showing that we draw from our weekly surveys on BSA Film Friday. Over the last few years we have had the honor of presenting live in-person to students and scholars and fans an ever-evolving collection of videos that speak to the spirit experimentation, discovery and culture-jamming outrageousness of urban interventions, graffiti and Street Art.  The BSA Film Program at Magic City presents a survey of some of the very best that we have seen recently.

Magic City artists include:
Akrylonumerik, Andy K, Asbestos, Ben Heine, Benuz, Biancoshock, Bordalo II, Brad, Downey, Dan Witz, Daze, Ernest Zacharevic, Ganzeer, Henry Chalfant, HERAKUT, Icy & Sot, Isaac Cordal, Jaime Rojo, Jens Besser, Juandres Vera, Lady Aiko, Leon Keer, Loomit, MAD C, Mark Bode, Martha Cooper, Oakoak, Odeith, Olek, Ori Carin / Benjamin Armas, Qi Xinghua, Replete, ROA, Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Skewville, SpY, Tristan Eaton, Truly, WENU Crew, Yok & Sheryo

The BSA Film Program for Magic City includes the following artists:
Borondo, Brad Downey & Akay, Ella + Pitr, Faile, Farewell, Maxwell Rushton, Narcelio Grud, Plotbot Ken, Sofles, Vegan Flava, Vermibus

Some behind the scenes shots days before the Premiere

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Popagandist Ron English preparing his Temper Tot at Magic City in Dresden, Germany. (photo © Rainer Christian Kurzeder)

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Popagandist Ron English preparing his Temper Tot at Magic City in Dresden, Germany. (photo © Rainer Christian Kurzeder)

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DAZE reviewing his work at Magic City in Dresden, Germany. (photo © Rainer Christian Kurzeder)

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Urban naturalist ROA at Magic City in Dresden, Germany. (photo © Rainer Christian Kurzeder)

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Sheryo strikes a pose while the guys build the installation she did with The Yok at Magic City in Dresden, Germany. (photo © Rainer Christian Kurzeder)

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Rose Béton Festival in Toulouse, France in Year 2

Rose Béton Festival in Toulouse, France in Year 2

Concrete Rose. Sounds like the name of a jailhouse jezebel with a beauty mark on her cheek and feathers and pearls in her hair. Translate it to French and you get the second edition of Rose Béton, a street art and graffiti festival in the “Pink City” of Toulouse, which has more than its share of pink paint and terra cotta brick.

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Hendrik Beikirch AKA ECB.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © ECB)

Organized around murals, graffiti jams, workshops, talks, and exhibits, Rose Béton had a New York centered theme this year, including an evening entitled “Hello Brooklyn” although the majority of artists painting were not from NYC aside from the ever youthful and sage Futura – so maybe the “Brooklyn” branding was more an inspiration derived from hip-hop music and the love of Jay-Z.

It also had a few large murals, including ones by Ben Eine, ARYZ and this beauty above by ECB, who painted a portrait of a Moroccan man on a building inhabited by many North African immigrants and a stunning view was captured here by the artist of prayer mats spread out next the building – especially significant during this month of Ramadan.

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Hendrik Beikirch AKA ECB.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Two actual New Yorkers Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant were there to exhibit their photographic works in one of oldest places dedicated to photography in the world, the Château d’Eau, an old nineteenth century water tower near to the cours Dillon. Along with their seminal New York graff-centered photographs were the work of a young photographer named Sylvain Largot whose specialty is illegal graff.

Martha tells us that the Toulouse event was all male except for one female from Bogota named Ledania and ironically here work received the most “likes” and attention on Martha’s Instagram account. She had come with a crew of mostly Columbians artists for a program called “Latino Graff” which held a show and soiree at Espace Allegria and Galerie Zunzun.

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ARYZ.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

The “Hello Brooklyn” graff jam was held at a spacious former factory called Le 50Cinq, which has been renovated by artists and turned into artists’ spaces, studios, and commercial event rental venue.

A round table was held with Toulouse native TILT, who spoke with Bernard Baudron who founded the Toulouse graffiti shop “South Painters,” and Jordi Rubio Rocabert, who started Montana Colors.

Nearby at Musée Des Abattoirs there was an exhibit of graff and street artists including Delta, Krink, Mist, Futura and Boris Tellegen. As Martha shared with us, Toulouse has a long history of graffiti, and the range and passion of the events at Rose Béton this month again confirm that Toulouse is still at the top of its game.

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ARYZ.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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ARYZ.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Ben Eine.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Ben Eine.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Ben Eine.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Ben Eine.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Futura. Musée Des Abattoirs. Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Futura. Musée Des Abattoirs. Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Futura. Musée Des Abattoirs. Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Futura. Musée Des Abattoirs. Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Martha Cooper in the center flanked by Sylvain Largot on the left and Henry Chalfant on the right at Galerie Le Chateau D’Eau for their show “EPOXY”. Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo courtesy of Martha Cooper)

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Poster for “Open Summer” graff jam was called “Hello Brooklyn”.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Bomin82. “Open Summer” graff -jam.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Bomin82. “Open Summer” graff -jam.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Ledania. “Open Summer” graff -jam.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Ever and ECB happy encounter at the “Open Summer” graff -jam.  Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Remeio. Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Krink. Work in progress. Musée Des Abattoirs. Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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Delta. Work in progress. Musée Des Abattoirs. Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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From let to right: Tilt, Jordi Rubio Rocabert and Bernard Baudron. Rose Béton Festival. Toulouse, France. June 2016. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Thank you to Ms. Cooper and Mr. Beikirch for sharing their photos with us.

To learn more about Rose Béton Festival click HERE

To learn more about Musée Des Abattoirs and their hours of operation, exhibitions etc…click HERE

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NYC Subway Cars: From Rolling Canvasses to Rolling Billboards

NYC Subway Cars: From Rolling Canvasses to Rolling Billboards

“If I had my way, I wouldn’t put in dogs, but wolves,” New York mayor Ed Koch suggested famously as a facetious proposal for loosing ferocious animals on graffiti writers in the train yards in the early 1980s.  For Koch and his two predecessors the graffiti on trains was a searingly hot focal point, a visual affront to citizens, an aesthetic plague upon the populous. It created a discomforting atmosphere described by the New York Times editorial board as evidence of “criminality and contempt for the public”.[note]Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City, Jonathan M. Soffer.[/note] The fight against this particular blight began in earnest and by decade’s end all 5,000 or so subway cars had become clean and the famed era of graffiti on trains was terminated.

Twenty-five years later, whole-car graffiti trains are back in New York. Visually bombed with color and stylized typography top to bottom, inside and outside, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is pocketing some handsome fees for it. It is not aerosol anymore, rather the eye popping subway skin is made from enormous adhesive printed sheets that are laser cut to perfectly fit every single surface of a train car. Naturally, you won’t have to pay the newly hiked subway fare to see these whole-car creations – you can see them on elevated tracks all over the city.

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 Photo © Jaime Rojo

The irony doesn’t stop there; Right now the MTA is running a full-car advertisement for a “Street Art” series that appears on cable, featuring images of fleet-footed youth with art supplies in hand running down a Brooklyn sidewalk as if escaping from the police. “Run. Paint.”

“Of course I chuckle every time I see those ad-covered cars,” says Martha Cooper, the ethnographer and photographer perhaps best known for shooting images of artists like Lee Quinones and Dondi as they painted huge pieces in the train yards in the 1970s and 80s.  Together with Henry Chalfant, Cooper published what became a photographic holy book for generations of graff writers and Street Artists worldwide, a compendium of full-car aerosol painted pieces from New York’s graffiti train era entitled Subway Art.  When it comes to using trains for advertising, Cooper doesn’t appear offended, but rather gives credit for the idea to the youth who pioneered the technique of using trains as a self-promotional method, and she’s only puzzled about why this didn’t happen earlier.

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Art vs. Transit (the “vs.” already scrubbed off the window), by Duro, Shy and Kos 207. 1982. © Martha Cooper

“Graffiti writers instinctively understood how advertising could reach the most people in NYC,” she says, “It’s taken 45 years for the MTA and ad agencies to realize what a good idea top-to-bottom rolling ads are, on trucks as well as on the subway. They are finally catching on and catching up but they would probably be the last to admit it. The rest of us can just stand back and shake our heads in amusement.”

But some others are less ready to accept the irony of a Street Art program being promoted on train cars, including guys who were those same vilified/celebrated teens painting trains at a time when penalties were harsh and the dogs were real.

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 Photo © Jaime Rojo

“What a complete bite and contradiction on the MTA’s part,” says artist Lee Quiñones, perhaps best known for having painted as many as 125 entire cars by hand in the 1970s, as well as a more formal art career that followed. His fully painted cars as canvases included characters, scenes, and narratives addressing topical subjects like the crime rate, the cold war, poverty, and environmentalism – as well as more existential teen poetry about love and family. For Quiñones, who once called the #5 subway line the “Rolling MoMA” and who today is a fine artist with a successful studio practice, the paradox is obvious. “It exposes how certain things under the guidance of capital can be blatantly suggested and ingested within the same context.”

Jayson Edlin, author of Graffiti 365, is considered by many as a go-to source of New York graffiti and its history, and was himself a train writer under the names J.Son and Terror 161. “The advertising versus art argument regarding graffiti and street art speaks to money, power and control. Societal hypocrisy is nothing new. As a former subway painter, I am not surprised by seeing an ad for a Street Art TV show plastered across a NYC subway car,” he says. Then he pitches us a vision that would undoubtedly make many people’s brain hurt. “I’m certain that the MTA would sanction an ad for Subway Art with the Marty Cooper photo of Dondi painting a train for the right sum.” Imagine what that might look like.

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Not so fast, the MTA would not wish you to think they are endorsing illegal graffiti or street art, according to an MTA spokesperson recently interviewed by Bucky Turco for the website Animal. The MTA walked a thin line when determining whether they should accept advertising for a show celebrating Street Art, however contrived, and decided that it was okay to take the money this time. “On the one hand,” says the spokesman, “our ad standards prohibit anything that could be construed as actual graffiti, and we also prohibit promoting illegal activity. On the other hand, the typeface of the ad itself was not graffiti-style, and our research concluded that everything the show depicts is done legally with permission.” So we’ll take the MTA at it’s word, the show doesn’t explicitly violate standards for advertising, so the campaign was approved.

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 Photo © Jaime Rojo

It’s true, not all Street Art is illegal per se, but by definition most people would say that real graffiti must be. However it may take a lawyer to explain how this rationalization of advertising a show like this works, or at least to help sort the legalities from the ethics and perceptions. So, to recap, decades ago it was a crime to write graffiti on the subways. Today if you have enough money and the right hand-style with your lettering you can use your creativity to mark up as many cars as you like.  If not, your art-making efforts will be swiftly eradicated. This past year photographer Jaime Rojo just happened to catch some non-commercial art on trains that pulled into stations and he said it was just as surprising to see the real stuff as it is the commercial facsimile of it. Of course the D.I.Y. never made it out of the train yards again.

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Actual graffiti on a New York train from DVONE, circa 2014. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Alison Young, Professor of Criminology at the University of Melbourne in Australia and author of Law, Crime and the Urban Imagination has studied the interaction of art, advertising, and the law specifically as it pertains to Street Art around the world. She points to a radical difference in how these two forms of visual communication are regarded and approached. “The full-car advertisement for the television program is certainly the most obvious demonstration of how companies (such as the MTA) respond differently to advertising than to street art/graffiti.

“In some ways,” Young continues, “the MTA may not even have noticed the irony of covering a train car with an advert for an activity related to graffiti, given the time and money spent on eradicating images from train cars. Or, if I was being really cynical, it’s also possible to speculate that the MTA sees that irony all too clearly and is using this as an opportunity to tell graffiti writers that unsanctioned art is never acceptable, but sanctioned art (in the form of an advert or in the form of the art featured on the show) is all that we are permitted to see. Is that too unlikely? I don’t know.”

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DVONE. Graffiti circa 2014. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A number of folks whom we talked to mentioned that this is not the first time a graffiti artist has completely covered subway cars with advertisements, as the artist KAWS was treated to a full campaign when he partnered with Macy’s a couple of years ago. While he has had a successful commercial career with fine art, toys and a variety of products, his roots are as a graffiti writer, has done some freight painting of his own, and his style still reflects it. Not every impressionable disaffected youth would necessarily make that association nor interpret it as an encouragement to hit up a train with your own aerosol bubble tag. Still, those KAWS cars looked a lot like graffiti trains, with logos as tags, as in seen in this video from Fresh Paint NYC.

We leave the last observations to the witty and insightful Dr. Rafael Schacter, anthropologist, curator, and author of The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti, who says the obvious story is, well, obvious, but don’t miss the elephant in the subway car.

“The irony and incongruity of it though? Of course. It is ridiculous. It is absurd. A graffiti-banning MTA promoting a graffiti TV show and allowing a second-rate aping of the original whole-trains of the ‘70s,” he says derisively. But then he turns frank and even wistful in his final summary.

“But, in actual fact, I LOVE these moments. I love them as they so perfectly illustrate the public secret of our public sphere: That consumption wins. That the highest bidder is the true King. It’s nothing new. It’s nothing surprising but it is the revelation of the public secret that can actually come to raise awareness of that secret itself – That the public sphere has come to be a space not for conversation but for commerce. That the public sphere has become a place not for interpersonal communication but for capital and consumption,” says Schacter.

“These moments can, I hope, make us sit up and realize this revelation because it is thrown so directly in our faces. Then, hopefully, this can make us make a change. Perhaps a tiny bit of a rose-tinted position to take, but I really do hope so.”

Rose-tinted views will probably overruled by the green-tinted ones in this case, but we understand the sentiment. But many New York subway riders will not likely soon get over the irony.

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Marvel graffiti circa 2014. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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This article is also published on The Huffington Post

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