All posts tagged: Interview

Niels Shoe Meulman: Thank You For Shopping Here

Niels Shoe Meulman: Thank You For Shopping Here

Graffitti. Calligraphy.

Both celebrate the power and expressive ability of the letterform and yet each appear as entirely separate pursuits. Uniting them requires understanding both very well, contemplating their friction, their possibilities, and a lot of negotiation.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Since 2007 Niels “Shoe” Meulman has been investigating, experimenting with, enraptured by this pursuit. From thousands of hand sketches in his black book to the full-body immersion techniques of creating across large walls and floors, using paint and brush by the gallon in premeditated/subconscious all-inclusive gestural choreographies. Shoe knows how to stay in the moment.

It’s this elevating together of disciplines that reveals their contrasts; awakening the inner conflicts and core strengths, parading them on view.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He discovered the perfect transmutation here in Brooklyn. It was that night of art-making with Haze that was a turning point..

“We both decided to go to the art store and get a whole lot of tools and stuff and just started working to see what would come out,” he says as he glances out the 1st floor brownstone window at the pile of recycled cardboard in the tiny courtyard. 26 years as a writer from Amsterdam who had met his New York graffiti heroes like Dondi, Rammellzee, and Haring, Shoe had pursued a career in advertising, and was still in love with fonts and their power to communicate.

“Without a commission, without a brief,” he remembers. “And like that – my old passion, calligraphy, mixing with graffiti, just came out!”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Shoe says he created “calligraffiti” and he ran with it: developing a body of work around it, writing a book about it (Calligraffiti), collaborating with a growing number of artists who also had an affinity for the penmanship of an artful communication modality that spans centuries.

He has developed brushes, tools, techniques, opened a gallery in a garage (Unruly), covered surfaces from cars to museum walls, finished three more books (Painter, Abstract Vandalism and Shoe is my Middle name). It was as if he had finally decided at 40 that it was okay to be an artist, and he left advertising to dedicate himself fully to his craft.

“Because my dad is also an artist- maybe I was finding the right moment to be an artist,” he says as he shows you a stack of many papers from the art supply store, and he contemplates why he had hesitated for years. It’s not that he was concerned about competing with his father, but the stakes were high. Speaking of his father, he says, “I think he was thinking ‘if you’re going to be an artist you better be a successful one’ – because being a struggling artist – that’s the worst!”

Additionally, he thought that before he could call himself an artist, he should have something substantial to show. “It also felt like there was something more profound to it,” he says. “I always thought that to be an artist you have to have life experience and have some knowledge and purpose to bring to the table, you know?”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Whether wide tip, wide brush, or wide cap, the bending letters are cryptic and stern in their old-worldliness. Fluid and stilted, wild and ornate, gilded, in black, in iridescence, in silver and gold. The additional layers of ink burst violently with destructive force in the swipe, the slash, the bash. The splatters are sometimes built up like an aura that glows around the cavorting dark letters – as if bruised and pummeled, their damaged and moistened epidermis now sweating black blood, infusing the air with a miasma of industrial soot.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With broad interests that delve into abstract, into wordplay, even poetry, this moment is the clarity in early morning fog on a quiet street in old BedStuy, now rumbling with the sweet sickness of gentrification. The residency that brings him here is so named to recall history and to look forward, offering a respite for many a visiting Street Artist.

“I didn’t really have a plan when I came here but, like many times, I come up with something on the plane like the day before – and of course it’s brewing in my head.”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He points to a couple of handled black plastic shopping bags that he has tacked to the wall. With a capacity to recognize and understand his own emotions and the emotions of an era, he has connected to the pleasantry printed on them “Thank You for Shopping With Us!”. It’s not just the sentiment that captures the late 1970s design hand, for him, it’s the upbeat openness and lyrical bending of the letters and lines that attract him.

The letters are sweet like cherry lip-gloss on a rollerskater in hot pants in Central Park. Suddenly you are flipping through the pages of Eros, Fact, or Avant Garde, a relief of melodic line and sexual liberty.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Thank you for shopping!” he exclaims like a fan. “That’s so New York for me; that’s exactly graffiti – that 70s Herb Lubalin look,” he says of a time when magazines were so head-over-heels in love with new type treatments that they might feature a 2-page spread of it entirely just for you to salivate over.

“It’s free,” he says, perhaps reflective of the liberal sway of social mores and the swinging romance that advertising had with the Baby Boomer’s ‘me’ generation of the seventies. It’s a phrase rooted in consumerism, cities were in the last throes of an ample middleclass America who had cash and credit to shop with.  That fact contrasted with the suffering of a bankrupt NYC – a spirit that inspired train writers as well, even if used as critique.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I think the whole graffiti scene that started here had something to do with this sort of lettering,” he says. “It came from that freedom that you could see in advertising. The type design was so good.”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

For now, this month-long residency is a reprieve for Shoe, a time to examine and relax into the spring that gradually warms New York and brings rose blooms to the bush in the small front yard of this residential street. His new sketches from his black book contain pithy barbs, hidden meanings, pop-culture references, and life truisms drawn in what he might refer to as a monk-like manner.

“I’m not religious. I don’t follow any religion and I don’t meditate but I like this idea of knowledge and introspection,” he says. “This is where Chinese calligraphy comes in and you are reminded of the medieval monks and all kinds of calligraphers”.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A congenial host, Shoe shows us walls full of new pieces, individual words or phrases on a large variety of papers, textures, and stocks. He describes his inks with as much enthusiasm as his personal relationships, which are sometimes as tumultuous as the intense splashes of midnight here. You can see there is definitely work being done.

“That knowledge comes from that kind of introspection. The influence of Japanese and Chinese calligraphy comes in because at that time if you were by yourself writing…. Those monks either wanted to be enlightened or were enlightened in some way; it’s a search,” he says.

“This is where I am.”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

To learn more about the BedStuy Art Residency, please go HERE.

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“MARTHA: A Picture Story” Premieres at Tribeca. A Film By Selina Miles.

“MARTHA: A Picture Story” Premieres at Tribeca. A Film By Selina Miles.


BSA Exclusive Announcement
and interview with the director and the star of


MARTHA

A Picture Story

A Documentary by Selina Miles

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

BSA is proud to announce the world premiere of Selina Miles’ new full-length documentary on the life and career of New York photographer Martha Cooper at the Tribeca Film Festival next month.  Separated by four decades and an ocean or two, the Australian film director and the American photographer – each of whom has garnered serious respect in the myriad subcultures of art-in-the-streets with phenomenal storytelling abilities and an innate sense of timing – together land a remarkable film capturing life as a street-shooter, making the multi-chaptered story sing.

It is a fascinating visual sweep that illustrates the unusually gratifying paths that this ever-curious ethnologist charts on the streets (and below them) worldwide since receiving her first camera from her father at age three. The film is a well illustrated collage of a remarkable 70 plus year span showcasing Coopers’ 6th sense for people, urban culture, and burgeoning subculture. Viewers get to see the huge variety of interests she has investigated with amiable warmth and academic rigor – from the Peace Corps in Thailand to tattoos in Japan to graffiti train writing in New York to the daily lives of people in her native Baltimore.

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

With ample interviews and vintage video footage never seen before, “MARTHA: A Picture Story” follows Ms. Cooper across continents into the streets, through tunnels and over rooftops to provide illustrative background contexts for her decisions, her driving motivations, and her pure determination to succeed as a professional photographer – despite man-made and societal adversity.

We’ve been very fortunate to see this diamond of a documentary up close, and we can say that MARTHA is legitimate crowd-pleaser.

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

BSA spoke with Ms. Cooper and Ms. Miles for this auspicious announcement day about the new movie:

BSA: Your personal and professional history has often been about overcoming challenges and pushing aside barriers. Is there one new challenge you have gone beyond to participate fully in a documentary about you?
Martha Cooper: Well like most photographers, I’m more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it especially when speaking. I can’t say I’ve gotten good about overcoming being filmed, but I tried hard to give good footage.

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

BSA: One of the challenges of being a doc filmmaker is the number of hats you have to wear – sometimes perhaps feeling like you have to do everything yourself.  What did you discover about your preferred role/s on a film?
Selina Miles: Making a documentary is certainly a dynamic job and requires a mix of technical, social and creative skills. Learning from a photojournalist with 50 years experience such as Martha has been a wonderful experience. I started my career in video making by mucking around with friends making graffiti videos and shooting street art festivals, and the DIY spirit of both of these art forms really gave me an advantage on this project.

Not all directors know how to shoot or how to edit, but thanks to these early experiences I do know a little about all of these disciplines. Being able to just grab a camera and shoot, or to edit my own little concept videos was very handy in getting the project off the ground. That being said, being able to employ an amazing editor like Simon Njoo and having the mentorship of producers like Jennifer Peedom has also been a dream come true and really helped take this film to the next level. 

BSA: With the new documentary many people will learn about a more dimensional photographer than the one they most frequently associate with the name Martha Cooper. Why is this important?
Martha Cooper: I’m often called a graffiti, street art, or hip hop photographer but I don’t put myself into those categories. I would like people to understand that the common denominator in my choice of subjects is art in everyday life. I’m always looking for examples of how people are creative in their everyday lives. Graffiti is just one of many different examples.

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

BSA: Is there a special approach or formula that one tries to follow when making a story like this for a more general audience.
Selina Miles: I think that the interesting thing about this story, in particular, is that it explores a subculture that is so misunderstood by so many people. Everybody has seen graffiti and has an idea of what it is, but I still think that few people really understand why it exists and where it came from. There’s so many tropes and ideas about graffiti and those who practice it that are just plain wrong or oversimplify a very complex idea. It’s been an enjoyable and interesting challenge for me to unpack the facts and rules of this subculture as I see them, and step them out in a way that somebody completely new to the culture can understand and appreciate Martha’s story. 

BSA: Your photos capture a time and a moment and a technique of creation, but also often the more atmospheric and cultural energy of the street. What has drawn you time and again to capture this to share? Your own curiosity?
Martha Cooper: Not exactly. As you know, I like looking for things and collecting them. Photography is a challenging quest and taking a good photo is the reward. The nature of what I’m questing for can change according to time and place but in general, the world is more interesting to me if I have a camera. The possibility of photographing something makes me look at my surroundings with a keener eye than I would without a camera.

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

BSA: Martha stood on the shoulders of feminists before her, yet blazed some paths that were very much her own – frequently without support. What is one lesson a younger person may take from Martha Cooper when they watch this movie?
Selina Miles: Marty often says that people today don’t understand what it took to survive as a freelancer in earlier decades, especially as a woman and I completely agree. It’s a common thing that you hear but it’s very true, we are lucky these days to live in a world so connected and relatively accepting of all kinds of races, ages and sexes. That being said, there’s always going to be a frontier, and I hope that young people watching Martha’s story will be inspired to push beyond that frontier in their own way, and not be held back by anybody’s expectations of who or what they should be. And do it all the time with a smile and a sense of humor! 


MARTHA: A Picture Story.

Premiering at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place from April 24 – May 5th. Public tickets will go on sale on Tuesday March 26 at 11am ET. Tickets are extremely limited and we recommend purchasing tickets early.

https://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/

https://www.tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets

Hashtags: #marthathemovie

Film Instagram: @marthathemovie

Martha Cooper Instagram: @marthacoopergram

Director’s Instagram: @selinamiles

For screening dates and locations and to purchase tickets click HERE

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Lee Quiñones Says, “If These Walls Could Talk”

Lee Quiñones Says, “If These Walls Could Talk”

“Shit man we were 15 years old,” Lee says while painting his train, “There was a bunch of us painting together, doing it solo, as a duo, or as a group.”

Lee Quiñones at work on “Born From Many Apples”. December 13, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

An NYC original whole-car graffiti writer and painter in the 1970s/80s, Mr. Quiñones is now prepping for his latest gallery show, a solo at Charlie James Gallery in LA’s Chinatown.

40 years after his first gallery show in Rome that many point to as groundbreaking for graffiti writers transitioning to contemporary art, Lee is easily time-travelling to those days while he is working on new canvasses that invariably include imagery from that era, even as his own style has continued to evolve and he has greatly expanded his visual repertoire.

Lee Quiñones. “9 Lives” (photo courtesy of the artist)

Here in his Bushwick studio his focus gathers around his penciled paint strokes as he builds up the exterior of a train racing across canvas that will be called “Born From Many Apples”.

“It all goes back to the old saying, ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ and I always remember that,” he says about a socially connected, universalist philosophy that has often appeared thematically in his work. “Born from many apples. We are part of all these things and people”.

“It was a pretty special time and place,” he says of train writing in the late 70s, “Obviously all good things come to an end, so I’m okay with that.” Not romantic about the conditions of the city during those years, he’s clear about the raw nature of painting and looking for adventure on train tracks in the terra incognita of a declining New York.

Lee Quiñones. “Counterfeit Entitlment Makes For A Brittle Society” (photo courtesy of the artist)

Growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and studying the train lines for the best exposure for his rolling canvasses, Lee hustled for the opportunity to go large scale, to be “All City”, often drawing his trains in detail on paper before grabbing paint and staking out a spot. From the start, he took his craft seriously.

The gritty megapolis of his childhood was in perpetual financial austerity. Many neighborhoods appeared lawless, even avoided by police. Social or sports programs for youth were threadbare if they existed at all. Yet somehow graffiti kids who broke into train yards to paint coalesced into an underground community. “The camaraderie was there.”

Competition and verbal lore were part the game of course, but writers also shared their techniques and improved skills with each other, he says. He speaks about the bonds forged among the graff writers in the early days; How they would exchange tips for tool making, techniques and hitting trains. It has the markings of a tight community.

“Dudes really respected each other and writers were happy to meet each other,” he says. “We all brought our black books and we asked each other to tag it, like ‘can you put my name down to see if I can do it better with your style?’ It was a lot of sharing going on.”

Lee Quiñones drawing from 1980. (photo courtesy of the artist)

His prolific activity, creative experimentation, and constant study of his craft scored him a shot at the gallery scene before he entered his 20s, even though it was on another continent entirely. “The first major European show of graffiti-based art opened at the galleria La Medusa in Rome, Italy, in 1979,” he says. “Fab 5 Freddy and I showcased our very first works on canvas in an attempt to bring it above.”

Forty years later he opens “If These Walls Could Talk”, a bold show of new works – a series of framed “tablets”, says Charlie James. Here you’ll see “writings on slabs of drywall and wood paneling that once were the walls of Quiñones’s studio(s), which were painstakingly removed during recent years. Unlike the urban landscape largely hostile to his earliest artistic production, these walls have offered an inviting interiority for the artist to perform his spray bomb color tests that ultimately become the foundation of his paintings.”

True to his origins, Lee says he has developed his practice by study and sharing perspectives. “You have to be able to talk to people about work, about other artists, do comparisons, do evaluations, critique it – it makes for great conversation.”

Lee Quiñones at work on “Born From Many Apples”. December 13, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We talked with Mr. Quiñones about the new show and his perspectives on his evolving practice as an artist:

BSA: Four decades into your work as a self-made artist, one of your paintings for this exhibition is titled “Karma”. What was the genesis of this and what role does Karma play in your life as an artist?

Lee Quiñones: There are several pieces in the show that have ignited the idea of karma.

I spend a lot of time in my studio having sit-ins with my work whether there are already formed or in theory, so I have many passages of time that come to mind and usually one thing reflects on another or as I say, rhymes with each other. Life is fulfilling and revealing like that if you look hard enough.

On that same note, I review life and humanity in a sarcastic manner in my head over time, and that in turn spills out onto my work or onto works that are specifically worthy of sarcasm.

Lee Quiñones at work on “Born From Many Apples”. December 13, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Given the nature of graffiti vandalism in train yards and on the street, and your own illegal car racing on the streets, you may have used up your metaphorical 9 lives that is assigned to curious cats. Can you talk about the painting you have created for this exhibition entitled, “9 Lives.”

Lee Quiñones: I have over time studied people in challenging situations that hide certain emotions in the details and reveal eye candy for the rest of us that just simply look and not see. The study painting “9 lives” centralizes around the segregation that unfolded its ugly head during the late fifties when students of color were finally allowed to attend certain schools throughout the nation.

I was especially driven to the 1957 incidence at the Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas where nine freshman students of color were to be escorted by police and or national guardsmen to their respective classes of study. One of the nine students, Elizabeth Eckford came early that day to school and subsequently endured a gauntlet of hate chants from her future fellow students led by a very angry and vocal Hazel Bryan. The photograph that captured that moment etched that dark time in the history books.

What I found in making this piece of which it is a study to a larger one in progress is that their emotions of hate and courage were so prominent in their hands. The juxtaposition of a hand clutching a rolled up newspaper in a authoritarian way fueled by hate and fear against a hand clutching books of study showing steadfast and courage was irrefutable.

Lee Quiñones at work on “Born From Many Apples”. December 13, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: In studio we touched on the topic of how graffiti and street artists like to talk about “community” but often we have observed that there’s little support among the artists for each other in practice. You mentioned how in the old days of train painting you guys really supported each other shared techniques and exchanged your new style discoveries. What changed?

Lee Quiñones: Manufactured entitlement.

The air is thin in some places of success and artist have only artists to rely on as sound boards and for sound advise. That there is the oxygen needed to be authentic and poised for your moment when it comes rightfully so. What you do with that moment is embrace your hard work and to not be compelled to feel threatened by an associate.

I keep my closes allies from back in the day on the front pages of my day planner and I’m always interviewing new souls.

Lee Quiñones at work on “Born From Many Apples”. December 13, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: You are having your first solo exhibition in LA. What took you so long?

Lee Quiñones: Funny, after discussing the show with Charlie James, whom I find to be one of the most open and enthusiastic people in the arts, I realized that this wasn’t just another show with everyone under the umbrella. It is my first solo show in Los Angeles on the heels of quite a few group surveys and splashes. Those exhibitions have their place and time and what I have been preaching in silence for some time now is; “that in order to see a movement for what it is worth and how it weathers throughout the passage of time is to look closer at its inner working parts individually”

I’d like to think that this is a prelude, my first shot across the bow of the left coast in what will be a gathering of works itching to spill out.

Lee Quiñones at work on “Born From Many Apples”. December 13, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Most people are familiar with the path that NYC graffiti culture took in the 80s and 90s to Western and Eastern Europe – and you’ve had the opportunity to hang out with writers from around the world thanks to your pioneering work on trains. Would you say that there is a difference between the graffiti experience in NYC and in Europe?

Lee Quiñones: Sure thing. I mean, while things are extremely close to you while they are developing, you can’t possibly see it clearly, so in essence, you need to remove yourself for an incubator period in order to focus more vividly and perhaps compare notes with your line of experiences. Europe has an extremely vast history in the arts throughout the ages. Empires have come and gone and in the end, we begin to understand them through the art that survives.

America is not of age just yet. It has acne, still wrestles with its growing pains and is hesitant to show its proper ID at the velvet ropes, so this particular movement which had no reference to art history in the first place is just cresting it’s wave.

Lee Quiñones at work on “Born From Many Apples”. December 13, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Not many artists can sustain a long career, especially true when it comes to graffiti writers. Challenging oneself to explore and take risks as an artist appears to be crucial to continuing to evolve creatively – particularly if you want to become professional. What’s your biggest challenge as an artist these days?

Lee Quiñones: Ushering people out of the context of nostalgia and looking at the current state of affairs in the works of today.

I mean, the subject of the trains and all its glory is for me to bring out on occasion with a twist, not for people to theoretically box me into it. I turn pages because I don’t want to be defined on one page.

Personally, my own challenges consists of navigating around my own self tripping wires. Some are booby-trapped and some are triggers for the lights at the end of the tunnel.

Lee Quiñones at work on “Born From Many Apples”. December 13, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Lee Quiñones at work on “Born From Many Apples”. December 13, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Lee Quiñones. Inspirational words and thoughts scribbled on walls at his studio. December 13, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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Futura 2000 In Studio and “The 5 Elements”

Futura 2000 In Studio and “The 5 Elements”

EARTH, AIR, FIRE, and WATER. And FUTURA 2000.

These are the five elements.

“Hey Guys!” he bellows from the doorway and invites us in.

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A non-stop full-voiced welcome fills the air of this factory loft space with stories and smoke and sports talk radio as you ascend steps from the truck-traffic cacophony of cold and rain on this Bushwick thoroughfare. For the next hour and a half, you are warmly surrounded by clothes racks and boxes and spray cans and multi-faceted anecdotes and impressions and fragments of memories that get shaken and sprayed and circled back to.

Here is a fond remembrance of something his mom or dad said from his childhood, an adroitly drawn quip about a curious gallerist, an excited discovery of new Super 8 footage of a mission with famed NYC graffiti writer Dondi in Japan to promote Wild Style. Elsewhere he recounts a meeting with Joe Strummer in a New York studio to share and record his own penned rap lyrics with The Clash, a trip to Berlin in ’85 with Keith Haring, a recent conversation with MODE2 who lives there now, a description of his personal misgivings about wearing his US military uniform into town while stationed at Yakuska Naval Base as a 20 year old.

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

An omnivore of ideas and initiatives and world cities, his march as a creative force of nature only gathers speed as he nears 40 years since first emerging from graffiti writing as a studio artist.

“1980 was the breakout year for us because we were all beginning to surface,” he says of the number of events that occurred that year and brought graffiti and street culture to a larger, more mainstream audience, and hopefully, a collector base. That was the year of the “Times Square Show” by Colab that introduced art and performance from the “Downtown” and “Uptown” scenes. It was also the year that Stefan Eins’ Fashion Moda gallery in the South Bronx had its first exhibition of graffiti art – Graffiti Art Success for America (GAS) – curated by artist John Matos (aka Crash), the show included work by graffiti culture artists such as Futura, Lady Pink, John Fekner, Disco 107, Fab Five Freddie, Futura, Kel 139th, Lee, Mitch 77, Nac 143, Noc 167, Stan 153, Tom McCutcheon, and Zephyr.

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“We were all willing to come above ground and investigate what was happening,” he says. “That was also the year I did the ‘Break Car’,” he says of the uniquely abstract whole graffiti car he painted that set him apart stylistically from the NYC graffiti writing pack and was captured famously by photographer Martha Cooper. That car and that style would proved to be the Cold War inspired rocketship that launched Futura 2000 into a forty year exploration of the Cosmos.

Fast forward to April 2018 in Lille, France, and Futura toils and emerges with a new body of work incorporating his long-held love for the interconnectedness of the galaxy, the stars, and the planet.

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I’ve been a child of the planet since I was a kid,” he says as he recalls the impact of the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens and how it tapped into his innate desire for exploration. “Every nation had a pavilion,” he says, and suddenly you see his collection of miniature architectural wonders from around the world, all grouped together for an idealized cityscape.

“I’ve got Berlin, Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers, Roma, Peru (Easter Island), the Blue Mosque in Turkey, Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi,” he says. “I don’t have Taj Mahal, but I’ve been to it. I need that.”

“The 5 Elements” is the exhibition that opens this week at Urban Spree in Berlin and of course refers as well to the so-called “Five Elements of Hip-Hop”, of which graffiti is one. But he reserves this reference to a greater sweep, expressed in about an expansive show. “There’s a whole series on water, air, on fire,” he says, “It’s all at some point color coated for each element.” He also creates a series of circular canvasses hung in relation to each other to evoke the planetary system.

“I think they’re like 70 pieces, in terms of that I don’t think I’ve ever done anything this extensive,” he says.

But “The 5 Elements” is not a retrospective show, says Urban Spree founder and curator Pascal Feucher, who has been preparing the show with co-host Art Together. “On the contrary,” he writes, “Futura worked specifically on a large museum-style conceptual exhibition, tackling the ambitious theme of the Creation of the Universe, confronting himself to the cosmos, the planets, the infinitely small, the Big Bang and the fundamental elements, producing a corpus of works that becomes a path to the exploration of the universe as well as providing a backdoor into Futura’s internal galaxy.”

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Coinciding with the show will be the release of a 128-page companion book titled “Futura, les 5 éléments” – certain to be sought after.

For the ever expansive graphic designer, clothing designer, wordsmith, musician, sneaker head, graffiti writer, abstract painter, photographer, the dots are all connected – and it always also connects to his roots.

“I like it when it’s a degree removed, yet connected – when you realize that the whole school – at least the whole New York City school, is vast,” he says. “It has touched a lot of people.”

Rather like Futura 2000.

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Futura sharing a picture of Lee Quinones on a moped in Roma (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Below are images of the 4 screen prints that will be released at the opening of “The 5 Elements”, based on the painting series “Pure”. Each 8-color screen print is hand-pulled by Dolly Demoratti (Mother Drucker/Urban Spree Studio), signed and numbered by Futura. The 50 x 50 cm prints are only sold as a limited edition of 100 sets.

Futura. Pure Earth. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)

Futura. Pure Air. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)

Futura. Pure Water. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)

Futura. Pure Fire. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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“Punk and Graffiti”: Unlock & TAG 2018, Amsterdam : Javier Abarca Interview

“Punk and Graffiti”: Unlock & TAG 2018, Amsterdam : Javier Abarca Interview

Just completed this weekend in Amsterdam, a gathering of authors, readers, publishers, academics, and fans of graffiti and urban art all gathered in Amsterdam for the newest edition of the Unlock International Graffiti Publishing Fair and the TAG Conference.

Here graffiti and street art intersects with the world of publishing, specifically with books and zines and related obscure and/or scholarly publications known to relatively few. The list of publishers participating in this genre has steadily grown in the last few years to about 50 here; heavily Eurocentric at this point from countries like Netherlands, Russia, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Czech Republic, the US and others.

Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Max van Boxel)

Previously hosted in Barcelona and Berlin, Unlock is coalescing around a growing interest in defining these movements from historical, artistic, and anthropological vantage points; documenting and even codifying an unruly canon of expression through discovery, sharing information, and teaching one another. Toward that end it also hosts talks, panels, and screenings – this weekend included speakers like Jens Besser, Suse Hansen, Hugo Kaagman, Carlo McCormick, and Diana Ozon,

Among the self-publishing authors represented at the fair this year are Adam Void and Chelsea Ragan, who have been operating a Graff Zine distribution / publishing house called Cut In The Fence. Mr. Void share’s with us today images of his new work, straight from the D.I.Y. / punk / cargo jumping scene that is always inter-marbled with graffiti and autonomous art making in the US, where he operates. Today we’re pleased to present a great interview with Mr. Void and Javier Abarca, the founder of Unlock, and who also is an artist, researcher, and educator.

TAG. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Ka-Tjun Hau)


Interview with Javier Abarca by Adam Void:

Adam Void: Javier, in your 12+ years as a researcher and educator of graffiti and street art, what brought you to founding the Unlock Book Fair & the Tag Conference?
Javier Abarca: There is a whole scene of independent publishers working with graffiti and related fields an there was no meeting space for it. The idea immediately caught on, which showed there was a need for it. We also use the fair platform to advance the research on neglected but fascinating topics within the field. Last year we focused on hobo graffiti, this year we are delving into punk graffiti. We gather and display rare books on the subject, program talks and screenings about it and publish a companion book with obscure documentation.

TAG. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Robin Vermeulen)

Adam Void:  How do you see the Unlock Book Fair differing from other zine fairs or celebrations of graffiti & street art?
Javier Abarca: Unlock is much like other book fairs, but it is focused on a particular field. It has little to do with other events related to graffiti and street art, which tend to focus on the production of commissioned artworks. Our job is independent research and documentation of furtive public art, mostly in the form of books and zines, but also screenings, talks, performances, etc.

Adam Void: This year’s showcase is focused on “Punk & Graffiti”, what are the core connected elements between these two cultures?
Javier Abarca: The core thread connecting punk and graffiti is of course the DIY ethics. Today graffiti has turned, to a great extent, into an act of consumption, but it used to be all about do-it-yourself. DIY is the defining quality of punk, of graffiti and of many other independent cultures.

Adam Void: Can you expand on this some? How do punk and traditional graffiti cultures exhibit the Do-It-Yourself ethos? What is the change you have seen in graffiti as of recent times?
Javier Abarca: Punk’s approach to creating music and graphic communication is of course quintessential DIY. And graffiti used to be that as well, kids had to find ways to hack the elements on hand –spraycans, markers, inks, the subway system– to create a fantastically visible city-wide graphic communications game starting from zero resources.

It is the specialized media –fanzines, then the internet– and the specialized market –with custom-made tools and materials of every kind– which have largely transformed graffiti from DIY to an act of consumption. People do not need to go out and seek the graffiti throughout the city to get inspired when a whole world of graphic references is just a few clicks away. And there is no more need to hack and customize tools –after learning how to do it from a mentor– when any specialized tool you can imagine is readily available and can be bought online.

TAG. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Robin Vermeulen)

Adam Void: Most of the publications in the showcase are centered on punk & graffiti history. What do you see as the future for this element of graffiti?
Javier Abarca: Punk graffiti is mostly a thing of the past. The focus of the two “Punk Graffiti Archives” books we have published for the fair are the punk-originated tagging scenes that thrived in Amsterdam and Madrid in the late 70’s and 80’s with barely any knowledge of what was happening in NYC. These are largely ignored cultural treasures. Both cultures disappeared when the NY tradition of graffiti took over European youth through the 80’s. Punks may still write on walls, but graffiti as a culture is dominated globally by the NY tradition.

Adam Void: Unlock has exhibitors from all over Europe (19 countries), as well as Japan & the US. What are the main similarities and differences in the publications exhibited across this wide sampling?
Javier Abarca: Each publication is a unique, fascinating world. But most publishers work from a similarly independent, even DIY position, even if they are based in different continents. This means the possibilities and limitations they face tend to be similar, which can translate into their approaches and results.

Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Max van Boxel)

Adam Void: Are there other continents, countries, or parts of the world that you would like to get involved with the Unlock Book Fair and the TAG Conference? If so, how should they get in touch for next year?
Javier Abarca: Both the Tag Conference and the Unlock Book Fair are meetups of the international global scenes of graffiti research and graffiti publishing. They could take place anywhere. People can get in touch via email at info@unlockfair.com, or through our Facebook and Instagram accounts @unlockfair and @thetagconference. We are in conversation with people from a number of cities in Europe and America who have expressed their interest in hosting the events.

Adam Void: Will you share an anecdote from the three-year history of the Unlock Book Fair that best exemplifies the spirit of the event?
Javier Abarca: That would be the cantina. A central feature of the fair is the cantina serving complimentary, communal meals to publishers, speakers and staff. It is run by Unlock team member Akim, the Berliner legend of graffiti, street art and underground mischief, whose cooking abilities are well known in the scene. One of the main goals of the yearly Unlock Book Fair is to be a meetup of the publishing scene, and the cantina is its social heart.

Apart from this, the hilarious and fascinating readings and performances by team member Dumar NovYork –the legendary NYC bomber– are probably the moments that best portray the spirit of the Unlock Book Fair: knowledgeable, but just as fun.

Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. Carlo McCormick was in da house. (photo © Rebecca Schaefer)

Adam Void: What have you seen at this year’s fair that brings you excitement about the current state of graffiti publishing?
Javier Abarca: The graffiti publishing scene is growing stronger and more interesting. It would be fair to say the Unlock Book Fair is playing a key role in this, in Europe in particular. A number of publishers have mentioned how this yearly meeting has become a motivation to put out more and better work, and how they leave the fair inspired by the contact with so many books and publishers. People are coming from as far as Moscow, Montreal, New York, Sydney, São Paulo or Tokyo to present their books, to talk, or simply to attend the fair and the Tag Conference.

Adam Void: What is next for you in your personal exploration in the dusty corners of graffiti culture?
Javier Abarca: Next year’s Tag Conference will again create space for the the study of barely known forms of name writing. There is a list of obscure topics we want to explore in coming installments of the Unlock Book Fair. And I am working on a new groundbreaking international project that will create more opportunities for shedding light on overlooked topics which deserve more exposure among specialized audiences. Stay tuned!

Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Max van Boxel)

Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Max van Boxel)

Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Max van Boxel)

Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Max van Boxel)

Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Max van Boxel)

Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Max van Boxel)

Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Max van Boxel)

Cut In The Fence. Adam Void’s Misadventures and Musings. Train Brain. Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Adam Void)

Cut In The Fence. Adam Void’s Misadventures and Musings. Train Brain. Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Adam Void)

Cut In The Fence. Adam Void’s Misadventures and Musings. Raider Pack. Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Adam Void)

Cut In The Fence. Adam Void’s Misadventures and Musings. Raider Pack. Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Adam Void)

Cut In The Fence. Fishglue & MTN NGC. Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Adam Void)

Cut In The Fence. Fishglue & MTN NGC. Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Adam Void)

Cut In The Fence. Fishglue & MTN NGC. Unlock Book Fair. Amsterdam 2018. (photo © Adam Void)

 

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“Points De Vue” Festival 2018 Spans Styles and the Basque Region in Bayonne, France.

“Points De Vue” Festival 2018 Spans Styles and the Basque Region in Bayonne, France.

“Today there are nearly 80 works – paintings and installations,” says Alban Morlot, “to discover in the inner city and its periphery.”

Mantra. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

The founder and curator of Points de Vue is speaking about his city, Bayonne in the south of France, which straddles the Basque region and boasts the language throughout this region and neighboring Spain. Here on both sides of the the Adour river running through the small city, you will find new installations from this years invited 20 or so artists from the urban art scene including folks like the Portuguese Pantonio, Italian Pixel Pancho, French Mantra, French Koralie, Venezuelan Koz Dox, German 1UP Crew, and the American graffiti and Street Art documentarian Martha Cooper.

Spawned a few years ago from Morlot and his team at Spacejunk, the community/privately funded festival has produced a range of large public works throughout the city. Similarly, the storefront Spacejunk space on rue Sainte Catherine in the Saint-Esprit district of Bayonne had hosted a cultural and artistic association that spans genres and disciplines; hosting classes, talks, performances and exhibitions of modern artists drawn from the worlds of of Street Art, LowBrow, and Pop Surrealism. After a great number of group and solo shows Spacejunk is now entering their 11 year celebrating counter-culture.

Mantra. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Bayonne is stitched together geographically and socially with nearby Biarritz and Anglet, so the Basque area of about 130,000 has enough fans and practioners to support this five day festival. Alban tells us that the usual staff of 3 who run Spacejunk couldn’t do the festival without the generous enthusiasm and efforts of 40 volunteers, 10 interns and 1 senior technician.

An eclectic mix of artists invited to create new works in the public space reflect the alternative environments that have been showcased at Spacejunk: influences from a number of subcultural narratives including comics, punk, tattoo, skater culture, graffiti, and of course, Street Art.

Mantra. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

With very special thanks to Ms. Cooper and Ms. Kramer we have today new images to share with BSA readers from this autumns’ edition of Points de Vue. We also had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Morlot about his approach to the festival.

BSA: How did you conceive of Points de Vue?
Alban Morlot:
I have work for Spacejunk art center for almost 15 years and have run the art center of Bayonne – Basque Country – since 2007. During this time I’ve met many artists from all over the world who have work in public space previously. At that time, French public authorities were under-informed about street art mutations so it was difficult to organize outside projects with street artists – who many people automatically associated to vandalism.

I was frustrated at not being able to take advantage of their presence and their talent to develop their aesthetics in situ. It was during that time that the idea of a festival sprouted in my mind – but it was only later that the planets were aligned!

Equipped with years of experiences, I wanted to set up an event that could represent the variety of the creative styles being used in public space and to provide an educational approach in the same time. The underlying idea is to show the multiplicity of artistic points of view, to confront them, and to offer to the wider audience the opportunity to enrich themselves with others’ eyes.

Mantra. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

BSA: What’s your criteria as an organizer when inviting the artists to participate?
Alban Morlot: First, I make sure that the artistic selection is consistent with the purpose of the festival: to discover the extent of the current creations happening in public space. Then it’s the walls that guide me in my research. The context, the format, the situation… are all criteria that I integrate before launching a personalized invitation to an artist.

Most of the time, I invite artists whom I have already met because I like building relationships that go beyond the “one shot”. I know that it could be possible to pass up several editions before I can propose an invitation to such and such artist, but I prefer to wait the right moment, try to gather the best conditions and do a serious proposal so that from the artworks there emerges the pleasure of painting.

Anonymouse. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Then I try to build a singular identity for the festival “Points of View”. The Basque Country is located between France and Spain. It is important in this context to boost cross-border artistic exchanges between the northern Basque Country (Iparralde) and the south (Hegoalde).

Last but not least, I try to encourage the presence of female artists because they remain largely underrepresented in this artistic scene.

Anonymouse. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

BSA: Bayonne is also known for its political murals. Do you encourage the artists to be political with their work as well?
Alban Morlot: Generally, I do not allow myself to intervene in the process of artistic creation. I give my opinion if necessary but for me, once the selection is complete, I trust them. I want to allow everyone to practice his or her job with good conditions and it can happen if each part knows his appropriate place.

That said, I do not hesitate to convey the history of the region that welcomes them, because here as elsewhere, there is a story, a people and a language. It is political in a sense, but in the noble meaning!

Anonymouse. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

BSA: Do you see Points de Vue purely as a beautification of the city or do you see it to make a social impact within the community?
Alban Morlot:
In no way should our action be seen as decoration. Otherwise, I would not give carte blanche to the artists. No, I undertake a cultural project that aims to promote the meeting between artists and the public, generates exchanges, curiosity, in order to support everyone to be emancipated as a citizen.

Of course, I am not unaware of the social, economic, touristic considerations nor the impact of the festival on urban renewal programs. Culture is transversal and this is its strength, but I do not want to be polluted by other considerations that could divert me from the basics of the festival. I want to give artists the opportunity to work on a wall as they would in their studios and give them the opportunity to meet each other.

Anonymouse. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

BSA: How do you see the arts in public space making a difference to society? Should that be the mission or art in public space?
Alban Morlot: Art in the private space or in the public space plays the same role. The unprecedented recognition of urban art is one of all manifestations of social upheaval that we go through in modern societies. I think there’s a break with previous artistic movements because it more closely allies with the aspirations of today’s people – with think tanks who want to reinvest public spaces, etcetera. Art has always been an indicator of the evolution of society.

Anonymouse. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

BSA: What sort of support do you get from the city’s government for the implementation of the festival?
Alban Morlot: Since the Spacejunk art center is already identified by public authorities, we also receive support from these partners for the festival; This is a form of financial and logistical support. In addition, the festival is also supported by private companies and, thanks to all of these contributors, we manage to present a festival that is both qualitative and open to all.

Lorcolors. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

BSA: What’s the reaction of the residents of Bayonne when they see the artists at work and the completed murals?
Alban Morlot:
I must say that I was surprised by the reception that the Bayonne’s inhabitants (and vistors from nearby) have reserved for the festival. I spent almost 6 years defending this project with people who were ultimately quite afraid of the reaction of the public. But the reactions of the population were immediately enthusiastic! Martha (Cooper) even told me that it was quite unusual to see so many people on the streets coming to see the artists work. It is true that I strongly emphasized that it was a chance to see the artists in creation residencies!

Additionally, different from other events, an urban art festival leaves traces on the city which gain a certain value in time, and we are pleased that so many artists have come to the Basque country.

Lorcolors. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Lorcolors. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Remy Uno. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Remy Uno. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Taroe. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Pixel Pancho. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Pixel Pancho. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Pixel Pancho. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Pantonio. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Pantonio. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Pantonio. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Pantonio. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Koralie. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

 

Fermin Moreno. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Fermin Moreno. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Fermin Moreno. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Deuz. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Deuz. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Deuz. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Deuz. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Petite Poissone. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Petite Poissone. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Reskate Studio. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Reskate Studio. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Reskate Studio. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Koz Dos. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

KOZ DOS
“Punto y flecha sobre el plano”

“Dreams and the subconscious have been the genesis of my work lately. I do try not to put limits on myself or to follow a pattern when I create. The elements that are in my subconscious are the sketches to draw information from. At the same time it’s also the beginning of something that exists and that might be real and logic in our minds. It is the treatment of color, composition and form that unify all the elements and symbols, creating fantastic characters that in turn shed light to a parallel universe.

A central theme in my research for quite a while now, is the confrontation of the human versus the beast and nature. I look for harmony and coexistence through the treatment of images and the plastic arts.

In this project, titled “Punto y flecha sobre el plano” I wanted to work with the construction of the elements within the piece as something tangible, like our dreams, using lines and points on the plane or the wall in this case. Most of everything in our universe is composed of circles and lines so in this piece I wanted to give importance to the geometric form but imbued with a dreamlike quality.

When we are able to verbally communicate with each other we are able to arrive to important accords. Reaching an agreement means that we can coexist with each other. We have the tools at our disposal to do so but very often we put our focus on damaging ourselves by rejecting our origins, destroying our cultures and traditions and mowing over everything as we march on.”

Koz Dos. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Udatxo. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Landroid. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Landroid. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Landroid. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Flow . Deza. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Untay. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Untay. Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Points De Vue Festival 2018. Bayonne, France. Photo of Martha Cooper by Nika Kramer.

Vintage political mural in Bayonne, France written in the Basque language, translated as “The People Must Live”. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Vintage political mural in Bayonne. (photo © Martha Cooper)

Vintage political mural in Bayonne, France written in the Basque language. (photo © Martha Cooper)

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WK Interact Makes Some Noise in Tokyo

WK Interact Makes Some Noise in Tokyo

French New Yorker and Street Artist WK Interact has just finished a new gig on a massive wall in Japan and he is about to help make some noise about it, so to speak. The Japanese band Noisemaker has a substantive following for their nu metal sound recalling the glossy punk stylings of 1990s and bands like Massive Attack, Green Day, and Rage Against the Machine and WK has created work to help them promote their new mini-album and tour kickoff next month.

WK Interact. Noisemaker. Shibuya, Japan. (photo courtesy of the artist)

The 12 meter wall in Shibuya features WK’s signature black and white urban military police-state nomenclature with an attractive female figure bossing in the foreground while holding a vintage recording device familiar to security and law enforcement. The Bands name is splashed in blood red behind her.

It took three days and a night to complete and WK tells us he had a very good time with the bands and the fans. Given that WK’s work on the street has nearly often contained elements of blurring chaotically chopped action, you smile when he tells you “the band was jumping on a trampoline in motion near the wall for their album cover.”

WK and the boys in the band celebrating the finished wall on social media.


BSA: What does the model’s pose and clothing signify to you?
WK Interact: The model is supposed to be one their fans who goes to many different concerts. She has a recording device that dates back to 1980 called a NAGRA. Many people these days carry their own listening device on their SMART phone. The idea is that she’s recording and transmitting to many other people. She is in her own world and listening and recording events is a passion for her – like buying clothes or surfing or traveling.

WK Interact. Noisemaker. Shibuya, Japan. (photo courtesy of the artist)

BSA: How is this wall significant to people in Japanese culture?
WK Interact: This specific place will be destroyed in the next two months and new construction will take over. It’s located four blocks from the Shibuya station and it is in the heart of a district with many different cool bars and shops. Many Japanese are sad to see spots like this vanish.

WK Interact. Noisemaker. Shibuya, Japan. (photo courtesy of the artist)

BSA: How would you describe the scene on the street in Shibuya?
WK Interact: The last time I visited Japan was 17 years ago and at that time I did an amazing opening at PARCO Museum. At the time JAPAN was the most advanced in terms of street wear and a prime environment for street art and graffiti. Tokyo has changed terribly as you almost see nothing in terms of expression from the street. None is visible. All the small little stores have vanished, the economy is not as good, and most of the big brands have taken over.

WK Interact likes to capture the severe men in uniform wherever he goes. Noisemaker. Shibuya, Japan. (photo courtesy of the artist)

WK Interact. Noisemaker. Shibuya, Japan. (photo courtesy of the artist)

WK Interact. Noisemaker. Shibuya, Japan. (photo courtesy of the artist)

WK Interact. Noisemaker. Shibuya, Japan. (photo courtesy of the artist)

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“Martha” the Movie: Selina Miles’ Most Ambitious Project To Date

“Martha” the Movie: Selina Miles’ Most Ambitious Project To Date

The Director Invites You to Participate in the New Documentary

The rising star film director who has captured and woven riveting narratives of artists and graffiti virtuosos like Melbourne’s Sofles and the ultimate train-jumping outlaws 1UP Crew from Berlin – verifiably raising their respective games and profiles in the process – Brisbane’s Selina Miles has been tackling a graffiti/Street Art juggernaut right before our eyes; a full scale movie-length documentary on famed New York photographer Martha Cooper.

Martha Cooper (photo © Selina Miles)

We knew that these two talented and powerful personalities would compliment each other stunningly and that’s why we encouraged them two years ago to do a doc. A short term one was the original plan. But the two hit it off so well and when you are looking at a five decade career like Ms. Cooper’s and you have the dogged determination to do her story justice, Ms. Miles tells us that even an hour and a half film feels like its just getting started.

Now “Martha” the movie is at a unique juncture in the project and YOU may be able to participate; Selina and the team are looking for any original footage you may want to show them – and it may be used in the documentary.

Martha Cooper. Subway Art (photo © Selina Miles)

We have an amazingly involved, interconnected, and brilliant audience of BSA readers across the time zones, so she’s asking you first. Please click this link and let Selina and Martha know if you might have something to show them.

Specifically right now the team  is looking for:

1.     Historical photos and video of artists interacting with “The Holy Book of Graffiti”, Subway Art, by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant, and

2.     Modern day footage of Martha Cooper going to any and all lengths to get the shot.

Read more at “Martha” the Movie and please contact them ASAP.


In an exclusive interview director Selina Miles today shares with Martha Cooper fans some unseen images from making the movie. She also gives insights into what it has been like making the biggest movie ever produced about the famed photographer.

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

Brooklyn Street Art: What gave you the idea to do a documentary about Marty?
Selina Miles: As with most of us interested in graffiti, I knew of Marty’s book Subway Art from a young age. We first met at ONO’U Tahiti Graffiti Festival in 2014, and I was immediately taken with her approachable, passionate and vibrant character. In 2015, I had been working on a series called “Portrait of an Artist,” an anthology of 10 minute documentaries profiling artists, and a good friend asked me “Who’s next?.” Martha was an obvious choice.

We both returned to Tahiti the following year for the same festival. Seated around a dinner table with a group of artists, I casually asked “When do you think you’ll be in New York next?” she replied “I’m not sure, why?” I ended up asking her right on the spot if I could make a film about her, in front of the whole group. It felt very much like awkwardly asking out a prom date. Luckily she said yes.

Martha Cooper at work at the Houston/Bowery Wall in NYC with Pichi & Avo. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: Is it true that at the start of the project you were thinking of doing a short film?
Selina Miles: The following February, I had just finished directing my biggest TV commercial yet, and wanted to the use bigger-than-usual pay check to do an ambitious project. I booked myself a 2 week trip to New York, as well as a ticket for Marcus Autelli, an amazing cinematographer from London. Our mission was a 10 minute piece.

Like so many fans of Martha’s work, I discovered her through the graffiti subculture. I did my best to research before the trip. I scoured Youtube and Vimeo for videos and interviews with Marty, flicked through Subway Art, pored over Street Play, re-watched Style Wars and thought I had done a pretty good job.

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

When I arrived in New York, Marty met me at her train station, and together we walked to her studio. She gave me a key and pointed me in the direction of her archives. Large folders lined the shelves. I still remember the first time reading those labels, hand-drawn in Marty’s signature authoritative, all-caps handwriting. “Windsurfing.” “Korea.” “Tunisia.” “Israel.” Each one full to the brim with boxes of Kodachrome mounted slides, stamped and dated.

The first person Martha suggested I interview was her good friend Susan, who flew down from her home in Maine to speak to me. It wasn’t until a few days before the interview that I learned that “Marty’s friend Susan” was actually Susan Welchman, photo editor of the New York Post and of National Geographic Magazine for 35 years. I began to learn of Martha’s incredible, rich photographic career, too often obscured behind the monumental popular reverence for her graffiti work.

Martha Cooper with her longtime friend Susan Welchman, the former photo editor at The New York Post and Senior Picture Editor at National Geographic  (photo © Selina Miles)

I realized with a combination of terror and excitement that I was facing much more than a 10 minute graffiti video. That this was the story of a photographer who had shaped entire generations of a worldwide subculture. A woman whose camera had witnessed historical events from the 1960s until now, whose story was deeply entangled with that of New York City, whose work had touched so many lives across boundaries of time and place and culture. And most importantly, a story that was relatively unknown, absolutely begging to be told, and that Martha had put her faith in me to tell that story.

It was then that I realized that 10 minutes wasn’t going to cut it.

Martha Cooper. Graffiti Writers. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: Is there anything call “a typical day” when you are following Marty in her travels?
Selina Miles: There is never a boring moment when you’re with Martha. What she has can’t even be described as work ethic, because she doesn’t see photography as work. It is just who she is, and there is nothing else. She will go anywhere, any time, to any extreme to do the projects she wants to do.

That being said, there are certain consistencies in her days. Any time she is presented with a window of downtime of more than 3.5 seconds, she is playing Pokemon Go. When it comes to food, Marty frequents exactly 2 restaurants in New York, both 4 blocks or less from her apartment. In total she has about 4 dishes on rotation, supplemented on particularly busy days by Lunchables, ready-made snack packs of deli meats and Oreos.

Martha Cooper. Pokemon fun with Steven P. Harrington at Metro Diner in NYC. (photo © Selina Miles)

It is well documented that many successful entrepreneurs and geniuses keep rigid routines or wear the same clothes every day as a way to save precious cognitive resources for what they really love to do. Marty is no exception. My best tip for anyone lucky enough to share a lunch with her – you have about 30 seconds to decide on your order before her patience runs out.

Marty’s life is chaos wrapped in deeply ingrained habit, on a bed of compulsive, obsessive collecting and photo-taking. An ideal combination for a documentary subject.

Martha Cooper. SIM cards from her international travels. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: You have unprecedented access like no one ever before to the archives of 50 years. It must to have felt overwhelming sometimes.
Selina Miles: Most of my career has focused on making short films where the objective is creating something out of nothing. This project is the opposite. The real challenge is to distill 50 years, 17 published books, hundreds of travel destinations and more than an estimated half a million images into a singular, watchable 90 minutes. In this case, making a good film is as much about what you choose to leave out as what you include.

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

My team and I have collected archive from every major medium, from Super 8 film, to VHS, to DV tapes, to our own 4K video. We have searched high and low over the 19 months working on this project, and there hasn’t been a week that we don’t discover some essential snippet of the story. Friends and colleagues of Marty have sent in material from South Africa, Prague and Germany. Her ex husband’s basement held over 6000 feet of Super 8 home movies, unseen since the ‘80s.

This constant digging and discovery is anxiety inducing, chasing leads that never end, having nightmares of dusty tapes sitting in a basement somewhere that could unlock all the answers if only I could find them. On the flip side, the elation that comes when you find that perfect piece makes it all worth it.

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: Were you able to speak to individuals whom you considered to be close to Martha personally or professionally?
Selina Miles: Out of every subject we approached, all but one agreed, the exception being a prominent anti-graffiti policymaker from New York City during the early ‘80s.

I interviewed in 6 cities and had material translated in 4 languages. I spoke to friends and family, peers, cultural commentators, graffiti writers. Each contributor was more varied and vibrant than the last. After the interview, when I would thank each contributor for their time, they would often respond with the same phrase, jumping out at me like a mantra – “Anything for Martha.” It became quite ridiculous how often I heard this exact phrase coming from everyone from kids at the skate park in Baltimore to curators at major New York museums. Access was not an issue on this project.

BSA: Can you share a special insight that you gained one day with her?
Selina Miles: I have been inspired in so many ways by this project, but I would say the most significant lessons I took away from the Marty Cooper approach to life would be to take risks, embrace failure, never grow up, and choose your own path in life. Although it takes place in very fantastical world full of weird and wonderful characters, Marty’s story is full of extremely universal, relatable human experiences, failures and triumphs. I hope that in watching the film, each viewer can find their own insights and take home lessons within her story.

Martha Cooper with the Brazilian twins Os Gemeos. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: You live In Australia and Martha lives in Manhattan. How do you make a feature film documentary when you have to travel such long distances?
Selina Miles: Firstly I am very fortunate to have built a freelance career that allows me to work when and where I choose. I can definitely encourage anybody thinking of making that leap to go for it. Not having a boss that you need to ask for time off makes it much easier. Secondly, being Australian you get really used to working weird time zones and traveling long distances. Modern aviation is a wonderful thing! Get on a plane, fall asleep for 14 hours, wake up and you’re in a different country! How cool is that!

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

Our world is so connected now, and filmmaking has become infinitely easier than it was for previous generations. Martha Cooper traveled the world photographing for National Geographic before the days of digital photography. She would have to physically purchase, carry, store, develop and print the hundreds of thousands of exposures of film required for one story.

She constantly battled against the physical mass and cost of that medium. This made photography or filmmaking accessible only to those with a formal education and money. We don’t have any of those issues anymore, anyone can walk into a store and purchase a $500 camera and a hard drive and start a career as a photographer or a documentary filmmaker. This project has given me a greater appreciation for how easy we have it now, and for the skill that was required to shoot on film.

A Subway Art fan clutching his copy close while looking at some of Martha Cooper’s more recent Street Art photography. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: Martha was one of the first documentors of the graffiti scene. What will the audience learn about how Martha first found out that she wanted to document the graffiti movement?
Selina Miles: It is my firm belief that I cannot make a film that will do anything for the documentation of early graffiti that wasn’t done by Style Wars in 1983, but I hope that the graffiti community leaves this film feeling well represented, and with greater context of how Martha Cooper became the legend we regard today.

BSA: How can people help you complete your film?
Selina Miles: Right now we are wrapping up our last month of post production, and searchin over the last few weeks we have been able to dig for new archival material. If anybody out there has footage of Marty, no matter what quality or how big or small, please send it to me! It might be just the bit that I am missing.

Marty’s story is such an international one, it’s so great to receive clips showing her at work in different locations around the world. Every little bit helps really bring to life the incredible bond that is shared within the graffiti and street art communities.

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

The slides of early tags were a selection for a chapter in Martha’s book “Hip Hop Files”.  “Make Your Mark” was a possible chapter heading she and the publisher eventually decided not to use. It comes from a 1982 anti-graffiti poster Koch put in the subways saying “Make your mark in society not on society.” It became a joke among graff writers, still remembered and quoted today.


Please click this link and let Selina and Martha know you might have something to show them.

Specifically right now the team  is looking for:

1.     Historical photos and video of artists interacting with “The Holy Book of Graffiti”, Subway Art, by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant, and

2.     Modern day footage of Martha Cooper going to any and all lengths to get the shot.

Read more at ” ‘Martha’ the Movie’ ” and please contact them ASAP.


www.marthathemovie.com

Instagram.com/marthathemovie

Facebook.com/marthathemovie

 

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Winston Tseng: Street Provocateur Brings “Trash” Campaign to NYC

Winston Tseng: Street Provocateur Brings “Trash” Campaign to NYC

“At the end of the day when one is towing the line of being provocative,” says Street Artist Winston Tseng, “you may cross that line in some people’s mind but I think if one is not trying to find that line then the work is not going to make any impact.”


Winston Tseng has probably been crossing that line, pissing off some people and making others laugh for a few years now. He appears to consider it an honor, and possibly a responsibility. Relatively new on the Street Art scene the commercial artist and art director has also created his 2-D characters on canvasses and skate decks that depict the abridged characteristics of a typecast to play with the emotions and opinions of passersby.

Winston Tseng (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Perhaps it is all part of a tide of the reductivist cartoonish images that are flying at you from corporate cable and corporate mainstream and corporate candidates, but you may begin to wonder if simplifying and vilifying is the result or the cause of the polarization. And as Street Art continues to reflect us back to ourselves, the satirists are quick and blunt as well. Otherwise, how could they hope to get our attention?

The stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce outraged people in the 1960s with his provocations that melded satire, politics, religion, sex, and vulgarity – even earning him arrest for obscenity. Street Artist Ron English engorged Ronald McDonald on billboard takeovers to target obesity and fast food, Jon Feckner illustrated structural racism by labeling institutional neglect of certain neighborhoods in the 70s and 80s, and politicians are routinely turned into pigs and other animals on stencils, stickers and aerosol paintings for effect.

Satire, provocative or relatively benign, can be expressed as a caricature that exaggerates qualities as grotesque; a critique with a biting jab. You will see it played out in Tseng’s other works – an iPhone chatting, Starbucks swilling white Millennial plays into stereotypes of a privileged verbally-challenged belly-gazing consumer class. An Asian woman in traditional dress waves a hand fan of dollars that confirm her drive for wealth. A fake ad for “Christian Mingle” features an older priest reciting a Madonna lyric to a younger one with an excited gaze that calls to mind the multiple Catholic pedophile scandals in the news.

In one collection of canvasses that Tseng created for the gallery, simplified elements of typical archetypes of modern men are featured in profile – a Hasidic Jew with pais, an Arab with beard and keffiyeh, a US soldier with camo helmet, a bearded hipster wannabe with truckers cap – but each is coupled and holding one another’s face and looking into the eyes of the other. The series of pairings challenges preconceptions about masculinity, religion, societal roles, human costumery and what close physical proximity may imply.

Happily Ever After, 1-4 (2015) (© Winston Tseng)

Making fun has gotten many a Court Jester punched verbally and literally and yet everyone realizes that the truer elements of the roast are what had helped both the joke and the fist land.

Recently a poster from the street that we published on Instagram garnered praise and repudiation by commenters who didn’t like the depiction of newsreader/actor Sean Hannity extending his tongue in a fellated manner toward the waistline of a man with a long red tie.

Winston Tseng (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The responses ranged from anger that it appeared to demean homosexuals, to critiquing the artists skills at political activism.

“Stop making homosexuality a punchline,” said @mollykathleenv. “How is ‘sucking dick’ activism? It’s blatant #HOMOPHOBIA you are posting under the guise of activism,” wrote @kingsquirrel.
One commenter even questioned who should be allowed criticize the street work. “It would’ve been really chill if all the straight people tapped out of this discussion. This is not for you to weigh in on tbh,” said @sameshit.
But @jeffserenius simply couldn’t stomach the image. “This is in very poor taste. Regardless of your political views. I will be unscribing after this post and will now be looking for another vendor for my photography needs … very disappointed in this.”  We were, of course, devastated.

Winston Tseng (photo © Jaime Rojo)

His newest pieces on the street are pasted on garbage cans and feature people in red caps identified with the “Make America Great” slogan that Trump supporters are known to sport. In recent years using the word ‘trash’ has gone from campy to outright degradation and classicism, but the artist says he’s just venting his personal frustration at “thoughts and ideologies”, rather than actual people.

The male in a muscle t-shirt has a confederate flag tattooed in a heart shape on his bicep and is sipping from a Chic-fil-A cup, while the woman is holding a Bible under her arm. Both are stereotyped images of so-called “Trump Voters” that play dangerously into the urge to simplify or brand an entire group of people in a denigrating way. Then again, humor and insult are often found to coexist in satire. The new pieces instantly caught Manhattanite’s attention and cell phones popped out to capture the image.

Winston Tseng (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We asked Tseng about the Hannity poster and the new MAGA pieces and what his work on the street is about.

Brooklyn Street Art: Can you talk to us about the poster from a few weeks ago depicting Trump standing while TV personality Sean Hannity is on his knees in front of him with his face at Trump’s crotch level? It was controversial. Some people from the gay community saw it as a homophobic and other people from the gay community as well didn’t see it that way. What was your intention?
Winston Tseng: Certainly it wasn’t my intention to convey a homophobic message or ideas. But I do understand why some people would interpret it that way. For me the idea was to portray an inappropriate relationship between the subjects. On the street, with this medium, people only have a very short attention span so I was trying to make an impact and get that attention. I chose the act depicted in the poster as the most impactful. Some people saw it the way I meant it to be seen and some people saw it differently. At the end of the day when one is towing the line of being provocative, you may cross that line in some people’s mind but I think if one is not trying to find that line then the work is not going to make any impact.

Winston Tseng (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: So that brings us to the new series you just created and installed: Your subjects are white people only and you are calling them ‘trash’.
WT: I wouldn’t say its meant to represent all caucasians but certainly they are meant to portray a certain demographic. In this case a segment of white people that I personally believe the posters accurately reflect. The statistics are there that a lot of Trump supporters who wear the MAGA hats come from red states, from the south, and are Christian Evangelicals. Those are the concepts that I included on these posters. I didn’t make that up. I’m just reflecting something that is a quantifiable fact.

BSA: Are these posters a direct critique on Trump’s policies and ideologies?
WT: Yes. But I feel like criticizing Trump, because he kind of doesn’t seem to really believe strongly in any ideologies or policy, is not the source of the issue in my mind. The source of the issue is the segment of America who supports him and authorizes him to make the decisions that he makes. I’m not sure if he believes strongly in them or if he is just pandering and just wants to win a popularity contest amongst certain demographics. I think that there’s a lot of anti-Trump art work out there, but taking a step back one realizes that he is not doing this on his own and the same goes with the policies he announces where he just tells people what they want to hear.

Winston Tseng (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Do you think that his aim is to distract the public from more serious issues?
WT: I don’t think he is distracting away from serious issues, but rather he brings into focus other serious issues that a certain segment of the population, myself included, don’t agree with him on. I think he’s reflecting a lot of hate and ideologies that exist in the population. That’s what I’m trying to get out with this series. Put the focus a little bit less on him being the creator of all of this but rather on his supporters who share the same beliefs and those beliefs that get reflected through him.

BSA: Do you think his supporters weren’t aware of how they felt or when he came out they felt that they had permission to air their beliefs in public?
WT: I think it’s probably the latter. I’m certainly not an expert on this. I know as much as any other American does in public. But yes, I don’t think he created these beliefs but people were harboring these thoughts and feelings. We are just in a time period now where is more acceptable to express those thoughts and ideologies more openly.

BSA: What was your goal when you were creating these series?
WT: It’s always just a personal expression. I’m not one to think that I’m going to change anyone’s mind by doing this. There’s a bit of humor in it and I’m hoping that people are entertained by it. I think that the majority of New Yorkers would probably agree with that just based on the statistics of liberals versus conservatives in New York. So it’s personal expression. It is the entertaining factor. It is sort of a stress relief for me, just to get it out there.

Winston Tseng (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Winston Tseng (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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The Outings Project, Bouguereau, and a Memphis Factory Facade

The Outings Project, Bouguereau, and a Memphis Factory Facade

Julien de Casabianca of the Outings Project was invited to the Brooks Museum in Memphis, Tennessee last month for an exhibition, workship, lecture, and a monumental installation that we have exclusive shots of today here for you. In accordance with the artists practice in this project, he selected artwork from inside the museum and brought it to the streets in very grand fashion to a part of town that typically would not have occasion to look at this kind of work.

Outings Project. William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s 1886 painting “Au pied de la falaise”. (photo courtesy of Outings Project)

His is a self-realized philosophically-rooted street practice that is intended to democratize the experience of appreciating art and to break past the inhibitions, and often the entrance fee, that the average person has to contend with when entering galleries, museums, or other institutions to see artworks. This seven story tall neoclasssical/realist girl sits on the fire escape of a dilapidated industrial building, geographically and historically far from the milieu of the 19th century French academic painter who created the original.

It is notable that Brooks Museum and other art institutions are somewhat beginning to embrace the Street Art practice in their programming – even as many graffiti and Street Artists have remained uninvited to be exhibited inside the doors or added to permanent collections despite a half century history of painting, sculpting, projecting, and creating installations in public space around the world. In the description for this project the museum webpage says that this project is part of “Brooks Outside, an innovative curatorial program that launched in conjunction with the museum’s centennial in 2016, consisting of an ongoing series of outdoor installations that, depending on each project’s scope, will enliven and invigorate Brooks Museum grounds, Overton Park, or our community at large.”

Outings Project. William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s 1886 painting “Au pied de la falaise”. (photo courtesy of Outings Project)

Mssr. de Casabianca tells us that this is only the first of 3 large wheat-pastes he is planning to do. The remaining two will be chosen in collaboration with the community and as part of a workshop he is planning. He says that he wants to consult with people who live in the area and that there will be a voting process.

We spoke with the artist about the project to find out more about his Memphis project.

Brooklyn Street Art: What is this original piece of art and where did you find it?
Julien de Casabianca: It’s William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s 1886 painting “Au pied de la falaise” (At the Foot of the Cliff). Its part of the Brooks Museum collection.

Brooklyn Street Art: Why does it resonate for you and how do you think she likes her new home?
Julien de Casabianca: She seems melancholic, I wanted to give her a second life in the real life, liberate her from the frame. I feel always guilty when I leave from a wall where I pasted a child, as in Nuart Aberdeen in Scotland, because even they are giants, I feel they are so fragile in this violent world and in this contemporary world. She’s a time traveller, she doesn’t know our new world and she’s probably surprise and moved.

Outings Project. William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s 1886 painting “Au pied de la falaise”. (photo courtesy of Outings Project)

Brooklyn Street Art: One of your underlying philosophies is to bring art that is hidden away to the public. Why is this important for you and society?

Julien de Casabianca: Museums are always in rich areas. I bring the art from the museum to paste in a poor area. Beauty has to be shared too. Classical beauty as well. There is lot of urban street art in poor areas which is of course amazing and beautiful, but where there is modern architecture and street art there and there is no place for the classical beauty. And the classical beauty has one power: to reunite all generations about a same taste. Old, young, teenagers, everybody loves what I paste, and that is not normal, not ordinary. It’s because we have all something in common; a long history of art and beauty that built the present. Nike is a brand and a goddess from Antiquity. Apple is a brand and an apple formed Adam & Eve. These two brand names this century have continuity 2000 year old stories that we still talk of!


Read more about the Outings Project at the Brooks Museum HERE.

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Monumenta: Large Scale Icon Celebrates “The Intelligence Of Many” in Leipzig

Monumenta: Large Scale Icon Celebrates “The Intelligence Of Many” in Leipzig

“Utopia is not dead!,” curator Denis Leo Hegic loves to exclaim. Maybe not, but it is elusive.

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Viktor Frešo “Angry Boy”. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

You may catch a flash of Utopia here among heady concepts he entertains regarding iconization, scale, the elimination of tastemakers and gatekeepers, urban planning and architecture, art in the streets juxtaposed with art in galleries, or at the thumping of electronic DJs and darting lazers at the sweaty bumping house parties every weekend inside a cozy ex-storehouse for equipment.

The bitter will simply call this reinvigoration of a former metal works factory by Berlin’s Wandelism collective a tool of gentrification for its new real estate owner, but that kind of reductive criticism overlooks the cultural evolution that often is spirited by large multi-tentacled environments such as these.

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Viktor Frešo “Angry Boy”. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Functioning as a large laboratory of experimentation that has entertained large crowds since late summer, Monumenta fosters thousands of conversations and strategies about art and culture and technology and the shifting geo-political future we will need to be prepared for it. It is almost as if the only preparation that we can hope to depend upon during increasing times of increasing complexity will be collective tribes like these, and ‘the intelligence of many’.

So here’s Jan Kuck melting wax and pouring it into light fixtures which, when turned on, will melt the wax again organically onto a pile of mirrors below – a curious kinectic sculptural installation you may call Wahnsinn, or madness. Kuck can easily mount his work at international art fairs, and he has – but this place affords an unquantifiable jolt of the D.I.Y. energy that powers artist spaces in big cities throughout Europe. Outside in the yard with his canvas leaning against the wall, Berlin’s Dino Richter is fastidious and attentive to detail with his sharp knife slicing through layers of tape, peeling off pieces to produce an intricately tight design evocative of circuit boards and ice cream pops.

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. The Monument-of-Many Installation. Detail. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Hosted on the post-industrial grounds of Pittlerwerke, 36,000 square meters of former machinery factories presents one sixth of that for a wide-ranging exhibition of urban, contemporary, graffiti, installation art, music, performance, talks and workshops. The spaces are generous, even holy in their scale; a conceptual big tent that gives room to a seriously considered eclecticism of artists and artworks that all somehow capture this moment before the abyss.

Here you’ll find one of the original Cologne “Neue Wilde” (Young Wild Ones) who also became known as a painter of the “Mülheimer Freiheit“, Hans Peter Adamski, his large abstractions only meters away from a fire extinguisher triptych by a current united graffiti power on city streets across Europe, the 1UP Crew. You’ll also see Berlin public/street art duo Various & Gould with an empty skin sculpture of Marx and Engels while Berlin art trio Innerfields creates machine guns of papier-mâché.

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Dr. Molrok. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Ghanaian born, Vienna based painter Amoako Boafo brings one of his elegant figures of masculinity to a large canvas while down the hall Señor Schnu reenacts a sculptured scene of police brutality with a teen in a hoody half-submerged underfoot in murky water. Don’t forget the one hundred artist suspended installation of monuments-of-many flanking Viktor Frešo’s naked giant “Angry Boy” who may unhappily remind you of a certain president.

How do you begin to connect the dots here? Perhaps it’s more about opening the spaces between them for yourself.

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Dr. Molrok. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta is part exhibition and cultural fair; a ‘happening’ of sorts; a surprisingly ego-free environment for making art that you can immediately put on display and have conversations about with an eclectic mix of art fans and peers. The multi-member team of artists and producers and writers and media makers have created a nether space in transition from its industrial past to an inconclusive future, creating the kind of environment where artists are rather liberated from presupposition. It feels like the result of a positively reductive process that strips away artifice and reminds us what the raw creative process is – and where it may go if given room and respect.

Curators Denis Leo Hegic and Jan Fielder created the environment in the moment, on the spot, and with some audacity. They also smartly partnered with a selection of sparkling seers including contemporary gallerist and manager Isabel Bernheimer, visionary ringmaster at Urban Spree Pasqual Feucher, the storied collector Marc Omar, and Berlin Art Society’s Michelle Houston.

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. WENU. Detail. “Divide et Impera”. Detail. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Uneven and happily unfinished, the collection of experiences launches a sense of unified eclecticism; a multi-storied series of Lo and Hi, fine art paintings, installations, sculpture, photography and electronic media that create a collective chorus of possibilities on the cusp of the next crash. In a odd world of flattening hierarchies and spirited inclusionary programming the two principal architects of this future vision suggest a re-ordering that brings the street directly into the cathedral and ivy covered hall.

BSA spoke with Monumenta curators Denis Leo Hegic and Jan Fiedler about some of their preferred ways of seeing art and the thrill of mastering an enormous iconic industrial space for exhibiting artworks from so many disciplines and perspectives.

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Various & Gould. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: You spoke in your presentation during the Momenta Talks program about the concept of space and emotion when considering how to mount an exhibition. What part does emotion play in the experience of an art installation?

Jan Fiedler: Emotion is one of the central aspects while being confronted with art, and the perception of the artwork changes with the emotions you are going through while being in contact with said artwork. When you are sad, a painting or sculpture will trigger different feelings than when you are in a happy mood. Also the quality of an artwork really shows, and it may “force” you to feel a certain way.

It is interesting to observe how certain artworks can move people from different cultures, countries and backgrounds in the same way. It really shows that the language of art is universal. Especially the old masters can evoke these, mostly holy, emotions, even in faithless people. If we talk about these paintings, then we have to keep in mind that the eyes they were created for were the main source for evoking religious feeling. The ears were useless in Mass, since the sermon was held in Latin, a language most people did not understand, and the eyes went on a journey, trying to find a foundation for their faith in the art that was displayed in the churches. So they were painted in a certain way, to evoke exactly these feelings.

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Rocco and his Brohters.“Dezernat 52”. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

These paintings hang in museums today, robbed of their original context and surroundings, but still are powerful to trigger feelings. And that applies to every artwork you want to put on display in an art show. You have to dedicate a certain amount of time to every single piece, feeling the emotional impact it has on you and arrange it in a way that highlights its qualities in the best way. So an art exhibition is in the best case a carefully arranged Orchestra that takes the visitor on an emotional journey.

Brooklyn Street Art: “The Intelligence of Many” is a phrase that was central to the formation and execution of Monumenta. Is this a model for curation that we may see in the future?

Denis Leo Hegic: Yes. It is not only a model of curation, it is a model of cooperation in different fields in a successful modern society. The information, which we have to deal with in every aspect of life, has reached such a great level of complexity, that working TOGETHER in a selfless way and profiting from the intelligence of many individuals involved is the only concept that can bring a true (and important) change.

Even if the world does not appear like that in this moment, it is actually the case that the era of self-centered egomaniacs is over. And that´s the good news.

In terms of curating something which we call “Urban Art”, there is absolutely no other way of doing it. This form of art is rooted within and powered by (urban) communities and the spirit that arrives from them. One can fake this credibility just for a limited time. The intelligence of many is the counter concept to the stupidity of one.

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Rocco and his Brohters.“Dezernat 52”. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Can you talk about the cathedral quality of the initial hall at Monumenta?
Jan Fiedler: The “Church”, as we call the entrance hall of Monumenta, is a nickname that has its origins in the unique architecture which resembles a Basilica – is a very special room, which from a curatorial point of view demands a large amount of attention. This is especially so because it resembles a church, a place where there is only room for one god. We decided to dedicate it to the Monument-of-Many, the visions of one hundred different artists.

But there is a reason why churches and cathedrals have such an effect on the spectator, because they play with scale and the tools of iconization. We used the exact same tools, but not to promote one singular idea, but to present a grumpy baby, the symbol of hope and future, where nobody can be certain how it will turn out if it grows up. This again is one of the aspects of Monumenta; To let go of total control and to give artists the freedom to unfold their creativity.

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Señor Schnu. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. HNRX “Paradoxism”. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Play with art. Guillermo S. Quintana on the floor with several artists on the boards. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Play with art. Detail. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Les Enfants Terribles. Detail. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Les Enfants Terribles. Detail. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Les Enfants Terribles. Detail. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. NASCA. “Cruz”. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Jan Kuck. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Jan Kuck. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Ron Miller. “Gun-Geisha”. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. 1UP Crew. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. Marina Zumi. “View Insight”. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. NeSpoon. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. KNS. “Where Is The Scene?”. This piece wasn’t commissioned but rather illegally painted during the opening days of the exhibition. The organizers of the exhibition decided to keep it in place instead of buffing it. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. SNOW. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many. The organizaers. Standing, from left to right: Niklas Jedowski, Sabrina Markutzyk, Jan Gustav Fiedler, Denis Leo Hegic and on the floor Dorian Mazurek. Leipzig, Germany. September, 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

Monumenta Leipzig / The Intelligence Of Many is currently open to the general public in Leipzig, Germany. Click HERE for general information, schedules of upcoming events, directions etc…

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