Thanks to the visions of artists, the street continues to set imaginations on fire as well. Just don’t get burned.
So here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring Antennae, Captain Eyeliner, Caze, Franco “Jaz” Fasoli, Hiss, Hot Tea, Pyramid Oracle, Rek La Blatte, Samuffa, Sensbale, Smells, Steve ESPO Powers, and Texas.
Artmossphere is the only Russian biennale that focuses primarily on Street Art and its corollary practices, with the first two launching in 2014 and 2016. You may remember the full coverage BSA had in 2016 at the Moscow Manege;
Among the artists participating on previous editions of Artmossphere have been people like The London Police, Brad Downey, Claudio Ethos, Agostino Iocurci Miss Van, L’Atlas, Sickboy, Jaz, Nespoon, Martha Cooper, Remi Rough, Alexey Luka, Remed, Li Hill, Jessie and Katey, Moneyless, El Tono, and many others – but clearly you can see that the quality and diversity in practices and backgrounds is well represented here.
For the 2018 edition of the biennale we will be curating the program along with some of our respected peers internationally in this field and collectively we are asking artists to consider what it means to be “Offline”. So much of graffiti and Street Art’s roots extend back to a practice of making work for a largely local audience that is limited to geography.
Today much work in public space is conceived of, at least in part, for its ability to traverse to audiences on social media, blogs, video, and all manner of digital platforms. As we constantly are flooded with online Street Art, is it possible to be ‘Offline”?
The 2018 main exhibition will take place in the Excise Storehouse of Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow from August 30th to October 17th. Additional special exhibitions will be held in the Red and White Halls, as well as in the art cluster outdoor territory.
The open call is open to Russian and international artists and applications with projects exploring this year’s theme will be reviewed by an international jury consisting of Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo, co-founders of BrooklynStreetArt.com and curators at Urban Nation Museum of Urban Contemporary Art (UN), Peter Ernst Coolen, curator of the Amsterdam Street Art Museum, Cedar Lewisohn, curator of the Street Art project in Tate Modern,Ethel Seno, researcher of street art and curator, Anna Dimitrova, curator of Adda Gallery, Paris and MTN Gallery, Barcelona, and Nikolay Palazhchenko, the founder of the Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow.
To take part in the biennale, Artmossphere artists should submit their portfolio and their project application for the biennale before June 18th, 2018. All the projects should be made exclusively for the biennale. Click here for all details.
Today we go to the Urvanity New Contemporary Art Fair in Madrid to see some art inside and outside the fair and to hear about some of the programming happening there, courtesy of Fernando Alcalá Losa.
URVANITY New Contemporary Art Fair 2018
Or, “How we spent the whole weekend in Madrid enjoying art, friends and talks while censorship from the central Spanish government is choking the liberty of expression.”
The 2nd edition of Urvanity New Contemporary International Art Fair was our main focus of interest. With an exciting program including some of the most interesting galleries and artists from all over the world, 4 walls being produced in different areas of the Spanish capital and a more than attractive set of talks and lectures, we knew that we were going to make our weekend. But, of course, there was going to be more, much more…
After sleeping a few hours, I started my little marathon outside the new Urvanity headquarters in the beautiful ME Madrid María Victoria Hotel for attending a round table about ‘Women in the cultural industry beyond feminist clichés’. With Alberto Aguilar from Urvanity moderating, I was excited to see what journalist Belén Palanco, gallerist Consuelo Durán and artist and friend Anna Taratiel had to say about all this arty world ‘dominated’ by men in these times when initiatives like La Caja de Pandora are rebelling against sexual abuse and the heteropatriarchy hegemony in the art world and fighting for visibility, justice and equality in working conditions and salaries.
Artists like Nuria Mora and Animalitoland, Sergio Bang, from Swinton & Grant Gallery, and Diana Prieto from MadridStreetArtProject were in the audience. Issues like education, quotes, discrimination, the toughness of being a female street artist, being out or inside the system, some critics to the female clichés and personal experiences were brought into the table. Being a heterosexual cis male, I don’t know if I’m the right person to say this, but I missed a more radical speech about the whole scenario and the role of women about making the necessary changes for reaching the place and conditions that they deserve.
Apart from this, Juncal Roig, Urvanity’s communication manager, had prepared a little gift with fellow artist Antonyo Marest. Last year, Marest had painted 4 walls in a nice courtyard inside the Hotel, so we did a small private shooting with the artist. It was fun, because we had to access the place through a window in one of the rooms. As Antonio said, imagine how ‘easy’ it was to move 6-floor wall scaffolding through that small ‘hole’. Watch out for Marest USA tour coming soon in the next months.
‘The Impact of Urban Creativity in Cities’, a talk, as I said before, by Contorno Urbano founders, was next. Ninoska’s and Esteban’s explanations about some of their most important projects and about how to work with students, neighbors, the local authorities and the artists themselves really got my attention, although I was already aware about the details of their work. The never ending growing 12+1 project and, of course, the soon to come ‘Mural Salut Wall’ by Escif were some of the top hits of the lecture, including the announce of the International Tortilla Competition held this last weekend at Sant Feliu de Llobregat’s La Salut square as a part of Escif art residence in the city. Hyper fun 3rd grade by the artist that caused lots of laughs between the audience. Looking forward to see what Escif will create in the next months here.
Long but full of experiences day. Beer time and back to our place where a bunch of young adults were waiting for us celebrating Miriam’s (our host) birthday, singing songs with ukuleles at 2am and drinking bourbon. Fuck me: I’m getting old…
Good morning Vietnam! Slept 4 hours, dizzy head (if you can’t fight the enemy, join him) and García in groundhog mode on. I was starting to feel kind of nervous, as I hadn’t seen a wall yet, so I had a mission going on. Being lucky enough to know one of the best hosts that you can find in Madrid, I met Guillermo, from Madridstreetartproject ‘MSAP’, had some quick breakfast and began walking by. Guille was one of the people taking care of the production duties of the Urvanity walls. A veteran actor in the local scene, his way of seeing and understanding the urban landscape is outstanding.
I had to leave Cranio’s wall for Sunday due to ‘logistic’ reasons. But, I was so glad to have the chance to shoot with Alexey Luka, as I had seen some photos about the WIP of his mural and I was loving it. After a small talk with the artist and the ‘formal’ presentations, I began shooting from the ground while Guille was struggling with drivers trying to not have them parking besides the crane.
Then a little magical episode took place when Javier, a neighbor living in the building opposite to Luka’s wall, offered himself to give us access to the rooftop. Nicest human being ever, Javier told me that he was a military pilot and a great photography aficionado. It’s always surprising to me how people that don’t know you at all trust in you and open their houses to strangers like us, offering all the possible help because they are liking the project and/or the artists’ work.
Alexey’s wall was being a tough one to deal with. Guille, Rocío and the rest of the production team had to treat the wall twice with some special products because dust and sand were getting out from it. They lost 2 days because of this, but when I arrived there, everything had been solved and the artist was working hard. After dealing with a couple of issues, we head to the next wall… Before, I would love to say some words about Rocío here. We have just met maybe twice during all these years.
Working and collaborating with MSAP, Mula Fest and Asalto among others, it’s always interesting to listen to her clever thoughts and knowledge about the whole scene, how she approaches the tours that she guides in Madrid and get to know a little bit more about the kind of person that everyone would love to have in their teams. You can check Rocio’s blog here.
Maybe Jan Kaláb’s wall was the most popular one during the whole weekend. Pedestrians were loving the mix of nice colors and soft shapes – so selfies, stories and boomerangs were spreading as flu. I just tried to include some human traffic in the photo. Maybe I have a thing with old ladies… Just maybe…
Xavier Eltono’s talk was one of my top moments of the whole trip. Although I follow his career since years ago, I hadn’t got any deep thoughts about his work. After I heard what he had to say about his art and about how he connect his studio work with the skin of the cities where he had intervened, I understood a lot of things regarding his philosophy and the way he interacts with the city.
Another thing that got my attention during his lecture was the fact of how many respected artists were attending the talk. Names like Zosen, Mina Hamada, Aryz, Rocblackblock, Daniel Muñoz SAN, Kenor, Anna Taratiel, Suso33, Aleix Gordo, Vermibus…were there showing respect for Eltono’s art and explanations. The academic world was also represented nicely with awesome Fernando Figueroa and Elena Gayo.
Xavier told me by email that this talk had been very important for him, so I asked him why: ‘I’m used to give talks, I do a couple every year and I actually really enjoy it. Doing it in Madrid though was a very different exercise. Even if I’m not Spanish, I became an artist in Madrid, this is the city where everything started for me. Talking about my work in this city was very challenging to me because I knew a lot of friends and a lot of artists I admire would be listening to me. It’s very easy to talk about your work in front of an anonymous crowd but in front of people you know and you care about is totally different! I was very nervous, but, according to the feedback I received after the talk, it looks like no one noticed it!!!’
Then, the main dish of the menu took place. ‘The Art Conference, by Urvanity’, hosted by Doug Gillen, from Fifth Wall TV and featuring some of the most important managers/curators/creative directors/promoters in the biz was meant to be the grand finale of Urvanity’s Saturday program. Tina Ziegler, Director of Moniker Art fair, Yasha Young, Creative Director of Urban Nation Museum, and Anna Dimitrova, Director of Montana Gallery, were adding some more girl power to the place.
FER: One of the most interesting things about the fair this year was the Talks Program. I couldn’t go to all of them because I would need to clone myself for attending everything, but was it intentional for you to enhance this side of the event? Do you think that these talks and lectures are useful for attracting a potential audience or are they more focused on an indoor point of view for people inside the art world? Why the 2 talks were the role and presence of women was more significant were moderated by a guy with a penis?
Sergio Sancho: For us the talk program it is a fundamental base within the fair. It is something that we want to keep on and give more importance and visibility. We think that the best way to understand this movement it’s from inside, giving voice and visibility to the main characters. About the moderator you are talking we think the gender its irrelevant. This year we wanted to give more visibility to women in a world where there is such an inequality and it has been casual that in the case of The Art Conference the moderator that Tina used it’s always a man and in the case of the talks opening program it has been Alberto the leader and we think it was the suitable person to do so.
An impressive example of power, clear minds, commitment and, above all, tough work during several years in a penis based industry, these 3 forces of nature explained to us the main points of their careers, their way of working, their ethics, spoke about good practices and loyalty, some episodes about dealing with male chauvinism attitudes and how to get through all this without stepping forward.
After personally meeting Ampparito and chatting a little bit with Octavi Serra and some other guys from Cúmul we ended the day talking and drinking beer in a relaxed atmosphere at some ‘Manolo’ bar in Madrid. Time to breathe, smile and relax.
DAY THREE: The art fair day.
And Sunday arrived. Keeping the military discipline of the whole weekend, woke up early, had some bad coffee while planning the morning and started my 3kms walk to check Cranio´s wall out. Sunday is ‘rastro’ day in Madrid, so some streets and squares of the area were flood with people that you had to avoid while trying not to kill yourself watching the screen of your mobile phone as it was compulsory for me to check the map and my old time friend Kini González was helping me out getting some invitations for colleagues.
Once of the few times that I was moving my head up, I almost crashed with some familiar guy. Rafa appeared suddenly in front of me with his eternal smile in the face. A friend from Barcelona, it had been years since we had seen each other, so it was a funny and nice coincidence to meet by chance 624kms away from our hometown. We continue our walk together speaking about life, anarchy, music and veganism and, at the same time, Guille was telling me the last news about Cranio´s work as we were all pendant of the keys of the crane for the final shot.
As I was seeing that this wasn’t happening in the next few hours, I changed my plans and went to Luka’s wall as I wanted to take some photos from the crane. There it goes… Say bye to Rafa, put my stuff together and we went up for capturing some details.
As we were saying in Madrid, there’s a poker of photos that you should take while capturing, if possible, the whole process of painting a big mural: shots from the ground, shots from other buildings and rooftops, shots from the crane and the final shot. If you get decent photos from all these angles, you will come back home with a smile on your face… I missed Luka’s final photo, by the way, as he finished his work on Monday.
Once we had arrived to Urvanity’s headquarters I started to check all the artwork that galleries like Montana, SC, Ink and Movement, Stolen Space, Fousion, Plastic Murs, Swinton & Grant, Station 16, Ruarts or Pretty Portal were exhibiting. I liked to see some personal faves like Enric Sant, Isaac Cordal, Sixe, SAN, Herakut, Deih, Hyuro, She One, Dilka Bear, Kofie, Jaune, L’Atlas, Stikki Peaches, Anna Taratiel or Guy Denning, having in mind that you don’t always have the chance to admire all these people’s work in one place at the same time. I also enjoyed to discover other great artists that were kind of new for me like Gregory Watin, Marc C. Woehr, Solomostry, Spazuk, Jaime Molina or Morik Marat.
I also spoke with some of the gallerists who were quite happy about the sales and the whole experience in general. Okuda almost did a sold out, Taratiel sold her bigger piece for Durán gallery, veteran Henry Chalfant and Enric Sant were also selling for Adda & Taxie. Vicente, from Plastic Murs, was much happier with the sales this year than he was in 2017 after seeing how Deih and, above all, Vinz had been successful during the fair. Dilka Bear for Fousion gallery also saw how some of her works were going to some collector’s homes.
It was also interesting for me to know that Kofie ‘papers’ in Swinton & Grant had been sold even before than the fair officially started. Classic names of the scene like Gripface, Stikki Peaches, GR170 or Belin also sold in this year edition. On the opposite hand, Olivier, from Vroom & Varossieau, which exhibited one of the most powerful group of artists in the fair, told me that his sales had been better last year, maybe because of his high prices. As we say in Spain: ‘nunca llueve a gusto de todos’ (something like: not everyone likes when it rains).
I spent my last minutes at COAM trying to find Sergio, Juncal and Victoria from Urvanity’s team without success, as I wanted to say bye and thank them for the treat that they gave to us during the whole weekend. I really like when you get the chance of meeting personally people that you have spoken with by email and that you have interacted with on the social media, as it happened this time with Sergio and Victoria.
So, this was it. We couldn’t leave Madrid without having a couple (a couple…yeah, right…) of vermouths with some old time friends and colleagues, feeling sad because of the ones that we missed and thinking about all the great moments and experiences that we had lived during the weekend.
Thanks A LOT to all of you who we spent some time with during those 3 crazy days, specially to Sergio, Juncal and Victoria, Miriam for sharing her home with us, Guille, Diana & Rocío for being there as always, Lara, Soledad and Rebekah, at Espacio SOLO, for being such great hosts and, of course, Audrey García for breathing and existing. ‘til next time Madrid…
Street Art and graffiti and their relatives often go inside these days, including in Mexico City, where we recently found some interesting new intersections between urban art and contemporary art when we wandered off the streets into studio, gallery, and even museum spaces.
Here we’ll show you images from a few of these places, including; a versatile gallery and performance space that happens to serve pizza, a toy museum and the Street Art visionary who runs it who has facilitated some of the best installations around the city that you’ll see, a visit with a Mexican mural/fine artist who has made serious waves on the Street Art stage as well as museums, three Argentinians setting up a temporary art-making studio in preparation for a gallery show, and a serendipitous run-in with Keith Haring on a train in a metro station.
Perhaps taking its name from the largest cemetery in the city, or simply the Pantheon, the Roman temple with its multiple galleries leading off the grand rotunda, this Panteón opened in spring 2017 and is funded by Mexican pizza chain scion.
Inside a finely appointed 200 year old colonial mansion and former headquarters of the Mexican Academy of Language on Calle Donceles, one of the oldest streets in the city, the spacious two story building is now hosting a live concert stage with a bar off the pizza restaurant court on the first floor. Climb the winding stairs to discover an open balcony ringed with well-curated shows of current art movements that break your expectations in their diversity and quality, hung with care and well-lit in high-ceilings former libraries and entertaining salons, replete with hardwood floors and articulated cream and oak mouldings.
“I think frontiers are breaking apart across the world,” says director and curator Andres Medina, who is creating a blended focus on graffiti writers, Street Artists, master screen printers, illustrators, and painters whose work is informed by elements of street culture like tattoo, dark pop, skater culture.
The 9 month old series of exhibitions and shows have included group shows, installations, and pop up shops by Mexican street heavyweights like Street Artist/muralist Smithe, original 90s stencilist Watchavato, and modern stylemaster Buster Duque, who has helped out with some selected burners on the roof. The tight vision of the shows is quietly bringing inquisitive fans as well.
“So we are getting at least one international visitor per week who wants to know more about our projects,” he says. As an editor of zines and a student of films, he gradually has been defining his focus on curation with themes that have an almost personal touchstone that he develops with the artists along with curator Mariela Gomez, and they both speak about a need for gallery exhibitions to evolve.
“One of the things that excites us the most is the idea of an exhibition as more of a ‘happening’. We want there to be a part that is graphic and a part that is an experience,” he says as he leads us to a separate white walled colonial space where handguns are made from molds in black wax and guests at the opening scrawled missives across makeshift walls related to violence in society. “It’s meant as an interactive critique,” he says, “these are guns that shoot ideas.”
Attendees are not typical art patrons interested only in collecting – for this show about violence and terror, “Dispara” by the Mexico City artist Ciler, the invited guests were policy makers, elected officials, journalists, even Tito Fuentes the lead singer of the popular rock band Molotov, as well as people directly affected by gun violence. “It was a pretty emotional night,” says Mariela Gomez, who recounts the fiery conversations that began when guests realized that they could express their thoughts about gun violence and organized crime, which is more-or-less openly terrorizing certain neighborhoods and cities in the country.
“Once everyone was here we found that everyone wanted to make art as well; so they all became part of ‘the happening’,” she says. Guests broke the guns, wrote screeds across the walls, even blasted black paint with a power tool “Everyone was covered in black dust and wax, were breathing some of it” she says,” which goes along with the concept of violence in society – no one can escape it really.”
Still young and at the behest of a fast food business, it’s unclear what kind of mandate Panteón has, but the owner has long term leased the historic building next door to further the show, which will now include his brother’s burger café and a freshly poured concrete mini-skate park and we climb a tattered yet elegant staircase to tour through grand raw spaces that will house martial arts, yoga training and yes, the occasional sports branded pop-up store. It’s a formula attempted before – life-style and entertainment intermixing with the plastic arts – and it will be good to see the integrity of the art game supported here. The balance is hard to strike, but it can be done.
A Street Art proponent and personal brand champion, Roberto Shimizu is the second generation 30-something who is running the five-story, decade old Museo Del Juguete Antiguo (Antique Toy Museum) aka MUJAM with his ever-curious and professional collector father in the Colonia Doctores neighborhood. A stylistically unremarkable structure in the thick of this middle class eclectic cluster of cantinas, mechanics garages, and a hospital, most of the streets are named after famous physicians and many of the initial Street Artists who painted his parking lot and roof have also gone on to make names for themselves.
With a few hundred thousand toys carefully arranged in “toy environments” customized from industrial machinery and unusual found items, these surreal scenes may move animatronically or glitter under rotating lights – or get pinched and refracted through specialized viewers. If you are not high on something, there will be no need to do so before entering the meandering homemade and hand-loved MUJAM. Just unbutton your childhood imagination and you’ll find complete display cases of original illustrations and figures of Mexican comedic character Cantinflas, or an arrangement of stuffed bunnies dancing erotically, or a colorful parade of luchador dolls with Shimizu-customized fashions that play with proportions and sometimes reverse their genders – getting married to each other.
The beyond eclectic collection, estimated at only 5% of the total 60-year collection that has been hand-archived and warehoused, is only enhanced by large paintings by ROA or M-City that have graced the walls outside and the 75 or so intermediate and medium sized murals sprinkled through rooms, hallways, pillars, ceilings, stairwells throughout the museum, including a by-invitation-only rooftop gallery.
The younger Shimizu (and new father) weaves in and out of neighborhood streets with us in his truck the same way he navigates the museum, brooding and swerving and pulling aside to hold forth with bits of historical fanfare and numerical details, peppered by behind-the-scenes stories of intrigue and dalliances – all set off by his own striped and checked slim-waisted sartorial selections that effect an elegant carnival barker, a sixties mod rocker, or the mysteriously aloof millionaire in a family board game.
Aligned with more commercial partners in the past when bringing appreciable Street Art names to Mexico City, Roberto says he prefers the organically grown festivals and exhibitions that have taken root in a few cities to the brand-flogging lifestyle-delivering “influencers” who are Snap-chatting their way through a Street Art tour. His own public/private collection of walls that he has organized over the last decade or so is rather impossible to categorize stylistically, veering from the cartoon to folkloric, photorealistic to abstract, magical-mystical to wildstyle bubbles.
With all these participants it is a come-one-come-all collection that reminds you of the vast reenactment of a circus that is under glass on the second floor, a menagerie of strongmen, tigers, lions, bearded ladies, and assorted crowds of various configurations lined up on the periphery of the big show.
In a gated, if worn but serene, community of two story ranch houses built in the 1960s and 70s, the painter Saner has his studio and home. He meets you at the ornate iron gate to his concrete patio and invites you in while speaking on his phone to see the sun-sharpened shapes inside, a personal welcome replete with mask-painted characters interacting on the dining room wall, two large sculptural facsimiles of him and his wife and bright back deck.
A meteorically-rising yet not flashy spirit on the Street Art circuit, Saner is enjoying steady success with a carefully selected path of public walls, gallery shows and even museum representation in the last decade. Sitting in the small front living room while his beige retriever and muse chews through a basket of dog toys and vies for his masters attention, you can see that Saner’s art world accomplishments haven’t distracted him from a grounded view of Mexican socio-political history, his deep love for its people, and his almost mystical, darkly emotional storytelling.
In his studio you see his latest sketchbook that he is slowly building page-by-page with details of figures overlapping and radiating and sometimes dancing in warlike poses among the fern and fauna. His crossed-arm stance while leaning on his worktable tells you that he’s waiting for your ideas to help propel the conversation, partially because he is shy, partially as a challenge. A graffiti writer here during the explosive 1990s scene on the streets and trained as a graphic designer, his identity as a Mexican painter became more important to him as he grew older and he began to be less concerned with emulating European or American visual and cultural language.
You look at the hand-illustrations of figures and costume, weaponry, instruments, flowers, feathers, and wild animals, and you realize that any of these could be the paintings you have seen on walls in neighborhoods and canvasses in galleries – suddenly perhaps a little awed to be in this artists sacred studio space. Then the talk turns to his dog and his recent travels across the world and you know that its just one guys’ greatness, that’s all.
The thick air is thumping with a live-performance of a 1980s Judas Priest song by the house band in a musical instrument store across the street here in the crowded old central district of the city at lunchtime. With French doors flung open over your head from the second floor, a cloud of green aerosol envelopes the body of Street Artist Elian and creates a silhouette as he coats an organic form carved from wood on the worktable before him. The shape will join others mounted on a wall next week in Toba Gallery as a smaller 3-D interpretation of his abstract compositions that he sprays across massive walls on buildings and even parking garages for festivals and private clients across Europe, the US, Russia, and his native Argentina.
In this raw colonial former home with chipping paint and rusted hinges, the rooms serve as studios for a number of artists who pass by the small news stand with lottery-tickets and cigarettes before jogging up the central steps that are lit by an open sky. Also readying for the 3-artist show called “Deforme¨ are two Street Art brothers from the scene who have often painted in the same city with him, JAZ and Ever Siempre. Together the three are pushing their creativity beyond the work they are each known for in murals at festivals, each saying they are a little tired of the way the organic and illegal Street Art scene morphed into legal and often approved murals, even though they appreciate being paid by these events that are partially funded by municipalities or commercial interests. A symbol of mobility and fraternidad in the scene, local Street Art/graffiti artist Smithe, who is loaning the studio space to the artists as they prepare, also owns Toba.
Speaking of galleries, the Celaya brothers have begun a number of commercial enterprises and spaces in the last half-decade, looking for the right formula for capitalizing on the Street Art zeitgeist and partnering with corporate brands. Not far from an enormous mural by the London-based D*Face, their most recent contemporary art gallery in Colonia Roma Norte was featuring a solo show “Trompe L’oeil” by the Italian born, Berlin-based Street Artist/ fine artist Agostino Iacurci as he adds a third dimension to his ornately synthetic forms and sophisticated bright palette. Curated by Vittorio Parisi, the room is spare, the sculptures pleasantly innocent, and slyly humorous.
The metro train system in Mexico City, like many aspects of public life over the last two decades, is a faded shade of its previous zeal. It may also be the damage from a large earthquake three months earlier that shook this city, which adds to a feeling of insecurity as you navigate the swarming crowds and watch packed trains pull away while you wait your turn to board. You may also get a bit forcefully pick-pocketed in the middle of the day on one of these trains, as did your author, so you may favor zippers inside your clothing the next time you return.
Hearkening back to the lack of public services in New York’s when it was fiscally broke in the 70s and 80s and Street Artists Keith Haring wrote freely on empty ad-spaces in the subway, it felt a little like the spirit of the Street Artist appeared unexpectedly in front of us while we waited for our next underground connection in this magic city. A swath of colorful characters jumping every which way across the full cars, the familiarly active Haring symbols of figures herked and jerked into place while the cars went through a series of starts and sudden stops. The riders slid back and forth, clutching their straphangers, and we quickly fumbled for a shot of this Mexico City train covered with the welcoming sight of a New York Street Artist who sparkled at the dawn of the go-go portion of the 80s, soon taken in the sadness of the AIDS-panic portion that struck the city.
Undoubtedly, the Street Art and graffiti scene continue to expand and morph into other scenes and venues – many now inside. For some, this is anathema to the true spirit of the mark-making practice that first took root in unsanctioned acts in illegal places, often in open defiance of accepted norms. For others, this route indoors only strengthens the appeal of voices that are now speaking inside the organizational structures we build, and it is remarkable to see such a diverse and lively number of examples throughout this doorway to Latin America aided by very gracious and friendly Mexican hosts at every stop we made.
Below are more images and video from the Antique Toy Museum, MUJAM – Mexico City
This week BSA is in Mexico City in collaboration with Urban Nation Museum of Urban Contemporary Art (UN) to see what is steering the scene on the street, meet artists, visit artist compounds, museums, galleries, and studios – and of course to capture the wild and dynamic Street Art and graffiti scene here. Where Mexico City goes in art and culture makes big waves elsewhere in Latin America, and its Street Art scene has been quickly evolving in the last decade. Join us as we investigate the character and players in this modern/traditional city of more than 21 million people.
In a cacophonous neighborhood in downtown Mexico City that sells musical instruments and equipment the second floor verandas are emitting an aerosol fragrance, a cloud of lime green to mix in the air. Some how it mixes well with the honking cars and roaring live rock and roll concert across the street in a musical equipment store where they are performing covers of 80s metal bands like Mötley Crüe and Judas Priest.
Each of the artists say they are taking a little break from the work they normally do to experiment for their upcoming show at Toba Gallery here at the beginning of December.
The year-old gallery is owned by a local Street Art celebrity named Smithe, who still pursues his own art career while choosing artists from his peers to show at this location in el Centro de la ciudad.
“I want to build these kinds of objects and to create a dialogue with the space by changing the focus of attention by placing them around the gallery,” Elian says, pointing to imaginary spots in the air above and punctuating with his pointed index finger.
“Sort of like tick-tick-tick, like acupuncture needles, and I will mount all these pieces try to mix with the pieces of the guys.”
The guys are Franco “JAZ” Fasoli and Nicolas “EVER” Romero, who each have their own small room in this artists’ studio enclave that is sort of hidden, requiring you to look carefully for an entrance hall behind a lottery ticket vendors signage on the street.
All three have often travelled and work together with a fourth Argentinian named Pastel in festivals and exhibitions over the past half decade, and these three consider this a happy reunion to work again with one another.
Nicolas “EVER” Romero is next door sitting cross-legged on the floor trying to balance a chunk of raw meat inside a papaya, accented by a jalepeno pepper. Around him are various tropical fruits and everyday vegetables teetering upon each other and bottles of sugary sodas.
He says his newest still-lifes are mixing traditional subject matter with pieces of modern life to draw attention to the contrasts and as a critique of the commercialized consumer culture that is eroding our connection with history.
“I feel like Mexico has the combination of ancient roots like the Mayan and Incan culture,” he says, “and their culture of cultivation of fruits and vegetables edit is in huge contrast with the modern world.” He blames a lot of the commercial junk food that has come into the country on the neighbor to the north, the United States.
“You can go to this store chain called Oxxo, like the 7-Eleven of Mexico, and you can see what the Mexican People are being offered to eat,” he explains.
“Basically they have tacos and tortillas and basically shitty food like Lays or Bimbo – super unhealthy foods.”
“That, for me, is a metaphor for Mexico. This super amazing strong food history and then you have this stuff – for me working with these real foods is part of the description for what is happening in Mexico today.”
The still-lifes are a departure for EVER from his figurative work as well, and he is enjoying concentrating on craft in this way.
Free from the large walls and magic surrealism of his street murals, he says he can also hide his identity in this kind of painting that is a respected practiced thought to help artists “warm” their hands.
Another figurative painter known for his muscular strong characters and people, JAZ is taking a few steps back from realism to abstract. His studio features a large pile of ripped papers that he is gluing onto a sketch on brown paper.
The sketch comes from a digital collage on his laptop. He says he needed to separate himself from direct painting by creating a multi-step process like this. “I am kind of forcing myself into more abstract in a very artificial way because if I try to do it by myself.”
The 10 meter long fragile piece will hang from wires in the gallery and it reminds you that he was a sceneographer before he was know for graffiti or Street Art.
The finished rolls feature figures running with backs to the viewer in a jumbled, violent chaos of hooligans in the street. Strung overhead across the ceiling is a colorful fiesta decor, denoting a sarcastic overlay to the lawlessness. It’s contrast he enjoys.
“This is a typical hooliganism that happens in South America but I also mixed up with this idea of a party or a celebration so I’m going to have these decorative streamers papers hanging from above,” he says. “It may be difficult to understand because it looks like it’s a party but at the same time there’s this clashing and it is in a sort of carnival environment in a formal way – it’s more of scene in a cinematic way.”
Having lived in Europe for the last couple of years, JAZ talks about his home town of Buenos Aires and his new ability to have perspective on some corrupt behavior and social structures that he has been examining.
“Argentinian hooliganism is also a very strong political force,” he says. “It is not just about the activities related to the sport, it’s the mafia. It is 100% connected with politicians and drugs and crime all under one roof or protection of the sport.”
“It is a very social tool used for manipulation… extortion. It is very integrated into our society you can talk with any of us three Argentinians and talk about how deep inside our society it is. I do a kind of x-ray of how the society works by looking into just that particular segment of society.”
With Mexico City considered as a doorway to the Americas, it is interesting to note that these three Street Artists all express a certain admiration and solidarity with Mexico and are very familiar with the cultural traditions, heros and artifacts of the history and society; a pronounced departure from the neighbor to the north.
It is good to see again the maturation and evolution of these thirty-something artists as they dare themselves to try new techniques in pursuit of an art practice apart Street Art, and to witness the network of support that they create for each other regardless of their stylistic differences.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening :
1. PROCESS: BSA Raw Video with Tres Gauchos Elian, JAZ, Ever Siempre
2. “See Her” by Ann Lewis
3. The Grifters. RAGE DFS
4. Yoko Ono: Imagine Peace
BSA Special Feature: PROCESS: BSA Raw Video with Tres Gauchos Elian, JAZ, Ever Siempre
The process of making art in the studio is a privilege to see and be a part of. This week in Mexico City we have been invited into that sacred space where three Street Artists from Argentina are working in rooms of an old building in the central part of the city as they prepare for an upcoming show.
Here are a few minutes of creativity in the moment as we watch Elian, Franco JAZ Fazoli, and Nicolas EVER Romero each work in mediums that they were not originally known for. Each is stretching themselves creatively- JAZ is working on ripped paper collage instead of sculpture or painting, Elian is creating extruded shapes and objects to hang rather than painting geometrics, and EVER is constructing “still lifes” to paint with oil on canvas instead of surreal figures.
“See Her” by Ann Lewis
Formerly GILF!, now Ann Lewis, the activist Street Artist and fine artist completed a mural called “See Here” this summer in Boston as part of the Now and There program. A compelling image raises awareness of women incarcerated and the route to inclusion in society and the many challenges that accompany that route. For our part, it is important to see her.
The Grifters. RAGE DFS
Commemorating 20 years of hitting up trains with RAGE, here is graffiti bombing as action movie, courtesy of Boris and the Grifters and RAGE DSF.
Yoko Ono: Imagine Peace
Every Christmas season we look forward to Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s “War is Over (If You Want It)” sign in Times Square. A few weeks ago we were fortunate to see in person Yoko’s latest project withCreative Time’s Pledges of Allegianceprogram. Here is a bit of video showing the flag flapping in the wind in Manhattan.
“I think it’s a real turning point as far as seeing three dimensional things,” says Street Artist and fine artist Ben Frost while hand painting text on the side of the large facsimiles of pharmaceutical boxes that he’s creating for the UN Art Mile. “I think sculptures and installations have been paving a way forward for Street Art.”
In fact sculpture and all manner of three dimensional installations as Street Art have been a part of the current century for sure, from the variety of lego and yarn artists to the soldiered steel tags of REVS and eco-bird houses of XAM and small little men made of wood by Stikman – among many others.
The traveling exhibition “Magic City” curated by Carlo McCormick and Ethel Seno that displays the wide range of works by todays’ interventionists now features a section devoted to sculpture including a selection of Street sculpture photography by Jaime Rojo.
Certainly when fine artists began joining the graffiti game they brought many additional techniques to the street, most of them applied to the surface of existing walls – stencils, wheat paste, rollers, for example.
Others have procured objects and attached them to the city; either creating new sculpture or replacing or adapting existing sculptures. For the public the experience may feel more intimate and evocative of the museum and gallery experience, encouraging one to regard the work from many perspectives. Naturally one would like to take selfies with them as well.
For the opening of UN this weekend, the Urban Nation Museum of Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin this week, a curated selection of artists working in such dimensions were invited to create substantial pieces – including video installation, mobile, interactive, the purely static. Enjoy the variety of works by Street Artists who are working today.
This is the third year for Northern Norway’s UPN Festival and this year it’s on an Island called Røst and includes a collection of artists eager to do site-specific and environmental works – one evolutionary development in the mural festivals that blossom throughout the world right now. BSA is proud to bring you images and interviews along with Urban Nation this year at UpNorth, where the seagulls never stop calling and the sun never goes down this time of year.
“We try to show a big spectrum of styles and have as much variation as possible,” says Gøran Moya.
Moya runs the UpNorth art festival with about 5 other people, he says. “Without these people this would not be possible.” This year Urban Nation from Berlin, including director Yasha Young, joined with the UpNorth team and co-curated the selections of artists as well.
BSA: How did this Street Art festival begin?
Gøran Moya: It began with getting Phlegm to paint a big mural in Bodø in 2013. The positive response to this made me think that it could be possible to extend this into something bigger. We have some great locations up here. Something different. So in 2015 the first UpNorth Festival was arranged in Sulitjelma, the second in 2016 was in Bodø, and this year in Røst.
BSA: How did you chose these artists this year for the festival? Gøran Moya: This year´s festival is curated together with Urban Nation Berlin. We are just trying to get artists that we think fit the surroundings, but not in an easy way; Something that brings a contrast.
More from Mr. Moya tomorrow but now lets look at the two interventions from artists JAZ and Dzia.
Franco Fasoli, or JAZ, has travelled to many cities over the last decade painting murals that often involve historical archtypes at war or readying for battle. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the early 80s, he says his studies in ceramic art have also been taking form in his mind and he will be doing more sculpture.
We have actually seen two of his sculptures in person over the last year: the emerging lower half of a military horse coming up through the floor at the Artmossphere Biennale in Moscow last September and again earlier in Berlin for his anamorphic multi-limbed wresters in the PM/10 show at Urban Nation with Instagrafite last June.
For UPN here in Røst we find JAZ painting a new stately equine image as well, and you can see his affinity for the depth and volume of form even in his wall murals.
BSA:This is an unique place for a mural festival – both because it is away from a major urban center and because the days are 24 hours long this time of year. How would you describe painting on this island this time of year? JAZ: The environment in Røst is great and it is like a surreal dream to paint there- such an amazing place to paint. The contact with the locals is kind of limited, but there was a lot of super good energy .
BSA:You have been doing murals for many festivals and towns for a while. How is your practice evolving today? JAZ: Right now I’m concentrating more on sculpture than before and I am working with new kinds of materials, new languages, pushing me away from the profile of only a muralist. I am interested in new views of my work, getting involved with institutions and using my background as a public artist to generate bridges between different art perspectives. The role of the “street artist” or “contemporary artist” is something that I don’t want to be too concerned with – I’m trying to not get fixed in either of them .
Another world traveller, artist Dzia didn’t have to fly too far from his native Antwerp to bring his geometrically influenced feathered friends to this Norwegian wall. With a masters in fine art from the Royal Academy, Dzia only joined the mural game half a decade ago and his active animal kingdom has brought him opportunities to work with big brands thanks to a commercially appealing technique.
Here in Røst the wood façade of this one-story barn building is a natural analogue to the aviary scene he adds, even with such porous material soaking up the pigments of his paint. Nearer the chopping waves of the sea, his illustrative COD fish forms adds color to a plainly white waterfront building.
He says he loved all the time spent here and the other artists and his hosts. “6 nights on the amazing island Røst, 115km above the pole circle and 100km from the city Bodø, Norway, all 24h daylight and a magic midnight sun!”
The Artmossphere Biennale jump-starts the debate for many about how to best present the work of Street Artists and organizers here in Moscow chose a broad selection of curators from across a spectrum of private, commercial, academic and civically-inspired perspectives to present a solid range of artists from the graffiti and Street Art world inside a formal hall.
To be clear, unless it is illegal and on the street, it is not graffiti nor Street Art. That is the prevailing opinion about these terms among experts and scholars of various stripes and it is one we’re comfortable with. But then there are the commercial and cultural influences of the art world and the design industries, with their power to reshape and loosen terms from their moorings. Probably because these associated art movements are happening and taking shape before our eyes and not ensconced in centuries of scholarship we can expect that we will continue to witness the morphing our language and terminologies, sometimes changing things in translation.
Definitions aside, when you think of more organic Street Art scenes which are always re-generating themselves in the run-down abandoned sectors of cities like Sao Paulo, New York, Melbourne, Paris, Mexico City, London, and Berlin, it is interesting to consider that this event takes place nearly on the grounds of the Kremlin under museum like security.
An international capital that ensures cleanly buffed walls within hours of the appearance of any unapproved Street Art or graffiti, Moscow also boasts a growing contingent of art collectors who are young enough to appreciate the cultural currency of this continuously mutating hybrid of graffiti, hip hop, DIY, muralism, and art-school headiness. The night clubs and fashionable kids here are fans of events like hip-hop and graffiti jams, sometimes presented as theater and other times as “learning workshops” and the like.
Plugging into this idea of street and youth culture is not a singular fascination – there is perhaps an association with the rebellious anti-authoritarian nature of unregulated art in the streets that fuels the interest of many. With graffiti and hip-hop culture adoption as a template, newer expressions of Street Art culture are attractive as well with high profile artists with rebel reputations are as familiar in name here as in many cities. New festivals and events sometimes leverage this renegade free-spirit currency for selling tourism and brands and real estate, but here there also appears to be an acute appreciation for its fine art expression – urban contemporary art.
MOSCOW’S MANEGE AND “DEGENERATE ART”
So ardent is the support for Artmossphere here that a combination of public and private endorsements and financial backing have brought it to be showcased in a place associated with high-culture and counter-culture known as the Moscow Manege (Мане́ж). The location somehow fits the rebellious spirit that launched these artists even if its appearance wouldn’t lead you to think that.
The 19th century neo-classical exhibition hall stands grandly adjacent to Red Square and was built as an indoor riding school large enough to house a battalion of 2,000 soldiers during the 1800s. It later became host to many art exhibitions in the 20th century including a famous avant-garde show in 1962 that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev famously derided as displaying ‘degenerate’ art.
One of the artists whose work was criticized, painter and sculptor Ernst Neizvestny, challenged the label defiantly and won accolades afterward during his five decade career that followed, including receiving many awards and his work being collected worldwide by museums. Russian President Vladimir Putin is quoted as calling him “a recognised master and one of the best contemporary sculptors”. In January of this year at the age of 90, Neizvestny’s return to Menage featured an extensive exhibition. He passed away August 9th (The Moscow Times), only weeks before Artmossphere opened.
In some kindred spirit many of these artists at Artmossphere have done actual illegal work on the streets around the world during their respective creative evolutions, and graffiti and Street Art as a practice have both at various times been demonized, derided, dismissed and labeled by critics in terms synonymous with “degenerate”.
A CLEAN CITY
“Moscow is mostly very clean,” says Artmossphere co-founder and Creative Director Sabine Chagina, who walks with guests during a sunny afternoon in a busy downtown area just after the opening. “But we do have some good graffiti crews,” she says as we round the corner from the famous Bolshoi Theater and soon pass Givenchy and Chanel and high-end luxury fashion stores. Shortly we see a mural nearby by French artist Nelio, who painted a lateral abstracted geometric, possibly cubist, piece on the side of a building here in 2013 as part of the LGZ Festival.
If there was graffiti here in Moscow, it was not on full display very readily in this part of town. In driving tours, rides on the extensive metro train system, and in street hikes across the city a visitor may find that much of the illegal street art and graffiti common to other global capitals is illusive due to a general distaste for it and a dedicated adherence to buffing it out quickly.
For a pedestrian tourist Moscow appears in many ways as fully contemporary and architecturally rich as any international world-class metropolis. One of the cleanest places you’ll visit, the metro is almost museum-like in some instances; the historic districts spotless, public fountains, famed statues of important historical figures. All is efficiently ordered and – a welcome surprise – most public space is free of advertisements interrupting your view and your thoughts.
Come to think of it, the sense of commercial-celebrity media saturation that is present in other cities doesn’t appear to permeate the artists psyche here at the Biennale – so there’s not much of the ironic Disney-Marilyn-supermodel-Kardashian-skewering of consumerism and shallowness in this exhibition that you may find in other Urban Art events.
Also, unlike a Street Art-splattered show in London for example that may rudely mock Queen Elizabeth or art in New York streets that present Donald Trump styled as a pile of poo and Hillary Clinton as Heath Ledger’s Joker, we didn’t see over-the-top Putin satires either. So personality politics don’t seem directly addressed in this milieu. According to some residents there was an outcropping of huge festival murals by Street Artists here just a few years ago but more recently they have been painted over with patriotic or other inspiring murals, while others have been claimed for commercial interests.
Starved for some gritty street scenes, it is all the more interesting to see the one live mural painting that we were able to catch – a 6-story red-lined op-art tag by the French graffiti writer L’Atlas. Far from Manege, placed opposite a cineplex in what appears to be a shopping mall situated far from the city’s historical and modern centers, our guide tells us half-jokingly that he is not sure that we are still in Moscow.
Here L’Atlas says that he has painted his bar-code-like and cryptic nom-de-plume with an assistant on a cherry picker for a few days and he says that no one has stopped to ask him about it, neither to comment or criticize. Actually one man early one morning returning home from a disco did engage him briefly, but it was difficult to tell what he was talking about as he may have had a few drinks.
This lack of public commentary is mainly notable because in other cities the comments from passersby can be so ubiquitous that artists deliberately wear stereo headphones to prevent interruption and to be more productive. Sometimes the headphones are not actually playing music.
This Street Art Biennale nonetheless is gaining a higher profile among Urban Art collectors and its associated art dealers and the opening and later auction reaches directly to this audience. Included this year with the primary “Invisible Walls” exhibition are satellite events in association with local RuArts Gallery, Tsekh Belogo at Winzavod, and the Optika Pavilion (No. 64) at VDNKh.
The opening night event itself is wide and welcoming, a mostly youthful and populist affair with celebratory speeches and loosely organized group photos and an open bar. Added together with a press conference, a live DJ, virtual reality headsets, interactive artworks, major private business sponsors, government grants, ministers of culture, gallerists, and quirkily fashionable art fans, this is a polished presentation of a global culture that is filtered through the wide lense of the street.
Perhaps because the exhibition hall is a cavernous rectangle with exposed beams on the ceiling and many of the constructed white walls that mimic vendor booths, it has the air of an art fair. There are thankfully no salespeople pacing back and forth watching your level of interest. People tend to cluster before installations and talk, laugh, share a story, pose for a selfie.
The theme seems very appropriately topical as geopolitical, trade-related, social, digital, and actual walls appear to be falling down rapidly today while the foundations of new ones are taking shape. Catalyzed perhaps by the concept and practices of so-called “globalization” – with its easy flow of capital and restricted flow of humans, we are all examining the walls that are shaping our lives.
With 60+ international artists working simultaneously throughout this massive hall, newly built walls are the imperative for displaying art, supporting it, dividing it. These are the visible ones. With so many players and countries represented here, one can only imagine that there are a number of invisible walls present as well.
The theme has opened countless interpretations in flat and sculptural ways, often expressed in the vernacular of fine art with arguable nods to mid-20th century modernists, folk art, fantasy, representational art, abstract, conceptual, computer/digital art, and good old traditional graffiti tagging. Effectively it appears that when Street Art and graffiti artists pass the precipice into a multi-disciplinary exhibition such as this, one can reframe Urban/Street as important tributaries to contemporary art – but will they re-direct the flow or be subsumed within it?
The work often can be so far removed from street practice that you don’t recognize it as related.
Aside from putting work up in contested public space without permission and under cover, an average visitor may not see a common thread. These works run aesthetic to the conceptual, painterly to the sculptural, pure joy and pure politics. But then, that is we began to see in the streets as well when the century turned to the 21st and art students in large numbers in cities like New York and London and Berlin skipped the gatekeepers, taking their art directly to the public.
Perhaps beneath the surface or just above it, there is a certain anarchistic defiance, a critique of social, economic, political issues, a healthy skepticism toward everyone and everything that reeks of hypocritical patriarchal power structures. Perhaps we’re just projecting.
Looking over the 60+ list of names, it may be striking to some that very few are people of color, especially in view of the origins of the graffiti scene. Similarly, the percentage of women represented is quite small. We are familiar with this observation about Urban Art in general today, and this show mirrors the European and American scene primarily, with notable exceptions such as Instagrafite’s home-based Brazilian crew of 4 artists. As only one such sampling of a wide and dispersed scene, it is not perhaps fair to judge it by artists race, gender, or background, but while we speak of invisible walls it is worth keeping our eyes on as this “scene” is adopted into galleries, museums, and private collections.
Following are some of the artists on view at Artmossphere:
Certainly Moscow native ASKE is gently mocking our mutated modern practices of communicating with his outsized blocked abstraction of a close couple riveted to their respective electronic devices, even unaware of one another.
Warsaw based NeSpoon creates a sculpture of another couple. Heroically presenting her vision of what she calls the iconic “Graffiti Writer” and “Street Art Girl”, they face the future with art instruments in hand ready to make their respective marks. She says her work is emblematic of a permanent financial insecurity for a generation she calls the “PRECARIAT”.
“ ‘Precariat’ is the name of the new emerging social class,” says curator, organizer, and NeSpoon’s partner Marcin Rutkiewicz when talking about the piece during the press conference. “These are young people living without a predictable future, without good jobs, without social security. It’s a class in the making and probably these people don’t have any consciousness or global unity of interest. But they are the engines of protest for people all over the world – like Occupy Wall Street, Gezi Park in Turkey, or the Arab Spring.”
The artist developed the sculpture specifically for this exhibition and planned it over the course of a year or so. Born of a social movement in Poland by the same name, the sculpture and its sticker campaign on the street represent “a kind of protest against building walls between people who are under the same economical and social situation all over the world,” says Rutkiewicz.
Artist Li-Hill says his piece “Guns, Germs, and Steel” directly relates to the divisions between civilizations due to a completely uneven playing field perpetuated through generations. Inspired by the 1997 trans-disciplinary non-fiction book by Jared Diamond, Li-Hill says the Russian sculptural group called “The Horse Tamers” represents mankind’s “ability to harness power of the natural world and to be able to manipulate it for its advantage.”
“The horse is one of the largest signifiers and is a catalyst for advancement in society because it has been for military use, for agriculture, for transportation,” he says. “It was the most versatile of the animals and the most powerful.” Here he painted a mirror image, balanced over a potential microbial disaster symbol, and he and the team are building a mirrored floor to “give it this kind of infinite emblem status.”
Afloat in the middle of some of these walled areas M-City from Poland is choosing to be more direct thematically in his three dimensional installation of plywood, plaster, aerosol and bucket paint, and machine blown insulation.
“It is an anti-war piece,” he says, and he speaks about the walls between nations and a losing battle of dominance that ensures everyone will be victim.”
“It’s kind of a monster who destroys arms,” he says of this temporary sculpture with a lording figure crushing tanks below.
“He is destroying the tanks but at the same time he is also a destroyer – so it’s a big circle. Nothing is positive that can come out of this. There is always someone bigger.” He says the piece is inspired by the political situations in Europe today and the world at large.
Minneapolis based HOTTEA usually does very colorful yarn installations transforming a huge public space, but for Artmossphere he is taking the conceptual route. The walk-in room based on the Whack-A-Mole game presents holes which a visitor can walk under and rise above.
Visitors/participants will experience the physical separation of space, and perhaps contemplate facing one another and interacting or ignoring one another. It is something he says he hopes will draw attention to how many walls we have allowed ourselves to distract from human interactions.
Englands’ Sick Boy calls his project The Rewards System, where guests are invited to climb a ladder over a brick wall and descend down a slide into a darkened house, setting off a series of sensors that activate a variety of multisensory lights and tantalizing patterns. After landing and being rewarded the visitor is forced to exit on hands and knees through a too-small square door.
“The concept of the show is about invisible walls so I was thinking about there being barriers in your life and I thought about the reward of endorphins one experiences for achieving a task – a small amount of endorphins. So I thought I would build a house that signifies the reward system,” he explains.
Atlanta/Seattle based Derek Bruno reached back to the Leonid Brezhnev years and into Moscow’s Gorky Park for his series of site specific installations based on Soviet Cement Fence type PO-2. The iconic fence was re-created in a nearby studio and Bruno shot photographs of his 10-15 minute “interventions” in the park itself, revisiting a field of design called “technical aesthetics.”
In a statement Bruno explains “Since the end of the Soviet Union, the iconic fence has become a persistent and ever present reminder of former delineations of space; while new forms of boundaries shape the digital and sociopolitical landscapes. “
Remi Rough is known for his smartly soaring abstract geometry in painted murals and smaller scale works, and for Moscow he wanted to strip it back to the basics, approaching a white box with one undulating graphic composition.
“My idea was that Moscow’s a bit ‘over the top’,” he says, and he decided to strip back the audacity and go for simplicity, which actually takes courage.
“I said ‘you know what?’ – I want to do something with the cheapest materials you can possibly get. These two pieces literally cost 3000 rubles ($50). It’s made of felt, it’s like a lambs wool. I think they use it for flooring for construction.” Depending on the angle, the pink blotted material may translate as a swath of otherworldly terrain or a metaphorical bold vision with all the hot air let out.
“I wanted to do something peaceful and calming and use natural materials – something that’s different from what I usually do – but I use the folds in the fabric and the pink color – two things that I usually use a lot.”
Moscow’s Alexey Luka is also challenging himself to stretch creatively by taking his wall collage installations of found wood and converting them into free-standing sculptures.
“For this biennale I tried to make something different so now I am going from the assemblages to 3-D.” The constructed media is warm and ordered, reserved but not without whimsy.
“My work is made from found wood – I use it with what I found on the street and my shapes and my graphics – so it’s kind of an experiment with three dimensions,” and he confirms that most of this wood is sourced here in Moscow.
We ask him about the number of eyes that peer out from his installation. Perhaps these eyes are those of Muscovites? “They are just like observers,” he says.
Torino’s Mimmo recreated the Moscow Olympic Village from the 1980 games in miniature presented as on a plainly brutalist platform. The sculpture is austere in detail on the hulking towers save for the tiny graffiti tags, throwies, rollers, extinguisher tags, and the like at the bases and on the roofs.
Curator Christian Omodeo tells us that Mimmo recreated the massive village based on his direct study of the site as it stands today; a housing project that has hundreds of families — and a hip-hop / graffiti scene as well.
It is striking that the scale reduces the impact of the graffiti – yet when experienced at eye-level it retains a potency. Even so, by recasting the relationship between viewer and mark-making, this graffiti actually seems “cute” because of its relative size to the viewer.
Brad Downey and Alexander Petrelli hi-jacked the opening of the Biennale by circulating within the exhibit as a gallery with artworks for sale. With Downey performing as a street-huckster pushing his own art products, Mr. Patrelli showcased new Downey photo collages and drawings inside his mobile “Overcoat Gallery”
A charming Moscow art star / gallerist / performance artist, Mr. Patrelli is also a perennial character at openings and events in the city, by one account having appeared at 460 or so events since 1992 with his flashing overcoat. The artworks also feature Patrelli, completing a self-referential meta cycle that continued to circle the guests at the exhibition.
International artists participating in the Artmossphere Biennale 2016 include: Akacorleone, Alex Senna, Brad Downey, Chu (Doma), Orilo (Doma), Claudio Ethos, Demsky, Christopher Derek Bruno, Filippo Minelli, Finok, Galo, Gola Hundun, Hot Tea, Jaz, Jessie and Katey, Johannes Mundinger, L’Atlas, LiHill, LX One, M-city, TC, Mario Mankey, Martha Cooper, Miss Van, Nespoon, Millo, Pablo Benzo, Pastel, Paulo Ito, Proembrion, Remed, Remi Rough, Rub Kandy, Run, Sepe, Sickboy, Smash 137, Sozyone Gonsales, SpY, The London Police, Trek Matthews, Wes 21.
This week BSA is in Moscow with you and Urban Nation for Artmossphere 2016, the 2nd Street Art Biennale, a group exposition introducing 26 Russian and 42 foreign artists who were shaped by street art in some way. Also present are international curators, museums and galleries who have significantly intersected with urban art in recent years.
Artmossphere co-founder and curator Sabina Chagina pulled off a second edition of this biennale last night in Moscow – not an easy feat. But with 11 curators and nearly 70 artists from here and around the world, the multi-discipline show unveiled on time and was well attended – with a steady stream of curious fans coming through the space today as well.
With the air of an art fair (minus the sales associates and plus the soaring arched windows) and work often so far removed from street practice that you may refer to it simply as Urban Contemporary, there is a palpable enthusiasm and curiosity here about what this “movement” might be bringing.
Most if not all of the international artists have intersected with illegal Street Art in cities around the world and this work has often evolved from the practice. Perhaps beneath the surface or just above it, there is a certain defiance and a critique of social, economic, political issues and systems.
Elsewhere the presentation is primarily aesthetic, very muted or so similar to previous mid-20th-century art schools as to appear separate from what one may recognize as the urban art of the last two decades. Similarly, the inclusion of graffiti is only occasional and is presented as part of the greater whole today rather than its genesis role.
Adding together a press conference, a Moscow superstar DJ, virtual reality headsets, interactive displays (otherwise known as selfie-with-art opportunities), major private business sponsors, cultural ministers, government grants, and official accreditation, this is a professional and polished presentation of a global culture that has filtered through the lense of the street.
Here are a few select shots to give you an idea of the feeling during the opening of Artmossphere 2.
Brad Downey and Alexander Petrelli performed Brad’s huckster mobile art-selling installation on the floor of the bienalle, where Brad used his laser-like sales skills to sell his own work. Mr. Patrelli is known for his unannounced appearances at Moscow openings wearing his “Overcoat Gallery”. This was reportedly his 461st such appearance since 1992 and his flashing overcoat contained original Brad Downey artworks for your perusal.
Murals hold their own place onstage in public space today for a variety of reasons that we discuss regularly on BSA. From grassroots and public, to private and corporate, we have watched the genre professionalize as Street Art festivals and other initiatives are often coupling artists with brands and are selling canvasses through the organizers galleries. Today we have the first of a promised four-part book series by Art Whino gallerist and organizer of the Richmond Mural Project in Virginia, Shane Pomajambo, that features many artists he has worked with in the brand new “The Art of the Mural”.
Shane Pomajambo The Art of The Mural Volume 01 Foreword by Carlo McCormick. Schiffer Publishing. 2016
Featuring more than fifty current graffiti/Street Artists, the survey pays special attention to the show-stopping eye candy that commands attention for these nomadic painters who are developing their craft before an ever larger and more appreciative international audience.
Culture critic and curator Carlo McCormick, who writes the introduction to the Schiffer published hardcover, notes that this mural renaissance is quite unlike the US government funded New Deal era mural programs that produced “hundreds of thousands of murals for schools, hospitals, post offices, housing projects, and various government facilities”. And he’s right, these are emanating from a different place entirely.
Antony Lister. Shane Pomajambo The Art of The Mural Volume 01 Foreword by Carlo McCormick. Schiffer Publishing. 2016
The world-traveling media-soaked artists, of which this collection is subset, have had vastly more exposure to corporations and branding perhaps than, say, arts institutions, and a sophisticated self-handling is often on display with artists ever more savvy in their choices of style and content.
A greater percentage are now entering into private collections, galleries, and museums thanks to unprecedented platforms for huge exposure on the Internet, and their public works are adding rich character and dialogue to our neighborhoods and public spaces.
Curiot. Shane Pomajambo The Art of The Mural Volume 01 Foreword by Carlo McCormick. Schiffer Publishing. 2016
With academia, art critics, and auction houses all grappling with the rightful place of these artists in contemporary art and society at large it will be instructive to know the history and their lineage, content, context, and patronage. One has to agree when McCormick says that all of these “are helpful for us to consider in looking at and understanding the artists’ walls of today.”
This collection of talent is strong, with many of the mid-large names that are at play in this generation of painters whom are primarily born in the 1970s and 80s. In their work is a cultural appreciation for modern graffiti history as they now channel it along with formal training, art history, advertising, and a multitude of media. With few exceptions, it’s a tight list of artists, the images are riveting (though uncredited to their photographers), and the brief introductions by Pomajambo contain just enough biographical information and artist’ quotes to ground the story and give it context.
“As with everything I do,” says the Queens, New York native Pomajambo, “I always question and observe, and as we reach critical mass with murals I felt compelled to create this project and capture a moment in time.”
Evoca 1. Shane Pomajambo The Art of The Mural Volume 01 Foreword by Carlo McCormick. Schiffer Publishing. 2016
Fintan Magee. Shane Pomajambo The Art of The Mural Volume 01 Foreword by Carlo McCormick. Schiffer Publishing. 2016
Miss Van. Shane Pomajambo The Art of The Mural Volume 01 Foreword by Carlo McCormick. Schiffer Publishing. 2016
MOMO. Shane Pomajambo The Art of The Mural Volume 01 Foreword by Carlo McCormick. Schiffer Publishing. 2016
Onur & Wes 21. Shane Pomajambo The Art of The Mural Volume 01 Foreword by Carlo McCormick. Schiffer Publishing. 2016
Telmo & Miel. Shane Pomajambo The Art of The Mural Volume 01 Foreword by Carlo McCormick. Schiffer Publishing. 2016
Tone (Robert Proch). Shane Pomajambo The Art of The Mural Volume 01 Foreword by Carlo McCormick. Schiffer Publishing. 2016
All photos of the spreads by Jaime Rojo
The Art of The Mural: Contemporary International Urban Art. Volume 01 by Shaen Pomajambo. Schiffer Publishing. Atglen, PA. USA.
They’ve been here since the 1950s, these silos for wheat and corn on the harbor of Catania on the east coast of the island of Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna. 28 meters tall and facing the Ionian Sea, they are now some of the largest canvasses in Italy by a small group of international and local Street Artists.
The “Art Silos” project includes works completed during an eight month installation begun in June 2015 as part of Festival “I-ART” organized by “Emergence”, thanks to Angelo Bacchelli, curated by Giuseppe Stagnitta. The artists taking part in the project were Okuda (Spain), ROSH333 (Spain), Microbo (Italy), BO130 (Italy), VladyArt (Italy), Danilo Bucchi (Italy) and the duo Interesni Kaxki (Ukraine), mostly all from the graffiti/Street Art world. A separately organized but related project on the harbor-facing row of eight silos was completed by one artist alone, the Lisbon-based Vhils.
The project’s completion at the turn of the year culminated in one of the largest Street Art/Graffiti artists’ collective shows in Italy held in the city’s main public gallery Palazzo Platamone, entitled “Codici Sorgenti” (Source Code), which was curated by Stefano S. Antonelli and Francesca Mezzano from Rome’s 999 Contemporary Gallery.
There is talk about the possibility that this exhibition of about 60 artists work will tour throughout Europe with its message of the historic roots of modern graffiti and Street Art along with many of its most impactful practitioners pushing into the contemporary art world.
According to Arianna Ascione in Artsblog.it, the gallery exhibition was “divided into three sections that tell the birth, interactive development and consecration of the (graffiti/street art) phenomenon” Indeed, the list contains works by 108, A One, Augustine Iacurci, Alexis Diaz, Alexone, Bo 130, Boris Tellegen (aka Delta), Brad Downey, C215, Clemens Behr, Conor Harrington, Crash, Delta 2, Dondi White, Doze Green, El Seed, Ericailcane, Eron, Escif, Evol, Faile, Feitakis, Gaia, Herbert Baglione, Horfee, Interesni Kazki, Invader, Jaz, Jeff Aerosol, Mark Jenkins, Jonone, JR, Judith Supine, Kool Poor, The Atlas, Lek & Sowat, Lucy McLauchlan, Matt Small, Maya Hayuk, Mensanger, Miss Van, Momo, Moneyless, Peeta, Rammellzee, Retna, Roa, Seth, Philippe Baudelocque, Sharp, Shepard Fairey, StenLex, Swoon, The London Police, Todd James,Toxic, and the aforementioned Vhils.
Ironically the genre-melting inclination of so-called “urban art” has eroded the silo mentality of many who follow these art forms as they become known, followed, collected, and exhibited; As a metaphor “Art Silos” may more accurately refer to the past and the dogmatic separation of genres such as graffiti, tattoo, illustration, ad jamming, and Street Art for example.
Although not strictly what you might call public art either, the scale of “Art Silos”, with its major artworks that typically may take years to be approved in large cities elsewhere, is an occurrence routinely happening in cities around the world.
For us this is one more example of the “New Muralism” that is enabling Street Artists to do major works in public spaces via non-traditional routes. On par with a public art works of other committee-approved sorts, this silo project was a private/public collaboration that made selections, secured funding and permissions from the harbor authorities, city figures, politicians and the manager of the silos themselves, according to VladyArt, who along with Microbo is one of the artists and a resident of Catania.
He says the size of the project and the power of the imagery combined with the process of watching them go up has drawn a lot of attention to the area lately. “The people here were amazed by our speed and the large scale operation. Catania had no large murals like this… this was the very first time for Sicily. They can be seen from far away and even from taking off from and landing at the airport – or coming by cruise line on the sea. It seems that nobody really paid that much attention to this spot before, and everyone is talking about it now.”
To understand why a project of this nature can happen so quickly these days, look no further than the location. As we have recounted numerous times, often these efforts are deliberately programmed to draw attention to economically challenged areas as a way of encouraging tourism and investment.
In fact VladyArt says that this historic region and city that dates back many centuries before Christ is having a very challenging time economically and socially and could use positive attention from a crowd that appreciates art. “Catania is somehow the most dynamic city of Sicily, because of its industrial and commercial features,” he says.
“Having said that, please be aware that the south of Italy is no way wealthy or an easy place, despite its beauty and lucky location in the sun. Almost the whole city is rough, I can name a many neighborhoods where this is the case.”
So it is all the more remarkable that a multi-artist iconic installation can happen here in Catania and people are exposed to a grassroots-fueled art scene that is currently galloping across the globe.
“Regular people around here don’t know much about the whole thing, street art and stuff,” says Vlady Art. “So, quite frankly they wouldn’t care much about Okuda, Vhils or Interesni. They never heard of them before and probably people will find hard to spell their names. They cannot catch the meaning or the purpose of this. They simply like what they see – they like this energy. They do get the ‘message’, the power of art.”