What the hell just happened? Has it been a year? Or has it been 10 years? Or just one long nightmare/daymare? Or has it been 10 years? Did we already ask that?
In March 2020 we awoke to a world that was transforming before all of our eyes, yet we felt so cut-off from it and each other. The first days seem so long ago as we mark the first anniversary of the pandemic. Still, the initial shock of those days resonates in our chests so strongly that we confidently talk about a collective global trauma that has indelibly marked a generation.
From Stockholm to Mexico City to Barcelona to Bethlehem to New York to LA, BSA brought you street art that was responding with fear, derision, critique, hope, and humor to the never-static, always evolving barrage of Covid news. Stuck inside and afraid to expose ourselves to each other, we New Yorkers became accustomed to experiencing the outdoors only through our windows, connecting with neighbors we’ve never met who were also banging pots and pans or clapping and waving and yelling.
We listened to ambulances screaming past our windows every half hour or so during those first weeks, imagining the torn families, the terrified fellow New Yorkers now being rushed to the hospital and separated from their loved ones without a goodbye, gasping for air. We wondered if we would be next.
When we did go to the streets, they were empty – or nearly. In New York this was unheard of. In this bustling, noisy metropolis, we experienced a daily disconcerting quiet. That is, until the killing of George Floyd by cops finally pushed the anger/anxiety into the streets all summer.
The deadly hotspot of New York quelled, but the fires of Covid spread west, grabbing communities who thought they would avoid impact. At the same time, local, state, and national leaders fumbled and argued or famously callously ignored the desperation of citizens, occasionally admirably filling the shoes they were elected to occupy, often misstepping through no fault of their own.
We have no particular wisdom to offer you today beyond the obvious; this pandemic laid bare inequity, social and racial and class fault-lines, the shredded social net, the effect of institutional negligence, the ravages of 40 years of corporate privatization, and the power of community rising to the occasion to be in service to one another in ways that made us all more than proud.
Here are some of our favorite Covid-themed street art pieces from over the last year, a mere sampling of the artistic responses. Interspersed we paste screenshots of the daily events (via Wikipedia) in 2020 that shaped our lives, and our society.
We mourn the losses of family and friends and the broken hearts and minds in all of our communities. And we still believe in the power of art to heal and the power of love to balance our asymmetries.
As NYC went on complete lock-down and New Yorkers were ordered to remain in their homes in complete isolation the city’s residents organically joined together in a collective 7:00 pm ritual in support to the first responders. To the nurses, doctors, paramedics, trash collectors, public transportation, police, fire fighters, supermarkets workers etc…with their services and sacrifices we, the residents of this megalopolis were able to keep out hopes for brighter days to come.
Video of four former presidents urging people to “roll up your sleeve and do your part” and get the vaccine.
Welcome to BSA Images of the Week. The first day of February brought New York a blizzard – a foot and a half of snow, complete with winds and drifts and buried cars. It drives everyone outside to experience the new world, especially kids, big and small.
I am a poem of blizzards trapped in snow; paralyzed in a city of 8 million snow-poems digging out of record wind-fuelled drifts of snow; trapped in the wintery vice of its wintery vice-like grip of treachery.
–Rupert The Red Nosed, “The Language of Snow”
And like kids, we too like to stomp through the snowy streets in big boots, looking for hidden missives and pieces of poems, delighted by the mysteries buried in this cold and windy town.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Carl J. Gabriel, Chris RWK, Dare2, Eye Sticker, George Floyd, HOACS, Jeremy Novy, Par, Praxis VGZ, Roachi, Skewville, Sticky, Viler, and Zexor.
In honor of the 50th
Anniversary of the Stonewall Inn uprising in the West Village in Manhattan, we
are giving the spotlight this Sunday to the many artworks that have been
created by dozens of artists from all over the world in the city over the past
weeks. Some of them are commissioned works and others are illegally placed on
the streets, regardless of who made them or under whose sponsorship they were
created or if they were placed illegally the important thing is to realize that
the struggle for recognition, acceptance, and justice didn’t just happen
because somebody was willing to give that to us.
It happened because a lot of people before us dared to challenged the establishment and fought to change the cultural norms, the laws in the books and ultimately the perception from the society at large. People suffered unspeakable evil and pain at the hands of unmoved gatekeepers and power brokers. People died rather than living a lie. People took to the streets to point fingers at those who stood silent when many others were dying and were deemed untouchable.
People marched to vociferate and yelled the truth and were arrested and marked undesirable. Many brothers and sisters who were much more courageous than we’ll ever be, defied a system that was designed to fail them and condemn them. Restless souls confronted our political, business, media and religious leaders right in their front yards with the truth and never backed down.
So we must pay homage to
them. We have what we have because of them. We owe it to them and we need to
understand that it was because of their vision, intelligence and fearless
actions that the majority began to understand that without them and their help
we would never get equal treatment. Equal rights. Equal opportunities.
So yes let’s celebrate,
dance and sing together but let’s feel the pain of those who can’t join in on
the celebrations because today still they are on the margins, hiding in the
shadows, being cast out from their families and communities and even killed and
tortured. Let’s remember that the job isn’t done, indeed far from it. Many
countries still have in their laws harsh punishment for those that don’t
conform to their established norms. Let’s keep the fight on, the light on, the
courage on, the voices loud and the minds open. Happy Pride.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street (or boardwalk), this time featuring Aloha, Buff Monster, David Puck, Divine, Fox Fisher, Homo Riot, IronClad, Jason Naylor, Joe Caslin, JPO, Meres One, Nomad Clan, Ori Carino, Royce Bannon, Sam Kirk, SAMO, SeeTf, and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.
From Tatyana about this piece: “Some of Us Did Not Die. We’re Still Here. – June Jordan, Black, bi-sexual, activist, poet and writer. .
Last fall I met with members of @griotcircle, a community of LGBTQ+ Black and brown elders for my residency with @nycchr. I got to speak with them about their lives and some things that came up were the challenges of being Black and gay in New York years ago, like having to travel in groups because queer folks would be attacked for walking alone. Or not being served at restaurants because they were also black. “
The private art curators behind the public ad takeover initiative “Art In Ad Places” have been inviting people whom they like to show their art and curate in their exclusive campaign with phone booths. Today we feature a selection curated by their friend The Dusty Rebel to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising which was happening here in New York streets in June 1969.
Right now the city is flooded with hundreds of thousands (more?) of LGBTQ tourists and thanks to artists who take over public spaces not all of the messages that will greet them will be corporations co-opting a grassroots rebellion. These sentiments are artist-to-viewer, person-to-person.
1. Giants Fans in Manhattan Streets (VIDEO)
2. “F*ck Art” at Museum of Sex
3. CASA DE EMPENO at Anonymous (Mexico City)
4. “Love & Hate” Group Show at Stolen Space (London)
5. CREEPY at Okazi Gallery (Berlin)
6. Chris Stain and H. Veng Smith at C.A.V.E. Gallery (Los Angeles)
7. Winter Group Show at White Walls Gallery (San Francisco)
8. Zes and Retna new show “Excavated Revelations”
9. German duo Herakut paint a mural at Big Art Labs (VIDEO)
Giants Fans in Manhattan Streets (VIDEO) Weeeeeeeee are the CHAMPEEEEENSSSS
Streets in Manhattan were bloated with about a million crazy football fans this week as the Superbowl-winning New York Giants had a parade and almost everybody skipped school and work to go see their heroes. Office workers literally dumped garbage cans of shredded paper out the window en masse while fans poured into the city from every direction, including nearby states, to roar as the players rode by. Some people were well behaved, but they were hard to see or hear because of all the hooligans raising holy hell. Here’s a video taste of it – some seriously funny sh*t. Watch out for unbridled testosterone fueled aggression, swear words and Giants inspired freestylin. NSFW, but okay for the street.
Click here to read our article and interviews with the curators and some of the artists.
CASA DE EMPENO at Anonymous (Mexico City)
In Mexico City Anonymous Gallery new group show “Casa de Empeño” opens today to the general public. Centered around the themes of a Pawn Shop the show includes internationally recognized Street Artists Judith supine. Maya Hayuk and Davil Ellis among others.
For further information regarding this show click here
“Love & Hate” Group Show at Stolen Space (London)
“Love & Hate” the new group show at Stolen Space Gallery in London opens today to the general public. With the participation of several Street Artists from different cities including: D*Face, Dan Witz, Miss Van, Ronzo, Toshi, Will Barras, Word To Mother, Jeff Soto and EINE among others.
“F*ck Art”, an undulating and adventurous group show by New York Street Artists opens its arms and legs to you at the Museum of Sex (MoSex) tomorrow and whether it’s the human powered penetrating bicycle or the glass bead encrusted dildo, it endeavors to satisfy.
Co-curated by Emilie Baltz (Creative Director) and Mark Snyder (Director of Exhibitions), the show selects 20 current Street Artists who have pushed notions of propriety into provocation on the street and it invites them to let it loose behind closed doors. Not that Miss Van needs anyone’s permission; her sensual role-playing painted ladies have been playfully preening on graff-piled walls and blue-boarded construction sites for much of the 2000s. Similarly the powerfully stenciled sirens by Street Artist AIKO have been bending over in high heels on walls all over the world with just a hint of the geishas from her native Japan for over a decade.
The “Fuck Bike #001”, a pedal operated plunging machine by William Thomas Porter and Andrew H. Shirley, has at its conceptual base an ode to the lengths a guy will go to reach his natural objective. The two artist met at a Black Label Bike Club event called “Ridin’ Dirty” in 2010 and later schemed together to make an entry for a bike-themed group show in Bushwick, Brooklyn that featured many Street Artists like DarkClouds, Ellis G., UFO, Noah Sparkes and Mikey 907. “I approached Tom with the idea of creating a kinetic bike sculpture which you could f*ck someone with,” remembers Mr. Shirley, “Tom is a very gifted artist and bike engineer, it took a few days for him to build our design.”
Visitors to the show are invited to mount the bike and take it for a spin. “This bike is more sculpture oriented, but still functions sexually. It’s also totally interactive,” explains Mr. Shirley, who has displayed the bike in cities in Europe and America, most recently at Art Basel in Miami in December. So the bike has gotten around and Shirley happily recounts stories of intimate encounters it has had with both genders. (See the very Not-Safe-For-Work film of the bike in action below.)
The street has certainly seen an increase of fairly graphic sex related Street Art in the last decade or so as people have become more comfortable with such themes and much of this show can often be seen throughout the city without the price of admission. Gay couple Bryan Raughton and Nathan Vincent have been putting large and small scaled paste-ups of sexually themed imagery as a Street Art duo called RTTP for about two years on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Short for “Reply To This Post”, the line-drawn torsos and spread eagles are all part of their collaborative Street Art project that explores the desires of men seeking men on Craigslist.
Describing the work, Vincent says it’s a process of lifting the mystery off of a just-below-the-radar Internet dating game – and pasting it on a lightpole. “Users post an ad with an image, title, and a short description of what they are looking for tonight. The photograph they post of themselves is drawn and titled with the ad’s title.” By putting these erotically based desires on the streets, Vincent thinks “they magnify those desires that often seem to live at the edges.” Says Raughton of the project, “We see it as an interesting way to take people private desires to the public street.”
In discussing the origins and underpinnings of a show like this, the co-curators reveal a more academic and sociological grounding than the prurient and salacious sauciness one might infer by a display of so much “F*ck Art”. We asked Baltz to give us a sense of the context for a Street Art driven sex show.
Brooklyn Street Art:What is your favorite part of curating a show like this? Emilie Baltz: Seeing the different interpretations and energy that each artist brings to their work is always the most interesting part of curating – with this topic, especially, it’s the fact that they are all pushing the limits of their medium by creating such provocative statements.
Brooklyn Street Art:While these pieces are behind closed doors available to a certain audience, Street Artists typically put their work out in the public. Do you think the work should change depending on the audience? Emilie Baltz: We don’t think it’s about changing the work, it’s about how the work changes the environment it lives in. Street art has a long history of revealing different perspectives on its surrounding environment and by placing this work in a museum it creates a certain energy and visual provocation that changes the relationship we traditionally have to the museum-going experience.
Brooklyn Street Art:Do you think there has been an increase in sex-related street art in recent years, and if so, why? Emilie Baltz: There definitely is an increase in sex-related conversations in recent years. It’s not that there is more content suddenly, it’s just that culture is actually ready to start talking about it now, rather than ignore it.
Brooklyn Street Art:We have noticed that themes of sex and sexuality are often quickly destroyed on the street, while other pieces remain for months. Is this a form of selective censorship by the public? Emilie Baltz: Street art is a dialogue. Its creation is about expression and commentary, and therefore can become a barometer of cultural consciousness (or unconsciousness). The intimate and emotional nature of sexual content can obviously elicit strong feelings in viewers, and, given that street art is an environmental medium, either you have to live with it or get rid of it. Sex walks a fine line between acceptance and rejection. Public response to this kind of art is potentially a mirror into how our society relates to the topic.
Brooklyn Street Art:What surprised you the most about putting this show together? Emilie Baltz: The enthusiasm from the public. People are genuinely excited to talk about sex in public space and it’s an incredible honor to be able to help facilitate that discussion.
A Street Art Occupation at the Museum of Sex in New York City, opens February 8 and will run through June 10, 2012.
Emilie Baltz, Co-Curator, Creative Director, F*CK ART
Mark Snyder, Co-Curator F*CK ART, Director of Exhibitions, Museum of Sex
Meghan Coleman and Alex Emmart of Might Tanaka Gallery in Brooklyn served as Chief Advisors.
A History of Queer Street Art opens for its month long engagement at Physical Goods
Gallery in the heart of Hollywood, CA on February 9th and will run through February 29th 2012. Originally curated and exhibited in San Francisco by SF based street artist Jeremy Novy, the exhibit is re-imagined and brought to Los Angeles by LA’s own Homo Riot.
A History of Queer Street Art, first presented in 2011 at the SOMArts Center in San Francisco, documents the work of queer and pro-queer street artists from around the world. Spanning more than two decades of work, the collection includes pieces by notable queer street artists as well as showcasing present day street activists.
At the heart of the History of Queer Street Art is a timeline of works collected by Novy which incorporates prints, stencils, stickers, photos, street pasters and even the gallery’s walls — creating a “street art experience” from a queer perspective. The Los Angeles version of the exhibition, produced by Homo Riot, will also feature new works by well-known European street artists like Paul Le Chien, Adrian & Shane, as well as American mainstays like Prvtdncr and Jilly Ballistic, and many other young and emerging queer street artists. Homo Riot has curated video presentations as well as art installations throughout the Hollywood gallery to further enhance the experience.
“It was important for me to bring this show to Los Angeles. Not only is LA one of the most
influential cities in the world when it comes to street art but historically, the city has been the site of many central movements in the struggle for LGBTQ equality. I hope this show will be seen as an important milestone in the queer artistic history of LA.”…Homo Riot
“It’s important to celebrate our history and to know the outstanding LGBT artists past and
present who are bold enough to express themselves in public. I hope this show inspires future artists to create art for the world to see,” Brian Meiler of Physical Goods Gallery.