It’s an annual event in Street Art and mural programs in New York for the last decade, The Welling Court Festival – now poised to be a victim of its own success. The original concept by a couple who ran Ad Hoc gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the neighborhood was full of working class and economically struggling families in a part of the city that had fallen into the margins. Suddenly it was full of color and imagination thanks to Garrison and Alison Buxton and their eclectic and widely dispersed cadre of local and international graffiti and Street Artists who spent one weekend out of the summer smashing walls side by side with community members in a cacophonous untamed way.
This year was no different, with families and children getting into the action, and relationships renewed between artists and admirers on a gorgeous New York summer weekend in June. But what is also evident is the invasion of developers and higher-rent homes and businesses being built. You’ve seen this movie before, and you know how it ends. Owners cash in, renters are priced out, and these walls will be commercial shortly – used to sell shampoo.
The connection between murals and gentrification? That debate continues, but for some, it’s a settled causational relationship. The question about what to do about it, if anything, is unsettled – and unsettling.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street (or boardwalk), this time featuring Caleb Neelon, Cey Adams, Depoe, Rene Gagnon, JCorp, Kimyon333, NYC Hooker, Peat Wolleager, Pinky Weber, Sara Erenthal, Caryn Cast, Joe Iurato, John Fekner, Never, Praxis, Queen Andrea, Hellbent, Bella Pharma, Color Eyes, and Hiss.
They used to run from the Vandal Squad in this
neighborhood. Now people pay to see their art here.
Through the expansive glass wall on the 6th floor you can look down Kent Avenue to see the spot where a monster pickup truck with a heavy chain tied around a FAILE prayer wheel almost jackknifed on the sidewalk, gave up and sped away. Not that many Brooklynites saw that event in the 2000s – nobody walked here and few people drove through Williamsburg then except truckers looking for street walking ladies wearing high heels and spandex. Oh, and a serial killer.
Now visitors buy tickets to see a circular colonnade of FAILE prayer wheels here at 25 Kent – including the real estate developers and Wall Street professionals who displaced the community of artists whose work made the neighborhood attractive and “edgy”.
Along with Street Artists in this exhibition like Shepard Fairey, Bast, Swoon, Invader, Aiko, Dan Witz, Katsu, 1UP, and Lister, the FAILE duo put completely illegal artworks on walls under cover of night and threat of arrest in this same neighborhood then – transforming it with many others who are not in this show into an open gallery of the streets, placing Williamsburg on the map as New Yorks’ epicenter of the newly emerging Street Art scene.
The Nature of Graffiti and Street Art
As graffiti and Street Art are migratory and necessarily elusive by nature, this story is only one chapter in a volume of history that serious academics are now reconstructing and analyzing. With each passing year and published white paper, the practices of 20th century public mark-making are being examined in greater detail for archiving and for posterity. Not surprisingly, institutions, patrons, collectors, and brands are increasingly interested in this story as well.
When it comes to the anarchic subculture of illegal
street art practice and its influence on society, there are non-stop ironies
sprayed en route from verboten to Vuitton, and street culture has supercharged
the imagination of the mainstream and high culture throughout history – that’s
where the best ideas come from sometimes. Many seminal artworks from “the
scene”, as it were, represent much more than what you are seeing at first
glance. As art and cultural critic Carlo McCormick has described the iconic
Shepard Fairey ‘Hope’ image in Art in
America, many graffiti and Street Art works saved are “not a
fleeting pop-culture sensation but simply the latest crossover hit in a long
line of underground classics.”
The wide-ranging survey that is Beyond the Streets makes sure that you know where the roots are, and who many of the pioneers were. It is impossible to tell a complete story that includes scenes as diverse as west coast Chicano muralism, hobo graffiti, hip-hop commercial design, NY downtown artivism, Japanese low/hi contemporary, skateboard, tattoo, early train writing and a current romance with muralism, but BTS at least gives a serious consideration to each and offers you the opportunity to look further into them.
With the help of photography documentation from people like Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant, Jim Prigoff, Lisa Kahane, Joe Conzo, John Fekner, Bill Daniel, Maripol, and Dash Snow, the crucial importance of this work provides needed interstitial and contextual information that enables myriad stories to be elucidated.
Exhaustive, no. Exhausting, possibly. Pace yourself.
spent my life surrounded by graffiti and Street Art,” says the shows’ director
Roger Gastman “and you could say that I have been obsessed with understanding
the culture, its origins, and its evolution. It’s incredible to me how far it
With 150 artists whose practices span five decades
and various (mainly) American subcultures displayed in a maze of new walls in
this 100,000 sf, two-floor exhibition, the Beyond the Streets senior curatorial
team includes Gastman, filmmaker/ graffiti historian Sacha Jenkins SHR, Juxtapoz
Editor in Chief Evan Pricco, and author/ graffiti historian / graffiti writer David
CHINO Villorente. Each curator brings core competencies and knowledge of the
graffiti scene (Gastman, Jenkins, Villorente) as it has evolved to include the
Street Art practice and an eventual move toward contemporary art (Pricco).
“It’s absolutely phenomenal,” says Villorente, who says his history as
a graffiti writer compounds the impact for him. “I was glad that the show was
coming to New York because I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I couldn’t have
imagined it – especially when I think back on when I was writing on the trains
and doing illegal graffiti. To have of show of this magnitude is really
“We started writing in ’68 and here we are, fifty-one years later,” says Mike 171 as he gestures toward himself and crew writer SJK 171 when talking about how they began and continued writing their tags on the street in New York City. “This is the history right here,” he says, and you know you are about to be schooled about the plain realities of early graffiti writing. At the opening, you witness each guy tagging in a large dusty window here and realize the love for writing never actually stops.
“We were expressing something that was inside of us,” says SJK 171. “The streets were like ours,” he tells you against a backdrop of their work, Cornbread’s work, and of images full of one color, single line monikers that set the stage for the more colorful, character-driven pieces and burners a decade later, transforming trains into a rolling aesthetic symphony by the mid 1970s.
One of the actual “whole car” writers of that period, Lee “LEE” Quinones, here recreates a “Soul Train” car side on a canvas that looks like it could easily wrap an actual MTA #2-line car that he used to slaughter with cans in the middle of the night at the train yard. When describing the new work he said he was intentionally keeping it simple – perhaps owing the style to his earlier practice.
“I think this is one of Lee’s most amazing pieces,” says Charlie Ahearn, the director of the seminal 1982 “Wild Style” film that Quinones stars in. Ahearn self-produced that film which became an important distillation of the merging of graffiti with hip-hop culture during a pivotal moment in the history of both. Now also a professor of Hip-Hop, art, design, and documentary film making at Pace University, Ahearn is familiar with many of the artists work here, many relationships reaching back decades. “I told Lee that I liked that it was a one-off, that he painted all the color straight off without the embellishment, texturing, and all that stuff.”
Charlie’s twin brother John Ahearn is represented here popping out from walls as well, his sculptures serving as authentic portraits of people you may easily have seen on New York streets over the last four decades. Casted directly on top of the people themselves in a technique he has perfected, the placement of the sculptures gives life to the space.
Star Writers, Immersive Environments, Foundations
The individual clusters of work and canvasses by 1970s-80s train painters like Futura, Crash, Lady Pink, Freedom, Carlos Mare, Blade, Haze, and Daze and next gen graphic painters like Doze Green and Rime are complemented by a number of so-called “immersive” spaces here like the Mission Schools’ Barry McGee storefront with smashed window, and the Australian Pop duo Dabs & Myla’s eye candy floral walls with thousands of artificial fauna created in collaboration with Amelia Posada.
The high-profile graphic activist Shepard Fairey’s 30 year career overview takes a large area and encompasses all elements of his street and studio practice, and Bill Barminski’s cardboard home is open for you to explore with a wry smile, remembering the security room installation he did at Banksy’s Dismaland a couple years earlier.
also treated to a full rolling wall of Craig Stecyk posters that brings you the
sun and surf of California skate culture, sculptures by Mr. Cartoon and Risk, a
kid-friendly illustrated room with crafting supplies for young fans on tables
from HuskMitNavn, and an astute freight train culture educational display by
writer/painter/sculptor Tim Conlon (complete with a mid-sized Southern Pacific freight
on train tracks he and friends built), prints/photos by historian Bill Daniel, and
original drawings by the man some call the King of Hobo Art, buZ blurr.
are a self portrait as predicated on a first Bozo Texino person and I kind of
changed the image around,” says Mr. blurr, a legendary figure in denim
overalls, as he patiently describes his classic tag image of a railway cowboy.
is a writer motif – the pipe smoke is going up and then it is trailing back to
signify movement as the train goes down the track,” he says. “I worked in the
train yards and my job was as a brakeman. I had a little free time so I started
making drawings. I made my first one on November 11, 1971,” he says as he
recalls the state of mind that he was in at the time as he began to tag
freights with the image and text that came to him clearly – and may have
perplexed other travellers.
came from a confused state. I was questioning everything. I was putting kind of
cryptic messages under my drawings. It was anybody’s guess as to its literal
interpretation. I addressed some of them up to specific people but whether they
saw them or responded to them, I wouldn’t have any idea.”
it’s shipped in the crate its 550 pounds,” says Conlon as he stands by the 3-foot
high freight car re-creation on tracks and ties that is
hit with a couple of wild and colorful graffiti burners. “Here I’m going to
show you something,” he says as he pulls back the roof to reveal the narrow
coffin interior in rusted red. “So I’m going to hide some beer in here during
the opening party. This is like the fifth one of these I’ve made,” and he proudly
confides that one lives in the house of Robert Downey Jr.
Digging Deep to Take Risks
to rest on laurels and previous formulas of success, the show keeps a freshness
by presenting known entities pushing themselves further and taking creative risks;
a reflection of that spirit of experimentation we have always prized on the
writer Earsnot from Irak crew, now known professionally as Kunle Martin, said
he had been making work for the gallery containing elements of graffiti, but
felt they were too “safe”.
“Then my friend Dan said ‘you should go back to doing drawings,’” he says as he stands before figurative canvasses in black and white on cardboard. “I said ‘I can’t! It’s too hard! But eventually I began working in my studio five days a week, and I made enough for a show.”
Reflective of the attitude of Gastman toward artists in the community, he told Martin that if he made enough of them, he could place them in this show. “I think he was happy to hear that I was in my studio working. He’s been very supportive of it.”
color-drenched graphic/photographic collage style is featured with plenty of
space in large frames from Chicago’s Pose, who says he is letting photography
and geometry lead him away from his previous pop collage style that may have reminded
many of Lichtenstein. His inspiration here comes from his research into early
photos of graffiti writers running from police “I was
obsessed with John Naars photos and I have usually Norman Mailer as in
inspiration. Some of these photo references are from the Philadelphia Inquirer,” he says.
New York’s Eric Haze also dares himself to take a new direction with three canvasses featuring a refracted piecing-together of imagery and memories of this city in monochrome. Based on black and white scenes of the city by photographer and NYC taxi driver Matt Weber, the scenes capture aspects that are culled from imagination and impression. The centerpiece canvas captures an iconic piece of the Williamsburg waterfront that has been removed in the last few years by developers; the signage of the old Domino Sugar factory by the Williamsburg Bridge.
Mr. Haze said he meant it as a gift and tribute to
his wife, actress and longtime resident of the neighborhood, Rosie Perez who
used to see it along Kent Avenue as a kid. “He’s not afraid to take risks. He’s not afraid to go in the
studio and express what’s inside of him. When he brought me to the studio, he
says, ‘I have a surprise for you’,” she remembers. “I saw the beginnings of the
Domino painting and I was stunned into silence and I got teary-eyed.”
An expanded version of the show that first mounted
in Los Angeles last year, the collection is focused a great deal on the
American history of graffiti with a balance of East/West coast graffiti history
– in a way that may remind you of 2011’s “Art in the Streets” at LA MoCA. That
makes sense, considering Gastman co-curated that show as well.
“It’s both a historical and current look at where
the culture went and where it started and how widespread it is,” says
co-curator Evan Pricco, who perhaps provides a lynchpin view toward the big
name Street Artists who continued to push expectations in the 2000’s on streets
and in commercial galleries around the world. “With the space spread over two
floors it has a way better curatorial sense. I also think it does compete with
museums because it shows that this kind of work is on the same level. You kind
of have to present it in a way that feels very institutional and archival.”
So is Beyond the Streets
a graffiti show or a Street Art show or a contemporary art show? For artist
Kenny Scharf, who first gained attention during the heyday of Downtown
Manhattan’s art scene that benefitted from an interlude where rents were dirt
cheap and Wall Street was on a cocaine high, there is no need to categorize
what kind of art this is.
“You know I never liked labels or titles anyway so
even back in the early 80s I was pegged like ‘oh you’re a graffiti artist,’” he
says. “People feel the need to title and label so I’ll
let them to continue to do that but I don’t fit into any of them and I don’t
want to. I want to fit into all of them and none of them.”
Streets opened June 21 and continues through the summer.
Martha Cooper’s work as exhibited at Beyond The Streets New York
Beyond The Streets NYC is now open in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to the general public and will run until August 2019. Click HERE for schedules, tickets and details.
Gastman’s Massive Graffiti and Street Art Show Arrives at Epicenter.
“I’m really excited to bring this show to New York,” says curator, graffiti historian and urban anthropologist Roger Gastman, “because the city plays such a pivotal role in the origin and evolution of the culture. The iconic images of covered subway cars made graffiti famous worldwide.”
He’s talking of course about “Beyond The Streets” the hybrid exhibition that he mounted in LA last year featuring the work of 150 who have proved to be pivotal to the evolution of a fifty year global people’s art movement that includes graffiti, street art, and urban contemporary art. Filling over 100,000 square feet of new space in Brooklyn, this two-floor cross-section survey will feature artworks by many of the same vandals, graffiti writers, Street Artists, and art activists who hit NYC streets, created dialogue with passersby, and were sometimes chased by the authorities. To see them showcased here is to recognize that there is not just one route to take – in fact there are many.
“We have an incredible roster of artists for New York,” Gastman tells us, “and a brand new space in Williamsburg that has a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline as our backdrop.” Notably the lineup includes artists whose work BSA has documented on the streets in this very same neighborhood over the past two decades, including Shepard Fairey, Faile, Swoon, Bast, Invader, Aiko, and others. Ironically the appearance of free-range Street Art in the neighborhood has been seriously diminished since that time.
The exhibition is one more verification that a significant portion of the scene is being widely recognized for its cultural contribution and value in the contemporary art canon – a significantly fluid scene fueled by discontent and a desire to short-circuit the established routes to audience appreciation. Like large survey shows elsewhere, the takeaway is the significant impact street culture and its tangential subcultures continues to have on the culture at large.
Gastman says the New York version of “Beyond The Streets” will take an
additional interest at the role of music and art activism on the street, along
with immersive installations, a tattoo parlor, a special Beastie Boys
installation with artifacts and ephemera, a new 30th Anniversary
Shepard Fairey project “Facing The Giant: 3 Decades of Dissent,” and large
scale works by Gorilla Girls, Futura, Cleon Peterson, and Takashi
More news coming on programming and events, but the important opening date to know right now is June 21st.
“All in all, it will make for a really special show this Summer,” says Gastman.
BEYOND THE STREETS TEAM
Curator: Roger Gastman
Co-Curators: Sacha Jenkins SHR, Evan Pricco, David CHINO Villorente
A-ONE, AIKO, Al Diaz, Alexis Ross, Alicia McCarthy, André Saraiva, Barry McGee, BAST, Beastie Boys, Bert Krak, Bill Barminski, Bill Daniel, BLADE, Broken Fingaz, Buddy Esquire, buZ blurr, Carlos Mare, Carl Weston, Cey Adams, C.R. Stecyk III, Charlie Ahearn, Chaz Bojórquez, Claudia Gold, Cleon Peterson, COCO 144, Conor Harrington, Corita Kent, Craig Costello, CRASH, DABSMYLA, Dan Witz, Dash Snow, DAZE, DEFER, Dennis Hopper, Dondi White, Doze Green, EARSNOT, Estevan Oriol, Fab 5 Freddy, FAILE, Faith XLVII, Felipe Pantone, FREEDOM, FUTURA 2000, Gajin Fujita, Glen E. Friedman, Gordon Matta-Clark, Guerrilla Girls, HAZE, Henry Chalfant, Herb Migdoll, Husk Mit Navn, INVADER, Jane Dickson, Jason REVOK, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jenny Holzer, Jim Prigoff, John Ahearn, John Fekner, John Tsombikos, Joe Conzo, José Parlá, KATS, KC Ortiz, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Kilroy Was Here, LADY PINK, LAZAR, LEE Quiñones, Lisa Kahane, MADSAKI, Maripol, Mark Gonzales, Mark Mothersbaugh, Martha Cooper, Matt Weber, Maya Hayuk, Michael Lawrence, MIKE 171, MISS 17, Mister CARTOON, Nina Chanel Abney, NOC 167, Pat Riot, Patrick Martinez, Paul Insect, POSE, PRAY, Rammellzee, Randall Harrington, RETNA, Richard Colman, Richard Hambleton, RIME, RISK, Ron English, Ruby Neri, SABER, Sam Friedman, SANESMITH, Sayre Gomez, Shepard Fairey, SJK 171, SLICK, SNAKE 1, SNIPE1, STAY HIGH 149, Stephen Powers, SWOON, Takashi Murakami, TAKI 183, TATS CRU, TENGAone, Tim Conlon, Timothy Curtis, Todd James, Trash Records, UGA, VHILS, and ZESER
The show is developed in partnership with Adidas and Perrier. Additional support provided by Modernica, Montana Colors, NPR, NTWRK, Twenty Five Kent and WNYC.
A non-stop full-voiced welcome fills the air of this factory loft space with stories and smoke and sports talk radio as you ascend steps from the truck-traffic cacophony of cold and rain on this Bushwick thoroughfare. For the next hour and a half, you are warmly surrounded by clothes racks and boxes and spray cans and multi-faceted anecdotes and impressions and fragments of memories that get shaken and sprayed and circled back to.
Here is a fond remembrance of something his mom or dad said from his childhood, an adroitly drawn quip about a curious gallerist, an excited discovery of new Super 8 footage of a mission with famed NYC graffiti writer Dondi in Japan to promote Wild Style. Elsewhere he recounts a meeting with Joe Strummer in a New York studio to share and record his own penned rap lyrics with The Clash, a trip to Berlin in ’85 with Keith Haring, a recent conversation with MODE2 who lives there now, a description of his personal misgivings about wearing his US military uniform into town while stationed at Yakuska Naval Base as a 20 year old.
An omnivore of ideas and initiatives and world cities, his march as a creative force of nature only gathers speed as he nears 40 years since first emerging from graffiti writing as a studio artist.
“1980 was the breakout year for us because we were all beginning to surface,” he says of the number of events that occurred that year and brought graffiti and street culture to a larger, more mainstream audience, and hopefully, a collector base. That was the year of the “Times Square Show” by Colab that introduced art and performance from the “Downtown” and “Uptown” scenes. It was also the year that Stefan Eins’ Fashion Moda gallery in the South Bronx had its first exhibition of graffiti art – Graffiti Art Success for America (GAS) – curated by artist John Matos (aka Crash), the show included work by graffiti culture artists such as Futura, Lady Pink, John Fekner, Disco 107, Fab Five Freddie, Futura, Kel 139th, Lee, Mitch 77, Nac 143, Noc 167, Stan 153, Tom McCutcheon, and Zephyr.
“We were all willing to come above ground and investigate what was happening,” he says. “That was also the year I did the ‘Break Car’,” he says of the uniquely abstract whole graffiti car he painted that set him apart stylistically from the NYC graffiti writing pack and was captured famously by photographer Martha Cooper. That car and that style would proved to be the Cold War inspired rocketship that launched Futura 2000 into a forty year exploration of the Cosmos.
Fast forward to April 2018 in Lille, France, and Futura toils and emerges with a new body of work incorporating his long-held love for the interconnectedness of the galaxy, the stars, and the planet.
“I’ve been a child of the planet since I was a kid,” he says as he recalls the impact of the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens and how it tapped into his innate desire for exploration. “Every nation had a pavilion,” he says, and suddenly you see his collection of miniature architectural wonders from around the world, all grouped together for an idealized cityscape.
“I’ve got Berlin, Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers, Roma, Peru (Easter Island), the Blue Mosque in Turkey, Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi,” he says. “I don’t have Taj Mahal, but I’ve been to it. I need that.”
“The 5 Elements” is the exhibition that opens this week at Urban Spree in Berlin and of course refers as well to the so-called “Five Elements of Hip-Hop”, of which graffiti is one. But he reserves this reference to a greater sweep, expressed in about an expansive show. “There’s a whole series on water, air, on fire,” he says, “It’s all at some point color coated for each element.” He also creates a series of circular canvasses hung in relation to each other to evoke the planetary system.
“I think they’re like 70 pieces, in terms of that I don’t think I’ve ever done anything this extensive,” he says.
But “The 5 Elements” is not a retrospective show, says Urban Spree founder and curator Pascal Feucher, who has been preparing the show with co-host Art Together. “On the contrary,” he writes, “Futura worked specifically on a large museum-style conceptual exhibition, tackling the ambitious theme of the Creation of the Universe, confronting himself to the cosmos, the planets, the infinitely small, the Big Bang and the fundamental elements, producing a corpus of works that becomes a path to the exploration of the universe as well as providing a backdoor into Futura’s internal galaxy.”
Coinciding with the show will be the release of a 128-page companion book titled “Futura, les 5 éléments” – certain to be sought after.
For the ever expansive graphic designer, clothing designer, wordsmith, musician, sneaker head, graffiti writer, abstract painter, photographer, the dots are all connected – and it always also connects to his roots.
“I like it when it’s a degree removed, yet connected – when you realize that the whole school – at least the whole New York City school, is vast,” he says. “It has touched a lot of people.”
Below are images of the 4 screen prints that will be released at the opening of “The 5 Elements”, based on the painting series “Pure”. Each 8-color screen print is hand-pulled by Dolly Demoratti (Mother Drucker/Urban Spree Studio), signed and numbered by Futura. The 50 x 50 cm prints are only sold as a limited edition of 100 sets.
Futura. Pure Earth. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)
Futura. Pure Air. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)
Futura. Pure Water. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)
Futura. Pure Fire. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)
“Anxiety is normal in an unjust society” says the new piece by Disordered in Welling Court, Queens, a working class neighborhood of New York where the latest Ad Hoc mural party was held a couple of weekends ago under the direction of Garrison Buxton. He started this festival with his former partner Alison Buxton nine years ago to create community here with a number of artists from across the graffiti/Street Art spectrum, and it has always been a great day to see families and kids interacting with artists on the street.
Anxiety rings true when the giveaways to business interests for nearly four decades under both dominant parties have gradually placed folks like these in this neighborhood constantly in fear of missing the rent, the grocery bill, the car payment, the cost of providing for their kids.
Some companies adore this dynamic exactly the way it is because when you are always feeling anxiety about losing your job and worried about paying the bills you won’t speak up to notify anyone when your boss is dumping poison in the river or placing his hand upon your seat. Imagine working so hard and getting paid so little that you are still relying on public assistance, as Walmart is known for now. Anxiety is normal for many today, and it is reflected in the art on the streets as well.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Cern, Caleb Neelon, Col Wallnuts, Damien Mitchell, Daze, Disordered, FKDL, Hellbent, JCBK, Joe Iurato, John Fekner, Lena McCarthy, LMNOPI, Maria Wore, Michel Velt, Never, NYC Hooker, Praxis, Queen Andrea, Robots Will Kill, Rubin415, Seeone, and Toofly.
Much art in the streets is often for aesthetics – whether figurative, representational, or abstract. With roots in graffiti and often influenced by advertising, political protest, and pop culture, you will always find text messages as well.
Whether small missives or massive billboards, direct or somewhat cryptic, many these days are in opposition to current political leaders or critiques of social, political, economic issues and systems. Others are just about love. Whether or not this collection is a true measure of the Vox Populi, it certainly can give you a meaningful survey of opinions on the streets.
Welcome to Sunday! This week we have a special edition of BSA Images of the Week; Dedicated to Nuart 2017.
Each year Nuart challenges itself as much as it challenges you, unwilling to fall into the beckoning arms of the ever more bodacious and titilating Street Art Festival siren that increasingly works the thoroughfare in cities globally, looking so enticing in your Saturday night drunken reverie but unable to string together complete sentences over pancakes and coffee in the morning. Not that these stencils, these tiles, these installations and projections will necessarily lead to a more thorough examination and evaluation of neoliberal economics, corporate hegemony, or the caveats of a generation of identity politics, but they might. At the very least the practice of weighing in on these and other topics in a public way, in an ardent or passive voice, means that the conversation can be sparked, possibly brought to its fullness. And you may be encouraged.
John Fekner, stalwart public artist since at least the Reagan Revolution, has finally personally had his say here on the streets and on the subconscious . We asked him to share his wisdom with us, to take the measure of the scene and the new voices and perspectives. Not surprisingly, Mr. Fekner shows why an active engaged mind and spirit is paramount to evolving your art practice, your participation in the public conversation.
“The potent vitality of the artists in this year’s ‘Rise Up’ Exhibition in Stavanger, Norway is striking, in its exploration, selection, and development of the ‘visual voice’ of street art and mural making in 2017. NuArt exists as a ‘community commune of communication’ for artists, writers, musicians and guest speakers with an enthusiastic and participatory audience,” John tells us.
“Personally, I see a little bit of myself mirrored in some of the works- in the process, but not in the unexpected end results. Heralding from various countries, this younger generation represent new beginnings for outdoor art that combine social concern, expressive beauty and hope, urgency and manifesto, for a new future that includes and engages everyone to experience.”
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring ± Maismenos ±, Ampparito, Bahia Shebab, Carrie Reichardt, Ian Strange, Igor Posonov, John Fekner, Ricky Lee Gordon, Slava Ptrk, and Vermibus.
See our conversation with Vermibus about his work here at Nuart below.
BSA: Can you tell us about your new piece and what it is about and how you are feeling about the progress? Vermibus: I brought two original pieces for the festival, both are part of one artwork that is the installation itself, and even if each artwork has its own personality they need from the rest of the room to express what I want to say with the installation.
The tunnels from Nuart Festival are huge and very interesting, so I thought I could use all this space to create an atmosphere instead of trying to fill the whole space with artworks or with a massive piece.
With this installation I want to bring to the viewer to its more hidden part of its personality, there where you don’t usually allow others to go in, where all the fears and traumas survive.
I want the viewer to have some intimacy with it’s inner self through my work.
The way the viewer will see my work is completely different from other occasions.
BSA: Can you give us your impressions of Nuart and Stavanger and the environment you are working in? Vermibus: It’s the first time that I participate in a festival, so for me everything is new, but I have the strong sensation that this place is special.
The whole team is friendly, incredibly talented, surprisingly humble and completely ready to help the artists to express themselves without limitations, it’s kind of a paradise.
The lineup is so well curated that I cannot be happier to participate around all this amazing artists.
Ricky Lee Gordon is painting a mural of Finnish transgender activist Sakris Kupila for the launch of the BRAVE campaign with Amnesty International, raising awareness of human rights defenders and their work all over the world.
In Stavanger, Norway the Nuart Festival, in all its firey activist rebellious street-smart community-powered glory, is well underway; a chain-reaction of events and actions that ignite throughout the streets, in the gallery halls, and in neglected margins of this seaside town. In our 10th year bringing you the art and ideas from Nuart, BSA is ecstatic to show you works in process right now, courtesy of photographer Tor Ståle Moen.
The news out of Nuart 2017 is splendiforous and we are feeling celebratorious. These irregularly formed adjectives are in good company with the mismatched yet harmoniously woven characters who together have again selected and summoned artists, academics, kooks and cultural workers to Stavanger for a September synergy of Street Art, public art, and myriad interventionist ideas. It is a highly particular hybrid germinated, conjured, emancipated perhaps, by the free-form and analytical mind of its Founder and Director Martyn Reed. While sowing Nuart seeds spectacularly on the shores of Aberdeen earlier this spring, it is here in Stavanger where the new ideas germinate, are nurtured and given latitude. It is also where the tortoises of conventional thinking are happily rolled onto their backs, little webbed feet waving. We’re pleased today on BSA to publish Martyn’s new manifesto in preparation for Nuart’s festival this autumn in Norway so one might better appreciate the ruminations behind and development of this year’s theme.
Nuart produces both temporary and long-term public artworks as well as facilitates dialogue and action between a global network of artists, academics, journalists and policy makers surrounding street art practice. Our core goal is to help redefine how we experience both contemporary and public art practice: to bring art out of museums, galleries and public institutions onto the city streets and to use emerging technologies, to activate a sense of public agency in the shaping of our cities.
Outside of Nuart Festival, our growing portfolio of projects represents an on-going art and education program that seeks to improve the conditions for, and skills to produce, new forms of public art both in Stavanger and further afield. For us, public spaces outside conventional arts venues offer one of the richest, most diverse and rewarding contexts in which this can happen.
Our work is guided by our belief in the capacity for the arts to positively change, enhance and inform the way we think about and interact with each other and the City.
The Real Power of Street Art
Nuart festival presents an annual paradigm of hybridity in global sanctioned and unsanctioned street art practice. Through a series of large and human scale public artworks, murals, performances, art tours, workshops, academic debates, education programs, film screenings and urban interventions, supported by a month long exhibition of installations, Nuart explores the convergence points between art, public space and the emergent technologies that are giving voice and agency to a new and more creative civilian identity, an identity that exists somewhere between citizen, artist and activist.
The real power of “street art” is being played out daily on walls, buildings, ad shelters and city squares the world over, and it’s now obvious that state institutions can neither contain nor adequately represent the fluidity of this transgressive new movement. As the rest of the world begins to accept the multiplicity of new public art genres, it is becoming more apparent, that street art resists both classification and containment. The question is, not how can this inherently public art movement be modified or replicated to fit within the confines of a civic institutional or gallery model, but how can the current model for contemporary art museums, galleries and formulaic public art programs, be re-examined to conform with the energy of this revolutionary new movement in visual art practice.
In the 1990’s, Situationist concepts developed by philosopher Guy Debord, surrounding the nature of “The City”, “Play” and the “Spectacle”, alongside sociologist Henri Lefebvre’s theories exploring the rights to shape our own public and mental space, came together to form an emergent adbusting “artivism”, which now forms the foundation of street art practice. Radical cultural geographer David Harvey has stated, “The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources, it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city”.
It is here, at the intersection between philosophy, geography, architecture, sociology, politics and urbanism, that Nuart situates itself, it exists as a critique of the colonization of everyday life by commodity and consumerism, whilst recognizing that one of the only radical responses left, is to jettison the hegemonic, discursive and gated institutional response to capitalism, and engage it directly where it breeds and infects the most, in our urban centers.
The challenge for a new and relevant public art isn’t to attempt to negate capitalisms neoliberal market logics with an ever more dominant liberal discourse, both are ultimately mired in a conflict that on the surface simply serves to feed the polarization and spectacle that we’re attempting to transcend. What we need is the active participation of citizens in the creation of their own holistically imagined environments, both physical and mental, a direct and collective response to space that leads to the shaping of place. A place in which the disengaged and passive citizens desired and ever more manipulated by market forces, are inspired to re-make themselves. Nuart proposes that the production of art in public spaces outside conventional arts venues offers the community, not only the most practical, but also the richest, most relevant and rewarding contexts in which this can happen.
It is in this “remaking” of self, this deep desire to engage with the world, to develop civic agency and purpose, that transcends identity, gender and class, and enables those locked out of the arts by a post-Adorno obscurant lexicon (eh?), that street art delivers. It offers an opportunity to reconnect, not only with art, but also with each other. Hundreds of people covering a vast swathe of demographics, from toddlers and single moms to refugees and property barons, on a street art tour conversing with each other, are testament to this.
We believe that when you want to challenge the powerful, you must change the story, it’s this DIY narrative embedded within street art practice, that forms the bonding agent for stronger social cohesion between citizens from a multiplicity of cultures, as our lead artist for 2017, Bahia Shehab will attest. It is this narrative, that is acting as the catalytic agent towards street art becoming a vehicle capable of generating changes in politics as well as urban consciousness.
The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from what kind of person we want to be. The transformation of urban space creates changes in urban life, the transformation of one, being bound to the transformation of the other. What social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies, art and aesthetic values we desire, are closely linked to the spaces we inhabit. The “banalization” of current city space, combined with the numbing effect of digital devices that guide us from A to B, have rendered us passive. Consumer cows sucking at the teat of capital trapped in a dichotomy between left and right, instead of right and wrong. And for the most, the hegemonic islands of sanitised cultural dissent we call Art Institutions, are either unable or uninterested, in engaging with the general public in any meaningful way.
In the early 2000’s, the evocative power of certain already existing and often crumbling industrial interzones, including that of Tou Scene, our main exhibition space, one that we were instrumental in establishing, gave rise to a new form of engagement with art in urban spaces that is only now being fully recognized and exploited. Street Art is at times of course co-opted and complicit with the “creative destruction” that the gentrification process engenders, but Capitalism’s continuous attempt to “instrumentalize” everything, including our relationship to art should be vigorously resisted. It is these “Stalker-esque” zones of poetic resistance, that initially gave shelter to one of the first truly democratic , non-hierarchical and anti-capitalist art forms, and unlike most cultural institutions, it is still, for the most, unafraid to voice this opinion, important in a time when even our art institutions are beginning to resemble houses of frenzied consumption. Street art exists to contest rather than bolster the prevailing status quo. As such, it is picking up as many enemies as friends within the field of public art.
By attempting to transform the city, street art attempts to transform life, and though by no means is all street art overtly political, it does, in it’s unsanctioned form at least, challenge norms and conventions regulating what is acceptable use of public space. In particular, it opposes commercial advertising’s dominion over urban surfaces, an area that Nuart are active in “taking over” throughout the year and in particular during the festival period. Our curating initiatives not only aim to encourage a re-evaluation of how we relate to our urban surroundings, but to also question our habitual modes of thinking and acting in those spaces. Street art is not just art using the streets as an artistic resource, but also an art that is questioning our habitual use of public space. Street art doesn’t simply take art out of the context of the museum, it does so whilst hacking spaces for art within our daily lives that encourage agency and direct participation from the public, “Everyone an artist” as Joseph Beuys would have it, and if it is accussed of being produced without academic rigour, we are reminded that he also asked, “Do we want a revolution without laughter?”.
Nuart’s programs are designed specifically to explore and silently challenge the mechanisms of power and politics in public space. Increasingly, we see the rights to the city falling into the hands of private and special interest groups, and yet, we have no real coherent opposition to the worst of it. The 20th Century was replete with radical Utopic manifestos calling for change, from Marinetti’s Futurist manifesto of 1909 to Murakami’s “Superflat” of 2000. Nuart’s annual academic symposium, Nuart Plus, acts as a platform for a resurgency in utopic thinking around both city development and public art practice, and whilst recognizing that street art is often co-opted and discredited by capital, it also recognises that even the most amateur work, is indispensable in stimulating debate and change in a Modern society that has developed bureaucracies resistant to seeing art, once more, as part of our everyday life.
As the Situationst graffiti scrawled on Parisian walls in 1968 stated, Beauty is in the streets, so Rise Up! and support those dedicated to unleashing one of the most powerful communicative practices known to mankind, there’s work for art to be done in the world amongst the living.
Martyn Reed, July 2017
Artists scheduled to participate in Nuart Festival 2017:
Ampparito (ES), Bahia Shehab (EG), Carrie Reichardt (UK), flyingleaps presents Derek Mawudoku (UK), Ian Strange (AU), John Fekner (US), Know Hope (IL), ±maismenos± (PT), Igor Ponosov (RU), Ricky Lee Gordon (ZA), Slava Ptrk (RU) and Vermibus (DE).
New York’s jewel of free theater in Central Park is actually trending on Twitter, believe it or not. The production of Julius Ceasar features a Trumpian-looking lead character and it has inflamed people who haven’t heard of Shakespeare – which means a large swath of pretty/handsome bobble heads on US TV. The cautionary story actually has referenced modern leaders in productions historically in theaters in recent years and as a rule. There is even a story about Orsen Wells directing a version with actors in Nazi uniforms in the 20s or 30s.
And in other polarized news, the planned protest (and performance piece) in front of the Houston-Bowery wall is still scheduled for this afternoon. Artists and organizers have been reaching out to tell us about the protest along with possible other demonstrations which have been kick-started by the controversial choice of artist David Choe by Goldman Arts to paint the wall. Rape, Rape Culture, the normalization of sexual abuse, predatory behavior and attitudes toward women, and related issues will be in the discussion due to Choe’s own involvement in a possible rape scenario by his own account and his subsequent muddy explanations about it. Choe’s public apology yesterday via Instagram may have altered the calculus slightly but the bigger issues still prevail and many opinions on social media still question Goldman’s silence on the topic. Meanwhile, the wall has pretty much been dissed completely.
Finally, the drama of the Welling Court mural festival, which we actually do not know any drama about and which brought all sorts of community murals to this Queens working class neighborhood for the 8th year last weekend. We got out there to shoot a number of the walls without the crowds for you this week, and here’s a selection below.
So here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring A Visual Bliss, ASVP, Below Key, Cey Adams, Crash, Daze, Dek 2 DX, Dennis McNett, Dirt Cobain, Eelco Virus, Eyez, EZO, Ghost Beard, I am Eelco, John Fekner, Jonny Bluze, LMNOPI, NYC Hooker, Patch Whisky, Queen Andrea, Ramiro Davaro-Comas, Rob Sharp, Sean 9 Lugo, and Toofly.
The annual Welling Court Community Festival in L.I.C. in Queens took place yesterday. BSA was there on Friday to photograph the completed walls while a bevy of enthusiastic artists were busy at work on their walls and getting ready for yesterday’s block party. We wanted to bring you Part I of our coverage of this year’s festival on this Sunday’s edition of BSA Images Of The Week. Sit tight, Part II will come later next week as we wait for a few artists to complete their walls.
The 7th year for this eclectic homegrown collecting of graffiti and Street Artists for communal mural-making has not diverged much from its original character. You are still entirely welcomed. There are no corporate sponsors or sales of T-Shirts or silly app-designer types striking poses or stroking beards or like, privileged like, verbally challenged, like, young professionals looking for like brunch? nearby? Er whatever.
Wellington Court still feels like real people, and hard working families, with plenty of kids and community and homemade foods. At least for now. Thanks to organizers Garrison and Alison Buxton for pulling this off once again.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Billy Mode, Cern, Chris Stain, Depoe, Drsc0, FKDL, Icy & Sot, John Fekner, LMNOPI, London Kaye, Myth, OX, REPO, Skewville, Stikman, Vlady, and Voxx.
Street Artist LMNOPI lends her voice to the growing calls for stores to boycott the world’s largest supplier of berries until they treat their employees fairly after being accused of abuses, among them child labor. Learn more about the worldwide boycott of Driscoll’s here.
A lot of people thought so, and the rise of commercial festivals and commissioned public/private mural programs probably brought more artists to more walls than in recent history. Judging from the In Box, 2016 is going to break more records. Enormous, polished, fully realized and presented, murals can hold a special role in a community and transform a neighborhood, even a city.
But they are not the “organic” Street Art that draws us into the dark in-between places in a city, or at its margins.
We keep our eyes open for the small, one-off, idiosyncratic, uncommissioned, weirdo work as well, as it can carry clues about the culture and reveal a sage or silly solo voice. It also just reinforces the feeling that the street is still home to an autonomous free-for-all of ideas and opinions and wandering passions. For us it is still fascinating to seek out and discover the one-of-a-kind small wheatpastes, stencils, sculptures, ad takeovers, collages, and aerosol sprayed pieces alongside the enormous and detailed paintings that take days to complete.
The main image above is from a vinyl subway advertisement that was high-jacked and we published it in February of this year on our Images of the Week posting. It’s small, personal, and very effective as you can see someone suspiciously similar to Batman is jumping out of the mouth of someone looking awfully similar to Hedwig of “Angry Inch” fame.
Of the 10,000 or so images photographer Jaime Rojo took in 2015, here are a selection 140+ of the best images from his travels through streets looking for unpermissioned and sanctioned art.
Brooklyn Street Art 2015 Images of the Year by Jaime Rojo
Brooklyn Street Art 2015 Images of the Year by Jaime Rojo includes the following artists;
365xlos43, Amanda Marie, Andreas Englund, Augustine Kofie, Bisser, Boijeot, Renauld, Bordaloli, Brittany, BunnyM, Case Maclaim, Casg, Cash4, CDRE, Clet, Cost, Curve, Dain, Dal East, Dan Budnik, Dan Witz, David Walker, DeeDee, Dennis McNett, Don Rimx, Ricardo Cabret, LNY, Alex Seel, Mata Ruda, Don’t Fret, Dot Dot Dot, ECB, El Mac, El Sol25, Ella & Pitr, Eric Simmons, Enest Zacharevic, Martha Cooper, Martin Whatson, Ever, Faile, Faith47, Findac, Futura, Gaia, Gilf!, Hanksy, Hellbent, Hot Tea, How & Nosm, Icy and Sot, Inti, Invader, Isaac Cordal, James Bullough, Janet Dickson, Jef Aerosol, Jilly Ballistic, Joe Iurato, John Fekner, Le Diamantaire, Li Hill, LMNOPI, London Kaye, Low Brow, Marina Capdevilla, Miss Van, Mr. Prvrt, Mr. Toll, Myth, Nafir, Nemos, Never Crew, Nick Walker, Nina Pandolofo, Old Broads, Oldy, Ollio, Os Gemeos, Owen Dippie, Paper Skaters, Pet Bird, Kashink, Smells, Cash4, PichiAvo, Pixel Pancho, QRST, ROA, Ron English, Rubin415, Saner, Sean 9 Lugo, Shai Dahan, Shepard Fairey, Sheryo & The Yok, Sinned, Sipros, Skewville, Slikor, Smells, Sweet Toof, Snowden, Edward Snowden, Andrew Tider, Jeff Greenspan, Specter, Stray Ones, Sweet Toof, Swil, Willow, Swoon, The Outings Project, Toney De Pew, Tristan Eaton, Various & Gould, Vermibus, Wane, Wk Interact