All posts tagged: Mexico City

BSA Greatest Hits of 2021

BSA Greatest Hits of 2021

When it comes to street art, murals, graffiti, and related events around the world last year, we were running to keep up.

You may have missed some of the people, thinkers, artists, projects, and community resources that we shared with BSA readers last year. We’re pleased to share with you some of those stories you may overlooked. Here are some of the greatest hits of 2021.

Barcelona Small Scale Street Works Popping Up in the Face of Development

Graffiti and street art are cyclical in many ways – reflective of society, urban planning, politics, current events, demographics… Currently the city of Barcelona is pushing hard on cleansing itself of the wild graffiti and street art that brought it so many tourists 15 years ago.


Capitol Trump Trials Through the Eyes of Political Cartoonists

Okay okay everybody settle down. We’ve got a lot of excited people yelling things and making huge pronouncements about things – most full of hysteria tinged with paranoiac visions. When it all gets to be too much for us, we like to see how cartoonists are capturing the current zeitgeist, and making something funny. It’s a talented group of artists who can condense complexity and extract the humorous essence of a situation. Also, so far our move toward the right, the far-right, and the fascist has not led us to have leaders that outlaw cartoons. Fingers crossed.


Swoon Gives Us All a Tour of “Seven Contemplations” at Albright Knox

It’s a pity that the pandemic has kept so many people away from seeing great exhibitions in museums and galleries, among other things. At the Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo, street artist Swoon’s “Seven Contemplations” ran its course without nearly as many visitors as you would expect.

So we decided to show you the exhibition in a mini-tour. Who else could be your host today but the artist herself, Swoon.


Street Art Says “Happy Inauguration” to Biden and Harris

The streets have been anticipating the arrival of the new president and vice president for a few months now. Today it took place and the U.S. has a 46th President – Joe Biden and 49th Vice President – Kamala Harris.

Pure poetry.


Chip Thomas: “Pandemic Chronicles” in Phoenix, AZ

Sometimes art in the streets can be like that – a reflection of your intellectual musings and your heart’s leanings. Because he has often taken a path less traveled, photographer / doctor / activist / organizer / producer / teacher Chip Thomas (aka Jetsonorama) seamlessly slips into and out of all of his roles. In this way, he may also appear as poet.


Street Art Recorded Protest and Pandemic in Real Time.

No More Normal is a semi-regular newsletter written by Jeff Stone on his substack. He recently interviewed us on the topic of activist street art and we’d like to share his article here.

In May 2020, Todd Lawrence and Heather Shirey were taking pictures of graffiti focused on the coronavirus in Minneapolis when a police officer killed George Floyd just a few blocks away.

The two cultural historians from the University of St. Thomas had recently started taking pictures of the murals, graffiti, stickers and tags throughout the Twin Cities in an effort to preserve that work during a once-in-a-century pandemic. Their archiving, though, took on a new level of urgency when a police officer murdered Floyd and footage of the killing went viral, sparking anti-racist demonstrations in Minneapolis and throughout the world. 


Said Dokins Says “This is Not the End of the World” in Mexico City

Checking in with Panteón Cultural Center in Mexico City, where we first took you when it was inaugurated in 2017, we find street artist/ fine artist Said Dokins participating in a large exhibition and a new mural for the storied interior. It’s reassuring to see “This is not the end of the world,” the title of the collective show featuring many Mexican artists in this venue that is refined and raw and at least in some ways community based – Not such a typical scene these days.


A Mural Jam and Censorship: Fighting for Freedom Of Expression In Barcelona – Part I

Freedom of expression is foundational in a democracy. Without it, it is not difficult for a culture to descend into authoritarianism, fascism, and dictatorship. By many standards, Spain’s democracy is still young, with a Parliamentary Monarchy since 1978. So it is curious and alarming to hear that this EU country has been silencing free speech in the last few years.


HotTea Faces Critics With Magnets in Minnesota

External critics may never be as brutal as your internal one – but graffiti and street art sometimes reveals a specifically vicious world of criticism that greets artists and writers. Imagine making friends with those critics and validating their position, and then moving on unscathed or even healed.

“Overall, the project is meant to inspire those who may take criticism to heart,” says street artist HOTTEA, and he means it as a form of sweet liberation, not a bitter one.


Ceramic Faile: A New Collection With StudioCromie in Grottaglie, Italy

Angelo Milano, the founder of Studiocromie and FAME Festival, has been courting Brooklyn artist duo Faile for more than a decade, and they finally created a series of ceramics together for his studio art business in Grottaglie under the tutelage and traditional expertise of the centuries-old Ceramiche Nicola Fasano’s workshop.

“Closed (In) for Inventory”: FKDL Makes the Most of His Confinement, 10 Items at a Time

The world is slowly making movements toward the door as if to go outside and begin living again in a manner to which we had been accustomed before COVID made many of us become shut-ins. Parisian street artist FKDL was no exception, afraid for his health. However, he does have a very attractively feathered nest, so he made the best of his time creating.

Women’s Murals Vandalized in Madrid, Newly Created in Barcelona

International Women’s Day is only controversial for those who feel threatened by the idea of equality and freedom.

Perhaps that’s why, according to current statistics, women continue to fight and protest against the gender wage gap in Spain, as well as against violence against women. The national female unemployment rate is 17.4%, compared to 13.8% for men.

BSA Writer’s Bench : “Graffiti Documenting and Divinity” by Jim Prigoff

Graffiti Documenting and Divinity

A writer once shared with me the following observation concerning the early documentation of modern graffiti, if stated in religious terms.

He said:

Henry Chalfant would be God. Martha Cooper would be the Virgin Mary. Jim Prigoff would be Jesus Christ, Jack Stewart the Holy Ghost.

Subway Art would be the Bible. Spraycan Art the New Testament.

I’m no savior, but I’m proud to have saved some incredible and iconic images of this culture while they were painted and to have met so many talented artists.

The Big Tiny World According To Sara Lynne-Leo

Sara Lynn-Leo. Well-placed, well-rendered, witty, insightful, incisive.

These are hallmarks of the miniature pieces of street art that New Yorker Sara Lynn-Leo has been putting up in many neighborhoods in alleyways, doors, dirty corners, magnet walls, street furniture, and lamp posts. Finding these offerings can be difficult. They may be tiny in size and often placed out of eye view.

“Aliens, That’s What They Called Them”- Molly Crabapple on the Streets

“I left all my memories in Syria, so there’s nothing left to take”.

“Husband works in construction. Husband salary depends on luck, waits on side of the street to get picked”.

“Prefer by land, but by sea if there’s no choice”.

“I have no dreams in Europe. I just want my husband to get a proper job, a proper life for my children”.

“I will bring nothing with me”.

“For sure, I’m nervous”.

INDECLINE Creates QAnon Easter Egg Hunts in DC Parks for a Surreal Holiday Prank

The era of fractured attention spans, heightened emotions, and ravaged hierarchical systems for ordering institutions, beliefs, and the truth is ripe for examination and dissection – even if it takes a looking glass to see it.

The anonymous art-activist thinkers at INDECLINE have spawned many interventions in the last decade in public space – intricate and smartly storied at times, obvious and deliberately provocative at others.

BSA Writer’s Bench : “Why Monuments?” by Carlo McCormick

Why Monuments?


Perhaps, caught up in the energy of street art and graffiti, we do not pay quite so much attention as we should to it being something we might otherwise call public art. Consider that public art as a form goes back through centuries of municipal planning and myriad private and public interests that are concerned with how community identity may be constructed and represented. It is shortsighted not to acknowledge how much of public art has long been about monuments.

Monumental Ransom: Curious Case Of “The Jefferson Davis Memorial Chair” in Selma, AL

This Friday, the anonymous artivists said they were set to return their ransomed confederate chair monument, “The Jefferson Davis Memorial Chair.” It was first reported missing from Live Oak Cemetery in Selma last month – an ornately carved stone chair dedicated in 1893 to the Confederate president’s memory and estimated to be worth $500,000.

California’s Augustine Kofie is in a New York “State of Mind” at Hashimoto

It really is primarily about your State of Mind, says LA-based painter Augustine Kofie about his battle with art and quarantine during this last year.

“The pandemic was a stop, an interruption, a loss of control,” he says – and points to the incomplete cycle symbols that appear throughout his new collection of paintings. Normal life, in its circular wending, was interrupted time and again, along with all our typical expectations.

Andreco: “Aula Verde” For Earth Day 2021 in Rome

Together with citizens, environmentalists and researchers, he’s created a work of Land Art here in Rome, and he calls the project Aula Verde.

“The work is alive, and over the years it will take shape and as it grows it will return innumerable benefits to the territory,” Andreco says, “currently it is studied by the researchers who are involved in the project, both for the purification of the water and the redevelopment of the surrounding greenery.”

Shepard Fairey in Dubai: A Mosaic Future and a Solo Show at Opera

Shots today from last month’s Shepard Fairey “Future Mosaic” at Dubai’s Opera Gallery. With works on canvas, paper, wood, and metal, as well as examples of iconic images and repeated motifs from the breadth of his art and design history, Fairey was very much present for his first solo show here. In a grueling schedule of just 9 days he also managed to install two huge murals facing a skate park in a commercial district of the city, the d3 (Dubai Design District).

“White people can’t be trusted with power,” from Dread Scott on the Street in Manhattan

Trust artist Dread Scott to perfect the provocative phrase that can raise the prickly ire of certain street passersby, simply and succinctly. And trust the self-elected censorious social media platforms like Instagram to actually ban it.

Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based Scott says, “White people can’t be trusted with power” in this new public artwork at 42nd near 10th Avenue in Manhattan. It may remind you of a Jenny Holzer “Truism” that she may have wheat-pasted on the street in the past, a pertinent pique that strikes at the heart of the matter, minus the sense of irony. But in the current context of white people’s reluctant awakening, Mr. Scott writes, “When this was originally posted, Instagram banned it as ‘hate speech.’ ”

“KAWS: What Party”. Need a Companion?

Highbrow art institutions have coalesced behind a small recurring collection of well-known graffiti/street artists in recent years, granting them a lot of space and a powerful entrée to blue-check media parties, blue-chip platforms, and blue blood collectors. The bigger (and frequently well-funded) names are often the easiest to explain to an unfamiliar general audience of art viewers and, of course, will appeal to that younger demographic everyone is after. It shouldn’t surprise anyone when even the New York City Ballet spawned a series of collaborations with street artists in the last five years to bolster flagging attendance due to aging and, well, dying fans.

BSA Writer’s Bench : “Street Art and Graffiti: The Role of Copyright” by Enrico Bonadio

Street Art and Graffiti:
The Role of Copyright


Artists are getting robbed. It is time to give them the legal tools they need. With this spirit, a few years ago, I started researching copyright aspects of street art and graffiti.

These artistic movements have been intriguing me for a while. Living for several years in the East London area of Shoreditch, where creativity has exploded and developed after the new millennium’s arrival, has certainly nurtured my curiosity towards these forms of art.

VERMIBUS: A Full “IMMERSION” into his Berlin UBahn NFTs, Complete with Glossary of Blockchain Terms

This project represents an innovative attempt to solve one of the biggest problems when exhibiting street art,” says Berlin-based street artist Vermibus, “- the lack of its original context.”

True, something about our previous curated exhibitions of street art – even our current show of Martha Cooper’s photography work at Urban Nation Museum here – loses the feeling of the street once it enters the museum doors.

“I truly believe this way of experiencing and conserving Street Art will be the inevitable future.”

Vermibus

Concreate Festival 2021 Launches in Finland

Concreate Urban Art Festival, held now for the second time, has clearly taken over Keran Hallit in Espoo, Finland. Keran Hallit is a huge former logistics center currently operating as a space for art, culture, sport, and other free-time activities. During the next few years, the halls will be demolished to make space for a new neighborhood.

Portraiture by Case Maclaim and Helen Bur in Madrid for Urvanity 2021

Frankfurt-based ultra-talent Case Maclaim is with the Urvanity Art Fair this week, and he has created a new mural in Madrid’s old, historical city center. His work is being shown by Brussells Ruby Gallery, along with that of street artists EverSiempre and Wasted Rita. Still, he just wanted to go big with a tribute to children’s imagination.

BSA Writer’s Bench: Igor Ponosov with Poetry, Philosophy, & Manifestos in Russian Streets

Russian Urban Art: Poetry, Philosophy, and Manifestos in the Streets


In the interest of defining specific areas of the study of Russian Urban Art, I’ll highlight here three main periods that I think are important in the development of these forms of urban art: the 1910s–20s, the 1990s, and the current era. From my perspective, each period was usually born during crisis and revolution, went dead after a few years, and then came to life slowly again. It was this circular pattern that I am trying to define in my recent book Russian Urban Art: History and Conflicts, but here I want the focus to be more specific.

Urvanity 2021: Highlights. A Selection Of Works From The Galleries

Madrid’s Art Week – who would believe that it could actually happen? And to prove it, we have the 5th Anniversary of Urvanity defiantly strutting from one end of the COAM headquarter to the other. Taking its original inspiration from graffiti, post-graffiti, surrealism, pop, and that broadly applied “Urban Contemporary” tag, Sergio and the Urvanity team have persevered this year again.

Josh Katz is “Mighty Real” in San Francisco with Glamorous Sylvester Portrait

A Superstar of the disco era long before people even heard of telling you their pronouns, this queen crossed over and back and even had bonafide dancefloor hits. How fitting that queer muralist Josh Katz painted this glamorous portrait to lift spirits in this city where day socializing and nightlife has been hamstrung by the pandemic, even shuttering some gold-plated legends in LGBTQ+ club history.

Katz says he is happy to bring Sylvester out into the street-life, a response to “what I see as a lack of LGBTQ representation in street art.” He promises that he’ll continue painting portraits to honor legacies and increase visibility.

My Dog Sighs “Inside”: A Hidden, Staged Exhibition in Portsmouth, UK

According to his descriptions of the artist’s new “Inside” installation in the UK’s only island city of Portsmouth (pronounced PORT-smith), there will be tours in this secret location – ever so because the atmospheric and theatrical work is not officially sanctioned and is staged in an abandoned building.

A Land of Mirrors for Pener: Bartek Świątecki Paints Hometown in Poland

25 years in the game, Pener routinely lets his mind travel to encompass possibilities, then channels them abstractly through a series of echoing geometric forms with aerosol and brush. Here in his hometown of Olsztyn, Poland, he says he imagined the possibilities that young minds inside an elementary school could contemplate.

Winston Tseng: Money Fixes Everything

On a recent sunny May day, we followed street artist Winston Tseng to document his new series of posters installed on three locations in Manhattan. The series is titled “Money Fixes Everything.”

The flat and colorful 2-D illustration style of street artist/graphic artist Winston Tseng doesn’t scream social inequity and cultural insanity the way other graphic styles may. The graphic language is the 2-D, flat, icon-based vernacular familiar to phones and applications, a neutral and familiar reduction to precisely convey the visual elements necessary to infer more is there. Brilliantly pared and exacting in composition, a close look allows the viewer to unpack Tseng’s specific brand of critique – perhaps causing you to crack a smile, or roll your eyes, shake your head.

Leon Keer Triggers Childhood Nostalgia with “Kit de Secours” in Plougasnou, France

Leon Keers is subversive, if that is the way your mind works. His mind-bending plays on real and surreal perspectives may lead you down a path of suspicion, for it appears that he is adept and agile when playing with perspective.

Vanguard | Bristol Street Art: The Evolution of a Global Movement. Installation Shots

You saw our announcement for the new exhibit At the Vanguard: Bristol Opens Exhibition On Evolution of Global Movement of Street Art and now you get a chance to see the actual shoe newly installed. Dense and rich with original artwork, photography, and ephemera, Vanguard is a studious presentation that confidently lays claim to Bristols place in the history of graffiti and street art.

Biancoshock’s Smashed Google “Street View” Car Sculpture in Corsica

For five years conceptual artists Biancoshock and Harmen de Hoop have been giving each other assignments as part of a common project that can range from titillating to amusing to incomprehensible.

As with so many works in public space by either of these two interpreters of societal nomenclature, these works field-test theories of the visual prank as much as they level observations or critiques of human behavior. With each installation, you are welcomed to examine one more of myriad modern idiosyncrasies – now placed in a new context. Your interpretation may vary.

Gola Hundun, Anthropic Space, Natural Space, and His Newest Installation in Milan

Italian land artist/street muralist Gola Hundun has divided his creative projects in the last few years into two distinct but related practices.

The first is to investigate buildings that are being reclaimed by nature and develop site-specific installations that work in harmony with the history of the relationship between architecture and nature. The second, of which we have an example for you today, is a mural installation on active buildings within cities, perhaps invoking a more integrated ecology of symbols and natural systems around it. These two lines of inquiry comprise his project “HABITAT”, a sincere stream of research that lies on the border between anthropic space and natural space

Motorefisico Bring Op, Kinetic, and Tape Art Stencilling to Santa Croce di Magliano

It’s impossible to imagine the contemporary built environment without considering the impact of street art and graffiti has had on not only city dwellers but our city’s designers and architects. While previous generations may have dismissed incorporating painting techniques beyond traditional frescoes or murals, the new generation considers it their birthright to bring modern art movement influences, including Optical Art, Kinetic Art, and straight-up tape art often used on the street.

Monkey Bird: “L’ouvreur de Chemins” Celebrates a Cathedral’s 800th in Spain

It’s not every day that you have an 800th anniversary.

Bringing monumental aesthetics, theologic references, and the language of classical architecture to this massive wall at Calle Fernán González, 52, the French duo MonkeyBird celebrates the Burgos Cathedral in grand style. Louis Boidron and Edouard Egea say they worked painstakingly to prepare their tribute to the original workers and artisans who first built the Gothic and Baroque-styled Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984.

Escif: “The Fences Must Fall”; A Provocative Ljubljana Street Art Festival

We’ve had the privilege to travel to many cities and cultures over the last decade and a half, from Russian to Chinese to North African to Tahitian and Norwegian, to witness the affecting power of street art on cities, communities, and everyday people. Regardless of the street author’s intent, however earnest or carefully considered, we’re often surprised by the variety of interpretations that can arise from a singular work of art or intervention.

MARUM Presents “MEXPANIA” and Miscegenation in Querétaro

Édgar Sánchez and Arcadi Poch may not simply be curators of the new initiative called Mexpania that merges the cultures of Mexico and Spain. They are social scientists, anthropologists, historians, and some may say, alchemists. With the inaugural installations of this auspicious project primarily created inside the entrance and with only 4 national/international artists, you may be curious how these foundational works will influence future curatorial choices for this ever-growing museum dedicated to urban art, or arte urbano.

Elfo’s Neo-Dada Butchering Diagram in Turin

Elfo’s furtive and artful wanderings can veer off into the neo-Dadaist fields at times, sometimes wittily so, and textually. The Italian graffiti writer and street artist uses the simplest of devices to capture attention, a reductive and deliberate strategy born of careful consideration girded by impulses to broadcast his view, to be seen and heard.

Bifido Quotes Keats for ArtAeroRap “Vaccine Edition 2021” in León, Spain

Italian street artist Bifido finishes this rough wall with the sweetest of sentiments here as summer draws ever nearer to its end. Quoting Keats, as romantics are wont to do, Bifido tells us his latest staged photo wheatpaste is transparent in its sentiment, opaque in his specific meaning.

“It is a hug, so it is something that can be shared,” he offers. “For this time I have nothing to say about this piece.”  Enough said.

Edoardo Tresoldi: A Reprise of “Sacral” for Ravenna

“An archetypal image”, Edoardo Tresoldi says, “is capable of creating a dialogue between past and present, using a language comprised of meanings that recur over time.”

M-City is Airborne with Szczecin Wars in Poland

“Szczecin before the Second World War was a German city,” says the street artist named M-City. Now it’s flying as a spaceship in his latest stencil mural here – in Poland.

NemO’s x Nicola Alessandrini Build a Grotesque, Stunning “Nest” in Italy

Ah, the feckless, sebaceous, inward-turned man; Bumbling through the world unaware and uncaring how his actions may impact the lives of others. Little does he know that the fire he starts will burn him as well.

Bifido: “Love Will Tear Us Apart” in Mostar, Bosnia Herzogovina

I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly it flaps out
Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.

Sylvia Plath

Street poet and street artist Bifido doesn’t mean to be morose, but here in Mostar he can’t help himself as he creates mirrored expressions of a sullen, ill-tempered youth on city streets. Part of the Bosnian /Herzegovinian street art festival named after this city of 113,000 Croats (48.4%), Bosniaks (44.1%), and Serbs (4.1%), the annual meeting of international and local artists produces a broad variety of artworks for the city.

Graffiti, Stencils, and Quickie Weddings: Dispatch From Asheville N.C.

“Are you the minister?”

“I am not that, sir,” he answered, “I’m the vacuumer.” Our short tour ends abruptly as the loud whir of the cleaning machine rises to meet the southern-fried rock classic on the sound system here at Fleetwood’s in Asheville, North Carolina. Ours, and his, is a quick sweep through this small city of 90,000 in the Blue Ridge Mountains known for its progressive ideas, punk squats, Thomas Wolfe, and a harmonious alliance between sanctioned murals, organic street art, and graffiti.

Losing BLU in Ljubljana, Slovenia

The brilliant illustrator of fantasy and firey allegory, BLU, championed the cause of the Rog Factory squat in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in 2016 with a centrally framed handgun in pink and red. In that heated moment the community of artists and activists had fended off developers, construction thugs, and even some kind of fascists attacking them or trying to chase them from the property.

LADY AIKO Does Her “Martha Cooper Remix” on the Façade of Urban Nation (UN)

We have some special events taking place this month to celebrate one complete year of the career-spanning exhibition “Martha Cooper: TAKING PICTURES”, which we created with the team at Urban Nation Museum in Berlin.

Today graffiti/street artist AIKO talks about her striking new graphic mural for the façade of the museum that highlights and interprets a suite of recognizable elements from Martha’s iconic photographs – a perfect answer to the Martha Remix section of the exhibition inside featuring 70 or so artists “remixing” her photos in their individual styles.

Mantra in Miami to Open “Metamorphōsis” at GGA

Half biologist, half street artist, all gentleman. The French painter Youri Cansell AKA Mantra opens his very first US solo show tonight at Goldman Global Arts (GGA) in Miami. In preparation for “Metamorphōsis,” the artist has been painting non-stop all summer at a temporary studio in Cancun.

“Peoples Discontent” Debuts with Video Greeting from Shepard / Martha Cooper Signed New Print at UN

BSA X UN X MARTHA COOPER X SHEPARD FAIREY

When we asked Shepard Fairey if he would be up for a new remix of a Martha Cooper photo for our exhibition celebrating her career, he quickly said yes. Not only did he create a new original piece of art based on one of her classic “Street Play” images to hang in the gallery of our “Marth Remix” section, but he and his excellent team have also produced a new print – 250 of which sold out in 20 minutes on the Urban Nation website last night.

Whitewashed: Gonzalo Borondo Buffs His Painting Inside an Exhibition in Turin

Borondo buffed his own work. It happens occasionally, not often.

Rarely inside an exhibition.

SpY: “Earth / Tierra” at Plaza de Colón in Madrid

SpY describes his new public art project “Earth,” as “a luminous red sphere caged inside a structure.” You may wonder what this structure made from building-site scaffolding represents, especially when he says “the sphere is caged within it”. Gaseous fumes? Global Oligarchs? Free-trade agreements? K-Pop fans? We asked him:

BSA: Is the earth the color red because it is on fire, in pain, in a state of emergency, or perhaps in love?

SpY: The red earth in a cage has different meanings. 

Faile at GGA with BSA – Miami Art Week Marches On

Get in, get out, no one gets hurt. Our few days in Miami were full of adventure on the street and at parties and receptions for artists. The party rages on tonight and this weekend at the fairs and in the galleries and bars and streets of course, but our last events were interviewing Faile onstage at Wynwood Walls last night, going to the Museum of Graffiti 2nd Anniversary party/opening for FUZI, and, well there was this thing with Shepard Fairey and Major Lazer and a guy proposing marriage to his girl before the crowd…

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Said Dokins Says “This is Not the End of the World” in Mexico City

Said Dokins Says “This is Not the End of the World” in Mexico City

Checking in with Panteón Cultural Center in Mexico City, where we first took you when it was inaugurated in 2017, we find street artist/ fine artist Said Dokins participating in a large exhibition and a new mural for the storied interior. It’s reassuring to see “This is not the end of the world,” the title of the collective show featuring many Mexican artists in this venue that is refined and raw and at least in some ways community based – Not such a typical scene these days.

Said Dokins. “Winter Language”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)

Here in this grizzled colonial complex that deliberately preserves its unfinished character, you can now see the expansive use of Dokins poetry within the stylized calligraffiti, sacred circular wreaths, and dynamic diagonals racing across fresh canvasses and battered walls of this historic property lying in the middle of the oldest, crusty colonial part of CDMX.

Said Dokins. “Winter Language”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)

In collaboration with Gama Gallery, the artist also creates his mural Winter Language (video at bottom), into which he “decided to place some writings, ideas, and poems that came into my mind about the difficult times we’re living in, where uncertainty lurks, and the hope of a new cycle still permeates some of us.”

Said Dokins. “Winter Language”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)

It’s been a rough winter in Mexico City. The pandemic pushes people apart, and a fractured national response to it lead to many illnesses, with many family members left behind, many futures newly uncertain. When the travails are so harsh, is there any wonder that many of us are now turning to poetry, philosophy, and the comfort of religious traditions?

“This winter in Mexico, between the sounds of ambulances, desperate messages looking for oxygen,” Said says, only compounded the dystopia, along with the “psychological numbness before the tragedy and the fiction of individual good sense; while criticizing our neighbors, getting angry with different groups, society, or the government. We are leaving behind family, friends, and people that we love.” The words march and fall in lines through our heads and crosswise on these walls.

Said Dokins. “Winter Language”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)
Said Dokins. “Winter Language”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)
Said Dokins. “Winter Language”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)
Said Dokins. “Winter Language”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)
Said Dokins. “Winter Language”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)
Said Dokins. “Winter Language”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)
Said Dokins. “Winter Language”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)
Said Dokins. “This Is Not The End Of The World”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)
Said Dokins. “This Is Not The End Of The World”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)
Said Dokins. “This Is Not The End Of The World”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (photo © Leonardo Luna)
Said Dokins. “Winter Language”. Panteón Cultural Center. Mexico City. (video by Guli)


THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD
Panteón Cultural Center
Donceles 64, Centro Histórico, Mexico City.
Book an appointment at: infopanteonmx@gmail.com

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Magda Cwik : A Vibrating Chakra in the Key of C in Mexico City

Magda Cwik : A Vibrating Chakra in the Key of C in Mexico City

Finding an inner sense of balance when living in the chaotic city is not easy, and you’ll have to be determined to achieve it after you’ve been pushed and pinched and insulted and assaulted – just on the way to work, or even the corner deli.

Traffic, construction, muffled train announcements, blaring radios, and boisterous conversations between Bernice and Brandon and Betty and Bernardo batter you from the time you leave your apartment until you arrive bedraggled and exhausted.

Magda Cwik. Vibraising – Root Chakra. After Hours Project. Mexico City. January 2020. (photo courtesy of After Hours Project)

For Polish muralist Magda Cwik, the pursuit of balance begins on a high note – and travels through your musical chakras. Here in the in Juárez neighborhood of Mexico City she has been painting a series of eight murals which she intends to assist urban dwellers to live in balance – including via their ears.

Magda Cwik. Vibraising – Root Chakra. After Hours Project. Mexico City. January 2020. (photo courtesy of After Hours Project)

“I combined specific colors, images, music and intentions to rise up vibrations of people on the street,” she tells us of a campaign she calls “Vibraising”. “The wall focuses on reactivation and connection with Mother Earth and grounding,” she says, and she includes a QR attached to the wall for you to scan and listen to music that corresponds to her desire to help you rebalance.

“How often do we walk with our bare feet to connect with Earth? Do we live in harmony with Her?” she asks. “Earth provides us with everything we need to sustain us if we live in balance. By connecting with Nature we can heal ourselves, and listen to the teachings of our ancestors.”

Magda Cwik. Vibraising – Root Chakra. After Hours Project. Mexico City. January 2020. (photo courtesy of After Hours Project)

For one example of the music, you will here, below is a colorful world vibrating in the key of C (for the Root Chakra) by artist Stephen Mahoney (@dj_stephenmanhoney)

Magda Cwik. Vibraising – Root Chakra. After Hours Project. Mexico City. January 2020. (photo courtesy of After Hours Project)
Magda Cwik. Vibraising – Root Chakra. After Hours Project. Mexico City. January 2020. (photo courtesy of After Hours Project)
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BSA Images Of The Week: 01.21.18

BSA Images Of The Week: 01.21.18

BSA-Images-Week-Jan2015

The streets across the US were again flooded with justifiably angry, determined women yesterday. Nothing we can say here will do justice to the enormity of the crowds protesting in 250 cities on the first anniversary of the inauguration, nor the range of political and social fronts that are being contested.

Clearly the world stage has been thrown off kilter by the the erosion of trust and confidence in this government, in the economy, in the fraying social fabric, the attacks on people and the earth. “The decline in confidence in the U.S. president has been severe in some countries since Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017,” says FactCheck.org, and it “is especially pronounced among some of America’s closest allies in Europe and Asia, as well as neighboring Mexico and Canada,” the Pew Global Attitudes Project found. That’s in only one year.

Oh, did we mention that the US has a government shutdown right now?

Today we chose the top image by Alex Senna to symbolize the people who are in the shadows who are hiding and who think we don’t know they are there and that no one is looking out for them. Immigrants across the country are being threatened, yet exploited day after day – afraid to go to the police or even hospitals when abused by employers, by family members, by misguided racists. We see you and we hear you. As a nation descended from immigrants, the indigenous, and the enslaved, we remember our history. Similarly, people who are being sex trafficked, or who are unable to speak up because of financial restraints, religious restraints, psychological restraints. We see you.

Heavy topics, but these are the streets, our streets, all of us. Roberta Smith said this week in The New York Times when reviewing the Outsider Art Fair; “Art Is Everywhere”. We’ll widen that sentiment and say that art is for everyone, and the street is more than ever a perfect place to see it.

Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Adam Fujita, Ai WeiWei, Alex Senna, Cholula, Ernest Zacharevic, Fontes World, Mr. June, Retna, Roman, Stray Ones, Terry Urban, and Zola.

Top Image: Alex Senna ( photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ai Weiwei. “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”. NYC wide multimedia/multi site exhibition for Public Art Fund. Brooklyn, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Street Art Council (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Terry Urban (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Adam Fujita and Fontes World collaboration brings to mind our recent article about artists endless fight for affordable housing in NYC Indeed a Dying Breed. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

Unidentified Artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified Artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified Artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Stray Ones (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ernest Zacharevic fills the space with a cube. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified Artist in Cholula, Puebla. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Paris (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Zola (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn vs Everybody (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Retna in Cholula, Puebla. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Román in Cholula, Puebla. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mr. June for The Buschwick Collective. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This public ad campaign against fur borrows from the street art stencil technique. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified Artist in Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

Untitled. January 2018. Manhattan, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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A Street View From Inside the Doors of Mexico City ; Galleries, Studios, Museums, and the Metro

A Street View From Inside the Doors of Mexico City ; Galleries, Studios, Museums, and the Metro

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.

Bernardo Flores pays tribute to Mexican Luchadores on the walls, ceilings in the Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM) that features murals and tags by Street Artists throughout the exhibitions and up on the roof. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Motick. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.

KlaseOne. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.

Ciler. “Dispara (nombre ficticio)”. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ciler. “Dispara (nombre ficticio)”. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Wachavato. “No Esto No Es Lo Que Fue” Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Wachavato. “No Esto No Es Lo Que Fue” Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.

Buster. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Museum of Toys and Art on the Streets

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.

Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Circus. Detail. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Pavel Ioudine. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Arty & Chikle. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Arty & Chikle. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Arty & Chikle. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Saner in Studio

Saner. Work in progress. Studio Visit. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Saner. Studio Visit. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Saner. Studio Visit. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

3 Argentinian Street Artists in Studio

Elian. Studio Visit. Centro Historico. Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Ever. Studio Visit. Centro Historico. Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

JAZ. Studio Visit. Centro Historico. Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Agostino Iacurci. “Trompe L’oeil” solo exhibition at Celaya Brothers Gallery. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Keith Haring on a Train

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.

Keith Haring on a whole car on the Metro. Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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

Alegria Prado. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ear One has a good play on words here, and a nod to cartoonist Vaughn Bodē, whose work inspired a generation of graffiti writers on the Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

LELO. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ovrlnds. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

NAS. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Alina Kiliwa . OJE . Alegria Prado. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

EsMARQ. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Noel. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Paola Delfin. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Paola Delfin. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Curiot. Detail. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Curiot. Detail. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This toy monkey served as the inspiration for a political mural by artist Erica Il Cane a few years ago visible to the street. See A Mexican Mural “Manifesto”, Blackened Flag Colors, and Censorship. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Daniel Bauchsbaum. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Daniel Bauchsbaum. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 


This is the second of two articles with BSA in Mexico City in collaboration with UN Berlin, it was originally published on the Urban Nation website, and the project is funded in part with the support of Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art (UN) in Berlin.


Additional coverage by BSA in Mexico City:

An Unlikely Museum for Street Art? MUJAM is in the MX MIX : BSA X UN X Mexico City: Day 1

Saner, Mexican Muralist and Painter, Studio Visit. BSA X UN X Mexico City: Day 2

Panteón and Watchavato “No Esto No Es Lo Que Fue” Opens In Mexico City

Exploring New Techniques and Processes with Elian, Jaz and Ever in Mexico City

BSA Images Of The Week: 11.26.17 Mexico City Special


This article is also published on the Urban Nation museum website:

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Mexico City: Aerosol Artists, Aztecs and Magic on the Street

Mexico City: Aerosol Artists, Aztecs and Magic on the Street

Every city has its own particular energy; it’s own articulated rhythm, its own unique chaos.

Mexico City’s is full of flourish and aspiration and fascination for the international new, while firmly rooted in respect for the past. When it comes to Street Art, murals, graffiti and discordant sub-cultural art movements that can disrupt the norm, this city shows the capacity to absorb and adapt and to continue moving forward, providing meaningful insights into the true nature of its people.

Curiot. Detail. For Lienzo Capital Project with Street Art MUJAM. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This magic city of more than 20 million is often referred to as a gateway to Latin America: economically, socially, and politically. With high tech industry, banks, multi-national companies, a university system that serves 300,000 students, 150 museums, three UNESCO World Heritage sites… you can see why. With heavy traffic despite a subway system and many forms of public transportation, it can take hours for you to cross Mexico City (Distrito Federal (D.F)) and you can be assured that you’ll probably never see all 16 boroughs.

El Mac. Detail. All City Canvas 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As Street Art and its associated movements move through Central and South America, invariably D.F. appears as an important tierra cultural to traverse. From an active graffiti scene and occasional mural festivals to a growing gallery representation and increasing museum interest, urban artists are capturing the attention of the Americas, making heads spin in public space. With Mexico City capturing nearly all the aspects at once, today we take a look at the city and give you only a few examples of the art in the streets here.

El Mac. All City Canvas 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The September 19th earthquake of 2017 shook Mexico City exactly 32 years after 10,000 lost their lives in a larger one, the largest. With broken sidewalks and taped off buildings still as physical evidence, you can hear in the voices the trauma that rocked tall buildings back and forth like huge ships on the sea. In addition to these more physical shocks, the city has been rocked in recent years by a rising evidence of frightening power shifts relating to drug traffickers, accusations of institutional corruption, and a sharply rising economic inequality that is transforming developing/developed societies across the globe.

Built upon the ruins of the Aztec city called Tenochtitlán, which was one of the worlds largest in the 15th century, Mexico City appears persistently ebullient when banding together against adversity. Determined to excel beyond the horrors of conquest by the Spanish that decimated an entire indigenous culture, still the ruins rise above the ground and this multi-hued global city rumbles forward with determination.

Unidentified Artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Sleek high rises and brightly patterned folkloric art and aerosol sprayed graffiti tags next to massive murals all blend and swirl like the jarabe Tapatío hat dance from block to block – a decisive commixture of the “brand new” with a heritage of indigenous/invader cultures that ruled here hundreds of years before. Today it’s a hybrid of purposeful optimism and wizened survival instincts that pushes the city forward, despite the shocks endured.

SEGO. All City Canvas 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The magic and realism so famously combined by authors like Garcia Márquez and Esquivel along with the brutal honesty of Mexican filmmakers like Inarritu, del Toro and Cuaron is fused onto the bricks of colonial mansions and cinderblock industrial neighborhoods like Roma-Condesa and Centro Histórico. These colonias and others like Xochimilco and Coyoacán are historic, commercial, somehow always in transition.

Buster (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As you walk and weave over the chunks of disrupted sidewalks, the local mechanic’s car-repair taking place on the curb is complimented by the smell of stacks of fresh tortillas from the tiny tortilleria. The booming tented markets of witty pop-culture t-shirts, knock-off sneakers, and decorative phone cases are sharing your memory space with the eye-popping magenta, sea foam green, and lemon sherbert yellow hues of huge layered toile netting as quinceañera skirts plumped full of Dior and displayed regally behind full glass windows, shop after shop.

The narrow street in old Centro Historico surges with the sound of a live heavy metal band demonstrating the equipment at a music store at lunch time, and three Argentinian Street Artists (Ever, Elian, and Jaz) are creating plumes of aerosol paint from the opened second floor veranda doors across the street while home-made Judas Priest reverberates over and around the slowly moving bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Arty & Chikle. “Only Love”. Street Art MUJAM in collaboration with the Mexico City National Youth Institute for Young Adults. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Of Mexico, “it’s always high noon and what glows is fuchsia and what’s dead is dead,” said author Henry Miller in his book Black Spring, and some spirit of that rings true here where so many objects and situations you encounter can be amazing and revelatory and yet locals simply roll them in a tortilla and toss it on a hot oiled comal for dinner.

The music options alone can be illustrative of the variety here: Las Madrigalistas are performing holiday classics in the Palacio Bellas Artes, Ricky Martin just played free for 100,000 in the Zocalo, there is an active punk scene that rivals many, a hiphop scene that draws fans from nearby cities, and a reverence for 1980s artists like Depeche Mode and The Misfits, and an almost religious devotion to Morrisey.

D*Face (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The scale of the murals can be as vast as the city, equally eclectically handmade and warm. Thanks to a rich heritage of mural-making and artists like Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros in the last century, the new generation of Mexicanos are interpolating the currents that ripple and wave through a society wedded to fierce independence and tradition. Today it is again rocked by our instant access to information and a global sense of modernity.

JET (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Interezni Kazki. All City Canvas 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This means that an international Street Art scene in D.F. features not only Mexican alchemists like Saner, Curiot, Farid Rueda, Lesuperdemon, Dhear and Sego (among others) but also invites the English D*Face, Italians Ericailcane and BLU, Belgian ROA, Los Angelianos Retna and El Mac, Polish M-City, Argentian JAZ and German duo Herakut to influence the voice of the street. With a visual wealth of inspiration and disruptive or unusual imagery in play on the street, this still  jittery city smiles and confronts you as the year turns, a response that is in flux and fiesta, sorrow and memory, outrage and magic.

ROA. All City Canvas 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

While traveling through the city with Roberto Shimizu, a central figure in the modern Street Art/mural scene here, and by visiting Street Artists and critical curators and organizers in studios and alternative spaces inside and outside the city, we garnered a greater appreciation for the complexity of the story here. It is distinctly different from the model we’ve seen elsewhere and explains the less showy trajectory that this still organic ecosystem has taken.

Unidentified Artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As in most cities today you’ll find the organic and autonomous quality of works is best represented by one-off, handmade individual pieces of art and stickers throughout neighborhoods, many anonymous. These are not the large scale legal murals that unfamiliar observers sometimes refer to as Street Art. These are still the lifeblood of any real Street Art scene and are often indicators of its truer eclectic nature.

Unidentified Artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Maybe because there isn’t a large collector base for this work, or because some brands/marketers have already cheapened its image a bit, but Street Art hasn’t blossomed in the gallery world here to a great extent. Instead, true cultural curators like Shimizu have consistently led it directly to his festival programs or his family’s Mexico City’s Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM), and professors at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) are teaching about it to students .

Milamores and El Flaco. La Linea Street Art. Cholula, Puebla. 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We usually find the true nature of Street Art here is still in the streets – and in the artists community. In the Chulula area of nearby Puebla outside Mexico City, the mysterious renaissance seer named Milamores has quietly curated walls of many local and international artists over the last half decade, offering his compound and dogs for rest and companionship in a supportive artists space. Together with video animation artist Flaco he is presenting Street Art via Virtual Reality experiences that are in tandem with his organically grown mural program. Built on the site of a collapsed building from the 1985 earthquake, the artist/activist collective and community garden Huerto Roma Verde provides classes and workshops on art, sustainable architecture, gardening, and theater and has helped many artists to with mural opportunities as well.

Diana Bama . Martin Ferreira. Huerto Roma Verde. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Diana Bama . Martin Ferreira. Huerto Roma Verde. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As an emblem of the conflicting and harmonious forces at play, we cite the relatively recent mural painted by the Spanish Street Artist Escif on the wall of the Chihuahua housing complex on the Plaza of Three Cultures just north of the city center. Illustrating the privately funded public projects that Street Artists are doing now throughout cities, this one plumbs the unhealed wounds and still unanswered questions of a shocking event of political repression almost 50 years ago here in the plaza designed by Mario Pani.

Not only does the plaza physically join together a Spanish colonial church and the remains of a pre-Columbian Aztec temple with the 13 story housing complex, the square is most known today for the October 1968 suppression of a student movement where troops ran directly over the ruins and fired on a peaceful rally and secret police captured and tortured student leaders who were speaking from the balcony. Protest art and public installations about the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping of 43 disappeared students recall the stories from 1968 today, and many make connections between the events.

Unidentified Artist. Installation in El Centro Historico for the 43 Desaparecidos. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Some academics have said the crushing of the student movement was part of a secret “dirty war” by the government to quiet dissent and present a unified Mexico image to the world ahead of the upcoming Olympics, but Shimizu tells us that visiting politicians to Escif’s new wall are pleased with the mural and made a tour by bus with guests to admire it. A monument to the Tlatelolco massacre stands in the plaza memorializing the events, and Escif made a few statements about his interpretation of his mural.

“As in my previous works, there is not a limited meaning in the ‘Chihuahua Mural’, but as many meanings as people try to approach it with,” said Escif to us recently about the two suited figures. He discusses his research into the events that took place, but ultimately he leaves the painting more open to interpretation. “Those two guys painted on the wall can be secretive executives, military officers, corporate people or anybody. That will depend on who sees the wall and his previous experiences.”

Unidentified Artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

For visitors to Mexico City looking for the local Street Art or graffiti scene it is helpful to recognize that this moment for a near-global fascination for art in the streets is here also intertwined with a national and local history, cultural pride, and the treasured heritage of indigenous peoples.

While so-called “western” countries may see a rebellious disaffected rage or critique as an overarching narrative for the graffiti and Street Art scene in New York, London, or Berlin, it may be that Mexico City, and Latin America by extension, is also very cognizant of its roots, in love with them even, always infusing new work with a certain respect for their progenitors. For an art practice that is characterized in part for its ephemerality the context of this particular urban environment reminds you of its often remarkable resilience.

Dueke . Miss1 Guette for MUJAM. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

RETNA. The Beauty Project, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

ROA. La Linea Street Art. Cholula, Puebla. 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

ROA. La Linea Street Art. Cholula, Puebla. 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

ROA. La Linea Street Art. Cholula, Puebla. 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

ROA. La Linea Street Art. Cholula, Puebla. 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Curiot (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Curiot. Detial. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

SINKO (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified Artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Interezni Kazki. La Linea Street Art. Cholula, Puebla. 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Interezni Kazki. La Linea Street Art. Cholula, Puebla. 2012. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified Artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Kill Joy . Mazatl. La Linea Street Art. Cholula, Puebla. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified Artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Fusca .  Blast. La Linea Street Art. Cholula, Puebla. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Erica Ilcane. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


This is the first of two articles with BSA in Mexico City in collaboration with UN Berlin, it was originally published on the Urban Nation website, and the project is funded in part with the support of Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art (UN) in Berlin.

Read Part II here:

A Street View From Inside the Doors of Mexico City ; Galleries, Studios, Museums, and the Metro


Additional coverage by BSA in Mexico City:

An Unlikely Museum for Street Art? MUJAM is in the MX MIX : BSA X UN X Mexico City: Day 1

Saner, Mexican Muralist and Painter, Studio Visit. BSA X UN X Mexico City: Day 2

Panteón and Watchavato “No Esto No Es Lo Que Fue” Opens In Mexico City

Exploring New Techniques and Processes with Elian, Jaz and Ever in Mexico City

BSA Images Of The Week: 11.26.17 Mexico City Special


This article is also published on the Urban Nation museum website:

 

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BSA’s 15 Most Popular Murals Of 2017 – A “Social” Survey

BSA’s 15 Most Popular Murals Of 2017 – A “Social” Survey

How do you measure the success of a street piece? Foot traffic? How long it runs before being dissed?

The Internet revolutionized our lives and our definition of community and along with that we extend the experience of art on the street to the conversations and sharing that takes place in the digital “social” realm. BSA lives in both spheres daily, capturing stuff on the street and then telling its story to a global audience online. The truth is, we never really know what people will like.

Actually we do know some things will always be a hit as time moves forward – pop culture references. Banksy and Shepard and D*Face and their generation could always count on Sid Vicious, Marilyn, Mickey, Her Majesty QE2 and the ironic turn of pop parlance to drive a humorous, campy, sarcastic point home. Today we can count on 90s rapper Biggie Smalls and Star Wars Storm Troopers in any iteration to send the image volleying through our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter referrals, comments, feeds. In fact, both Biggie and the Trooper made it into the top 15 mural collection this year and last year – made by different artists.

In fact, these 15 images are not all murals but they resonate with larger numbers than others we published this year; a visual conversation that includes legal, illegal, small, anonymous, massive, deliberately confounding, tossed off scrawling, handmade and mass produced stickers, tags, poetry, diatribes, culture jamming, ad takeovers, sculpture, installations. Every week we aim to present a varied selection of expressions currently represented on the street, and then it is your turn to respond.

During 2017 BSA readers responded to images via our website, Instagram, Twitter, Tumbr, and Facebook pages. In a thoroughly unscientific survey that calculates “likes” and “clicks” and “re-Tweets” and “impressions”, we tallied up which murals (or images) got the most interest from you. Care to interpret the results?


15 – Lonac.

Here is his multi-story mural of an artist friend painting a wall for “No Limit” Borås. Borås, Sweden. September, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


14 – Add Fuel.

His mural of traditional Scottish tile patterning in Nuart Aberdeen captivated many readers. Aberdeen, Scotland. April, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


13 – Daniel Buchsbaum.

Converting this water heater in a room of the Antique Toy Museum. Mexico City. November, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


12 – Axe Colours.

For the second year in a row, but in different cities by different artists, the 1990s Brooklyn rapper Biggie Smalls appears on the top 15 list. This time he is in Barcelona, Spain. November, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


11 – Miss Van.

Ever more surreal, this is an instant classic by Miss Van is in Barcelona, Spain. November, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


10- Dave The Chimp.

The simplicity of Dave The Chimps’ characters can be a bit deceiving, considering how he manages to put them everywhere in so many situations. This one taps into our societal fears and the realization that our public (and private) moves are being recorded and scrutinized all the time, ready or not. Berlin, Germany. February, 2017.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)


9 – ATM Street Art.

Dude, the bird-admiring contingent online took this one and flew with it. It’s a Red-faced Warbler for Audubon Birds of Broadway. Manhattan, NYC. January, 2017.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)


8 – Suits.

A prize-winning use of existing conditions in furtherance of his message, Suits used this damaged wall very effectively. It helped to have Manhattan as a backdrop. Brooklyn, NYC. June, 2017  (photo © Jaime Rojo)


7 – BK Foxx.

Directly borrowed from a scene with Robert Dinero in the movie Taxi Driver, Street Artist BK Foxx uses the background to reference the never-ending scenes of violence that are in the news in the US. Brooklyn, NYC. November, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


6 – Tatiana Fazlalizadeh.

This garden of the mind grows in Manhattan at public school PS92. Manhattan, NYC. January, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


5 – The Outings Project.

Created during Nuart Aberdeen by Julien de Casabianca of the Outings Project, this reproduction of a painting was perfectly placed in a part of the city once known for the selling of people as slaves. An uncomfortable bit of beauty maximizes the possibilities with perfect placement. Aberdeen, Scotland. April, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


4 – 1UP Crew…and other vandals.

An iconic and isolated Brooklyn rooftop scene in the winter is made forbidding and welcoming by the snow storm and picnic tables.  Brooklyn, NYC. February, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 


3 – Pyramid Oracle.

Ascending the subway stairs to see the grand wizened man with a third eye, this black and white image was somehow inspirational to many of our fans. Manhattan, NYC. April 2017.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)


2 – Raf Urban.

A mid-sized wheat-pasted stencil piece claims the number 2 spot with the former President and First Lady, along with the message “Diversity is Hope.” Brooklyn, NYC. April, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


1 – Jerkface.

Guy Fawkes is a folk hero for the Occupy generation, here surrounded by the encroaching anonymous armature of the police state, represented by Storm Troopers. You can read many messages into this and like most good art, you’d would be right. Manhattan, NYC. March, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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BSA Film Friday: 12.01.17

BSA Film Friday: 12.01.17

bsa-film-friday-JAN-2015

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

Now screening :
1. Rough Cut of Haring on Train in Mexico City (DF)
2. Niels Shoe Meulman in Magic City
3. Carlo McCormick talks about ROA at Magic City
4. Miquel Wert / 12 + 1 Contorno Urbano
5. “Awareness, Optimism, Commitment” by GEC Art

bsa-film-friday-special-feature

BSA Special Feature: Rough Cut of Haring on Train in Mexico City (DF)

It all took us by surprise last week in Mexico City when suddenly a whole train covered on both sides with Keith Haring’s work approached while we were waiting at the platform to catch the Linea 2 of the Metro. He made his name in part by illegally doing drawings like these in NYC subways and here now they are crushing a whole train. The name of the project is “Ser Humano. Ser Urbano” or “Being Human. Being Urban” and it aims to promote human values and human rights. The pattern you see is from “Sin Titulo (Tokyo Fabric Design)” – now stretched across these whole cars, if you will.

The train itself is inexplicably having brake troubles, so we get some jerky spur-of-the-moment footage but all week on Instagram and Facebook we’ve received tons of comments from people reacting to this little bit of Keith video by Jaime Rojo on BSA.

 

 

Niels Shoe Meulman in Magic City – The Art Of The Street :

Niels Shoe Meulman spent some nights in a Munich jail thirty years ago for mucking about on the walls. This year he was paid to do it in Munich for Magic City, the travelling morphing exhibition (now in Stockholm) where Street Art is celebrated along with all its tributaries – including a film program and a number of photographs by your friends here at BSA.

Born, raised and based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Shoe shares here his new improvisational piece and some of his reflections on his process and his evolution from being in advertising as an art/creative director and reclaiming his soul as a graffiti/Street Art/fine artist. As ever, Martha is in the frame, putting him in the frame.

 

Carlo McCormick talks about ROA at Magic City – The Art Of The Street / Dresden-Munich-Stockholm

The urban naturalist ROA gets the Carlo McCormick treatment here as the chief curator of Magic City does the talking for the anonymous Ghent-based artist who has globe-trotted for almost a decade with his marginalized animal parade in monochrome. Here you get to see the inside/outside of his practice, a genuine master as work – with the delicious insight of Carlo to guide your appreciation.

 

Miquel Wert / 12 + 1 Contorno Urbano

In studio with Miguel Wert we get to see him sifting through a pile of black and white photos, assessing the scene, the sitters, the psychological-emotional dynamics of families, lovers, haters.

“In most family photos the interpersonal dynamics are more subtle,” we wrote when the wall was first unveiled in Barcelona, “but a close reading of posture, body language, and facial expressions all give unconsciously a lot of information about the true nature of the relationships officially on display.”

See more in “Miquel Wert Brings Awkward Family Dynamics From the Shadows in Barcelona”

“Awareness, Optimism, Commitment” by GEC Art

Young gymnast takes the opportunity to practice and perform for a moment atop this traffic barrier in Torino.

And why not?

 

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Exploring New Techniques and Processes with Elian, Jaz and Ever in Mexico City

Exploring New Techniques and Processes with Elian, Jaz and Ever in 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.

Elian. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Elian is balancing his new pieces on saw horses and fumigating them with bright paints which he normally might be covering a huge mural wall with.

“I’m trying to break with my tradition of being a painter do you know,” he says, one of three close friends on the Street Art scene from Argentina here in this studio.

Elian. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Elian. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.”

Elian. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Ever. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Ever. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.

Ever. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.”

Ever. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

 

Jaz. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.”

 

Jaz. Sketch shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Jaz. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.

Jaz. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.”

Jaz. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.


PROCESS: Elian, Jaz and Ever in Mexico City

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Panteón and Watchavato “No Esto No Es Lo Que Fue” Opens In Mexico City

Panteón and Watchavato “No Esto No Es Lo Que Fue” Opens In 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.


Newly opened Panteón in the very historic part of Mexico City features pizza, live music, and a series of open spaces for public programs and well appointed galleries – all inside a 400 year old colonial Spanish-style building on the cities’ oldest street. Architecturally registered as part of the cultural heritage of the city and country, these spaces are being preserved in their original splendor, and Street Artists/graffiti artists/contemporary artists are being carefully selected to breath new life into them.

Watchavato. NO ESTO NO ES LO QUE FUE. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico City. November 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Intended as a cultural meeting place where exhibitions, panel discussions, artist talks, community participation, screen printing facilities, and even “happenings” around social issues can co-exist, you can feel a positive inclusive vibe here, and you can imagine a number of new partnerships blossoming at Panteón going forward.

Watchavato. NO ESTO NO ES LO QUE FUE. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico City. November 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Thursday night features a much anticipated opening by a Mexican Street Artist Watchavato, who many here point to as a pioneer in the local Street Art scene of the mid-late 1990s’s. Known for his stencils, his devoted fans, and his insightful sarcasm in sign-making messages, the Sinaloa-based artist has incorporated sideways critiques of drug traffickers (“narcos”), by playing with the image of Jesús Malverde, a folklore hero of his home state who sometimes known as an angel of the poor, or the “narco-saint”.

Visitors to the show will see again a reference to Malverde here at the show as well as what can only be described as pieces expressing Watchavato’s existential feelings about graffiti and Street Art culture two decades after he began.

Watchavato. NO ESTO NO ES LO QUE FUE. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico City. November 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The sharp wit is not lost on us, as we have crossed paths with many an old-skool graff writer or early phase Street Artist who laments what they see as a loss of edge, rebellion, or even the transgressive nature of the early scene. The entire room can be taken into account as one installation, rather than individual pieces. Most notable of course are the gravestones, the most literal announcement of the death of Street Art we’ve seen.

Mourn not, we say, the future is unwritten.

We were incredibly fortunate to receive a full tour of every space (and future space) in Panteón by two of the curators of these newly opened art galleries, Andrés Medina who also serves as Director of the space and Mariela Gómez and the quality of concept and research that has gone into exhibits since opening this spring is already remarkable. Our sincere thanks to them.

Here are some of the images of the new show, NO ESTO NO ES LO QUE FUE (NO THIS IS NOT WHAT WAS).

Watchavato. NO ESTO NO ES LO QUE FUE. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico City. November 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Watchavato. NO ESTO NO ES LO QUE FUE. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico City. November 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Watchavato. NO ESTO NO ES LO QUE FUE. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico City. November 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Watchavato. NO ESTO NO ES LO QUE FUE. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico City. November 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Watchavato. NO ESTO NO ES LO QUE FUE. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico City. November 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Watchavato. NO ESTO NO ES LO QUE FUE. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico City. November 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Watchavato NO ESTO NO ES LO QUE FUE opens today at the Centro Cultural Panteón in Mexico City’s Centro Historico. Click HERE for more information.

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Saner, Mexican Muralist and Painter, Studio Visit. BSA X UN X Mexico City: Day 2

Saner, Mexican Muralist and Painter, Studio Visit. BSA X UN X Mexico City: Day 2

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.


Saner has been a significant Mexican mural painter for the last decade, is invited to festivals regularly, works with some respected galleries, has partnered with some top brands, and has work in private collections and museums including Museo de las Americas in Denver and the newly opened Urban Nation museum in Berlin. 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 began to be less concerned with emulating European or American visual and cultural language.

Saner.  Detail. Work in progress.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

That was when his personal voice emerged and he began synthesizing traditional symbols, colors, clothing, and (particularly) masks into the study of humans and our universal truths. His version of “primitive” is not so primitive, simplicity not so simple, upon closer observation, rather there are darker stirrings of profound truths about our nature. The masks and surreal scenes have multiple meanings, the characters and situations drawn from archetypes of history, his own taste in popular culture, and his critique of current events.

Saner.  Detail. Work in progress.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We visited Saner at his private home in a neighborhood not far from Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s colonia, a significant point in the personal story because of our association with their powerful voices, pride in Mexican traditions and history, and their individual desires for their work to have an impact on the lives of others. While Kobén, his beige (or golden) retriever paces around the living room with various chew toys and pushes them into our hands as an entreaty for play, Saner sits relaxed in loose chinos and a Café Tecuva t-shirt, chatting amiably while slouched in a hand woven reed chair.

He published a children’s book last year named after the dog about a boy facing his fears so you know that Kobén is part of our every conversation – barking and running and chewing on toys while we talk about stuff like the new mural scene internationally, the troubles with corruption and political parties, drug related crime and the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, his personal art projects with local kids, helping the community after the last months earthquake here, and his recent wedding to his beloved Lalix a term of endearment he and other use to call his wife Lizbeth.

Saner.  Detail. Work in progress.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The oversized spiritual recreations of the bride and groom sit in left and right corners of their dining room listening quietly to us. Saner and Lalix had worn them as they danced into the party this April in nearby Cuernavaca; modern and folkloric, peaceful and booming with promise.

He is so excited to tell the story of the wedding that he runs upstairs for a DVD and shows us footage from the ceremony and celebrations where we can see the two of them dancing together – many times he appears near tears, full of joy. So many of the stories we hear all tie back to this seamless integration of an artist, his life, his aspirations, his beliefs, philosophies, and evolving awareness.

Saner  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Later when we climb the stairs to see his studio, the small and bright space carries a similar optimism, despite the range of emotion expressed on the wall of masks and the characters in his multiple sketchbooks and the papers/canvasses stacked neatly or fanned out before us. Our conversation ranges again and settle for awhile on his experiences as world-travelling mural painter and his realization that his work needs to be in dialogue with the people and the neighborhood he is visiting.

Saner recounts a turning point a few years ago when painting an impromptu mural, just to pass the time in collaboration with local celebrated graffiti/Street Artist Smithe and other writers here in la ciudad. He says the content of their mural was meant to be violent and provocative and a commentary on the topical political events and warring drug factions in the country.

Saner  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The final product was an unexpected one for all when a neighbor stopped by on the sidewalk and questioned the artists about their intent with the mural – and in the process she revealed that a person in that same neighborhood had been killed violently on the corner. She stressed that she had known the individual and that the mural was painful to her. He says the connection between his art and how it affects the people who live with it suddenly came into focus, and he began to re-approach his public work.

Another experience of actually being stoned by small kids in Morcocco while he was painting his masked figures on a wall also shocked him into a sort of sensitivity immediately.

“They said that their mothers didn’t like the faces because they were evil. I decided to alter some of them by making them more friendly, removing the long tongues, adding some smiles – and checking with them about the results,” he says. The inclusion of the neighborhoods’ suggestions made the mural “theirs” he says, and the discord ended with some of the folks expressing a sense of pride in the new painting.

Saner  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ironically, a few peers suggested to him that by including the feedback of the people who live there, somehow the neighbors had “won”. Maybe that perception is informed by the contentious attitude of graffiti culture which may not take the opinions of the neighborhood into account, focusing primarily on the sport of “getting up” and the admiration of peers instead.

But this is a different approach for Saner and the comment that the neighbors had “won” makes him smile. “No, no, no. It’s not like that at all. If you think of painting in terms of someone winning or someone losing, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.” He says that he originally appreciated the cross cultural nature of the mural festival experience, but today he does extensive research before he even arrives in a new city – about the people and the history. He even interviews locals when he arrives to see if he has interpreted his research correctly.

Saner  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mexican artists, especially the muralists are inspirational for him – Rivera, Jorge González Camarena, Rufino Tamayo, the Spaniard Goya. Saner’s own mystical and grounded interpretations are modernized and contemporary, somehow timeless in a magic realism sort of way.

He also sites influences like his childhood cartoons and even the novelist Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote Fight Club and who specializes in a sort of transgressive fiction that could recall the dark surrealism evoked in some of Saner’s tableaus.

Saner  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We talk more and look at his newest sketches, experiments with colors and materials, even geometrically crisp forms. While Kobén circles us again, tail wagging and offering the occasional bark, the late winter sun through the 70’s suburban ranch windows sets the room aglow.

Saner tells us of his desire to challenge his viewers with slightly uncomfortable scenes. His process includes addressing an issue, then handing the microphone to the viewer, asking them to take ownership in the outcome.

It’s a subtle activism that many will miss in this psychological and sometimes spiritual play enacted before us; a gentle and insistent voice that tells you about the transformational power of art.

Saner  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Saner  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Saner  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Based on real life characters. From the children’s book Kobén by Saner. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

 

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An Unlikely Museum for Street Art? MUJAM is in the MX MIX : BSA X UN X Mexico City: Day 1

An Unlikely Museum for Street Art? MUJAM is in the MX MIX : BSA X UN X Mexico City: Day 1

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.


Not much happens in Mexico City’s modern Street Art scene that Roberto Shimizu Jr. doesn’t know about.

El Mac is in good company. MUJAM, Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With his namesake father at the helm of the Mexican Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM) since it opened in 2006, the younger Shimizu has organized 30 or so Street Art events, founded the All City Canvas program, worked with city and federal public art programs. He has also been a personal clearing house for some of the most recognized talents and new practitioners on the scene, inviting them to paint inside and outside this eclectic and curiously expansive, overwhelming museum of toys that span a century or so.

ROA. MUJAM, Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We spent hours with Roberto walking the floors of this imagination-provoking museum today – oggling an ocean of hand-made and mass produced items here that his father has collected for almost 60 years in every state of Mexico, only 5% of an estimated 5 million individual pieces in their collection. As the son of a voracious lifelong collector with a razor sharp eye and appreciation for positive energy Roberto Jr. has an omnivore’s appetite for Street Art, public art, graffiti.

So naturally since the museum first opened he’s been bringing in an eclectic array of aerosol/brush painters, wheatpasters, stencils, sticker slappers to hit up walls in the courtyard outside, on the roof, inside the museum, and on walls around the industrialized/residential neighborhood of Colonia Doctores.

Curiot. MUJAM, Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We’ll be telling you more about this ingenious genius and his heartfelt amor for toys and Street Art later, but we thought we’d just show you some excerpts of a large rolled canvas signed by the important artists, curators, sincere fans and occasional rock stars that he’s been amassing for the last few years.

Here you’ll find a number of the big names from today’s Street Art scene from before anyone really knew them – people to whom he personally gave opportunities and encouragement and materials and who later have landed in the collections of museums and collectors thanks to him giving them an opportunity, or two, or three. Also it was good for us to see names of the new kids on the block and a number of Latin American talents we all will be getting to know in the future.

Herakut. MUJAM, Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

JAZ. MUJAM, Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Neuzz. MUJAM, Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Liqen. MUJAM, Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

M – City. MUJAM, Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Luca Dalto. MUJAM, Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

For more information about MUJAM click HERE

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