All posts tagged: new york

Tonja Torgerson and her Girls in Troy, New York

Tonja Torgerson and her Girls in Troy, New York

Some times we are shocked by the far reach of Street Art in the international sphere but its also helpful to remember that thanks to the Internet and the ease with which information flows right now artists of all disciplines are taking up the practice of putting art up in the streets with or without permission – in small towns, suburban neighborhoods, even on barns in the countryside.

The autonomous Street Artist of today is less likely than ever to be hanging out inside a subculture of urban peers trying to establish street cred; busy looking out for each other, answering beef, and enforcing those important street “rules” on one another. The impetus for self expression on random walls in public comes from a variety of motivations, and sometimes it is even just an experiment, simply one extension of an artists otherwise unrelated formal practice.

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Tonja Torgerson. Troy, New York. September 2014. (photo © Andrew Frost)

Naturally, these facts have some people up in arms, while others are opening theirs.

Screen printer Tonja Torgerson has formal training as an artist and has appeared in group shows and solo shows in galleries that form a constellation roughly related geographically to her arts education in Syracuse and Minneapolis. Currently she is doing a residency in Kansas and her work just appeared in a paper show at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. None of the aforementioned facts conjure up the word ‘hood’ in your mind right?

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Tonja Torgerson. Troy, New York. September 2014. (photo © Andrew Frost)

In fact many of today’s street artists in major and minor metropolitan areas today didn’t grow up in the hood nor can they spout the language of the street; they just consider the street art “practice” to be part of their birthright anyway – something vaguely transgressive and an evolution of all those rap videos they grew up on and spray painted sneakers and backpacks they had in junior high school. The ubiquity of advertising campaigns and their ever-present voices all present a “call” and these artists are giving their “response”. Its a broader range today than most realize, and most likely will continue.

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Tonja Torgerson. Troy, New York. September 2014. (photo © Andrew Frost)

Today we look at Tonja’s newest prints that she put up in Troy, New York when she was there for the National Screenprint Biennial. The human sized wheatpasted screen prints, which she calls “girls” went up around this sister city of Albany with the help of a guide and she shares images of them here with BSA readers to take a look at. Reflective, crouching, possibly in pain, somewhat spent and sad girls they are, tucked and perched and hidden just around the corner. She says her work contains elements of privacy, disclosure, illness, beauty, and disgust.

She quotes the writer and philosopher Carolyn Korsmeyer when she says, “I strive to create ‘the kind of art that is capable of rendering the most awful experiences beautiful.’ ”  Gentle color and a childish aesthetic make these figures vulnerable and perfect storytellers, even if you don’t know the details. With these placements Torgerson reveals part of herself and also how amenable the streets can be to experimentation , new voices, and discovery of all sorts.

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Tonja Torgerson. Troy, New York. September 2014. (photo © Andrew Frost)

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Tonja Torgerson. Troy, New York. September 2014. (photo © Andrew Frost)

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Tonja Torgerson. Troy, New York. September 2014. (photo © Andrew Frost)

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Tonja Torgerson. Troy, New York. September 2014. (photo © Andrew Frost)

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!
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Graffiti and Street Art Show Some True Colors in NYC

Graffiti and Street Art Show Some True Colors in NYC

“This really made my day honestly,” says Cope2, the Bronx bomber as he finishes his new rainbow striped iconic bubble letters in the Boogie Down.  It’s a sunny, warm perfect Saturday in New York, and he writes on his phone as he puts it up excitedly on his Instagram, “It’s international day against homophobia this ones for my GLBT brothers and sisters!!”

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Cope2 in the Bronx in front of his brand new rainbow striped tag. “Love is all we need”. May 17, 2014

He instinctively knows he’s bracing for some negative comment on his feed – this is New York after all and this is a guy some people in the graffiti scene call a “King” with a 30+ year history on the street as well as an established gallery career.  And yes, there is a scattered disapproval and disbelief among the majority positive responses. “Why, Cope, why?!”, asks one, and “Fuck tolerance shit,” responds another. Earlier in the day someone had written “that SHIT  gay as fuck boy,” and another “Fuck fagz bun a batty man” – but these voices were more or less drowned out by shows of support and thanks throughout the day.

“So clean and freshh”, “Beautiful,” “Memeo contigo”, “Great stuff bro,” “LOOOOOVEE!!!” and “maybe the haters will shut the fcuk up now. Way to take the high road.”

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That last comment was probably a reference to the firestorm that erupted as he took on the big Houston Street Wall this past week and his own past use of homophobic slurs and insults on social media called into question his attitudes toward folks, and the meaning of his choice for this iconic Manhattan location that has hosted many big names including the openly gay Keith Haring . The discussions were hot and a genuine volley eventually took it in the wrong direction for all parties before finally public apologies were made and some people have granted forgiveness. But bruises still exist, and Cope wants to do his part to at least build some bridges.

On a day like today Cope is on top of it and for all his GLBT friends and fans he says he wants to make clear his position on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender folks once and for all. “Love is all we need!!”…and we’re probably just going to go ahead and agree on that one.

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A screenshot of Cope2’s Instagram page shows a number of the things that have been on his agenda lately.

But why bring it up to begin with, some would ask. Isn’t this sort of beyond the point of aerosol and bubble tags and graffiti and art? One of Cope2s Instagram commenters says, “cuz we don’t ignore shit that is wrong.” Truth is, there are a lot of folks victimized every day everywhere, and like a guy with a conscience Cope2 knows he has a voice on the street where it can matter.

“Given his stature in the graffiti community I think it sends an important message,” says Luna Park, the well respected photographer and documentarian of the graffiti and street art scene, particularly over the last decade. Park says that when a revered graff writer and artist takes a position on any issue like this, it has an impact on the peers and kids who idolize them.

“It is a signal. And from my perspective it is welcomed. I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of sending signals like that. And if you look at the feedback he has already received in social media – there is an immediate positive impact. He has an enormous platform and a lot of people look up to him and regardless whether you personally like his work or not, the fact is that it is important how he uses his platform.”

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Street Artist Olek created this public performance installation directly in front of the Houston Street Wall today to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (#IDAHOT).

“So many kids are looking up to him,” says Street Artist Olek, known for her crochet street installations that have taken her around Europe and the US, covering the Wall Street Bull sculpture and even landed her in the Smithsonian. The Polish born Brooklynite wanted to do her own installation today by the Houston Street wall to show support of a community she feels close to, so she staged her crochet camouflaged  models in front of it with rainbow crocheted cans in hand.

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Street Artist Olek created this public performance installation next the Houston Street Wall today. The words read “Respect The Rainbow.com” – referring to a webpage she created for it also. (#IMAHOT).

“This is subject that I want to stand by,” she says by way of reclaiming some of the negativity that has been associated with the Houston Street wall that was once actually covered by one of the first openly gay artists painting in the street back in the 80s and 90s. “I want to be part of it and to make a statement and encourage positive vibes.”

Throughout the day there has been a lively banter about these new developments on the street and on social media and in private offline conversations. Most think that a page has been turned, at least a little one, and that some bridges recently burned may yet be built.

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Street Artist Gilf! reposted her 2010 piece online called “Empower Equality”, saying “Today is International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. It’s time to celebrate love, instead of honoring hate. We live in a world that exponentiates your energy.”

Cope2 tells us he has his eye on generating some positive energy in the graffiti and Street Art scene and with his new piece he’s telling us “Love is all we need!!”.  We’re down with that.

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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BSA Film Friday 06.28.13

 

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

Now screening: “Faces of Bowie” Show at Opera London, Revolutionary Egyptian Street Art, Leandro Erlich’s House in London, and FAITH47 at Memorie Urbane.

BSA Special Feature:
Faces of Bowie

Whether it’s zombies, punk, The Rolling Stones, or Martin Scorcese, pop-culture theme shows have been gaining popularity of late. Right now the Opera Gallery location in London is featuring a show that pays homage to David Bowie with portraits by a number of Street Artists among others.  It also happens to tie in neatly to a larger retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum entitled “David Bowie Is”.

Curated by gallery director Jean-David Malat, the show includes works by Lita Cabellut, David Mach, Joe Black, C215, The London Police, Mac1, Jimmy C, Kid Zoom, Mr. Brainwash, Kan (Da Mental Vaporz), Juan Barletta, Hisham Echafaki, Jef Aérosol, D*Face, Marco Lodola, André Monet, Nick Gentry, Zoobs, Eduardo Guelfenbein, Paul Alexis, Jean-Paul Donadini, and Richard Young.

Images above of works by The London Police, Jef Aerosol, and D*Face at “The Faces of Bowie” © Opera Gallery

Egyptian Street Art – More Than Aesthetics

“It’s not possible to have a revolution without art”, says SIKO, an Egyptian Street Artist in this video that gives a sense of the power that art in the streets can have for transforming a dialogue.  While we do not know the origins of the makers of this video and are somewhat unfamiliar with the politics involved, it nonetheless conveys what we have always known about graffiti and Street Art – it is a reflection of society back to itself. With the advocacy of opinions and viewpoints sprayed and wheatpasted across the public sphere, it can be a catalyst for change and at the very least, a vehicle for speech.

Living on the Ceiling – A House by Leandro Erlich in London

An installation by the Argentine artist, this new house is on the street – flatly. Passersby are encouraged to scale the walls and contemplate perceptions about reality, and gravity.

FAITH47 at the Memorie Urbane Street Art Festival

Produced by Blind Eye Factory, this short video watches Faith 47 as she creates her piece for the Italian festival this spring.

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QRST on the Streets; Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Goat Man Cometh

Street Artist QRST is back on Brooklyn streets with more modernly magnetic and captivatingly surreal work than before, and just as mired in the muck of human dynamics as ever. 

Emblematic of the new street art storytelling practice we have been highlighting for a few years now, these uniquely old-fangled pieces are one-off bits of mastery that can take days, sometimes weeks, to sketch, draw, and paint before they are wheat-pasted onto street walls for a certainly uncertain future. In fact, when reached for comment on these new street pieces, the artist tells us that we missed one entirely because it was torn down the very night that it went up. Thankfully, the artist could provide a couple of studio images of the short-fated painting.

Aside from compelling imagery, saturated hues and a greater modeling of dimension, texture, and material in the new work, the near crushing weight of these paper-thin pieces comes from the personal stories that motivate them. Unsurprisingly, much of the work of an artist is autobiographical – in fact one could argue that all art is, whether it is fiction writing, stand up comedy, painting, or architecture.

QRST “Flotsam and Jetsam A” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We spoke with QRST about the works and find that some of the personalities and issues he is addressing are so contemporary and specific that they amount to a call-out of a few people publicly. While the artist can be sharply descriptive of the individuals and relationships at play at the center of these stories, he’s trying to take a more universalist approach to the themes, for now.  And you wouldn’t want to pry, would you?

“I wasn’t really planning on divulging exactly why they are what they are, as the ideas in the paintings aren’t really flattering,” says the artist, as he recounts relationships falling apart, friendships going up in smoke, and people “standing in piles of wreckage, surrounded by and covered in symbols for the less laudable traits that people tend to present in these sorts of situations.”

QRST “Flotsam and Jetsam A”. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As diplomatic as he aims for in his recounting of their creation, these symbols wield their own power, and his work continues to reference the historical, modern, and personal interpretation of their meanings for his integrative interactions of peculiarity.  “The crocodiles are there for their tears,” he explains as the litany begins it’s roll, “They’re also monsters climbing through wreckage – they live in the murk and strike when you aren’t ready,” he continues, “they’re cold blooded and concerned only with their own affairs (which seem to be eating and lurking in the mire).”

QRST “Flotsam and Jetsam A”. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As he describes the work you can feel the turbulent emotions washing over the newly dried paintings, now carefully cut out and wheat-pasted on public walls for the average passerby to gaze upon. “Similarly the praying mantis is a dangerous eating machine that even kills and eats its mate.  Both are cold, unfeeling, and impossible to reason with. They take. The buffalo are stubborn – in many situations a water buffalo is a symbol of loyalty, which sickens into stubbornness, stubbornness beyond reason,” he says as he winds out the list of animal players, “The buffalo is accompanied by the birds; one cawing, nagging, incessant, the other aloof.”

While you may know your local Street Artist, the majority prefer to stay anonymous and the nature of the act of hitting and running means that you won’t get an explanatory placard nearby and the meaning of the work is not always evident on its face, even when it is in yours.  While some of the new crop is moving to refract their work through a cubist prism today on the street, another few are becoming more hand hewn and focused, precise in their sentiment and personal.

As graffiti and public murals and advertising and Street Art have continued their dance together over the last few decades, the street has been a stage for public airing of the political and the personal. Where a relatively new artist like QRST is concerned, his intentions will always be up to your interpretation and can be as general as you like, even while he is feeling fairly specific. “The meaning I’m hanging on them is esoteric and personal to me in such a way that others are going to take what they need from it. This might be something completely different, which I like quite a bit.”

The companion piece of the piece above was taken down from the street, still wet and under the cover of the night before we got to it. The artist sent us two detailed images of it, shown below while still in production at his studio.

QRST “Flotsam and Jetsam B” Detail. (photo © QRST)

QRST “Flotsam and Jetsam B” (photo © QRST)

The Goat Man Cometh

A third piece from QRST arrived recently as well, an image of a ram and man merged, sitting in a yoga stance upon the opened blossom of what may be a large lotus flower. He says it’s difficult to talk about mainly because,  “I don’t think I’ve totally figured out what it’s about.” The comment reveals another part of the QRST process, which he sometimes has described as being subconscious, the discovery of its meaning coming after its completion. But this much he knows, “It comes partly from an urban legend from around where I grew up, that probably exists in a number of places, about a Goat Man that haunts a giant train bridge,” he says as he recalls the story. “In the mis-spent portion of my youth a few of my friends and I spent a fair amount of time thinking about the Goat Man. We left him cigarettes under his bridge,” he says with a sort of revelatory glee.

QRST. Untitled. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He muses about the possible meanings – an imperfect patron, a flawed protector, even a deity. “I’m starting to feel like I’m talking about God here, but I assure you I’m not.” Finally, he settles on his own interpretation of the figure and lets you figure of the rest of the symbols. “The Goat Man was our patron of ‘getting away with shit we shouldn’t have been doing’.”  The glass case of cardinals, the lantern, the three arms, or why he is riding a lotus? It’s up to you.

“I think there’s also a joke in there someplace, but it’s probably only funny to me.”

QRST. Untitled. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

QRST. Untitled. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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This article is also published on Huffington Post Arts & Culture

 

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FKDL and His Vintage Glamour Women

New Wall Celebrates Audrey Hepburn for her May 4 birthday in the Brussells district she was born in. Liz Taylor is her special guest.

There are many references to pop culture, movies, fashion, and celebrity that have appeared in Street Art in the last decade or so, thanks to our full immersion in the National Entertainment State. We always say that the street reflects us back to ourselves, and apparently we are fixated on poised prettitude, at least in some cities. From Street Artists like DAIN to Judith Supine to Faile to The Dude Company, Tian, Aiko, TooFly and myriad anonymous stencillists, you are bound to see depictions of glamorous women and in a variety of archetypes popping up on walls and doorways no matter the year.

FKDL “Breakfast at Ixelles”. Brussels, Beligium. (photo © FKDL)

Parisian Street Artist FKDL reliably returns to his wheelhouse of the 1950s and 60s when he looks for images of idealized females.  Even his silhouettes of graceful and lithe dancing figures will remind you of the 2-D animations of opening credits of Hollywood movies from the golden age, the hip early years of television, beatniks in tight turtleneck sweaters reading poems, and swinging chicks on the cover art from long-playing jazz albums.  As a “fill” to his forms, he often pastes in an actual collage of vintage commercial illustrations that he cut from magazines and dress making pattern envelopes.  Clearly his is a romance with an image of female beauty from an earlier time and he reliably visits it again and again in his work on the streets of Europe and New York.

FKDL “Breakfast at Ixelles”. Brussels, Beligium. (photo © FKDL)

So it is no surprise that last week when FKDL was in the Ixelles district in Brussels he found a lone façade wall on an empty lot that faces the street and was compelled to paint a tribute to the cinema icon Audrey Hepburn, born there 84 years ago this Saturday. “Breakfast at Ixelles” refers to the location and her most famous movie, set in New York, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  While doing the wall he decided to also pay tribute to another screen grand dame Elizabeth Taylor. The 30 foot wall uses his distinctive collage style and the paint colors are associated with the flag of Belgium.

FKDL “Breakfast at Ixelles”. Brussels, Beligium. (photo © FKDL)

FKDL “Breakfast at Ixelles”. Brussels, Beligium. (photo © FKDL)

FKDL in New York (photo © Jaime Rojo)

FKDL (detail) in Brooklyn (photo © Jaime Rojo)

FKDL next to DAIN in Brooklyn (photo © Jaime Rojo)

FKDL in Brooklyn (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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This posting is also on Huffington Post Arts & Culture.

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FAILE’s Towering Night at the Ballet

FAILE’s Towering Night at the Ballet

The dance of high and low art lifts 40 feet into the air as Brooklyn Street Art duo Faile unveil their repertoire of ironic pop imagery at the New York City Ballet this week. As street artists in the then-industrial wasteland of Williamsburg at the turn of the century, Patrick Miller and Patrick McNeil would have not sought such attention but ducked the bright lights as they aerosol sprayed their stencils on street walls in the late hours.

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Now in this most unusual high/low hallelujah junction, NYCB’s Peter Martins brings Faile’s towering visual vocabulary, rising and spilling out at the base, into this hallowed Phillip Johnson designed atrium at the modernist Lincoln Center. Like a painted wooden fountain, Faile’s recombinant cultural appropriations reach a new height; their 5-month study of NYCB’s printed archives producing newly entwined storylines and inflections mirroring those they once imagined only for the street.

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As you walk around its base and view it from the tiered balcony gallery, you can see Faile is messing with stuff again: the re-imaginings of dancers with half-sleeve tattoos as Faile brings in skater culture, the remixing of bodega signage and graffiti writing with art-deco showbill refinement, and even the sly dark humor of a ballerina flying through the air past an appreciative viewer as she sunnily gleams out her high-rise New York apartment window. This is the visual vocabulary that unfolds in your manège around the base; the imagery, symbols, and pop witticisms that Faile layers deliberately into this one-column retrospective. For their hardcore fans, there are of course the Mao, the Prince Charles, the horse-headed surfer and monkeys in dresses. And 1986.

 

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

How did it get here, a soon-opening exhibit “Les Ballets de Faile”? Not a typical gig for Street Art, true, but ballet as an art form has a sort of thinning crowd of fans while Street Art has a sort of exploding one – one that is capturing the imagination of many of the same people these seats have been missing.

“It is such an institution,” says Faile’s Patrick McNeil as he describes the New York City Ballet, “You have people who have been coming for 30-40-50 years to see performances.” Precisely. Quick tangential math inspired by that statement helps explain the necessity of bringing in artists like Faile and coaxing in the Millenials, who will hopefully pry themselves from the glowing blue little screens in their laps long enough to watch the live show onstage. Well perhaps they could send one discreet Tweet about it – #faileballetisawesome .  One additional benefit will be that the dancers will see at least some people their own age when the lights come up.

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“So we had a meeting with Peter Martins, who is the Ballet Master in Chief,” says the other Faile, Patrick Miller, as he talks about the new art series the ballet is sponsoring, “and we just kind of showed him our work and all the things we had done – it was amazing actually. He was so enthusiastic. And when we heard of all the artists who have been involved with them before we were just like, “Alright, just tell us when you are ready to say ‘go’!” – A completely understandable response when you realize you’ve just joined a list of artists that include Warhol, Noguchi, Clemente, and Lichtenstein, among others.

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

During a recent visit to the duo’s studio in Brooklyn, Patrick and Patrick showed a number of the works that will be on display on the tower, as well as some of the variations on the ballet themes that may not. Because they believe strongly in their process of discovery, the end results, however precise, can be sort of surprising to them. Not that they didn’t do their homework.

Brooklyn Street Art: So you gained access to the archives of visual materials from the New York City Ballet…
Patrick Miller: Yeah so they opened up the archives – they were way underground some place in the Wall Street area – all their old programs, ephemera, – and we kind of took a lot of that in… (he gestures to a wood painting) this body of the dragon is in a perfume ad in one of the playbills and after seeing the ballet I liked the idea of seeing lightning bolt legs for the ballerinas, so…

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The two Faile nights at the ballet quickly sold out because of this marrying of high and low, and possibly because the $29 ticket price also came with a 2” x 2” wooden Faile block made especially for the occasion. For the guys, it looks like a sweet and entertaining fusion of disparate elements – like they are accustomed to. “We were not into ballet, and we didn’t really know much about ballet,” says McNeil about their experience at the outset, “Our work is from the street and something that is not really from that world at all. We felt a little out of place just going there, you know.”

After many conversations, studies, sketches, paintings, screen prints, and nights stacking wood blocks, they don’t have any doubt that Faile belongs at the ballet. After their opening February 1st, few will.

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower installed in the atrium for the New York City Ballet, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower installed in the atrium for the New York City Ballet, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The theater will hold open hours for one week beginning Sunday, February 10 so you can stop by and view the new Faile exhibit. “Les Ballets de Faile” will remain installed on the promenade of the theater from January 15 – February 24, 2013.

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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Carlo McCormick at Nuart 2012

One of the best parts about a celebration of Street Art culture like Nuart in Norway is that there sometimes is an opportunity to speak with and listen to people who make it their mission to put it into context. New York art critic, curator, editor, and writer Carlo McCormick has an exhaustive knowledge and enthusiasm for the scene that evolved on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1970s and 80s concurrently with the evolution of graffiti into a celebrated art form.  As Street Art continues apace, having perspective on some of its precursors is imperative and McCormick knows how to bring it alive.

An moment of elation with Carlo McCormick while he addresses the Nuart audience in his keynote presentation Re:mark. (image still © Nuart 2012)

To hang out with Carlo on the street is a joy because he can ground your current observations with his knowledge of their antecedents and yet become as equally appreciative of the new artists on todays’ scene whom he hasn’t heard of.  During this talk he gave this year at Nuart in a very conversational somewhat meandering unscripted way, Carlo reveals the mindset that is necessary to keep your eyes open and appreciative of the new stuff without feeling territorial or enslaved to the past. We appreciate him because he recognizes that the march of graffiti, street art, public art, and it’s ever splintering subsets is part of a greater evolutionary tale that began before us and will continue after us.

Carlo speaks about New York artist Haze and the distinct parallels between corporate branding with the practice of developing and distilling one’s tag for repetition on the street.  (image still © Nuart 2012)

Carlo at ease, conversing with you. (image still © Nuart 2012)

During his presentation McCormick dedicates a significant portion of his remarks to the historical practice of subverting advertising and official forms of messaging – referring to the Situationists, “détournement” and similar methods of playing with perception and turning it on it’s head. Here is an uncredited image from his presentation of a Times Square scene where artist Yoko Ono’s billboard toyed with the perceptions that the Vietnam war was inevitably unending while also alerting a compliant citizenry to it’s role in the matter. (image still © Nuart 2012)

“As I do my best as a really bad scholar to investigate this history of graffiti and mark-making – kind of prior to the official history – the greatest evidence that I find of stuff is in the real canon of fine art photography. Just about every famous photographer turned – I mean it’s not incidental – turned their attention to this illicit anonymous practice., ” Carlo McCormick at Nuart.

 

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Mike Giant Inks a Wall in Chinatown

New York has seen its share of giants. For most people, Mike is just another one.

But for fans of cholo-style graffiti and tattoo inspired art, he is a giant among men. That’s why it was cause for a celebration to see this skate boarding, fixie tricking, graffiti painting, grandpa hipster in suspenders hitting up a fresh white wall with some juicy markers last week under the Manhattan Bridge.

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Thermometer-wise, it was one of our worst July days. For a fleeting moment the bespectacled grey buzzcut artist looked like he wasn’t going to take the New York heat while working outside in crushing hot humidity that felt like the inside of a rice cooker here in Chinatown. But the visitor from San Francisco’s Tenderloin rallied, calmed himself, found his personal zen, and focused on his wall with a positive mindset. While a cluster of hosts and fans stood by Giant methodically laid out the kind of precise, sharp lined calligraphic illustration that has distinguished his work and indelibly marked his reputation among the skater-punk-tattooed-graffiti-lowbro West Coast heroes of the last two-plus decades.

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Very covered in full color ink himself, except for black and grey sleeves, the sometimes tattooist routinely updates his personal skin art collection with work by the likes of Greg Rojas and Chris Conn, like the recent additions of the Apple logo and the bars from Black Flag among the skulls and snakes and sassy vixens. Also routinely, his exacting and precise drawings sell out at shops and packed gallery shows across the world as his work is compared to that of such Mexican/cholo art pioneers like Mr. Cartoon, Chaz Bojorquez, and Jack Rudy. The symbols and metaphors popping boldly, they frame each other even as their meanings and origins conflict; reptiles, tigers, garden roses and The Grim Reaper sit comfortably alongside ornately carved crosses, the Virgin of Guadalupe and hot tattooed girls in fishnets giving you the finger.

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

For this street installation, Giant’s act of inking the wall affected the assembled fans and observers like the chanting of Spanish monks in those remote and silent monasteries: a slowly creeping utter peace. He approached the task with serenity, at a pace that seemed to conserve time rather than spend it. In complete control of his craft, he can aptly break away when approached for a chat or to sign a deck or black book.

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This gig at Klughaus Gallery was to help promote a group show and launch the 8th issue of Kingbrown magazine and Giant said he was happy to visit the town he once lived in for a year before seeking the quieter pace of San Francisco. Right across from the spot is one of the city’s busiest skateparks and for most of the afternoon his work was accompanied by the unmistakeable sound of some exhibition boards hitting the concrete for friendly competitive trickery. He probably felt at home like this since he’s known to hang at the occasional skatepark or empty swimming pool back on the west coast. And for one day in this unbearable NYC heat, a number of fans were happy to see him knocking out this black and white wall, meditating on the good things that a fine line brings.

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The L.E.S. Coleman Skate Park  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A custom designed and painted ramp by Kevin Lyons was used in the competition. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mike Giant (photo © Jaime Rojo)

For details to visit the gallery to see Mike Giant’s completed panels in person and to see the rest of the exhibition now open to the general public click here.

Klughaus and Kingbrown produced this event in partnership with Fountain Art fair.

Artists included in the show are Morning Breath, Andy Jenkins, Chris Cycle, Dave Kinsey, “Grotesk” aka Kimou Meyer, Stefan Marx, Kevin Lyons, Mike Giant, Raza Uno aka MAx Vogel, Greg Lamarche, Zach Malfa-Kowalski, Steve Gourlay, Jay Howell, and Ben Horton, Beastman, Phibs, Hiro, Reka, Kyle “Creepy” Hughes-Odgers, Meggs, Sean Morris, Yok, Sheryo, Ross Clugston, Daek, Lister, Numskull, Ian Mutch, Rone/ aka Tyrone Wright.

 

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KAWS to Debut New “Companion” Balloon at Thanksgiving Parade

Brooklyn Street Artist Joins Tom Otterness, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Takashi
Murakami as Latest Artist to Blow Up at the famous New York Parade

KAWS on the street (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Another Street Artist is crossing a cultural threshold this fall when KAWS debuts a new balloon called “Companion” for the 3.5 million spectators lining the streets of Manhattan. It’s entertaining to imagine of this work nestled between Mickey and Sponge Bob and all their friends on Turkey Day. According to a press release KAWS will reinvent a multitude of balloons, floats and other parade elements featured in the promotional are to be used on posters, advertising and on select merchandising. Go Merch!

KAWS on the street in the meat packing district last June (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A KAWS rendering of the new balloon (© KAWS)

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Gaia and Nanook New Baltimore PasteUps with Martha Cooper

Last weekend Street Artists Gaia and Nanook had some fun touring around with photographer Martha Cooper in her neighborhood of South West Baltimore. Gaia’s ongoing “Legacy” series of big ol’ heads of white men – we should say portraits – who have contributed to the history of urban environments and conditions continues here too.

Photo © Martha Cooper

We’ve been seeing Gaia continue this theme recently in cities like New York, Albany, Atlanta, Miami and even his studio piece in our “Street Art Saved My Life” show last summer in LA – and it’s strangely rewarding and even entertaining…site specific postings of people like NYC’s master builder and corporate beneficiary Robert Moses from mid-20th century may look strange posted in the wilds of decayed New York, yet his big mug is probably more related to the state of our local economy than most people who are running things today. Where Moses’ critics accused him of destroying much of New York’s culture and life through building, Baltimore’s ill-famed developer is accused of killing parts of the city through active neglect. Gaia’s new big head is that of Baltimore billionaire Harry Weinberg, who bought clusters of buildings and abandoned them, effectively bringing blight to part of the city for decades, including today, according to Gaia’s position paper on the topic.

Gaia frequently assists passersby with helpful background information to help explain and contextualize his work like this one-pager above. (copyright Gaia)

“ First we installed a site generated piece of Weinberg’s portrait across the street from his formerly decrepit, now demolished, real estate holdings,” explains Gaia about his travels with the well-known street life photographer. Afterward they all  toured with Martha through her hood, hearing her perspective and insights on urban decay and sociological aspects of the neighborhood now better known as the site for the TV show “The Wire” – a tour which is a genuine treat BSA has also enjoyed.

Photo © Martha Cooper

Eventually it was time to put up a Gaia piece created from a Martha photograph of HE3 from the 1970s. Says, Gaia, “The piece is situated in an alley where a lot of the neighbors congregate and is right now the street from the active stables and pigeon coops.”

Nanook at work (photo © Martha Cooper)

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See more images by Martha Cooper and read her posting on the events of the day with the guys on 12 oz. Prophet here.

Here is a link to the finished pieces on Gaia’s Flickr
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gaiastreetart/6662613139/in/photostream

Here is Nanook’s Flickr http://www.flickr.com/people/nanookart/

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Overunder Completes Astounding Tiled Piece : “Living Walls: Albany” Update

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Overunder stays after class at “Living Walls” and gets extra credit

Street Artist Overunder just completed his astounding tiled installation this weekend in Albany on the wall of L’esperance Tile Works, a local tile maker with a special 1920s “dust press” that the artist also worked into the piece. For an artist with such a fluid and freewheeling figurative style with a spray can, it is surprising to see it interpreted with such permanence and cogitative consideration. As part of “Living Walls : Albany”, Overunder had already smashed a few walls around the city in the weeks leading up to this opportunity, but after touring the small tile press facility with co-owner Donald Shore, he fell in love with the idea of tiles as medium. “A lot of these tiles were in the backyard up north at our other facility – he and White Cocoa were standing in the pouring rain digging through these boxes of discards and overruns and he brought these back with him,” explains Shore.

brooklyn-street-art-overunder-albany-lving-walls-09-11-web-4Overunder’s initial sketches in his sketch book. (photo © Overunder)

“I think collaboration is a huge part of being an artist. That being said, I was excited when I learned I was doing a mural on a tile manufacturers building. I had never used tile for a mural let alone doing a full out mosaic but now the opportunity was right in front of me. Don was more than willing to teach me as I went and I was more than willing to experiment with this crazy, new medium, ” says Overunder.

“I particularly like the way he’s marking the tiles with his spray can for us to cut,” says Shore, who owns the business with his wife and founder, Linda Ellett.

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The chosen piece is sketched on the actual wall to plan for how the tiles will be cut to fit. (photo © Overunder)

With assistance from a number of young helpers who live in the neighborhood, the project took a little more than a week to complete, and the results take his stuff to a new level. With a patterned face like an Alexander McQueen model, the figure’s limbs get added dimension with Overunder’s mastery of the can. Small details let you know you shouldn’t be too serious about this, like the painted toenails. As the materials are all discards and overruns from other projects, it’s interesting to note that a number of these same tiles are actually in buildings right now, including the Kol Isreal Synagogue designed by Robert Stern in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the Lt. Governors building in Albany, and even the home of Bill Gates.

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The pool of defective and unused tiles that Don showed Overunder made him weak in the knees. The selection process begins. (photo © Overunder)

“The patterned tiles are created using the encaustic method – an inlaid clay where you take a plaster impression using clay and it leaves a reservoir that you fill with different colors and you plain it smooth and it gives you a very nice two dimensional image — that’s a technique we believe was developed in the medieval period and it was reindustrialized in the 1860’s,” explained the enthusiastic as he gave us a tour of the mural while Overunder and his assistants Roberto and Messiah worked.

It’s not often that Street Art has this heft, and certainly it’s pretty rare to take this much time to complete a piece and manage to include the participation of the community at this level. In fact, certain arts critics and public arts academics might want to reclassify this work as something other than Street Art, but we grant wide berth to the term. One thing is for sure, the resulting piece is no less than a tribute to everyone involved and as a business owner in Albany during the first year of Living Walls, Mr. Shore is sold, “I totally support this thing”

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Overunder, Roberto and Messiah collaborating. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Overunder confers with Roberto. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Messiah plays paparazzi. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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The Completed Piece (photo © Overunder)

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Overunder. Detail. (photo © Overunder)

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Overunder. Detail. (photo © Overunder)

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Mystery Revealed : Hellbent’s Jaw belonged to Sigmund Freud

The streets are covered with symbols and markings that have meaning to the maker, their peers, and to passersby. Depending on socio-political-geo-historical factors, you may or may not know what certain tags or images are meant to indicate and aside from gang indicia, no one seems particularly alarmed by this fact that street art and graffiti is often a nest of hidden meanings.

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Hellbent (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

One such symbol that has often appeared on the street is the bottom jaw from Hellbent, rough and jagged, hovering above a bed of psychedelic or pastel floral patterns. If it happened once, you might think “Oh, it’s part of a series and I’ll figure it out when I see the other pieces”. In fact, no. It’s the one symbol that Hellbent repeats most often, and it is perplexing.

Hellbent

Hellbent (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

We finally got an answer from the artist regarding the genesis of the jaw when he was describing his current piece in the LA show “Street Art Saved My Life” and, while it sheds light on the background, somehow it raises more questions. In the story about this Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis, we postulate that the jaw represents our base animal qualities and our similarities to the ruthless animal kingdom, all the while acknowledging the ultimate fragility of a simple bone structure, and be extraction, us. Anyway, before we psychoanalyze it further and bore everybody in the room, here’s what Hellbent says:

“Sigmund Freud at age of 67 appeared in a clinic in Vienna because he had discovered some hard, smooth spots on his jaw. After the doctor examined him it was discovered that they were cancerous and the lesions had to be removed immediately. Since the hospital population at that time was at capacity, Freud was put in a makeshift room that he shared with dwarf. After his operation while his family was out, Freud began to hemorrhage and was unable to call out, while laying bleeding on the floor. If not for the dwarf roommate Freud would have surely died and with this I began thinking of the jawbone.

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Hellbent currently on view at C.A.V.E. Gallery in the show “Street Art Saved My Life : 39 New York Stories” (Photo © Carlos Gonzalez)

The earliest images I was influenced by as a kid were the graphics on skateboards and punk albums. The image of the human skull was a constant in a lot of these images. It was a sign of rebellion and it seemed the embrace death, where society was much more concentrated on living. But as I grew up I noticed that a lot of people who where similarly influenced by these images began to bring the skull into the mainstream. Now you see cute skulls on Paul Frank baby clothes and such.
So to get away from this trend I began to concentrate on just the jaw bone as an image. The jawbone is what is used to communicate and form words with and the way we consume food to sustain life, an important part of the human experience. I have come back to the skull and separated it from the jaw; making it two unique images that are connected through this separation. I also use a lot of animal imagery on the streets, so the jaw bone represents the human element of this world…
Hellbent (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Hellbent (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

I have been calling the new use of multiple floral stencils “Quilting”. I like the idea of taking all these used “scraps” to form something more tangible, something other than its self. Sometimes it makes up the border around the image and other times it is used inside of the image, giving it a cubist like quality. The colors in each of the patterns also play off one another, giving them a natural 3D quality (which is actually intensified with 3D glasses, as was discovered at my last gallery show at Mighty Tanaka) that further emphasizes this cubist element. The shapes seem to pull and push of the surface, but the image is still readily available to the viewer.”
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