The original Berlin Kid, if you will, Mr. Paradox is rappelling down the side of a building again, this time in broad daylight instead of surreptitiously in the darkness of night. It’s part of an initiative by Urban Nation museum and he’s happy to bring the stylized vertical letters that have set his work apart from others – something he refers to as ‘spiritual letters’. He’s his own man, independent, fearless, creative and talented.
“I have always followed my truth-seeker spirit,” he says, “setting my visions higher.”
The saturated red and blue lettering have evolved over time, but his technique has stayed the same for the last decade or so – a style many first compare to Pixaçao. It’s an often dangerous technique of graffiti lettering associated with the aerosol daredevils on the streets of cities like Sao Paulo – but that has also spread to cities like Paris, Berlin and New York.
“I don’t do Pixaçao,” Mr. Paradox tells BSA. “I do a highly advanced form of lettering that I call spiritual letters. I want to deliver art and beauty to the street – and of course to deliver critical messages about the system we live in and life in general.”
And what about the distinctive combination of blue and red colors? “They are like fire and water,” he says. “Like good and evil. Also people recognize me because of it.”
Special thanks to photographer Nika Kramer, who captures and shares these exclusive shots with BSA readers of Mr. Paradox’s installation.
Mr. Paradox’s text (above):
BRAIN WASHED PLANET: THE ELITE IS THE VIRUS ! THIS IS FOR ALL CRITICAL THINKERS UNLOCK THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE ESCAPE THE MAINSTREAM GOVERNMENT HIDES THE TRUTH THEY ARE HOLDING BACK TECHNOLOGY
With the foundation’s Dr. Hans-Michael Brey doing the intro, with YAP’s Sam Walter in the audience along with our show catalog contributor Christian Omodeo, and us in the front row – it was a great way to end our “Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures” exhibition at Urban Nation by looking forward at library plans while surrounded by the best team ever.
On our last Friday night in Berlin, we celebrated inside the exhibition with a live panel discussion featuring the evenings host Nika Kramer, and her guests Martha Cooper and the German graff writer and abstract painting powerhouse MadC. During a far-ranging discussion before a two-room audience in the museum and a live audience online, the three spoke about the graffiti/street art/mural scene from personal and professional perspectives – and how often the street has intersected with contemporary art in the gallery setting over the last decades.
The occasion was an inaugural MCL Talk that officially begins another component of programming related to the research library that we’ve been working on here, now open, called the Martha Cooper Library at Urban Nation. We will aim to make it the premier research library of graffiti, street art, and related urban art: the first place you think of when you need to begin your investigation into this remarkable global democratic people’s art movement.
There was a lively discussion of MadC’s evolution from being an artistically inclined child to one who would develop a signature style as she traveled worldwide to paint increasingly complex and massive walls. Creative challenges and cultural roadblocks were discussed and hard-earned philosophies were described; giving an opportunity for greater appreciation for the routes these people took to participate in, to put their mark on, the graffiti/street art environment. Ms. Kramer skillfully steered to parallels in the pioneering photography and documentary career of Martha Cooper. In the open and inclusive way that Cooper’s career has always been, many questions from the audience were welcomed, considered and addressed as well.
After the talk ended and people mingled and chatted with one another, we took one more quick walk through the museum to admire the wealth of materials and deep dives into history guests could learn about Ms. Cooper. We hovered above the table, looking from the 2nd floor walkway down to the lobby where the three women signed the exhibition catalog and MadC’s new hardcover for patient fans. Finally we left the museum and hung out on the sidewalk in the spring night air with new friends and old and many fans of the night’s special guests at UN.
Thank you again Berlin.
MC Library Presents Martha Cooper, MadC & Nika Kramer. From Street to Canvas. Urban Nation Museum Berlin. (photo still from the video)
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening: 1. BSA & Martha Cooper Discuss the Opening of MCL at UN
BSA Special Feature: BSA & Martha Cooper Discuss the Opening of MCL at UN
IN CONVERSATION WITH MARTHA COOPER, STEVEN P. HARRINGTON, AND JAIME ROJO (BSA) AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE MARTHA COOPER LIBRARY AT URBAN NATION BERLIN.
In November 2021, Martha Cooper was in Berlin together with Jaime Rojo and Steven P. Harrington of Brooklyn Street Art for a viewing of her exhibition “Taking Pictures”. Simultaneously the three announced the official opening of the Martha Cooper Library. They were each presented with the first MCL library cards in the MCL Reading Room at the Museum. With this, the library was formally inaugurated and has been open to the public since the second of November.
With Chief Librarian Eveline Wilson at the desk and Library Director Dr. Hans-Michael Brey leading the way, we are pleased that BSA’s vision and Martha’s vision of establishing an unrivaled library resource for scholars and students of graffiti and street art and related art movements across the globe will now have a dedicated collection for all.
Already, we are growing. Through the contact of Sascha Blasche, Hitzerot, we received a generous donation from the Dutch Graffiti Library in January of this year. The Dutch Graffiti Library was founded in 2018 by the twins Marcell and Richard van Tiggelen. Together with Sanne van Doorn, they built an extensive private collection on graffiti with a focus on the Netherlands and published several publications on the subject. Books from the Dutch Graffiti Library can be found in the OPAC. We also received an interesting donation from Kathryn Nussdorf. During a VHS (Berlin’s community education university) seminar, she created a fan book about the Berlin graffiti group CBS with many photos. In an exchange with the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy we have also received more catalogs. And in April there will be the first event: “MCL presents…”
Together with Jaime Rojo and Steven P. Harrington of Brooklyn Street Art, UN interviewed Martha Cooper about the opening on its very first day – about their common ideas, wishes and visions for the library.
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…
But really, where else but Wynwood do you see Blade and his lovely wife Portia on the street, or sit with Ron English and his son Mars on folding chairs directly on the street in front of his new pop-up, or have a hug with ever-sunny Elle in front of her lift, or hide in the shade with seven 1UP dudes across the street from their massive new space piece, or talk with Ket in the back yard with “Style Wars” playing on a large screen behind him and the DJ while a florescent colored Okuda marches by, or chase Lamour Supreme while he tries a one-wheel skateboard around a parking lot, nearly crashing into Crash who is in his cherry picker with Abstrk painting a wall? The dinner at Goldman Properties Monday night? Dude.
We’re not really name-droppers, you know that, but honestly it was like a family reunion dinner with perfectly punctilious attention to detail over at Wynwood Walls this week – after two years of Covid fears killing everyone’s buzz. We saw Daze, Shoe, PichiAvo, Bordalo II, Jonone, Shepard Fairey, 1Up, Add Fuel, Case MacClaim, Nychos, Faile, Martha Cooper, Nika Kramer, Mantra, Ken Hiratsuka just to name a few – cavorting with collectors, cultural workers, fanboys, journalists, bloggers, academics, critics, bankers, gallerists, curators, museum people, real estate folks, photographers, dancers, silk climbing aerialists and hustlers of many flavors – and all the class of ’21 artists whom Jessica Goldman invited to paint this year. A Miami mélange, we’ll call it.
We were even having dinner with Martha when a local stencilist named Gregg Rivero sat in an empty chair at the table with us to offer an array of small stencil works featuring graphically pornographic scenes – to choose from as a memento of Miami indubitably. Naturally, we carefully perused his entire collection of 20 or so spread-eagles, doggie-styles, Shanghai-swans, Mississippi-missionaries, Dutch-doors, bobbing-for-sausages, and lord-knows-what-else. After careful consideration and we each selected a favorite stencil and he autographed it. Just not sure what room to hang it in…
Our treasured part of the Miami art vortex ’21 was meeting some BSA fans and Faile fans mixed together at the artist talk hosted by Peter Tunney at GGA Gallery last night. An action-packed hour of pictures covering their 35 year friendship was on offer for the assembled – focused mainly of course on their 22 year professional career. What an amazing career of image-making it is too – and even though we were prepared, there are always surprises with such dynamic dudes who have parlayed an illegal street art career into a well-respected and pretty high profile career with intense collectors and fans of their simplest silk screens and works on paper to their wood puzzle boxes, wood paintings, toys, ripped paintings, and their very new, completely radical approach that breaks their own mold for this “Endless” exhibition. And need we say it, Faile have already released a number of NFTs of course – which some in the audience didn’t know that Faile had – but could have guessed since Faile pioneered interactive digital games that accompanied their analog works as early as 2010 when most people still didn’t even have a smart phone.
But we digress. Back in New York now and it’s grey and cold and unwelcoming, and of course we love it. Thanks Miami! See you soon.
The image below was taken in Wynwood, Miami. At the panel, with Faile, they talked about the process of making their art and one of the subjects was about ripping up posters from the street…. – and how their original name was Alife. Two blocks away we found these ripped posters advertising Alife.
FAILE: ENDLESS is currently on view at Goldman Global Arts Gallery at Wynwood Walls. Wynwood, Miami.
Today at 10:00 AM PDT Shepard Fairey will release his newest print and collaboration with Martha Cooper, “People’s Discontent”. Shepard’s long friendship with Martha has brought several collaborations throughout the years with Shepard remixing some of Martha’s most iconic photos from her Street Play series from the mid-’70s. The print already saw its European release in Berlin last Friday, October 30th at the Urban Nation Museum in Berlin with us and Martha in attendance.
“I teamed up with my good friend and documentary photographer, Martha Cooper, on a new print release called “People’s Discontent.” Martha Cooper has been photographing creative kids in action on city streets since the mid-1970s. I remixed one of Martha’s iconic photos from her book, Street Play, titled “Hitchhiking a Bus on Houston Street” that she shot in 1978 in the Lower East Side of New York City. There was no advertisement on the back of the bus in her original photo, and since disco was the rage in the late ’70s, I thought it made sense for me to add a disco radio station with the slogan, “Listen To The Sounds of People’s Disco.” I added the “DISCO-ntent” and the spraypaint can in the kid’s hand as if he sprayed that on there. It’s a nod to that era but also to what’s going on now with the unrest around social justice issues.”
Venezuelan-born, Munich-based SatOne has graffiti-writing credentials dating back to the early 90s. Over time his letters went post-graffiti to imaginary worlds and science-fiction-inspired abstractions. Employed by big lifestyle, sport, and automotive brands over the last decade, his own work is full of movement and visual adventure-seeking.
Here in Berlin to participate in the Urban Nation One Wall initiative in the neighborhood of Spandau, SatOne (Rafael Gerlach) says he thinks of it as “Coming Home”, and names his new massive mural the same.
“The strict, vertical lines of the balconies can be interpreted as overlapping plateaus or levels,” says the project description. “They are arranging themselves in a dynamic pictorial composition on the surface, and just as life itself they seem constantly in motion.”
With stunning new shots from Nika Kramer we bring you the newest piece by SatOne, who says “Thanks to the daredevils Samuel, Flo and Michelle.” You know who you are.
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.
The good news is Shepard will be selling another block of them on November 4th, so watch his announcements on social media!
What a complete HONOR it is for us to introduce this unique collabo between Martha Cooper and Shepard Fairey to celebrate our curation of her very FIRST career-wide retrospective, now showing at Urban Nation museum until May of 2022.
Very special thanks to our beautiful partners at YAP Berlin for making this event happen.
Click HERE to purchase your print now or HERE to purchase your print on Nov. 4.
50+ years of taking photos of artists at work means you have thousands of images of graffiti writers straddling trains, street artists leaning off ladders, muralists hovering 20 stories above the street in cherry pickers. One of 11 sections comprising “Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures”, our Artists at Work area has 400 printed images from around the world, floor to ceiling, and across a half dozen decades.
Not only can people find their graff and street art heroes on these walls as seen through Martha’s eyes, we have also created a database searchable iPad of 1300 more images of Artists of Work that have never been seen before. Just enter a country name, or artist’s name, or even a Street Art festival name, and you’ll get a whole lot of eye candy, artists, and tools of the trade.
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.
Later this month we are announcing a collaborative print release worldwide featuring another remix and a countrywide screening in theaters across Germany of “Martha: A Picture Story” with us and Martha interviewed by Nika Kramer at the Berlin opening. At a separate ceremony we also will co-host with Martha and Urban Nation the official opening of the Martha Cooper Library (MCL), a full library facility and research center to be permanently housed in the museum building.
To start off the excitement, here is Lady AIKO herself speaking about her new mural welcoming visitors to see “Martha Cooper: TAKING PICTURES”, now open until May 2022.
Q: Tell us about this mural project for UN. AIKO: Firstly, this mural is a gift for Martha Cooper in celebration of her big retrospective show at Urban Nation. Martha and I have been friends since 2006. We’ve been partners in crime, so to speak, for the last fifteen years. We have worked on many different projects together all over the world from the United States to Japan to Africa. Martha has taken over 16,000 pictures of AIKO and has archived many of her art projects.
I am honored to be part of this opportunity and working with Urban Nation to allow me to create this epic mural for Martha. The museum facade is almost like fresh skin wrapped around her massive historic exhibition with big love from everyone who was part of this production.
Martha and I have been collaborating on this one; it’s called the “Martha Cooper Remix” whereby I interpret and illustrate her images, create paintings on paper and on outdoor & indoor walls. For UN, I easily imagined us creating a big remix piece on the wall.
To begin this mural mission, I asked Martha what she would like to see on the wall; especially since I wanted to paint based on the classic pictures she photographed in NYC. She suggested several of her favorite pictures such as the one with Lady Pink when she was in the yard with the boys, Little Crazy Legs with spray cans, and the boom box one (which is the most iconic picture and the cover photo of the Hip Hop Files). Also, I included break-dancers Emiko and Frosty Freeze which are popular ones as well.
Based on her selections, I spent time at my studio to illustrate a large-scale portrait in my style and imagined it as the giant invitation banner for her show – as if it were a classic hand-painted movie ad in old Times Square. Since her show runs until next spring, till 2022, I’d love to invite everyone and spread the vibe even to the people who see the mural from the U-Bahn train above.
Q:Can you tell us about you and little background? AIKO: I’ve been based in NYC since 1997. NYC has been my playground and a huge inspiration. I met many amazing local and international artists, Faile, Bast, Banksy, Ben Eine, Obey, and Space Invader at that time. We were young artists, not famous yet, but we connected with one after another pretty much spontaneously – as if it were destiny. I started working in street art with everyone daily during the early 2000s and I was part of numerous gallery shows, jams, festivals, and museum installations. Being part of the history of street art and the graffiti (urban art) movement is how I got involved as AIKO as well.
… Meeting Martha Cooper was also another magical happening for me. Martha and I met in 2006 when I just started leaving my boys’ crew, working solo and stenciling bunnies on the streets. We became good and hard-core girlfriends and started traveling together. She introduced me to subway art legends and all other kinds of fascinating people and stuff in the world. I feel I’m one of the people who is continuing the history for the next generation.
Q:What do you think about working in Berlin? AIKO: Berlin is such a memorable place in my personal art life history. I spent lots of time without the Internet and enjoyed every day as a young artist. I made lots of friends and lots of stencils on the street. Of course, I was with Martha and spray-painted my bunny too. I’m so grateful that Urban Nation welcomed me back to town and let me create such a huge piece on the facade of the museum. Thank you so much for everyone’s support.
“MARTHA COOPER: TAKING PICTURES” Curated by Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo is currently open to the general public. Click HERE for schedules and details.
Over the last few spring-like days in Berlin, her portrait rose slowly about the streets, reminding us that her moral courage continues to have an impact today on International Women’s Day. It’s only been a recognized holiday in this German city for a year, says Urban Nation museum director Jan Sauerwald. Franco’s visage is the first to occupy what has been officially identified as the museums’ ‘Brave Wall.’
“Realizing this political mural on the theme of women’s rights together with artist Katerina Voronina is a special moment for the URBAN NATION Museum program,” he says, “To present the first ‘Brave Wall’ in Berlin and Germany on this day in cooperation with Amnesty International puts the project in a fitting context.”
The artist was chosen by a panel made of an equal number of Urban Nation and Amnesty International participants, along with journalist Miriam Davoudvandi. The joint goal on International Women’s Day is clear.
“Women’s rights are human rights and therefore an important part of our human rights work. I am very pleased that the first ‘Brave Wall’ in Germany was designed by a woman, Katerina Voronina, and honors the impressive commitment of human rights defender Marielle Franco,” says Dr. Julia Duchrow, Deputy Secretary-General of Amnesty International in Germany, in a press release.
An illustrationist and motion designer, Katerina Voronina successfully evokes the resolute spirit of fighting for human rights in the portrait of Franco, “With the realization of this ‘Brave Wall’ I had the opportunity to bring a special and courageous woman into focus.” she says.
Meanwhile, in Spain, artist and muralist Marina Capdevila identifies an obvious question about saving only one day to pay tribute to women in this new piece.
“Today, we still are fighting and working nearly every day to be listened to, to be taken seriously,” she laments, reflecting on the sly kind of dismissiveness she feels about her art practice sometimes. “I’m tired of receiving 8 million emails with proposals that offer to ‘give visibility to women,’ ” she says.
“If we continue like this, will we also eventually only work one day a year?”
Until such a day, she’s loving life as a painter and savors the sisterhood that brings her support and opportunity. “I am fortunate to have wonderful women in my life who inspire me, help me, and above all, make me laugh.”
“Literally, the art had to leave the museum and come out into the street, as art in public spaces is the only art on display during these strange times,” says photographer Nika Kramer about this new program at the Stadtmuseum Oldenburg here in northern Germany.
We concur of course because we have seen that the exhibitions mounted on the streets of cities everywhere since last March have superseded the impact of most formal openings.
Covid-19, the Coronavirus has changed everything.
And that is the main point of “Neue Konturen” (New Contours), a temporary outside installation during January and February by the artist collective “The Hidden Art Project” and the muralists “die Jungs”. As a public interaction that is meant to engage people in the public sphere, a total of twelve artists and cultural workers will present seven artworks – including installations, performances, and video installations – all of which deal with the Corona pandemic.
“Corona and its effects are perceived differently by people. Our works address and interpret the experiences,” says Sven Müller, founder of The Hidden Art Project. “In this way, we hold up a mirror to the viewers and invite them to reflect on themselves and their own actions.”
Most museums have been struggling to get their doors open after many government restrictions closed them. Oldenburg City Museum will be closed when this exhibition closes for new construction as well as the renovation of the historic villas. But this has been a welcome program to say goodbye to the old and look forward to a new, positive future.
Dr. Steffen Wiegmann, director of the Oldenburg, says: “With the ‘New Contours’ program, we are bidding a temporary farewell to our location and offering artists the opportunity to use the museum building as a place and space for their art.”
We thank the artists for their dedication during the many challenges that are brought to creative endeavors these days. We also thank Ms. Kramer for sharing her shots of their work and preparations here with BSA readers.
“I’d like to give a shout-out to the Stadtmuseum for giving those young artists a platform to play,” says Nika.
“And props go to everybody working on this great project out in the very challenging cold weather and for being so flexible and making it happen – even though you completely had to change your concepts! Congrats! You rock! And thanks for having me! I had a blast.”
Fully booked and fully celebrated, the weekend long celebration of the Martha Cooper career retrospective opened with great success and great reviews as it has been heavily covered by media in print, online, and radio. Because of Covid restrictions the museum can only accommodate a certain number of guests at a time but so far all tickets have been claimed each day. Please be sure if you are going to grab a free ticket online at Urban Nations’ website.
We wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to photographer and BSA collaborator Nika Kramer for sharing her photos with us.