This time of year, it is hard to find people in Manhattan on the weekends – they’re “weekending” in the Hamptons, darling.
Not exactly the original setting you might associate with graffiti, street art, hip-hop, punk rock, zines, and underground art culture but where else can curators Evan Pricco and Kim Stephens sell these works on paper while sipping cool drinks poolside?
“Beyond the Streets” carries the mobile party to Southampton Arts Center this Saturday with a wide swath of styles – 500 works from over 100 artists in an art fair-sized venue. It may remind you of the Urban Air Fair tried in Manhattan in summer 2017, but this one has something that one didn’t: Roger Gastman.
If it’s here, it’s because it is quality work and has a connection to the roots of these subcultural scenes usually as well. Expanding now to the more nebulous category of Contemporary, you may be surprised to see more accessible interpretive variations on the themes. Let’s see that paper, people.
Artists include: Action Bronson, Addam Yekutieli, agnès b, AIKO, André Saraiva, Andrew Schoultz, Andrew Thiele, Andy Rementer, Aryz, Bert Krak, Brandon Breaux, Broken Fingaz, Bryant Giles, Camille Walala, CES, Cey Adams, Charlie Ahearn, Chloe Early, Chris FREEDOM Pape, Clark Fox, Cody Hudson, Conor Harrington, Craig Costello, CRASH, DABSMYLA, Daniel Rich, David “Mr StarCity” White, DAZE, DEFER, Emily Manwaring, Eric Haze, Ermsy, Escif, FAILE, Faith XLVII, Fucci, Greg SPONE Lamarche, Gustavo Zermeno, Hilda Palafox, House 33, HuskMitNavn, Ian Reid, Icy & Sot, Jaime Muñoz, Jamilla Okuba, Jane Dickson, JEC*, Jeremy Shockley, Jillian Evelyn, JK5, John Konstantine, Julian Pace, KATSU, KC Ortiz, Kelsey Brookes, Khari Turner, Kime Buzzelli, LeRoy Neiman, Linas Garsys, Liz Flores, Lucy McLauchlan, Lujan Perez, Maripol, Mark Mothersbaugh, Martha Cooper, Marshall LaCount, Matt McCormick, Maya Hayuk, Michael Vasquez, MIKE 171, Mister CARTOON, Neena Ellora, Nehemiah Cisneros, Nettie Wakefield, NUNCA, Otto183, Paije Fuller, Paul Insect, POSE, Rebecca Morgan, Reko Rennie, Rello, Richard Colman, RISK, Ron English, Ryan McGinness, Sage Vaughn, Saladeen Johnson, Scott Campbell, Sean from Texas, Senon Williams, Shantell Martin, Shepard Fairey, SJK 171, Sofía Enriquez, SNOEMAN, Spacebrat, STASH, Steve ESPO Powers, SWOON, TAKI 183, The Perez Bros., Timothy Curtis, Todd James, Troy Lamarr Chew II, Umar Rashid, Victor Reyes, Wasted Rita, Wulffvnky, Yarrow Slaps, Yusuke Hanai, ZESER, ZOER and 45RPM.
BEYOND THE STREETS on PAPER July 17—August 28, 2021 Southampton Arts Center, Southampton, New York, 11968
They used to run from the Vandal Squad in this
neighborhood. Now people pay to see their art here.
Through the expansive glass wall on the 6th floor you can look down Kent Avenue to see the spot where a monster pickup truck with a heavy chain tied around a FAILE prayer wheel almost jackknifed on the sidewalk, gave up and sped away. Not that many Brooklynites saw that event in the 2000s – nobody walked here and few people drove through Williamsburg then except truckers looking for street walking ladies wearing high heels and spandex. Oh, and a serial killer.
Now visitors buy tickets to see a circular colonnade of FAILE prayer wheels here at 25 Kent – including the real estate developers and Wall Street professionals who displaced the community of artists whose work made the neighborhood attractive and “edgy”.
Along with Street Artists in this exhibition like Shepard Fairey, Bast, Swoon, Invader, Aiko, Dan Witz, Katsu, 1UP, and Lister, the FAILE duo put completely illegal artworks on walls under cover of night and threat of arrest in this same neighborhood then – transforming it with many others who are not in this show into an open gallery of the streets, placing Williamsburg on the map as New Yorks’ epicenter of the newly emerging Street Art scene.
The Nature of Graffiti and Street Art
As graffiti and Street Art are migratory and necessarily elusive by nature, this story is only one chapter in a volume of history that serious academics are now reconstructing and analyzing. With each passing year and published white paper, the practices of 20th century public mark-making are being examined in greater detail for archiving and for posterity. Not surprisingly, institutions, patrons, collectors, and brands are increasingly interested in this story as well.
When it comes to the anarchic subculture of illegal
street art practice and its influence on society, there are non-stop ironies
sprayed en route from verboten to Vuitton, and street culture has supercharged
the imagination of the mainstream and high culture throughout history – that’s
where the best ideas come from sometimes. Many seminal artworks from “the
scene”, as it were, represent much more than what you are seeing at first
glance. As art and cultural critic Carlo McCormick has described the iconic
Shepard Fairey ‘Hope’ image in Art in
America, many graffiti and Street Art works saved are “not a
fleeting pop-culture sensation but simply the latest crossover hit in a long
line of underground classics.”
The wide-ranging survey that is Beyond the Streets makes sure that you know where the roots are, and who many of the pioneers were. It is impossible to tell a complete story that includes scenes as diverse as west coast Chicano muralism, hobo graffiti, hip-hop commercial design, NY downtown artivism, Japanese low/hi contemporary, skateboard, tattoo, early train writing and a current romance with muralism, but BTS at least gives a serious consideration to each and offers you the opportunity to look further into them.
With the help of photography documentation from people like Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant, Jim Prigoff, Lisa Kahane, Joe Conzo, John Fekner, Bill Daniel, Maripol, and Dash Snow, the crucial importance of this work provides needed interstitial and contextual information that enables myriad stories to be elucidated.
Exhaustive, no. Exhausting, possibly. Pace yourself.
spent my life surrounded by graffiti and Street Art,” says the shows’ director
Roger Gastman “and you could say that I have been obsessed with understanding
the culture, its origins, and its evolution. It’s incredible to me how far it
With 150 artists whose practices span five decades
and various (mainly) American subcultures displayed in a maze of new walls in
this 100,000 sf, two-floor exhibition, the Beyond the Streets senior curatorial
team includes Gastman, filmmaker/ graffiti historian Sacha Jenkins SHR, Juxtapoz
Editor in Chief Evan Pricco, and author/ graffiti historian / graffiti writer David
CHINO Villorente. Each curator brings core competencies and knowledge of the
graffiti scene (Gastman, Jenkins, Villorente) as it has evolved to include the
Street Art practice and an eventual move toward contemporary art (Pricco).
“It’s absolutely phenomenal,” says Villorente, who says his history as
a graffiti writer compounds the impact for him. “I was glad that the show was
coming to New York because I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I couldn’t have
imagined it – especially when I think back on when I was writing on the trains
and doing illegal graffiti. To have of show of this magnitude is really
“We started writing in ’68 and here we are, fifty-one years later,” says Mike 171 as he gestures toward himself and crew writer SJK 171 when talking about how they began and continued writing their tags on the street in New York City. “This is the history right here,” he says, and you know you are about to be schooled about the plain realities of early graffiti writing. At the opening, you witness each guy tagging in a large dusty window here and realize the love for writing never actually stops.
“We were expressing something that was inside of us,” says SJK 171. “The streets were like ours,” he tells you against a backdrop of their work, Cornbread’s work, and of images full of one color, single line monikers that set the stage for the more colorful, character-driven pieces and burners a decade later, transforming trains into a rolling aesthetic symphony by the mid 1970s.
One of the actual “whole car” writers of that period, Lee “LEE” Quinones, here recreates a “Soul Train” car side on a canvas that looks like it could easily wrap an actual MTA #2-line car that he used to slaughter with cans in the middle of the night at the train yard. When describing the new work he said he was intentionally keeping it simple – perhaps owing the style to his earlier practice.
“I think this is one of Lee’s most amazing pieces,” says Charlie Ahearn, the director of the seminal 1982 “Wild Style” film that Quinones stars in. Ahearn self-produced that film which became an important distillation of the merging of graffiti with hip-hop culture during a pivotal moment in the history of both. Now also a professor of Hip-Hop, art, design, and documentary film making at Pace University, Ahearn is familiar with many of the artists work here, many relationships reaching back decades. “I told Lee that I liked that it was a one-off, that he painted all the color straight off without the embellishment, texturing, and all that stuff.”
Charlie’s twin brother John Ahearn is represented here popping out from walls as well, his sculptures serving as authentic portraits of people you may easily have seen on New York streets over the last four decades. Casted directly on top of the people themselves in a technique he has perfected, the placement of the sculptures gives life to the space.
Star Writers, Immersive Environments, Foundations
The individual clusters of work and canvasses by 1970s-80s train painters like Futura, Crash, Lady Pink, Freedom, Carlos Mare, Blade, Haze, and Daze and next gen graphic painters like Doze Green and Rime are complemented by a number of so-called “immersive” spaces here like the Mission Schools’ Barry McGee storefront with smashed window, and the Australian Pop duo Dabs & Myla’s eye candy floral walls with thousands of artificial fauna created in collaboration with Amelia Posada.
The high-profile graphic activist Shepard Fairey’s 30 year career overview takes a large area and encompasses all elements of his street and studio practice, and Bill Barminski’s cardboard home is open for you to explore with a wry smile, remembering the security room installation he did at Banksy’s Dismaland a couple years earlier.
also treated to a full rolling wall of Craig Stecyk posters that brings you the
sun and surf of California skate culture, sculptures by Mr. Cartoon and Risk, a
kid-friendly illustrated room with crafting supplies for young fans on tables
from HuskMitNavn, and an astute freight train culture educational display by
writer/painter/sculptor Tim Conlon (complete with a mid-sized Southern Pacific freight
on train tracks he and friends built), prints/photos by historian Bill Daniel, and
original drawings by the man some call the King of Hobo Art, buZ blurr.
are a self portrait as predicated on a first Bozo Texino person and I kind of
changed the image around,” says Mr. blurr, a legendary figure in denim
overalls, as he patiently describes his classic tag image of a railway cowboy.
is a writer motif – the pipe smoke is going up and then it is trailing back to
signify movement as the train goes down the track,” he says. “I worked in the
train yards and my job was as a brakeman. I had a little free time so I started
making drawings. I made my first one on November 11, 1971,” he says as he
recalls the state of mind that he was in at the time as he began to tag
freights with the image and text that came to him clearly – and may have
perplexed other travellers.
came from a confused state. I was questioning everything. I was putting kind of
cryptic messages under my drawings. It was anybody’s guess as to its literal
interpretation. I addressed some of them up to specific people but whether they
saw them or responded to them, I wouldn’t have any idea.”
it’s shipped in the crate its 550 pounds,” says Conlon as he stands by the 3-foot
high freight car re-creation on tracks and ties that is
hit with a couple of wild and colorful graffiti burners. “Here I’m going to
show you something,” he says as he pulls back the roof to reveal the narrow
coffin interior in rusted red. “So I’m going to hide some beer in here during
the opening party. This is like the fifth one of these I’ve made,” and he proudly
confides that one lives in the house of Robert Downey Jr.
Digging Deep to Take Risks
to rest on laurels and previous formulas of success, the show keeps a freshness
by presenting known entities pushing themselves further and taking creative risks;
a reflection of that spirit of experimentation we have always prized on the
writer Earsnot from Irak crew, now known professionally as Kunle Martin, said
he had been making work for the gallery containing elements of graffiti, but
felt they were too “safe”.
“Then my friend Dan said ‘you should go back to doing drawings,’” he says as he stands before figurative canvasses in black and white on cardboard. “I said ‘I can’t! It’s too hard! But eventually I began working in my studio five days a week, and I made enough for a show.”
Reflective of the attitude of Gastman toward artists in the community, he told Martin that if he made enough of them, he could place them in this show. “I think he was happy to hear that I was in my studio working. He’s been very supportive of it.”
color-drenched graphic/photographic collage style is featured with plenty of
space in large frames from Chicago’s Pose, who says he is letting photography
and geometry lead him away from his previous pop collage style that may have reminded
many of Lichtenstein. His inspiration here comes from his research into early
photos of graffiti writers running from police “I was
obsessed with John Naars photos and I have usually Norman Mailer as in
inspiration. Some of these photo references are from the Philadelphia Inquirer,” he says.
New York’s Eric Haze also dares himself to take a new direction with three canvasses featuring a refracted piecing-together of imagery and memories of this city in monochrome. Based on black and white scenes of the city by photographer and NYC taxi driver Matt Weber, the scenes capture aspects that are culled from imagination and impression. The centerpiece canvas captures an iconic piece of the Williamsburg waterfront that has been removed in the last few years by developers; the signage of the old Domino Sugar factory by the Williamsburg Bridge.
Mr. Haze said he meant it as a gift and tribute to
his wife, actress and longtime resident of the neighborhood, Rosie Perez who
used to see it along Kent Avenue as a kid. “He’s not afraid to take risks. He’s not afraid to go in the
studio and express what’s inside of him. When he brought me to the studio, he
says, ‘I have a surprise for you’,” she remembers. “I saw the beginnings of the
Domino painting and I was stunned into silence and I got teary-eyed.”
An expanded version of the show that first mounted
in Los Angeles last year, the collection is focused a great deal on the
American history of graffiti with a balance of East/West coast graffiti history
– in a way that may remind you of 2011’s “Art in the Streets” at LA MoCA. That
makes sense, considering Gastman co-curated that show as well.
“It’s both a historical and current look at where
the culture went and where it started and how widespread it is,” says
co-curator Evan Pricco, who perhaps provides a lynchpin view toward the big
name Street Artists who continued to push expectations in the 2000’s on streets
and in commercial galleries around the world. “With the space spread over two
floors it has a way better curatorial sense. I also think it does compete with
museums because it shows that this kind of work is on the same level. You kind
of have to present it in a way that feels very institutional and archival.”
So is Beyond the Streets
a graffiti show or a Street Art show or a contemporary art show? For artist
Kenny Scharf, who first gained attention during the heyday of Downtown
Manhattan’s art scene that benefitted from an interlude where rents were dirt
cheap and Wall Street was on a cocaine high, there is no need to categorize
what kind of art this is.
“You know I never liked labels or titles anyway so
even back in the early 80s I was pegged like ‘oh you’re a graffiti artist,’” he
says. “People feel the need to title and label so I’ll
let them to continue to do that but I don’t fit into any of them and I don’t
want to. I want to fit into all of them and none of them.”
Streets opened June 21 and continues through the summer.
Martha Cooper’s work as exhibited at Beyond The Streets New York
Beyond The Streets NYC is now open in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to the general public and will run until August 2019. Click HERE for schedules, tickets and details.
Gastman’s Massive Graffiti and Street Art Show Arrives at Epicenter.
“I’m really excited to bring this show to New York,” says curator, graffiti historian and urban anthropologist Roger Gastman, “because the city plays such a pivotal role in the origin and evolution of the culture. The iconic images of covered subway cars made graffiti famous worldwide.”
He’s talking of course about “Beyond The Streets” the hybrid exhibition that he mounted in LA last year featuring the work of 150 who have proved to be pivotal to the evolution of a fifty year global people’s art movement that includes graffiti, street art, and urban contemporary art. Filling over 100,000 square feet of new space in Brooklyn, this two-floor cross-section survey will feature artworks by many of the same vandals, graffiti writers, Street Artists, and art activists who hit NYC streets, created dialogue with passersby, and were sometimes chased by the authorities. To see them showcased here is to recognize that there is not just one route to take – in fact there are many.
“We have an incredible roster of artists for New York,” Gastman tells us, “and a brand new space in Williamsburg that has a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline as our backdrop.” Notably the lineup includes artists whose work BSA has documented on the streets in this very same neighborhood over the past two decades, including Shepard Fairey, Faile, Swoon, Bast, Invader, Aiko, and others. Ironically the appearance of free-range Street Art in the neighborhood has been seriously diminished since that time.
The exhibition is one more verification that a significant portion of the scene is being widely recognized for its cultural contribution and value in the contemporary art canon – a significantly fluid scene fueled by discontent and a desire to short-circuit the established routes to audience appreciation. Like large survey shows elsewhere, the takeaway is the significant impact street culture and its tangential subcultures continues to have on the culture at large.
Gastman says the New York version of “Beyond The Streets” will take an
additional interest at the role of music and art activism on the street, along
with immersive installations, a tattoo parlor, a special Beastie Boys
installation with artifacts and ephemera, a new 30th Anniversary
Shepard Fairey project “Facing The Giant: 3 Decades of Dissent,” and large
scale works by Gorilla Girls, Futura, Cleon Peterson, and Takashi
More news coming on programming and events, but the important opening date to know right now is June 21st.
“All in all, it will make for a really special show this Summer,” says Gastman.
BEYOND THE STREETS TEAM
Curator: Roger Gastman
Co-Curators: Sacha Jenkins SHR, Evan Pricco, David CHINO Villorente
A-ONE, AIKO, Al Diaz, Alexis Ross, Alicia McCarthy, André Saraiva, Barry McGee, BAST, Beastie Boys, Bert Krak, Bill Barminski, Bill Daniel, BLADE, Broken Fingaz, Buddy Esquire, buZ blurr, Carlos Mare, Carl Weston, Cey Adams, C.R. Stecyk III, Charlie Ahearn, Chaz Bojórquez, Claudia Gold, Cleon Peterson, COCO 144, Conor Harrington, Corita Kent, Craig Costello, CRASH, DABSMYLA, Dan Witz, Dash Snow, DAZE, DEFER, Dennis Hopper, Dondi White, Doze Green, EARSNOT, Estevan Oriol, Fab 5 Freddy, FAILE, Faith XLVII, Felipe Pantone, FREEDOM, FUTURA 2000, Gajin Fujita, Glen E. Friedman, Gordon Matta-Clark, Guerrilla Girls, HAZE, Henry Chalfant, Herb Migdoll, Husk Mit Navn, INVADER, Jane Dickson, Jason REVOK, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jenny Holzer, Jim Prigoff, John Ahearn, John Fekner, John Tsombikos, Joe Conzo, José Parlá, KATS, KC Ortiz, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Kilroy Was Here, LADY PINK, LAZAR, LEE Quiñones, Lisa Kahane, MADSAKI, Maripol, Mark Gonzales, Mark Mothersbaugh, Martha Cooper, Matt Weber, Maya Hayuk, Michael Lawrence, MIKE 171, MISS 17, Mister CARTOON, Nina Chanel Abney, NOC 167, Pat Riot, Patrick Martinez, Paul Insect, POSE, PRAY, Rammellzee, Randall Harrington, RETNA, Richard Colman, Richard Hambleton, RIME, RISK, Ron English, Ruby Neri, SABER, Sam Friedman, SANESMITH, Sayre Gomez, Shepard Fairey, SJK 171, SLICK, SNAKE 1, SNIPE1, STAY HIGH 149, Stephen Powers, SWOON, Takashi Murakami, TAKI 183, TATS CRU, TENGAone, Tim Conlon, Timothy Curtis, Todd James, Trash Records, UGA, VHILS, and ZESER
The show is developed in partnership with Adidas and Perrier. Additional support provided by Modernica, Montana Colors, NPR, NTWRK, Twenty Five Kent and WNYC.
Hello from French Polynesia! All week we have been hopping around the islands from Papeete to Raiatea and now in Bora Bora. Celebrating its 5th anniversary/birthday last night at the huge community street party with founders Sarah Roopina and Jean Ozonder and with this years ONO’U festival artists slamming walls like crazy here – you can see that hard work pays off sometimes.
Grassroots, not overly commercial, inclusive, responsive to the neighbors, high quality artworks – its a solid, even golden mix. Also Sarah’s parents are always happy to pitch in, whether it is pushing a broom or making lunch for everyone at home in their kitchen and bringing it to the work site to make sure that everyone eats. It is touches of warmth like this which reminds you that in many ways this scene that started in the street is as much about community as it is self expression.
For BSA readers who are just catching up with ONO’U we thought we’d use Images of the Week as an ONO’U Greatest Hits collection today. Most of these have never before published on BSA from the four previous editions. We took winding streets, back alleys, roundabouts, promenades, rooftops, abandoned lots and just about any place we could enter alongside Martha Cooper and had a blast for three days finding these walls again. Enjoy and Māuruuru roa!
“The coconut tree is one of the most common trees in The Islands Of Tahiti. The Polynesians always tell a legend about its creation… The coconut tree legend…
A long time ago, a young girl called Hina was of real beauty due to her sun kissed skin and silky hair. She was meant to marry the prince of eels. Frightened by the physique of her suitor, who had a gigantic body and an enormous head, Hina ran away and took refuge in the house of the fishing God – Hiro.
The latter was dazzled by the beauty of Hina and touched by her history, so he took one of the young woman’s hairs and with it fished the approaching eel. Hiro cut up the prince of eels and wrapped his head in leaves. Before dying, the eel said to Hina: “of all the Men who hate me, including you Hina, you will one day kiss me to thank me. I will die, but my prediction is eternal.”.
Hiro entrusted the head of the eel to Hina and then advised her:
‘Hina, girl of beauty, you can return to your family and there, you will destroy this head. But throughout your journey do not put it on the ground because then the curse of the eel will come true.’
On her way back, the beautiful young woman and her followers who accompanied her, became tired and decided to take a bath in the river, forgetting the warning of the God Hiro. The eel’s head which had been put on the ground penetrated the earth, and from it a large tree was born, with a long trunk just like an immense eel, and with foliage similar to hair; the coconut tree had just been born.
Hina was then condemned by the Gods to remain close to this river because the tree had become taboo… Life went on until the day when a terrible dryness struck the lands and during which only the coconut resisted the sun. Thus, in spite of the God’s prohibition to touch this tree, men picked its fruit full of clear and nutritive water. Each fruit was marked with 3 dark spots laid out like two eyes and a mouth on which the men put their lips in order to drink the coconut water…. Hina did the same thing ….. And the prophecy of the prince of eels had just come true.”
Just in time for this weekend’s Mermaid Parade, London’s D*Face is finishing up “Live Fast Die Young,” his beauty-and-the-zombie comic couple sipping an ice cream float at the soda counter. Austrian surrealist slicer Nychos has completed his dissection of a Ronald McDonald-ish character without a sketch; running, jumping, nearly flying through the air with aerosol in hand, flinging the spent cans over his shoulder blindly to skitter across the pavement. Baltimore-based freeform anthropologist Gaia is cavorting with passersby who want to take cellphone selfies in front of his painted wall that depicts exactly that; selfies taken in Coney Island.
This is a modern version of the multi-mirror funhouse in mural form, and Coney Art Walls is bringing it again.
22 new murals on standing slabs of concrete join a dozen or so that were retained from last summer to present an eclectic and savory selection from the old-school and the new. When it comes to art in the streets, a salty luncheonette of city-style treats is on a large public platter these days, with names like graffiti, street art, urban art, installation art, public art, fine art, even contemporary art. For some of those hapless gatekeepers of any of these respective categories, this show in this location presents degrees of discomfort and anger as many subcultural roots are now brought into the light in tandem with one another in a public display – funded by a real estate firm. For the artists and majority of fans, however, the trend is more toward delight and gratitude.
While you are unpacking that, consider that lead curator Jeffrey Deitch has often proved very adept at plumbing the aesthetic margins of our culture while rearranging and intermingling the parties, helping the viewer to appreciate their differences. This outdoor exhibit co-curated with Joseph Sitt provides a venue for a wide audience to contemplate the range of expression that New York streets have had over the last few decades, including a few artists who are trying this manner of expression for the first time.
As the Thunderbolt, Steeplechase, Cyclone and Wonder Wheel spin and swerve nearby and overhead, sending screams and personal projectiles into the ocean breeze, you have this paved lot full of paintings to peruse, lemonade in one hand and the cotton-candy-sticky hand of a sunscreen-slathered child in the other. Here you’ll see a large two-walled corner smashed with Coney Island themes by Bronx graffiti masters Tats Cru (Bio, BG183, and Nicer), a selection of hand-drawn wheat pasted portraits of Coney Island youth by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and 4 full-form sculptures by John Ahearn creating a modernist view of divers on the beach .
Tooling elsewhere through the loose labyrinth you come upon a monochromatic cryptically patterned tribute to Brooklyn-born Beastie Boys vocalist Adam “MCA” Yauch by Brooklyn tagger/train writer/artist Haze and a seemingly lighthearted abstractly collaged wall of mermaids by fine artist Nina Chanel Abney, whose work is currently on the cover of Juxtapoz. There is also a spectacular underwater-themed symmetrical fantasy topped by pylons bearing the likenesses of characters from “The Warriors” film by artist duo The London Police, and a stenciled “Last Supper” featuring heads of world currency playing the disciples and George Washington as Jesus sprayed across the face of a huge dollar bill by Iranian brothers Icy & Sot.
We often travel streets and neglected spaces in cities looking for signs of freewill artistic expression and often the creative spirit surprises us as it can be expressed in so many ways with emotion, agenda, and idiosyncratic point of view. It may be the plurality of voices one experiences surfing the Internet or the multi-cultural nature of living in New York with a continuous river of fresh arrivals mixing in with established and old-timers every day, but one comes to expect this variety of viewpoints and rather naturally creates accommodation for inclusion that celebrates without negating – and in many ways Coney Art Walls does that as well.
Oppositional viewpoints are present if you look: There are coded messages and obvious ones, critiques of corporate hegemony, issues of race, commentary on police relations, sexuality, religion, capitalism, community, the languages of advertising, movies, music, entertainment, local history, and examination of roles and power structures.
When tooling around this collection, you may wonder what, then, are the commonalities of this survey. Certainly there are the recurring references to Coney Island lore and aspects of performance and flimflam, oddity, fantasy, even the erotic. Naturally, there are elements of natural wonder as well, perhaps expected with the proximity to the beach and the ocean and the history of this place as a vacation getaway.
Aside from this, the connective tissue is what we frequently identify as what is distinctly New York – the plurality of voices. Arguing, making fun, praising, preening, bragging, lambasting, mocking, singing. Despite the continuous attempts by others to divide us, we’re strangely (very strangely), beautifully united.
Originally from Japan, Brooklyn’s AIKO has a double sided stencil sonnet to the romance of the sea. With “Tale of the Dragon King and Mermaids in Water Castle” Aiko tells a new version of Urashima Tarō, an old Japanese legend about a fisherman who rescues a turtle and is rewarded for this with a visit to Ryūgū-jō, the palace of Ryūjin. Says Aiko, “This piece speaks to my and all women’s fantasies; chilling hard super sexy in the beautiful ocean with friendly dragon who is super powerful and a smart guy – they are about going to water castle having good time.”
Coney Art Walls
2016 New Artists: Nina Chanel Abney, John Ahearn, Timothy Curtis, D*Face, Jessica Diamond, Tristan Eaton, Gaia, Eric Haze, Icy & Sot, London Police, Nychos, Pose, Stephen Powers, Tats Cru, and Sam Vernon. Returning artists who created new works: Lady Aiko, Mister Cartoon, Crash, Daze, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and Marie Roberts. 2015 Murals on display: by Buff Monster, Eine, Ron English, How & Nosm, IRAK, Kashink, Lady Pink, Miss Van, RETNA, eL Seed and Sheryo & Yok. There are also three community walls.
Woo hoo! Dip your toe in the ocean and the official beginning of summer in NYC. It’s Memorial Day Weekend and it is hot outside and Coney Island is already crowded and has new works this week from John Ahearn, Nina Chanel Abney, Tristan Eaton and more to come. Also you can hear that ice cream truck jingle in some neighborhoods, a welcome sound that will cause batty-ness in the brain after hearing it the 300th time.
Prospect Park and Central Park and hundreds of smaller parks around the city have barbecues and frisbees and refreshments and naps under trees. There is even the smell of marijuana wafting through the streets again. Also there’s a new Strokes album projected on the wall above Futura’s on Houston (soon to be refreshed), there’s a Ramones exhibit at the Queens Museum, and international artists are showing up to paint at the Bushwick Collective street party next weekend. Until then, let’s go up on the roof – you may see Duke Riley’s LED lit birds over Wallabout Channel at dusk. It all kind of feels like the 1980’s, minus the hair spray.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Aiko, Jins, John Ahearn, Lapiz, Nether, Nick Walker, Nina Chanel Abney, Pose, TurtleCaps, Saone, Sipros, Stavro, Stikman, Stu, Such and Turtle Caps.
“Sigmar Gabriel (the German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy) is riding a Leopard 2 tank. The tank is for sale (a little price tag is showing a €) and is painted in the colors of the German Flag (black, red, yellow). Gabriel is holding up a sign that reads ‘Nie wieder Krieg *’ (‘No more war *’). Running away from the tank is a family of refugees.” – Lapiz
“A woman stands in water, half submerged, holding a withering lotus flower as the sky, lit by a rising sun and a setting moon, pans from darkness to light. The lotus in this setting symbolizes strength and courage when getting through life’s hardest obstacles such as addiction. The character is trying to save the lotus, which reflects her beauty and strength, as it is losing its pedals into the darkness. Her half-hidden face is slightly turned towards the light showing that she is turning towards help to revive her inner beauty and spirit. The obscured face speaks to the recovering addict’s battle with shame, anonymity, and pride for overcoming addiction due to public stigma. The 303 stars painted into the sky pay homage to the 303 people that died from overdoses in the last recorded year in Baltimore including a friend of mine.” – Nether
Art Basel has wound up another successful year in Miami and artists, dealers, buyers and sun seekers have departed. In their wake the streets of Wynwood have sustained yet one more onslaught of murals from an international mix of graffiti writers, street artists, and large format illustrators as the Street Art scene’s thick syrup of spontaneity hardens into a slick shell of commercial opportunity. The average working person with two jobs (or no job) may not have noticed that there is a fabulous boom in this economy for some, and the bubbly is flowing all around fairs like this, out into the streets, into the galleries, receptions, cocktails, and celebrity DJ appearances. While it lasts Brock Brake takes BSA readers through the brand sponsored cloud of opportunity and keeps the focus on what made Street Art interesting to begin with; the artists and their work. We think you’ll dig his photos and for the first time here, an essay in his words:
Miami’s Art Basel might be the world’s largest summer camp for artists. Every year, artists, galleries and enthusiasts from around the world come together in one place to paint, party and socialize. With a never ending list of desired activities and events during the week, it’s impossible to see and do it all. And many of the artists whose work towers on the walls of Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood have been there a week or so longer than anyone.
You know you’ve made it to the right neighborhood coming from the airport when all you see from the highway are large murals and roadside graffiti…and you’re most likely stuck in traffic.
Every single street in Wynwood was filled with artists from various parts of the world who all share one goal: to create. Artist like Meggs, Word To Mother, Hush, Spencer Keeton Cunningham, Lauren Napolitano, Aaron Glasson, Pose, Cleon Peterson, Ron English, Rone, Swoon and many others were all present and active.
It was hard not to get distracted by all of their process while walking from event to event. I spent a total of three full days in Wynwood documenting, visiting some walls more than once. It’s impossible to see it all.
When the fairs close around 7pm, the streets of Wynwood and South Beach explode. There are live painting events like Basel Castle and Secret Walls, pop up galleries, live concerts by hotel pools and, of course, The Deuce; South Beach’s best dive bar beehive of visiting artists.
I’m grateful for my annual “camp” reunion trips to Miami. Reconnecting with old friends you haven’t seen in years while making plenty of new ones. It’s fun to see that as the years go by, everyone is just as much a kid as you remember them. You see the same friend throughout the week wearing the same shirt for four days covered in paint, with no shower or sleep. All of these artists work very hard to do what they do and that’s why I do what I do.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening :
1. URBAN ART 2014 on Auction
2. Building Detroit – Revok, Nekst, Pose
3. Sheryo and Yok in Indonesia
4. Coachella Walls: Date Farmers by Medvin Sobio
5. Spaik and Libre. Mexico City 2014
BSA Special Feature: URBAN ART 2014 on Auction with Artcuriel
A film by Jérémy Jaoui
This is what it looks like now; a powerful visual documentation and summary of one plainly commercial aspect of this moment in the evolution of graffiti art/ Street Art/ urban art – and its collectability with a growing global artworld fan base. The video follows Artcuriel and it’s personable auctioneer Arnaud Oliveux as the crowd gathers and clinks glasses, listens to speeches, views live art-making and inspects a collection of fine art created by graffiti and Street Artists which will soon be auctioned.
As one observer notes while thumbing through the show catalog “Urban Art is becoming something real!” Now the vulgar rap lyrics that describe sexual acts to a beat which accompanied the visuals of the artists in the gallery are replaced with rarefied classical strings and no percussion when we enter the auction room where commerce takes place.
Excitement in the packed house is palpable and the auctioneer is the entertaining and electrified ringmaster, with poised assistants tensely perched on the telephone with international bidders.
“With an artist like LUDO, Arnauld is being very avant-garde,” says a knowledgeable admirer while we see the piece reach a record price to applause and pieces are placed on the mantel by men in white gloves. “Urban Art is now happening as we wanted it to,” says Monsieur Oliveux to us from his desk.
Well edited and skillfully presented, the film by Jaoui Jérémy gives you a rare glimpse into a world far removed from the street yet inextricably tied to it – where one time vandals become art stars, collectible artists, performers and celebrity endorsers. It’s your call whether it is a celebration or an indictment, and perspectives will vary according to where you sit, but here the elements are all on parade before your eyes and presented in a passionate way.
Building Detroit – Revok, Nekst, Pose
The graffiti and Street Art scene in abandoned Detroit is “thriving like I don’t think we’ve seen in the US for quite some time,” observes artist Pose, one of the few writers/artists who is straddling the street and commercial gallery world. “When you leave something and don’t care about it, we come here.” It’s a rallying cry for painters, a cautionary statement for authorities that encapsulates one of the primary dynamics of the graffiti/street art/public art scene.
But then Pose offers an additional sentiment that gets missed in these often simplified arguments. “We care about it, we’ll paint it all day.”
From MOCA in LA to MOCAD here, where both Revok and Pose have created large scale works, the institutional recognition of the contribution of the art form is remarkable. Simultaneously the freewill act of it a few blocks away from the museum has greater implications from a legal aspect.
Oh no! Complexity to contemplate.
Sheryo and Yok in Indonesia
“Sheryo and The Yok go to Indonesia to learn batik and sculpture” says their description but we think they may already know a thing or two about both. Here they are line illustrating with hot wax, adding a third dimension in clay to characters with phallus noses, and hitting up random walls throughout the city and on the beach with aerosol. Like any good guests, they make sure to credit their hosts here, which is real nice. Oh yes, and there’s a gallery show at Turner Gallery in Purth March 21 – mentioned at the very end.
Coachella Walls: Date Farmers by Medvin Sobio
Hey man, ¿Qué haces? For this Coachella street-art-related event the dude Medvin Sobio is setting the scene again with unscripted social outtakes and interactions are positioned as the main story – and he is framing it with this jukebox music. Yes, this is where The Eagles are national treasures, Marvin Gaye is a nice reminder of a time when singing about the environment could still get airplay, and MJ is always a party starter. Errrbuddy get up!
Spaik and Libre. Mexico City 2014
Part of a commercial gig for a traveling corporate electronic dance music festival, Spaik and Libre knock out a colorful wall while participants pile onto the big lot in DF for the multi-screen festivities.
This year represents a high-water mark for current Street Artists being represented at the New York fairs if what we have just seen over the last couple of days is any indication. For those who have been following the trajectory of the new kids we’ve been talking about for the last decade, the room is rather getting a lot more crowded. Only a handful of years ago names that produced blank stares at your forehead and a little sniff of dismissal are garnering an extra lingering moment near the canvas and snap of the cellphone pic, complimentary champagne flute in hand.
With the gusts of wind provided by a couple of recent auctions, optimism about an up-turning economy, and even the Banksy one-month residency, it is not hard to imagine that we have some “overnight” stars in the midst of this constellation, but it is really anyone’s guess.
While we are certainly aware of it, we don’t dedicate too much ink to the commercial aspect of the Street Art scene, preferring to learn the lingua franca of these artists who have developed their narrative and visual style before our eyes, to celebrate experimentation, the creative spirit, and to give a pedestrian view of the street without being pedestrian.
But just as neighborhoods like Bushwick in Brooklyn, El Raval in Barcelona, LA’s downtown Arts District, and parts of London, Berlin, and Paris have been transforming by gentrification, we would be remiss if we didn’t note the more frequent raising of commercial eyebrows all around us when the topic turns to Street Art. It’s not a fever pitch, but can it be far off? There is already a solid first tier that everyone can name – and the stratification is taking shape below it.
Buffeted by blossoming sales of works by early 2000s Street Artists and the burgeoning of lifestyle companies now appropriating this cultural wealth and transforming it into “content” that helpfully couriers all manner of merch from spirits to soda, sneakers, and electronic smoking devices, we are looking for our seat belts as there a major shift in popular acceptance and critical embracing of 21st century Street Artists up ahead.
As for the streets, the flood is going to continue. Street Art is Dead? Yes, we’ve been hearing this since 2002…
Here’s a brief non-specific and uneven survey of only some work showing this weekend by current or former Street Artists and graffiti writers – perhaps a third of what you can see in the New York fairs and satellite galleries.
Chicago based graffiti artist POSE is back in New York City for Armory Week and he found a window of opportunity to hit up a wall this week. Last time he was in town it was for his Houston Wall with Revok in the beastly New York heat last summer, so obviously he is a pro who can endure the polarity of temperatures because it is still bitter on the streets right now. Actually maybe the cold caused this mural to go up so rapidly on Lafayette in conjunction with The L.I.S.A. Project NYC and the Jonathan LeVine Gallery.
The new colorful piece is a furtherance of his experimenting with “pounce patterns” and his own remixed deconstructing of pop and commercial elements from vintage sign-language. We have it from a good source that the work on this wall is only a teaser for what’s coming in warmer months – a Summer Blockbuster about five stories high. Don’t touch that dial.
Not quite spring, the Art Fairs are arriving in New York ahead of the tulips. We strolled the impossibly long aisles and peered into the booths to find the folks who have at other times been called “Street Artists”. This weekend they’ll be fine artists, and the list is quite a bit longer than years past as the professionalization of the street continues.
Shows like the Armory, Scope, Volta, and Fountain are good testing venues to see the commercial viability for many of these artists and some have foregone representation – preferring to foot the bill on their own. Since walking the streets to see their work requires multiple layers and hats and gloves – traipsing through the fairs can be far preferable than dirty old Brooklyn streets. It’s also nice to see how some of these folks look in a tie or a blouse – or even just hit a comb. Here below we include some possible gems for you to hunt down.
No doubt it is the grey days of late winter that is making us think about this as we brace for the next snowstorm, but today we’re considering the impact that Street Art color has on architecture that never asked for it.
We’re not the first to think of hues, shades, tones, and palettes when it comes to the man made environment of course, but it does strike us that most of the buildings that are hit up by street art and murals today were designed by architects who never imagined art on their facade.
Modern architecture for some reason is still primarily grey, washed out greens, beige, eggshell, snore.
“Color is something that architects are usually afraid of,” said internationally known and awarded architect Benedetta Tagliabue in an interview last May about the topic of color. A generalization probably, and you can always find exceptions of colorfully painted neighborhoods globally like the Haight in San Francisco, La Boca in Buenos Aires, Portafino in Italy, Guanajuato in Mexico, Bo-Kaap in Capetown, the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the Blue City of India, but many of those examples speak to color blocking and pattern.
We’ve been looking at the power of Street Art to reface, re-contextualize, re-energize, and re-imagine a building and its place in the neighborhood. Some times it is successful, other times it may produce a light vertigo. The impact of work on buildings by today’s Street Artists and muralists depends not only on content and composition but largely on the palette they have chosen. It sounds trite, and self-evident perhaps, but much of Street Art is about color, and primarily on the warm scale first described by Faber Birren with his OSHA colors and color circle in the 1930s .
It’s common now to think of 21st century Street Art as the graffiti-influenced practice that primarily activates the detritus of the abandoned industrial sector blighting western cities in the wake of trade agreements that sent all the jobs to lands without protections and regulations. While that is definitely the sort of neglected factory architecture preferred for “activation” by many graffiti artists and Street Artists alike, we also see more curious couplings of color with the delicately ornate, the regal, or even modernist structures today thanks to artists being invited, rather than chased.
The results? Abstractionist, cubist, geometric, letter-based, illustrative, figurative, text-based, outsider, folk, dadaist, pop. One common denominator: color.
“The environment and its colors are perceived, and the brain processes and judges what it perceives on an objective and subjective basis. Psychological influence, communication, information, and effects on the psyche are aspects of our perceptual judgment processes,” writes Frank H. Mahnke in his recent piece for Archinect. The author of Color, Environment, & Human Response has made it his mission to explore psychological, biological effects of color and light and to help creators of the man-made environment make good choices.
Whether all of these choices are good, we leave up to you. But it is worth considering that Street Artists have been part of the conversation on the street for decades now, making powerful suggestions to architects and city planners , so maybe it’s worth taking another look at what they’ve been up to lately.