All posts tagged: Shepard Fairey

Labor Day 2020 and the Dire State of Everyday People

Labor Day 2020 and the Dire State of Everyday People

Today we celebrate American worker’s contributions to our society. The workforce is the engine moving our country to the realization of our dreams and goals. The men and women who get up every day to seek a decent living in this country are increasingly under assault by the corporation’s manipulation of people and profits. Our labor unions have been decimated and the workers’ rights chipped away little by little, or a lot by a lot. All of it began with Reagan and it hasn’t stopped since. Congress is beholden to special interests with most of our elected officials’ ears more attuned to the lobbyists’ demands roaming the halls of Congress than to the ordinary people’s plight for help for better wages, better work conditions, better parental leave, better health insurance.

Shepard Fairey. Los Angeles, CA 2011 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Pandemic has only exacerbated the already perilous conditions among the middle class and poor Americans. Most working-class individuals were already living paycheck to paycheck with little if any savings to confront personal, family crises. The poor have always counted on the safety net that the government has put in place to help alleviate their financial and health burdens but those services have been either privatized for-profit or totally eradicated. When Covid-19 took hold of the whole world and Trump made the situation in the USA worse, the majority of Americans have found themselves steps removed from the economic precipice, or pushed into it. Strangely, Democrats also are not coming to the rescue.

There are many lessons to be learned from this Pandemic, one of them will undoubtedly be the abysmal difference between those with money and those without it to confront this crisis. The rich are getting incredibly richer and the poor are getting poorer. Lockdown has been difficult for all of us but certainly easier for those without financial difficulties.

Shepard Fairey. Los Angeles, CA 2011 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Almost 30 million Americans have lost their jobs, and their hopes of getting them back are slimmer by the week. If there is to be an economic recovery in this country the divisions of who’ll benefit from said recovery will be sharply divided. While the stock market has hit record levels of wealth, ordinary Americans have seen greater inequality. So you might wonder, what are we celebrating today? Our workforce is in tatters and our service economy has been decimated.

Shepard Fairey made the works shown above in LA almost a decade ago, and his message resonates even stronger today.

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BSA Film Friday: 08.28.20

BSA Film Friday: 08.28.20

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

Now screening :
1. Plain Brutality Again: Jacob Blake.
2. INDECLINE: Get Dead – Pepper Spray
3. Shepard Fairey: Arts Vote 2020

BSA Special Feature: Plain Brutality Again: Jacob Blake

The violence against black people continues. The latest shooting of a black American citizen by the police took place in Kenosha, Wisconsin where a police officer shot Jacob Blake on Sunday.

Mr. Blake, a father, a son, a brother, and uncle, was shot seven times by the police as he leaned into the driver’s seat of his car resulting in Mr. Blake being paralyzed and unable to walk and under intensive care at the hospital. Yet he is being handcuffed to his bed. Mr. Blake was not carrying a weapon.

Are we only to add his name to the endless list of black and brown people brutalized and killed? Here we post a recent short film that examines this moment in American history as well as through the lens of system racism.

Voices from the Black Lives Matters Protests ( A short film) Vanity Fair

INDECLINE: Get Dead – Pepper Spray

An amalgam of blinding rage and graffiti, anti-authoritarian self-destructive vandalism melded into a demand for the end of state-sponsored violence played out to a raspy-voiced tirade and gutter-crunch guitars and drums. Many of society’s contradictions are here on display for all to see.

Shepard Fairey: Arts Vote 2020

For more information on ARTSVOTE click HERE.

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Street Artists Fairey and Swoon Among Those Saying “Remember What They Did”

Street Artists Fairey and Swoon Among Those Saying “Remember What They Did”

Artists Shine Light on Trump, GOP Atrocities in Emotionally-Charged New Billboard, Street Art Campaign

The billboards are going up in Detroit, Michigan, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Phoenix, Arizona – all so-called “battleground” states for this years presidential election. Using their talent as street artists to draw attention in public, this group of billboards is grabbing the attention of passersby with aesthetics as well as content.

Rafael Lopez. “I don’t care” (photo courtesy of RememberWhatTheyDid.com)

In a campaign funded by Collective Super PAC, the SuperPAC affiliate of The Collective PAC, a number of street artists as well as artists from other genres and practices are lending their individual skills to remind potential voters what has already been done – with a warning that four more years would march us straight off a cliff, in their opinion.

Artists Shepard Fairey, Nekisha Durrett, Nate Lewis, Rafael Lopez, Robert Russell, Rob Sheridan, and Swoon each take on their variation of the messages on topics like police brutality, racism, hate speech, immigration and the Coronavirus pandemic. Some are simply dedicated to controversial statements made by Trump and others on his team.

Swoon. “A beautiful picture” (photo courtesy of RememberWhatTheyDid.com)

“Our message is simple: Remember what they did and vote them out,” says organizer Robin Bell, whose known for his projections on the façade of the Trump Hotel.

For Shepard Fairey, it was the irony that this spring and early summer Trump was trying to solve our problems with police brutality with, uh, police brutality.

Nate Lewis. “…that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.” (photo courtesy of RememberWhatTheyDid.com)

“My art piece is a reminder that while the American public was protesting in the streets, in record numbers, against racism and police brutality, Donald Trump was encouraging police brutality against the protesters, reinforcing the very same problems within law enforcement and the criminal justice systems the protesters were demanding to be reformed,” says Fairey. “This image implies that the police are supposed to be peacekeepers, not warriors, and that Donald Trump is on the wrong side of social justice and the wrong side of history!”

Shepard Fairey. “When The Looting Starts The Shooting Starts” (photo courtesy of RememberWhatTheyDid.com)

The images are stark, sometimes shocking, but then so are the times they are documenting – and street art is often holding a mirror up to society. “Life imitates art, and the images we see have a direct impact on our democracy,” says Quentin James, Founder and President of The Collective.

As the economy continues to deflate and the Greater Depression is waiting to be triggered by a crash, not only will we see more street art, we’ll depend on it as tea leaves to read about ourselves and hopefully remember what we all did (and didn’t), so we can learn from it.

Nekisha Durrett. “We must build upon our heritage” (photo courtesy of RememberWhatTheyDid.com)
Robert Rusell. “Fine people on both sides” (photo courtesy of RememberWhatTheyDid.com)
Rob Sheridan. “Even if the world goes to hell in a handbasket, I wont lose a penny” (photo courtesy of RememberWhatTheyDid.com)

The RemememberWhatTheyDid campaign is a project of Artists United for Change.

To sponsor a billboard and/or to register to vote click HERE

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Power To The Earth: Celebrating 50 Years of Earthivism / Dispatch From Isolation # 31

Power To The Earth: Celebrating 50 Years of Earthivism / Dispatch From Isolation # 31

The Earth says “Thanks!” to us today.

Unfortunately it doesn’t realize that all this clean air and water from the last couple of months is not intentional – we just had to stay inside our homes and not ruin stuff.

Shepard Fairey. Earth Day 2020. (photo courtesy of Studio No. 1)

Factories are closed, little traffic on the highways, streets and, roads. Oil futures went below 0 this week. People were actually paying you to take it.

Airplanes are grounded, parks are closed, and asthma is down. Wild animals are enjoying their natural habitat without the hordes of humans traipsing about their territory. Mountains, rivers, lakes, and our oceans are experiencing less stress and our cities, in general, are calmer and cleaner. When people float conspiracy theories about Covid-19, we always like the one about the Earth creating it to get our attention and be better earth citizens.

50 years after the first Earth Day, we pause to recognize people like US Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from the state of Wisconsin who founded it. He probably had no idea that corporations would take over the Senate and House and White House and the media here in 2020.

Who did?

Shepard Fairey. Earth Day 2020. (photo courtesy of Studio No. 1)

But the good work of those first environmentalists hasn’t been completely reversed, however they have tried to smear the name of people who love the Earth, eroding laws that protect it. “Teach-ins” from the Vietnam War era actually inspired Senator Nelson to envision a “national-teach-in-movement” where neighbors taught each other and empowered and encouraged one another to act positively and directly to protect natural resources. For all those who have fought for our environment and our fellow creatures, some at great personal cost, we salute you.

Street Artist and activist Shepard Fairey has been sounding the alarm on environmental issues and the climate for years now. His voice resonates because he’s informed and straight-forward with his graphic campaigns to elevate the discussion where we all can participate with the shared goal of leaving this planet in much better shape than it was when we were born. Here are a couple of posters he just released through his design studio Studio No 1.

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Shepard Fairey – Studio Number One. We Are All In This Together / Dispatch From Isolation # 29

Shepard Fairey – Studio Number One. We Are All In This Together / Dispatch From Isolation # 29

Dude, hope your printer still has ink.

This would look dope in your window right now.

You Are Not Alone (courtesy of Studio Number One)

This way when the neighbors in the building across the street see you hanging out the window during our 7 pm public applause session — they’ll know even more about your worldview.

Social Distancing (courtesy of Studio Number One)

“Art has the power to bring us together, even when we’re apart,” says Street Artist, graphic artist, fine artist Shepard Fairey, who has designed posters along with his Studio Number One for us all to use as we like. It may even help many of us feel like we are doing this together, instead of solo.

“We are all in this together,” Shepard says, “and we will overcome this.”



Thank You For Your Service (courtesy of Studio Number One)
Wander Within (courtesy of Studio Number One)
#apARTtogether – New Art by SNO!

Click HERE to get your free posters

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BSA Images Of The Week: 04.19.20 / Dispatch From Isolation # 28

BSA Images Of The Week: 04.19.20 / Dispatch From Isolation # 28

Welcome to BSA Images of the Week!

Where is the People’s Bailout? Why has the bailout that was promised to small businesses already run out? Why is congress on vacation? Why is Biden staring up at the wall like he’s concentrating on a dead spider? The people are dying, running out of food, the economy is dying, businesses are dying. The Post Office, starved and bad-mouthed for years by the capitalists who want to kill it, is finally dying. Do we realize which direction the US is being dragged by the oligarchs and their one party corporate Republicrat-Demoblicans?

We need Universal Basic Income!

Where is Medicare for All!

Main Street Debt Jubilee!

In other fun news, we’re still quarantining. Please send us your art in the streets! We love to hear from you. Spread love!

So here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring MeresOne, Shepard Fairey, Banksy, and other unknown artists.

Well, tomorrow is 4/20 after all. For difficult times…Unidentified artist. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
MeresOne (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Shepard Fairey produced a series of new poster graphics honoring our heroes. (photo @obeygiant Instagram)
Trump Titanic. Unidentified artist of this social media meme
Banksy, with his typical sense of humor and levity, came out from isolation to share with us his visual metaphor that accurately illustrates one of the many ways in which isolation affects humans…photos were taken directly from the artist’s Instagram account. (photos @Banksy)
Banksy. Detail. (photo @ Banksy)
Banksy. Detail. (photo @ Banksy)
Banksy. Detail. (photo @ Banksy)
Banksy. Detail. (photo @ Banksy)
Untitled. Brooklyn, NY. Spring 2020 (photo @ Jaime Rojo)
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“Beyond The Streets” New York – Extends Through September 29

“Beyond The Streets” New York – Extends Through September 29

This summer New York has been crazily, sometimes chaotically overlaid with tons of graffiti, Street Art, and murals – a testament to the enduring passion of a public that wants to see this organic patterning of the city skin, and the unquenchable thirst that artists and writers in New York have for showing their work to the public without intervening forces. Some of it is illegal, some of it is legal – all of it is part of the New York conversation.

Additionally, and in concert with, this ongoing conversation is a private pop-up exhibition called “Beyond the Streets” that pulls back from this moment and looks at pertinent and fundamental slices of the first 50 years of art in the streets from the perspective of a handful of sharp-eyed curators who have done their homework.

Tenga One, Snipe1, Madssaki, Takashi Murakami. Beyond The Streets New York, (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Presented in the context of historians defining a view of the scene with an eye toward private collectors of contemporary art, the vast show features paintings, sculpture, photography, site-specific installations, commercially branded environments, a large gift shop, historical ephemera – and a 30th anniversary Shepard Fairey exhibition within the exhibition.

 “Beyond the Streets” in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was originally a three-month show that ran through August, it has been extended to September 29th – as they say – by popular demand.  In addition, to celebrate and thank the community for their support, BEYOND THE STREETS will host free admission day on Thursday August 29th.

Jon Naar . Carl Weston. Beyond The Streets New York, (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Barry McGee. Beyond The Streets New York, (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bast . Paul Insect. Beyond The Streets New York, (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Fuct. Beyond The Streets New York, (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Huskmitnavn. Beyond The Streets New York, (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Craig R Stecyk III. Detail. Beyond The Streets New York, (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Shepard Fairey. Beyond The Streets New York, (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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BSA Images Of The Week: 08.11.19

BSA Images Of The Week: 08.11.19

Street Art is hot and beautiful in New York this week, and we are cheered by the proliferation of styles and style- and some simply brilliant ideas.

West Side Highway was blocked this weekend by lines of people sitting with arms locked to protest the ICE arrests of poor, powerless, immigrants working menial jobs in the US this week and their treatment in jails set up for them.

Of course, the lines are probably still longer to get into the various rooftop pools that have popped up in New York this summer.

Also this weekend the child sex ring king Jeffrey Epstein was reported to have committed suicide in his jail cell. Also, a herd of unicorns just ran through Central Park. Please read the long list of world leaders he was alleged to have as clients. Check back with us in five years and tell us which of those men are in jail.

For some humorous summer reading ; the white-gloved New York Times took their semi-annual trip on the subway – just to stay in touch with the commoners – and was scandalized by the tawdry state of advertising in the subways, with suggestive phallic shapes and ladies posing in underwear and what not. NYT was not however scandalized by the chronically destitute conditions of subway infrastructure like the enormous pieces of peeling ceiling poised to drop on people at the Chambers station for example. Or the rats. Or the lack of garbage cans, police officers, newsstands, air conditioning or the the $2.75 fare that has outpaced inflation – meaning that the equivalent of a 1987 fare would be about $2.03 if it had stayed with inflation, for example.  That’s hardship on New York’s poor families – but New York Times is not talking about that.

Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring Almost Over Keep Smiling, Appleton Pictures, Banksy, City Kitty, Dr. SCO, Early Riser, FAUST, Gianni Lee, Heck Tad, Lambros, M*Code, Neon Savage, Shepard Fairey, and The Postman Art.

Top banner is a photo of a framed Banksy note in a high-end frame shop in Soho. Actually a Banksy? Who knows. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Shepard Fairey (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Shepard Fairey’s portrait of actor and activist Rosario Dawson on the water tank of a Manhattan building called “Power & Equality. The image celebrates this Lower East Side original who has been a champion activist for girls and women and who stays true to her roots.

Shepard Fairey (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Gianni Lee (photo © Jaime Rojo)
There has been a back and forth on this wall with Gianni Lee’s work and the graffiti artist’s work. We have been documenting the “dialogue” on BSA HERE, and HERE. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Postman Art (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Sac Six (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Sac Six (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Stay Ugly (photo © Jaime Rojo)
You Go Girl! (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Faust (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Almost Over Keep Smiling (the side-bust Donald Duck is by Heck Tad) (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Almost Over Keep Smiling (the side-bust Donald Duck is by Heck Tad) (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Early Riser (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
City Kitty . M*Code . Dr. SC0 . Neon Savage (photo © Jaime Rojo)
City Kitty . Lambros (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Appleton Pictures (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We have been documenting this artist’s work for years now. His message is about diabetes/diabetic awareness and its causes, our addiction with sugar and the food industry relentless habit of adding sugary ingredients on almost all prepared foods…that and the innordinate sugar amounts on soft drinks of course. So it was a big surprise to have caught the artist in action while putting work on his usual spot on the magnet wall in Chelsea.

Appleton Pictures (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Appleton Pictures (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Appleton Pictures (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Appleton Pictures (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Appleton Pictures (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Appleton Pictures (photo © Jaime Rojo)
We know this is Appleton Pictures mascot and MUSE but we don’t know this handsome dog’s name. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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BSA Images Of The Week: 07.08.19

BSA Images Of The Week: 07.08.19

Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring BRCEDU, Captain Eyeliner, Damon, Dark Clouds,Fhake, Ghake, Jerk Face, Mad Villian, Mattew Hyte, MurOne, Praxis, R Burns Wilder, Shepard Fairey, Sinned, Stikman, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Thomas Allen, and Vy.

Thomas Allen in collaboration with Ethan. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. This piece has been vandalized. The original artwork included a bouquet of flowers and text that read: “LET BLACK MEN BE SOFT”. They both have been buffed by an unknown person. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Captain Eyeliner (photo © Jaime Rojo)
BRCEDU…damn right! (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Praxis (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Shepard Fairey (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Mad Vaillian (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Stikman (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Fhake (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Damon (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Damon (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dark Clouds (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Vy (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Mattew Hyte (photo © Jaime Rojo)
This piece by an unidentified artist has been restored. The tag and posters have been removed. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Chapeter 23 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Chapeter 23 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
R Burns Wilder x Sinned (photo © Jaime Rojo)
MurOne (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Jerke Face (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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BSA Film Friday 07.02.19

BSA Film Friday 07.02.19

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

Now screening :
1. Facing The Giant: Three Decades of Dissent Part Two – Shepard Fairey
2. Stephanie Boyce: If You Know Me Is To Love Me.
3. Dotmasters: Why Is That Shovel There?

BSA Special Feature: Facing The Giant: Three Decades of Dissent Part Two – Shepard Fairey

The sky is on fire! And it’s not just because of the gorgeous sunset.

Shepard Fairey has been respectfully smacking us in the head for 30 years with his earnestly alarmist art in the streets. Challenging a narrative pushed by the corporate state via smiling blond newsreaders fronting a well funded armature of skullduggery, this perpetual dissenter has found ways to deliver the poison pill with ever-more sophisticated graphic design and plain spoken diatribe.

“I was trying to encourage people to just be more analytical and to come to their own conclusions,” he says as he describes his work during the steady hail of disinformation called “The War on Terror”. Bless his heart.

He says he was looking for a more honest manifestation of his work and how he represented the observations and opinions he had based on his own research.

“I felt like I had the courage to become myself what I had emulated in a lot of my heroes.” Faced with a hostile political environment from the corporatized media machine and the dazed inertia response from a significant portion of his intended audience, it is surely maddening at times. Regardless, as an artist, catalyzer and a citizen, Fairey continues to challenge himself, and us.   

Stephanie Boyce: If You Know Me Is To Love Me.

Brooklyn Artist Stephanie Boyce has been drawing all her life and takes you on a tour of her neighborhood and the Muddguts Gallery that represents her.

“It’s difficult to tell my story in a ten minute movie,” she says, but you get a good idea of the ups and downs that she has faced through her art, their symbolisms, and of course her own words.

Special props go out to Director Nicolas Heller for this insightful and well-balanced storytelling.

Dotmasters: Why Is That Shovel There? Nuart Aberdeen. By MZM Projects

Dotmasters also takes you on a tour in his new video, and even instructs you how his technique is done. Mostly, it’s a relaxed conversation about his history and his approach.

“Oh that’s just a silkscreen process with a spraycan,” he said of his initial realization of how certain pieces on the street were done when seeing stencillists like Blek Le Rat in the 80s. “And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a good way of invading public space’.”

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BSA Images Of The Week: 07.28.19

BSA Images Of The Week: 07.28.19

Robert Muller testified before Congress this week and no one seems happy. The spin-masters distort his words and his findings to accommodate their own personal narrative…and to continue to distract us from the thieve’s hands in our cupboards across the country.

Corporate Democrats and Corporate Republicans won’t get rid of this guy, but at least it will distract us from the lowest tax rates on the rich in our lifetimes, global warming, gun violence, increased poverty, racist immigrant-bashing policies, increased homeless populations, and a corrupted medical insurance system. So far, these distractions are working splendidly.

Sorry, that’s an unhappy way of welcoming you to BSA Images of the Week! You deserve better!

The news is that summer is in full swing and people are on the streets cooling off in public fountains, dancing, watching outdoor movies on roofs and in parks, seeing theater and music performances, and hopefully hitting Coney Island for a beach splash or a thrill ride.

The streets are being plastered with art. Some with political and social messages, some with a sense of humor, others with an acute sense of popular culture. A few are just plain pretty to look at. Whatever the style, the intention or the placement, what’s important is the fact that it’s happening again with gusto. Artists are out as well, sharing their ideas and their experiments with us, all for free and with permission to touch and photograph.

Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring Almost Over Keep Smiling, Frederic Edwin Church, Judith Supine, Mattew Hyte, Shepard Fairey, The Postman Art, and Winston Tseng.

Judith Supine (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Judith Supine (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Judith Supine (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Judith Supine (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Mattew Hyte (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Winston Tseng (photo © Jaime Rojo)
The Postman Art (photo © Jaime Rojo)
To our surprise, we found this large canvas 101″ x 89″ attached to a wall outside. It’s an oil painting. At first, it seemed incongruous as a piece of street art but once we got our faces close to the canvas we discovered that the artist, whose identity we don’t know, included small graffiti tags, exceedingly well camouflaged, on the rocks. This felt like we had won the day’s prize for our treasure-hunting expedition. We thought it was possibly a copy of a Hudson River School of painting. Lo and behold! With some sleuthing, we discovered that the painting is indeed a replica of a painting by Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) who was a leading member of the Hudson River School of painters. The original painting was executed in 1867 and it now hangs at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. The tags on the rocks, those have to be a newer addition. Scroll down for the graffiti details and at the end for a photo of the original painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niagara Falls from the American Side. 1867. Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900). Scottish National Gallery. Edinburgh.
A reprise of a classic from Shepard Fairey (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Shepard Fairey has PeruAna in view. Those two names used to be in Williamsburg, Brooklyn regularly so it is a surprise to see them together on this fresh “collaboration”(photo © Jaime Rojo)
Almost Over Keep Smiling (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Almost Over Keep Smiling (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Back in the saddle again. Cowboy with Sunflowers. Brooklyn, NY. July 2019. photo © Jaime Rojo)
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“Beyond The Streets” Opens in New York : Beyond Labels, With Roots

“Beyond The Streets” Opens in New York : Beyond Labels, With Roots

Look Who’s Back in the Neighborhood

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.

Faile. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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. 

Swoon. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Martha Cooper with BGirl Rockafelka. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Joe Conzo. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Scale, The History

Exhaustive, no. Exhausting, possibly. Pace yourself.

 “I 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 has come.”

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 special.”

Mike 171. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

“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.

Cornbread. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo). Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Lee Quinones. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.”

John and Charlie Ahearn. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

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

Dabsmyla. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Myla. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Shepard Fairey. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

Bill Barminski. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

You’re 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.

John Fekner. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“These 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.

“It 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.

buZ blurr. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“They 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.”  

Tim Conlon. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“When 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

Not content 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 street.

Graffiti 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”.

Kunle Martin AKA Earsnot. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.”

Kunle Martin. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A fluorescent 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.

Pose. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Pose. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

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.

Haze. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.”

Rosie Perez. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Beyond Labels

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.

Kenny Scharf. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“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.”

Beyond the Streets opened June 21 and continues through the summer.

MADSAKI. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Blade and Doze Green. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Katsu. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Gajin Fujita. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Faith XLVII. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
John Ahearn. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Jane Dickson. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dan Witz. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
1UP Crew…it’s always a good thing to have your friends near by when you need them the most… Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
1UP Crew. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)ork. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Cleon Peterson. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Conor Harrington. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Felipe Pantone. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Beastie Boys. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nekst . Risk. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bast . Paul Insect. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Invader. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Ron English. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Patrick Martinez. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dust tagger. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Martha Cooper with Freedom. Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
What’s left and soon to be gone of the old Williamsburg’s waterfront right across from Beyond The Streets New York. June 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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.

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