As we draw closer to the new year we’ve asked a very special guest every day to take a moment to reflect on 2018 and to tell us about one photograph that best captures the year for them. It’s a box of treats to surprise you with every day – and conjure our hopes and wishes for 2019. This is our way of sharing the sweetness of the season and of saying ‘Thank You’ to you for inspiring us throughout the year.
Today’s special guest:
Sabina Chagina, Co-Founder of the Artmossphere Biennale in Moscow, Russia
Dear BSA readers!
Happy New Year!
I want to wish you a pure art in your daily life, because art is actually a very important thing to start with. It’s not a dessert or a hobby.
That is why I chose this photo as one of the recent works by Shepard Fairey, whom I worked with this year during his participation in the 3rd Artmossphere Biennale in Moscow. The work called “Tunnel vision” was inspired by the aesthetics of Russian constructivism and made in his signature OBEY style.
In the center you can see the inscription in cyrillic “Art must be spread everywhere”.
It’s BSA Film Friday! Now we present the best of the year, according to you. We bring you new videos each week – about 240 of them this year. The beauty of the experience is that it can feel quite random and exhilarating – rather like the serendipity of finding new Street Art.
You helped us decide who made it to the top 15 – and we feel proud to see some of these because we liked them too. When we take videos on the road to different cities and countries doing our BSA Film Friday LIVE we also like to share these in classrooms or theaters or lecture halls with locals, students, city leaders. Nothing can beat seeing faces light up, a person thrilled to finally get the sense of something, better understanding the scene, helping people with a new way to look at art in the streets.
The best part is many of these videos encourage you to create, to co-create, to actively participate in public space with meaning and intention. As a collection, these 15 are illuminating, elevating, riveting, strange, soaring, secretly otherworldly, and achingly beautifully human.
Special congratulations go out to artists/directors Kristina Borhes & Nazar Tymoshchuk who landed on the list two times this year, including the number 1 position. Their work is about the intersection of art and theory and life, how to create it, to see it, and how to re-see your world.
We hope you can take some time to enjoy some of the best Street Art videos from around the world and on BSA this year.
“Listen, my only request…. When you’re done doing your thing, do an Italian flag with my daughter’s name on it,” says a guy who is shouting up from the street to the roof where two Hungarian graff writers are preparing to hit a wall with a giant rat in Jersey. That rat looks fantastic as it basks in the blinking glow of the marquee for Vinny Italian Gourmet on the streets in the Newark night below.
That scene alone can stand as their American iconic moment for the US Tapes, but Fatheat and TransOne documented a number of golden moments on their trip this winter to New York, Wynwood, LA, and Las Vegas. Travel with them as they try to square the television mythology of modern America with the one they are encountering in all its ridiculous free-wheeling self satisfied unreflective emotional consumerist funkified freedom*. Standby for sonic blasts from the cultural pulp soundbook and prepare for a celebrity visit.
Slyly they observe and sample and taste and catalogue the insights by traversing the main stage and the margins, smartly not taking it too seriously, finding plenty of places for wide-eyed wonder and wiseguy sarcasm. Steeped in graffiti history with mad skillz themselves, this is all an adventure. Generous of heart, they also share it with you.
“And lost be the day to us in which a measure hath not been danced.”
~ from Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra
Every day since the shootings of artists and journalists at the Charlie Hebdo offices on January 14, 2015, dancer Nadia Vadori-Gauthier has made sure to dance for a minute or more. It sounds like a good idea.
“Without editing or effects, in the place and state of mind I find myself that day, with no special technique, staging, clothing, or makeup, nothing but what is there,” she says on her website.
“I dance inside or outside, in public or private places, alone or with others, strangers or people I know, sometimes friends.
I dance as protesters demonstrate, to effect a living poetry, to act through sensitivity against the violence of certain aspects of the world.
This is the solution I found: an action to my own measure, a concrete, repeated action that may redraw lines, disrupt the design, shake up the norms.”
Here she is in Paris on Esperance Street in front of a mural by Street Artist Seth.
All the subversive drama of a terrorist cell, all the color of Mardi Gras, all the pomp and ceremony of an Olympic triathlon. Wielding the long-handled roller like a javelin in the hands of Järvinen, weight lifting multiple backpacks full of paint cans, climbing and jumping walls with speed and dexterity, the 1UP team goes for the gold.
Debuting today on BSA is the flaming new 1UP crew video directed by the ingenious Selina. Slicing the streets with the drone camera like a hot knife through butter, she follows the unruly yet highly organized vandals from overhead in a manner more melodic than menacing as Miles lines up one shot after another in this instantly classic continuous thread of aerosol mayhem.
Passing the aerosol can like a baton, this relay race puts 1UP over the finish line while many rivals would have just blasted out of the blocks. But will those Olympian circles turn into golden handcuffs before the closing ceremony?
A quick overview to catch you up on the 7 most recent pieces attributed to Banksy in Paris. He’s said to be creating work more attuned to the plight of migration, but others have observed it is a return to the classic Banksy sarcastic sweetness that has characterized the clever sudden missives he has delivered since he began. See Butterfly Art News’ coverage here: Paris: Banksy for World Refugee Day
It’s an Italian movie directed by Luchino Visconti in 1960, yes. It is also the name of a crew of Berlin graffiti/installation artists whose satirical interventions play on issues propriety and property – and on social experiments that dupe the media, the public, and banks.
Did they really set up an apartment inside the subway? Is that really the tracks and wall of a metro inside a gallery? Is that Wagner playing in the mobile war arcade set up in the Christmas market? Are those hand grenades being lobbed by children? Is the bank facade blinking red every 20 seconds?
Rocco und seine Brüder (Rocco and His Brothers) have you engaged. Now you have to answer the questions.
The Uruguayan Street Artists/muralist Florencia Durán and Camilo Nuñez are “Colectivo Licuado” and here in the middle of Oviedo in Northern Spain to create a new mural for the Parees fest this September. As is their practice they study the culture that they are visiting and create an allegory that is familiar to the community, if still rather mystical.
In this case they visit Colectivo Licuado & Nun Tamos Toes for a visit of great cultural exchange – sharing sketches, songs, and learning the history of women’s roles in traditional Asturian culture. The resulting mural project is collaborative in nature and powerful in person.
“I pay attention to the intensity of the gaze and the posture, so the passerby is challenged and seeks to question the project.”
A sociological experiment and intervention on the streets by the French Street Artist YZ takes place in Abidjan and camera work in the crowds allows you to appreciate the action on the street. A city of 4.7 million people and the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire, the city has a lively culture of street vending that is unregulated and often populated by children.
YZ speaks with the folks she meets who are vending, who she refers to as “girls” although many are women. Her goal is to better understand them, she says, and to create a Street Art campaign of their portraits.
“I realized that their situation was very different from the men. So I wanted to know more about them. So I started the project ‘Street Vendors’,” she says.
Chernobyl is a nuclear disaster that figures profoundly into the modern age – and for centuries into the future.
Today not so many people talk about this man-made horror that killed a Russian town and chased out its survivors in 1986 just 90 kilometers northeast of Kiev. Called the most disastrous nuclear accident in history, it evacuated 115,000 and spread a radioactive cloud around the Earth, with European neighbors like Scandinavia, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, France and the UK detecting the effects of radiation for years afterward. Three scientists at The New York Academy of Sciences have estimated that over time the number of people killed by effects from the meltdown was almost a million.
Because of the nature of radiation, Chernobyl has been estimated to not be safely habitable for about 20,000 years.
A short documentary today taking us through last autumns On October 7th in Marseille, France in collaboration with Galerie Saint Laurent and Spanish artist Gonzalo Borondo as they presented Matière Noire. A massive collection of individual installations that took over the top floor of an exhibition space normally used for shops, Borondo’s influence in the selections is throughout, a story told in three acts on Projection, Perception and Interpretation.
“When I was just a baby, my Mama told me, ‘Son, always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns.’ But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.” Johnny Cash sings with some bravado in Folsom Prison Blues on an album released 50 years ago this year. Street Artist Shepard Fairey honors the album and here in Sacramento, California to raise consciousness about the outrageously high rate of incarceration here. “The United States has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of it’s prisoners,” he says, making you question the system in the Land of the Free.
MZM Projects – Kristina Borhes & Nazar Tymoshchuk/”Wasteland Wanderers”
This week we feature a couple of new film pieces from the Ukraine based duo of Kristina Borhes and Nazar Tymoschuk which fairly present an insightful treatise on a particular flavor of Post-Graffiti. Think of it as a two volume textbook and your professors will guide you through the darkness into the light.
“The place tells you what to do,” is a poetic and truthful phrase uttered in “Night” on the relationship a vandal has to an abandoned factory, school, home, medical facility; it is spacial and alchemical.
It is also personal, says the female narrator. “The presence of their absence,” is something that every Wasteland Wanderer will be familiar with, the knowledge and feeling that others have been there before you. The work is undeniably affected, even created in response.
“I’ve started a new series called ‘On the Road’ which looks at life behind the scenes in street art culture,” Doug Gillen tells us about this debut episode. Look forward to Doug’s unique perspective on Street Art festivals, art fairs, and studio visits as he expands to the world of urban contemporary.
Not typically who you think of as a Street Artist, here we see Add Fuel and Doug talk about his first book and you see examples of work from this tile maker who infuses traditional Portuguese techniques and pattern making with pop-modern cultural references and cartoon archetypes.
He has a hat, sunglasses, and he has been creating huge black and white photo installations of people wheat-pasted to the sides of buildings for how long? Surprising to us that Jetsonorama is not more of a household name in Street Art circles – his work is solidly tied to biography and human rights, uses his own photography, and routinely elevates humanity – and has been doing it for some time now.
Why isn’t he in huge museum exhibitions?
Today we have a new video giving you a good look at the work and the artist along with the genuine connection and presence that he has with community, taking the time to share their stories.
“The speed of ruin is just something else,” says Street Artist Vegan Flava, and it’s an exasperating realization. Extrapolated to thinking about the enormous war industry, and there is such a thing, you realize that pouring money year after year into ever more sophisticated and destructive weaponry only results in broken bridges, buildings, water systems, vital infrastructure, lives.
Construction, on the other hand, can be arduous and time consuming, takes vision, planning, collaboration, and fortitude. Like great societies.
How quickly they can be eroded, destroyed.
But since Vegan Flava is creating during this destructive enterprise, you get a glimpse into his creativity, and sense of humor. Similarly the psychographics of this story and how it is told reveal insights into the artist and larger themes.
“A drawing, an idea on a piece of paper, can swiftly grow into something larger, thoughts and actions leading to the next. But creating something is never as fast as to tear it to pieces. The speed of ruin is just something else,” he says.
MZM Projects – Kristina Borhes & Nazar Tymoshchuk /”Aesthetic of Eas”
“We wanted everything to occur naturally in this movie. We wanted to achieve spontaneity,” say film makers Kristina Borhes and Nazar Tymoshchuk about their up close look at graffiti writer/abstract painter EAS. In this new film they have captured the creative spirit in action as unobtrusively as they could, allowing the artist to speak – in a way he never does, they say.
Today on BSA Film Friday we’re proud to debut this new portrait by three artists – one painter and two film makers – to encourage BSA readers to take a moment and observe, inside and outside.
New exclusive images today from Moscow as Shepard Fairey joined the 3rd ARTMOSSPHERE Street Art Biennale where BSA were co-curators this August and September.
In conjunction with ARTMOSSPHERE and his personal exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, an expansive collection that Fairey told us totaled 400 or so pieces and a huge crowd (see Zane Meyers video below), he created his first large-scale street work in the Russian Federation.
Entitled Tunnel Vision, the mural is derived from a recent fine art piece he did for his DAMAGED exhibition that incorporates his deep appreciation for Russian Constructivism and his own unique geometric studies in design. At the center, placed hypnotically and in a typically humorously ironic way, is his own meta icon, Andre the Giant framed inside the gear star symbol, flanked by icons of the machinery of messaging and distribution. A frequent critic of the mediated, manipulated techniques of global dis-information today, Fairey intrinsically loads his own imagery with the flair of a seasoned elocutionist on a world stage.
The significance of the more structural geometry of a tunnel is magnified by the location of the mural on the façade of a tram depot. Moscow’s impressive metro system dates back to 1935, a time period that parallels the powerful Soviet posters and artworks that communicated with the population and promoted the might of train systems as a point of national identity and pride.
That this form of messaging and image-making inspired many artists and designers around the world for decades afterward, it adds layers of significance to this photo (below) of Fairey on the Moscow Metro train with ARTMOSSPHERE co-founder Sabina Chagina and previous biennale curator Christian Omodeo. Add this to the references of the modern graffiti tradition of painting messages and images on trains throughout cities globally and the painted Soviet Agit-Trains of the 1920s, and the thematic interconnectedness here will require a map.
The inscription on the mural reads: “Art should be distributed everywhere” and while trains and planes still distribute the goods and the people everywhere, it is a new set of electronic and computer engines that can distribute the information and aesthetics everywhere today. Perhaps Fairey is reminding us that if this communication freedom of expression becomes limited we can risk the creation of a narrow form of tunnel vision.
“I believe that the mural in a public space is just as powerful a means of influencing minds and spreading artistic ideas as the replication of my posters. Therefore, in the work there is a printing press, it symbolizes, relatively speaking, the monumental propaganda in the modern sense. The work is named in an ironic way: after all, art expands, rather than narrows, our view of the world,” Fairey says of the new mural.
“This is the first time that it is been done in alignment with what I’m truly trying to do as an artist,” Shepard Fairey says about this new venture into virtual/augmented reality being unveiled this week in New York, and on a phone near you.
A stunning realization of the experience that a visitor would have had at his “Damaged” exhibition a year ago in his hometown of Los Angeles, the freshly released app is the product of millions of incremental images taken in 360 degrees that enable you to tour the show – even though it was dismantled a while ago.
“It was by far my biggest exhibition – bigger than “May Day” at Deitch Projects, bigger than the project I did in Dumbo and in New York with Jonathan Levine,” Fairey says of the exhaustive solo show of 230 pieces that opened to 21,000 people who had waited in 5-block long lines to get into the industrial warehouse. The new app designed by VRt Ventures captures each of those pieces in high definition of course, along with the more environmental experiential elements that the exhibition featured in the multi-faceted real life show.
“I had the newsstand, billboard, murals, sculptures, the printing press, and the whole print studio,” Shepard says, “That was really probably the greatest thing about that space was that it was this hybrid – a street gallery feeling because it was this kind of industrial warehouse – and we built these white walls as well. It had all the corrugated metal and you could see all these beams and we set up this print shop in there so I feel like it really balanced the best of both worlds in terms of the presentation of the work.”
Last night in a Manhattan popup pre-opening show on the Bowery Mr. Fairey and his wife Amanda made the rounds with guests in goggles to tour the exhibition where it exists now – as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Billed as a “VR/AR immersive experience”, the open bar and crunchy hip-hop/punk medley pumping loudly across the speakers may have impaired our abilities to pan and click inside the virtual world frankly. But we could easily see how a quieter home environment, or even a subway ride, would make it easier to listen to Fairey’s narrated portions and to appreciate the navigation around the space. So we downloaded the app for phone exploration later.
“The accessibility of the art is so much more in your hands and really, truly it is like being in the space,” says Ms. Fairey as she compares the new virtual experience to the original. “It was a giant warehouse and an amazing exhibition of his work – It’s like you are in it, I mean. Oh my god. It revives the moment for us.”
As an activist on the street, and later in galleries and museums, Fairey has always communicated clearly and in detail about the inspirational factors and contextual circumstances that are foundational to his work – whether in canvasses for private homes or prints for t-shirts or in the many stickers, stencils and hurried wheat pastes he’s left on walls in the middle of the night. So it’s no surprise that the works in the virtual “Damaged” are augmented with his voice describing the works and what he was thinking about when making them.
He imagines what it would be like for him to experience this with other artists as well.
“For me to hear Warhol giving a tour through the Factory – or any number of artists – explaining first hand rather than learning about the show through all of these people who may or may not be credible to be saying what they are saying,” he remarks. “When I think about how valuable it would’ve been for me; I like to hear things from the artist if it is possible. I did 100 minutes of narration on this. I usually write about all of the pieces that I create, about what’s happening in current events that are relevant to the work as well as the general principles of the work. So the VRt team went through all of the pieces in the show and found additional text to supplement my audio narration.”
BSA: So do you think that this experience with this app and the way that people experience the exhibition when they cannot be there physically will be a good tool, not just for you but for a lot of artists to spread their message?
Shepard Fairey: Yeah I definitely do. Of course I think it’s always most important for people if they came to see the work in person. But when you think about the high percentage of people that basically are sort of scrolling through a slideshow of static images and that’s the best they’re going to get, this technology is really important for the future of art. Not just for artists but for museums that spend a huge amounts of money on an exhibition and it comes down after a finite amount of time, you can see this being more important especially as the technology improves.
To capture “Damaged”, the exhibit was scanned with lasers–generating an exact replica of the exhibit.
These guys from VRt, you know they spent a lot of money to be ahead of the curve on this. Very used the highest technology to laser-map the entire space. You can go up to the pieces and see the textures. You can walk around the printing press. It’s really impressive. As this technology comes down in price it is going to democratize all kinds of experiences even more so I’m glad that maybe I can provide a little example a case study of how beautiful this technology is.
To celebrate the launch of the “DAMAGED” mobile App, VRt Ventures, Shepard Fairey, Juxtapoz Magazine and ABSTRKT NYC host a pop-up will be open to the public from 10/17 – 10/21 at 136 Bowery in New York City from 10am – 6pm where fans can come check out the experience, make sure to follow @JuxtapozMag @ObeyGiant @VRtVentures on social media for more information.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. “GIGANTES CERVECEROS” by Miquel Wert 2. Shepard Fairey and Johnny Cash on 50th Anniversary of “Folsom”
3. PasteUp Festival in Berlin
4. Yemeni Street Artist Murad Subay on Fifth Wall
5. Rocco And His Brothers Crash the the Party at The Police Station
BSA Special Feature: “GIGANTES CERVECEROS” by Miquel Wert
We enjoy watching the progression of the portraiture across these vertical fermentation tanks over about 375 square meters of space. Part of a private gig with the client, the artist chose four tradespeople involved in the production of beer to adorn these tanks in Zaragoza, Spain.
Shepard Fairey and Johnny Cash go big in Sacramento, California.
“When I was just a baby, my Mama told me, ‘Son, always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns.’ But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.” Johnny Cash sings with some bravado in Folsom Prison Blues on an album released 50 years ago this year. Street Artist Shepard Fairey honors the album and here in Sacramento, California to raise consciousness about the outrageously high rate of incarceration here. “The United States has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of it’s prisoners,” he says, making you question the system in the Land of the Free.
Doug Gillen takes us to Yemen where Street Art takes on the politics of the region and the war-torn life that has been foisted upon its citizenry. A brief overview of geopolitics followed by an Internet interview with Murad Subay is accompanied by examples of his work and Mr. Subay’s own recounting of his experiences creating work on the public sphere – even while bombs are dropping.
Rocco And His Brothers Crash the the Party at The Police Station at Monumenta, Leipzig 2018
One of the installations in the new Monumenta exhibition in an old factory in Leipzig creates a car crash into a local precinct. The graffiti crew Rocco and His Brothers have mounted the scene and we were happy to capture it at the precise time that the building security alarms happened to go off – adding an additional audio track to the troubled scene.
It’s a highly unusual exhibition of the British Street Artist Banksy’s work in Moscow, one that the artist himself says he has nothing to do with. Yes there are original works of his and many highlights of his public career are covered, but the unofficial traffic number of 300,000 attendees since it opened in June are largely going to remember the impressively animated multi-media montages that splash across the multiple screens for the exhibition of 2000 square meters.
Approved or not, this is about Street Art, a practice in public space that frequently is transgressive and flaunts the conventions that we once accepted as a given. It’s difficult to anticipate or measure the repercussions of any given creation once it is up, a fact that Street Artists everywhere know and appreciate.
Below is a version of the video montage that greets visitors to the exhibition. The montage has been edited for brevity and includes only selected scenes from the massive projection inside the Central House of Artists as the works of Banksy once again create a stir, this time in Moscow.
Obey Giant – Shepard Fairey
And Speaking of global masters on the Street Art scene, here’s a full movie documentary on Shepard Fairey and his work to bring us up to speed. The American Fairey will be in the cosmopolitan Russian capital September 19th to debut his new exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, called “Force Majeure”. Organized with RUArts Foundation, curated by MMOMA and Wunderkammern Gallery the exhibition will be with the collaboration of the 3rd Artmosphere Biennale, which opens August 30th.
We’ve had the privilege of introducing ‘Beautiful Losers’ to theater audiences and to give away copies of it for a holiday event and even getting to meet a few of the Losers, so to speak. That’s why we’re excited about a new exhibition coming up in ten days in Manhattan at The Hole gallery to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of this classic documentary that debuted at the IFC in August 2008.
Directed by Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard, it brings back a little of the magic of New York in the 90s – specifically the last years when Manhattan felt somewhat lawless and full of creative possibilities on the streets. The community of artists profiled had something that reflected the time and it was good to celebrate the ethos that ‘Beautiful Losers’ so warmly conveyed.
Hope you can make it to the show, or at least to see the movie. It’s always an inspiration for anyone looking to recover the creative spirit.
“DIY / ‘outsider’ art and its acceleration to the cultural forefront will be revisited with the ‘NOW & THEN: A DECADE OF BEAUTIFUL LOSERS’ exhibition. On site will be both artworks and collaborative RVCA merchandise from artists including but not limited to: Aaron Rose, Andre Razo, Ari Marcopoulos, Barry McGee, Cheryl Dunn, Chris Johanson, David Aron, Deanna Templeton, Ed Templeton, Geoff McFetridge, Ivory Serra, Jo Jackson, Margaret Kilgallen, Mark Gonzales, Mike Mills, Rita Ackermann, Shepard Fairey, Stephen Powers, Susan Cianciolo, Thomas Campbell, Tobin Yelland, and Tom Sachs.”
The Trailer: Beautiful Losers
Featuring Ed Templeton, Barry McGee, Mareraret Kilgallen, Jo Jackson, Chris Johanson, Thomas Campbell, Geoff McFetridge, Mike Mills, Stephen Powers, Harmony Korine and Shepard Fairey. A film by Aaron Rose with music by Money Mark.
An exhibition to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of “Beautiful Losers” will open at The Hole Gallery on Thursday, August 23rd. Click on the title of the exhibition next for more details: “NOW & THEN: A DECADE OF BEAUTIFUL LOSERS”
A steel-wheeled graffiti train with Roger Gastman at the controls roars into LA’s Chinatown for a two-month stay at this station, a 40,000 square foot warehouse that houses “Beyond the Streets.” Originating at the streets and train yards of the 1960s and 70s, this express survey carries with it 100 or so artists and writers from across the last five decades as practitioners of graffiti, Street Art, and mural painting. Somehow, everyone gets represented.
Opening night featured many of the names associated with its earliest beginnings of the New York /Philadelphia graffiti scene like Cornbread, Taki183, Futura, Lady Pink, filmmaker Charlie Ahearn, among many others, including photographer Martha Cooper, who in addition to being an artist in the show, shares these photos with BSA readers. She also extensively shares her photos for the accompanying show catalog, providing documentation from the scene that exist nowhere else.
A diverse and almost overwhelming series of displays present the works in a way that can only hint at the thousands of artists who built this story, necessarily viewed through a wide lens: sculpture, photography, installations, and multi-media all join the canvasses and ephemera and Gastman’s collection of vintage paint cans. Smartly planned for the selfie generation, large pieces are presented almost as backdrop ready to be Instagrammed; a direction coming from the “Photos Encouraged” sign that is next to the wall covered with Retna’s original alphabet near the entrance.
Somewhat of a rejoinder to Art in the Streets, the eponymous graffiti and Street Art exhibition in 2011 at LA MoCA, Beyond the Streets takes a focused look at the multitudinous peoples’ art movement from the perspective of one of that first shows’ original curators, Roger Gastman. When arranging the two month exhibition that closes July 6th, Gastman says that his focus was to celebrate those with street cred, in terms of individual practice, and to combine that requirement with a respectable semblance of a studio practice.
Ultimately he looked for artists who have used their particular approach to expand the definition of art in the streets in some way. That definition by now has become quite wide and it’s also a tall order for any curator to find the common themes here and present them in a cohesive manner.
Beyond The Streets, compiled by Roger Gastman.
Both the accompanying catalog and exhibition take a welcome stance toward educating the audience in many ways, helping the viewer to decode this freewheeling graffiti and mark-making history with basic vocabulary terms, historical events, pop culture inflexion points and examination of tools of the trade all adding context. Catalog essays and interviews are incisive and enlightening, including wit, sarcasm and even the occasional admonishment – notably in the essay by author, filmmaker, and curator Sacha Jenkins, who has been documenting the graffiti scene for a least a couple of decades.
Studying the move of some artists from street practice to commercial gallery that began in earnest with early NYC train writers transitioning to canvasses in the early 1980s, Jenkins upbraids a disgruntled faction among old-school graffiti writers who he characterizes as perhaps intransigent in their stylistic evolution and unwilling to adapt with the game. Later in his essay he lambasts the overtly pleasant and narcissistic cultural newcomers who he sees as milk-toasting the scene with their adoration of pretty murals and shallow sentiments, obtusely ushering in gentrification and “leading up to hearing about how my mother’s building is going to get bulldozed for a hip residential building that has a hot tub in every apartment.” He also may be the only writer here so openly addressing race and class distinctions present during the evolution of the scene and now.
The selection of artists and writers in the book and exhibition, many of them friends and colleagues with whom Gastman has worked with in the past, offers a rewarding and accessible panoply of styles and views. With some study the visitor understands connections in a widely dispersed multi-player subculture that coalesced and continuously changed its shape and character. But even if they don’t, they still get an amazing amount of eye candy.
The catalog offers extensive sections like those devoted to The History of Spraypaint and Graffiti in Galleries, and offers petite exegesis on influencing factors and benchmarks that shaped the art form’s route like Mobile DJs, The ’77 NYC Blackout, the European graffiti scene and graffiti’s role in gang culture, hip-hop and hardcore music. The compilation aids and supports the fullness of a story that frankly requires many voices to tell it. Gastman even gives forum and exhibition space to activist and defiant guerilla gardener Ron Finley and the holistic urban horticultural oases that he creates in South Central LA, calling it his form of graffiti in empty lots of the city.
Martha Cooper with Taki 183. Beyond The Streets. (photo courtesy of Martha Cooper)
With insightful interviews of artists in the exhibition from talented writers like Caleb Neelon, Caroline Ryder, John Lewis, Alec Banks, Evan Pricco, John Albert, Shelly Leopold, and Gastman himself, there are enough colorful anecdotes and decisive signposts en route to help tell the stories of the artists and their individual approaches to the street.
“The artists do not share a singular style, since they are primarily united by a common element of their personal biographies – the fact that they once made their art in the streets,” says self-described novice to the Street Art / graffiti world, Adam Lerner, the Director and Chief Animator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. “There are, however some threads that run through the works.”
Beyond the Streets will help visitors find some of those threads for themselves and undoubtedly they will forge their own interpretation of art in the streets.
A Scholarly Eye On Artistic Interventions in Public Space
The excitement that pours from city walls in Lisbon is palpable, an animated mix of graffiti, Street Art, murals, sculpture, and the traditional artisan tiles. Like the famous Bacalhau dish of Portuguese cuisine, it all can be mixed together almost a thousand different ways and each surprising recombination can be loved for its unique character.
To appreciate the varied elements playing into the Street Art scene here, you won’t find greater insight than by touring with Pedro Soares-Neves, and he’ll make sure you won’t leave without understanding the forty years that have contributed to the scene up to this point.
Most visitors are overtaken by the sweeping views, the heart of the old city in the valley, the winding Bairro Alto streets full of colorful illegal artworks, the ancient bricks, traditional azulejos tiled buildings, tiny streets, sloping topography, endless staircases and retro-style cable cars that are climbing impossible inclines – each slaughtered with colorful graffiti tags.
Now an international destination for many Street Artists, the growing number of murals here is remarkable, if not outstanding. Soares-Neves can look at the huge variety of expressions on the street and explain why the art is here now and how it fits into a greater context of a historical city that has gradually embraced nearly all expressions of modern art-in-the-streets.
A self-described fan of urban history Pedro is one of the few scholars in the global urban art scene who calls graffiti writers “authors”, quite possibly because he was one himself in his early teens here during the city’s first stage of graffiti proliferation in the early 1990s.
“I am kind of an architectural urban history fanatic,” he says proudly but in a confessional tone. Completing his doctorate in Design and Urbanism this year he is also co-organizer of the Lisbon Street Art & Urban Creativity Conference and the Street Art & Urban Creativity Scientific Journal.
A lifelong Lisboan born at the same time the revolution from the dictatorship was born here in the mid 1970s, Soares-Neves tells the story of urban art as a progression of social movement, individual engagement, immigration, urban planning, importation of culture, commercial incursion and coalescing of local artists as a quasi-professional network.
As you ride in his 4-door family SUV-hybrid with kids toys and storybooks scattered across the back seat, you gaze along the historic spice trade waterfront and the Jerónimos monastery and museum row, swerving through the central “filet mignon” of the ornamented city to the outskirts, which he calls “the back-office”.
He gestures at the trains and wooded walls and areas where he once painted graffiti , to some of the current crop of throwups along the highway and to wall murals that have been commissioned by municipal, professional, and commercial interests. As the trip unfolds the story is not quite linear of course, and city history intertwines with personal history.
As is its personality, art-in-the-streets shape-shifts and redefines itself, creating new alliances, reconfiguring the balance. For example, currently Lisbon city leaders are working with former vandals and art school professionals to create programs of large colorful murals on soaring public housing towers.
The adjacent neighborhood of older single family houses laid out like suburbs features Soare-Neves’ own curated walls done by more conceptual artists who play with ideas about public space as well as aesthetics. The Portuguese +MaisMenos– directly intervenes with stenciled words here, creating quizzical conundrums for passersby and the French experimenter Matthew Tremblin who brings an online poll results via bar charts posing an existential question about Street Art.
A truly unique insight into the rather omnibus experience of this urban academic, we actually get to look at two eras of Pedro’s own personal history as an artist are here as well, only blocks away from one another.
One Soares painting is on a low wall encircling a park. Part of a graffiti wall of fame (which he helped organize), it shows his 1990s affinity for character illustration and experimentation with letter styles. His more recent installation is a mixed media paint/land art derivation that converts disused construction materials and a habit-formed footpath leading up a grassy knoll to a numerical wall.
Again, the spirit of experimentation here is what is core to his art practice. Perhaps this is why his personal philosophies toward public space lean toward the organically Situationist act of creation, a practice that can be extended to all of the public and to the moment of inspiration.
Following are many images captured in Lisbon during our tour interspersed with this history of the last few decades courtesy Soares-Neves and our own research.
Speaking with Pedro about the early graffiti of the 90s you capture a perspective on two important cultural factors that steered its direction.
The first is that through the lense of the liberators of the Carnation Revolution in the 1970s the style of aerosol bubble tags and characters recalled the earlier people-powered community murals and represented “freedom” in their minds, whereas cities elsewhere in Europe would have thought this painting indicated vandalism or a breakdown of the social fabric.
Secondly, the fascination with graffiti was spurred by the children of African immigrants from former Portuguese territories of Angola, Mozambique and Capo Verde who moved to Lisbon after wars with them ended during the revolution. Now second generation teen immigrants from two cultures, they were looking for self-identity, according to Soares-Neves.
“They found resonance in this Afro-American and Latin American thing that was going on during the 80s so they connected with it and used it for language.”
Quite possibly they were reacting to class and race prejudice and they identified with brothers and sisters in the music videos of American commercial hip hop culture. Seeing the exciting growth and the implied power of graffiti writers, musicians, and bboy movies like “Wild Style” in the 1980s, the expression of graffiti was alluring – a welcome visual art and anti-establishment practice that created identity, community, and newfound respect among a select peer group of cool kids.
“Actually it started with bboying culture in the mid 80s and then in the early 90s it started with a visual language of it,” he says, explaining the progression.
His own teenage aestheticism extended to characters, and a fascination for punk or “rough” magazines and the illustration stylings of artists in the classic Chiclete com Banana magazines. “I had this relationship with drawing and cartoons and this kind of stuff – this popular culture sort of thing,” he says.
His talents as an artist were well prized among his peers until he was nearly outshone by a graffiti writer from Capo Verde, a classmate who threatened Pedro’s status as the school artist; a funny story he explains this way:
“At that time in my high school I was ‘The’ guy who was doing the best cartoons and all this kind of stuff,” he says, reflecting on his celebrity. “Suddenly he did a big piece on the wall! So I was the king of the ‘drawing thing’ and this motherf***er came here and did a big and colorful piece!”
BSA: ..and everyone knew about it of course. Pedro: Yeah of course it was much more visible than what I did. So I started to interact with the guy.
Pedro’s personal history with graffiti began there and never stopped. After starting on walls and greatly enlarging his own illustrations and experimenting with letter styles, he and his peers grew to about 10 or 12 writers and the graffiti scene appeared to blow up from there.
A community of writers from many backgrounds spread across the city practicing one-upsmanship in technical skill and logistical daring, operating singularly, in small groups, or the occasional Wall of Fame project. Because there wasn’t a strict evolutionary lineage of style, many young artists developed their own in the laboratory of the street, not necessarily related to the hip hop culture but adapting from their own culture.
By the late 90s and early 00s he feels that the scene suffered a sort of malaise when purely commercial murals began to take parts of the wall inventory and change the character of some areas. It was a development he deeply disliked for its perversion of a freer art practice yet he appreciated it for the employment it provided to professional artists. The city also borrowed the vernacular of graffiti for public service announcements painted as murals.
The mid 2000s began to reflect the influences of artists like Banksy and a new sort of community comprised of artists from old school graffiti writers and new generation Street Artist began to coalesce in Lisbon he says. Additionally the later 2000s began an increasing flow of international Street Artists and graffiti writers who began avoiding Barcelona after that city started cracking down on their famed urban art scene.
“They (artists) started to add a few other languages to try to surpass this previous period and also began dialoguing with the new things that were happening in Street Art,” he says of the witty skewering of pop culture iconography, introduction of fine art illustration styles and the use of newer art-making methods.
“It was starting to really have lots of people doing stencils and paste ups and this kind of stuff all around. It started to influence the younger generation and that put some pressure on the older generations, who started to do that themselves.”
Visual Street Performance and the Crono Project
A collective guild comprised of artists from both graffiti and Street Art like HBSR81, Hium, Klit, Mar, Ram, Time and Vhils joined together in the mid 2000s and called themselves Visual Street Performance (VSP). A professional/DIY effort, they began to organize large events and an annual exhibition through 2010 that expanded the vernacular to hybrids of fine art and elements of pop, character illustration, photo realism, surrealist fantasy, found object art, abstract expressionist, more traditional graffiti and graphic design.
Pedro had been studying abroad in the Czech Republic and Rome for a few years, “And when I came back I noticed a different panorama. There were lots of younger kids with totally different skills and with that approach of making money out of it,” he says with a mixture of admiration and possibly concern at the professionalism entering the equation.
“They managed to invent themselves,” he says, “and also within the exhibitions the kids like Vhils were born from these,” he says as he talks about the commercial aspects of the cultural scene with connections to an aerosol art brand, print makers, and related clothing projects.
A notable commercial and marketing milestone that married Street Art and urban culture with the image of Lisbon itself took place in 2010-11 when the year long Crono project, curated by Soares-Neves, Angelo Milano (of Fame Festival), and local Street Artist Vhils (Alexandre Farto), brought rising stars of the moment to a high profile block-long series of ornate Art Nouveau and shuttered buildings along a heavily traveled strip in the city, Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo.
The Internet’s volleying of fresh images of pieces by the Italian anti-corporate BLU, the hallucinatory dream illustration style of Brazilian graffiti twins Os Gemeos, and the lyrical storytelling of Spanish 2-D SAM3 alerted the Street Art worlds’ knowledge of Lisbon, and the project quickly became a destination for travellers.
Soares-Neves sometimes speaks about the commercial appropriation of the street art vernacular in his academic work and in some ways it appears that the unexpected success of the Crono Project unsettled him as well. The curators had worked with the city to finance the project with an intention of giving opportunities to artists and fostering new aspects of the public art conversation, but according to Soares-Neves the high profile of the project undermined their own anti-establishment sentiments when city leaders recognized that a comparatively modest investment had ballooned into a successful city “branding” campaign.
Possibly this is a cautionary tale that underscores the incremental dangers present when subculture crosses the rubicon into simply “culture”. There is always the fear that the original philosophies encoded in a subculture will be irreparably transformed, candy-coated, cheapened, or worse, excised.
Recently closed London-based Street Art print pioneers “Pictures On Walls” lamented in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way on their website in January when describing the evolution of their 15 year old business this way, “…inevitably disaster struck – and many of our artists became successful. Street Art was welcomed into mainstream culture with a benign shrug and the art we produced became another tradeable commodity.”
The city seems like it is absorbing all of these changes well, and the variety of faces and styles of public artistic intervention that you see scattered throughout it feel vibrant and necessary. The city continues its 25 year heritage of organic graffiti and entertains international writers and has the occasional Walls of Fame. Elements of unsanctioned Street Art exists as well and neighborhoods are accented by the new generation of muralists with mad skillz.
Then there are those who are a little harder to categorize, like the subtle reworkings of traditional Portugues tiles with modern icons and patterns by Add Fuel and the prized sculptural pieces across the city by the trash-recycling animal naturalist Bordalo II, who just had a massive solo exhibition in November.
The contemporary urban artist and international Street Art star Vhils is a company at this point: operating a studio in a few cities, here running a gallery, a studio laboratory program for young artists, a street art tour business, and partnering with city art programming initiatives as well as brands. Somehow he still finds time to create artworks in the streets, including a recent portrait collaboration with Shepard Fairey in Lisbon and LA.
At the end of our tour marathon Pedro Soares-Neves takes us to the Centro de Informação Urbana de Lisboa (Lisbon Urban Information Center) where we climb the stairs through the airy modernist foyer full of scholarly readers to discover a small scale maquette of the entire city that we have just been traversing.
Fanned out for you before the shiny blue Tagus River, perhaps 15 meters at its full expanse, the topographic features of the city are much less daunting when viewed from this perspective. As Pedro walks around the perimeter of the mini-city and points to neighborhoods, regions, the forest, the airport, the old city and the newly gentrifying areas of Lisboa he recounted stories of expansion, retrenchment, privatization, skullduggery and deliverance.
Thanks to him we appreciate graffiti/ Street Art/ urban art truly in its context of this city, its history, its people and the built environment like never before.
With gratitude to Pedro Soares Neves and to Raul Carvalho, General Manager of Underdogs Gallery for taking the time to talk to us, for sharing their knowledge and insights with us and for showing us around Lisbon.
BSA in Lisbon comes to you courtesy BSA in Partnership with Urban Nation (UN).
Every Armory Week, the SPRING/BREAK Art Show hosts a benefit auction—giving you the opportunity to buy great artworks and support a great cause. This year, your bids will help fund the 475 Kent Tenants Association, which advocates for affordable artist spaces in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
475 Kent Tenants Association (475KTA) teams up with SPRING/BREAK for an auction to benefit the creative community at 475 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of this legendary artists’ building on the Southside, the 475KTA is working to ensure livework tenants are secure in their homes for decades to come. The 475KTA advocates with New York City Loft Tenants, representing NYC’s greater livework community. Artwork from around the globe has been donated by an international community of artists, friends and tenants who have passed through 475 Kent. (#475KentLives)
The auction features 67 works including: limited edition prints by Shepard Fairey, a photograph by the legendary feminist artist Laurie Simmons, a woodcut by activist street artist Swoon, Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson’s renowned Obama portrait, and a still from Eve Sussman’s video 89 seconds at Alcázar.
The artworks will be on view at the SPRING/BREAK Art Show, March 6th-12th, at 4 Times Square on
the 22nd floor, room #2237. Bidding for the auction will close on March, 12th at 8pm ET.
Below we offer you a small selection of the lots being offered for auction:
Jaime Rojo. Untitled, 2006. Silver Gelatin Print. 16 x 20 in. Edition 3/3
Eve Sussman. De Espaldas (still from 89 seconds at Alcázar), 2004. C Print. 14 x 26 in
Swoon. Construction worker, 2016. Silk screen, acrylic, gouache on paper and wood. 11 x 37 in. Edition 3/35
Michael Brown. Omak, 2017. Pigment Print. 6 1/2 x 10 in
Deborah Masters. Two Cows Talking, 2014. Inkjet Print. 43 x 56 in. Edition 3/5
Robert Clark. Ape Hand, 2017. Pigment Print. 20 x 14 in
Fred Tomaselli. Bloom 2011. Silk screen on digital print. 14 x 12 in
Laurie Simmons. Yellow Hair/Red Coat/Umbrella/Snow, 2014. Inkjet print. 12 3/4 x 8 3/4 in
Shepard Fairey. Oil Lotus Woman, 2018. Screen Print. 24 x 18 in. Edition of 450
Shepard Fairey. Home Invasion, 2014. Screen Print. 24 x 18 in. Edition of 450
Shepard Fairey. Peace Guard, 2016. Screen Print. 24 x 18 in. Edition of 450
To peruse the auction and to register to bid click HERE
For more information about SPRING/BREAK ART SHOW click HERE
Please visit us at room #2237 on the 22nd floor.
SPRING/BREAK Art Show
March 6 – 12, 2018 4 Times Square, NYC (Chashama)
Entrance at 144 West 43rd Street
Stumbling and slipping and dancing through January here in New York requires dexterity and a tolerance for dry skin and flattened hat-hair and the occasional sore throat. Thankfully there are great indoor activities sometimes like the huge trippy balloon installations by suave art dynamo Jihan Zencirli at her opening exhibition inside the NYC Ballet atrium Friday night. Hundreds of thousands of balloons, free bourbon, and a DJ after a surprisingly post-post-modern program of envelope pushing dancing on the mainstage by amazing pros! Gurl, that ballet is ballin’.
One more indoor exhibit totally worth your time is Ann Lewis’s installations at a no-name popup in Manhattatan. The conceptual Street/gallery activist artist continues to push her own boundaries, and many of ours, with her work addressing difficult social and political issues like police brutality, institutional bias against women, racism, the Resistance. At a time when we need women’s voices to rise, she collaborates with StudioSpaceNYC at a pop-up at 149 West 14th Street (shots from the installation below).
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Ann Lewis, Atomik, Jihan Zencirli, Obey, Pet-de-None, Shepard Fairey, Studio Space NYC and Tona.
They’re not coming here to dine at the Olive Garden or take a tour through the Target.
They’re here for “Hello Dolly”, “Hamilton”, and “Cats”. They’re here for Billie Joel at the Garden, “Springstein on Broadway” and the “David Bowie” opening at the Brooklyn Museum. They’re here for the virtual reality exhibition “Celestial Bodies” at the Museum of Sex, Picasso and Marina Abramović at MoMa, and the 34,000 items in the Met’s Costume Institute. They’re here for Jazz at Birdland, punk at Manitobas, the singers at Joe’s Pub and dancing at “The Dirty Circus” party at House of Yes in Bushwick.
Whether its EDM or country music, Ai Wei Wei or Shepard Fairey, they’re reading about the arts from writers in the The New York Times, ArtForum, Hyperallergic, Time Out, The Village Voice, Daily News and right here.
The creative economy of artists, actors, dancers, musicians, photographers, curators, designers, art directors, architects, producers, writers, authors, painters, poets, coaches, trainers, teachers, filmmakers, lighting designers, stage designers, software programmers, prop makers, furniture designers, singers, chefs, hairdressers, makeup artists, fashion designers, and yes, Street Artists all are the contributors to the valuable cultural lifeblood of New York City.
And all of these people need a place to live and work, to create, to practice, to try and fail, and to try and succeed.
They also need to be able to pay the rent. That has been less and less and less possible in the last three decades at least with skyrocketing prices chasing low and medium income people from one neighborhood to the next.
These cultural creators have been moving from abandoned neighborhood to neglected neighborhood – in the process most often making the neighborhood more desireable – and then pushed out by the real estate investors. An effort to stem this unfair, brutal and insulting process, activists and artists created The Loft Law, which saved thousand artists in the 1980s and 1990s and it protected many Live/Work creative spaces and the cultural richness of the City that Never Sleeps. A second wave of Live/Work spaces were given protection via Albany in 2010 in a 2nd Loft Law that covers creatives who brought neighborhoods around the city like Williamsburg and Bushwick back to life as desireable creative meccas.
We’re writing to support all artists who give to this city and would like to assure that our elected officials, landlords, and the Loft Board remember their responsibility to respect and protect the rights of tenants, their families, their children, their grandchildren, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers.
Many tenants in the last couple of years have questioned whether the protections afforded under the Loft Law are being run over roughshod or ignored altogether, according to many artists you’ll speak with. There are accusations that hard-won rules are being skipped over, artists are being coerced, that clearly defined processes are being foreshortened and rammed through without input.
It’s an old story, a swinging of the pendulum of justice toward the people and away from the people, but one that needs to be righted occasionally. At this moment, with the Mayor so clearly expressing a desire to protect the rights of the New York creative industry for affordable safe loft Live/Work spaces, it seems possible.
Here is the press release for a protest by 475 Kent tenants today at the meeting of the New York City Loft Board.