What’s the name of the original Street Artist? That’s right brothers and sisters, it is Mother Nature. While we all are stumbling and climbing on the streets now, digging out of a snow storm for the record books, you have to look around and admit it, she rules.
We’re continuously following the lexicon of Street Art as it endeavors to be more inclusive of art and artists who were not part of the original definition; a point that is thrilling to some, irksome to others.
But when it comes to urban philosophers and public space, who can deny that many of our aesthetic discussions necessarily must allow for the work of Mother Nature? She is Old Skool for sure, but her legacy is felt throughout the scene and she knows how to keep her work fresh, timely, relevant. Not everyone can say that.
Surely wo/mankind’s egoistic approach to the designed and built environment causes many to be arrogant, even bellicose about our incredible command of the elements. We act as if white gloved or uniformed captains of design and art have trumped the forces of nature.
The more seasoned will tell you that, at the most, architects, sculptors, planners, painters and civil engineers can only hope to be collaborators with this dynamo.
And what fine work it can be! Her career has an astounding track record and the mastery of line, form, variety, materials is unmatched. Need we mention the soaring volume, the scale of installation, the level of engagement? Christo is but a speck of dust in comparison. Attendance at her New York opening over the weekend was 8.4 million, and the consensus is that Mother Nature is still at the top of her game.
A lot of people thought so, and the rise of commercial festivals and commissioned public/private mural programs probably brought more artists to more walls than in recent history. Judging from the In Box, 2016 is going to break more records. Enormous, polished, fully realized and presented, murals can hold a special role in a community and transform a neighborhood, even a city.
But they are not the “organic” Street Art that draws us into the dark in-between places in a city, or at its margins.
We keep our eyes open for the small, one-off, idiosyncratic, uncommissioned, weirdo work as well, as it can carry clues about the culture and reveal a sage or silly solo voice. It also just reinforces the feeling that the street is still home to an autonomous free-for-all of ideas and opinions and wandering passions. For us it is still fascinating to seek out and discover the one-of-a-kind small wheatpastes, stencils, sculptures, ad takeovers, collages, and aerosol sprayed pieces alongside the enormous and detailed paintings that take days to complete.
The main image above is from a vinyl subway advertisement that was high-jacked and we published it in February of this year on our Images of the Week posting. It’s small, personal, and very effective as you can see someone suspiciously similar to Batman is jumping out of the mouth of someone looking awfully similar to Hedwig of “Angry Inch” fame.
Of the 10,000 or so images photographer Jaime Rojo took in 2015, here are a selection 140+ of the best images from his travels through streets looking for unpermissioned and sanctioned art.
Brooklyn Street Art 2015 Images of the Year by Jaime Rojo
Brooklyn Street Art 2015 Images of the Year by Jaime Rojo includes the following artists;
365xlos43, Amanda Marie, Andreas Englund, Augustine Kofie, Bisser, Boijeot, Renauld, Bordaloli, Brittany, BunnyM, Case Maclaim, Casg, Cash4, CDRE, Clet, Cost, Curve, Dain, Dal East, Dan Budnik, Dan Witz, David Walker, DeeDee, Dennis McNett, Don Rimx, Ricardo Cabret, LNY, Alex Seel, Mata Ruda, Don’t Fret, Dot Dot Dot, ECB, El Mac, El Sol25, Ella & Pitr, Eric Simmons, Enest Zacharevic, Martha Cooper, Martin Whatson, Ever, Faile, Faith47, Findac, Futura, Gaia, Gilf!, Hanksy, Hellbent, Hot Tea, How & Nosm, Icy and Sot, Inti, Invader, Isaac Cordal, James Bullough, Janet Dickson, Jef Aerosol, Jilly Ballistic, Joe Iurato, John Fekner, Le Diamantaire, Li Hill, LMNOPI, London Kaye, Low Brow, Marina Capdevilla, Miss Van, Mr. Prvrt, Mr. Toll, Myth, Nafir, Nemos, Never Crew, Nick Walker, Nina Pandolofo, Old Broads, Oldy, Ollio, Os Gemeos, Owen Dippie, Paper Skaters, Pet Bird, Kashink, Smells, Cash4, PichiAvo, Pixel Pancho, QRST, ROA, Ron English, Rubin415, Saner, Sean 9 Lugo, Shai Dahan, Shepard Fairey, Sheryo & The Yok, Sinned, Sipros, Skewville, Slikor, Smells, Sweet Toof, Snowden, Edward Snowden, Andrew Tider, Jeff Greenspan, Specter, Stray Ones, Sweet Toof, Swil, Willow, Swoon, The Outings Project, Toney De Pew, Tristan Eaton, Various & Gould, Vermibus, Wane, Wk Interact
New York is bittersweet as we are welcoming summer this weekend and remembering those who served and who were lost in war as well (Memorial Day); amidst a changing political atmosphere where the country is tentatively beginning to seriously debate whether the US should have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan.
So it’s also Fleet Week in New York, which means a lot of sailors and marines and Coast Guard personnel are carousing the tourist spots and bars – sort of a military spring break and a chance for the local girls and boys to yell out “Hey Sailor!” – and flash some flirty eyes. It’s also big weekend for movies, barbecues, beers, burping, suntans, rummage sales, bike rides, and of course spray painting empty trailers in cluttered lots. That’s why we start this weeks pack with a new stallion just sprayed on a trailer in Williamsburg by Cern. He’s running wild with a great view of the cityscape behind him.
So here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Cern, Christos Voutichtis, David De La Mano, Din din, Dont Fret, DourOne, Iraq Veterens Against the War, Kuma, Mata Ruda, Miishab, Musketon, Pablog H Harymbat, Rebel, Smells, Sweet Toof, Temo & Miel, and Urma.
In case you thought that your uncle Ernie was the only one full of hot air, public artist creates this installation that attempts to capture the breath of the city. He tells us that in the end he decided his experiment was a good mix of architecture, Art, and postmodern French literature.
“I applied simple means to build parametric and temporary installations;
It is an open system, varying with steadily modifying environmental processes, but without completely changing its own structure.”
We’ve been seeing an increase in the number of politically charged pieces showing up in the street lately. It is no surprise given the rise in marches and demonstrations and discussions in our city and country about topics like racism, police brutality, and rising economic inequality. Street Art has a tradition of addressing socio-political topics, sometimes gently, sometimes yelling at the top of its lungs.
One could argue that all speech is political but you don’t recognize it when the message expresses views endorsed by the dominant culture; BP ads tell us that it is splendid to burn fossil fuels, CitiBank ads on bicycles tell us that bankers are nice community-minded people, and McDonalds ads tell us that eating meat is nutritious. Nothing political there right? Do you think the MTA would allow you to run an advertisement saying the opposite of any of those messages? Or would that suddenly be political?
The first few messages of this weeks walls are examples of speech, some of them political, some of them not. The streets will decide which get banned.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring 907 Crew, Adam Cost, Anthony Lister, Balu, bunny M, Cash 4, David Shillinglaw, Defs, Deeker, FWC Crew, HA3, Icy & Sot, JR, Kaws, London Kaye, Merve Berkman, Myth, Omen, R2, Rambo, ROA, Rubin 415, SEA, Smells, Sote, and Specter.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Aiko, City Kitty, Clet, Dain, Deekers, JB Rock, KCIN, LUC, Mr. One Teas, Obey, Peros, PX$H6XD, Shepard Fairey, Smells, Specter, Tank Petrol, and Tom Fruin.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring 1up, Bishop203, Bradley Theodore, Cash4, Deekers, El Sol 25, Hiss Keeley, Kevin Cyr, King Amsterdam, Ludo, Mosco Clandestino, Not Art, ROA, Royce Bannon, Smells, Sweet Toof, Trap Art, and Zimer.
No doubt it is the grey days of late winter that is making us think about this as we brace for the next snowstorm, but today we’re considering the impact that Street Art color has on architecture that never asked for it.
We’re not the first to think of hues, shades, tones, and palettes when it comes to the man made environment of course, but it does strike us that most of the buildings that are hit up by street art and murals today were designed by architects who never imagined art on their facade.
Modern architecture for some reason is still primarily grey, washed out greens, beige, eggshell, snore.
“Color is something that architects are usually afraid of,” said internationally known and awarded architect Benedetta Tagliabue in an interview last May about the topic of color. A generalization probably, and you can always find exceptions of colorfully painted neighborhoods globally like the Haight in San Francisco, La Boca in Buenos Aires, Portafino in Italy, Guanajuato in Mexico, Bo-Kaap in Capetown, the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the Blue City of India, but many of those examples speak to color blocking and pattern.
We’ve been looking at the power of Street Art to reface, re-contextualize, re-energize, and re-imagine a building and its place in the neighborhood. Some times it is successful, other times it may produce a light vertigo. The impact of work on buildings by today’s Street Artists and muralists depends not only on content and composition but largely on the palette they have chosen. It sounds trite, and self-evident perhaps, but much of Street Art is about color, and primarily on the warm scale first described by Faber Birren with his OSHA colors and color circle in the 1930s .
It’s common now to think of 21st century Street Art as the graffiti-influenced practice that primarily activates the detritus of the abandoned industrial sector blighting western cities in the wake of trade agreements that sent all the jobs to lands without protections and regulations. While that is definitely the sort of neglected factory architecture preferred for “activation” by many graffiti artists and Street Artists alike, we also see more curious couplings of color with the delicately ornate, the regal, or even modernist structures today thanks to artists being invited, rather than chased.
The results? Abstractionist, cubist, geometric, letter-based, illustrative, figurative, text-based, outsider, folk, dadaist, pop. One common denominator: color.
“The environment and its colors are perceived, and the brain processes and judges what it perceives on an objective and subjective basis. Psychological influence, communication, information, and effects on the psyche are aspects of our perceptual judgment processes,” writes Frank H. Mahnke in his recent piece for Archinect. The author of Color, Environment, & Human Response has made it his mission to explore psychological, biological effects of color and light and to help creators of the man-made environment make good choices.
Whether all of these choices are good, we leave up to you. But it is worth considering that Street Artists have been part of the conversation on the street for decades now, making powerful suggestions to architects and city planners , so maybe it’s worth taking another look at what they’ve been up to lately.
Brooklyn’s already percolating artists neighborhood called Bushwick continues to thrive despite the circling of real estate agents, lifestyle brands and celebrity chefs. Born in the mid-late 2000s as it’s older sister Williamsburg to the West began to professionalize, this noisily industrial and dirty artists haven got a reprieve from gentrifying forces when the deep recession slowed the rise of rents for artist spaces, which remained still relatively cheap by Manhattan’s standards. Today the area boasts a diverse influx of artists, students, cultural workers, and entrepreneurs who are experimenting and collaborating on projects and shows.
That radical economic downturn probably also nurtured the nascent Street Art scene here, which was one of the early outliers of a cultural influx as artists and explorers began to skateboard to the local delis and stare at laptops for hours in the one or two cafes that offered Wi-Fi. Outcroppings of this new art movement combined with old-school graffiti to pop up on selected concrete and corrugated walls, signposts, and deteriorated blocks where the authorities were disinterested and the neighbors only partially curious in their activities.
It’s an age-old New York story by now; a neglected or winding down post industrial neighborhood reacts to the incoming and odd-looking artists with a sort of bemused affection, happy that at least the block is getting some attention for a change. Puzzlement eventually leads to familiarity and then buying you a sandwich – and then asking you to paint a mural inside his foyer. While national and international Street Artists were already making Bushwick a stopping point thanks to some of the earliest galleries like Ad Hoc and Factory Fresh, the scene recently got newly shot in the arm by a local resident who is facilitating much desired legal wall space to a crowd of artists who otherwise would be hunting and hitting up less-than-legal spots. Not to worry, there are plenty of aerosol renegades and ruffians scaling walls at night too; this is New York after all, yo.
But for now the Bushwick Collective, as it is newly christened by wall-man Joe Ficalora, has infused an adrenaline rush of creativity inside and outside the area that is roughly bordered by Flushing Avenue, Starr Street, Knickerbocker Avenue and Cypress Avenue. The Collective has guidelines on content (nudity, politics, profanity) so the works are not completely unfettered in the true spirit of Street Art/graffiti, but most artists are happy for the luxury of time to complete their work and not look over their shoulder. With a selection of murals that are densely gathered and easy to walk through, the new collection has attracted attention from media folks (and tour guides) on the main island brave enough to venture into the gritty wilds of Brooklyn for a Street Art safari.
As Bushwick hosts its 7th annual open studios cultural event this weekend, intrepid pedestrians who march through opening parties, rooftop DJ jams, dance performances, live bands, transcendent costumery, sidewalk barbecues, open fire hydrants and more than 600 open artist studios will also be buffeted by a visual feast on the streets themselves. As long as the L Train is running (fingers crossed) you can just get off at the Morgan stop. From there it should be pretty easy for any curious art-in-the-street fan to be regaled with big and small works of graffiti, Street Art, tags, wheat-pastes, stencils, rollers, murals, and ad hoc installations all day and night.
A shout out to Arts In Bushwick, an all volunteer organization that has steadily grown and fostered an open sense of community inclusiveness each year for Bushwick Open Studios and to the many volunteers who have contributed greatly to the success of many of the cultural workers here. Without an open studios event many of these shy and quirky artists and performers would simply have stayed unknown and unknowable.
So far Bushwick still has the unbridled imperfect D.I.Y. enthusiasm of an experiment where anything can happen, but grey ladies with kooky bright colored spectacles have already begun to flip it over to inspect it with one hand while pinching their nose with the other, so savor this authentic moment. Ethereal by nature, you know the Street Art scene is never guaranteed to you tomorrow – neither is the mythical artists bohemian hamlet of New York’s yesteryear. For now we’re hopping on our bikes to catch a golden age of Bushwick before it’s repackaged and sold back to us at a price we can’t afford.
The first series of images are walls from the Bushwick Collective, followed by a series of walls that you may also see in the neighborhood.
The audacity of the organically grown Street Art and graffiti wall, covered with styles and sentiments that are anybody’s guess, people painting whatever the heck they want. It may not be easy to digest, but maybe you’ll find part of it to be inspiring, or challenging, or eye opening. Or all three.
“One person did drive by and yell out the window, ‘This is awful!’ ” says artist Don Pablo Pedro as he lets out a belly laugh. “So that was fun, that was a good one. Other than that I’ve enjoyed it a lot.” He’s talking about the new wall still in progress in Bushwick Brooklyn that is taking shape without input from anyone but the artists. “Yeah there are no real rules, we’re just going out there and having fun. Not trying to do anything that is too important or anything,” says Pablo as he talks about his blue Jesus character with the chastity belt.
Usually this sort of work appears on abandoned lots where only few eyes will see it, not on this corner in the still industrial, intensely trafficked, sooty smelly occasionally ear-splittingly loud part of Bushwick. Here you are greeted by very aggressive truck drivers caterwauling by on 18 wheels like bats out of hell. If you are not alert you can be mowed down or choked by the gritty air along with growing numbers of desparados who have settled here in recent years as artists, students, and low-wage workers continue to migrate in search of affordable space to live and work.
Many of the artists painting on this wall come from different directions and backgrounds – graffiti, street art, fine art, painting, woodworking, screen-printing, sculpture – and many have worked collaboratively before. Smells is the curator, if for no other reason than there had to be some sense of order, and according to Don Pablo it won’t be finished until its completely covered. So far the collection includes work from Smells, Cash4, Droid, UFO, Gentu, Keely, Sadue, Don Pablo Pedro, Tony Bones…. “I think it’s still going to go on, it’s kind of a ‘progress wall,’ ” says Pedro.
“Now the wall has turned into sort of a more grimey wall, which I love about it. It’s my friends building and he kind of loves that too. It mirrors more of him actually.”
Does he find that passersby have a negative reaction to some of the content of his piece – the nudity, genitalia, the multiple additional boobs? “You know, I was hoping so! I have seen a number of people look at it and laugh, like some of the worker guys in the neighborhood.”
And for this neighborhood, if you call it that, community standards divine that this explosion of tags and characters is cool, not that some of these artists give a rats butt. “The neighbors are really nice. They know most of the artists – the people next door have the art materials place and they’re really nice too.”
For Don Pablo Pedro, it’s the genuine artistic freedom he is attracted to and as part of his own practice he finds that he’s still learning about doing collaborative work with others and how to work with rough walls – since his typical practice is on canvas and is done solo and in a studio.
“This is also kind of new for me because I’m working with other people’s art pieces around mine and also the little nuances in the wall; like when I was doing the Jesus figure there were these little weird nail things that were on either side of the door so I used them. Also there were like some little nipple things so I used them. And I think Smells liked using the thing for the vagina so it could sort of spray out. Smells piece is really good. I love that one, it’s really good,” he says enthusiastically.
Faile. Along with their recent announcement of their partnership with the New York City Ballet Arts Series came a marketing campaign blitz that saw the New York City transit system and streets blanketed with the promotional posters. So once again Street Artists see their work in place it was previously, but because a fee has been paid, this time it is legal.