Spanish street artist SpY has been stretching the limits, blurring the lines, if you will, between street art, installation art, and creating “situations” in cities for the last decade. In this new shot across the sky in Madrid, he is decidedly not blurry, but laser-focused.
As dusk fell last week citizens saw his newest beams of light bursting from the iconic “Mirador de Moncloa”, causing some on social media to evoke Star Wars comparisons. Perhaps it was the green beams that recollect the early personal computers of all green text on black backgrounds, but to see them streaming steadily, connecting north and south across 10 kilometers, it redefined space and residents’ perceptions of it perhaps.
“The resulting light show is fascinating in its simplicity,” says the artist, “the 8 beams of green light crossing the dark sky, creating a poetic and surprising new visual landscape.”
When in Oostende, Belgium recently the conceptually minded artist took some of these dimensions in hand as well, blasting 5 high-powered lasers into the sky to transform open air and to create new visual experiences for anyone lucky enough to witness it from great distances and up-close perspectives as well.
We are riveted by the idea: That this projected light form is repurposed from its industrial and war applications to be presented for the public simply as an aesthetic entity – with its own deliberate transcendence; claiming space, altering it, commanding it, re-defining sightlines delineating new borders with righteously crimson beams of electromagnetic radiation powered light.
When one considers modern light masters like Dan Flavin, Mary Corse, James Turrell or Olafur Eliasson, you understand instinctively that it is only through accident or alert experimentation that such powerful effects such as these that we can be afforded the opportunity for discovery, and only inquisitive minds like SpY’s would push this idea so far that it becomes a revelation.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. Medicos Del Mundo #Esperanza #AlwaysHope 2. SOFLES / The Minibus (feat. Treas) 3. SpY / Luna
BSA Special Feature: Medicos Del Mundo #Esperanza #AlwaysHope
Today we present an inspiring video that reaches all the corners of the world – which is where Doctors of the World goes. The organization looks past the geographic and political barriers to care for all of us. Here film directors, directors, and artists – across five continents – participate in telling lived stories of people on the front line.
New graffiti porn from Brisbane this week as Sofles and Treas take camping to a new dimension in aerosol madness. The team of Grug & Bustaflux keep the audio details and effects tight with camerawork that trips and makes the heart skip by After Midnight Film.
SpY / Luna
Can you trust your eyes? Is that the moon?
SpY draws an indirect connection to the moon and the television depictions of 1969 showing a team of astronauts landing on it. The Madrid installation artist uses the simplest of gestures to make clarion statements. Installed on one of the construction cranes of the fifth tower of the Caleido complex in the north of Madrid, SpY hangs the moon in the sky with an inflatable nylon structure illuminated with high intensity LED system.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. SpY / Full Story / Takin Over Public Spaces In The City 2. Matth Velvet. Parees Festival 2019 3. Bomb Shelter/Pete Kirill/Wynwood, Miami
BSA Special Feature: SpY Takes Over Public Spaces
The brilliant Spanish interventionist is profiled here by a brand – but its not obtrusively involved in the video. His approach to the city is educational, humorous, full of adoration and witty simplicity. A graffiti writer who challenged himself to interact with the public spaces in new ways, he credits those early years bombing with his heightened understanding of the urban environment, and how to skillfully disrupt it.
SpY / Full Story / Takin Over Public Spaces In The City
Matth Velvet at Parees Festival 2019
A new video from PareesFest 2019
featuring a painter on the wall, and demonstrating the entirely different
approach a mural is when realized with brushes. A tribute to historical
Olloniego mining, the artist is Matth Velvet and the video is by Titi Muñoz.
Bomb Shelter/Pete Kirill/Wynwood, Miami
Taking the trip local, Pete Kirill tells you about his project in Wynwood, Miami – a graffiti and art supply store, gallery, and community hub that is rooted in graffiti and of course spreads out far from there. A unique opportunity to see this transformed neighborhood through the eyes of Miami folks – a mini tour of one spot just after the deluge of art fans and tourists during Art Basel, which happens in Miami every year at the beginning of December.
“Contemporary Muralism” is the tag that organizers of this international exhibition gives to the current practice, and this northeastern Spanish city of 35,000 has hosted a number of primarily European Street Artists for a half dozen years here to do just that.
“Urban art is an incomparable tool for the transformation of the public space,” say organizers, and this years roster includes SpY, Miquel Wert, Kenor and Lucas Milà. Additionally a program of workshops was given by Andrea Michaelsson – Btoy, along with round tables and conferences in which international and local speakers participated.
Under the auspices of the Department of Culture and the City Council of Tudela – EPEL Castel Ruiz, the program of “Arte Urbano, Espacio Humano” focuses on a democratic approach to the city that recognizes the contributions of many people who make a city work.
“In the street the work merges with the morphology and geometry of the city,” says one of the curators of this years edition, Arcadi Poch, “at the artistic level the city is an extraordinarily fertile land”.
Our sincere thanks to photographer Fer Alcalà for sharing his excellent documentation here with BSA readers.
In this new piece by Catalan artist Lucas Milá the paint itself plays a role in the story because it appears and disappears with the light and temperature – a project of photochromic paint.
In the mural, made in the town of Peralta, you can see a vegetable farmer, possibly from the area known as the Ribera, whose shirt goes from a dark blue to an absolute white covered with vegetables. Similarly in the background landscape some clouds disappear when the sun hits.
VI AVANT GARDE TUDELA Y RIBERA 2018 International Exhibition of Contemporary Muralism ‘ARTE URBANO, ESPACIO HUMANO’ VI International exhibition of contemporary muralism. Avant Garde Tudela ‘Arte Urbano Espacio humano’ is an international exhibition of contemporary muralism that was organized by the Department of Culture of the City Council of Tudela – EPEL Castel Ruiz. In this VI edition, the exhibition opened to Ribera with the participation of the towns of Arguedas and Peralta.
Museums, Festivals, and Activism – three of the themes that garnered the most traffic on our published stories on BSA and The Huffington Post this year.
From a scholarly Street Art related exhibition in St. Petersburg to the opening of the Mima Museum in Belgium to the Anti-Banksy exhibition with the Blu controversy in Bologna and the “Magic City” exhibition in Dresden, BSA readers were astutely studying the slow but steady move of Street Art from the street to the museum and the academic canons.
But you also liked the huge multi-player outside exhibitions as well – with stories from Sicily and Northern Spain to Northern Mexico, BSA readers were interested this year in seeing how eclectic locally-organized Street Art festivals and projects are done, and who is doing them.
Finally activism played a big role in what you were re-Tweeting and “liking” and sending to your friends – From Icy & Sot installing anti-radiation work in the Native American desert and then talking about oceans polluted with plastic, to a United Nations food program with kids and artists in El Salvador, to highlighting Indigenous peoples rights with Jetsonorama, to a US cross-country tour to save endangered species by one artist and a Greenpeace show in Barcelona addressing the same issue with 35 artists, it looks like BSA readers are engaged and concerned about socio-politico-environmental issues left and right.
Rafael Schacter Takes a More Nuanced Approach to the Migration Crisis
Commerce and technology have been eroding traditional constructs of the borders and boundaries, especially in the age of the Internet, satellites, transnational banking and trade agreements that create governing bodies that openly dismiss national sovereignty, integrity, identity, aspirations. Borders and boundaries are contested, guarded, or disregarded at will; open to international capital, porous to immigration, hardened by armies.
Daily they are in the headlines: Trump’s plans to build a wall along the US-Mexican border, Syrian war refugees immigrating across European borders, Israel and Palestine’s ongoing land and settlement disputes, even maritime territorial claims of China and the Phillipines in the South China Sea that were ruled upon yesterday – all reveal clues to our historically complicated relationships and geo-political perspectives.
“The brothers spent two solid days hand cutting the multi-layer stencil here on Melrose Avenue. How many pieces? “19 pieces,” says Icy. “Its not that big but it has a lot of details” The composite image features an enormous whale emerging from the sea in full view of a coastline packed with industrial forms which presumably are dumping contaminants directly into the waters.
As ever, the brothers crash into each others sentences while talking to us. “Whatever happens in the ocean… it comes back to us,” says Sot. “Whether is trash or plastics or oil..”
Icy jumps in, “The fish eat them and then we eat the animals and we have the plastics inside of us.”
“Yeah, It’s a cycle. We are all making a lot of trash – we are affecting the world. Then it all comes back to us,” says Sot… Continue reading here
What is it about Brooklyn Street Art that is so appealing that one would curate the opening exhibition of a museum with it?
Four pillars of the New York Street Art scene are welcoming the first guests of the new Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art (MIMA), which opened days ago in Brussels. Attacking the cherished institutions that relegate grassroots people’s art movements into the margins, MIMA intends to elevate them all and let them play together. Graphic design, illustration, comic design, tattoo design, graffiti, street art, plastic arts, wheat pasting, sculpture, text, advertising, pop, story-telling, aerosol, brushwork, and naturally, dripping paint.
Obviously street culture has been mixing these influences together in a never-ending lust for experimentation; punk with hip-hop, skateboarding with tattoo, performance art with graffiti – for the past four decades at least. The folk tradition of cutting and pasting predates all our modern shape-shifting by centuries, but institutional/organizational curating often often has a preference for sorting street culture disciplines into separate piles.
With the inaugural exhibition “City Lights” MOMO, Swoon, Faile, and Maya Hayuk each bring what made their street practice unique, but with an added dimension of maturity and development. Without exception each of these artists have benefitted from the Internet and its ability to find audiences who respond strongly to the work with physical location a secondary consideration. Now as world travelers these four have evolved and refined their practice and MIMA gives them room to expand comfortably…Continue reading here
“Six street artists took their social engagement a step further in El Salvador last month and taught youth some serious skillz from the street.
Coming from Brazil, Australia, Ecuador, Mexico, New York, and New Jersey, this international crew took the time to share and teach about painting, art, and how community can be built. The program Conect-Arte is a newly launched initiative by the United Nations World Food Programme, which as the name suggests, also is in the city to address a more core need to battle food insecurity. With Conect-Arte the goal is to also meet youth in some communities and help with positive role models an options with an eye on transforming lives through developing art and related creative skills that can provide income and channel energy in ways productive to community.
Together the artists worked on projects with 45 teens and younger kids over the course of the a week-long workshop in San Salvador, teaching street art techniques like stencil, lettering, mural painting, sculpture, even hot air balloon making. The goals are huge, like reducing violence, food insecurity, increasing access to economic opportunity. The tools here are art, the creative spirit, and strengthening relationships.
We bring you some images of the works that were made by the visiting artists and some of their observations and experiences during the Conect-Arte program…Continue reading here
“A couple of weeks ago BSA was in Dresden, Germany to help lay plans for a new Street Art show opening there this fall called “Magic City” and naturally we hit the streets with bicycles three days in a row to see the city’s graffiti, Street Art, and murals whenever time would permit. The first day we had the honor of getting a tour from Jens Besser, an artist, author, lecturer, and producer of mural festivals in the city who sped ahead of us through a labyrinth of streets to show us a number of the impressive murals he and partners have brought to the city in the last decade or so…Continue reading here
“Activism and Street Art go hand in hand and some artists are skilled at activating public space for hearts and brains to spark and cogitate. During the last 15 years we’ve documented a number of seriously affecting artworks on the street that use text and/or imagery to address political, social, environmental, and economic issues and opinions by artists as varied as Shepard Fairey, Banksy, John Fekner, Ganzeer, LMNOPI, Myth, Gilf!, Gaia, LNY, Jetsonorama, and any number of one-shot authors. In this election year there are too many Trumps to count, and a few Hillary pieces as well.
Undaunted by commercial interests and able to deliver directly to the passerby, Street Artists know that their visual message isn’t guaranteed acceptance but they take a chance anyway. The ones that reflect the sentiments on the street tend to last longer, aesthetics count, and so does spelling, at least that is our inductive observation.
One London artist who seriously raises awareness about the Earths’ endangered species is Louis Masai, a painter, sculptor, illustrator and Street Artist. Starting this week in New York Masai is beginning a 20 mural tour across the United States to talk about the hard working, honey-making, pretty pollinating bee – and a number of our animals that are in danger of dying off completely…Continue reading here
“An amorphous shape-shifting consortium of Berlin-based aerosol hooligans named 1UP is one of those graffiti crews who eventually make the entry into graffiti street lore because of the scope and daring of their travails.
Primarily Berlin based, you’ll find their almost-commercial sounding name on roofs, walls, abandoned factories, and in tunnels in many cities around the globe. Without a clear idea of the exact number in their association nor precise membership these daredevils are most often described as white men in their twenties and early thirties reveling in the athleticism and sport of graffiti, in addition to style. The tag itself appears to be rather “open source” at times, with only insiders able to keep track of the distinct hand styles forming the ubiquitous name on thousands of surfaces…continue reading here
“It’s a cathedral of characters, this abandoned furniture factory forty kilometers outside of Barcelona. Cartoons, illustrations, portraits are everywhere; a curious collection of aerosol spray pieces that highlights the popularity of the animated and exaggerated personalities among graffiti and Street Artists in this region of the world.
The character may be a salty with a haggard stare, or reference a topic with a bit of satire. The scene may be serious, comical, ridiculous or purely sci-fi and horror. You discover the stories and allegories as you walk through the empty manufacturing rooms now flooded with natural light and dust. Expressions and situations here are full of drama that may trigger your empathy, startle your attention, elicit a shiver, or creepily fondle your funny bone…Continue reading here
“They’ve been here since the 1950s, these silos for wheat and corn on the harbor of Catania on the east coast of the island of Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna. 28 meters tall and facing the Ionian Sea, they are now some of the largest canvasses in Italy by a small group of international and local Street Artists.
The “Art Silos” project includes works completed during an eight month installation begun in June 2015 as part of Festival “I-ART” organized by “Emergence”, thanks to Angelo Bacchelli, curated by Giuseppe Stagnitta. The artists taking part in the project were Okuda (Spain), ROSH333 (Spain), Microbo (Italy), BO130 (Italy), VladyArt (Italy), Danilo Bucchi (Italy) and the duo Interesni Kaxki (Ukraine), mostly all from the graffiti/Street Art world. A separately organized but related project on the harbor-facing row of eight silos was completed by one artist alone, the Lisbon-based Vhils…continue reading here
“An anti-Banksy & Co. Street Art show opened in Bologna Italy the same night as its controversial bank-backed cousin with brand new works by 50 or so Italian and international Street Artists and open admission to their outdoor ‘museum’.
“It is free and spontaneous, as Street Art should be,” says an organizer and participant named About Ponny as he describes the exuberant and sometimes saucy toned exhibition on the grounds of the sprawling former headquarters of Zincaturificio Bolognese which is destined for future demolition.
“The message we want to convey is that true street art is found where it was born, in the street and not in the paid exhibits,” says Bibbito, who along with two other out-of-town street artists named Jamesboy and Enter/Exit found food and couches during their installations thanks to an association of artists called L’Associazione Serendippo. Together, these artists say, they and other organizers want to send a “strong signal” by creating “one of the largest museums of ephemeral street art ever made”. The new coalition named this project “R.U.S.Co” (Recupero Urbano Spazi Comuni) or (Urban Renewal Common spaces).
The new 16,000 m2 open-air art show may appear as a rather curious development because its method of protest runs completely counter to that of the shows’ most vocal and high-profile critic, BLU, who last week protested the same show by defiantly destroying 20 years of his own public paintings, rather than making new ones…Continue reading here
Being more knowledgeable about the dessert variety of yellow cake than the desert variety of uranium contamination, we turn to Street Artists Jetsonorama and Icy & Sot to educate us about the active uranium mines that are at the North Rim of The Grand Canyon. The three worked jointly in June to create new public works addressing the topic and we have each of them here for you to see.
“The issue of uranium contamination and nuclear waste is timely as there is an active uranium mine at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon presently and a proposal to start mining at the South Rim,” explains Jetsonorama (Chip Thomas), who is a local artist, a practicing doctor, and a social activist advocating for the people who live on the reservation and the natural environment in general…Continue reading here
“Scientists, psychologists, surgeons…in the end we’re all driven by a similar curiosity.”
This month has been a whirlwind in New York for Austrian Street Artist /fine artist /illustrator named Nychos and he’s made quite the iconic impression. Anchored by a show that opened last weekend of canvasses and illustrations at Jonathan Levine Gallery in Chelsea named “IKON” and assisted by a co-branded sculptural event with the Vienna Tourist Board, the surreal dissectionist didn’t rest there.
In the weeks leading up to and after these events he also managed to hit a number of walls in Coney Island, Bushwick, and Jersey City…oh and he knocked out a box truck as well.
In addition to pulling out an astounding sculpture of Sigmund Freud looming over a couch that drew a crowd to the foot of the (also iconic) Flatiron Building at 23rd and 6th, the afterparty and reception featured Dominic Freud, the great grandson of the founder of psychoanalysis, who surmised that if he were alive today he would definitely have wanted to put Nychos on his couch…Continue reading here
The art-platform model of RebobinArt is interesting because they are a community organization that manages spaces and issues permits for painting for competitions, festivals, exhibitions, educational programs, and cause-based events like this one.
Under the guidance of Director Marc Garcia, RobobinArt promotes and facilitates a different sort of public painting that is not strictly commercial and yet it is clearly not the freewheeling graffiti/street art based stuff that made Barcelona such a magnet for artists in the early-mid 2000s…Continue reading here
“Street Artist and activist Jetsonorama (Chip Thomas) saw his work pull together a number of people in Durango, Colorado on October 10th as the city and the college celebrated their first ever “Indigenous People’s Day”. His photograph of an indigenous youth named JC Morningstar swinging and kissing her dog was chosen by a group of students from Fort Lewis College, where 24% of the population is indigenous.
The unveiling ceremony for the mural began with a traditional pow wow prayer by a drum circle and Chip says “the highlight of the day for me was having JC, her dog and her family travel 4 hours to Durango to attend the unveiling before going to the Tribe Called Redshow that evening.”…Continue reading here
“Chihuahua is like one big ranch,” says a local reporter who guides you around this desert city known for beef, cheese, sotol, cowboy boots… and a growing middle class – thanks to the hundred plus multinational maquiladoras operating here with a focus on aerospace, medical equipment, and automobile manufacturing.
The “ranch” metaphor is meant to be welcoming, but it also lets you know that this city of nearly a million can still feel like a small town. This is the capital of Mexico’s largest state, which goes by the same name. And yes, the diminutive and scrappy dog originated here – as did Pancho Villa, and you can visit his homestead if you like.
It’s not the typical city where you might expect to find Street Art, yet only a few blocks from the government palace downtown that holds two stories of wall paintings by Mexican muralist Aarón Piña Mora, you will find new paintings in the dusty side streets that indicate a more international flavor is present…Continue reading here
New York is bracing, as is the rest of the country, for the fallout of the election.
We’ve seen an uptick in anti-semitic graffiti on the street, but not a great deal of other stuff aside from acidic disgust toward Trump – but that was true before the election. The governor and the mayor are warning the new administration that no discrimination or hate will be welcomed in the State or City. Most of the time the president elect is still hanging out at his towers in Manhattan choosing rich, connected, white men to fill all his cabinet posts. Almost every one those choices have people up in arms.
Meanwhile, the autumn has been spectacular and we’re all reminding ourselves and each other that we have a lot to be thankful for, and to fight for – for all of us across the country in every city, town, suburb, and rural home. It looks like winter is coming, so gather wood for the fire.
It’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Aaron Ki, C-3, Dan Witz, Ganzeer, Individualactivist, Livio Ninni, Mark Bode, Mr. Fijodor, ODeith, Ouizi, Qi Xinghau, Raphael Federici, Roteo, SpY, and Voxx Romana.
An unusual amalgam of the interactivity of the street combined with the formality of a gallery environment, Magic City opened this fall in a converted factory in Dresden, Germany with an eclectic selection of 40+ artists spanning the current and past practices of art in the street.
With revered culture critic and curator Carlo McCormick at the helm alongside curator Ethel Seno, the richly marbled show runs a gamut from 70’s subway train writers and photographers like Americans Daze, Henry Chalfant, and Martha Cooper to the Egyptian activist Ganzeer, Italian interventionist Biancoshock, popagandist Ron English, and the eye-tricking anamorphic artist from the Netherlands, Leon Keer.
Veering from the hedonistic to the satiric to head-scratching illusions, the collection allows you to go as deep into your education about this multifaceted practice of intervening public space as you like, including just staying on the surface.
It’s not an easy balance to strike – some of these artists have heavy hearts and withering critiques of human behaviors and institutional hypocrisies ranging from 1st World treatment of refugees to celebrity culture to encroaching surveillance on individual rights, government oppression, and urban blight.
Magic City doesn’t try to shield you from the difficult topics, but the exhibition also contains enough mystery, fanboy cheer, eye candy and child-like delight that the kids still have plenty of fun discoveries to take selfies with. We also saw a few kissing couples, so apparently there is room for some romance as well.
“We believe that even the typical city is uncommon, and that the idiosyncrasies that make each city unique are collectively something they all have in common,” says McCormick in his text describing the exhibition. “This is then a celebration of the universal character of cities as well as a love letter to their infinite diversity. The special magic that comes from our cities is germinated in the mad sum of their improbable juxtapositions and impossible contradictions.”
Of particular note is the sound design throughout the exhibition by Sebastian Purfürst and Hendrick Neumerkel of LEM Studios that frequently evokes an experiential atmosphere of incidental city sounds like sirens, rumbling trains, snatches of conversations and musical interludes. Played at varying volumes, locations, and textures throughout the exhibition, the evocative city soundscape all adds to a feeling of unexpected possibilities and an increased probability for new discovery.
Obviously this Magic City cannot be all things to all people, and some will criticize the crisp presentation of a notably gritty series of subcultures, or perhaps the omission of one genre or technique or important artist. It’s not meant to be encyclopedic, rather a series of insights into a grassroots art and activism practice that continues to evolve in cities before our eyes.
For full disclosure, we curated the accompanying BSA Film Program for Magic City by 12 artists and collectives which runs at one end of the vast hall – and Mr. Rojo is on the artist roster with 15 photographs of his throughout the exhibition, so our view of this show is somewhat skewed.
Here we share photographs from the exhibition taken recently inside the exhibition for you to have a look for yourself.
Aiko, AKRylonumérik, Andy K, Asbestos, Benus, Jens Besser, Biancoshock, Mark Bode, Bordalo II, Ori Carino & Benjamin Armas, Henry Chalfant, Martha Cooper, Isaac Cordal, Daze, Brad Downey, Tristan Eaton, Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Fino’91, Ganzeer, Anders Gjennestad, Ben Heine, Herakut, Icy & Sot, Leon Keer, Loomit, MadC, OakOak, Odeith, Olek, Qi Xinghua, Replete, Roa, Jaime Rojo, Skewville, SpY, Truly, Juandres Vera, WENU, Dan Witz, Yok & Sheryo, Ernest Zacharevic.
Curator Carlo McCormick quotes Novalis by way of describing this new exhibit of an eclectic blend of terrific troublemakers, pop-culture hijackers, and show-stopping crowd pleasers drawn from cities all around the Street Art/ graffiti /urban art scene today – and forty years ago. This is a welcoming walk of unexpected intersections that only McCormick and co-curator Ethel Seno could imagine – and pull together as a panoply of street wizardry that acknowledges activism, artistry, anarchy, and aesthetics with a sincere respect for all. It will be interesting to see how this show is viewed by people who follow the chaotic street scene today in the context of its evolution and how they read the street signs in this city.
McCormick, in his customary self-effacing humor, expects there to be some shit flying – as anyone who is involved in this scene expects from the hard-scrabble rebellious margins and subcultures that this art-making interventionist practice rises from. There also are a growing and coalescing mini-legion of scholars and academics who are currently grappling with the nature and characteristics of this self-directed art-making practice rooted often in discontent – now organized inside an exhibition that is ticketed and sold as a family friendly show.
In his descriptions of the public sphere, the writer, historian, author, and cultural critic McCormick often refers to graffiti and street artists messing with “contested space”. It’s an apt description whether we are talking about the public space in high-density gleaming metropolises or the bombed-out grid-less and polluted quagmires of human fallibility and urban un-planning that dot our globe; all public space its nature is contested.
Here is a place used by many artists to protest, agitate, advocate, or deliver critique – and many of the artists in this exhibition have done exactly this in their street practice, often pushing limits and defining new ones. Dig a little into many of the individual story lines at play here and you’ll see that the vibrant roots of social revolution are pushing up from the streets through the clouds of propaganda and advertising, often mocking them and revealing them in the process.
Ultimately, this Magic City experience is an elixir for contemplating the lifelong romance we have with our cities and with these artists who cavort with us within them. “Our Magic City is a place and a non-place,” McCormick says in a position statement on the exhibit. “It is not the physical city of brick and mortar but rather the urban space of internalized meanings. It is the city as subject and canvas, neither theme park nor stage set, but an exhibition showcasing some of the most original and celebrated artists working on and in the city today.”
BSA curated the film program for Magic City with a dynamic array of some of the best Street Art related films today presented together in a relaxed environment. In this video hosted by Andreas Schanzenbach you get a taste of the works that are showing that we draw from our weekly surveys on BSA Film Friday. Over the last few years we have had the honor of presenting live in-person to students and scholars and fans an ever-evolving collection of videos that speak to the spirit experimentation, discovery and culture-jamming outrageousness of urban interventions, graffiti and Street Art. The BSA Film Program at Magic City presents a survey of some of the very best that we have seen recently.
Magic City artists include: Akrylonumerik, Andy K, Asbestos, Ben Heine, Benuz, Biancoshock, Bordalo II, Brad, Downey, Dan Witz, Daze, Ernest Zacharevic, Ganzeer, Henry Chalfant, HERAKUT, Icy & Sot, Isaac Cordal, Jaime Rojo, Jens Besser, Juandres Vera, Lady Aiko, Leon Keer, Loomit, MAD C, Mark Bode, Martha Cooper, Oakoak, Odeith, Olek, Ori Carin / Benjamin Armas, Qi Xinghua, Replete, ROA, Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Skewville, SpY, Tristan Eaton, Truly, WENU Crew, Yok & Sheryo
The BSA Film Program for Magic City includes the following artists: Borondo, Brad Downey & Akay, Ella + Pitr, Faile, Farewell, Maxwell Rushton, Narcelio Grud, Plotbot Ken, Sofles, Vegan Flava, Vermibus
Some behind the scenes shots days before the Premiere
The Artmossphere Biennale jump-starts the debate for many about how to best present the work of Street Artists and organizers here in Moscow chose a broad selection of curators from across a spectrum of private, commercial, academic and civically-inspired perspectives to present a solid range of artists from the graffiti and Street Art world inside a formal hall.
To be clear, unless it is illegal and on the street, it is not graffiti nor Street Art. That is the prevailing opinion about these terms among experts and scholars of various stripes and it is one we’re comfortable with. But then there are the commercial and cultural influences of the art world and the design industries, with their power to reshape and loosen terms from their moorings. Probably because these associated art movements are happening and taking shape before our eyes and not ensconced in centuries of scholarship we can expect that we will continue to witness the morphing our language and terminologies, sometimes changing things in translation.
Definitions aside, when you think of more organic Street Art scenes which are always re-generating themselves in the run-down abandoned sectors of cities like Sao Paulo, New York, Melbourne, Paris, Mexico City, London, and Berlin, it is interesting to consider that this event takes place nearly on the grounds of the Kremlin under museum like security.
An international capital that ensures cleanly buffed walls within hours of the appearance of any unapproved Street Art or graffiti, Moscow also boasts a growing contingent of art collectors who are young enough to appreciate the cultural currency of this continuously mutating hybrid of graffiti, hip hop, DIY, muralism, and art-school headiness. The night clubs and fashionable kids here are fans of events like hip-hop and graffiti jams, sometimes presented as theater and other times as “learning workshops” and the like.
Plugging into this idea of street and youth culture is not a singular fascination – there is perhaps an association with the rebellious anti-authoritarian nature of unregulated art in the streets that fuels the interest of many. With graffiti and hip-hop culture adoption as a template, newer expressions of Street Art culture are attractive as well with high profile artists with rebel reputations are as familiar in name here as in many cities. New festivals and events sometimes leverage this renegade free-spirit currency for selling tourism and brands and real estate, but here there also appears to be an acute appreciation for its fine art expression – urban contemporary art.
MOSCOW’S MANEGE AND “DEGENERATE ART”
So ardent is the support for Artmossphere here that a combination of public and private endorsements and financial backing have brought it to be showcased in a place associated with high-culture and counter-culture known as the Moscow Manege (Мане́ж). The location somehow fits the rebellious spirit that launched these artists even if its appearance wouldn’t lead you to think that.
The 19th century neo-classical exhibition hall stands grandly adjacent to Red Square and was built as an indoor riding school large enough to house a battalion of 2,000 soldiers during the 1800s. It later became host to many art exhibitions in the 20th century including a famous avant-garde show in 1962 that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev famously derided as displaying ‘degenerate’ art.
One of the artists whose work was criticized, painter and sculptor Ernst Neizvestny, challenged the label defiantly and won accolades afterward during his five decade career that followed, including receiving many awards and his work being collected worldwide by museums. Russian President Vladimir Putin is quoted as calling him “a recognised master and one of the best contemporary sculptors”. In January of this year at the age of 90, Neizvestny’s return to Menage featured an extensive exhibition. He passed away August 9th (The Moscow Times), only weeks before Artmossphere opened.
In some kindred spirit many of these artists at Artmossphere have done actual illegal work on the streets around the world during their respective creative evolutions, and graffiti and Street Art as a practice have both at various times been demonized, derided, dismissed and labeled by critics in terms synonymous with “degenerate”.
A CLEAN CITY
“Moscow is mostly very clean,” says Artmossphere co-founder and Creative Director Sabine Chagina, who walks with guests during a sunny afternoon in a busy downtown area just after the opening. “But we do have some good graffiti crews,” she says as we round the corner from the famous Bolshoi Theater and soon pass Givenchy and Chanel and high-end luxury fashion stores. Shortly we see a mural nearby by French artist Nelio, who painted a lateral abstracted geometric, possibly cubist, piece on the side of a building here in 2013 as part of the LGZ Festival.
If there was graffiti here in Moscow, it was not on full display very readily in this part of town. In driving tours, rides on the extensive metro train system, and in street hikes across the city a visitor may find that much of the illegal street art and graffiti common to other global capitals is illusive due to a general distaste for it and a dedicated adherence to buffing it out quickly.
For a pedestrian tourist Moscow appears in many ways as fully contemporary and architecturally rich as any international world-class metropolis. One of the cleanest places you’ll visit, the metro is almost museum-like in some instances; the historic districts spotless, public fountains, famed statues of important historical figures. All is efficiently ordered and – a welcome surprise – most public space is free of advertisements interrupting your view and your thoughts.
Come to think of it, the sense of commercial-celebrity media saturation that is present in other cities doesn’t appear to permeate the artists psyche here at the Biennale – so there’s not much of the ironic Disney-Marilyn-supermodel-Kardashian-skewering of consumerism and shallowness in this exhibition that you may find in other Urban Art events.
Also, unlike a Street Art-splattered show in London for example that may rudely mock Queen Elizabeth or art in New York streets that present Donald Trump styled as a pile of poo and Hillary Clinton as Heath Ledger’s Joker, we didn’t see over-the-top Putin satires either. So personality politics don’t seem directly addressed in this milieu. According to some residents there was an outcropping of huge festival murals by Street Artists here just a few years ago but more recently they have been painted over with patriotic or other inspiring murals, while others have been claimed for commercial interests.
Starved for some gritty street scenes, it is all the more interesting to see the one live mural painting that we were able to catch – a 6-story red-lined op-art tag by the French graffiti writer L’Atlas. Far from Manege, placed opposite a cineplex in what appears to be a shopping mall situated far from the city’s historical and modern centers, our guide tells us half-jokingly that he is not sure that we are still in Moscow.
Here L’Atlas says that he has painted his bar-code-like and cryptic nom-de-plume with an assistant on a cherry picker for a few days and he says that no one has stopped to ask him about it, neither to comment or criticize. Actually one man early one morning returning home from a disco did engage him briefly, but it was difficult to tell what he was talking about as he may have had a few drinks.
This lack of public commentary is mainly notable because in other cities the comments from passersby can be so ubiquitous that artists deliberately wear stereo headphones to prevent interruption and to be more productive. Sometimes the headphones are not actually playing music.
This Street Art Biennale nonetheless is gaining a higher profile among Urban Art collectors and its associated art dealers and the opening and later auction reaches directly to this audience. Included this year with the primary “Invisible Walls” exhibition are satellite events in association with local RuArts Gallery, Tsekh Belogo at Winzavod, and the Optika Pavilion (No. 64) at VDNKh.
The opening night event itself is wide and welcoming, a mostly youthful and populist affair with celebratory speeches and loosely organized group photos and an open bar. Added together with a press conference, a live DJ, virtual reality headsets, interactive artworks, major private business sponsors, government grants, ministers of culture, gallerists, and quirkily fashionable art fans, this is a polished presentation of a global culture that is filtered through the wide lense of the street.
Perhaps because the exhibition hall is a cavernous rectangle with exposed beams on the ceiling and many of the constructed white walls that mimic vendor booths, it has the air of an art fair. There are thankfully no salespeople pacing back and forth watching your level of interest. People tend to cluster before installations and talk, laugh, share a story, pose for a selfie.
The theme seems very appropriately topical as geopolitical, trade-related, social, digital, and actual walls appear to be falling down rapidly today while the foundations of new ones are taking shape. Catalyzed perhaps by the concept and practices of so-called “globalization” – with its easy flow of capital and restricted flow of humans, we are all examining the walls that are shaping our lives.
With 60+ international artists working simultaneously throughout this massive hall, newly built walls are the imperative for displaying art, supporting it, dividing it. These are the visible ones. With so many players and countries represented here, one can only imagine that there are a number of invisible walls present as well.
The theme has opened countless interpretations in flat and sculptural ways, often expressed in the vernacular of fine art with arguable nods to mid-20th century modernists, folk art, fantasy, representational art, abstract, conceptual, computer/digital art, and good old traditional graffiti tagging. Effectively it appears that when Street Art and graffiti artists pass the precipice into a multi-disciplinary exhibition such as this, one can reframe Urban/Street as important tributaries to contemporary art – but will they re-direct the flow or be subsumed within it?
The work often can be so far removed from street practice that you don’t recognize it as related.
Aside from putting work up in contested public space without permission and under cover, an average visitor may not see a common thread. These works run aesthetic to the conceptual, painterly to the sculptural, pure joy and pure politics. But then, that is we began to see in the streets as well when the century turned to the 21st and art students in large numbers in cities like New York and London and Berlin skipped the gatekeepers, taking their art directly to the public.
Perhaps beneath the surface or just above it, there is a certain anarchistic defiance, a critique of social, economic, political issues, a healthy skepticism toward everyone and everything that reeks of hypocritical patriarchal power structures. Perhaps we’re just projecting.
Looking over the 60+ list of names, it may be striking to some that very few are people of color, especially in view of the origins of the graffiti scene. Similarly, the percentage of women represented is quite small. We are familiar with this observation about Urban Art in general today, and this show mirrors the European and American scene primarily, with notable exceptions such as Instagrafite’s home-based Brazilian crew of 4 artists. As only one such sampling of a wide and dispersed scene, it is not perhaps fair to judge it by artists race, gender, or background, but while we speak of invisible walls it is worth keeping our eyes on as this “scene” is adopted into galleries, museums, and private collections.
Following are some of the artists on view at Artmossphere:
Certainly Moscow native ASKE is gently mocking our mutated modern practices of communicating with his outsized blocked abstraction of a close couple riveted to their respective electronic devices, even unaware of one another.
Warsaw based NeSpoon creates a sculpture of another couple. Heroically presenting her vision of what she calls the iconic “Graffiti Writer” and “Street Art Girl”, they face the future with art instruments in hand ready to make their respective marks. She says her work is emblematic of a permanent financial insecurity for a generation she calls the “PRECARIAT”.
“ ‘Precariat’ is the name of the new emerging social class,” says curator, organizer, and NeSpoon’s partner Marcin Rutkiewicz when talking about the piece during the press conference. “These are young people living without a predictable future, without good jobs, without social security. It’s a class in the making and probably these people don’t have any consciousness or global unity of interest. But they are the engines of protest for people all over the world – like Occupy Wall Street, Gezi Park in Turkey, or the Arab Spring.”
The artist developed the sculpture specifically for this exhibition and planned it over the course of a year or so. Born of a social movement in Poland by the same name, the sculpture and its sticker campaign on the street represent “a kind of protest against building walls between people who are under the same economical and social situation all over the world,” says Rutkiewicz.
Artist Li-Hill says his piece “Guns, Germs, and Steel” directly relates to the divisions between civilizations due to a completely uneven playing field perpetuated through generations. Inspired by the 1997 trans-disciplinary non-fiction book by Jared Diamond, Li-Hill says the Russian sculptural group called “The Horse Tamers” represents mankind’s “ability to harness power of the natural world and to be able to manipulate it for its advantage.”
“The horse is one of the largest signifiers and is a catalyst for advancement in society because it has been for military use, for agriculture, for transportation,” he says. “It was the most versatile of the animals and the most powerful.” Here he painted a mirror image, balanced over a potential microbial disaster symbol, and he and the team are building a mirrored floor to “give it this kind of infinite emblem status.”
Afloat in the middle of some of these walled areas M-City from Poland is choosing to be more direct thematically in his three dimensional installation of plywood, plaster, aerosol and bucket paint, and machine blown insulation.
“It is an anti-war piece,” he says, and he speaks about the walls between nations and a losing battle of dominance that ensures everyone will be victim.”
“It’s kind of a monster who destroys arms,” he says of this temporary sculpture with a lording figure crushing tanks below.
“He is destroying the tanks but at the same time he is also a destroyer – so it’s a big circle. Nothing is positive that can come out of this. There is always someone bigger.” He says the piece is inspired by the political situations in Europe today and the world at large.
Minneapolis based HOTTEA usually does very colorful yarn installations transforming a huge public space, but for Artmossphere he is taking the conceptual route. The walk-in room based on the Whack-A-Mole game presents holes which a visitor can walk under and rise above.
Visitors/participants will experience the physical separation of space, and perhaps contemplate facing one another and interacting or ignoring one another. It is something he says he hopes will draw attention to how many walls we have allowed ourselves to distract from human interactions.
Englands’ Sick Boy calls his project The Rewards System, where guests are invited to climb a ladder over a brick wall and descend down a slide into a darkened house, setting off a series of sensors that activate a variety of multisensory lights and tantalizing patterns. After landing and being rewarded the visitor is forced to exit on hands and knees through a too-small square door.
“The concept of the show is about invisible walls so I was thinking about there being barriers in your life and I thought about the reward of endorphins one experiences for achieving a task – a small amount of endorphins. So I thought I would build a house that signifies the reward system,” he explains.
Atlanta/Seattle based Derek Bruno reached back to the Leonid Brezhnev years and into Moscow’s Gorky Park for his series of site specific installations based on Soviet Cement Fence type PO-2. The iconic fence was re-created in a nearby studio and Bruno shot photographs of his 10-15 minute “interventions” in the park itself, revisiting a field of design called “technical aesthetics.”
In a statement Bruno explains “Since the end of the Soviet Union, the iconic fence has become a persistent and ever present reminder of former delineations of space; while new forms of boundaries shape the digital and sociopolitical landscapes. “
Remi Rough is known for his smartly soaring abstract geometry in painted murals and smaller scale works, and for Moscow he wanted to strip it back to the basics, approaching a white box with one undulating graphic composition.
“My idea was that Moscow’s a bit ‘over the top’,” he says, and he decided to strip back the audacity and go for simplicity, which actually takes courage.
“I said ‘you know what?’ – I want to do something with the cheapest materials you can possibly get. These two pieces literally cost 3000 rubles ($50). It’s made of felt, it’s like a lambs wool. I think they use it for flooring for construction.” Depending on the angle, the pink blotted material may translate as a swath of otherworldly terrain or a metaphorical bold vision with all the hot air let out.
“I wanted to do something peaceful and calming and use natural materials – something that’s different from what I usually do – but I use the folds in the fabric and the pink color – two things that I usually use a lot.”
Moscow’s Alexey Luka is also challenging himself to stretch creatively by taking his wall collage installations of found wood and converting them into free-standing sculptures.
“For this biennale I tried to make something different so now I am going from the assemblages to 3-D.” The constructed media is warm and ordered, reserved but not without whimsy.
“My work is made from found wood – I use it with what I found on the street and my shapes and my graphics – so it’s kind of an experiment with three dimensions,” and he confirms that most of this wood is sourced here in Moscow.
We ask him about the number of eyes that peer out from his installation. Perhaps these eyes are those of Muscovites? “They are just like observers,” he says.
Torino’s Mimmo recreated the Moscow Olympic Village from the 1980 games in miniature presented as on a plainly brutalist platform. The sculpture is austere in detail on the hulking towers save for the tiny graffiti tags, throwies, rollers, extinguisher tags, and the like at the bases and on the roofs.
Curator Christian Omodeo tells us that Mimmo recreated the massive village based on his direct study of the site as it stands today; a housing project that has hundreds of families — and a hip-hop / graffiti scene as well.
It is striking that the scale reduces the impact of the graffiti – yet when experienced at eye-level it retains a potency. Even so, by recasting the relationship between viewer and mark-making, this graffiti actually seems “cute” because of its relative size to the viewer.
Brad Downey and Alexander Petrelli hi-jacked the opening of the Biennale by circulating within the exhibit as a gallery with artworks for sale. With Downey performing as a street-huckster pushing his own art products, Mr. Patrelli showcased new Downey photo collages and drawings inside his mobile “Overcoat Gallery”
A charming Moscow art star / gallerist / performance artist, Mr. Patrelli is also a perennial character at openings and events in the city, by one account having appeared at 460 or so events since 1992 with his flashing overcoat. The artworks also feature Patrelli, completing a self-referential meta cycle that continued to circle the guests at the exhibition.
International artists participating in the Artmossphere Biennale 2016 include: Akacorleone, Alex Senna, Brad Downey, Chu (Doma), Orilo (Doma), Claudio Ethos, Demsky, Christopher Derek Bruno, Filippo Minelli, Finok, Galo, Gola Hundun, Hot Tea, Jaz, Jessie and Katey, Johannes Mundinger, L’Atlas, LiHill, LX One, M-city, TC, Mario Mankey, Martha Cooper, Miss Van, Nespoon, Millo, Pablo Benzo, Pastel, Paulo Ito, Proembrion, Remed, Remi Rough, Rub Kandy, Run, Sepe, Sickboy, Smash 137, Sozyone Gonsales, SpY, The London Police, Trek Matthews, Wes 21.
“The special magic that comes from our cities is germinated in the mad sum of their improbable juxtapositions and impossible contradictions,” says curator Carlo McCormick when talking about the new show opening in Dresden, Germany this week in a former engine factory called Magic City : The Art of the Street.
Along with curator Ethel Seno and a creative team (full disclosure, BSA is part of it) McCormick is evoking an interstitial city that rises from the streets in many urban centers globally. Whether it is graffiti, Street Art, urban interventions, detournement, adbusting, or myriad cultural refinements, artists and activists are commonly, sometimes radically, altering the city and our experience of it.
By engaging some of the best visual and intellectual examples of the whole current scene with a full knowledge of our recent past, Magic City lays out a route for you to appreciate the individual and a sense of the cumulative. It’s bold and somewhat romantic move to look for magic in the Graffiti / Street Art / Urban Art scene. Some may argue that it consists of nothing less.
Over the last few weeks about 40 artists have been installing brand new pieces and environments in the long wide factory space in advance of the grand preview this weekend. Here are some process shots of the building of a Magic City.
For a considerable time now at BSA we’ve been discussing with authors, artists, academics, writers, historians, political scientists, sociologists, criminologists the topics of Street Art, graffiti, Urban Art, public art, and the milieu. Often considered is whether a piece or action is illegal, legal, activist, aesthetic, mark-making, territory-marking, interventionist. With few exceptions, there are often exceptions when it comes to labeling works and the artists who make them.
Perhaps with more emphasis than it merits, we regularly note that no point on our individual or societal timeline is static. The state of art and creative expression in the public sphere is one of continuous evolution along the continuum. From Villeglé and his ripping back of layers of street posters that revealed the colorful strata of public communications like a social scientist to Add Fuels’ surreal ripping back of the skin of buildings to reveal a decorative Trompe-l’œil Portuguese tiling, art of the streets has infinite through-lines that defy our ability to label them.
But we try.
Invariably, it pisses someone off. For the record, we’re okay with that.
“Street Art” the term has had a number of definitions in common usage since at least the 1970s (probably earlier) that include things like handcrafts, jewelry, even the current ballyhoo, the mural. Today, because we’re all so much more enlightened and street-wise, we are convinced that no credible scholar of academia or the street would include a mural in the definition of Street Art, which must be illegal and (most likely) installed on-the-fly.
Recently Raphael Schacter made a claim to renaming a family of practices that moves beyond the confused state of labeling we are in to something with more clarity called “Intermural Art”. He says with his signature humor and cadence that “Street Art is a Period. Period.” – and that very soon, if not already, we are moving beyond that period.
Aside from the association that “intermural” has with both murals and with boys and girls playing dodge-ball in the school gymnasium (sorry that’s intramural), it somehow doesn’t capture a post Street Art period that is expanding to include so many practices and practitioners that it is altering things its path. But we get the point. Wait, did we just say “post Street Art”?
That’s what Martyn Reed at Nuart would like us to consider as a term that describes what he is illustrating with the curated installations this year for the festival in Norway. With a number of leaders of thought and letters doing some heavy lifting of street art antecedence and corollaries (and beer steins) at this annual festival over the last few years, it is with some careful consideration that he chooses his artists, and his terminology.
According to the show description ‘Post-Street Art’, an inside exhibition that opened last Saturday and continues through October 16, is an expression that “has been adopted to describe artworks, artists and events that are “informed by” and “aware of” the strategies, forms and themes explored by Street Art but which couldn’t rightly be regarded as ‘Street Art’ or ‘Street Artists’ per se. The term could also be used to describe a new breed of studio practice-based street artist, whose interest in and knowledge of the contemporary art world often far supplants that of an engagement with the street.”
Yes and yes. Additionally, we have heard this studio-originated practice that is informed by street practice described as Urban Contemporary or more simply Urban Art. You may also wonder how the label intersects with Post Modern and Post-Graffiti, if at all. We will not turn over these little monsters to look at their stomachs just now. Instead, let’s see these new exclusive photos from Ian Cox and Tor Ståle Moen of some of the new installations at ‘Post-Street Art’ at Nuart 2016.
Participating artists include: Add Fuel (PT), Axel Void (ES), Eron (IT), Evol (DE), Fintan Magee (AU), Henrik Uldalen (NO), Hyuro (AR), Jaune (BE), Jeff Gillette (US), KennardPhillipps (UK), MTO (FR), Nipper (NO), Robert Montgomery (UK) and SpY (ES)