Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening: 1. MANTRA in the Wynwood Jungle
BSA Special Feature: MANTRA in the Wynwood Jungle
For this installment of BSA Film Friday week we offer you our own home-made video observing French street artist and naturalist Youri Cansell AKA MANTRA as he painted in situ among the plants and animals in Miami. Tuesday night’s conversation with our editor in chief Steve Harrington and the artist on the grounds of Wynwood Walls revealed the exacting nature of the artist’s contemplative study of the very pillars of our Earth-anchored existence.
More clinical than didactic in his descriptions, his study of this species and their endangered circumstances is nonetheless passionate. Speaking against a video backdrop of Mantra painting enormous murals around the world, his sharp eye is surpassed only by his reverent appreciation for beauty, executed in precision and warmth.
Here in the temporarily verdant environment created in the gallery by curator and artist Peter Tunney, MANTRA appears to be painting in the forest preserve, surrounded by the lush and the leafy, anchored by a full-wall photo by friend Ryan Lynch of an Equadorian reserve.
A graffiti writer as a teen, an ardent and self-professed amateur entomologist and preservationist in his thirties, Mantra took it as a near-mystical sign when he spotted an actual caterpillar eating leaves on a plant next to him. He has been painting in near solitude while visitors quietly mill around behind him and he looked down to see the unique markings of this visitor, identifying it as a Monarch butterfly en route. Now the artist says that he is ever-clearer of his future projects – as we are of his future successes.
Mantra “Metamorphōsis” is open to the general public at Goldman Global Arts Gallery. Wynwood, Miami.
Here in Cork, as in an increasing portion of the western world, housing is gradually turning into a privilege, instead of a right. For the Ardu Street Art Festival in this city of 190,000, the second largest in Ireland, street artist Asbestos posed himself with a box on his head to symbolize our need for a roof.
“As a country we are currently in an existential crisis over housing,” he tells us. “There’s a fear and uncertainly about finding a safe space, and the system seems to be stacked in favor of the landlords.”
A short roster of artists are here this year for the festival – and hometown talent Conor Harrington is currently working on his first mural for the city. The other participants this year include Friz and Shane O’Malley. Of course, being in your hometown doesn’t mean much if you don’t actually have a home.
“Home isn’t simply about where you were born, it’s where you feel you belong, where you feel safe, where you’re welcomed, where you can come back to and feel accepted, loved and part of a community,” says Asbestos as he discusses rents and mortgages. He tells us that it took over a week to paint this new mural, and during that time he had many conversations with people on the street who feel the economic anxiety and insecurity that is pushing more people closer to the door – here and elsewhere.
“It was wonderful to speak to so many curious Corkonians about the mural. The support has been amazing from the public and my friends and family here, Cork definitely felt like my home for a week.”
Just after seeing Billie Eilish or Young Thug at the “Life is Beautiful Festival” in September you could wander over through vintage Las Vegas to check out the new fluorescent diptych by street artist Spidertag. It’s an installation that happily recalls a heyday most visitors didn’t experience, but are drawn to.
The Spaniard has brought his glowing vocabulary here in a way that is evocative of that which once distinguished the nighttime streetscape of Sin City. “Electrified eye candy” is how curator Charlotte Dutoit of Justkids describes it, and in fact, the simplicity of shapes appears romantically nostalgic in a modern time that seems cluttered with visual complexity.
The modern twist is that Spider Tag made his installation interactive, allowing visitors to alter the colors if they want. His installation joins the success of street artist Felipe Pantone’s first-ever-solar powered neon mural here a few years ago – and looking at the poster letter style of this year’s poster – It’s an aesthetic that many are enamored with.
Half biologist, half street artist, all gentleman. The French painter Youri Cansell AKA Mantra opens his very first US solo show tonight at Goldman Global Arts (GGA) in Miami. In preparation for “Metamorphōsis,” the artist has been painting non-stop all summer at a temporary studio in Cancun.
The 15 or so canvasses are gathered comfortably against a fresh seafoam green interior, nestled among large leafy installations by curator Peter Tunney, who finds a fine balance in his quest for creating a complementary environmental context in the space. Anchored at one end of the gallery by a full-wall spread photographic print (by Ryan Lynch), guests gain some sense of scale for the places Mantra has traveled in search of this species – in this case, an Ecuadorian forest preserve that the artist has traveled many times to in search of the blue morpho butterfly.
He found one and he has the pictures and paintings to prove it – two as the pristine collector’s presentation in shadow boxes, one in his new direction of presenting the Lepidopteran world – in their natural habitats of wood and leaves.
The precisely detailed, hued, textured, and shimmering beauties are evocative of autumn art-show glamour – all clad in satin and furs and bubbling golden champagne. Fashion may clearly not be Mantra’s intent here, but how can you not see these gorgeous beauties this way – a soiree of international stunners arriving single and with crew in tow; against this wall is his Costa Rican Collection – hanging directly across the room from his Mexican Ensemble.
Precursors to the butterfly, three moths are repping as well and in stunning detail. One’s massive wing-span is as large as yours – fingertip to fingertip – its textures and patterning subtle and luxurious tone-on-tone beige. Precise and accurate, any entomologist who sees this show will approve of Mantra’s depictions, and most likely they’ll marvel as well.
A departure from the pop-inspired, graphical, or wild-styled, Mantra’s studious realism is a far cry from what street art fans may associate with ‘the scene’. However, his teenage escapades on French city streets with aerosol-can-in-hand under cover of the night are exactly what brought him to this point. His professional ‘tag’ is to bear witness to realities of the natural world, and that can earn you just as much street cred in some circles as all species are increasingly under temporary and permanent threat.
We plan to ask him more tonight when BSA interviews Mantra here live for his official US debut.
Hope you can fly in.
Mantra: “Metamorphōsis”. Open to the public at Goldman Global Arts Gallery. Wynwood, Miami. Click HERE for details.
A new cultural eruption in the heart of Pompei, Italy, the first edition of the Pompei Street Festival in September included frescoes and free music and many opportunities for people to experience contemporary life in this city famous for its buried and revealed history.
Portuguese street artist Mrkas here ties the two together with his mural inspired by a sculpture in Pompei’s archeological park, the site of the ancient Roman city Pompeii buried by the lava of Mount Vesuvius in 79 BC. The elevated street depiction elevates the blindfolded faces in the Centaurus basement; inspired by the works of Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj.
Southeast of historic Naples and its forms smoothly draped or otherwise, MrKas appropriately brings his virtuosic application of color and light to add dimensional realism to the new wrapped faces. It’s natural for him, a fan of 3D and hyperrealism – and here in Pompei, his new work is positioned properly between classical antiquity and the current fashion of art in the streets.
“Gurl, I Just Came For the Sunburn” is the cleverly worded T-shirt design we just conjured, but didn’t see in any of the many stores selling “Miami”-emblazoned memorabilia this weekend. New Yorkers are from a colder climate where sexy college girls are already wearing tight turtleneck sweaters and leggings and handsome boys are sporting corduroy and blazers. Not here in Miami Beach or Wynwood, where less is more, and naked is a matter of opinion.
It’s Carnivale weekend so the streets and hotels are bursting with Brazilian and Trinidadian and otherwise Caribbean influences, including phenomenal costumes, dancing, trap music, and raucous peels of laughter. After some time on Miami Beach surrounded by bathing beauties and dodging freelance vendors selling Pina Coladas, margaritas, marijuana edibles, and other drugs from their backpacks, we caught an energetic and sexy floor show featuring earth-shaking amounts of bouncing beauty and a lip-synching rendition of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Girls in the Hood” that served so much twerking abandon that the fishnet stockings industry ran out of inventory by 3 am Sunday.
Here on the streets this quick sample of shots gives you an idea of the messages and palettes now greeting visitors all over this neighborhood of Wynwood– with some faces lifted from posters so you see how you’re supposed to be stylin’. Call it a survey of local color to ease you into the Miamian week BSA will be sharing with our readers. Bienvenidos!
Our interview with the street today includes Askew One, Atomik, Binho, Claudia La Bianca, Krayzie Bone, Guillermo Zanches, Irene Lopez Leon, Marina Capdevilla, Milu Correch, MSG Crew, Osorno, Pixel Pancho, and Rodo.
A true graffiti jam is still possible. This location in Barcelona, the Plaza de las 3 Chimeneas, is a platform for an ever-changing collection of works by new and established practitioners of graffiti, street art, and urban art. How many times have visited a local ‘Wall of Fame’ to find many of the same artists again and again, as if they are hand-picked by ‘kingmakers-queenmakers’?
Over the last decade we have featured this unique venue many times on many different occasions, thanks to photographer and BSA collaborator Lluis Olive Bulbena.
We’re happy to discover the democratic spirit applied to admissions of artists and writers time and again; to see new and emerging styles, political screeds, memoriums, handstyles, portraits, illustrations, text treatments – the gamut of voices that are all part of the greater Barcelona scene and beyond. It is reassuring to see that a scene that can be rebellious against institutional classism and clubby corruptive influences is also not falling prey to them.
This jam was organized by the Periferia Beat Festival, Lluis tells us. “They brought together a group of about 40 artists for a day of art, painting, and sharing stories among old friends.”
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening: 1. Sofles: Same As It Ever Was (Feat Tuesy) by After Midnight Film 2. ShenShen210 3. Shipo All Night Long: Madrid via SystemBoys
BSA Special Feature: Sofles: Same As It Ever Was (Feat Tuesy) by After Midnight Film
Oddly you’ll see little or no mention of New York art-rock geniuses Talking Heads in this new video of Sofles and Tuesday painting. The video and song are both called, “Same As It Ever Was”, and it is good to see a new generation blown away by this music, recontextualized here as a graffiti writing soundtrack.
Sofles: Same As It Ever Was (Feat Tuesy) by After Midnight Film
“ShenShen210: was the first female graffiti artist on the West Coast to do quality work, and graffiti is the most important art movement in the last 40+ years.” – Jim Prigoff, photographer, art historian, author of “Spraycan Art with Henry Chalfant”
Shipo All Night Long: Madrid via SystemBoys
Staying up all night with graffiti writer Shipo in Madrid as he jumps, climbs, lays down next to walls under the cover of darkness to leave his mark.
We have some special events taking place this month to celebrate one complete year of the career-spanning exhibition “Martha Cooper: TAKING PICTURES”, which we created with the team at Urban Nation Museum in Berlin.
Today graffiti/street artist AIKO talks about her striking new graphic mural for the façade of the museum that highlights and interprets a suite of recognizable elements from Martha’s iconic photographs – a perfect answer to the Martha Remix section of the exhibition inside featuring 70 or so artists “remixing” her photos in their individual styles.
Later this month we are announcing a collaborative print release worldwide featuring another remix and a countrywide screening in theaters across Germany of “Martha: A Picture Story” with us and Martha interviewed by Nika Kramer at the Berlin opening. At a separate ceremony we also will co-host with Martha and Urban Nation the official opening of the Martha Cooper Library (MCL), a full library facility and research center to be permanently housed in the museum building.
To start off the excitement, here is Lady AIKO herself speaking about her new mural welcoming visitors to see “Martha Cooper: TAKING PICTURES”, now open until May 2022.
Q: Tell us about this mural project for UN. AIKO: Firstly, this mural is a gift for Martha Cooper in celebration of her big retrospective show at Urban Nation. Martha and I have been friends since 2006. We’ve been partners in crime, so to speak, for the last fifteen years. We have worked on many different projects together all over the world from the United States to Japan to Africa. Martha has taken over 16,000 pictures of AIKO and has archived many of her art projects.
I am honored to be part of this opportunity and working with Urban Nation to allow me to create this epic mural for Martha. The museum facade is almost like fresh skin wrapped around her massive historic exhibition with big love from everyone who was part of this production.
Martha and I have been collaborating on this one; it’s called the “Martha Cooper Remix” whereby I interpret and illustrate her images, create paintings on paper and on outdoor & indoor walls. For UN, I easily imagined us creating a big remix piece on the wall.
To begin this mural mission, I asked Martha what she would like to see on the wall; especially since I wanted to paint based on the classic pictures she photographed in NYC. She suggested several of her favorite pictures such as the one with Lady Pink when she was in the yard with the boys, Little Crazy Legs with spray cans, and the boom box one (which is the most iconic picture and the cover photo of the Hip Hop Files). Also, I included break-dancers Emiko and Frosty Freeze which are popular ones as well.
Based on her selections, I spent time at my studio to illustrate a large-scale portrait in my style and imagined it as the giant invitation banner for her show – as if it were a classic hand-painted movie ad in old Times Square. Since her show runs until next spring, till 2022, I’d love to invite everyone and spread the vibe even to the people who see the mural from the U-Bahn train above.
Q:Can you tell us about you and little background? AIKO: I’ve been based in NYC since 1997. NYC has been my playground and a huge inspiration. I met many amazing local and international artists, Faile, Bast, Banksy, Ben Eine, Obey, and Space Invader at that time. We were young artists, not famous yet, but we connected with one after another pretty much spontaneously – as if it were destiny. I started working in street art with everyone daily during the early 2000s and I was part of numerous gallery shows, jams, festivals, and museum installations. Being part of the history of street art and the graffiti (urban art) movement is how I got involved as AIKO as well.
… Meeting Martha Cooper was also another magical happening for me. Martha and I met in 2006 when I just started leaving my boys’ crew, working solo and stenciling bunnies on the streets. We became good and hard-core girlfriends and started traveling together. She introduced me to subway art legends and all other kinds of fascinating people and stuff in the world. I feel I’m one of the people who is continuing the history for the next generation.
Q:What do you think about working in Berlin? AIKO: Berlin is such a memorable place in my personal art life history. I spent lots of time without the Internet and enjoyed every day as a young artist. I made lots of friends and lots of stencils on the street. Of course, I was with Martha and spray-painted my bunny too. I’m so grateful that Urban Nation welcomed me back to town and let me create such a huge piece on the facade of the museum. Thank you so much for everyone’s support.
“MARTHA COOPER: TAKING PICTURES” Curated by Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo is currently open to the general public. Click HERE for schedules and details.
That charming GEICO gecko looks like he’s darned fed-up with the highway police in Memphis, Tennessee. Why else is he telling drivers to defund them?
In an act of detournement worthy of the earliest billboard artists/activists and Letterists, last night the INDECLINE collective altered the text of two displays to make that elegant green gecko rally for pulling the plug on funding the boys in blue, according to the press release they sent out after pulling this artful dodge.
“When we talk about abolishing police, we mean it’s past time to reimagine the system in its entirety,” they say. “Remember, it was once impossible for many Americans to imagine a country not organized around slavery.”
Yes, many would take that point – and “Defund The Police” became a moderately catchy slogan during many marches for rights across the country over the last decade. Unfortunately, it’s a slogan that is confusing and counterproductive, possibly because the police provide valuable services to society as well.
Bashing the institution of police with a baton won’t solve our problems at their root, but pulling the plug entirely doesn’t exactly solve it either, does it? What’s that word everyone loves to use today, nuance?
In the meantime, the time-honored practice of hi-jacking billboards for political or social messages is alive and well.
It’s a curious pleasure to meet some of the extended members of the Isaac Cordal businessmen after all these years, isn’t it? For a decade or so you’ve been seeing his balding men in rumpled suits installed on ledges and window sills – contemplating their ennui, reviewing their rotten deeds, realizing they had wasted their lives playing the stock market only to feel empty. Now it’s time to meet the family?
Now the Spanish street artist expands the circle as he attends the Fazunchar Festival in Figueiro dos Vinhos in Portugal, and you are seeing his new sculptures perched in new spaces throughout the village. “I have had the opportunity to add new neighbours,” he says.
Where is the inspiration for these new neighbors coming from? “I’ve been reflecting on the passage of time, emigration, the abandonment of the countryside, and the climate crisis among other issues,” he tells us.
And now we don’t know what other topic can follow that one, so…
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Abby Goodman, BLAZE, Captain Eyeline, Chill, Chris RWK, City Kitty, CRKSHNK, Fake Hambleton, Faust, Invader, JJ Veronsis, Konart Studio, Lunge Box, Mad Town, Matt Siren, Modomatic, Royce Bannon, The Velvet Bandit, and Who is Ponzi.
The series of #fakehambleton “Shadow Man” that have been appearing on the street of Manhattan (and in London) are attributed to a guy who goes by the name of Pablo who runs a mystery Hambleton “foundation”. He’s admitted to painting the fake Hambleton iconic figures on the streets of NYC. We believe this to be a marketing campaing. More on this @bkstreetart on Instagram.