Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening: 1. “FAME”, the Italian Street Art Festival Documentary 2. Jersey City Artists at Work Painting for the first Mural Festival Here 3. “UNSATISFYING” Looks at Frustration with Smart Whimsy
BSA Special Feature: “FAME”, the Italian Street Art Festival Documentary, Not the American Teen Drama Film
Everyone likes to declare that they were the first in graffiti and street art, before it was cool, when it was cool, before there was even a name for it, when things were pure, and pure genius. Everyone and everything after them and then are just shit. And gurrrrll, you better claim that legacy.
For FAME, launched during the late 2000s in Grattaglie, Puglia, Angelo Milano was always the center of a scene he created, enticing international street artists with promises of collaborations, big walls, big opportunities, big plates of delicious local cuisine. With his festival, he formed a club of exclusivity, and once successful, he slammed the door shut on the legacy, never again repeated. Later he became a gallery owner who sells artworks of most of them plus a new crop.
Lusciously self-aggrandized as an “evil genius” in this documentary, co-produced with Giacomo Abbruzzese, the swanning and sexy comic Milano brings himself into the middle of it all – and it all goes with him.
Jose Mertz at Jersey City Mural Festival 2021. Via Tost Films
A quick behind the scenes view of artist Jose Mertz last week in Jersey City, shot and edited by Tost Films. Most impressive perhaps is the techniques he uses to wash with color, gradually and subtly building mass and form of wild creature indeed.
“UNSATISFYING” Looks at Frustration with Smart Whimsy
Parallel Studio produces this short animated film that brilliantly captures those situations when we experience the frustration of failing at performing small tasks. It’s annoyingly adorable, and everyone can relate.
25 years in the game, Pener routinely lets his mind travel to encompass possibilities, then channels them abstractly through a series of echoing geometric forms with aerosol and brush. Here in his hometown of Olsztyn, Poland, he says he imagined the possibilities that young minds inside an elementary school could contemplate.
While painting this new “Mirror Land,” he was in a land of mirrors psychologically. He says he prefers to explore the “possible tension between our subconscious and conscious abilities that oscillate between reality and illusion.”
That’s a lot for kids to vocalize, granted, but he says he still engaged them when they watched and asked questions.
“Those were wonderful moments to hear them trying to solve what the wall depicts and hides,” he says.
Japan-born Queens-based muralist Dragon 76 admires New York, where he has lived for the last five years, because of its diversity and inclusiveness, among other things. As a result, his artworks often gravitate toward a similar theme as he has worked his way from being a graffiti artist from Shiga to being a musician and a commercial graphic artist and muralist. For the Jersey City Mural Festival, Dragon 76 focused on persons of various identities and genders playing music, a piece he calls “Coexist.”
Positioned as an ironic truth-teller with a sense of humor, Portuguese visual artist, illustrator, and street Artist Wasted Rita uses her droll texts and lo-fi illustrations to skewer societal and structural hypocrisies and make you smile. With insights on targets like racism, fascism, wealth inequality, misogyny, male privilege, advertising, patriarchy, you’ll quickly want to join in and write your own.
When she brings it outside and displays it in urban or natural settings, glowing against the night sky, for example, the words are lifted and more closely considered. On display in Madrid during the Urvanity Art show last month, a new set of fans had a chance to be charmed by Wasted Rita’s wit.
Today’s new piece by street artists/collaborators Alice Pasquini and UNO is high above your head, but the people it depicts are walking the same streets with us every day.
The result of a springtime education program for students to discuss issues of gender equality, violence against women, and the empowerment of society to take positive steps forward – the mural represents the results of many discussions with 60 or so students, teachers, a journalist, a photographer, experts, and activists.
Inaugurated on June 8th at Liceo Classico Luciano Manara in Rome, Pasquini and UNO are proud to combine their talents. They say the mural title is translated generally as “’A mural for Equality: Equal Rights, Gender Differences” and is by the Municipality of Rome; Participation, Communication, and Equal Opportunities Department.
Last week we brought you the first annual Jersey City Mural Festival with generously scaled murals and unbridled color. Muralism isn’t new but mural festivals are now a dominant vehicle or platform of expression on the streets where artists get up and create community. We have always championed the cause of the artist and cheer when they are given the opportunity to work – better even if they get properly paid for the work that they do.
That said, we still admire the small, uncommissioned, one-off pieces, and we’ve always documented that in whatever city we go to: In a way, that is what we actually consider to be street art. Unsanctioned and undercover, you’ll discover the most curious missives as you hike from mural to mural. Don’t miss them! Enjoy.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring 7 Souls Deep, Adrian Wilson, Below Key, Drecks, Early Riser NYC, Ghaston Art, Hiss, Lunge Box, Miyok, Modomatic, Mort Art, Night Owl, Outer Source, Timothy Goodman, Tyler Ives, and Turtle Caps.
My Dog Sighs is the name of a flawed human being and street artist. Come inside.
According to his descriptions of the artist’s new “Inside” installation in the UK’s only island city of Portsmouth (pronounced PORT-smith), there will be tours in this secret location – ever so because the atmospheric and theatrical work is not officially sanctioned and is staged in an abandoned building.
So it will be a bit of magic when you discover that the British street artist has spared no expense nor level of preparation – including consulting with a sound design team and lighting design team to create his inner world as explained by his own characters. “Street artists are often perceived as ghosts,” he says and goes on to explain that these creatures are somewhat ghosts as well and representative of his inner ‘Quiet Little Voices.’
Whether playful or melancholic, these creatures are strangely familiar to attendees of these tours. The entire project is one which he hopes to develop into a documentary and a textbook for teachers to provide “young people with the creative tools needed to find hope in difficult situations,” showing “how they can use art to empower their local communities.”
Tickets to go Inside will be announced through My Dog Sighs’ mailing list, available on his website www.mydogsighs.co.uk. You can also follow him on Facebook or Instagram for more updates.
Friday 16 July – Sunday 1 August
An undisclosed location in Portsmouth.
Admission: £10 adults / £5 concession / Children are free (but are they really?)
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening: 1. “Bubble Tea” with Sofles 2. Doug Gillem Discusses Stereotypes in Street Art 3. Vero Rivera in Columbia, SC. Via Tost Films
BSA Special Feature: “Bubble Tea” with Sofles
Sofles gives us such beautiful Fridays – with a jump in his step and a flair in the sweep of his arm. It’s bubble time!
Our Expectations of Street Art’s Role in Projecting and Reflecting Values
It is not a surprise that street art reflects the culture back to itself, including elements that some will find objectionable or disgusting – this has always been true. As the so-called “culture” of street art becomes professionalized and monetized and regarded as legitimate by institutions and commercial interests like brands, we continue to hear that it is now being, to some extent, more closely examined. Doug Gillen of FifthWall TV explores criticisms of one artist’s work – FinDac – in regard to Asian tropes and stereotypes.
People have mentioned FinDac’s work for the last half-decade at least, so it is interesting that a current heated awareness regarding identity politics is pushing the conversation further. Truthfully, stereotypes about blacks, gays, the police, media, the military, women, men, religious institutions, politicians, sex roles, gender roles, political parties, geopolitics… have always been on display in myriad forms in street art and graffiti. It can be a worthwhile exercise when we begin to examine them in greater detail.
Vero Rivera in Columbia, SC. Via Tost Films
A commission for a suburban coffee shop mural, this hand painted work by Vero Rivera is a few steps removed from the street art and graffiti scene that first sparked out interest decades ago. The dynamics are different, but the spirit of creativity is the same.
You know the shy kid at the party who won’t hit the dance floor even if Jesus himself begged him – and then he hears his jam and suddenly starts doing flips, tricks, and power moves?
That’s what it felt like last week when all the funk-tech-floral-social-abstract-steez planets spun together into a powerful 2021 solar system at the Jersey City Mural Festival. How many times did you hear the word community, as if we’ve all been starved of it?
And the aesthetics were solid – you would not have guessed how sweet some of these combinations could be – with just enough curation to let the sparks crackle in the gritty oil-coated zones that are surrounding the MANA Contemporary compound. This most diverse generation is now freely tossing any rules and hierarchies out the window; these inheritors of the winds now gathering speed.
The first annual Jersey City Mural Festival brought together dozens of street artists, mural artists, graffiti writers, photographers, and art lovers to this new New Jersey. This festival in another year would have been a festive event just like any other festival – formulas have been discovered for how to mount public cultural events like these around the world – and we’ve been to many.
But this time, the energy was extra charged by the undeniable fact that we’re all emerging to a familiar yet changed world formed by fear, death, insecurity, and longing. Artists were elated to see their peers once again doing what they love doing most: painting outdoors. There is a recognition from the artists, and everybody around that life is precious and the scars left on us by the Pandemic made this event a jubilant one.
The collection of artworks presented here are only a fraction of all the works painted during the festival. Half a dozen of murals were still not completed when we departed. We hope to bring you the rest soon.
The festival unfolded over several days of painting and rain and an oppressive heatwave on two locations in Jersey City. Both locations are the remnants of Jersey City as an industrial powerhouse. The complex in Newark Ave, Mana Contemporary, is now an art center with several galleries, exhibition spaces, and artists’ studios. The complex on Coles Street still conserves its industrial grit. Still, a storage company has replaced the factories, and empty buildings in the decay process appear ready to be demolished.
The Jersey City Mural Festival was presented by Mana Public Arts and the Jersey City Mural Arts Program with the imprimatur of Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop, the city’s Municipal Council, and the Office of Municipal Affairs.
Jose Mertz talks about his mural.
We would like to thank the organizers and production team for all their assistance during the duration of the festival and to Mario at Tost Films for helping man the lift for our final photo session.
Polish artist Nespoon has revived a cottage industry of appreciation for the historical art of lace design, steeping her practice in a sincere study to preserve the work of generations, towns, and regions. For her first mural of the year she borrows a 19th Century French needle lace from the Musée des Beaux-arts et de la Dentelle in Alençon.
Deftly interpreted here, Nespoon’s new work frames a corner building in the city of Callac in French Brittany. Exquisite, not only in the rendering and design of the lace patterning itself, but in the project’s ability to bring the past forward in a newly relevant and even contemporary manner.
The project is part of the Festival écologique d’Arts Urbains.
Straight from the Bay Area – bet you don’t hear that phrase often – here comes the legendary Sylvester!
A Superstar of the disco era long before people even heard of telling you their pronouns, this queen crossed over and back and even had bonafide dancefloor hits. How fitting that queer muralist Josh Katz painted this glamorous portrait to lift spirits in this city where day socializing and nightlife has been hamstrung by the pandemic, even shuttering some gold-plated legends in LGBTQ+ club history.
Katz says he is happy to bring Sylvester out into the street-life, a response to “what I see as a lack of LGBTQ representation in street art.” He promises that he’ll continue painting portraits to honor legacies and increase visibility.
“Sylvester is so loved in San Francisco, and to me they truly embody those classic San Francisco, feel-good funk, disco glamour vibes that we love and have missed so much throughout the pandemic,” he says. “My intention with this mural was to celebrate Sylvester’s life, try to spread a little love, and remind folks that we’ll be back together on the dance floor soon.”
To see more of Josh’s work, see him on Instagram @JKATZART
Dazed and confused, how much of our population is apparently anesthetized; directed through daily decisions by a delicious blend of disinformation and propaganda? Everyone will insist they are not, but look closely. Occasionally there are glimmers of civic engagement, even democratic movements that pop up – before they are gently maligned and subtly marginalized as if simply a matter of consumer “choice”.
‘Byte the Candy’ is the new work in Madrid by Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada; a portrait of a woman is contoured as if a computer chip inlaid with circuitry, no more than a central processing unit.
“In 1984, Niel Postman gave a talk about how we are ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death,’” says Rodriguez-Gerada of his inspiration for this new piece he did in conjunction with the Urvanity art fair. “He criticized how the news we see on television is entertainment,” he says, “there only to maintain our attention in order to sell advertisement time instead of trying to make us think.”
Notable also is the earthen color range the artist selected as if merging his precise realism on large-scale murals with his other field of public expression, land art. Even the uniformity of spacing and graduated shading suggests industrial farming methods… but his greater point is the melting together of ethical conscience and the judgment-free manipulation of the subconscious.
“Today, we are living something beyond what Niel Postman was warning us about – social media platforms, with a system of algorithms that have no conscience or mercy,” says Rodriguez-Gerada. “These algorithms work incessantly to keep our constant attention to see advertising and propaganda, and in that way become more efficient with the use of personal data, achieving the ability to target advertising that coincides exactly with the profile of interests of each user.”