All posts tagged: Street Art Book Review

Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore

Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore

A welcome and necessary addition to any graffiti academic’s library comes Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore, carefully documented by Freddy Alva. A thorough recounting of the birth and growth of graffiti through the lense of punk and hardcore scenes after 1980, Alva presents a parallel evolution of a scene as it was interpreted by a largely white constituency of rockers, anarchists, and rebels who grew up in and around New York at that time.

Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.

Alva is careful to give due to the graffiti scene that is more often identified as the roots of this practice of urban mark making; the hip-hop culture of primarily black and latino youth during the 1960s and 1970s. As the neoliberal corporate capitalists took over Wall Street and the Reagan White House, a different sort of graffiti writer was often showing up on the street – and often on stage as part of a hardcore band.  

Mr. Alva says that early hardcore bands like Frontline “became an important foundation to the eventual hardcore and graffiti synthesis that would come to envelop the scene.”  It makes sense since the band featured graff writers including HYPER, RACE, ME62, and NOAH.

Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018

It’s an infrequently told history related in great detail following a timeline which identifies the “golden age” of this subcultural hybrid as 1985-1995. Packed full of extensive interviews with writers and essays by experts on the scene like Sacha Jenkins, it summons a gravel-voiced city cinema vérité flavor to a rugged unvarnished history and sometimes conflicting perspectives.

The series of interviews profile a wide number of individuals who are looking back on a common graff writing history; sometimes imparting a certain nostalgic haze to their stories. Their common path leads them to espouse philosophies and worldviews that are somehow universally rooted in struggle, but the insights and individual outcomes are anything but homogeneous. But almost all of them dislike or hate Street Art, that’s nearly universal.

You may not have been there, but you may feel like you were; its complete with amateur photography, a good selection of zines, black book works, ephemera, and some serious info-graphics on crews, members, and neighborhoods where they originated from (shoutout to designer Orlando Arce). The thick tome even offers a selection of relevant tattoo photos.

On arms.

Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018

With a newly released second edition after only one year on the bookshelves, this one captures a big name that is as elusive as it is heralded by New York hardcore graffiti fans, REVS. Also a member of a hardcore band named Adam 12, the writer gives a great deal of insight into his path, ethos and career (see the first online publishing of a portion of this interview on BSA).

Tony Rettman, author of NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990 gives praise to Alva for chronicling a scene that not many have paid sufficient due to and which contributed in a large way that clearly illustrates the interstitial relationships of New York’s various graffiti cultures.

Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.

“The correlation between graffiti culture and punk rock is something solely concentrated to New York and it’s surrounding boroughs,” Rettman writes. “Freddy Alva was there to absorb it all in real time and now he gives us the clear-cut history of the whole deal it all its grim and gritty glory.”

“I have had the good fortune of maintaining decades-long friendships with some of the people featured in these pages; the writers that played in bands, the writers that represented the scene, the graffiti crews that were composed of hardcore fans, the photographers of classic train pieces, the artists inspired by hardcore iconography, the tattooists that incorporated this imagery in their work… I have always wanted to give these voices an outlet to be heard and to be celebrated,” Alva writes.

With Urban Styles, he has.

Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.
Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.
Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.
Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.

*Banner poem excerpt by Chaka Malik, 2017

To purchase this book please click on the link below:

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Hendrik Beikirch Traces Lives and Memories in “Siberia”

Hendrik Beikirch Traces Lives and Memories in “Siberia”

A corollary to 2015’s “Tracing Morocco” by German street artist Hendrik Beirkirch (aka ECB), a new book travels to meet the rugged inhabitants of Siberia’s countryside in the Russian Federation. The results are starkly genuine, impressively authentic.

Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018

Again indulging us in the deep crevasses of many a weathered façade, Siberia invites you to meet the people whom he has met in his travel and presumably befriended, given their ease as subjects. A part of the Jardin Rouge stable over the past few years, Beirkirch has followed the lead of founder Jean Louis Haguenauer, the Frenchman who moved to Russia in the early 1980s and found his own odyssey outside the city to be formative to his character, leading him to write the introduction to the handsome tome.

Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018

“The work produced is a testimony, a memoir,” says Haguenauer, “These modern faces that hark back to the past, these women and men immortalized on canvas, ambassadors of their trades and their regions on walls around the world, convey another image of the largest region on the planet and of a sadly little-known country, of which we wish to provide a new vision. It is the everyday women and men, passionately living their trades, who are the heroes of this new project.”

Indeed there are few signs of artifice or romanticism in the sure-footed subjects here, and you are offered a glimpse of their context with some of these new portraits. Seeing them translated to grand scale as murals spanning towers is remarkable, and one can only imagine what impact they have on the people who live in or pass through these neighborhoods.  Scattered through a number of cities, there is a familiar feeling in each of these strangers, perhaps feeling like family to some.

Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Nina. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018

“Untainted by any attempt at idealization, the faces of  those portrayed tell the story of real life,” says Arne Zyprian in an opening essay. “Paradoxically, these anonymous guises pictured on a vast scale on the sides of buildings offer a break from the overall anonymity of the cities and give them a face.”

Interspersed with canvasses and murals are observations that attempt to examine why we find the singular visages so compelling. There is a temptation to look at a new people in cultures different from our own as the exotic “other”, to simplify their existence by what we can observe on the outside, or to project our own inner dynamics on to the faces that we see.

Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Nina. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018

One thing is for certain, Beirkirch has found through technique and experience a way for each of these people to become somehow relatable.

“Hendrik pours all of his love for humanity into his portraits,” says Jean Louis. “There is never any aggression or bitterness in these people.” Perhaps that is how most of us would like to be seen as well.

Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Vlasov. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018
Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Vera. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018
Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018
Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Aleksandr Pavlovich. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018
Hendrik Beikirch. “SIBERIA” Tatyana. Editons mare & martin. Paris. 2018
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“Few Moments Ago I Was Here” says Klone

“Few Moments Ago I Was Here” says Klone

Stateless.

Klone is prowling between states, transitory and without volume, beams of light and color washes and flickers of memory, or false memory. The Ukrainian born, Israel bound Street Artist is as good with the unforgiving street as the undefined gallery, muting features from common characters and tracing shadows, summoning foxes, crows, cats as guardians and confidants.

Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.

A mark-maker on the streets of Tel-Aviv since the 90s, his practice is by necessity within a hidden realm, and if you stay there long enough, it becomes yours; carefully and boldly speaking, summoning folklore and mythology, mastering the art of masked meaning and inference.

Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.

Tagging and graffiti gave way to other urban traditions he has been eager to author, organic in his methods for discovery. His expanding practice of multiple disciplines has led him to the street and into the gallery and back to the street in Europe, the Middle East, the US, back to Kiev. This collection of excursions appears natural, rendered and even intimately warm even when mimicking, forgetful, fragmented.

Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.

Even his “Movement” chapter, a section of selected works laid out in stop motion frames, stays safely within an imaginary place, fables of connection, disconnection, alienation. Perhaps most powerful are his ‘digital interventions’ imaginary hybrids of photography, illustration, aspiration. Hulking eyesores of uninspired architecture or remote land masses are embraced, supported, frolicked within, rested upon.

Here I am, even though you do not see me.

Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.
Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.
Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.
Klone “Few Moments Ago I Was Here”. Hell No. Publication and Distribution. Tel-Aviv 2018.
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Futura Goes “Full Frame” by Magda Danysz

Futura Goes “Full Frame” by Magda Danysz

One benefit of being ahead of your time is that you can paint your own rules, discover your own voice, set a standard. A drawback is that you may have to push forward on your own before you gain support for what you are pursuing. The key is to keep moving.

Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.

As Futura pulls fully into the frame of contemporary artist, its important for upcoming artists to remember that he had a long route – including being a bike messenger on Manhattan’s untamed streets to provide for his family – while he was waiting until the rest of the street and art world caught up with him. Now that Street Art has confirmed that his abstract explorations on subway trains were an early sign of what was coming, brands and gallerists and collectors often call.  “Full Frame” helps appreciate the body of work he developed during that time.

Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.

Self named Futura 2000 when that sounded futuristic, Lenny Gurr has done more painting on canvas than he realized since the early 80s and his style has continued to evolve and clarify.  

“Just for people to finally get a look at my work – I feel like a lot of what is being revealed hasn’t really been seen,” he tells us as he describes the nearly 300 page yellow tome “Full Frame,” published by Drago and organized by Magda Danysz. Among the richly illustrated pages, Danysz presents important benchmarks in Futura’s steadily growing career and personal life that bring the evolution closer to the reader.

In terms of the visual language in these sketches, diagrams and canvasses, there are a wealth of orbs and symbols and sprays and washes and stellar interstellar journeys that you have never seen before. Evolution appears to be natural for Futura, his pores and nerve endings collecting signals, firing synapses, pushing deep into imaginary worlds.

Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.

Influences run from expressionists, abstractionists, modernists, punks, the race to the moon and the moonage daydreams of city hippies everywhere. His recurring circle motifs are as much about his internal mind and world as they are about the cosmos.

A sense of balance in the chaos is always present, the palette choices impeccably on point, sharply sweet and frequently daring. Is this fantasy or diary? If Futura hasn’t flown to most of these places, it’s not because he hasn’t tried. But we’re treating these pages and frames of eye-popping other-worlds as evidence that he has.

Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.

“I think for the most part people appreciate survivors,” he is quoted in the book. Few survivors could be so freely percolating with ideas and graceful in their delivery.

Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
Futura 2000 FULL FRAME By Magda Danysz. Drago Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2018.
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Igor Ponosov Enlightens with “Russian Urban Art: History and Conflicts”

Igor Ponosov Enlightens with “Russian Urban Art: History and Conflicts”

An academically sourced opinion-based essay in book form that looks to art, social, economic, and geopolitical movements during the start of the 20th century to better understand the evolution of Urban Art in post-Soviet Russia, Igor Ponosov delivers a welcome reconstruction of the timeline and movements that bring urban art to this day.

With the renewed interest in public art and muralism that has erupted over the last decade in many so-called Western cities it is good to learn how the public space in Russia has been catalyzed not-only by Hip Hop and new graffiti forms from Europe but also the history of Avant-garde art movements and Soviet Muralism in Russian Urban Art: History and Conflicts.

With a thorough yet brief recap of a dozen decades of art/social movements, Ponosov illustrates that it is a slowly but widely fluctuating wave of events and sentiments and social-political upheaval that brings art to the street over a century; during times of relative liberalism in artistic freedom during the Tsarists one century ago contrasted a short time later with abolishment of political expression of the Stalinist era that heralded state power and monumentalism, suprematists, and propagandizing the public. Interestingly it’s the constructivist and the realism aesthetics that are currently being repurposed for much of the colorful commercial and state-funded muralism that is happening today on massive Moscow and St. Petersburg walls, and Ponosov helps to illustrate, if not disentangle, the movements that co-evolve over the previous century.

It may prove fascinating to graffiti writers and Street Artists to learn the trajectory and timing of the arrival of Hip Hop culture in the USSR and how it proved itself an enthusiastic student to what was originally an organically occurring series of artistic practices within a mix of communities. The “expansion of Western culture” into post Soviet Russia, as he describes it, occurs a decade (or more) after the original birth of hip hop, yet the importation retains many of the same art practices and ethos during the cultural translation.

The evolution of Street Art on the scene may have been quicker due to immediate digital communications and because of the new practices having similarity to pre-existing mural and fine art practices in Russian cultural history as well as global graffiti ‘jams’. Similarly, the rise in international ‘street art’ festivals looks like it has influenced events here as well as the co-opting/ cultivating of non-political eye-candy murals for commercial and gentrification goals.

It’s enlightening to learn about the rise of something called ‘Actioning’ that recalls the Situationists, and urban performance as part of the thawing post Cold War Glasnost approach to public space. Equally riveting are Posonov’s observations and interest in the more modern, less flashy conceptual street practices and the diverse nature of expressions that defy classification in typical Street Art terms that he describes as a “Partizaning” – a phenomenon of socially engaged street art.

“The tactics and numerous actions of the activists of the Partizaning movement, organized over the course of several years, reflects the ideals of collectivism, metal assistance and responsibility,” he writes of a practice that defies the commonly held assumptions of Urban Art as being antisocial and purely vandalism. “They are intended to restore citizens’ faith that global changes are possible even when working on a local level – be it a staircase, a yard or a neighborhood – through the discourse of urban planning.”

Densely compiled, amply illustrated, and providing an endless series of sparks for future fires, Mr. Posonov makes the discussion open and easy to access, adroitly staying free of corrupting jargon or self-important Art-speak that proves empty. Consider it a concise, reliable eye-opening primer that you can reference into the future to appreciate the evolution of Urban Art in Russia.

Igor Ponosov. Russian Urban Art: History And Conflicts. Moscow 2018. Published in collaboration with Street Art Museum, St Petersburg, Russia.

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Invader: “Invasion Los Angeles” Book and “Into the White Cube” Exhibition

Invader: “Invasion Los Angeles” Book and “Into the White Cube” Exhibition

One thing that some Street Artists do when their work enters the white cube is drop the “street” from their official moniker, instead preferring to be known simply as an “artist”. The decision is possibly to rid themselves of any subtle class distinctions or otherwise negative connotations that a potential collector or curator may have with the “street artist” label.

Other artists formerly known as “Street Artists” feel limited by the title because it doesn’t include all of their new interests and their complete practice – or because the term itself has evolved in their mind and the mind of the public to mean something unfavorable that they do not like to be associated with.

When it comes to the internationally renowned Street Artist Invader, its not a consideration – the street is in his DNA. His cryptic tile-made street practice is so proliferate across the world and so much a part of the metropolis like in his hometown of Paris that his art is literally and psychically fused with the city.

The dude even has a global app that helps fans in about 80 cities to track and document his works, and some of the most dedicated have clocked thousands themselves. Now with two decades in the game and nearing age 40, the maker of thousands of pixelated video game characters and pop culture archetypes on walls has released an updated edition of his 2003 Los Angeles Invasion Guide and he stretches himself creatively with a new exhibition that opens this weekend at Over the Influence Gallery in LA.

Called “Into the White Cube’, the show will have more than 50 new mosaic ‘Aliases’, an Invader LED piece, large-scale pin buttons, and an Invader Cinema. The event is huge, even for a Street Artist who can claim 200 pieces on the streets of Venice, Downtown LA, Los Feliz, at the LAX airport and even the HOLLYWOOD sign.

Today we have new images from Invasion Los Angeles 2.1, a breathtaking survey of his work there since 1999, introduced by artist, musician, and writer Bruno Blum who puts his finger on the pulse of this compulsive campaigner in his first “invaded” US city.

“Invader lives for his art. He has a passion for what he’s doing. He’s a diehard. In ‘street artist’, there’s the word ‘street’. Invader is from the streets; and not from the Beverly Hills streets. He’s got fire in the belly, he’s got what it takes and he’s got it down,” writes Blum.

Full of personal accounts that shed a light on his process and mind and featuring shots of placements that are ingenious, often witty, banal, baddass, and seemingly impossible, the collection is a finally a revelation into the compulsive commitment that a Street Artist brings to the game. Helpfully, it also includes street maps.

Invasion Los Angeles 2.1 / Updated Edition 1999 – 2018. A Book By Invader. Published by Control P. Editions. France 2018.

 


Invader “Into The White Cube” first solo exhibition in Los Angeles will open this Saturday, November 17th at OverUnder The Inlfuence. Click HERE for further details.

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El Seed Illuminates Ways to See Others with “Perception”

El Seed Illuminates Ways to See Others with “Perception”

The perception you may have of Tunisian calligraffitist el Seed’s new limited edition hefty white-box tome is that it will contain austerely designed blue chip contemporary works, a book meant to be stacked for aesthetic impact on the toniest of coffee tables. But often perceptions won’t give the full picture.

And el Seed is the first to tell you that in this deeply personal account of his art project across fifty buildings in Mashiyat Naser, a neighborhood of Cairo over two years ago. Born of his personal need to challenge himself and to add more to his career as a respected muralist, his original concept of working in this neighborhood of 70,000 recyclers was informed by his own assumptions, perhaps of helping a community known in the city as Zabbaleen, or “garbage people”.

Over the course of the project he and his team describe through interviews and with his own diary style how their own eyes were opened. It is an incremental revelatory experience that paralleled the quote that he stylized throughout the pattern of his piece, “Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eyes first,” from the writings of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a fourth century Coptic Bishop.

Scaling the power networks seems as natural to el Seed as scaling a massive wall, and he demonstrates his acumen for winning the approval and involvement with his project from the Othodox Church religious leader Father Samaan, whose permission is used to open doors in the community for painting. With the project the artist also garners the attention of  MoMA in New York, specifically Glenn D. Lowry, who introduced him at Art Dubai after the project was completed and who writes the introduction to this book.

But here the artist tells you that nothing prepared him for his own personal transformation plunging himself into the neighborhood. With time he says he realized that he had an incorrect perception of the people who recycle the city’s garbage and that he received the larger gift from them.

Through photography and interviews el Seed illustrates his own learning process as well as his own teams meeting the social, political and physical demands of such a public artwork. By following the story the reader gains appreciation for the process and the nature of life there in a part of the city that even his first taxi driver was hesitant to drive into. Despite the impressive massive public artwork that can be seen in its entirety from one specific vantage point, it almost feels to the artist that the art was secondary to the project.

“The project helped establish a dialogue, create a connection. Looking back, we understood that this was born out of recognition,” he writes. “We approached a rejected community and involved it in a piece of artwork. They were part of the creative process by their presence, their looks, their smiles and their proffered hands. There’s no doubt that’s how we got through it, despite the steep streets, unsteady houses, unexpected electricity cables and heaps of garbage.”

The neighborhood has garnered international attention in recent years, drawing a string of international ‘news’ crews who produce shallow, sensationalist and ultimately degrading pieces, a series of bad experiences that have left locals feeling far more suspicious of outsiders – especially those with probing questions and camera equipment.

Mahdi is a photographer/videographer who has worked with el Seed in the past and who followed the team throughout the weeks of installations capturing not only the community, the architecture,  and the painters but also the various livestock that are raised on roofs or in backyards in this dense part of the city – contributing to an often overwhelming acrid smell. As the documenter of the Perception project Mahdi says that he gradually realized that he had misjudged the folks who lived there.

“I was not so convinced that these people really like their life or that they were not bothered with any details of their job until the day I interviewed Abu Atef,” he says. “That man and his wife were proudly announcing in front of my camera that it is their job to collect the trash from the big city and that without them Cairo would be full of trash and dirt. They were so proud and happy with their life; I’ve never seen people as happy as them. The life in that neighborhood is hard, the work is so hard, but their smiles are stronger.”

One of the team painters says that although the work of using less-than-optimum hand cranked lifts to paint poorly constructed brick walls day after day in intense heat caused him to discover “some muscles that I had no idea existed in my body,” the bonds he made were stronger than any other job he’d had.

“The connection that we had with the community was insane. I worked with people for years in offices and for different companies but I didn’t stay in touch with anyone. I worked for three weeks with these people and the team, and we are still in touch.”

“After a few days the light they had inside of them started to come out. I stopped judging them and I started to see who they really are. I’ve never seen people who work like that in my life. They never stop, they work almost every single day and they only have one week off during the whole year. And they are smiling all day long. I still remember the family of Uncle Bakheet while they were sorting the trash, laughing and joking with us. This project made me “wipe my eyes”.

The photographs are genuine, generous, and not sentimental. The prose a bit sweetened, the emotions expressed not always flattering, the descriptions even-handed, the vulnerability a gift. In the end, the artist says that he and the team were amazingly proud of the massive anthromorphic mural and the group effort that made it happen. They and the neighbors were also thrilled with the effect of the large black lights that turned the fluorescent underpaint of the white areas into a miraculous view – a secret for the audience until the moment the switch was thrown. What resonates is the deep emotional connection that appears to have affected so many of the participants; lives that were indeed transformed by art.

“In the touching and colorful tranquility of their existence, the exceptional and unique community of the Zaraeeb offered us a valuable philosophy of life, of inevitability, equanimity, humor, human values, hard work, generosity and determination,” says el Seed.

El Seed PERCEPTION Published by Point à la Ligne. Milan, Italy. 2018.

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“Ex Animo”,  Eight Years of Poetry by Faith Forty Seven

“Ex Animo”, Eight Years of Poetry by Faith Forty Seven

Worn workers, wild beasts, a bloom in the rubble.

Prayers of supplication and longing, racing teams of stallions and master felines of fury, the exhausted figure of a dream barely still illuminated, a wistful stage in the plundered urban landscape, or a plundered life.

This is what she does to you. As Faith IXVII leaves her stolen stanza, her massive mural in washed hues, her tributes to a moment lost in a city that would leave you to die if it had its way, she makes you make poetry.

“Artists are driven to leave a mark, something that will tell their story, or the story of their time,” writes Jacqueline Flint when speaking of the South African artists installation work. Whether stories she has found, constructed, or caught in the ether as they drift by, Faith has left many tales for you to unpack in cities from Wuhan, China to Chinatown in New York City to Goa, India and Portland, Washington.

In EX ANIMO you can see where she’s been waving to you from, even as you passed by, or beneath.

Published by Drago and edited by Roger Gastman, the handsome volume captures the opus works and gallery installations and hidden gems on temporary construction walls and pillars holding the highway, all part of the modern vocabulary of Street Artists who weave themselves into the fabric of the megapolis. But there is much more if you care to see it.

“Anyone can make art in the streets but a rare few create socially impactful content, and there is no denying that Faith’s work has transformed perspectives among her global audience,” writes Kristin Farr in her essay, and it is true that the width of a mind and heart can be pushed a little further with these hard won truths.

“A language of empathy borne in a scream of rage, hurled like a Molotov cocktail but given the wings of metaphor and the grace of allegory,” writes Carlo McCormick in the introduction,”Faith’s work on the streets commands all the monumentality of public art yet whispers its deepest secrets in the hushed tones of prisoners and stowaways, travelers whose journeys demark the limits and possibilities of no where else to go.”

Whether it is the rhythm of the lunar cycle or the steady, now racing, beating of blood through hearts and lungs, its a meditative measure of Faith that appears on our streets pointing to our folly and our burning fire within. Often it is a poem that rises inside.

Faith XLVII. “EX ANIMO’ THE WORK OF FAITH FORTY SEVEN/ 2010-2018. Drago Publishing. Rome, Italy, 2018

 

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Adele Renault Takes Flight With a Message of “Feathers and Faces”

Adele Renault Takes Flight With a Message of “Feathers and Faces”

For many the shock of Silent Spring was not that the chemical industry had run roughshod over the rules and poisoned our water, air, and soil.

For a large number of readers it was the fact that Rachel Carsen’s “fable for tomorrow” included a vision of the future that we didn’t want to imagine; our lives without birds, without their songs, their beauty, their plumage, their companionship, their resilience in the brutal city and in the great outdoors.

Yes, DDT was eventually banned in some countries – after its use was linked to damage to wildlife, birds, bees, agricultural and domestic animals – and to humans. 56 years after JFK included Silent Spring in his summer reading, his nephew won a lawsuit, the first of thousands expected, against Monsanto and RoundUp this summer – so obviously we’re slow learners.

Street Artist/fine artist Adele Renault understands our interdependence with the birds and with each other perhaps better than many, and “Feathers and Faces” carries the message powerfully by delivering these works she has done on city streets and galleries in New York, Berlin, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Singapore, Burkina Faso, Helsinki, Moscow…

We saw her in Moscow just two weeks ago where she collaborated with photographer Martha Cooper on an installation for Artmossphere Biennale 2018, which BSA co-curated. In addition to her stunning wall painting of a pigeon and Martha’s photographs of her pigeon photos during the last 40 years, the two of them created a coop, named “Coop’s Coop”, and featured Adele’s painting of “Martha”, the last carrier pigeon – that died September 1914 and whose remains are now on display at the Smithsonian.

Clearly, there are more than six degrees of interconnectivity in this story and literally billions of stories across the world of our interdependence with birds.

We share this city with pigeons. We look to the same environment to supply us with what we need, including food, water, shelter – depending on physical factors like as soil, air, a temperate climate, other organisms. Adele studies our feathered friends and brings them full force to the streets, and we know that here only the scrappiest survive and get to display their colors.

Adam Eeuwens takes his worldview and interpretations of the ornithologists and merges them with a stark assessment of the significance pigeons have to us in his intro to Feathers and Faces.

“As a spirit animal in symbology, the pigeon represents the values such as home, and it’s attributes of love, peace, grace, care, security, foundation, fertility, and family, bringing an inherent sense of belonging. The pigeon is safest in a flock, with the strength and support found in the community and in communication.

The pigeon is determined, nothing will chase it away from food. And of course, the pigeons are messengers, of tidings that one must be open and receptive to, as it is the nature of this beast to hold blessings. Being aware of seeing a pigeon, whether awake or in a dream, teaches one to be resilient, to find the comfort of home within, to be cooperative, compassionate, resourceful, loving, and forgiving. It asks you to embrace change.”

Art on the streets is a state of continuous change and murals are redefining our cities, drawing our attention to issues somehow overlooked in our movies and media. Right now, today, the animal kingdom is being decimated and humans are being turned into refugees in an unprecedented number.

Our ecological interdependence is woven into our historical, cultural, sociological, political, physical, mystical, emotional existence. It is fitting that the resilient Adele Renault finds the details of perseverance and beauty in the lines of our faces and the sheen of their feathers and the determination in the eyes of us all.  It is our nature.

Adele Renault. Feathers And Faces. Foreword by Carlo McCormick.

 


Feathers And Faces by Adele Renault was published in 2018 and is distributed in the United States and Canada by SCB Distributors.


 

Click on the link below for information on Ms. Renault’s one day exhibition tomorrow Sunday September 16, 2018 in Jersey City, NJ:

In Situ Creative and The Ring Side Lounge present: Adele Renault: “Tyson’s Corner” (Jersey City, NJ)

 

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Rafael Schacter Investigates “Street To Studio”

Rafael Schacter Investigates “Street To Studio”

“These are artists who are thus not slavishly reproducing their exterior practice within an interior realm but who are, rather, taking the essence of graffiti – its visual principles, its spatial structures, its technical methods, its entrenched ethics – and reinterpreting them with the studio domain,” says author Rafael Schacter in his introductory exposition for his book Street to Studio where he offers a unique assessment derived from his 10 years of researching the foundational, conceptual, methodological, and ethical considerations that impact the original graffiti/Street Art scene as well as where it is going.

Rafael Schacter. Street To Studio. Lund Humphries Publishers. London, 2018.

The presentation is impressive in the craft and depth of field; the 40 artists whom he has chosen to profile have elements of each of these considerations to one degree or another as they move from street culture to more formalized ways of analyzing their works. Whether figurative, conceptual, performative, iterative, abstract, ephemeral, or purely digital, Schacter endeavors to find a common thread in a wide field of work and influences that have as their common denominator a regard for the practices of art in the streets.

It may be difficult for some readers to see the streets from here; perhaps it is not a measurement of relative biographies or works through storytelling as much as it is an examination of methods and practices. Often it could appear to be a name-checking of alliances with recognized contemporary artists, schools of art practice, and an anchoring to experiences as student of formalized institutional structures rather than the streets that help define the artists – criterion which ironically have been used to bar consideration of many early graffiti writers as relevant artists, with the effect of stigmatizing them.

Rafael Schacter. Street To Studio. Kaws. Lund Humphries Publishers. London, 2018.

There are not stories of economic or structural adversity here – although one can argue that these may be equally formative realities that affect one’s art practice. You won’t find many references to attending Public School 141 or the local community college or working as a bike messenger.

Instead there are many finely educated artists here with backgrounds in formal art theories – an MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, an MFA at Universität der Künste Berlin, or London’s Central Saint Martins, Oslo’s National Academy of Art, Paris’ Saint Denis or Madrid’s Complutense. Being a part of the Mission School of 1990s San Francisco is what helps ratify a work as Fine Art, for example, even though switching the nameplates next to certain pieces may cause you to place the work in a number of possible categories or potential origin.

Rafael Schacter. Street To Studio. Stelios Faitakis. Lund Humphries Publishers. London, 2018.

The inclusion or exclusion of specific details in an artists journey or resume is the authors prerogative and is in service of supporting a view of the work.  As part of our daily discourse where we receive texts from artists, PR folks, and historians, we enjoy listening to how people and their art are described by themselves and others; what cultural signifiers are used, what associative “branding” is employed, and to note the differences that appear as they get closer to commercial or institutional success. Many of these artists here are nearly mid-career studio artists with connections to street practice, a substantial track record, and have taken great risks to challenge their work and their own perceptions.

Quoting McCormick again, “If we are to take graffiti and street art seriously, as not simply a method but a mandate, let us acknowledge studio practice as part of this process – but, equally importantly, understand the compatible, essential roles that action, observation and introspection play in progressive social art.”

Rafael Schacter. Street To Studio. Katsu. Lund Humphries Publishers. London, 2018.

Excuse the tangent: In our own discussions here online and offline for the last decade we’ve noticed a certain “whitening” of the landscape as we get closer to certain environments like fine art or contemporary art. In the ongoing class war that is human life on Earth, the assured divine nature of the resource winners is ever buffeted by a self-created system of rewards and penalties and cleverly clouded demerits – and you can see this at art fairs and galleries some times. While many advents of style and practice may emanate from more grassroots origins, those originators have not always successfully claimed authorship of those great ideas once they have permutated into textbooks that tell the history.

Graffiti and Street Art have often been maligned, marginalized, and dismissed rather openly and subtly by many of the current class of museums, press, academics, collectors, and those aspiring to be them during much of its evolution, even if its techniques and conventions are imitated and appropriated. Now less tentatively embraced by adventurous collectors and institutions, there is still the trouble of how to present the work; currently afoot is a rebranding as Contemporary Art that imparts a crisp veneer of coolness without the association with less desirable traits.

You know which traits.

Rafael Schacter. Street To Studio. Barry McGee. Lund Humphries Publishers. London, 2018.

We have even been asked by some artists to stop calling them “graffiti writer” or “Street Artist” because they no longer want to be associated with the label, preferring “painter” or “contemporary artist” instead. Part of this is self-marketing, yes, and the aging of the terms that doesn’t quite encompass their current work. We can’t help thinking that part of it smacks of classism and classic eurocentric racism.

In the broadest manner of description, it’s generally accepted today that the hallowed halls of academia have held centuries of Eurocentric art evolution in the highest regard and dispensed with the contributions of most everyone else not willing or able to stroke the narrative of white straight male supremacy – this is understandable tribe-like behavior meant to insure a narrative about relative importance and in furtherance of these guy’s power.

Sorrily, it has often also been a disabling and narrow view that has lead many to miss and mis-characterize absolutely amazing contributions to culture and the canons, and we are all poorer as a result. The original graffiti artists cared little about these institutional views and looked instead for opportunities to be seen and heard by their peers and the public.

Rafael Schacter. Street To Studio. MOMO. Lund Humphries Publishers. London, 2018.

These observations are not directly related to the author or artists presented in Street to Studio but you may safely surmise that some of this work would be so far removed in traditional associations with train bombing and b-boys that many would say the relationship is thin, or tenuous – and it is sort of remarkable how refracted the field becomes.

It has been a continuous peregrination over five decades of course – this movement between the street and the fine art world and the commercial interests – with graffiti writers spraying across canvas in the seventies, collectors like Wicked Gary gathering tagged stickers on cardboard; art school kids like Dan Witz arranging garbage across the sidewalk in New York’s East Village in between classes at Cooper Union.

“The reciprocal flow between studio and street continues today, with ever more complexity and mutual sway,” writes art critic and cultural observer Carlo McCormick in his introduction to Street to Studio, and Rafael Schacter has undertaken with a scholarly eye this unthinkable task of measuring that complexity. The results are a thoughtful and considered collection of individual histories and practices, supported by his own research on the evolving academic discussions that will define the era.

Rafael Schacter. Street To Studio. Evan Roth. Lund Humphries Publishers. London, 2018.

The graff-writing culture persisted; it evolved and nurtured and inspired a few generations and studio practices that followed. Street Artists work has spread across entire continents and into cities around the world without help from institutions, public programs, or academic approval. Now it merges with all our modern fashions in aesthetic and intellectual art-making yet it stands on its own – even as we grapple to document and describe it.

“The development of a distinct studio practice and institutional oeuvre is key to the text, even whilst this may disregard some important artists working today,” says Schacter regarding his methods of analysis for inclusion in this particular story.

“Overall, what was key was to provide a rounded selection of artists working in diverse formal and conceptual manners – artists pushing their practice with the realms of architecture and abstraction, performance and painting, digital art and new media, yet whose output provides a perfect exemplar of the dense possibilities that graffiti can provide.”

Today a generation of art students who grew up with the transgressive social politics of punk and hip-hop and wore wildstyle lettering and drips on their backpacks and clothing have their imaginations permanently sparked and have inherited an automatic expectation that their art could and should be staged on the street as well, illegally for extra points. Those practices expand and evolve and the current results are here. It appears to be a two-way street between outside and inside.

The spirit of graffiti is without doubt here. We just may not have realized how many forms it could take.

Rafael Schacter. Street To Studio. Swoon. Lund Humphries Publishers. London, 2018.

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FKDL and the Collage of a Street Artists’ Life in a Book

FKDL and the Collage of a Street Artists’ Life in a Book

As you look through this new slim volume about the Street Artist/fine artist FKDL it may strike you how much autobiography is the determinant of an artist’s path as well. It’s the tale of a teenager finding himself, finding his vocation, and eventually finding his voice on the street. When you reach the end you see that it takes a number of years and a lot of experimentation, this journey.

FKDL. Galiote Prenant. Choisy-le-Roi, France. 2017.

FKDL now tells his own grown kids, “everything you do now will come in handy later.” Don’t worry, nothing is wasted.

It’s good advice that should put many a teen graffiti writer and Street Artist at ease because that is the path that a creative life may take before it all sticks together and begins to make sense.

Pulling imagery and text and memories and infatuations from his own formative events and through each era, FKDL uses a process of sorting into piles, sifting, putting relevant elements along side or over top of one another, constructing a cohesive view. With seemingly disparate pieces of stories he organizes a view that turns into a narrative of the imagined, the aspired to, an ideal.

FKDL. Galiote Prenant. Choisy-le-Roi, France. 2017.

The French street artist uses the walls of the public walkway as a principle staging to test his work and expose his process to the public. Until the last decade the audience was in galleries or his studio but his is a strange new liberation and the feedback he receives gives him direction for what follows. These are lessons he would not have known way back in high school studying fashion, or later learning about how to join the circus, but he still brings that training to the game today.

He speaks of his testing grounds for his Street Art – the neighborhoods of Le Marais, Les Halles, Belleville, and Monmontre in Paris. ” The Streets are where I test the durability or impact of an idea, an image, an icon. I build, I glue, and I wait. How social media, vandals, and the public works teams respond to my collages tells me whether the work is successful or not.”

FKDL. Galiote Prenant. Choisy-le-Roi, France. 2017.

This new book tells in detail the path of a creative painter, collagist, and even a maker of L’Art Scotch (tape art) over the period of a few decades. Perhaps most impressive is the very organized collection of vintage French magazines from the 40s, 50’s, 60s that he has amassed and the myriad intricately woven tales of love and glamour and disappointment and treachery that can be buried among those pages and used to construct new dramas.

For him, its mostly about love. As a fairly linear narrative, the book also shares memories and perspectives from the artist about getting his work shown in galleries, joining group shows, receiving awards, wheatpasting with friends on the street, spending hours in his studio.

FKDL. Galiote Prenant. Choisy-le-Roi, France. 2017.

“Happiness is a sustainable state of psychological balance that should last over time,” he says of his own philosophical practice of actively choosing to be positive, including in his art making.

“It is a demanding practice, to think that, in the light of what we have experienced and wish to experience, each one of us is the principal creator of his own happiness and has an impact on that of others around us.”

FKDL. Galiote Prenant. Choisy-le-Roi, France. 2017.

FKDL. Galiote Prenant. Choisy-le-Roi, France. 2017.

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Anders Gjennestad: A Door as “Canvas”

Anders Gjennestad: A Door as “Canvas”

A door as canvas. A door as canvas.

It sounds the same on the street as it does in the gallery space, and for Norwegian Street Artist Anders Gjennestad the two appear nearly identical, aside from context.

Anders Gjennestad. “Canvas”. Published by Galerie Friedmann – Hahn. Berlin 2018

Whether he is discovering the neglected urban factory door long after the spirit of industry has roared its last turbine and reaching toward his backpack for a spraycan, or he is hoisting a piece out from the pile of collected iron-bound wooded slabs in his Berlin studio, functionally each of these doors is a canvas.

Every urban explorer sees the potential of walls that are long abandoned and spoiled with rot and piss and pushed open by weeds, worn away by rain. The world is a temporary place anyway. I am only here temporarily.

Anders Gjennestad. “Canvas”. Published by Galerie Friedmann – Hahn. Berlin 2018

This cavorting, twisting, athletic dance with long shadows by men in hooded sweatshirts is a flicker across the canvas that you catch from the corner of your eye as your life dances by. His stenciled figures are expressive, interactive, fully alive, kinetic in spirit – singular and plural.

The symmetry and rythmic action is sport and performance and energetic expression across this patinaed, warped wood; this oxidized and oddly puckered and heavy iron and brick.

Anders Gjennestad. “Canvas”. Published by Galerie Friedmann – Hahn. Berlin 2018

Step many paces back from the aged factory wall and your perspective has been altered and the burr bushes and Bishop’s weed and crumbled concrete rubble you are standing in are strangely moved, even moving. Staring at his figures as they run diagonally up and across the entire expanse of a massive wall you realize he has tilted them along an axis in such a way and at such a scale that your own feet may be on a plane that is perpendicular to their ground, and you may fall.

You too have begun to dance to Anders’ optics, a figure in his urban choreography, and you too can take flight before gravity pulls you downward, as it will.

Anders Gjennestad. “Canvas”. Published by Galerie Friedmann – Hahn. Berlin 2018

Anders Gjennestad. “Canvas”. Published by Galerie Friedmann – Hahn. Berlin 2018

Anders Gjennestad. “Canvas”. Published by Galerie Friedmann – Hahn. Berlin 2018

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