All posts tagged: Stven P. Harrington

Carlo McCormick, “Magic City: The Art Of The Street”

Carlo McCormick, “Magic City: The Art Of The Street”

Nature is a petrified magic city.

With apologies to Novalis, this magic city of New York is too alive to be considered petrified – unless you are talking about being petrified by the sight of five rats on the subway tracks while you wait for the M train.

Carlo McCormick. Magic City: The Art Of the Street. From Here To Fame Publishing. Berlin 2017

“New York has more artists than rats,” Carlo McCormick once told us at a gallery opening a few years ago, with a glint of mischief in his eyes, which is often there. Since that time the greedy dullard named “Gentrification” has been pushing so many creative types out of NYC that the artist/rat ratio has been surely swinging in the rat population’s favor.

The art and culture critic McCormick writes about the ubiquity rats in his new book MAGIC CITY, a catalogue for the traveling European exhibition of the same name just published by From Here to Fame Publishing under the guidance of editor Don R. Karl.  Rats, McCormick writes, have appeared in many Street Art pieces during the last few decades; dropping names of seminal figures like Blek Le Rat, whose rats allegedly influenced Bristol’s Banksy, among others like eco-artist Christy Rupp, who wheat-pasted the long tailed critters on New York walls in the late 1970s and Ivar Vics, aka “Dr. Rat”, an early graffiti writer in Amsterdam.

Carlo McCormick. Magic City: The Art Of the Street. From Here To Fame Publishing. Berlin 2017

The 40+ strong artist lineup for this show that just moved from Dresden to Munich and that will open in Stockholm this autumn includes artists from across a spectrum of disciplines and backgrounds and influences: a survey that includes early NYC graffiti train writers like DAZE and photographers who captured them like Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper – to modern muralist Street Artists like ROA and Tristan Eaton, to illusionists like Leon Keer and Odeith, to head-scratching interventionists like Dan Witz and Brad Downey and social/political activists like Icy & Sot and Ganzeer.

Full disclosure: BSA was invited to curate the film program for MAGIC CITY and Jaime Rojo is one of the featured artists in the show with a children’s trail of his photographs as well as a section of his photography focusing on street sculpture. We’re proud of our involvement and thankful for the opportunity to share what we have learned with visitors.

The well-designed and easily accessible book gives ample overviews and concise descriptions of the artists, the work, their relevance to an ever-evolving urban art scene, and of course savory writings by McCormick with essays by Amber Grunhauser, Biancoshock, and journalist/filmmaker Annie Nocenti, whose writing is featured extensively throughout the entire exhibit as well.

Carlo McCormick. Magic City: The Art Of the Street. From Here To Fame Publishing. Berlin 2017

“The urban landscape is the physical manifestation of humankind’s uneven, uneasy, and even unhealthy relationship with nature,” begins McCormick in “Interventions”, one of the many essays throughout that bring into focus the various art practices at play in the man-made public environments that people traverse daily.

With historical reference and straight-up knowledge delivered with a wizard’s finesse and a sharp dry gin humor, he leaves you with an inescapable sense that you have been missing a great deal in the experience of your own city every day. Critique, mystery, discovery; It’s more than information, it’s a way of seeing.

Carlo McCormick. Magic City: The Art Of the Street. From Here To Fame Publishing. Berlin 2017

For the seer McCormick the messages are coded, the dialogue welcomed, the right of contesting public space assured. As curator and writer his reach is necessarily wide, yet his is also discerningly focused where it needs to be. By now we have grown accustomed to his innate talent for winnowing down to the pertinent and quietly powerful voices which give foundation to the whole, telling us that much more is possible on the street – and that we should expect it.

The fact that Director of SC exhibitions Christoph Scholz, who writes the introduction, embraces the street credo of ongoing reinvention and the ephemeral qualities of this broad practice of art-making speaks to Carlos’ ability to paint these complex concepts with words – as well as Scholz’ Spiderman sense of the pulsating rhythms that stir just below an audiences consciousness, leaving their synapses sparking.

Carlo McCormick. Magic City: The Art Of the Street. From Here To Fame Publishing. Berlin 2017

The roots of these forms of expression are said to be activist, even anarchist, as least subversive. To see many of these MAGIC CITY practitioners today lauded and their messages magnified in a traveling family-friendly exhibition means that sometimes we witness the flashpoint when subculture becomes the culture, by dint of its pure industry – and possibly because good ideas are good ideas and they resonate far and deep.

But presenting a truly alive and contemporary art-making scene inside a formal exhibition space is rife with landmines, any curator will tell you. Straddling, or perhaps surfing, across this ocean of practices, dichotomies, factionalism, political/social movements, territorial piss fights, accusations of cultural appropriation, and the ongoing turmoil of the commodifying forces that shape our perception of a global grassroots art-making movement – all these make putting together a show, at best, a somewhat harrowing task and appropriate for those with a steel stomach.

Carlo McCormick. Magic City: The Art Of the Street. From Here To Fame Publishing. Berlin 2017

Thankfully, McCormick also has steel-toed boots – good for walking and perhaps kicking ass if that seems appropriate, backed as he is with academic erudition, street cred, and that insouciant punk rock adoring stare that intones, “Talk all you want, this music is so loud that I can only see your raging eyes and your bloodied lips moving, darling. Kiss me.”

In his introduction, McCormick says, “Like the art it features, MAGIC CITY is a zone of unexpected encounters, art as born in interstice and the peripheral, appearing along those rips in the fabric of the ordinary where the extraordinary intrudes its wonderful illogic.”

Therein may lie the magic.

Carlo McCormick. Tristan Eaton. Magic City: The Art Of the Street. From Here To Fame Publishing. Berlin 2017

MAGIC CITY, The Art in the Streets, curated by Carlo McCormick, co-curated by Ethel Seno, features the work of: AIKO, AKRylonumérik, Andy K, Asbestos, Benuz, 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 and Ernest Zacharevic.

Carlo McCormick. Ernest Zacharevick. Magic City: The Art Of the Street. From Here To Fame Publishing. Berlin 2017

Carlo McCormick. Olek. Magic City: The Art Of the Street. From Here To Fame Publishing. Berlin 2017

Carlo McCormick. Leon Keer. Magic City: The Art Of the Street. From Here To Fame Publishing. Berlin 2017

Photos of all the catalogue plates by Jaime Rojo

Novalis quote stolen from essay by Mr. McCormick.

Magic City: The Art Of The Street by Carlo McCormick was published by From Here To Fame Publishing, Berlin 2017. Produced by SC Exhibitions


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Alice Pasquini, Dragonflies, and a School Wall in Germany

“Go Ask Alice When She’s Ten Feet Tall” (on a ladder).

If you are wondering what cans to use on the side of a German elementary school, Alice Pasquini can tell you. Readying for a show at local 44309 Gallery in Dortmund last week, the Italian Street Artist took some time to paint a mural for the kids at Jungferntal primary and gave them a lesson in painting large. “The symbol of the school is a dragonfly, which informed my work,” says Alice, who has done a lot of work on street walls in cities. “I had a great time with all the children from the school and they even helped me pick colors for the background.”

Alice Pasquini. Dortmund, Germany. (photo © Olaf Ginzel)

Curious kids checking out the wall action by Alice Pasquini in the school yard in Dortmund, Germany. (photo © Olaf Ginzel)

Alice Pasquini. Dortmund, Germany. (photo © Olaf Ginzel)

Alice Pasquini. Dortmund, Germany. (photo © Olaf Ginzel)

Alice Pasquini. Dortmund, Germany. (photo © Olaf Ginzel)

Click here for further details on Alice Pasquni’s exhibition ‘Déjà vu – Destiny’ now open for the general public at the 44309 Art Gallery in Dortmund.


Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock performing White Rabbit, a song referencing the children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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Jeice 2 “La Gran Inundada” In Istanbul

It is always a surprise to find a one-off piece that evidently took hours of work to create, wheat pasted into the public sphere and ready to face the ravages of rain and sun and wind and time on the street. It can be compounded when you discover there is meaningful story behind the piece.

“La Gran Inundada,” an acrylic painting on paper that began as a detailed drawing, is the name of this new piece by Jeice2 that just appeared in Istanbul, Turkey tucked into this arched depression on the street.  A portrait of a handful of chummy men of some official station from an earlier age posing formally and proudly before a church and a government building like one that may appear in a schoolbook illustration, until you observe that they are submerged up to their knees on an island, while water rushes wildly around them.

Jeice 2. Istanbul.,Turkey 2013. (photo © Jeice 2)

The metaphor rises from Jeice2’s opinions of the state of the economy and politics in his country, and the sentiment is heard in many places right now if you listen to the citizenry. In the case of some thoughtful street art, the message may not be explicit, but it is deliberate.

“The theme of this piece deals with corruption which is overflowing through the political system, flooding everything in my country today,” he says, as he discusses what he sees as an inundation of influential currency that is flowing into the metaphorical town hall behind these guys, a flood that will sweep up the poor and middle class. His advice? “Stay out of the money flooding.”

Jeice 2. Detail. Istanbul.,Turkey 2013. (photo © Jeice 2)

Jeice 2. Detail. Istanbul.,Turkey 2013. (photo © Jeice 2)

Jeice 2. Istanbul.,Turkey 2013. (photo © Jeice 2)

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Bortusk Leer Travels in India with Monsters in Tow

London-based Street Artist Bortusk Leer emptied out his flat one day early this year and put all his belongings in storage. He packed some articles of clothing and a legion of colorful, friendly monsters and embarked on a journey to India for six months with his girlfriend. On the route from town to town, guest house to guest house, he observed an amazing country, it’s people, and it’s cows. Not quite sure how to approach the topic of street art, he found people to be receptive, and he even received invitations to paint inside homes and courtyards. The cows were positively enthusiastic!

Holy Cow!

Following is a personal account from Bortusk and photos from his trip.

A 6-month back packing trip around India presented me with the opportunity to take my work to yet another continent and hopefully spread some more smiles. A nation whose favorite comedian, I discovered, is Mr. Bean would hopefully find my child-like art amusing!? In India, I quickly realized, nothing ever goes quite to plan. After wallpaper paste proved impossible to find while in Goa, my first batch of paste-ups were made with a flour and water paste. These  were eaten off the walls by hungry, wandering cows, who seemed to think the colorful artwork’s doughy coating was some kind of Willy Wonka-esque edible wallpaper. Lesson learned. From then on I pasted only up high above the sacred ones’ reach.

Jodhpur brought me an opportunity to stock up on more suitable ‘sticking stuff’. Here I bought an industrial size pot of PVA and Indian paintbrushes made from bundles of straw bound together with string. These were perfect for pasting and much better!

The “Blue City” is a bustling maze of streets and alleyways rammed with shops and street vendors overlooked by the grand fort and was my favorite of all the Rajasthan cities we visited. Unlike the rest of Rajasthan, which we generally found hard work due to the constant sales pitches and tourist blags, Jodhpur felt much more relaxed and we were, in the main, left alone to enjoy its sights unperturbed.


The winding back streets lent themselves perfectly to a spot of pasting while quite a few people milled around when I started. During putting up the first piece I was asked by two locals what I was doing. I told them that it was a piece of art that would hopefully put a smile on they’re faces, which for these two it actually did. Later a guy on a motorbike stopped and asked me what we were doing so I explained again, but he promptly and firmly told me that this wouldn’t make Indians smile… Miserable bastard!

He then decided to try and take control of the situation by telling me that I should put one on his friends’ rickshaw, I wasn’t so sure about this but he kept telling us it’d be fine, as he knew the guy who owned it. So I took his advice and pasted a couple onto the rickshaw and another bigger piece onto a wall. Then he started being a bit weird and tried to take a photo of my girlfriend, who was out with me. We ended up telling him to leave us alone for five minutes but he wouldn’t listen so we eventually decided the only thing to do was to walk off.

Bortusk Leer, Rickshaw. Jodpur
A requested adornment of a rickshaw by Bortusk Leer in Jodpur.

We wandered around for a bit before heading back to see the work and see if he’d cleared off. When we got back to the rickshaws, the guy had torn all the pieces down and ripped them up into little bits…Very strange! – And obviously not a fan of art comedy.

My pasting plans were sadly scupper while in Varanasi by a bout of the infamous ‘Dehli Belly’ and the scorching 42-degree (107 farenheit) heat with no breeze! The old city of Varanasi is incredible; a labyrinth of narrow streets running alongside the banks of the Ganges River. Regarded as holy by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.  It certainly has a special kind of energy and it was fascinating to watch all the age-old religious ceremonies going on along the riverbanks and 24-hour burning of funeral pyres.

The streets reminded me in places of Barcelona. There was plenty of evidence that I wasn’t the first artist to visit as I saw a few works by Invader and others scattered around but between 10 am and 6 pm it was unbearably hot and a struggle to drag myself out from under the fan.

Varanasi pillar of Bortusk Leer.

Varanasi pillar of Bortusk Leer.

Luckily the guesthouse owners, Shiva and Ganga agreed to let me paint a piece on one of the pillars in the grounds of the guesthouse, which I could work on in the shade during the heat of the day, and more importantly within a short stumble to the toilet! This kept me entertained for a few days as well as giving me the opportunity to try out some new ideas.

The happy hosts then sent us off on ‘the fastest direct train to Delhi, The Shiva Ganga Express’. Journey time; a mere 12 hours. Vashisht and Manali were the last stop on our journey and offered absolutely mind-blowing scenery with my first real mountain view! Stunning, lush, green orchards in blossom were surrounded by snow-capped mountains on all sides. The village we stayed in was mainly traditional style buildings constructed from ornately carved wood and huge slate tiled roofs.

Vashisht, Manali, monsters and mountains.

Vashisht, Manali, monsters and mountains.

Although they were beautiful to look at they were not much scope for pasting. Here I opted to instead leave monsters painted on corrugated cardboard, strategically placed in gaps in dry stone walls, in grassy fields and anywhere along the hobbit-like pathways where I thought someone might spot them.

If you’re ever in the area, I absolutely recommend Chris and Josie’s House; Again a friendly guesthouse owner! They allowed me to get busy on his walls so I managed to leave at least one piece of slightly more permanent work. Assuming he didn’t paint over it the minute my back was turned…you never can tell!

An interiror wall in Vashisht

Chris and Josie's guesthouse in Vashish. Bortusk Leer

Text and photos courtesy of © BortuskLeer

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