All posts tagged: Terror161

MARTHA: A Picture Story. Shots from the Premiere and Movie Review

MARTHA: A Picture Story. Shots from the Premiere and Movie Review

First things first – Full disclosure; we are featured in the movie and we are close friends with both the subject of the doc and the director and we first suggested to the director that she was the perfect candidate to make a film about Martha Cooper. Now that we have that out of the way here are a number of shots from the premiere and our review of the movie:

Martha Cooper. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Martha: A Picture Story had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this Thursday to an enthusiastic crowd that included big graffiti, Street Art, international press and film industry names, to see the highly anticipated documentary about the venerable photographer Martha Cooper by the Sydney director Selina Miles.

Selina Miles & Martha Cooper. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Included in the crowd were old-skool New Yorkers and a large international contingent of folks like Henry Chalfant, Doze Green, Skeme, Lee Quinones, Soten1, Carlos Mare 139, Terror 161, Kane, Dink (Baltimore), Okuda San Miguel (Spain), Faith47 (Los Angeles), Mantra (France), 1UP Crew (Germany), Nika Kramer (Germany), Roger Gastman, Lars Pederson (Denmark), Ian Cox (UK), Dean Moses… and many more. Those who didn’t attend this screening are having the opportunity to see it at three more sold-out evenings over the course of the festival.

Steven P. Harrington, Martha Cooper, and Jaime Rojo. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

The electricity was in the air as Director Miles and producer Daniel Joyce along with the just-arrived Australian members of the “Martha” crew looked for their seats in the Village East Cinema. After a brief introduction by Miles, who told the audience that the film had been a great pleasure to make, the curtain went up to reveal the mother of the superstar art twins Os Gemeos on the big screen. She is sitting at her kitchen table in São Paulo remarking how her boys used to draw on everything, including fruit, and how Cooper and Chalfant’s 1984 book “Subway Art” changed their lives forever. With their story as a backbone for the film, the theme of personal transformation is repeated in a hundred large and small ways for the next hour and twenty minutes.

Martha Cooper with Faith47. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Spanning nearly all of Ms. Cooper’s 75 years, including a photo at age 3 with a camera in hand from her father Ben and uncle Harry’s Baltimore camera store, “Martha” successfully identifies the underlying driving forces, the unique personality and intellectual traits, and the milestones that propelled the photographer across scenes, subcultures, cities, and continents.

While Cooper is most often identified as a crucial documentarian of the 1970s and early 1980s graffiti-writing scene in New York, with “Subway Art” considered a global holy book of preservation that inspired thousands of artists worldwide, the film is judiciously clear that the photographer has had an anthropologists’ zeal for documenting much more over her multi-decade career.

Okuda San Miguel being interviewed by Susanne Lingemann for German TV ZDF. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

During and after the film you don’t know who you are most impressed with – the director, Martha, the communities touched, the history and stories that are preserved with such care and respect.

“Martha” captures important and character-molding biographical events  – like her work in the Peace Corps in Thailand, a subsequent motorcycle trip from there to the UK, her investigations of tattoo techniques in Tokyo, and her work as the first “girl” photographer at the New York Post. During the film’s nearly magical depiction of Cooper’s first meeting with New York graffiti king Dondi, those in the audience who knew this story broke out into spontaneous applause.

The film isn’t shy about the low points and struggles of Cooper, like her repeated attempts to work at National Geographic, the continuous rejections of “Subway Art” by publishers, her loss of money by its initial disappointing sales, and the high-sniffing artworld classism of a clueless gallerist who unsuccessfully tries to dash her hopes of being recognized for her truest and most human work.

Jaime Rojo being interviewed by Susanne Lingemann for German TV ZDF. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

You are gently led to take that journey with great interest as well, finally arriving at the mid-2000s European promotional tour for her book Hip Hop Files where Cooper suddenly realizes the impact that “Subway Art” has had on graffiti artists worldwide. Building on that enthusiastic response from new-found fans of her work she jumps back into street photography just as the Street Art scene is exploding.

Despite such a complex story Miles is able to coax out many significant truths in character development along with their infinite shadings, facts and nuances of the story.

Susanne Lingemann from German TV ZDF with Martha Cooper. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

With interviews, testimonials, unseen home footage from Cooper’s ex-husband and excerpts from soft-news TV stories of the 1980s, viewers may gain a greater understanding of the sacrifice, dogged determination, and her sixth sense for capturing images that the subject exhibits. Keeping a quick pace aided by a smart soundtrack, pertinent graphic elements, and sharp editing, Miles finds ingenious ways to educate us about the various milieu Cooper worked with and the vicissitudes she had to overcome.

The additional layers of visual language infuse so many aspects of the story – a collaging of words, music, precise editing, intuitive pairings and lyrical, witty storytelling that lands in a pitch-perfect way.

Featured subject in the film, former New York Post and National Geographic photo editor Susan Welchman displaying her ticket. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

In the end you realize Coopers’ underlying credo of taking pictures is about shedding light on people, their lives, their amazing ingenuity in the face of difficulty, their ability to rise above their environment as well as the artists techniques of art-making.

Careful observers will also be struck by the scenes of quiet moments that remain still for a few seconds to reveal deeper feeling – a remarkable glimpse of the filmmaker’s intuitive grasp of the life path and its trials. It’s those in-between places of luminosity that are revelatory, and the human gestures she lets the camera linger upon allow the viewer to write small essays inside their head, bearing witness.

Susan Welchman, Martha Cooper, and Kathryn Mikesell at the after-party. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

With gratitude and respect to Director Miles and her whole film crew whom have worked thousands of hours over the past 2 and half years, we know that the graffiti/Street Art/photography scenes have been given a huge gift; almost as big a gift as Martha herself.

Martha Cooper stands up to take a cell phone shot of Director Selina Miles as she introduces the premiere film about Cooper. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)
Kathryn Mikesell, Martha Cooper and Jaime Rojo. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)
DJ Jazzy Jay at the after-party performs in front a 1982 photo Ms. Cooper took of him with his audience. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Steven P. Harrington, Youri Mantra, Martha Cooper, and Jay Edlin (Terror 161) at the after-party. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Martha…where are you going next? MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Selina Miles and producer Daniel Joyce with the film’s crew along with artists, friends featured in the film. Red carpet photo call. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)
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Aryz Says ‘Adios’ to 2017 in his Hometown of Cardedeu, Spain.

Aryz Says ‘Adios’ to 2017 in his Hometown of Cardedeu, Spain.

Today on BSA we have the photographer Fer Alcala to share his experiences and photos as he was capturing the newest mural from Aryz in his hometown in Spain at the very end of the year.


– by Fer Alcala

La cultura, by Aryz

– or, “How I almost missed the chance of shooting part of the creative process of this wall by one of the top names in the business 40 minutes away from my home.”

Aryz. Cardedeu, Spain. (photo @ Fer Alcalá)

So, yes: this is how stupid I can get. After spending a big part of the day in the Cardedeu (the hometown of the artist Aryz) area, I had to find out after returning to my home. It was thanks to a friend, the artist Elbi Elem, who told me that Aryz was painting his, let’s say, ‘1st official large scale mural’ in his village, 10 minutes away from the place I had had lunch at that day. This is what happens when you are a digital dummy and the obsolescence of the iOS on your shitty mobile phone doesn’t allow you to see the Stories and Moments on Instagram.

I felt so embarrassed that I decided to go there the next day in order to calm my feelings of guilt down. First time in the morning. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit for dramatic purposes, but trust me: I felt like a complete dumb ass.

Aryz. Cardedeu, Spain. (photo @ Fer Alcalá)

Anyone who shows a minimum of interest about street art or, as the main character of these lines prefers, about contemporary muralism, knows who Aryz is. So, I’m not here to write a deep essay about his prolific and outstanding work all over the world. I prefer to share with whoever will be reading this my personal experience with the artist throughout these last years.

I have to say that, although I admire Aryz’ work, we aren’t friends or anything. I think that maybe we have met personally 4 or 5 times in our whole lives and this was the first time that I had the chance of taking some shots of him at work. Once said that, I’ve been lucky enough to visit his studio twice, due to 2 principal reasons: the mediation duties of common friend Anna Cammany (aka @troballola), and Aryz’ hospitality. One of these occasions was really special for me as we were accompanied by Martha Cooper and Jay ‘Terror161’ Edlin, two legends of the photography and the graffiti world, who were in town as lecturers for the Openwalls Conferences 2015 edition.

Aryz. Cardedeu, Spain. (photo @ Fer Alcalá)

Not being a mitoman, I’ve asked for only 2 autographs in my whole life: to Danish pro skater Nicky Guerrero when I was fourteen and to Martha Cooper, after I was already a grown man. So, yes: maybe that moment was kind of unforgettable for me. And, what can I say? You don’t everyday have the chance to be shooting in an abandoned factory in the middle of nowhere with friends and with artists who you have admired since years ago.

Plus I enjoyed witnessing the nice meeting between Martha, Jay & Aryz at his wonderful cabinet of curiosities in the presence of the artist’s mum. I have pics of this day that won’t be ever published as I think this was a private moment that should remain just in the attendants’ hearts and memories. And I got a couple of good stories in my pocket from that day too.

Aryz. Cardedeu, Spain. (photo @ Fer Alcalá)

One of the reasons why I’m explaining all this, it’s that I want to emphasize the fact that we are speaking not only about a great artist, but also about a great human being who trusted me and was super generous with me even when he almost didn’t know me at all. And, excuse me: you can be the greatest artist on earth, but if you suck as a person, my interest is gone. Well, as I’ve said, this isn’t the case.

Going back to my visit to Cardedeu, it was easy to find the wall after some searching on the Internet. What I wasn’t expecting was that Aryz was already there giving the last touches to the piece. Yes: both of us are early risers. So, after saying ‘hi’ and some small talk, I started to shoot from the ground. I liked the location of the wall, but speaking from a ‘photography’ point of view, it was a pain in the ass for taking pics because of the fences, the signs, the lights… At least, there were no shadows.

Aryz. Cardedeu, Spain. (photo @ Fer Alcalá)

I asked a neighbor from the building in front of the piece if she had a good angle of the mural from her balcony. The answer was negative, but she kindly offered to me the keys of the rooftop. This was like pure gold for me. Gracias Eulalia.

As it always is, it was nice being up there. The view was great and I had a nice perspective of Cardedeu’s landscape. You could see how Aryz’ color selection was harmoniously matching the surroundings, creating a beautiful composition. A pedestrian asked the artist about the meaning of the piece. Aryz answered that his work is not about that. He almost demanded that the viewer make a personal effort about thinking and getting his own conclusions.

Aryz. Cardedeu, Spain. (photo @ Fer Alcalá)

And I agree with that. As he has said in the past, his dialogue is not with the citizens: it’s with the wall, the building, the architecture, and the city… We are just spectators of his artwork, but he is not working for us. Although there can be a deep meaning and sense behind his most important works, maybe we should get involved. And this is challenging and enjoyable.

There’s this very well known saying here in Spain that says: ‘Nadie es profeta en su tierra’ (ed. note; roughly, ‘no man is a profit in his own land’). Well, when Jesus Christ supposedly said that, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking about Aryz.

Aryz. Cardedeu, Spain. (photo @ Fer Alcalá)

Aryz. Cardedeu, Spain. (photo @ Fer Alcalá)

Aryz. Cardedeu, Spain. (photo @ Fer Alcalá)

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NYC Subway Cars: From Rolling Canvasses to Rolling Billboards

NYC Subway Cars: From Rolling Canvasses to Rolling Billboards

“If I had my way, I wouldn’t put in dogs, but wolves,” New York mayor Ed Koch suggested famously as a facetious proposal for loosing ferocious animals on graffiti writers in the train yards in the early 1980s.  For Koch and his two predecessors the graffiti on trains was a searingly hot focal point, a visual affront to citizens, an aesthetic plague upon the populous. It created a discomforting atmosphere described by the New York Times editorial board as evidence of “criminality and contempt for the public”.[note]Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City, Jonathan M. Soffer.[/note] The fight against this particular blight began in earnest and by decade’s end all 5,000 or so subway cars had become clean and the famed era of graffiti on trains was terminated.

Twenty-five years later, whole-car graffiti trains are back in New York. Visually bombed with color and stylized typography top to bottom, inside and outside, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is pocketing some handsome fees for it. It is not aerosol anymore, rather the eye popping subway skin is made from enormous adhesive printed sheets that are laser cut to perfectly fit every single surface of a train car. Naturally, you won’t have to pay the newly hiked subway fare to see these whole-car creations – you can see them on elevated tracks all over the city.

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 Photo © Jaime Rojo

The irony doesn’t stop there; Right now the MTA is running a full-car advertisement for a “Street Art” series that appears on cable, featuring images of fleet-footed youth with art supplies in hand running down a Brooklyn sidewalk as if escaping from the police. “Run. Paint.”

“Of course I chuckle every time I see those ad-covered cars,” says Martha Cooper, the ethnographer and photographer perhaps best known for shooting images of artists like Lee Quinones and Dondi as they painted huge pieces in the train yards in the 1970s and 80s.  Together with Henry Chalfant, Cooper published what became a photographic holy book for generations of graff writers and Street Artists worldwide, a compendium of full-car aerosol painted pieces from New York’s graffiti train era entitled Subway Art.  When it comes to using trains for advertising, Cooper doesn’t appear offended, but rather gives credit for the idea to the youth who pioneered the technique of using trains as a self-promotional method, and she’s only puzzled about why this didn’t happen earlier.

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Art vs. Transit (the “vs.” already scrubbed off the window), by Duro, Shy and Kos 207. 1982. © Martha Cooper

“Graffiti writers instinctively understood how advertising could reach the most people in NYC,” she says, “It’s taken 45 years for the MTA and ad agencies to realize what a good idea top-to-bottom rolling ads are, on trucks as well as on the subway. They are finally catching on and catching up but they would probably be the last to admit it. The rest of us can just stand back and shake our heads in amusement.”

But some others are less ready to accept the irony of a Street Art program being promoted on train cars, including guys who were those same vilified/celebrated teens painting trains at a time when penalties were harsh and the dogs were real.

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 Photo © Jaime Rojo

“What a complete bite and contradiction on the MTA’s part,” says artist Lee Quiñones, perhaps best known for having painted as many as 125 entire cars by hand in the 1970s, as well as a more formal art career that followed. His fully painted cars as canvases included characters, scenes, and narratives addressing topical subjects like the crime rate, the cold war, poverty, and environmentalism – as well as more existential teen poetry about love and family. For Quiñones, who once called the #5 subway line the “Rolling MoMA” and who today is a fine artist with a successful studio practice, the paradox is obvious. “It exposes how certain things under the guidance of capital can be blatantly suggested and ingested within the same context.”

Jayson Edlin, author of Graffiti 365, is considered by many as a go-to source of New York graffiti and its history, and was himself a train writer under the names J.Son and Terror 161. “The advertising versus art argument regarding graffiti and street art speaks to money, power and control. Societal hypocrisy is nothing new. As a former subway painter, I am not surprised by seeing an ad for a Street Art TV show plastered across a NYC subway car,” he says. Then he pitches us a vision that would undoubtedly make many people’s brain hurt. “I’m certain that the MTA would sanction an ad for Subway Art with the Marty Cooper photo of Dondi painting a train for the right sum.” Imagine what that might look like.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-740-SubwayArt-Cover-Cooper-Chalfant

Not so fast, the MTA would not wish you to think they are endorsing illegal graffiti or street art, according to an MTA spokesperson recently interviewed by Bucky Turco for the website Animal. The MTA walked a thin line when determining whether they should accept advertising for a show celebrating Street Art, however contrived, and decided that it was okay to take the money this time. “On the one hand,” says the spokesman, “our ad standards prohibit anything that could be construed as actual graffiti, and we also prohibit promoting illegal activity. On the other hand, the typeface of the ad itself was not graffiti-style, and our research concluded that everything the show depicts is done legally with permission.” So we’ll take the MTA at it’s word, the show doesn’t explicitly violate standards for advertising, so the campaign was approved.

brooklyn-street-art-subway-graffiiti-jaime-rojo-02-15-web-2

 Photo © Jaime Rojo

It’s true, not all Street Art is illegal per se, but by definition most people would say that real graffiti must be. However it may take a lawyer to explain how this rationalization of advertising a show like this works, or at least to help sort the legalities from the ethics and perceptions. So, to recap, decades ago it was a crime to write graffiti on the subways. Today if you have enough money and the right hand-style with your lettering you can use your creativity to mark up as many cars as you like.  If not, your art-making efforts will be swiftly eradicated. This past year photographer Jaime Rojo just happened to catch some non-commercial art on trains that pulled into stations and he said it was just as surprising to see the real stuff as it is the commercial facsimile of it. Of course the D.I.Y. never made it out of the train yards again.

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Actual graffiti on a New York train from DVONE, circa 2014. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Alison Young, Professor of Criminology at the University of Melbourne in Australia and author of Law, Crime and the Urban Imagination has studied the interaction of art, advertising, and the law specifically as it pertains to Street Art around the world. She points to a radical difference in how these two forms of visual communication are regarded and approached. “The full-car advertisement for the television program is certainly the most obvious demonstration of how companies (such as the MTA) respond differently to advertising than to street art/graffiti.

“In some ways,” Young continues, “the MTA may not even have noticed the irony of covering a train car with an advert for an activity related to graffiti, given the time and money spent on eradicating images from train cars. Or, if I was being really cynical, it’s also possible to speculate that the MTA sees that irony all too clearly and is using this as an opportunity to tell graffiti writers that unsanctioned art is never acceptable, but sanctioned art (in the form of an advert or in the form of the art featured on the show) is all that we are permitted to see. Is that too unlikely? I don’t know.”

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DVONE. Graffiti circa 2014. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A number of folks whom we talked to mentioned that this is not the first time a graffiti artist has completely covered subway cars with advertisements, as the artist KAWS was treated to a full campaign when he partnered with Macy’s a couple of years ago. While he has had a successful commercial career with fine art, toys and a variety of products, his roots are as a graffiti writer, has done some freight painting of his own, and his style still reflects it. Not every impressionable disaffected youth would necessarily make that association nor interpret it as an encouragement to hit up a train with your own aerosol bubble tag. Still, those KAWS cars looked a lot like graffiti trains, with logos as tags, as in seen in this video from Fresh Paint NYC.

We leave the last observations to the witty and insightful Dr. Rafael Schacter, anthropologist, curator, and author of The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti, who says the obvious story is, well, obvious, but don’t miss the elephant in the subway car.

“The irony and incongruity of it though? Of course. It is ridiculous. It is absurd. A graffiti-banning MTA promoting a graffiti TV show and allowing a second-rate aping of the original whole-trains of the ‘70s,” he says derisively. But then he turns frank and even wistful in his final summary.

“But, in actual fact, I LOVE these moments. I love them as they so perfectly illustrate the public secret of our public sphere: That consumption wins. That the highest bidder is the true King. It’s nothing new. It’s nothing surprising but it is the revelation of the public secret that can actually come to raise awareness of that secret itself – That the public sphere has come to be a space not for conversation but for commerce. That the public sphere has become a place not for interpersonal communication but for capital and consumption,” says Schacter.

“These moments can, I hope, make us sit up and realize this revelation because it is thrown so directly in our faces. Then, hopefully, this can make us make a change. Perhaps a tiny bit of a rose-tinted position to take, but I really do hope so.”

Rose-tinted views will probably overruled by the green-tinted ones in this case, but we understand the sentiment. But many New York subway riders will not likely soon get over the irony.

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Marvel graffiti circa 2014. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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This article is also published on The Huffington Post

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Carmichael Gallery Presents: Martha Cooper “Remix” (Culver City, CA)

Martha Cooper
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Photographs by Martha Cooper

with

Original remixes of these photographs in a range of media by Aeon, John Ahearn, Aiko, Bio, Nicer & B-Gee, Blade, Blanco, Mark Bode, Burning Candy, Victor Castillo, Cey, Cekis, Claw, Cosbe, Crash, Dabs & Myla, Anton van Dalen, Daze, Dearraindrop, Jane Dickson, Dr. Revolt, Shepard Fairey, Faust, Flying Fortress, Freedom, Fumakaka, Futura, Gaia, Grotesk, Logan Hicks, How & Nosm, LA II, Lady Pink, Anthony Lister, The London Police, Mare 139, Barry McGee, Nazza Stencil, Nunca, José Parlá, Quik, Lee Quinones, Kenny Scharf, Sharp, Skewville, Chris Stain, Subway Art History, Swoon, T-Kid, Terror161 and more.

Carmichael Gallery

5795 Washington Blvd

Culver City, CA 90232

April 9 – May 7, 2011

Opening Reception: Saturday, April 9, 6-8pm

For Immediate Release:

Carmichael Gallery is pleased to announce Martha Cooper: Remix, an expansive group show featuring highlights from Martha Cooper’s photographic archive and works by over 50 artists who have created their own unique interpretations of her iconic, historically significant imagery. There will be an opening reception for the exhibition on Saturday, April 9 from 6 to 8pm with Martha Cooper and several of the participating artists in attendance. The exhibition will run through May 7, 2011.

Martha Cooper, Photographer of Art on the Streets for Six Decades

Written by Steven P. Harrington, this article is featured in tasj vol ii – issue v.

The daughter of a Baltimore camera store owner, Martha Cooper’s romance with photography began in the 1940s when bobby-soxers and penny loafers were the sign of edgy youth culture. Her dad, an amateur photographer himself, gave his small girl a camera and together they hit the streets in search of adventure. “Yeah, my father used to take me out and we would take pictures. That’s what I thought photography was…we were just looking for pictures,” she recalls. Six decades later, Cooper is still looking for pictures; meanwhile, many works from her archive are cited as pivotal recordings of the birth of hip-hop culture and its plastic art form, graffiti.
During the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, Cooper earned a Bachelors of Art degree in Iowa, taught English for the Peace Corps in Thailand and rode a motorcycle from Bangkok to obtain a graduate degree at Oxford. As a freelancer and staff photographer in Japan, Maryland and Rhode Island in the early 1970s she moved to the media and art center of New York City to catch bigger fish. Landing a job on the staff of The New York Post in 1977, she discovered that the resistant and competitive boys club of photographers there were reluctant to countenance this scrappy young woman shooting hard news stories and Studio 54 celebrities.
Hungry for discovery, Cooper would spend her time to and from assignments in bombed-out neighborhoods, where she took pictures of kids entertaining themselves with games they devised on the street, often with the humblest of materials. It was during one of those trips that she stumbled on graffiti and the members of its community. She met a young boy who suggested she photograph the work she was seeing, then showed her a stylized drawing of his name, or piece, in his notebook.
Then he asked her if she wanted to meet “The King”.
Following this lead to Brooklyn, Cooper met Dondi, the citywide-famous graffiti writer who kept a published photo of hers in his black book because its background contained one of his graffiti throw-ups. Cooper quickly realized that she had stumbled into a lively street culture and became an avid student of the teen writers she befriended. By the time she took her last news picture for the New York Post in 1980, her primary desire was to capture as many pieces, tags, and trains as she possibly could find. Today, she remarks on her near-obsessive devotion to documenting New York’s graffiti: waking before dawn to hit the street, waiting five hours for a freshly painted #2 train to pass with the sun at her back and countless secret adventures with vandals in train yards, evading transit police in order to pursue a shot.
Joining efforts with fellow graffiti photographer, Henry Chalfant, Cooper proposed putting together a book of their documentation. The pair endured multiple rejections from publishers while lugging around a big “dummy” book with their pictures glued to the pages. Eventually, however, they landed a deal and Subway Art was published in 1984. Although not an immediate success, it came to sell half a million copies and established itself as a holy book for fans, aspiring artists and art historians worldwide. By the time the 25th anniversary edition was published in 2009, generations of graffiti and street artists had been influenced by it and the hip-hop culture Cooper and Chalfant had captured had gone global.

In the intervening years, Martha Cooper never stopped shooting. Her love of serendipity on the street and the exploration of cultures led her to publish thousands of photos in books such as R.I.P.: Memorial Wall Art, Hip Hop Files 1979-1984, We B*Girlz, Street Play, New York State of Mind, Tag Town, Going Postal, and Name Tagging. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide and published in numerous magazines including National Geographic, Natural History, and Vibe. While she is still shooting graffiti, street art and the occasional break dance competition today, Cooper’s current project involves documenting people and events in Sowebo, a drug-riddled neighborhood in her birthplace of Baltimore.

Steven P. Harrington is editor-in-chief of BrooklynStreetArt.com and co-author (with Jaime Rojo) of Brooklyn Street Art and Street Art New York, both by Prestel Publishing. He and Jaime Rojo are also contributing writers on street art for The Huffington Post.

About Carmichael Gallery:

Founded in 2007 by husband and wife team Seth and Elisa Carmichael, Carmichael Gallery focuses on a select group of artists breaking ground in painting, mixed media, photography and sculpture. Their annual program consists of a series of solo and group exhibitions that document the progress of these artists.

For information on current, past and upcoming shows, visit www.carmichaelgallery.com. For additional information and press materials on this show, please contact the gallery at art@carmichaelgallery.com and

+1 323 939 0600 and Andi Baker at andi@carmichaelgallery.com.

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Martha Cooper, Photographer of Art on the Streets for Six Decades

Martha Cooper landed in LA yesterday and will spend the next week installing her photos and their remixed new versions beside them, even flanking hers like stereo speakers. Since the press release has gone out we thought we’d share with you the bio written by Steven P. Harrington and the promo photo by Jaime Rojo which will appear in a special issue of The Art Street Journal dedicated entirely to her to come out this week.

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Martha and Pablo at home, with a portrait of her sitting on a train car with camera in hand painted by Os Gemeos overlooking the scene. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Martha Cooper, Photographer of Art on the Streets for Six Decades

Written by Steven P. Harrington, this article is featured in The Art Street Journal vol ii – issue v.

The daughter of a Baltimore camera store owner, Martha Cooper’s romance with photography began in the 1940s when bobby-soxers and penny loafers were the sign of edgy youth culture. Her dad, an amateur photographer himself, gave his small girl a camera and together they hit the streets in search of adventure. “Yeah, my father used to take me out and we would take pictures. That’s what I thought photography was…we were just looking for pictures,” she recalls. Six decades later, Cooper is still looking for pictures; meanwhile, many works from her archive are cited as pivotal recordings of the birth of hip-hop culture and its plastic art form, graffiti.

During the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, Cooper earned a Bachelors of Art degree in Iowa, taught English for the Peace Corps in Thailand and rode a motorcycle from Bangkok to obtain a graduate degree at Oxford. As a freelancer and staff photographer in Japan, Maryland and Rhode Island in the early 1970s she moved to the media and art center of New York City to catch bigger fish. Landing a job on the staff of The New York Post in 1977, she discovered that the resistant and competitive boys club of photographers there were reluctant to countenance this scrappy young woman shooting hard news stories and Studio 54 celebrities.

Hungry for discovery, Cooper would spend her time to and from assignments in bombed-out neighborhoods, where she took pictures of kids entertaining themselves with games they devised on the street, often with the humblest of materials. It was during one of those trips that she stumbled on graffiti and the members of its community. She met a young boy who suggested she photograph the work she was seeing, then showed her a stylized drawing of his name, or piece, in his notebook.

Then he asked her if she wanted to meet “The King”.

Following this lead to Brooklyn, Cooper met Dondi, the citywide-famous graffiti writer who kept a published photo of hers in his black book because its background contained one of his graffiti throw-ups. Cooper quickly realized that she had stumbled into a lively street culture and became an avid student of the teen writers she befriended. By the time she took her last news picture for the New York Post in 1980, her primary desire was to capture as many pieces, tags, and trains as she possibly could find. Today, she remarks on her near-obsessive devotion to documenting New York’s graffiti: waking before dawn to hit the street, waiting five hours for a freshly painted #2 train to pass with the sun at her back and countless secret adventures with vandals in train yards, evading transit police in order to pursue a shot.

Joining efforts with fellow graffiti photographer, Henry Chalfant, Cooper proposed putting together a book of their documentation. The pair endured multiple rejections from publishers while lugging around a big “dummy” book with their pictures glued to the pages. Eventually, however, they landed a deal and Subway Art was published in 1984. Although not an immediate success, it came to sell half a million copies and established itself as a holy book for fans, aspiring artists and art historians worldwide.

By the time the 25th anniversary edition was published in 2009, generations of graffiti and street artists had been influenced by it and the hip-hop culture Cooper and Chalfant had captured had gone global.

In the intervening years, Martha Cooper never stopped shooting. Her love of serendipity on the street and the exploration of cultures led her to publish thousands of photos in books such as R.I.P.: Memorial Wall Art, Hip Hop Files 1979-1984, We B*Girlz, Street Play, New York State of Mind, Tag Town, Going Postal, and Name Tagging. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide and published in numerous magazines including National Geographic, Natural History, and Vibe. While she is still shooting graffiti, street art and the occasional break dance competition today, Cooper’s current project involves documenting people and events in Sowebo, a drug-riddled neighborhood in her birthplace of Baltimore.

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Steven P. Harrington is editor-in-chief of BrooklynStreetArt.com and co-author (with Jaime Rojo) of Brooklyn Street Art and Street Art New York, both by Prestel Publishing. He and Jaime Rojo are also contributing writers on street art for The Huffington Post.

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Photographs by Martha Cooper

Martha Cooper ; Remix

with

Original remixes of these photographs in a range of media by Aeon, John Ahearn, Aiko, Bio, Nicer & B-Gee, Blade, Blanco, Mark Bode, Burning Candy, Victor Castillo, Cey, Cekis, Claw, Cosbe, Crash, Dabs & Myla, Anton van Dalen, Daze, Dearraindrop, Jane Dickson, Dr. Revolt, Shepard Fairey, Faust, Flying Fortress, Freedom, Fumakaka, Futura, Gaia, Grotesk, Logan Hicks, How & Nosm, LA II, Lady Pink, Anthony Lister, The London Police, Mare 139, Barry McGee, Nazza Stencil, Nunca, José Parlá, Quik, Lee Quinones, Kenny Scharf, Sharp, Skewville, Chris Stain, Subway Art History, Swoon, T-Kid, Terror161 and more.

Carmichael Gallery is pleased to announce Martha Cooper: Remix, an expansive group show featuring highlights from Martha Cooper’s photographic archive and works by over 50 artists who have created their own unique interpretations of her iconic, historically significant imagery. There will be an opening reception for the exhibition on Saturday, April 9 from 6 to 8pm with Martha Cooper and several of the participating artists in attendance. The exhibition will run through May 7, 2011.

Click on the link below to read BSA interview with Martha Cooper:

http://www.brooklynstreetart.com/theblog/?p=19366

Carmichael Gallery

5795 Washington Blvd

Culver City, CA 90232

April 9 – May 7, 2011

Opening Reception: Saturday, April 9, 6-8pm



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Martha Cooper Remixed by Chris Stain and Billy Mode

More pictures and an interview here with Martha Cooper, Chris Stain, and Billy Mode about their new mural in Brooklyn and her new show next month. An inspiration to many graffiti and street artists, her photos are the basis for the Martha Cooper: Remix show at Carmichael and why she and Street Artist Aiko are wheat pasting 170 of them on a wall at the MOCA Art in the Streets exhibition opening the following Saturday.

When we were thinking of Martha’s work and and the concept of remix, it easily tapped into the span of her career; both the hip-hop analog dj technique of vinyl sampling as well as the digital cut-and-paste practice of modern mashup artists who are running the streets at the moment. While it is true that Ms. Cooper has captured a vast archive of history, it’s the high regard she has earned and the relationships she has engendered that are the reason that many of these Remix pieces are so powerful. An ethnographer by training and one of the most important photographers of street and street art culture for the last four decades, Ms. Cooper remains amazingly approachable and outright enthused about her photographs and the people in them, as if she had snapped them just yesterday. And she’s pleased to meet you.

Brooklyn Street Art: Of course the city has changed a lot in the last 35 years, and you probably have also. Can you share some insight with us about what the city was like for young photographers at that time?
Martha Cooper:
I first came to NY in 1975 and for me the city was a place of opportunity. Although it was the center of publishing at the time, there weren’t that many photographers. You could call up an editor and he (usually he) would pick up the phone. I loved roaming around neighborhoods looking for pictures. Graffiti was very much underground and few people even realized that what kids were writing on walls and trains was their name. My fascination with graffiti and b-boying grew out of photographing the unknown, of being allowed entry into a world that most adults didn’t know existed. The city was going bankrupt, very few security systems were in place, and both photographers and graffiti writers could get away with a lot.

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This original photo taken on Houston Street in NYC in 1978 from which Chris Stain borrowed the boy on the right. (photo courtesy of Ms. Cooper © Martha Cooper)

Brooklyn Street Art: You used to get up before dawn to catch a picture of a train, and sometimes wait 5 hours for the right shot. How did you pass the time when you had to wait for hours? Crossword puzzles?
Martha Cooper:
There was no down time. Trains were constantly going by in both directions. I had to stay alert watching for just the right painted car. All of the trains in my photos were moving.

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Brooklyn Street Art: So how did you get this idea for the theme for the show?
Martha Cooper: From you! (laughs) Over the years I’ve seen a lot of people using my photographs, authorized and unauthorized. The Carmichaels had asked me to do a solo show. After considering a number of options, I thought about what we had done, what you had done in that blog post. We talked about how artists had used my work and I thought, ‘Why don’t I do that?’ So that’s how it happened.

Brooklyn Street Art: Way before this show, Street Artists like Chris Stain and Shepard Fairey interpreted a number of your photographs in their work.
Martha Cooper:
Some photographers don’t want their photos to be used as a basis for someone else’s art but mostly I don’t mind. Both Chris and Shepard asked permission and in both cases the collaboration has had unexpected positive results, one of which was connecting with BSA.

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Brooklyn Street Art: And what have the responses been like so far?
Martha Cooper: I got a lot of really heart-warming responses from people I’ve been in touch with over the years. A lot of old-school and new-school artists and that made me feel good.

Brooklyn Street Art: Was it surprising to see the response?
Martha Cooper: I didn’t know what kind of response I was going to get. It was a little scary to write to people. I decided right in the beginning that I was going to write personal notes to everybody. So you guys and I talked about it and we made a list.

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Well, we tried to include old-school people you were very familiar with and a number of the new people that we were familiar with.
Martha Cooper: Yes, many of whom I had met. As it turns out, Miami was really a hotbed of street artists for me in the two years I went down there to shoot at Wynwood during Art Basel. And I would not have known some of them had it not been for Basel, so I have to thank Tony Goldman for that.

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: We’ve worked with Chris Stain before and we’ve been talking to him about doing another wall together. When we told him about this show he said “Why don’t I do a Martha piece?”
Martha Cooper:
I didn’t know who Chris Stain was. He contacted me a couple of years ago by email and just said that he had done work using my photographs. And a little dialogue developed and I went over to his studio in Brooklyn and I met him and it all worked out. He had already seen my books – he doesn’t take the exact picture, he takes parts of it.

Brooklyn Street Art: Yeah, he takes elements from your photographs and puts them in a different context. And that’s okay with you, it doesn’t offend you that he takes a portion of it?
Martha Cooper: No! It flatters me. You know, just the idea that people are looking at these pictures and liking them enough to base their own art on them, to me is flattering. Maybe not to everybody, but to me, I like it. Especially if you asked permission and at least you are acknowledging that you are borrowing work from me. Then it is fine.

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Chris and Bill take a break from the cold winds to talk about the piece (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So tell me about this piece and the boy in the picture. Do you remember when you first saw that picture?
Chris Stain:
The first time I saw that picture was in Martha’s book, “Street Play” because she gave me that book. The image is from her photograph. I had been working from other images of hers and I felt bad working from all these photographers work.  I thought, “Maybe I should just try to contact them and seeing if it’s okay if I work from them.” Because some of this stuff was going into paintings and I’m selling them and some of them are going into the streets, which doesn’t really matter.

So she was the first photographer I contacted. I was like, “Dear Ms. Cooper, I’m a big fan of yours, have been for a long time….” I talked about Subway Art, this and that. “…and I’m making paintings from some of your photographs and I was just wondering how you felt about it.”  She wrote me back and she was really into it and she was really cool with me using the images and we just kept going. She said, “I want a painting” and we met up one day and I gave her a painting and she gave me her book “New York State of Mind”. It went from there.

…..This whole wall, Billy and I did it in Miami but we’ve changed it up.

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode. The second day in the late afternoon begins (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: You did it for Wynwood? Primary Flight?
Chris: Yeah Primary Flight like three years ago. The train behind the boy says “Cries of the Ghetto” and I was told that it was originally a piece done by Dezz and Ski, and somebody else told me it was Shane. So I’m not sure who originally did it. But I’ve always liked that train a lot and I liked the words a lot so we just incorporated the whole thing together.

And tonight Bill re-did the lettering to bring it up to date a little bit and to add our own kind of twist to it and that’s what we got.

Brooklyn Street Art: So really it’s a collage of a few images.
Chris Stain: Actually it’s a collage of a photo that I took, a photo of Martha Coopers’, and I don’t know who originally photographed that “Cries of the Ghetto” train – I’m not really sure exactly who did it – whether it was Martha or Henry or somebody else but I’ve always liked it.

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: But thematically it is a good way to tie together her history ..
Chris: Yeah because it has the kids, which she was always photographing, together with the graffiti aspect that she’s really well known for.

Brooklyn Street Art: And then as a technique that you use, it brings the whole into the Street Art thing that is going on today.
Chris Stain: Yeah it’s bringing it up to what people are doing with street art now.

Brooklyn Street Art: How many pieces of hers have you done?
Chris Stain: I’ve probably done six or seven, with one that’s unfinished. I’ve done the one with Lady Pink holding the spray paint cans, the one with boy taking the tire off (or putting it on, I can’t tell), the one on the roof, the “Cries of the Ghetto”.

Billy Mode: You did that one with the kid holding the dove on the roof.

Chris Stain: Yeah the kid holding up the pigeon on the roof with one hand and there’s another one with the same boy where he’s holding two pigeons close together.

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A Chris Stain piece from a couple of years ago is based on a photograph by Martha Cooper (© Chris Stain)

Brooklyn Street Art: Oh yeah! Gaia is doing that one for this show!
Chris Stain:
He is?  Cool, that’s cool.
Brooklyn Street Art:
Well he loves doing birds, and feathers, and animals.
Chris Stain: Well Gaia’s a bird brain, that kid, so it makes sense.

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Chris Stain’s reference screenprint for the wall (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Billy Mode updated the letter style for this new piece. Here’s his sketch. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So Billy you changed the style of the lettering for “Cries of the Ghetto”. How would you characterize this new style?

Billy Mode: Windy style!  It’s loose, I don’t know. The original style in some ways it’s fitting to the imagery in that it is classic but I kind of see the “Cries of the Ghetto” as being more victorious now. I want those letters to be more celebratory and have more energy to them. A lot of my letter styles are, not necessarily flamboyant, but  they have a lot of flair, a lot of motion. I’m really just bringing in my own take on it.  There’s some influence from other people’s style, and I think that’s what happens in graffiti art is you get motivated by what other people are doing.

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Martha, your blog for 12oz Prophet is followed quite heavily. What is your favorite part about writing a blog?
Martha Cooper:
My favorite part is not the writing part! For me the best thing about blogging is that I get to make use of photos immediately instead of just archiving them for possible future use as I formerly did.

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Stickers are a really popular medium for expression on the street today and you point to Twist, Cost, and Revs as some of the first to use them. What makes stickers so interesting?
Martha Cooper:
Stickers are everywhere and yet they’re invisible to the uninitiated. Keeping your eyes peeled for stickers turns a walk down any street into a treasure hunt.  It’s a fun way to navigate a city.

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: After years of searching for perfect shots, what’s the Holy Grail now?
Martha Cooper:
Now I’m more worried about archiving my photos than taking them. I have enough pictures to last several lifetimes but I need to be able to find and access them.

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Your photographs of New York City youth and their art inspired the art of the next generations. What do you think is your legacy as a photographer of this pivotal period?
Martha Cooper:
In the pre-digital era, culture was disseminated by newspapers, magazines and books. I was part of a small corps of mostly freelance photographers, filmmakers, and journalists who documented early hip hop. By paying attention to subjects that might have been overlooked by mainstream media, we helped start and spread the art, dance, and music movements, now called hip hop, worldwide.

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Martha with her beloved 21 year old cat Pancho (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA…………..BSA…………..BSA……………

Martha Cooper : Remix
Featuring original photography from Martha Cooper and original remixes from Aeon, Anton van Dalen, Aiko, Barry McGee, Bio, Nicer, B-Gee, Blade, Blanco, BurningCandy Crew, Cey, Cekis, Chris Stain, Claw, Cosbe, Crash, Dabs & Myla, Daze, DEARRAINDROP, FAUST, Flying Fortress, Freedom, Fumakaka World Dominator, Futura, Gaia, How & Nosm, Jane Dickson, John Ahearn, Jose Parla, Kenny Scharf, LA II, Lady Pink, Lee Quinones, Anthony Lister, Logan Hicks, The London Police, Mark Bode, Nazzareno Stencil, Nunca, Mare, Quik, Evil Dr. Revolt, Shepard Fairey, Skewville, Subway Art History, Swoon, T-Kid, Terror161 and Victor Castillo.

Coming to Carmichael Gallery April 9.

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode “For Martha”

This weekend for BSA was a little bit of street art and graffiti history alchemy, transmuted by the presence of the lady we were all doing it for, Martha Cooper. To celebrate her birthday and the soon to be unveiled “Martha Cooper: Remix” show at Carmichael Gallery in Culver City, CA, Street Artists Chris Stain and Billy Mode sprayed aerosol into gold using imagery from her photography as base inspiration.

brooklyn-street-art-chris-stain-billy-mode-for-martha-jaime-rojo-03-11-web- 2Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

On this bitterly cold and windy Brooklyn night, the good humored boys were blowing through cans on tops of shaking ladders, continuously working against the elements for what Chris called “some xtreme painting”. While taking a break to warm up inside, everybody had some chocolate birthday cake and Martha flipped through Subway Art with Chris and Billy, answering questions and relating stories about what it was like for her to capture graffiti on trains in New York in the 1970s and what it’s like to see Street Artists like Chris Stain interpreting her photographs today. 

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode in the reflection of rainwater pooled  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Our first conversations in September ’09 with Martha for a posting on BSA that discussed art inspired by her work evolved into a 50-artist “remix” show featuring old-school graff writers and new guard street artists next month.

“I thought about what we had done, what you had done in that blog post. We talked about how artists had used my work and I thought, ‘Why don’t I do that?’ ,” Martha remarks on the formation of her show plan.

It has been a genuine honor to be a part of the process and to see the pieces coming in to Ms. Cooper’s studio for the show. It’s also been intoxicating to imagine the relationships and personal paths that have intersected in the pursuit of artistic expression. Each invited artist has a very personal take on the influence of her photographs from a 40 year span, and the directions they take the work are myriad. Watching Chris and Billy create this large scale wall tribute in Brooklyn reminds us of the interconnected worlds of Graffiti Art and Street Art and how Ms. Coopers’ photography has contributed to the history and artistry of both.

Here are a few shots by Jaime Rojo of the installation for a sneak peek of this great experience – with a full length feature interview with Martha and commentary about the nature of the image from Chris and many more images coming this week.

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Chris Stain and Billy Mode (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Photo © Jaime Rojo


BSA…………..BSA…………..BSA……………

Martha Cooper : Remix
Featuring original photography from Martha Cooper and original remixes from Aeon, Anton van Dalen, Aiko, Barry McGee, Bio, Nicer, B-Gee, Blade, Blanco, BurningCandy Crew, Cey, Cekis, Chris Stain, Claw, Cosbe, Crash, Dabs & Myla, Daze, DEARRAINDROP, FAUST, Flying Fortress, Freedom, Fumakaka World Dominator, Futura, Gaia, How & Nosm, Jane Dickson, John Ahearn, Jose Parla, Kenny Scharf, LA II, Lady Pink, Lee Quinones, Anthony Lister, Logan Hicks, The London Police, Mark Bode, Nazzareno Stencil, Nunca, Mare, Quik, Evil Dr. Revolt, Shepard Fairey, Skewville, Subway Art History, Swoon, T-Kid, Terror161 and Victor Castillo.

Coming to Carmichael Gallery April 9.

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Read more