What the hell just happened? Has it been a year? Or has it been 10 years? Or just one long nightmare/daymare? Or has it been 10 years? Did we already ask that?
In March 2020 we awoke to a world that was transforming before all of our eyes, yet we felt so cut-off from it and each other. The first days seem so long ago as we mark the first anniversary of the pandemic. Still, the initial shock of those days resonates in our chests so strongly that we confidently talk about a collective global trauma that has indelibly marked a generation.
From Stockholm to Mexico City to Barcelona to Bethlehem to New York to LA, BSA brought you street art that was responding with fear, derision, critique, hope, and humor to the never-static, always evolving barrage of Covid news. Stuck inside and afraid to expose ourselves to each other, we New Yorkers became accustomed to experiencing the outdoors only through our windows, connecting with neighbors we’ve never met who were also banging pots and pans or clapping and waving and yelling.
We listened to ambulances screaming past our windows every half hour or so during those first weeks, imagining the torn families, the terrified fellow New Yorkers now being rushed to the hospital and separated from their loved ones without a goodbye, gasping for air. We wondered if we would be next.
When we did go to the streets, they were empty – or nearly. In New York this was unheard of. In this bustling, noisy metropolis, we experienced a daily disconcerting quiet. That is, until the killing of George Floyd by cops finally pushed the anger/anxiety into the streets all summer.
The deadly hotspot of New York quelled, but the fires of Covid spread west, grabbing communities who thought they would avoid impact. At the same time, local, state, and national leaders fumbled and argued or famously callously ignored the desperation of citizens, occasionally admirably filling the shoes they were elected to occupy, often misstepping through no fault of their own.
We have no particular wisdom to offer you today beyond the obvious; this pandemic laid bare inequity, social and racial and class fault-lines, the shredded social net, the effect of institutional negligence, the ravages of 40 years of corporate privatization, and the power of community rising to the occasion to be in service to one another in ways that made us all more than proud.
Here are some of our favorite Covid-themed street art pieces from over the last year, a mere sampling of the artistic responses. Interspersed we paste screenshots of the daily events (via Wikipedia) in 2020 that shaped our lives, and our society.
We mourn the losses of family and friends and the broken hearts and minds in all of our communities. And we still believe in the power of art to heal and the power of love to balance our asymmetries.
As NYC went on complete lock-down and New Yorkers were ordered to remain in their homes in complete isolation the city’s residents organically joined together in a collective 7:00 pm ritual in support to the first responders. To the nurses, doctors, paramedics, trash collectors, public transportation, police, fire fighters, supermarkets workers etc…with their services and sacrifices we, the residents of this megalopolis were able to keep out hopes for brighter days to come.
Video of four former presidents urging people to “roll up your sleeve and do your part” and get the vaccine.
Black Lives Matter is rolling forward, quickly and unevenly, causing revelation, elevation, discomfort, and hopefully eventually liberty and freedom and equality.
Until then, big wheels keep on turning. Berliner’s Various and Gould are the duo behind these new vintage clip-art wonders that may recall the permutations of yesterday’s kaleidoscopes, although the images may be new. That’s the paradox baked in to the truisms that these perennial mixologists offer. Just think of these new powerful and ironic artworks as a mirror on events of this moment, with a through-line to the past.
The ephemeral qualities of art in
the streets are effectively contradicted by this site, and we have captured
much in the time we’ve been documenting the scene. Even, so, it is primarily
digital, our work, our gift to you. If you want something of more lasting
value, buy a book.
This year we had the pleasure of
reviewing a number of books, and even appeared in a few ourselves with text and
photos. If you’re looking for a lovely gift for the graffiti/Street Art/ Urban
Art/ Contemporary Urban Art fan in your life, have a look at this list – our Hot
List of 2019.
Futura 2000 “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.
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.
Hendrik Beirkich: “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.
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.
“Graffiti In New York Hardcore” by Freddy Alva
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.
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.
“Smashed: The Art Of The Sticker Combo” by I Will Not
SMASHED: The Art of the Sticker Combo by “I Will Not”
Anyone born after 1960, and that includes most sticker artists on the street today, has a positive association with the humble sticker. From “smiley” and “gold star” rewards stuck to the top of your grade-school class papers to scratch-n-sniff or puffy stickers to MAD magazine product parodies for Quacker Oats and Minute Lice, a lot of kids grew up with good feelings about slaps.
Over the past two decades a serious community of sticker designers, traders, artists, exhibitors and collectors has emerged – virtually assuring that public bathrooms in heavy metal/ punk / hip hop/ alternative music clubs will be covered top to bottom or ‘smashed’ with stickers. Adhesive equivalents of a business card or portfolio sample for many artists, musicians, philosophers, anarchists, and wise guys/gals, stickers are a quick and relatively inexpensive way to get your message out to the world.
“The Rap Quotes Coast To Coast” by Jay Shells
Jay Shells: The “Rap Quotes” Book
Context and placement are key to the success of Street Art. Jay Shells’s project, “The Rap Quotes” more than meets those standards. Indeed his project might be one of the most relevant examples of street art responding to a specific time and place in history that you’ll ever see.
We’ve been repping Jay Shells (Jason Shelowitz) for years since we
first found his text-based signage on Brooklyn streets in the oddest of
locations. Within a short time they began to make sense, and then brilliant sense – since they acted as a GPS for some of your favorite rap lyrics.
“What if somehow these lyrics existed visually, in the exact location mentioned?” he says to illustrate his original idea.
“Flowers” by Michael De Feo
Michael De Feo “FLOWERS”
Amid the detritus of the urban cityscape in decline, it is a welcome contrast to see a dandelion or wild daisy sprouting up from a crack in the sidewalk. Not only is it a reminder of the original inhabitants of the land you are standing on it is an ever-present truth that the plants and the trees and the animals will inherit the earth again, no matter what grand ideas you have for it.
The simplest symbol of nature in the layered debris of urban margins, and a decorative one, is the flower that Micheal De Feo has been “planting” on walls since the early 1990s. The practice has sustained him through many cities and travels abroad, introducing him to artists and fans and collectors, eventually pushing him into explorations of contemporary art.
“Street Art Las Vegas” by William Shea and Patrick Lai
“Street Art Las Vegas” Takes a Tour Beyond the Strip
Before there was a scene in Las Vegas, there was a scene in
Not in just the shimmering, drink slamming, dice rolling, pink-fur bikini with a rhinestone choker kind of way – that’s the real Las Vegas scene that you may think of – but in the urban art scene as well.
In this context, the Las Vegas graffiti/Street Art scene that existed in the 1990s and 2000s that led up to a massive “Meeting of Styles” in 2012 was lively and varied and leaned more toward lettering, handstyle, and characters. Later, beginning in 2013 with a music/art festival called “Life is Beautiful”, a select group of international Street Artists was paid by public and private interests to help the city tap into a growing interest in urban decoration with eye-popping murals.
“Stencillists / Pochoiristes” by Serge Louis
“Stencilists / Pochoiristes” Cuts Across the Street Scene Gallantly, with Serge Louis
Enthusiastic authors like Serge Louis can make Street Art sing, even in print. His new “Stencilists/Pochoiristes” is a finely illustrated hardcover of iconic images from the street. The carefully selected plates are placed within interviews in French and English.
The 17 stencillists whom he has selected are from a populated field of possibilities but he captures a fair range from his travels in Europe – with a few from the US to compliment them.
“Utility Writers” by MRKA
MRKA Gives High Marks to “Utility Writers” in Unique Street Tome
When academics and post-modern esoteric poets plunge into descriptions of graffiti sometimes they proffer colorful didactics and clever terminology like “mark-making” and “gestural” to describe the tagging practice. Conceptualist, graffiti writer, and multimedia artist MRKA takes a step toward the mundane and discovers a new kind of poetry with his “Utility Writers”.
“Stickers Vol 2: More Stuck Up Crap” by DB Burkeman
Stickers Vol. 2: More Stuck-Up Crap from DB Burkeman
In the Street Art continuum that presents itself to the passerby on city streets, the early practice of hand-drawn tags on stolen postal stickers eventually morphed into mass-produced slick runs of personal branding and large scale one-off hand rendered/cut paper pieces wheat-pasted with a brush. This story, ever-evolving, is more inclusive than some may think of when you talk generically about “slaps” on a door or on the base of a streetlamp in the city’s visual dialogue. For the book Stickers Vol 2, author DB Burkeman takes a wider survey of the practice, however, and in his second compendium, he goes where BSA has always followed the creative spirit; wherever it leads.
Dont Fret “Life Thus Far”
Dont Fret: “Life Thus Far”
Nothing to lose your head about, but you’ll be thrilled to hear about the long-anticipated release of the new monograph by the ingenious troublemaker and largely incognito Chicago Street Artist DONT FRET.
Emerging on the streets for a decade or so with painted wit and misshapen characters wheat-pasted where you least expect them, he’s the sharp observer and human humorist whose work is as brilliant as your cousin Marlene, as funny as Johnny at the funeral home, as handsome as the guys behind the counter at Publican Quality Meats.
maybe not that handsome.
Various & Gould “Permanently Improvised”
Various & Gould and a Collaged Human Future: “Permanently Improvised”
“Our early conceptions
about a future robot world were made from what we knew about automation and
mechanics. Thankfully the surrealists and Dadaists were there to help us with
flying ships made of tea pots and mystic, amiable metal helpers soldered and
screwed together with spare train pistons and kitchen implements. Our helpers
were all carefully oiled and pumping, marching in a mathematical concert
through dry-ice fog, propelling herky-jerky humanoids up the path to the
thoroughly modern world.
Do Rabotniki exist?
They are already here. It just took Various & Gould to remind us.”
~ Steven P. Harrington in his essay “A Mixed and Matched
Future-Past: Robotiniki” for “Permanently Improvised: 15 years of Urban
Print Collage” by Various & Gould
“Our early conceptions
about a future robot world were made from what we knew about automation and
mechanics. Thankfully the surrealists and Dadaists were there to help us with
flying ships made of tea pots and mystic, amiable metal helpers soldered and
screwed together with spare train pistons and kitchen implements. Our helpers
were all carefully oiled and pumping, marching in a mathematical concert
through dry-ice fog, propelling herky-jerky humanoids up the path to the
thoroughly modern world.
Do Rabotniki exist?
They are already here. It just took Various & Gould to remind us.”
~ Steven P. Harrington in his essay “A Mixed and Matched Future-Past: Robotiniki” for “Permanently Improvised: 15 years of Urban Print Collage” by Various & Gould
The Berlin based Street Art/fine art duo have released a colorful patchwork overview of 8 major campaigns they formulated for the street in the last decade and a half and present their practice in a series of analytical essays ranging by urban/art intellectuals, activists, and experts including Jan Kage, Steven P. Harrington, Toby Ashraf, Alison Young, Luis Muller Phillip-Shohn, Ilaria Hoppe, Anne Wizorek, Mohamed Amjahid, and an illuminating interview with the artists and Polina Soloveichik. The two open their kooky-cryptic inner fantasy world to the reader and to fans who have wondered how their idiosyncratic method works, and what a world of hybrid thought will produce in our future.
The medium sized hardcover book features instructive and illustrative images of their collaged works placed illegally in the streets, created in studio, presented in the gallery, and in one case, Papier-mâchéd upon public sculptures of Marx and Engels. Intelligent, inquisitive, infused with riddles, the work is delivered with sincere scholarship and humor – even during the process of creation, public interaction, and mid degradation due to the natural elements.
Professor Young discusses V&G’s broken glass abstracts in the context of law reforms that have used the “broken glass theory” as excuse to demean and exploit targeted populations, and Phillip-Sohn looks at their recent bus-stop installation campaign called “Broken Screens” and he observes a fragile technology that, when shattered and inert, “makes us all too tragically aware of how dependent we’ve become on these devices.”
Viewers get a greater appreciation of the tribe-like mentality humans possess just beneath the veneer of civility – the dry timber only waiting to be sparked into flame. The “Wanted Witches” campaign placed 13 portraits of people who are framed as modern pioneers in respect to social issues. Painting them with phosphorus and encouraging you to light a match on them takes public interaction beyond the realms we’re familiar with. The carefully planned and executed installation on city streets powerfully presents the saint-like sacrifice of people who push ahead of us, sometimes burned at the stake as witches – whether literally or perhaps via a hostile media and politicized rhetoric.
Up to their elbows in paste, ink, paper, and possibility, at the root of much of V&G’s work is an examination of identity; its malleability, its fluidity, even its perceived relevance in societal strata. The through-line in many projects is apparent in its meditation of our flexible selves: Identikit interchanges personalities and keywords to present tensions and examine associations. St. Nimmerlein mocks the arbitrary power of declaring sainthood with fictional personas who surely don’t deserve it. Face Time is a Dadaist study that combines the likenesses and features of many into implausible yet familiar glitch-humans. The aforementioned and early Rabotniki mixes and matches bodies, parts, genders, classes, and identities in a handmade heart-conscious way.
Spread over a decade and a half many of these projects overlap and recombine, creating and reflecting a global evolution we are undergoing- a convulsive re-examination of nearly everything and everyone. The question they may be asking is, “What is the sorting method we will use to recategorize our social and political groupings?”
techniques that are reassuringly un-digital, the stunning power of V&G’s
mission, even if subliminal, is its intuitive ability to explain our current
state. With subtle nods to robotics, androids, AI, identity politics and our
innate human creativity, the duo cannily constructs the present and predicts
the future, with a sense of humor that we are going to need.
“Catastrophe or salvation?” asks Various and Gould. “Being offline is scary and disastrous to most of us, however for some of us it might evoke the feeling of freedom through digital detox.”
A departure from their typical work and on-the-street installations, the Berlin duo are taking over advertising spaces and bus shelters with images of broken, smashed crystals of digital phones. The smart phone displays are transferred using the venerable intaglio print technique at a large scale, transforming the shattered smart phone displays into works of art.
“We love the beauty and the random and unique structure of the damaged displays,” they tell us of the new works that are illuminated from behind and contain none of the typical insignia or clever ad copy that evoke desire in consumers.
Perhaps more subtle than the activist messages of other hi-jackers of private ad space in public space, these images of brokenness are meant to draw our attention to the fragility of our devices as well as our tenuous connection to the ephemeral information we so greedily consume from them daily.
Not only are these broken screens, they indirectly could be interpreted as a critique of our broken social scenes that have been shattered and fragmented by our slavish reliance on these small glowing rectangles.
Part of a campaign they entitle simply, “Broken Screens” the two say we could stand to consider the power we have given to our smart phones – a charge which may seem obvious but we may actually overlook.
“It also discloses the flaws of these devices, which we use every day almost 24/7 and which we carry around on every occasion,” they say. “The project really attracts us, having raw destruction and dysfunction as a starting point.”
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce,” said the author of The Communist Manifesto, and to mark the bicentennial of the polarizing figure in Montevideo, Street Artists Various & Gould (Germany), Min8 (Uruguay) and Vince (France) created new artworks along the Avenida 8 de October and the walls of a former prison, now turned art space.
“The Goethe-Institut in cooperation with the French Embassy took the bicentenary of Karl Marx as an opportunity to discuss what remains of Marx today, and what we can learn from him,” says Katharina Ochse, the director of Goethe-Institut Uruguay. “The idea of inviting three artists from different countries was to obtain very different perspectives of people who have had very different experiences in their past with the ideas of Marx.”
Collectively the program is entitled „Después de Marx“, or “After Marx”
In Vince’s portrait of Marx you realize that the beard he sported is very modern and a bit bookish, perfect for the political theorist and revolutionary socialist of 2018. Supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement is a given, as you know he would be in the thick of thirty different socio-political initiatives on this eve of another economic crash. In another image of Marx posed with Engels, the two look like a couple of college bros with send-ups of modern novelty t-shirts.
The Berlin based art duo Various & Gould took an abstract decontructivist approach to the German philosopher, a free-associative recombining of elements of his physical and his theories.
“Marx does not appear as a complete portrait with us – only in the form of his typical beard,” says Various. “The rest of the head is made up of more abstract fragments and industrial elements such as a chimney, a gear and an actual still existing landmark in Montevideo, an old gasometer.”
Gould expands on their aesthetic answer to a complex character and symbol. “His profound scientific analysis of working conditions and production processes seems to be the core of his work. From this examination of relationship between man and work, we have been inspired to a metaphorical game with human elements and machine parts. And the infinity sign at the other end of the tunnel, in combination with gears, is a tongue-in-cheek symbol of never-ending work.”
For her part, Uruguayan graffiti writer and style experimentalist Min8, working comfortably here in her hometown in this South American capital, employed symbol and metaphor, combining the royal eagle and the lion, which she calls her personal totem.
The murals are not without detractors however. Photos posted on a Facebook page called “Uruguay Primero” (America First, anyone?) feature a handful of protesters rather respectfully taping handmade posters over the works during the night – each deriding the figure for causing deaths, creating concentration camps and other oppression of the poor.
A commenter on the page was in agreement with the protest, saying “After Marx left this capitalist system, which generated all that that the poster you put said it did. I congratulate you for the intervention.”
In street art terms, they may have “gone over” the works, but they didn’t permanently destroy them, while censuring the message. In an ironic turn of events, a video posted by the group was pulled down by Facebook – another form of censorship.
Presumably this kind of open discussion of ideas would appeal to those savoring the exchange of ideas and ideals, long after Marx.
You may catch a flash of Utopia here among heady concepts he entertains regarding iconization, scale, the elimination of tastemakers and gatekeepers, urban planning and architecture, art in the streets juxtaposed with art in galleries, or at the thumping of electronic DJs and darting lazers at the sweaty bumping house parties every weekend inside a cozy ex-storehouse for equipment.
The bitter will simply call this reinvigoration of a former metal works factory by Berlin’s Wandelism collective a tool of gentrification for its new real estate owner, but that kind of reductive criticism overlooks the cultural evolution that often is spirited by large multi-tentacled environments such as these.
Functioning as a large laboratory of experimentation that has entertained large crowds since late summer, Monumenta fosters thousands of conversations and strategies about art and culture and technology and the shifting geo-political future we will need to be prepared for it. It is almost as if the only preparation that we can hope to depend upon during increasing times of increasing complexity will be collective tribes like these, and ‘the intelligence of many’.
So here’s Jan Kuck melting wax and pouring it into light fixtures which, when turned on, will melt the wax again organically onto a pile of mirrors below – a curious kinectic sculptural installation you may call Wahnsinn, or madness. Kuck can easily mount his work at international art fairs, and he has – but this place affords an unquantifiable jolt of the D.I.Y. energy that powers artist spaces in big cities throughout Europe. Outside in the yard with his canvas leaning against the wall, Berlin’s Dino Richter is fastidious and attentive to detail with his sharp knife slicing through layers of tape, peeling off pieces to produce an intricately tight design evocative of circuit boards and ice cream pops.
Hosted on the post-industrial grounds of Pittlerwerke, 36,000 square meters of former machinery factories presents one sixth of that for a wide-ranging exhibition of urban, contemporary, graffiti, installation art, music, performance, talks and workshops. The spaces are generous, even holy in their scale; a conceptual big tent that gives room to a seriously considered eclecticism of artists and artworks that all somehow capture this moment before the abyss.
Here you’ll find one of the original Cologne “Neue Wilde” (Young Wild Ones) who also became known as a painter of the “Mülheimer Freiheit“, Hans Peter Adamski, his large abstractions only meters away from a fire extinguisher triptych by a current united graffiti power on city streets across Europe, the 1UP Crew. You’ll also see Berlin public/street art duo Various & Gould with an empty skin sculpture of Marx and Engels while Berlin art trio Innerfields creates machine guns of papier-mâché.
The Ghanaian born, Vienna based painter Amoako Boafo brings one of his elegant figures of masculinity to a large canvas while down the hall Señor Schnu reenacts a sculptured scene of police brutality with a teen in a hoody half-submerged underfoot in murky water. Don’t forget the one hundred artist suspended installation of monuments-of-many flanking Viktor Frešo’s naked giant “Angry Boy” who may unhappily remind you of a certain president.
How do you begin to connect the dots here? Perhaps it’s more about opening the spaces between them for yourself.
Monumenta is part exhibition and cultural fair; a ‘happening’ of sorts; a surprisingly ego-free environment for making art that you can immediately put on display and have conversations about with an eclectic mix of art fans and peers. The multi-member team of artists and producers and writers and media makers have created a nether space in transition from its industrial past to an inconclusive future, creating the kind of environment where artists are rather liberated from presupposition. It feels like the result of a positively reductive process that strips away artifice and reminds us what the raw creative process is – and where it may go if given room and respect.
Curators Denis Leo Hegic and Jan Fielder created the environment in the moment, on the spot, and with some audacity. They also smartly partnered with a selection of sparkling seers including contemporary gallerist and manager Isabel Bernheimer, visionary ringmaster at Urban Spree Pasqual Feucher, the storied collector Marc Omar, and Berlin Art Society’s Michelle Houston.
Uneven and happily unfinished, the collection of experiences launches a sense of unified eclecticism; a multi-storied series of Lo and Hi, fine art paintings, installations, sculpture, photography and electronic media that create a collective chorus of possibilities on the cusp of the next crash. In a odd world of flattening hierarchies and spirited inclusionary programming the two principal architects of this future vision suggest a re-ordering that brings the street directly into the cathedral and ivy covered hall.
BSA spoke with Monumenta curators Denis Leo Hegic and Jan Fiedler about some of their preferred ways of seeing art and the thrill of mastering an enormous iconic industrial space for exhibiting artworks from so many disciplines and perspectives.
Brooklyn Street Art:You spoke in your presentation during the Momenta Talks program about the concept of space and emotion when considering how to mount an exhibition. What part does emotion play in the experience of an art installation?
Jan Fiedler: Emotion is one of the central aspects while being confronted with art, and the perception of the artwork changes with the emotions you are going through while being in contact with said artwork. When you are sad, a painting or sculpture will trigger different feelings than when you are in a happy mood. Also the quality of an artwork really shows, and it may “force” you to feel a certain way.
It is interesting to observe how certain artworks can move people from different cultures, countries and backgrounds in the same way. It really shows that the language of art is universal. Especially the old masters can evoke these, mostly holy, emotions, even in faithless people. If we talk about these paintings, then we have to keep in mind that the eyes they were created for were the main source for evoking religious feeling. The ears were useless in Mass, since the sermon was held in Latin, a language most people did not understand, and the eyes went on a journey, trying to find a foundation for their faith in the art that was displayed in the churches. So they were painted in a certain way, to evoke exactly these feelings.
These paintings hang in museums today, robbed of their original context and surroundings, but still are powerful to trigger feelings. And that applies to every artwork you want to put on display in an art show. You have to dedicate a certain amount of time to every single piece, feeling the emotional impact it has on you and arrange it in a way that highlights its qualities in the best way. So an art exhibition is in the best case a carefully arranged Orchestra that takes the visitor on an emotional journey.
Brooklyn Street Art:“The Intelligence of Many” is a phrase that was central to the formation and execution of Monumenta. Is this a model for curation that we may see in the future?
Denis Leo Hegic: Yes. It is not only a model of curation, it is a model of cooperation in different fields in a successful modern society. The information, which we have to deal with in every aspect of life, has reached such a great level of complexity, that working TOGETHER in a selfless way and profiting from the intelligence of many individuals involved is the only concept that can bring a true (and important) change.
Even if the world does not appear like that in this moment, it is actually the case that the era of self-centered egomaniacs is over. And that´s the good news.
In terms of curating something which we call “Urban Art”, there is absolutely no other way of doing it. This form of art is rooted within and powered by (urban) communities and the spirit that arrives from them. One can fake this credibility just for a limited time. The intelligence of many is the counter concept to the stupidity of one.
Brooklyn Street Art:Can you talk about the cathedral quality of the initial hall at Monumenta? Jan Fiedler: The “Church”, as we call the entrance hall of Monumenta, is a nickname that has its origins in the unique architecture which resembles a Basilica – is a very special room, which from a curatorial point of view demands a large amount of attention. This is especially so because it resembles a church, a place where there is only room for one god. We decided to dedicate it to the Monument-of-Many, the visions of one hundred different artists.
But there is a reason why churches and cathedrals have such an effect on the spectator, because they play with scale and the tools of iconization. We used the exact same tools, but not to promote one singular idea, but to present a grumpy baby, the symbol of hope and future, where nobody can be certain how it will turn out if it grows up. This again is one of the aspects of Monumenta; To let go of total control and to give artists the freedom to unfold their creativity.
From cave carvings in Angoulême in western France 27,000 years ago to your daily, perhaps hourly selfie on a cell phone today, our desire to depict the figure is as much a reflection of the artist and their times as it’s sitter.
A new show at MUCA Munich (Museum of Urban Contemporary Art) opening today invites 30 primarily Street Artists to choose a significant reference portrait of any historical time, country of origin, or artistic movement and interpret their inspirations into a portrait.
Whether drawing influences from Vermeer, Courbet, or Lucien Freud, each artist ultimately represents their own life experiences in their choice of subject and the technique of portrayal. Perhaps that is why curator Elisabetta Pajer has asked each of the artists to give us a statement with their work to help put it into context. Pajer tells us that she looks at the collection of works and the statements create a ‘harmonic mosaic’ of these figurative and written testimonies.
“These artists have sought out inspiration from many mediums that portraiture finds itself interpreted within,” says Pajer. “Taking their themes and inspiration from classical paintings, sculpture, film, theater, photographer, interactions, culture, religion, and science. Exhibiting a great understanding of the complexity of self-reflection with art as the catalyst.”
We’re pleased to be able to present some of the artists and their own words here.
Andreas Englund. Tripping. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Oil on canvas
Size: 116 x 90 cm
“I chose to tribute my artwork to the ‘‘Portrait of a smoking man’’ by Anders Zorn 1860-1920 – Swedens most internationally acclaimed artist. Born in my home region and very inspirational when it comes to his sketchy technique. By doing my own version of this masterpiece with my superhero, I have learned more about ‘‘the great Zorn’’ and his technique.”
Martha Cooper. Futura 1983. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Archival pigment print
Size: 50,8 x 76,20 cm
“This is a 1983 photo of Futura, a legendary New York City graffiti writer, with a classic can of Krylon spray paint. Thirty-five years later, Futura is still spray painting and I am still taking photos of graffiti writers.”
Icy + Sot
Icy & Sot. Under The Water Light. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artists)
UNDER THE WATER LIGHT
Media: Stencil spray paint on canvas
Size: 91,5 x 123 cm
“This portrait is part a series we created reflecting on the relationship between human and nature. Nature plays a big role in human lifespan, but nowadays people have distanced from nature. With this work, we want to show humans closer to nature and pay a tribute to it.”
Swoon. Thalassa. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Screenprint on paper with coffee stain and hand painting with collage mounted on board
Size: 123 × 138 cm
“The name Thalassa is Greek word for ‘‘ocean’’, a primordial incarnation of the sea that is not often personified. Thalassa is said to have given birth to all tribes of fish in the sea. She is the pull of the sea that comes from inside the salt water in our blood. ‘Thalassa was originally created for New Orleans. It was the months after the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf in 2010, and this body of water that I’d loved since I was a child was in peril. As I drew Thalassa surging up from the water I felt her rising like a wake up call, one reminds us of our inseparability from the sea. When I stand in front of the ocean, the word that always appears first in my mind is “mother”. For me there is no mistaking the sense that the sea is our first mother.’ ”
GONZALO BORONDO & DIEGO LOPEZ BUENO
SELFIE ELVIS II
Media: Acrylic and plaster on wood – Plasma TV 50’’- Video on loop – 16:9 Digital – Color
Size: 7 panels each – 120 x 70 x 1 cm + 1 TV
“Inspired by several passport photos found within the Marseilles “Marché aux Puches” (FR), Borondo and Lopez Bueno have designed an installation project with the title “Selfie Elvis II”. Imagination is the basis of the multimedia work with self-portraits of a man recalling the contemporary “selfie”. There are dozens of frames describing human aspects and obsessions. They have been digitally elaborated and assembled in a video by López Bueno. Borondo portrayed Elvis with acrylic on wood and applying gypsum, then scratched with sharp instruments. Faces appeared by subtraction, the absence tells about an ancestral and intangible dimension, wondering about its existence. Is Elvis looking at himself or us in that picture? And what about our images, do they look like us or they are just our dreams? Elvis is not there, Elvis is still there.”
Addison Karl. Kamassa. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Bronze, edition 1 of 10
Size: 30,48 x 20,32 x 15,24 cm
“Portraiture in context to sculpture and form – referencing the masterpieces from both European Classical and Neoclassical time periods. From a culture l mirror of taking inspiration from Gods and Goddess of the ancient world, my sculpture’s subject is focused on a contemporary Chickasaw Elder. Using portraiture as a means of Cultural Preservation but equally re-appropriating classic sensibilities of art history to a Native Cultural narrative. “
Various & Gould
Various & Gould. Trigger (Rokhaya Diallo). IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artists)
TRIGGER (ROKHAYA DIALLO)
Media: Acrylic on canvas
Size: 200 x 140 cm
“Our portrait of Rokhaya Diallo refers to an iconic work by Nikide Saint Phalle: The artistically revised film still “Daddy” shows the artist pointing a gun directly at the viewer. Even almost 50 years later, her eye and the muzzle of her rifle leave no doubt that she is serious about it. Anyone who sees the work feels immediately like coming into the firing line.
In our painting, the French journalist and film maker Rokhaya Diallo takes the place and – freely recreated – also the pose of Niki de Saint Phalle. Thus, an early feministic, vigorous artist of the twentieth century is followed by a modern, committed internet feminist with no less strong verve than her predecessor. Both women are even the same age at the time of the illustration. Only instead of the rifle, Rokhaya Diallo relies on her very own “weapon”, the hashtag. At first glance, it may seem more harmless than a rifle, but in times of #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo it can be an even more powerful tool.”
Fintan Magee The Removalist. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Canvas and acrylic on wall installation
“The portrait has been ripped off the canvas and dragged across the ground and projected onto the wall. The artist has destroyed the canvas and made the portrait ephemeral, rendering it worthless and unsellable. The work comments on the commodification of artwork and the uneasy and paradoxical relationship between artist and the financier of his artworks. With street art becoming increasingly commoditized and contributing to gentrification this work doesn’t aim to make any grand statements on how art should or shouldn’t be produced, only highlight the illusionary, absurdist and contradictory image the art industry presents of itself.”
VHILS. Matta. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Bas-relief carving on plasterboard mounted on metal structure
Size: 181 x 120,5 x 34 cm
“Resorting to a bas-relief carving technique, applied here to a free-standing structure of plasterboard, this piece is a homage to the work of Gordon Matta-Clark, which became a major influence on me after I first saw it at an exhibition in Portugal, in 2002. Matta-Clark was one of the first artists to look at the urban space as a space of creation and reflection on the human condition in the contemporary times we live in. Those are the considerations I try to translate in my own work too, reflecting about the human condition in the contemporary times we live in.”
Andrea Wan. Being Of Light. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
BEING OF LIGHT
Media: Ink on paper
Size: 50 x 70 cm
“Fascinated by the lively and dynamic landscape in the paintings of native Canadian Artist Emily Carr, I chose one of her most renown works, Indian Church (1929) as the subject of reinterpretation. Seemingly more accurate than a realistic approach, Carr’s abstraction of nature elements not only communicated to me that nature is vast and subliminal but also ever-changing in form and expression. The white church which stands calmly in the midst of the mystical environment inspired me to personify the subject as a being who is in tune with all that’s around her.”
DALeast. FIII. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Acrylic on canvas
Size: 100 x 80 cm
“A still moment of Fiii standing in the windy land, which is existing inside the transitory gathering of the particles of the magical net.”
IMAGO: A History of Portraits opens today at MUCA Museum of Urban And Contemporary Art. Munich. Curated by Elisabetta Pajer the show runs until November 2018.
IMAGO is a show dedicated to the history of portrait: over 30 artists from five different continents are invited to pay homage and interpret a portrait in their medium of their choice. IMAGO aims to lead visitors through different artistic eras, helping discover the international history and evolution of the portrait.
Anna Piera Di Silvestre
Ricky Lee Gordon
As we draw closer to the new year we’ve asked a very special guest every day to take a moment to reflect on 2017 and to tell us about one photograph that best captures the year for them. It’s an assortment of treats to surprise you with every day – to enjoy and contemplate as we all reflect on the year that has passed and conjure our hopes and wishes for 2018. This is our way of sharing the sweetness of the season and of saying ‘Thank You’ to each of you for inspiring us throughout the year.
Intellectual adventurers with a penchant for public experimentation, the Berlin-based duo Various & Gould anchor their vivid-hued dada-pop hybrids in study and observation – and a willingness to actively question conventional assumptions. Originally predicated on the language of poster graphics, in periodic forays in public space, V&G become performers, clue-givers, even academic re-skinners of existing sculpture when their new idea takes fullness. Today we learn how their own natural observational practice and innate creative curiosity about art on the streets leads them to new discoveries and sources of inspiration.
VARIOUS & GOULD
When we discovered this work, we thought at first it was a nicely cracked window of an empty storefront.
We were on our bikes and just after we had already passed it and were waiting at the red light, we glanced back: ‘Did you see that window? What was it: broken, scratched, painted? Let‘s have a second look!’
When we turned around we saw these delicate graphic lines. And we understood this was an artwork. Now the detectives in our curious artist minds awoke and we were wondering how this was made.We came to the conclusion it might be the left over borders from stickers, applied to the window stripe by stripe.
We really enjoy the intriguing yet unobtrusive appearance of these works, of which we have discovered more since. It took us a while to find out the artists name: Birgit Hölmer.
We haven’t met her though. It‘s so striking that public art can still appear in new forms and surprise you!
Of the thousands of images he took this year in places like New York, Berlin, Scotland, Hong Kong, Sweden, French Polynesia, Barcelona, and Mexico City, photographer Jaime Rojo found that Street Art and graffiti are more alive than every before. From aerosol to brush to wheat-paste to sculpture and installations, the individual acts of art on the street can be uniquely powerful – even if you don’t personally know where or who it is coming from. As you look at the faces and expressions it is significant to see a sense of unrest, anger, fear. We also see hope and determination.
Every Sunday on BrooklynStreetArt.com, we present “Images Of The Week”, our weekly interview with the street. Primarily New York based, BSA interviewed, shot, and displayed images from Street Artists from more than 100 cities over the last year, making the site a truly global resource for artists, fans, collectors, gallerists, museums, curators, academics, and others in the creative ecosystem. We are proud of the help we have given and thankful to the community for what you give back to us and we hope you enjoy this collection – some of the best from 2017.
Brooklyn Street Art 2017 Images of the Year by Jaime Rojo includes the following artists;
Artists included in the video are: Suitswon, Curiot, Okuda, Astro, Sixe Paredes, Felipe Pantone, Hot Tea, Add Fuel, Hosh, Miss Van, Paola Delfin, Pantonio, Base23, R1, Jaune, Revok, Nick Walker, 1UP Crew, SotenOne, Phat1, Rime MSK, Martin Whatson, Alanis, Smells, UFO907, Kai, Tuts, Rambo, Martha Cooper, Lee Quinoes, Buster, Adam Fujita, Dirty Bandits, American Puppet, Disordered, Watchavato, Shepard Fairey, David Kramer, Yoko Ono, Dave The Chimp, Icy & Sot, Damien Mitchell, Molly Crabapple, Jerkface, Isaac Cordal, SacSix, Raf Urban, ATM Street Art, Stray Ones, Sony Sundancer, ROA, Telmo & Miel, Alexis Diaz, Space Invader, Nasca, BK Foxx, BordaloII, The Yok & Sheryo, Arty & Chikle, Daniel Buchsbaum, RIS Crew, Pichi & Avo, Lonac, Size Two, Cleon Peterson, Miquel Wert, Pyramid Oracle, Axe Colours, Swoon, Outings Project, Various & Gould, Alina Kiliwa, Tatiana Fazalalizadeh, Herakut, Jamal Shabaz, Seth, Vhils, KWets1, FinDac, Vinz Feel Free, Milamores & El Flaco, Alice Pasquini, Os Gemeos, Pixel Pancho, Kano Kid, Gutti Barrios, 3 x 3 x 3, Anonymouse, NeSpoon, Trashbird, M-city, ZoerOne, James Bullowgh, and 2501.
Cover image of Suits Won piece with Manhattan in the background, photo by Jaime Rojo.
Berlin, Kathmandu, Santa Fe, Brooklyn, Sweden, London, New York, the country of Georgia, Raleigh, North Carolina. The favorite stories of BSA readers spanned all of these places this year as we documented this global people’s art movement variously described as Street Art/ graffiti/ urban art. We put it out there daily and you react to it – sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – starting conversations and creating connections.
The topics of these 15 favorite stories run the gamut as well; From Banksy and Brexit, Marxism and Urvanity to a bodega completely made of felt, your voracious appetite was wide ranging. From a well crafted graffiti writing exhibition at a white suburban Pennsylvania college where the tuition is 50K to an attempt to bring reassuring cultural heritage art to the streets of Kathmandu where the museum was destroyed by an earthquake – the extremes and ironies only peaked your interest.
You loved seeing and hearing Martha Cooper getting her first solo exhibition in New York and the mania that queued thousands to see the transformation of a 5 floor bank in Berlin by graffiti writers, Street Artists, installation artists and performers. You care about the earth and its people, like the story of ICY an SOT in the country of Georgia making human sculptures of trash as a critique of globalized waste, and the story of Chip Thomas using his Street Art to draw attention to a traditional Hopi farming technique called “dry farming”.
And in 2017 the resonance of ‘Resistance is Female’ catapulted our story of the illegal campaign of phone booth takeovers to the top 15, showing that a uniquely impactful high-jacking of the advertising streetscape is always going to win fans.
No matter where we went in 2017, BSA readers were always invited to go along with us and discover people and art on the street and in the gallery or the museum whether it was in Scotland, Hong Kong, Berlin, Sweden, Mexico or Tahiti. We captured what we could and interpreted it – and you told us what you liked by re-Tweeting and re-Gramming and re-Facebooking.
From 365 postings over the last year, here are the 15 you liked the most.
“Why do you glorify and duplicate these two criminals?! They shouldn’t have a monument at all. Next you’re doing Hitler?”
Various and Gould try to paraphrase some of the comments they received from passersby in a park near the town-hall in centrally located Berlin-Mitte while working on their latest project with a statue of the creators of Marxist theory. Some imagined they were glorifying, others alleged defamation.
“It’s a shame how you treat Marx and Engels!”
Truthfully, this new project in public space that literally copies a monument and then transfers it to another location didn’t have much to do with the capitalist system that creates/allows very rich and very poor people, but it certainly adds stories to the overall experience of Various and Gould.
Various & Gould: Marx & Engels. Continue reading HERE
says Fernando Alcalá Losa, the avid Barcelona based photographer of street culture. He doesn’t literally mean that the Spanish capital is deadly, but rather speaks of his devotion to Madrids’ energy, its possibility, its history, its people, and to its art. The torrid affairs of the heart are invariably complicated, as is the evolution of graffiti and Street Art from their outlaw illegal roots to their flirtations and trysts with other forms and venues; murals, in-studio practice, gallery representation, institutional recognition, or commercial viability.
We are pleased that Mr. Alcalá Losa comes to talk to BSA readers today and takes us to Madrid for the new art fair called “Urvanity” to see what he discovers with you, courtesy his words and his lovers’ view behind the camera.
Madrid Me Mata…in a good sense. Continue reading HERE
It’s 8 ‘Till Late, artist Lucy Sparrows first all-felt store in New York, and it’s literally just under the Standard Hotel in the Meat Packing district. She’s made 9,000 items over roughly 9 months out of this soft fabric-like craft material – and at first impression it sincerely looks like everything you would have found in a New York bodega in the 1990s aside from the hard liquor, which is actually illegal to sell outside a liquor store in NYC, but relax, its all heartfelt.
“We sell quite a lot of self-help books as well,” chimes in Clare Croome, a cashier.
“Yes! Self-help books! Have you seen them?” says Brooks “They’ve got nothing in them on the pages, they’re just blank.”
“I wanted to exhibit the mind of a graffiti writer in a gallery, and make that mindset understandable to your average gallery-goer,” he tells us. “To me, that means appreciating not just the finished piece, but how and why it came to be.”
By showing artists, works, photography, and tools that judiciously span the 50 or so years that mark the era of modern mark-making in the public sphere, Rushmore threads a story line that he hopes a visitor can gain an appreciation for in this art, sport, and quest for fame.
Miniaturization on the street or in the museum (or in the street museum) causes you to focus on detail, draw closely, to recall your childhood ability to freely invoke a sense of fantasy.
“Since our visitors are mostly nocturnal, our opening hours are quite generous,” the artists known as Anonymous say in reference to their nighttime installations, sometimes glowing with electric light in the lee of a bridge column, or the shadow of a door. They reference the famous Swedish children’s book author Astrid Lindren in their work, and you can easily visualize a small mouse family or a business mouse or a house mouse or church mouse astutely moving through these vignettes, living their important lives.
Possibly one is currently occupied in a back room of one of these installations at the moment but they will be returning presently to greet their new visitor – you, with your big face. Don’t worry, they like you to get up close. They may even provide a magnifying glass for you to get a closer look.
Anonymouse. Minuature Vignettes. Continue reading HERE
Birds are associated with freedom, fish remind him of mindless consumerism, and frogs convey authority. He reserves reptiles for soulless soldiers of capital and authoritarian types. And the sudden preponderance of rabbits? Why sexuality and innocence of course.
“Innocence” is the name of the exhibition here curated by BSA and DK Johnston, and Vinz Feel Free has been preparing these works for many months. A project that has included his study of innocence, the show is meant to demarcate such shadings of the concept as to appear only subtly different from one another. To wit:
1. The quality or state of being innocent; freedom from sin or moral wrong.
2. Freedom from legal or specific wrong; guiltlessness.
Vinz Feel Free. “Innocence”. Continue reading HERE
If you are not going into the museum to see art, Julien De Casabianca is happy to bring it out to the street for you. Additionally, if the museum has been closed by an earthquake, he’ll make sure the art gets a public viewing nonetheless.
In Kathmandu recently Street Artist Julien de Casabianca continued his Outings Project by bringing a centuries-old painting outside to the side of the Artudio building in Swoyambhu on Chhauni Hospital Road with the help of Matt Rockwell of the humanitarian hackers group called DisasterHack.
“Normally we paint advertising – hand-painted advertising, mostly with cans. So we work all over Germany, with a lot of crews, “ says Kimo, a bearded, bald energetic and sharp witted guy who is lighting up a cigarette in this tattered, beige ex-conference room. That explanation doesn’t prepare you for what you will see in the rooms upstairs.
The floors are piled with unopened paint buckets and brushes and cans and the walls in this organizing office are covered with scotch-taped project timelines, to-do lists, and floor plans of the old bank. Each former office space is plainly labled with names of German Street Artists or graffiti crews, some you recognize, others you don’t. More recent Street Art names are next to classic Graff heads, installation artists mix freely with Optic Artists, photographers, sculptors, even a live moss installation.
Case Maclaim is right next door to Turbokultur with Stohead out in the hall on floor 1. El Bocho and Emess are in small rooms to either side of 1UP on the 3rd. Herakut in a corner room numbered 506 is right next to Nick Platt and Paul Punk in 505.
18 year old Hawthorne Hill has learned the traditional Hopi farming technique called “dry farming” from his mom, according to Jetsonorama, and he places seeds in shallow holes, while his sister Metzli creates rows of wind blocks using nearby brush.
The photos are taken on Second Mesa on the Hopi nation, but the artist brings them here to Santa Fe as part of a project he’s doing with Biocultura Santa Fe.
A project originally conceived of as part of Earth Day, with a focus on where our food comes from and traditional farming methods, its good to think of who works to bring food to your table.
“I think it’s a real turning point as far as seeing three dimensional things,” says Street Artist and fine artist Ben Frost while hand painting text on the side of the large facsimiles of pharmaceutical boxes that he’s creating for the UN Art Mile. “I think sculptures and installations have been paving a way forward for Street Art.”
In fact sculpture and all manner of three dimensional installations as Street Art have been a part of the current century for sure, from the variety of lego and yarn artists to the soldiered steel tags of REVS and eco-bird houses of XAM and small little men made of wood by Stikman – among many others.
For the opening of UN this weekend, the Urban Nation Museum of Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin this week, a curated selection of artists working in such dimensions were invited to create substantial pieces – including video installation, mobile, interactive, the purely static. Enjoy the variety of works by Street Artists who are working today.
Urban Nation Berlin. Art Mile. Continue reading HERE
So it makes perfect sense that a new grassroots takeover of telephone booth advertising in New York is a campaign called, “Resistance is Female”. Organizers and artists say that the ad takeover project is putting out a message that corporate controlled media seems to be quelling: keep fighting, keep speaking up, persevere.
The artists have put up a couple of dozen or so new art pieces in places where typecast women typically sell shampoo or fashions: a high-jacking of the advertising streetscape which the French and the Situationists would have called détournementin earlier decades.
Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Nina Simone; Three of the women whom Street Artist Olek would like us to remember from U.S. history, and who have been recently featured in public crochet portraits. Her most recent portrait done with help from the community brings art made by the public to the public in a country-wide project called “Love Across the USA”.
Sparked a year ago leading up to the US national election where a woman was on the ballot, Olek says that despite the negativity that followed, “it inspired me to create a project that would celebrate the accomplishments of women, many of whom had been forgotten throughout U.S. history.”
Today we go to Raleigh, NC to see the most recent banner of Nina Simone crocheted by Olek and a small army of volunteers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nina_Simone, the American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist in the Civil Rights Movement.
15 centuries old, Tbilisi may not last as long as this garbage man sculpture by Street Artists Icy & Sot.
“It took us only 10 minutes to collect all this trash because there was so much of it – including American brands – in the river by this village,” says Icy as he tells us about the trip he and his brother Sot made last month. A gorgeous and historically diverse city of 1.5 million people, Tbilisi reflects art, architecture, trade and culture that have given the Georgian capital a reputation as a crossroads for Europe and Asia.
During their stay with the Art Villa Garikula, a self organized community contemporary art center begun Tbilisi born painter and educator, Karaman Kutateladze in 2000, Icy and Sot did two pieces and an ad takeover that reflect the global problems posed by a consumer culture sold by corporations with little concern for its impact long term.
Icy & Sot. Human reflections on nature. Continue reading HERE
An intrepid photographer who has launched a million dreams (and perhaps a few thousand careers) in graffiti and Street Art with her photography that captured crucial and seminal aspects of our culture that others overlooked.
That is just one way of seeing this brand new collection of images by Martha Cooper that is spread across one wall featuring artists at work, sometimes intimately. Here is where you see 102 individual shots of artists at work, a stunning testament to the range of art-making techniques that are practiced in the public realm, as well as a testament to the passion and curiosity of the woman behind the lens.
For Ms. Cooper’s first solo photography show in New York, Steven Kasher Gallery is featuring 30 new editions of her legendary street art photographs, the ones that have burned themselves into the collective memory of New York and of our streets in the 1970s and 1980s. While her photographs in the 1984 seminal “Subway Art” and her early Hip Hop street shots may be what she is most known for by artists and collectors and fans in cities around the world to which she travels, the new exhibit also contains more than a foreshadowing into the vast collection of important images she has not shown to us.
The appearance of a new mural by Banksy in Dover, England caught the attention of many followers on his Instagram account and the mass media folks quickly reported on the new piece that comments on the current state of the EU.
10 months since the Brexit vote, the anonymous artist has created a thoughtful piece marking the crack in the European Union, depicting a white male worker on a ladder chipping away one of the stars on the EU flag, a fissure produced by the action reaching upwards and outwards toward the others.
Every Friday we invite you to stop by and take a look at new videos that have been submitted or recommended or that we tripped over walking by the railroad tracks. This year we showed you about 250 of them.
We call it BSA Film Friday and it travels with us to cities around the world now when we do it LIVE with you and other audience members in theaters and lecture halls and museums. The beauty of the video/film form is you can get a full story quickly, and you are often surprised by how transformative it can be. You can also see how many people are affected by urban and street culture through these films – we see people’s eyes light up when they realize that they too can create in public space, that the world is not simply a product but is a piece of art that many of their peers are now jumping in to co-create.
As a collection, these 15 are illuminating, elevating, riveting, strange, soaring, and achingly beautifully normal. From looking at the Separation Wall and Banksy to a travelling crew of graffiti writers on farms in Polish pig country to the amazing dance troupe who interpreted the 5 floors of art installations in a downtown Berlin former bank, you have before you a massive buffet of a visual feast.
The final desert is hand-held phone video caught in the moment last month in Mexico City. We didn’t know Keith Haring was coming down the tracks to surprise us, and we didn’t know that this unpolished jewel would garner thousands of viewers and commenters – effectively placing this little piece of video at number 1 for its popularity. Maybe the fact that it is so raw is what people relate to – along with an ongoing adulation for Haring.
We hope you can take some time to enjoy some of the best Street Art videos from around the world and on BSA this year.
“Distant universes delicately tangled,” says the near-whispering narration as you are gazing upon scenes from Hong Kong – those interstitial moments that carry you between the more remarkable ones. Faith XLVII gives us a quiet look at these inside a the dencse cacophony called “Aqua Regalia”, looking at the parts of a culture that a visitor is sensitive to because they are not taken for granted. With this ability to see, one takes a quick course of a city, a society. Invariably you end up with more questions.
“We speak of death and birth in terms of celebration and mourning.” Faith XLVII is in search of more universal truths, the timeless ones, since we understand them so poorly. Herein are glimpses, romantic and unvarnished.
“This is one of the first videos I’ve co-directed, alongside filmmaker Dane Dodds,” Faith tells us. “Its a project that is close to my heart.”
Borondo keeps it open for you. He provides the stage, the staging area, the proscenium, the altar, the emanating light, the associations and memories you have with your belief system, or lack of one. During his artist residency with Pubblica, curated by Carlo Vignapiano and Elena Nicolini in May, the Street Artist (among other things) creates a journey as much as a destination in this intimate chapel. The video by Gerdi Petanaj captures this and perhaps a little more.
By inviting Creative Director/dancer Serdar Bogatin and the film crew “Shuto Crew” into the space with members of the Lunatix Dance Production troupe, these spaces and art environments come completely alive, invoking stories and dramas – clearly making the spaces into elaborate set-design pieces.
The French duo Ella + Pitr here revel in the simplicity of the gestural act of a full-body full-bucket splash of black paint.
Carnal, visceral, overlaid with psychographical information, the motion of splashing inky pigment across a white quadrilateral is an act of defiance and a release of the inner chaos – instantly recognizable as chaos elsewhere in the world.
The uncontrollable quality, especially when purveyed within an atmosphere of prim control, provokes amplified emotions in some. Fear, liberation, rage, release. Which ones will you experience?
“This reminds why I hate vandals! All this does is create more unnecessary work for the guys at the paint shop,” says a commenter on the Vimeo page where INDECLINE has posted this locomotive takeover.
You see kids, this is why we can’t have nice things. I just mopped this floor and you come running in here with your muddy boots! For Pete’s sake.
Truthfully, this decidedly unpolitical piece is a surprise coming from INDECLINE. Guess they were taking the day off from railing against hypocrisy and injustice with this animated train that recalls Saturday morning cartoons like Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner.
“It is one thing to read about the events in those parts of the world, but it is something totally different to actually look in the eyes of the women who lost everything while running from the war,” says artist Olek about how her world view changed when crocheting the project featured this week.
While gathering and producing materials for her installation with Verket Museum in Avesta, Sweden, the Brooklyn based Street Artist was holding informal crochet workshops with volunteers who would be producing the decorative yarn skin that covered every single item inside and outside of the house with their handmade crochet stitches.
Some invited guests were refugees who had escaped war in Syria and Ukraine and the artist and local folks shared stories and crocheted, sewed, and prepared the art materials together over the course of a number of days. It was during these exchanges of personal stories that, “a conversation started that has changed me forever,” she says – and she immediately needed to reflect it in her project with the museum.
No. 09 Sebastian Purfürst – Soniconoclasm / Broken Motor
In Berlin recently we met a photographer/media artist/musician who showed us a music video he just made of regular people whom you might meet on the city streets at night. This spring he asked more than 25 of them to recite phrases and “cut-up of army radio slang phrases” and by splicing them together with his band mate’s recitation of the lyrics synched to their lips, the rawness and rage and disconnected connectedness of people whom you can meet on the street rang true. “
This unvarnished quality bypasses the styled self-awareness of a lot of commercial media, and the anger actually comes across as fear. Perhaps you’ll think its too dark in demeanor – but then suddenly the melding together of the faces into one common entity makes it magic, even transcendent – revealing a simple sameness of everyone.
“This suspenseful individuality of the people is almost completely dissolved in the chorus,” says Sebastian Purfürst of his video with bandmate Markus F.C.Buhl.
Pixel’s original installation was nixed by the city at the last moment but that didn’t prevent the Italian Street Artist from rallying to find another solution!
This new installation in the back courtyard was conceived of, designed, and constructed over a period of 4 days last week and became the secret surprise behind the museum for those who wandered there. Using landscaping techniques and botanical knowledge that come naturally from his farm in Italy, the artist create a mise en scène of epic impact with his robotic folk-futurist sculptures. Night time lighting took it to another world, but you can see the details better here in this short video Jaime Rojo shot on site.
No. 07 FifthWall TV / Occupied in Bethlehem – A visit to BANKSY’s “Walled Off Hotel”
“It’s almost become a playground for people to come to,” says your host Doug Gille as he looks at the section of the Separation Wall that the Banksy “Walled Off” Hotel is installed upon. “I think it is so crucial for people not to just come to see the wall or to paint on the wall,” he says.
“50 years under military control makes it the longest occupation in history,” is a quote that Gillen brandishes across the screen from the United Nations. The fact that Banksy is using his art star power to keep this on the front burner says a lot about the man.
“I think a lot of these people feel like we are forgetting about them and we have to remind them that we’re not,” says Gillen as he soul searches next to the Dead Sea.
No. 06 Various & Gould / City Skins – Marx und Engels
Conceptual Street Artists often perform interventions without explanation, satisfied with their own observations of the outcome. For Berlians Various & Gould the process has more often included the participation of the public – a way for more to take ownership and inspire dialogue. Sometimes many dialogues.
Now to the Polish pig farms! Another Street Art/Mural road trip movie, this time across Poland with JAYPOP, Seikon, Krik KONG and filmmaker Cuba Goździewicz. See the discoveries, the relationships, the reactions to the work from a warm and considered human perspective.
The beauty of randomness and the randomness of beauty. These guys are fully engaged with their surroundings, the opportunity, the myriad people they befriend or portend to make allies. It’s an uncharted trip where permissions are sought and often refused, but they never stop painting somehow.
Using existing and new footage of Street Artist Swoon and selected interviews with people in her orbit, director Fredric King presents and hour long documentary that looks over two decades of art making. The stories told and the insights that Calendonia Curry aka Swoon presents while en route to her next adventure illustrate the fluidity with which she pursues the creative spirit, whether on the street, on a vessel down a river, or installing in a museum. An integrated explorer, Swoon brings you into the fold to go on this journey that always feels like its just begun.
On an expansive rooftop in rainy/sunny/rainy San Francisco, Street Artist Fin Dac brings to life ‘Shukumei’, an ebullient and mysterious muse. The film is largely a stop motion record of the work set to music, but did you notice how much dexterity and effort goes into this precision play when you are working at this angle, basically painting the floor? The remarkable integration of the glowing skylight orb, dramatically revealed, imparts the figure a mystical dimension as well.
Video editing by Tonic Media, Soundtrack by Mombassa/Lovechild, and shout out to Ian and Danielle at Rocha Art and Missy Marisa, model.
No. 02 Niels Shoe Meulman In Magic City / The Art Of The Street
Niels Shoe Meulman spent some nights in a Munich jail thirty years ago for mucking about on the walls. This year he was paid to do it in Munich for Magic City, the travelling morphing exhibition (now in Stockholm) where Street Art is celebrated along with all its tributaries – including a film program and a number of photographs by your friends here at BSA.
Born, raised and based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Shoe shares here his new improvisational piece and some of his reflections on his process and his evolution from being in advertising as an art/creative director and reclaiming his soul as a graffiti/Street Art/fine artist. As ever, Martha is in the frame, putting him in the frame.
No. 01 Keith Haring- Rough Cut / Mexico City Metro
This rough cut lil’ video reached more than 300K individuals and had 100K views with thousands of shares on FB and on Instagram with dozens of comments and high engagement was easily propelled to the #1 spot.
It all took us by surprise last week in Mexico City when suddenly a whole train covered on both sides with Keith Haring’s work approached while we were waiting at the platform to catch the Linea 2 of the Metro. He made his name in part by illegally doing drawings like these in NYC subways and here now they are crushing a whole train. The name of the project is “Ser Humano. Ser Urbano” or “Being Human. Being Urban” and it aims to promote human values and human rights. The pattern you see is from “Sin Titulo (Tokyo Fabric Design)” – now stretched across these whole cars, if you will.
The train itself is inexplicably having brake troubles, so we get some jerky spur-of-the-moment footage but all week on Instagram and Facebook we’ve received tons of comments from people reacting to this little bit of Keith video by Jaime Rojo on BSA.