Staying elusive in the streets

February 20th, 2013 | By | 10 Comments »

Banksy. Photo by Klara Kim.

Being an elusive figure in the graffiti/street art world is slowly becoming obsolete. Artists find themselves making the transition from anonymity to the limelight, for what many think is solely for profit. The proliferation of social media has amplified the audience of street art, and led to increased exposure and opportunities for artists. But what motivates street artists to step away from their elusive lifestyles?

Recently, it seems many graffiti writers have cast away their incognito identities and made the transition towards becoming legitimate artists. What was once considered an act of vandalism is now commissioned by brands and displayed in art galleries around the world. But in order to market themselves as legitimate, recognizable artists they need to step away from their personas and present themselves not as vandals, but as artists.

At one point, street artists in question would mask their voices and hide their faces behind a blurred out lens in order to keep their identities hidden to the general public during interviews. Now, all that smoke and mirrors are gone. Personally, I used to love D*Face. He was strictly recognized by his moniker and nothing else, with his face always blurred during interviews. Then, seemingly overnight, it all changed. He began to create work and appear in interviews under his real name. Suddenly, D*Face became Dean Stockton. His work became mild and denotative. His mythical qualities as an artist were diminished. He just didn’t seem as interesting.

So why make that transition? Why not stay hidden and attempt to make a living while staying private? Artists such as Kaws and Shepard Fairey could easily have stayed elusive, but now they’re the biggest names in the street art world. When Kaws started hijacking billboards and bus shelter ads, no one knew who he was. They only knew him by his name. Now he’s making vinyl toys, taking part in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, and getting interviewed by Pharrell Williams. Similar tale with Fairey: he started out pasting up stickers around his local skate park, nobody knew what Obey meant, but it was everywhere, so it must have been important. Fairey stepped out of the shadows and now, a decade later has his own clothing line and his face is one of the most recognizable in the street art world. Why? Artists realize that in order to market their art, they need to market their persona first. Is this the process of selling out?

But then there are the ones that stay elusive, the purists of the street art world, artists like Dain and Bäst. Born and raised in Brooklyn, the elusive Dain creates sublime works of art the merges old Hollywood glam with new age colors in their composition. This, along with his roots in graffiti, creates a gritty yet delicate street art style that is all his own. There was a weird video that came out a while back about Dain, starring someone other than Dain portraying him. It followed around an old guy as he talked about his life and art and all of his inspirations while answering questions from the camera man. At this point, we know that Dain isn’t really the old man (notice his pasting skills), but one can only assume that the video was meant as a marketing tool, for people to get on the Dain bandwagon and spread his name out to the public without ever being seen. But apart from that video, Dain has never really been a public artist but his works will always be deemed as some of the best of our generation.

Dain. Photo by Sabeth718.

Dain. Photo by Sabeth718.

Bäst plays his part really well. Brooklyn-based artist Bäst has been wheat-pasting throughout New York’s urban landscape for over a decade now. Bäst has remained an elusive character that has rarely been seen in public and whose very existence has been debated. There are very few video interviews where you can hear Bäst talk. The only interview that comes to mind was for the Deluxx Fluxx collaboration with Faile (which is, in my opinion, one of the best street art based collaboration to have ever happened). Bäst manages to frequently collaborate with Faile, who are not anonymous artists, but apart from that, he’s a pretty elusive guy that keeps producing on a consistent basis. Sure, he had this weird, super small scale collaboration with an olive oil company, and the Marc Jacobs collaboration which confused pretty much everybody, since his art being displayed on a sweater for a highly lucrative brand could be seen as an uncharacteristic “sell out” move, but apart from that, he’s always stayed true to form and just stuck to street art.

I bring up Bäst and Dain not only because of the elusive nature, but because they are in fact brothers. One can only assume that some sort of pact was made between them to stay pretty much anonymous to most social groupings. Sure they might have ulterior motives, but as long as they stay elusive, we’ll really never know.

Bast. Photo by Sabeth718.

Bäst. Photo by Sabeth718.

And of course, one has to mention Banksy or as we know him now, most likely Robin Gunningham. Regardless of his moniker, he helped cement street art’s place in the established art world. Street art fans will forever have a love/hate relationship with Banksy. At this point, his work can come off as banal and obvious, but the fact that his identity was questioned for so long, in our surveillance culture, is pretty significant. He got his art up in the Met, or someone posing as him did. He got in and out of Disneyland without getting caught. Banksy’s evasiveness lends him a mystique and fascination, but he still manages to profit from his art.

These are the kind of question that people ask themselves when artists stay anonymous. We question everything about them, not knowing what they’ll do next. Suspense and curiosity will always play a part in their persona. Their anonymity is what keeps us interested; it plays a part in how we perceive them. Take these qualities away, and we realize that these artists are just like the rest. Would Banksy of reached this kind of popularity if he was just Robin Gunningham all along? Of course not. But he’s also a unique case; it’s hard to imagine a street artist will ever achieve what he has in our life time. So why stay elusive? Well, I guess it’s a question at the core of street art. Artists are supposed to be a hooded, hidden characters putting art up illegally, leading people to ask questions. How did it get there? Who did it? Why did they do it? When it comes to people like Kaws and Shepard Fairey, they answer these questions in the interviews that they partake in. But for others, maybe we’ll never know.

Photos By sabeth718 and Klara Kim

Category: Guest Posts, Random | Tags: , , , ,

Weekend link-o-rama

February 1st, 2013 | By | 2 Comments »


Sorry I missed the link-o-rama last week. Was having a fantastic birthday in NYC. Thanks to everyone who came out to say hello.

  • I just picked up the recent Troy Lovegates book (now sold out), and I wish I could pick up this print as well. Absolutely beautiful stuff.
  • Nice little Pink Floyd-themed stencil by Plastic Jesus.
  • Interesting JR-esque posters in UK mines.
  • Philippe Baudelocque in Paris.
  • Judith Supine on being bored with street art.
  • Leon Reid IV’s latest sculpture addresses the crushing personal debt of so many Americans.
  • Tova Lobatz curated a show at 941 Geary with Vhils, How and Nosm, Sten and Lex, and others.
  • Shepard Fairey released some prints using diamond dust, which is quite interesting. As the press release says, “Perhaps most famously used by Andy Warhol, who understood perfectly how to convey a message, Diamond Dust was used to add glamour, transforming ordinary images into coveted objects. The material aligns with Shepard’s work and interest in the seduction of advertising and consumerism. Diamond Dust, literally and metaphorically is superficial, applied to the surface of the print, the luminous effect is both beautiful and alluring.” But it’s one of those things that just gets me thinking about how the art world, much like capitalism, seems so good at absorbing critique and spitting at back out as product. People love the meaningless OBEY icon, so Shepard sells it. Shepard needs to make more product to continue selling to this market he has created, so he takes an old design (or a slight variant, I’m not positive), and adds meaningless diamond dust to it and sells it as something new. The best critiques participate in the system which they critique, but that’s a risky game to play. Of course, I say all this with a print by Shepard hanging on my wall.
  • OldWalls is a project where the photographer took photos of graffiti in the early 1990′s and recently returned to those spots to take the exact same shots, and then each matching photo is displayed next to its counterpart.
  • Artnet’s latest street art and graffiti auction has a handful of interesting pieces (Artnet is a sponsor of Vandalog btw). Here are my favorites:

Photos by Luna Park

Category: Auctions, Books / Magazines, Gallery/Museum Shows, Interview, Photos, Print Release, Products, Random | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jester Jacques Gallery pop up print sale in Shoreditch

January 17th, 2013 | By | 1 Comment »
Sweet Toof

Sweet Toof

Starting Feb. 7th at 6pm, Jester Jacques Gallery will be hosting a pop up sale in Boxpark Shoreditch. The lineup, including Philip HarrisMighty MoMister MillerchipShepard FaireySweet ToofJon BurgermanAdorJimmy CMarcus PetterssonRosemary Cronin and others were, as Jester Jacques puts it, “chosen for their investment potential and contemporary relevance” to the street art scene. The featured prints look great, but what does that matter if they’re intended to be bought as street art stock? And if you are trying to buy some street art stock, you’re probably a couple of years too late.

Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman

Photos courtesy of Jester Jacques

Category: Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Tonight We Won’t Be Bored – 10 years of V1 Gallery

December 6th, 2012 | By | No Comments »

Stephen ‘Espo’ Powers

V1 Gallery in Denmark celebrates its 10th year with Tonight We Won’t Be Bored; a massive show of 100 new works by artists like André, Kenny Scharff, Futura, Faile, Lydia Fong (aka Barry McGee), Barbara Kruger, Shepard Fairey, Steve Powers, Todd James, Andrew Schoultz, Thomas Campbell, Erik Parker, André, Neckface, Eine, Wes Lang, Clayton Brothers, and many others. The show opened on November 30th and runs through January 12th.

The Copenhagen gallery got its start in 2002, in a space which had formerly been used as a bakery. With their first exhibition being with Faile, they got the ball rolling pretty quick. By 2007 they moved to a larger space and later started curating shows and participating in art fairs around the world.

Barbara Kruger

Shepard Fairy


Left to right: Jakob Boeskov, Misha Hollenbach, HuskMitNavn, HuskMitNavn, Eine, and Søren Solkær Starbird

A one of a kind zine by Lydia Fong (Barry McGee)

Photos by Henrik Haven

Category: Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bring Back the Boadwalks benefit auction

November 14th, 2012 | By | No Comments »

This weekend Bring Back The Boadwalks is holding a benefit art auction to raise money to help rebuild the Rockaways and Coney Island, two communities were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. The silent auction will have work from some major names including Futura, Swoon, Phil Frost, Faile, David Ellis, Shepard Fairey, and Dennis McNett, and 100% of the proceeds from the auction will go to recovery efforts.

The auction will take place this Saturday, November 17th, at Trais Gallery at 76 Wooster Street (between Broome and Spring) in Manhattan.

More info on the Bring Back The Boadwalks website, and they’ve been posting photos of artwork that will be at the auction to their tumblr.

A unique screenprint donated to the auction by Faile

Photo courtesy of Bring Back The Boardwalks

Category: Auctions, Featured Posts | Tags: , , , , , ,

Weekend link-o-rama

October 26th, 2012 | By | 2 Comments »

Rothko from beyond the grave by Freddy Sam

Not much to say this week except of course that I’m pumped for The Art of Comedy. Not too much news either, but some important stories…

Photo by Faith47 and via Wooster Collective

Category: Auctions, Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos, Random | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekend link-o-rama

October 20th, 2012 | By | No Comments »

El Curiot

It seems that the world never slows down. I’m supposed to be on vacation and it’s been one of my busiest weeks all year, so here’s what’s been going on elsewhere across the web:

Photo by El Curiot

Category: Art News, Auctions, Events, Gallery/Museum Shows, Interview, Photos, Random | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Shepard Fairey in London

October 17th, 2012 | By | No Comments »

The city is pretty much in a tizzy with the arrival of Shepard Fairey in the flesh. Getting ready for his new solo Sound & Vision at StolenSpace to open Friday (if you haven’t heard about this yet you are living under a gigantic rock), the American artist has been hanging around East London with his team painting up a storm and freezing their California asses off in the British Autumn.

Once the fanboys began to leave, I had the chance to stop by and take some pictures of his latest mural on progress (a version of which will be in the show) and two other finished works. I also stopped by the OBEY pop-up shop as it is being created on Brick Lane for the big night. If you aren’t going to pony up the cash for a Shepard Fairey original, than make sure to stop across the street to the shop to pick some more affordable Shepard Fairey goods including books and OBEY clothing, as well as the majority of the OBEY x Keith Haring collaboration line which I am still head over heels for.

Images by Stephanie Keller

Category: Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos | Tags: ,

Shepard Fairey gets off easy for falsifying documents and lying in court

September 8th, 2012 | By | No Comments »

On Friday, Shepard Fairey was sentenced to 300 hours of community service, two years of probation and a $25,000 after pleading guilty earlier this year to one count of criminal contempt. Fairey actually got off pretty lightly. Government lawyers believed that Fairey could have been fined up to $3.2 million and also argued that he should spend time in prison (he could have been incarcerated for a maximum of 6 months).

Here’s how we came to this point: In 2009, Fairey sued the Associated Press to show in court that his portraits of Obama were fair use of an AP photograph and avoid being sued by the AP himself for copyright infringement. Fairey and the AP disagreed over which photograph Fairey had used as his source image for the HOPE poster, but they both agreed that Fairey used an AP photo from the same event. Then Fairey realized that he was wrong and that he had indeed based his work on the photograph that the AP said he had used, so Fairey panicked and tried to cover his tracks by submitting falsified evidence and attempting to delete the actual evidence from his computer. He then went ahead for months in this case claiming something that he knew was false. Eventually, Fairey was confronted with evidence of his deceit and came clean. The lawsuit with the AP was settled, with Fairey paying the AP $1.6 million (although some of that is believed to have been covered by an insurance policy). But the federal government was still unhappy about Fairey’s lies, so he was charged with criminal contempt and plead guilty to that earlier this year.

I don’t generally believe in prison time for nonviolent offenders, but Fair Use is an issue close to my heart and damn that still seems like he got off easy, but not for the reason the federal prosecutors think he did. In a statement on Friday, Fairey said, “The damage to my own reputation is dwarfed by the regret I feel for clouding the issues of the Fair Use case. I let down artists and advocates for artist’s rights by distracting from the core Fair Use discussion with my misdeeds.” He’s exactly right: Fairey blew what could have been the biggest Fair Use case of the century. If this case had gone to trial, as Fairey seems to have originally intended it to, and he certainly has to be given some credit for not just settling from the outset, Fairey would have had one of the best legal teams in the country supporting him and hopefully striking quite a blow against overly-restrictive copyright law enforcement.

For more on the case and Fairey’s sentencing, you can check out these other articles:

Photo by cliff1066™

Category: Art News, Featured Posts | Tags:

Shepard Fairey heads back to London/Stolenspace

September 6th, 2012 | By | 3 Comments »

For pretty much as long as Vandalog has existed, I’ve heard rumors that Shepard Fairey would be coming back to show at D*Face’s StolenSpace Gallery in London. He had a solo show there in 2007, Nineteeneightyfouria, which closed early for some reason, prohibiting me from seeing it in the flesh. But supposedly it was pretty fantastic. Rumor has it (seriously, this is a rumor that I heard a few times, pure speculation/hope, not something that I can say with any certainty is grounded in fact, please don’t take it as such) that, at the time, Shepard signed a contract with StolenSpace Gallery promising that he would do two shows there. But the show never seemed to materialize, and everyone just awaited his returned.

Now, five years later, Shepard Fairey will return to London and StolenSpace Gallery for Sound & Vision, a show highlighting many of the musical influences on Fairey’s work. The show will include an installation of a temporary record shop featuring both records from Fairey’s personal collection available for listening and scores of Fairey’s LP-sleeve-sized artworks. Here’s more of what Shepard has to say about the show.

Sound & Vision opens October 19th and runs through November 4th. And yes, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be packed the entire time, but it’s also not a show to miss.

Images courtesy of OBEY Giant

Category: Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags: