A Trip to Bethlehem, Also… BANKSY

June 20th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

As just about anyone reading Vandalog will know, Banksy has opened up a hotel in Bethlehem, Palestine. The Walled Off Hotel has “the worst view of any hotel in the world,” with rooms looking out onto the illegal separation wall that Israel has built in the West Bank.

When the project was first announced, I was eager to hop on the first flight available and spend a week in Palestine. After all, when Banksy says to show up somewhere, it’s a good idea to show up. But I was reminded that perhaps it was a bit silly to visit Bethlehem just because Banksy’s got some art up there. That was a fair point, and then a dozen other real-life considerations started to make the whole thing feel impractical. So, on a personal level, perhaps I’m living on a boring life and I’d just rather pay my rent on time than have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But on a broader level: That’s the whole question of the hotel, right? Should someone travel half way around the world to see a Banksy installation in Palestine? To what extent is going to The Walled Off Hotel “slum tourism” or its opposite (is there a phrase for visiting a country or a neighborhood for the sake of visiting a tourist attraction instead of experiencing the everyday of the place, like flying to the gated-off Mar-a-Lago and saying you’ve seen Palm Beach)? Is Banksy exploiting a situation or helping the local economy and bringing press attention to an under-reported and deeply-worrying situation?

I’m tempted to lean in Banksy’s favor here. He’s not an idiot. He knows that, as he’s done before, working in Palestine will give press attention to the situation there. He knows that people will fly to wherever he puts on a project (as I’ve done before). And, as is the case with so much of Banksy’s work, the question then becomes how the audiences reacts, and that’s largely on them. Which is why it was so encouraging when I saw a “review” of The Wall Off Hotel by my friend Doug from Fifth Wall TV. Check it out:

Well Doug, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I think that’s the way to experience The Walled Off Hotel. Actually, now you’ve made me want to visit again…

Photo courtesy of The Walled Off Hotel


Category: Videos | Tags:

Virtual Graffiti: #ViralVandals at MU artspace

June 12th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

At first, graffiti writers wrote on walls to get their names up. Then, they wrote on trains because those trains traveled all over the city, and got their names up all over. Soon, they started snapping photos and mailing those photos to friends in other cities, to get their names known there. That evolved into zines and books, and the culture (and certain names) spread even further. All the while, styles of writing evolved to fit those new communication tools. And then the internet came along. #ViralVandals, an exhibition open now at MU artspace in Eindhoven, considers how graffiti writers have responded to the internet, social media, VR, and other new technologies. It’s a familiar question for me, as it was also the inspiration for my book Viral Art.

MU #VIRALVANDALS from stichting MU on Vimeo.

It’s exciting for me to see curators Jasper van Es & Good Guy Boris thinking about some of the questions that I looked for Viral Art, and to see how they see the scene having evolved in the years since Viral Art was published. Plus, their focus is more on graffiti while mine was on street art. Which is all to say, I’ve been looking forward to seeing #ViralVandals since I first heard about the idea for it, almost a year ago.

That will finally be happening later this week, when I’ll be in Eindhoven at the invitation of MU artspace and EMOVES to participate in a panel about #ViralVandals with Good Guy Boris (The Grifters), Mathieu Tremblin, and Mick La Rock. I dunno how many Vandalog readers we have in the Netherlands, but I hope to see a few of you there.


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

When Women Disrupt

June 11th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

When Women Disrupt Tour. Photo courtesy of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.

I just want to take a moment to applaud Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Jessica Sabogal, and Melinda James for their When Women Disrupt tour, where Tatyana and Jessica traveled through California, Arizona, New Mexico installing a series of bold murals (with Melinda documenting the process). The tour wrapped up this week, and these three women pulled no punches in their work. Here’s some more about the tour from The Root:

It seems like everything that went up for When Women Disrupt is amazing and necessary. I could go on, but I’ll just let the work speak for itself: Read the rest of this article »


Category: Photos, Videos | Tags: ,

GATS Does New York

June 10th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

GATS in Little Italy for The L.I.S.A. Project NYC. Photo by Rey Rosa Photography/The L.I.S.A. Project NYC, Inc.

New Yorkers have been seeing a fresh influx of work by GATS this past week. He’s one of my favorite Oakland writers/artists, so it was exciting to see him in town to work with my friends at Spoke Art NYC and The L.I.S.A. Project NYC.

GATS provided a fresh update to one of my favorite rotating walls along Mulberry Street for The L.I.S.A. Project NYC (see above). Not an easy wall to photograph, so it’s especially worth checking out in person.

A hand-painted ad takeover also appeared in Brooklyn. Maybe it’s still there? Let’s hope so, but the lifespan on these things doesn’t tend to be all that long.

GATS in Brooklyn. Photo by Caroline Caldwell.

And of course there’s the project that brought GATS to town: Against The Grain, his solo show at Spoke Art. Great use of found materials, and as well as techniques like pyrography. Against The Grain is open through June 25th at Spoke’s location on the Lower East Side.

Photos by Rey Rosa Photography/The L.I.S.A. Project NYC, Inc. and Caroline Caldwell


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

Dear Kitsch Street Artists…

May 18th, 2017 | By | 1 Comment »

Editor’s note: This guest post is from Cedar Lewisohn, a writer, curator, and artist whose work and words I’ve followed for nearly a decade. His solo show Ndungu, Isca opened last week at Exeter Phoenix in Exeter, UK. – RJ

There is currently a case of a mixed-race artist in America who has appropriated an image he found online, originally by a black female artist, and turned it into a mural. I understand that this has now become a legal issue. I have been an expert witness in several graffiti and street art related court cases in the UK, so would not want to comment on this case too directly while it is on-going. What I would say is, the world is awash with kitsch murals, and this appears to be another example. Street art and kitsch for me is an on-going area of frustration. With the continued explosion of street art, there is also an explosion of kitsch. That means art that is sentimental, lacks criticality and where the materials the work is produced with have no relevance to the subject of the work. It might also mean the artist has not considered site specificity. Kitsch pushes the discourse of visual art back around seventy years, or perhaps further.

The issue of appropriation (particularly by white male culture) in relation to street art is very complex. It is a major issue within the street art scene, but also a wider problem of inexperienced artists who don’t really understand the difference between post-modern appropriation, that is copying something to give it a new context and make a political point, and simply copying something, with no other real motive other than, they “like” the work. Street art today has become the preserve of what has been called the “skater dad”. That is a man (can be a woman also), who is old enough to be a father, but dresses like he is about to go skateboarding. This is pretty much a global trend. The way this links to “white male appropriation” is that the skater dad has basically appropriated youth culture as whole. It’s not standard appropriation, where someone with no links to a culture, simply steals from a genre. Skater dads may well have been skaters back in the day. But now, they really should focus on being dads.

Aside from the predominance of kitsch, a major problem of the street art movement around the world is not only that so many of the artists are white and male, but that the institutional structures that surround the scene are white and male. This also means the people who primarily make money out of this scene are white and middle class (there are also a surprising number of aristocrats involved in street art and graffiti at various levels), and if they wanted, could get a job in a bank tomorrow. That’s the difference and that’s what separates the skater dad from the real deal. Some people have a choice. They can be skater dad on the weekend, and go to the office on Monday. But not everyone has that choice. Skin colour or gender are not so easy to leave at home when you feel like it. And that’s the problem with blindly appropriating culture.

YT, POC, “they”, latinx, race, and gender issues are coming thick and fast. While those topics are relevant and important, sometimes the bigger picture can get lost in these nuances, which in turn can lead to more populist arguments seizing the agenda. Put simply, while we argue over the ethic make up of an art exhibition or the moral implications of stealing an image from Instagram, someone else is busy running the country into the ground. Should some random American mural artist have stolen another artist’s work and painted it on a wall? No, probably not. Am I hugely offended by this on some ethno, gendered, white man bad, level? No. I think there are more important issues to worry about, and kitsch murals aren’t going to solve them. Artists now, perhaps more than ever, should fight to make work that has meaning. Not only for today, but for the people who will look back at 2017 and ask, “What was going on?”.


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

The Corrections: Street Art Calling Out Bias in The New York Times

May 7th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

As much I’ve enjoyed the anti-Trump stickers that have been making up a healthy portion of my Instagram posts lately, they’re pretty basic: Trump sucks. We get it. New York agrees (except for maybe that one asshole putting up Infowars stickers in my neighborhood). I enjoy those stickers, but what I’d love to see some work that goes a bit deeper into the issues that Trump represents.

Luckily, there’s Alexandra Bell. Her new series of posters smacks you in the face, highlighting the everyday racism that was hiding in plain sight even before the age of “Trump’s America.” Bell has been putting her journalism degree to work critiquing articles from The New York Times to highlight the implicit bias in their stories, headlines, and page layout.

A post shared by Alex(andra) Bell (@yesitsalex) on

She starts with a real page layout from The New York Times, and redacts, critiques, or remakes the page to remove or highlight the paper’s implicit racial bias. Would Michael Brown have been referred to as “A Teenager Grappling with Problems and Promise” if he were white? Why was a major article about Brown given equal billing as an article about his killer? Why was Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt’s photo used below and article about the four white American swimmers who got caught vandalizing a Rio gas station?

A post shared by Alex(andra) Bell (@yesitsalex) on

Bell’s posters have been appearing across NYC, in the subways and on the street, and they’ve provoked different reactions. At first look, they may be confusing, and that’s also why they’re so powerful. These alternative versions of the Times give a glimpse into a different reality, and in doing so highlight the racism still present in ours, even in supposedly liberal and culturally sensitive publications like The New York Times. It’s some of the best street art I’ve seen all year.

And Bell has more to come.

A post shared by Alex(andra) Bell (@yesitsalex) on

Photos from Alexandra Bell’s Instagram


Category: Photos | Tags:

Thank you Very Nearly Almost

April 27th, 2017 | By | 1 Comment »

Roa in London, taken around the time I was interviewing him for Very Nearly Almost.

Sad news to report: Very Nearly Almost, the UK’s premier magazine covering street art/graffiti/muralism…, is shutting down after 10 years.

VNA was an early inspiration for me when Vandalog was just starting out. I would devour their interviews. VNA privileged the voice of the artist, publishing in-depth interviews with street art superstars like Shepard Fairey, as well as people who probably don’t get quite the same chances to take deep dives exploring their work. A few times, I’ve been fortunate to contribute to VNA as an interviewer. Actually, an interview with Case for VNA might have been the first time that someone else published my work.

The community around VNA, a community of contributing writers, photographers, and even artists who collaborated on limited edition covers, is a testament to the importance of the magazine and the genuine love and excitement with which the VNA team approached their work.

To give the magazine a proper send off before they close up shop, dozens artists have contributed work to a charity auction that VNA has organized to benefit Macmillan Cancer Support. Bidding starts today.

Photo by RJ Rushmore


Category: Auctions, Books / Magazines | Tags: , , ,

Upcoming: A West Cost Tour for Wastedland 2

April 9th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

Andrew H. Shirley’s Wastedland 2, which premiered last year in Detroit, is headed on a west coast tour. Wastedland 2 is part short film, part immersive art installation, and 100% a graffiti nerd paradise. Of course, it’s a sequel to Shirley’s Wastedland, from 2008.

This time around, the film stars the writers Avoid, Smells, and Wolftits playing alternative versions of themselves in a post-apocalyptic dreamworld. The trio, fueled by beer and weed, spend their days searching out the next spot to catch a tag and chasing traces of the God-like writer UFO. Other writers, mostly members of 907 crew or closely associated with the crew, make cameos too. But what makes Wastedland 2 a must-see is the immersive installation that accompanies some of the screenings, where Shirley and his team transform venues into mini-Wastedlands. Attendees get a film screening, plus an art exhibition to set the vibe.

The beginnings of Wastedland 2’s installation at Superchief Gallery in LA.

The team is already at work transforming LA’s Superchief Gallery in preparation for next week’s screening.

There are also upcoming Wastedland 2 screenings in Oakland, Reno, and elsewhere. Check the full list here.

Photos courtesy of Wastedland 2


Category: Events, Videos | Tags:

Holding onto Hope in a Sea of Destruction

April 9th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

Pat Perry‘s latest mural really is stunning. On Instagram, Pat captioned the work, “trying to keep the vision during these unraveling times.” We do have to keep trying, whatever the odds, and I love that Pat has referenced the importance not just of science, but also of art, craft, and creativity in preserving and replenishing our natural environment.

The mural was painted in Napier, New Zealand as part of PangeaSeed Foundation‘s Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans initiative.

As an aside, Sea Walls is an especially interesting mural project in a sea of mediocrity and artwashing. All of their murals take on a pro-environment theme, with a particular focus on oceans. Sea Walls murals have gone up around the world, most recently in Napier, New Zealand, where Pat Perry painted his mural. So far as mural festivals go, it’s a nice model. The same team could just as easily travel the world, going to whatever town wants some pretty pictures on whatever warehouse district is being “revitalized”, commissioning artists to paint whatever the hell they want. So, within the parachuting-artist model of muralism, I’ve got to give credit to Sea Walls for at least basing their work in useful and important content.

Photo by Tre Packard, via Pat Perry’s Instagram


Category: Photos | Tags: ,

Brexit is like…

March 29th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

Something timely from Vlady. All my best to my friends in the UK tonight…

Photo by Vlady


Category: Photos | Tags: