In Paris, Andreco illustrates the science of climate change

November 26th, 2015 | By | No Comments »

Detail of CLIMATE01 by Andreco

Andreco completed a beautiful mural in Paris in the run up to the COP21 conference on climate change, which starts next week. Painted on a wall outside of the Richomme Primary School, the mural depicts the water cycle and the carbon cycle. Andreco has definitely given a major upgrade to the whiteboard doodles that high school Environmental Science teacher used to draw. He calls the piece CLIMATE01.

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Labrona’s roots: Trains, back alleys, and friends

November 19th, 2015 | By | No Comments »

Labrona and Mathieu Connery.

It’s hard to not come back to Labrona‘s art. Not only because he is one of my favorite street artists ever, but also because he is one of those who continues to create the same way he has created since the beginning, year after year, for him, on the streets, on trains, with his friends. He continues to work and keeps up his generosity, without paying mind to changes that have disrupted the street art movement lately. For this, he should have the respect of all. Most importantly, he cherishes time spent creating with friends, because to create in the streets is also for him a real opportunity to share a good time with good friends. All the following pieces were done during last summer and fall, in Montreal and Toronto by Labrona with Troy Lovegates, Gawd, Monosourcil, Kim, Kat, Produkt and Mathieu Connery.


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Helping people is complicated, especially if you’re a famous street artist or an art collector

November 19th, 2015 | By | 1 Comment »
28 Millimeters, Women Are Heroes. Action in Kibera Slum, General View, Kenya, 2009. Photo by JR.

28 Millimeters, Women Are Heroes. Action in Kibera Slum, General View, Kenya, 2009. Photo by JR.

Helping people is difficult. Recently, I heard a completely logical and sincere argument that “empowering” people is a colonialist concept. So what’s a caring person to do? Donate to the Red Cross? If you’re a street artist looking to use your art and resources to skip over that middlemen and effect change directly, it can get even more complicated. That’s what Banksy and JR have discovered this fall.

Earlier this month, we mentioned that supplies from Dismaland were sent to Calais, where they were used to cloth and house refugees. Then, some aid workers stole Banksy’s “Dismal aid” sign. Okay, admittedly, the sign wasn’t essential to as a shelter, but it spoke to the situation and helped raise awareness for the plight of migrants in Calais. So it did serve a purpose. What’s next? Will aid workers start stealing the spare Dismaland shirts and hoodies that were distributed to the refugees? I guess those could go on eBay. Undoubtedly, Banksy and his team were doing good in Calais, and with minimal fanfare. But aid workers are claiming that Banksy was just there for the publicity, which is a pretty ridiculous claim. I mean, Dismaland had already gotten some pretty good press. If this was about attention, shouldn’t Banksy have just put up a stencil in central London or something? That seems like it would have been a lot easier than building shelters in a foreign country.

JR seems to be facing a similar problem with a project of his from back in 2009: His Women Are Heroes installation in Kibera, Kenya, shown above. For that action, JR photographed women in Kibera and printed their portraits onto vinyl sheets, which were then installed as roofing material on a few of the homes in the slum. You might think that it was a clever method of creating art for an international audience while simultaneously providing a much-needed service to the local community. Or you could see Kibera as a gold mine to be exploited.

The charity Water Is Life sent a team (accompanied by a film crew) to Kibera to “steal” (actually it was done with permission) a piece of JR’s work and put a new roof in its place. The idea was that they could take these JR pieces, bring them to the United States, and sell them for a lot of money, which would then go into funding Water Is Life’s work.

They made this snazzy video about the whole thing (Water Is Life actually removed the video from their own account for unknown reasons, but other copies are available online):

Okay, so, aside from referring to the residents of Kibera the “mark” in this “heist” and the generally murky ethics of selling work from the street, I think I can acknowledge there is the seed of a good idea here: Build better roofs for people who need them, and make money for water projects while you do it. Great.

Unfortunately, things went a little pear-shaped. The printed tarp that was sold for about $10,000 at Julien’s Auctions probably isn’t actually by JR. According to the Guardian:

“After his initial installation six years ago, JR formed a foundation, which continues to add new tarpaulins to uncovered houses in Kibera. These later works feature photographs shot by local kids. JR says the piece Deutsch auctioned was not by him, but is instead one of these later prints, by a young, unknown Kenyan.”

Also in the Guardian, JR points out that the ethics and practical implications of selling the work aren’t quite so rosy as Water Is Life would like to have you believe. For one thing, Water Is Life is trying to create a market for JR street pieces out of Kibera, and they are saying it’s a million dollar market. If residents suddenly believe, rightly or wrongly, that their roofs are worth a million dollars, that could create absolute chaos. And then there’s the question of whether Water Is Life is exploiting these residents by giving them pennies on the dollar for products that the charity will then go out and sell to fund Water Is Life’s own projects. Finally, the whole idea of going and taking these JR pieces seems to imply that the work JR did in Kibera was basically frivolous, but that Water Is Life’s work is valuable.

It’s all very strange. JR tries to do something good, and then a charity swoops in to disrupt his work and exploit the people he was trying to help. Now, JR says he might have to stop working in Kibera. What if this same problem spreads to other places where he has worked, as it has with the removal of Banksy’s work from the street?

So if you see Water Is Life trying to sell a tarp out of Kibera, buyer beware. It might not be what you think it is, and it’s only because art collectors create demand for street pieces that they have any possible value. Plus, the artist that you’re such a fan of? He doesn’t support your purchase. Is there a million dollars worth of art sitting in a Kenyan slum? Only if we all decide that there is.

Update – November 20th, 2015: One more story should have been included in this post. So here it is… London-based street artist Stik is facing similar troubles to JR, except this case seems even more clear-cut. No surprise: The villain is a posh art gallery. A public mural that Stik painted years ago with children in Poland has been sliced up and shipped to the UK to be sold. If the pieces do sell, it could disrupt Stik’s market for legitimate studio works, which isn’t so great when you’re trying to make a living. So now, an artist like Stik has to wonder: Should I be painting murals if they could later be resold? And what of the children who helped paint the piece, and the local town that enjoyed it? So yeah, doing good for people is complicated once shady art dealers get involved.

Photo by JR

Category: Art News | Tags: , ,

Has street art “sold out and gentrified our cities”?

November 12th, 2015 | By | 9 Comments »
The entrance to Wynwood Walls in Miami, Florida. Photo by Osseous.

The entrance to Wynwood Walls in Miami, Florida. Photo by Osseous.

Earlier this week, the online street art community was abuzz about an article by Rafael Schacter for The Conversation, From dissident to decorative: why street art sold out and gentrified our cities. Between the time I left my apartment on Monday morning and when I arrived at work half an hour later, it seemed like a dozen of my friends had shared the article or reacted to it in some way.

Schacter has captured a feeling about street art and contemporary muralism, a nagging fear really, that seems to have been bubbling just beneath the surface for a while now. Basically, Schacter argues that street art isn’t rebellious anymore. Rather, that it’s most notable form is as a tool used by corporations to spur gentrification. Agree or disagree, the article is a must-read.

Rather than go on my own rant responding to Schacter like I would usually do, I reached out to some of the biggest names in street art and muralism for their reactions. A few of them answered. The prompt was pretty open-ended, basically just to share some thoughts after reading the article. Here’s what Buff Monster, Living Walls’ Monica Campana, 1xRun’s Jesse Cory, Jeffrey Deitch, Libray Street Collective’s Matt Eaton, Tristan Eaton, John Fekner, Gaia, Ganzeer, Carlo McCormick, The Painted Desert Project’s Chip Thomas, Jessie Unterhalter, Vexta, and Wall Therapy’s Ian Wilson had to say (with emphasis added)…

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Only hours left: Swoon’s Kickstarter Campaign

November 10th, 2015 | By | No Comments »

I don’t have much to add to that video other than to say this: Both times I’ve worked on with Swoon, it’s been life-changing. You’ve only got a few hours left. Swoon has proven that she walks the walk, and she has some serious plans for Braddock, PA. If all goes well, this will take her art practice to new heights. If you can contribute to her Kickstarter campaign, please do so.

And yes, Swoon has met her initial goals, but there’s still a real need for more funds to get this project to be the best it can be.

You can support the Braddock Tiles project here.

Category: Fundraiser | Tags: , ,

Street art tackles the crisis for migrants

November 7th, 2015 | By | 1 Comment »

A still from DE-FENCE. Image courtesy of DE-FENCE.

Earlier this week, two very different pieces of street art landed in my inbox within half an hour of each other. That’s not so strange. Plenty of people send me photos and videos every day. What was strange is that both pieces aim to shed light on the crisis facing the thousands upon thousands of people in the midst of international migration, and that both pieces were installed without authorization.

The first piece is by two of my favorite artists: John Fekner and Fra.Biancoshock. “Family Portrait ” (Displaced And On The Run…) is the first time these two artists have collaborated. Fekner comes from the first generation of contemporary street artists, putting up his first stencil in 1968. Biancoshock is a young Italian street artist making some of the most exciting interventions in public space today.

"Family Portrait " (Displaced And On The Run…)

“Family Portrait ” (Displaced And On The Run…). Photo courtesy of Fra.Biancoshock.

Fekner and Biancoshock have intentionally avoided saying where Family Portrait is located, but they do have a bit to say about why they did it:

Drawing on the spirit seen in Dorothea Lange’s photographic portrait documentation of rural poor families and migratory farm workers during the Great Depression, the artists’ intent is to create an empathetic reflection of the plight of the migrant; an intimate portrait of a family “left hung out to dry” and on the run.

While Fekner and Biancoshock’s intervention is quiet and meditative, a group of artists and activists in the Czech Republic have responded to the plight of the migrant with a very different energy.

A still from DE-FENCE. Image courtesy of DE-FENCE.

A still from DE-FENCE. Image courtesy of DE-FENCE.

The DE-FENCE collective has made their presence felt at detention center (a former prison) in the Czech village of Drahonice. The detention center currently houses refugees that were caught by the Czech authorities. The refugees are incarcerated indefinitely and watched over by up to 100 guards, and each refugee is charged $275 a month for the privilege. On September 28th, Czech Statehood Day, DE-FENCE visited the detention center, which they compare to a concentration camp. DE-FENCE brought with them a can of paint and some bolt cutters. Here’s what happened:

Now, the heart-shaped section of fencing that they cut out of the detention center is going to be auctioned off, with all profits going towards “grassroots refugee aid activities.” The starting price is 10,000 euros. If you’re interested in buying the object, contact

The  DE-FENCE object. Image courtesy of DE-FENCE.

The DE-FENCE object. Image courtesy of DE-FENCE.

PS, in case you missed it, Banksy also recycled materials from Dismaland for use in the camps in Calais, and then someone stole the sign.

Photos courtesy of Fra.Biancoshock and DE-FENCE

Category: Photos, Videos | Tags: , , ,

Returning from an accidental hiatus

November 2nd, 2015 | By | No Comments »
Michelle Angela Ortiz installing a piece for the Cit of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

Michelle Angela Ortiz installing a piece for the Cit of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

Vandalog has been silent for about a month. My apologies. I knew it would be a busy month, but I didn’t realize just how much would have to fall to they wayside.

My October was absorbed by Open Source, an exhibition curated by Pedro Alonzo for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. In one way or another, I’ve been working on Open Source in my own very small way for about two and a half years. In October, the exhibition finally culminated in a month-long series of art installations and events. I found the entire experience extremely rewarding, maybe even life-changing. It’s always an honor to work for Mural Arts’ Jane Golden, and adding Monica Campana and Pedro to the mix made took things to new heights.

So I think that Mural Arts, Jane and Pedro and Monica in particular, did something special with Open Source, but of course it’s literally my job to say that. Instead of going into self-promotional detail, here are a few people who generally seem to agree:

Still, that’s highlighting three out of about a dozen projects, which leaves me curious: What did people think about Open Source? Was it a success? Was it relevant? Philly seems to love it, but does the internet care (does that even matter though)? I’d love to get some feedback on the project. Leave a comment or, if you prefer, shoot an email.

Thanks, and again, my apologies for the unexpected hiatus on the blog. Hopefully things will get back on track this week.

Photo by RJ Rushmore

Category: Random, Site News | Tags: , , ,

Tour in the Bay with Troy Lovegates

November 2nd, 2015 | By | 1 Comment »

Zio Zegler. San Francisco, SoMa.

“Travel broadens the mind.” Well I really hope that’s true! I had the chance to spend a few days in the Bay area, which gave me another opportunity to continue my favorite activity: urban exploration. As a European, it’s a bit risky to show my own vision of America’s urban environment, and express feelings that could be misunderstood. This time, I had the chance to be guided through San Francisco and Oakland by one of the most talented Canadian street artists, Troy Lovegates, based in San Francisco for the last 2 years, and so have my point of view challenged by an insider of the Bay Area art scene. We left SF for Oakland, went through West Oakland, playground of graffiti writers, reached downtown, with its big murals, passed by Athen B. gallery (where Lovegates was showing in a collaborative group exhibition with Zio Zegler, Jaz and EverSiempre), and ended up in Chinatown. I unfortunately do not have photos of Lovegates’ pieces, as his street art pieces are usually buffed or cleaned super fast. And he still has not had the opportunity to legally paint a wall in the Bay area. But he does not despair! Lovegates had to wait years before getting a wall in Montreal, and finally managed to paint 2 murals very late after he left Montreal for Toronto…


Cannon Dill. Oakland.

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October 2nd, 2015 | By | No Comments »


Because it’s 1am and I’ve spent the better part of my night scheduling tweets and Facebook posts, I thought I’d just very quickly share this latest piece by Fra.Biancoshock. It’s called #PICOFTHEDAY. Seems appropriate. It can be found somewhere on the streets of Lithuania. And also on the internet, which is all that really matters, right?

Photo by Fra.Biancoshock

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Dismaland: Teenage dream world

September 25th, 2015 | By | No Comments »


Dismaland closes on Sunday, but I’m a slow writer, so I only just finished my review today. Check it out on Hyperallergic.

Photo by RJ Rushmore

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