Introducing: Benjamin Murphy

I will be the first to admit, that I am terrible with my e-mail. I actually open e-mails and if I don’t see an image right away or worse – SPELLING MISTAKES, than your correspondence goes right into trash. This morning, however, an e-mail from an artist caught my eye that I thought would be worth posting about. Benjamin Murphy is a British artist who uses electrical tape to create ephemeral works on the streets. The idea isn’t novel in the slightest, but his bio made me chuckle so I had to open the image attachments and was pleasantly surprised to see some tantalizing images of women and one in an oven. Anyone who sends the following to a blog is alright in my book:

Benjamin Murphy a manchild from Yorkshire who likes to frequent the ladies section of Primark. He likes to draw on other peoples property with electrical tape, creating something he likes to call ‘art’. This method of creating something people can point and gawp at, is more ecologically sound than putting a cow in formaldehyde and chopping it in half.

While I heard the name from his work for Anti-Slavery International in which he created a 16 story piece on Great Eastern Street to promote the event, I never had the chance to really look into his work. Here are a few images that I thought I would share with everyone. And I look forward to seeing more when he opens his first solo show at Hoxton Gallery on November 1.

Images courtesy of Benjamin Murphy

Shepard Fairey in London

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

Rich Simmons at Imitate Modern

It’s Frieze week and London is in full swing with pompous art enthusiasts and decrepit rich men buying art and prostitutes all around the city. While most people get excited about the Fair itself, here at Vandalog, we like the satellite events happening that let the galleries go all out and give us a break from snobbery that encompasses Frieze. So besides Moniker and Lazarides’ Bedlam, Imitate Modern is joining the ranks of outsider shows with Just Be You Tiful – a solo show by Rich Simmons.

While most of our readers know Rich as Opera Gallery’ poster boy for commercial street art, this guy has really come into his own in 2012. While he may get a bad rep from all of the publicity that Opera threw at him, Simmons is one of the most hardworking artists I have had the pleasure of knowing. Always willing to lend a helping hand and constantly scrutinizing his own work, Simmons is his own worst critic (not the naysayers on the Banksy forum).

For Just Be You Tiful Simmons has been locked in the studio producing an entirely new body of work to showcase during Frieze at Imitate Modern. Known for its sold out Stik show last year, Simmons has impressed the gallery with his own brand of stencil and collage works. The master of the exacto knife, these intricate multi-layered canvasses are sure to turn a few heads when they find out this is Simmons’ new style especially the Sailor Jerry homages and naked pin-ups. Ooh La La!

Just Be You Tiful opens October 12 at Imitate Modern in London.

All images courtesy of Rich Simmons

Keith Haring x Obey Collaboration Preview

Since I heard about the Keith Haring x OBEY collaboration, I have been waiting to see the end result. Thankfully, this Autumn I won’t be sporting OBEY’s usual snap back but an array of worn in tees and hoodies emblazoned with some of Haring’s most iconic images. The line will even boast a leather varsity jacket and a military m65 style that resembles the coat that Haring used to wear while painting in the 80’s.

For Shepard Fairey, this partnership between OBEY and the Keith haring Foundation is his way of paying homage to an artist, businessman and ground breaking street artist. The line blatantly points out the likeness between the artists in their subject matters and foray into commercial projects, allowing the mainstream to own their artwork in another form than just paintings. Most importantly, however, is that OBEY is bringing Haring’s art work to a new audience just over 20 years since his passing. This is what Shepard had to say about the collection and inspiration behind it:

“Though Keith Haring died only two years after I started making street art, his art and practice had already made a profound impact on me. At art college and on the streets of NYC in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Keith’s radiant baby and other images could be seen on the tees of all the flyest hipsters. Keith Haring was a prolific artist with a distinct style of drawing and painting that was simultaneously refined, but primitive, deliberate but lyrical and energetic. Haring believed “the public has a right to art” and this philosophy informed his populist approach to spreading his art and messages. He pursued his art with a deeply personal vision, but also as a champion of social justice and a belief in the interconnectedness of humanity. Haring demonstrated the power of art on the streets, but he also put his art on t-shirts and record covers. He even opened a retail space in NYC called The Pop Shop. Eventually Haring’s artwork became widely respected, displayed, and sold as “fine art”. Haring rose from the 80’s NYC graffiti scene to not only affect the art world, but to dramatically impact pop culture. Inspired by Keith Haring’s achievements, I pursued my art career with the optimism that my goals could be attained.”

Check out some of the stand out pieces of the collection below. Some of the items are available now on OBEY Clothing with the full mens and womens collection arriving throughout the next few weeks in the US and UK.

Continue reading “Keith Haring x Obey Collaboration Preview”

Whitecross Street Party

This weekend saw the return of the Whitecross Street Party and the Rise of the Non-Conformists Art Show. Each year, the event gets bigger and bigger featuring an array of talented artists that display their work for several months in the heart of London. Always a fan of White Cross, this year’s line-up was the best yet featuring large scale works by Malarky, Ronzo, Shepard Fairey, Conor Harrington and so many more which will be on display until September.

Below are just some teaser images of the work, but check back for pictures of the antics from the weekend.

Joel Gray
Conor Harrington and Robots

Continue reading “Whitecross Street Party”

Interview with Risk

In the last week of Corey Helford‘s “Letters from America,” taking place right now Black Rat Projects in London, Vandalog caught up with another one of the participating artists, graffiti legend Risk. Grilling him on the nature of graffiti in the gallery and the place of collectives in the present day, Risk gave us an insight into his mediums, thoughts on working in the streets and showing alongside street artists.

Stephanie: How do you think the perception of graffiti has changed with the explosion of street art?

Risk: I think it is easier to relate to street art, therefore the perception of Graffiti is better as a whole.

S: Are they still separate movements?

R: Yes completely separate, yet cousins, so to speak…. Street art comes from the evolution of graffiti, the act of getting up and forcing society to look and think. It is an easier way, and more blatant. It’s only natural that we figure out quicker easier ways….

S: How do you think graffiti translates to canvas indoors? Does it have the same impact?

R: I think it’s the responsibility of the artists to make the canvas translate. Every artists should consider where they are showing and to whom. They have a unique opportunity to set the stage and convey what they want to convey to whom… As far as impact, I like to take advantage of the gallery setting and do things I can’t necessarily do on the streets, I.E. add neon, or create an environment etc.

S: Do you try to accomplish the same meaning with indoor work as your outdoor pieces?

R: It depends on what work you are referring to. My graffiti is still for me and my peers, however my mural work is for everyone, and it is meant to evoke stimulation and feelings thru color. My gallery work is meant to be visually timeless, yet here and now. It is all representations of things I have done on the streets but with added refined elements. So to answer your question they all overlap, yet they are all very different.

S: How did you get involved with the Corey Helford in the show in the first place?

R: I had a simultaneous opening with Crash at Corey Helford a few years back and I have been with them ever since.

S: Have you shown in London before? Why do you think there is such a draw for street art and graffiti in London?

R: I have never shown in London prior to this show however I attended a semester of school in London over twenty years ago, and I returned in the late 80’s to compete in a world graffiti championship held in Bridlington. A lot has changed since then….I think as a whole the draw to London and street art was helped along by the popularity and success of Banksy. Although many graffiti artists and hardcore enthusiasts including Banksy himself may attribute it to others before him you can not deny what he has accomplished. Simple facts are 99% of people are followers. The world is a big place the followers gain momentum….

S: With graffiti such a mainstream movement do you see the need for graffiti collectives now?

R: I understand the concept of increasing lobbying power for an arts infrastructure, and rallying behind a cause or belief. It also develops a higher group profile that benefits the individuals by association. But most importantly creates a hub for curators and commissioners to more easily locate potential talent. etc. however I also strongly believe that as a whole we need to be independent and not grouped together as one.

S: How have collectives changed over the years?

R: Collectives are way better now because you pick and choose who you want to be shown with. We are recognized and celebrated as individuals. I believe these types of shows are very positive. In the past I used to be offended when they had a show or event and all the graffiti got lumped into one. I remember being young and participating in events where each artist was allocated a specific space and the organizer or curator would say and “all the graffiti guys can paint this space together….” I think we’ve come a long way…

S: What pieces do you have in this show?

R: I have a sort of retrospective array of work in the show. I have traditional graffiti type canvas, a mixed media panel with neon and license plates, some new sculpture stuff I’ve been working on and a few of my more fine art color field type pieces.

S: What are your future plans?

R: My plan for the future is to never know the future. when you know the future it seems as if you know the end. I never want the ride to end….

Photo by No Lions in England

Morley and Lazarides Team Up Once Again

Fast Songs

Once again, Los Angeles street artist Morley has joined forces with the gang at Lazarides to release several limited edition prints. Editions of forty, each of the four unique prints are signed and numbered by the artist. They are printed on Magnani Litho 300gsm paper and are 70cm x 50cm costing £95 each. The two pictured are my favorite but to view the others and purchase the prints head over to The Outsiders.

Time Machine

Oh and if you haven’t heard already, Morley is coming back over the pond for his first solo exhibition with Lazarides at The Outsiders in Newcastle. Adapting his wheatpastes and parachute men for indoors has been interesting in the past for group shows the artist has participated in, so the Newcastle show will really be a test whether he is able to transport audiences into his charmingly witty world whole heartedly.

All Images Courtesy of The Outsiders

So what really is Seize Art Fare?

Over the past few weeks, I am sure many of you have heard whisperings about Seize Art Fare happening in London June 1. With no location or artist roster release, there is a lot of speculative reporting about what it actually is: from a baiting by cops to arrest street artists to a wannabe Cans festival with lesser-known artists. Is it a graffiti or street art fair? So of course Vandalog wanted to get to the bottom of Seize and spoke to the man behind the illegal fair, RSH, to get some answers.

What is the concept of Seize Art Fare? Is it a fair or is it a festival? Is the main purpose to showcase talent or buy art work like other fairs? What makes Seize different from other street art fairs out there?

As graffiti and its attendant culture are being appropriated by corporations keen to capitalize on its popularity, particularly with young people, those of us who do it for the love have grown tired of the endless stream of advertising disguised as “street art.”

Through the increasing commoditization and corporate appropriation of graffiti’s aesthetics the true nature of graffiti is being lost. Graffiti is ultimately an act of insurgency, a refusal to be on the receiving end of the confines of environmental control imposed by cities and corporations. Regardless of the level of talent involved in the act of graffiti the action itself is a pure form of artistic expression. A reaching out to the community for acceptance, notoriety, and engagement either positive or negative.

On the other hand the “art fair” has become the prevalent model for the large scale sale of contemporary art. Short one week festivals akin to an upscale starving artists group portrait sale at a roadside motel. They charge galleries incredible amounts to rent a cubicle style space and reduce art, its public consumption and its sale to an overpriced boot-sale. Art fairs are the horrible by-product of the capitalist driven model of art investment, like the slave trading markets of ancient Rome art is bought and sold far from the eye of anyone but the 1%.

So Seize Art Fare is both a reaction to the appropriation of graffiti, the blatant removal of the vandalism heart of graffiti, and to the cancer of the art fair commodities market that the art world has mutated into in the 21st century. No sales, no admission fees, no artist fees, no sponsors. Just people getting together to paint; fuck permission.

What do you think the sudden international rise in street art festivals and is? Do you think it is financially driven?

Street Art is a general term used to mean art that is displayed on walls outside, which has become very popular in the last decade or so. But in the 1930-40s you had much the same kind of push into public art display, though at the time it was called murals, not street art. This kind of sub culture branding and rebranding is useful to the companies that want to cash in on the trend. Much the way Nirvana was suddenly ‘grunge’ in the 1990’s so that other bands could be sold under the same genre label.

The thing that none of these festivals have is the legitimacy of illegality. All of the festivals and fairs have been planned long in advance, public license applied for, council and corporate sponsorships sorted. They have banners printed, run ads in big papers announcing their “graffiti” festival and yet they are just the rebranding of muralism, nothing new. A brand name danger, packaged and sold with no real risk involved for anyone, participant or spectator. Without the action of doing it against the permission of society at large graffiti is gutted of its true power – it looses its soul to the realm of marketing and advertising.

Why did you choose London for its location?

It’s centrally located, some of the greatest artists in the world live close by, and it’s close to a major airport.

How are you deciding which artists and/or galleries can participate? What is the need for secrecy? Is it to build hype?

There is what you would call a curated group of bigger name artists. Those whose involvement is contingent on not being named beforehand due to the nature of the festival. Those are ones I have reached out to because I believe in what they do. But I don’t just want this to be another “look at me and my friends” festival where some clique gets all of the say. I want anyone who can use a can to step up and take the risk and do it, to come out and make it happen collectively. So its open and dozens of artists have gotten in touch and will be coming out. Lots of them are regular names you know in the graffiti and street art world. Others I had never heard of but was excited to have them reach out. This is for everyone. Free admission, no fees, no sales. Just open public art.

The secrecy is more of a safety mechanism for those involved. This is for real. We don’t have permission to do this festival at all. We have chosen a spot that isn’t likely to anger the owners due to its location and current state, but because we have not asked anyone about doing this, nor applied for council permission both the location and lineup will not be public until the day of June 1st.

What do you hope to accomplish with Seize?

With anything like this there is an amount of risk. The risk is part of its truth in this case. What we hope to accomplish most is to bring amazing art to a huge amount of people, create a positive environment for creativity and give back to the public. But to do so without asking. Why should people have to ask to bring beauty into the world? Its grey enough living in any city, what harm is there in sharing a bit of colour?

For more on Seize, check their Facebook and Tumblr pages.

Come and Get It! Half Price: The Apprentice Takes on Urban Art

As most of you may know, last night premiered the latest episode of The Apprentice UK concentrating on the sales of urban art. The two teams were split up and tasked to represent two street artists and flog their work the public in East London at a night only gallery show. Obviously knowing very little about the genre himself, Lord Sugar set the teams up with car company Renault and gin manufacturer Beefeater in attempt to generate big sales for the teams by way of a corporate client. And then the circus ensued…

The episode opened with the teams standing looking frightened in Leake Street Tunnel in Waterloo with an ominous video of Lord Sugar talking them through the task. The candidates were then immediately split into their teams with half traveling to Bristol “the birthplace of graffiti” and the other half staying in London to source artists. In Bristol, the candidates met with SPQR and Copyright. Not liking the controversial wares of SPQR (the hypodermic needle freaked them out) the team fell for the stencil/tattoo-like stylings of Copyright. One of the guys kept trying to offer his own ludicrous interpretation the work as the camera panned to the silent artists making the situation just as uncomfortable for the viewer watching. In London, the teams met with Pure Evil, Nathan Bowen, and James Jessop. The teams fought over who wanted to sell Pure Evil’s work as he eventually went with the team that showed more enthusiasm rather than the pretty boy who kept talking out of his ass about how much he knew about street or rather that he may have viewed Exit Through the Gift Shop and retained a few facts. Bowen was also chosen to be shown, in order to impress Beefeater with his London centric characters. It was, however, ironic that half the team saw his work outside in Bristol and expressed how much they hated only to find out that they were selling it the next night. Nice job boys. The other team settled on Jessop and Copyright in the hopes of selling a large Jessop canvas to someone who was drunk enough to drop 10,000 pounds securing the team the win.

The shows themselves took place in Black Rat and Arch 402 with the usual street art crowds and bankers trolling through. The teams had no idea how or who to sell to, but just talking bullshit as if they were selling insurance. I’m just hoping that the artists who were involved were happy clearing overstock that night and making some extra money. Pure Evil alone sold over 10,000 pounds worth of work apparently. Not a bad haul and I’m sure some great publicity will come from it. Bowen got into the spirit by doing a live canvas based on the London landscape that could have gone to Beefeater, but with his representatives crappy client skills, the company left empty handed and their pockets still teeming with money. But in the end, the team that had Pure Evil won, even though it was only by 173 pounds. Bit of a shame. If only someone had enough space for any one of those 10 feet Jessops…

So what is the lesson here boys and girls? Is that anyone can sell urban art nowadays? Is it that almost anyone will buy something if you tell them it is cool/hip/trendy/up and coming? No no no. The lesson is that if you paid full price for any artists’ works than you paid too much. With an hour left to selling the teams started giving 50% discounts to some of the work. Half Price! Come and get it! Because that is not in bad taste whatsoever…

Images courtesy of BBC

Walls & Frames: The Review

Even though Walls & Frames by Maximiliano Ruiz has been out for a few months now, I have finally gotten around to reading it cover to cover and writing a proper review. With so many street art books (and how expensive the hardcover ones are out there today) we think it is important at Vandalog to try and write honest reviews about what we come across.

I have been really excited about the release Walls & Frames, not just because of the hand painted dust jackets sold during the book launch, but because the topic it covers is one that I have researched and continue to do so in depth. As street art continues to become more and more popular as a mainstream art genre, the transition of street art into a commodity is an interesting aspect of the genre. Each artists that comes from or works in both mediums deals with the transition in their own way, and I finally thought there was a book that was going to ask the tough questions to artists about working indoors. How do you feel about your work as a commodity? Do you have a different process with canvasses versus walls? How do you justify the price tag of your work if it doesn’t take as much time? Do you only paint outdoors to promote the sale of your work? These and more are what I thought was going to be addressed in Walls & Frames, but unfortunately, the book falls short of asking any of these questions and puts forth an array of 101 artists work (some of whom have never even gotten up in the streets). From the title alone, I at least hoped, at the very least, that the Ruiz would juxtapose artists’ outdoor work with their indoor pieces as the images and let the reader assess the differences, but alas, all of the images are of work that has been shown or sold by galleries around the world. Sadly, even just with a quick flip through, one will find Walls & Frames just another well designed coffee table book in which to impress your friends.

Right from the outface, the book is clearly more of a compilation of images rather than a critical perspective on the transition of street art. The only writing from Ruiz is in a two page preface, which states the obvious saying that street art has become a global mainstream phenomenon solidifying itself as a true art form. Using the phrase street art as an umbrella term throughout, there is no distinction about what constitutes street art and who is a street artist. Instantly confusing, the term is used a categorical phrase in order to group the names featured in the book, whether they have painted outdoors or not. The term is molded somewhat through artist quotes within the book, but does not directly address the overarching question that nobody has really answered yet: what can be described as street art in this day and age?

From the preface, the 101 artists are showcased alphabetically with their name, birth place and date as well as a quote about their work. Of course, the ones I find most interesting are those who actually address the topic of their street versus their fine art. Greek based artist Alexandros Vasmoulakis, who has successful created canvasses as amazing as his large scale abstract street art had to say the following:

My paintings are strongly influenced from my initial street artwork. However, when I exhibit my work in the gallery space, I consider myself a painter rather than a street artist. The street art market can be sweet and cozy for every young artist, nevertheless it could be a wolf in disguise. Generally, I do not really pay much attention to the location of my work. My first intention is to make something strong and worthy. This can be enough.

Thankfully, a majority of the quotes from artists are at least related to the transition from the streets to the gallery. Each artist had something different to say about the topic. Some like, Axel Void, don’t make any distinction, but many say the streets inspire their work with styles, materials or the environment. Others, like Bom K, separate the two as completely different creative entities to express themselves. Ben Frost discusses how he is mostly a gallery artist now because it takes so long to create a single piece while someone like Blek Le Rat paints on canvas since it is permanent while his street work is ephemeral lasting only a few days or hours.

While I may wish for longer read on the topic, the book is a starting point for others to continue Ruiz’s work. And besides, who doesn’t like to look at some pretty pictures once in awhile?

All images courtesy of Gelstaten