But if you’re looking for something up now in NYC, definitely stop by Roa’s solo show at Jonathan Levine Gallery. ANIMAL very cleverly made a series of GIFs of the show. I had a pretty similar reaction to this show as I had to Roa’s show at Stolenspace last year in London. Basically, I went in with a negative attitude of thinking I’d seen the work before, and I left happy as a kid in a candy store because Roa’s pieces are so damn fun to experience and play with. It’s a really stupid fear/attitude that I have about Roa’s shows, and it’s one that the work always seems to overcome, proving my preconceived notions wrong. Good stuff, as always.
Niels “Shoe” Meulman is retiring his use of the term “Calligraffiti”, because he feels his work is now better represented by the term “Abstract Vandalism,” now that his work is moving away from letters and becoming more abstract. Okay, he’s evolving as an artist, but really: who cares? That’s a pretty standard evolution these days for artists coming out of graffiti. Two reasons this is interesting. First, he’s published a short manifesto of Abstract Vandalism, which I love, and I highly recommend picking up a copy for the great little tidbits like “The difference between art and vandalism is only in the eye of the law upholder.” Second, Shoe is giving up admin control of the Calligraffiti facebook page, which has over half a million likes. In a few days, Shoe will be selecting new admins for the page, artists whose work he feels is in line with Calligraffiti now that his work is not. You can learn more about that, and suggest yourself as a new admin, here.
I’ve never really cared for MTO‘s realistic figurative murals, even though they do play with space in an interesting way, but he’s really piqued my interest with a new piece for Memorie Urbane 2015 in Gaeta, Italy. The piece is a conceptual look into the future, a future where Google controls what information we have access to (oh wait, maybe this isn’t so futuristic…) in public space. The mural is a response to the Google Cultural Institute’s Street Art Project, which ostensibly acts as a digital archive for street art and murals. The project is highly curated and controlled, begging the question: Who decides what’s included, and what isn’t? MTO’s piece also hints at a future where augmented reality is the norm. The re:art has a great article with photos and analysis of MTO’s mural. For now, I’ll just add: I can’t wait for this mural to show up on Google Street View.
Aïda Gómez saw a deteriorating wall in the Berlin subway and thought what we all think when we see a city’s infrastructure falling apart: “This is terrible. I can’t believe I just paid money to wait for a train in this place if they can’t even fix the walls…” Well actually, no. Gómez wasn’t quite so sour. She saw an opportunity to inject some fun onto the subway and use art to repair the wall. She did this:
Okay, I’m not sure “street Tetris” is really a thing. I suppose I just made it up, but if it were a thing, Gómez just won. She calls this project Mind the Gap. It reminds me of the Astoria Scum River Bridge by Jason Eppink and Posterchild, which I also really love.
Last week, Blu shocked Berlin by orchestrating the removal of two of his own iconic murals, including a mural that was at one point a collaboration with JR. The murals were located in the city’s famous Kreuzberg neighborhood, which was once home to squatters and artists, but is now undergoing significant and swift gentrification.
The squatters in the buildings Blu had painted were recently evicted, and a real estate developer is about to build on the empty lot in front of the murals. Apparently, the new condos would have had a great view of the murals. So, one night last week, a team with two lifts painted the walls black, and they did it with Blu’s support.
Blu commented, “After witnessing the changes happening in the surrounding area during the last years, we felt it was time to erase both walls.”
Even though I’m not sure I entirely agree with his actions, I definitely say bravo to Blu for sticking to his principles. I’m sad to see these murals go, but their removal is one of the greatest statements made about street art this year. Blu’s street art is highly political, as was this act. Blu decided what to do with his murals before that right could be taken away from him or the murals could be co-opted by a property developer. He took control of a space, just as he did when he first painted the murals in 2007 and 2008. These pieces were painted for old Kreuzberg, not yuppie Kreuzberg, and the yuppies can’t have them.
Finally, of course, here’s what the murals used to look like (after JR’s wheatpastes had decayed and Blu painted goggles in their place):
Banksy‘s website was updated recently with an animated tribute to Nekst, a very talented internationally recognized graffiti writer who died last year. The screenshot above gives you the basic idea of Banksy’s tribute, but you can see the piece in action on his website. This is the first update we’ve gotten from Banksy in a little while. I think the last street pieces he put on his site were the Olympic-theme pieces from last July.
In other Banksy-related news, the above Banksy piece was recently removed from the streets of London and put up for auction in Miami at Fine Art Auctions. The piece, of course not authenticated by Pest Control but is pretty clearly by Banksy seeing as it’s on his website. The BBC has more about the removal of the piece. At this point, the legality of the removal is unclear, but the community is certainly disappointed. That same auction also includes another street piece, Wet Dog, which was painted in Bethlehem and was removed a while ago (it was also featured at the Context art fair in Miami last year, supposedly not for sale at the time).
General Howe has been putting up street art since at least 2007. His recent work may seem like quite a change of direction, but I don’t think the change is as drastic as it might at first seem, although it is significant. Like Insa, General Howe has begun making animated gifs. In my most recent post on Complex.com, I pointed out a few artists who I think are using the internet like a street artist or graffiti writer uses the street, and not only do I not think that’s crazy, I think that shift is fantastic. I’m not saying that street artists should stop working on the street, but I am saying that the internet has opened up a lot of new opportunities for artists to interact with the general public (kinda like street art), and it’s exciting to see artists taking advantage of those opportunities. A piece of street art can be seen by a lot of people, but an animated gif can go viral. There are a lot of gif artists out there, but I want to point out General Howe specifically for two reasons: 1. His Disasters of War series has some work that just makes my jaw drop, and 2. He has worked on the street for years and then transitioned to animated gifs.
These pieces are all from General Howe’s Disasters of War series. Goya for the digital generation. For the series, General Howe has appropriated imagery from the G.I. Joe animated television series and modified them into gifs that deal with issues of war and terror. Something about these just stops me in my tracks.
Mr. Penfold had a show in Sydney late last year, and I’ll admit that it was hearing about that show that got me to have a look at what Mr. Penfold has recently been up to outdoors. Whatever the initial reason, I’m glad I had a look because it brightened up my day.