Book review: Billboard Bandits


Adam Clark’s Billboard Bandits: Outlaw Artists in the Sky, published this year, is 208 pages of photos, entry level information on graffiti culture (i.e. What are throw-ups, pieces, and billboard backs?), profiles and personal anecdotes in the vernacular of true writers (which includes explicit language).

The book is divided into two sections by graffiti and street art, with “Billboard bombing” representing the graffiti camp of billboard interference, which seems to be a bit looser in definition given that many of the pieces were not on the ads directly, but above, below, on the walls behind, or on the backs of billboards. The street art portion, entitled “Billboard Liberation”, is a lot more limited in coverage but profiles some street art favorites like Ron English and Billboard Liberation Front. Clark’s distinction between the two subcultures is a necessary one for this topic since the motivation behind hitting billboards is entirely different: graffiti artists use billboards as a highly-visible platforms to proliferate their names, whereas street artists tend to utilize the space to express ideas. The common thread between both is the drive to deemphasize, interfere with, or eliminate the ubiquitous power of adverts.


The content is fit for a niche audience of LA graffiti heads, with featured West Coast writers such as AM7 Crew, Augor MSK, Bleek CBS Mayhem, Fuct AL LGF, Jeloe US BKF CF, Naut One, Pharoe LCF SOB, Pysa MSK LTS, and Silencer. For those people who would truly appreciate seeing these artists, I think the content in this book would be better published in the form of a regularly-updated blog. Works on a billboard are typically short lived, so the book can show recent and past works by artists but can’t update readers on how long the pieces lasted which is one of the interesting part of ad disruptions.

You can get a copy of Billboard Bandits here.

Photos courtesy of Art Crimes: Graffiti News and Events

Weekend link-o-rama


It’s the weekend…

Photo by Jade

“The Wrinkles of the City” with JR and José Parlá

A 26 minute documentary called “The Wrinkles of the City” will be premiering at The Standard Hotel in Miami this Basel Week. The film follows JR and José Parlá‘s experience last year during the Havana Biennial. During which, the two collaborated on portraits of 25 elderly Havanan citizens. The elders were selected, interviewed and photographed, and put up with JR’s signature wheatpaste portraiture interlaced with Parlá’s calligraphic detailing. Along with the film, there will be a book release which features some essays and some behind the scenes shots. The results were breathtaking.

Read more about the project here.

Photos courtesy of JR

Weekend link-o-rama

Anthony Lister in London

It’s almost December, and this December I’m going to be taking a bit of a holiday. For most of the month, Caroline Caldwell is going to be doing most of the writing for Vandalog, while I focus on another project. But, of course, the more important thing about it being almost December is that it means Basel Miami craziness is about to be upon us. Some artists are already in Miami (specifically Wynwood) and painting their murals. Not to piss all over that parade, but I’d like to quote Workhorse of The Underbelly Project. He once said to me, “It’s sorta sad that an entire district of 7-story-tall murals is becoming blasé, but it is.”

Photo by Alex Ellison

Book Review – Land of Sunshine

Land Of Sunshine Cover

Apart from the artwork itself, another of my favourite things to collect is books about street art and graffiti. Yes the internet is a great way to capture and preserve the artworks as they quickly disappear, but there’s something about holding a book in your hands, the quality of the photographs and colors of the works feel different on paper.

I’m really excited about this book! Land of Sunshine is Dean Sunshine‘s first book. Dean is Melbourne’s resident paintspotter. He’s always where the action is, tirelessly capturing the best of Melbourne’s graffiti and street art scene (in fact I bumped into him just the other day in Hosier Lane). Dean’s photo blog Land of Sunshine is well known to anyone into Melbourne graffiti and street art.

The book features the work of over 100 artists and also focuses in on some of Dean’s favourites: Adnate, Be Free, CDH, Deb, Drab, Heesco, Kaff-eine, Makatron, Phoenix the street artist, Slicer, Suki, and Urban Cake Lady.

The book will be available at General Pants stores Australia wide and at NGV bookstore at fed square. Also available via Land of Sunshine from mid November for local and international shipping. Here’s a couple of shots from the book.

Urban Cake Lady
AWOL – Adnate, Slicer and Itch

All photos courtesy of Dean Sunshine

Calle Esos Ojos from “Bogota Street Art”

In Bogota, Colombia, the walls don’t talk. They scream. Featuring the artwork of Bogota Street Art, a collective of four of Bogota’s most active street artists – Dj Lu, Gouache, Lesivo and Toxicómano — the recently released Calle Esos Ojos testifies to both the visual and political impact of street art in Colombia’s capital. Here are some of the images from the book:

Dj Lu has for years been altering the visual landscape of his city with his satirical stencils, targeting a range of issues from consumerism to sexism to the military.

With asymmetrical rhythms and striking colors, Gauche celebrates Bogota’s distinct multicultural mix of everyday people.

Lesivo tends to focus on the darker — or more frightening — underside of the city.

And Toxicómano is on a mission to divert the attention of passersby from commercial ads.

Along with texts – in Spanish — by noted Colombian authors, Darío Jaramillo Agudelo and Antonio Morales Riveira, the book also includes four stencil templates and 15 embossed collectible stickers.

Photos courtesy of Bogota Street Art and special thanks to Marcelo Arroyave of the Colectivo Sursystem for getting this book over to me, reminding me how much I love and miss the streets and people of Bogota.

Weekend link-o-rama

Labrona, Gawd, Cam and Waxhead

Spending a few days in NYC, so this is a bit late, but here it is…

Photo by Labrona

Review of “Stickerbomb Monsters”

Most of the sticker collectors I know take pride in their collections because they have some sort of personal connection to the individual stickers. The interest is not the stickers themselves, so much as how these collectors obtained them. For Martha Cooper, it means using a secret recipe to weaken the adhesive and collect stickers that were put up illegally on the street. For some collectors, it means going to art shows with a black book and bumping into the right people. For others, like Philadelphia’s family-like network of sticker artists, it means trading stickers between artists to save or frequently to collaborate. For these people, a book of printed stickers lacks the intrinsic value that comes with compiling a collection through unique experiences.

Stacey Rozich and Yonil

My favorite book (of any book, not just my street art books) is DB Burkeman’s Stickers: Stuck-Up Piece of Crap because it is an encyclopedia of sticker styles and artists. However, when Laurence King Publishing sent me a copy of one of their latest publications, Stickerbomb Monsters, the immediate dissatisfaction I felt forced me to reflect on what exactly makes a sticker collection special. Stickerbomb Monsters is a book of 250 monster-themed stickers designed by a number of current illustrators, street artists, and cartoonists such as Numskull, Sheryo, Iain Burke and others. To an experiential/sentimental sticker collector, this sort of thing might be similar to a printed autograph book. To be fair, there are people who would appreciate that, and to those people, you can purchase Stickerbomb Monsters here.

If you are a sticker collector, does aesthetic take priority over sentiment, or is your collection based off your personal relationships with the stickers?


Photos courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

Book Review: Stencil Republic

Photo by Caroline Caldwell

Ollystudio’s book Stencil Republic does not attempt to remind readers of how awesome Blek and Banksy are, or of the importance of John Fekner. Rather, Stencil Republic highlights some of the current favorite stencil street artists (such as A10ne, Run Don’t Walk, Sten & Lex, A*C Alto Contraste, Sr. X, Chris Stain, and more) as it attempts to embrace and delineate the scene as it stands today. As Aiko explains in her intro, stencils have become such a widely embraced tool of expression that many stencil-artists are a flash in the pan, with few maintaining a lasting presence in the scene. Rather than heralding the history-makers, Stencil Republic focuses on the top stencil-cutters of the moment, resulting in a refreshing mixture of strong work by well-known and not-so-well-known stencil artists.

Photo by Caroline Caldwell

One of the more outstanding and controversial aspects of this book is that, with each introduction to an artist, readers are presented with a laser cut stencil of the artist’s design. While the quality of these stencils are impressive, and in my opinion, what sets this book above others of its kind, I can imagine some contention arising in response to giving the public twenty replica stencils by artists who are potentially still putting up these same works. In a way this controversy is reminiscent of Tox’s court case, where his key defense was the fact that anyone could replicate his tag. By agreeing to participate in Ollystudio’s book, have the artists in Stencil Republic signed on to a sort of vandal-insurance should they ever get caught putting up work illegally?

As I showed some friends this book, I inquired as to whether they, as both the audience of the work and as potential participants in it’s distribution, felt that the artists’ “credit” was being challenged, or thought that “credit” even mattered at all. It seemed that the grassroots understanding of street art was that its intent is to beautify an environment or to spread an idea but not necessarily to proliferate an identity, in contrast to graffiti. In this sense, this book should help to spread street art. But again, this question of identity vs. credit came up, seeing as this was something that each artist who participated in this book needed to consider before agreeing to relinquish the right to recreate and distribute their work to the public. I’m curious if “credit” mattered to them; whether they thought that the public would still know the design was theirs, and whether the person who physically puts a piece up is actually significant to the piece itself. Take the “OBEY” campaign for example: though it started as the individual efforts of Shepard Fairey, the ubiquity of the Andre the Giant icon grew to outstanding proportions when the task of getting the image up was taken over by any willing participant.

I am not bringing up these questions as a criticism of the quality of Ollystudio’s product. Actually, these dilemmas would not exist if these stencils were not so exquisitely cut. I would recommend purchasing this book for a few reasons: 1. It’s a good conversation piece on appropriation of art; 2. You really should get to know these current artists – they’re talented; 3. It is a splendid reminder that vandalizing is fun (but don’t do that -blah blah- legal disclaimer).

Photos courtesy of Laurence King Publishing and by Caroline Caldwell

Preview: Graff Zines Hit the NY Art Book Fair

(Left to Right) Droid and R2, Droid and Avoid, and NGC

Opening to the public this weekend, the New York Art Book Fair brings together the academic art history books with the grittiness of zines. This year, several graffiti zines have teamed up to display their wares at the Pantheon Books table. With zines from Baltimore’s NGC crew, 907, and Subway Art Blog, this weekend will be one that you need to fit into your tightly wound schedules (don’t forget it’s also Dumbo Arts Festival). Vandalog was lucky enough to be able to preview these zines before the public and the results were astounding. In the week since I have received these zines I have found myself flipping through them over and over, rereading passages and revisiting my favorite layouts.


The sick rollers and pieces seen in my recent Vandalog posts are echoed within the pages of NGC’s zine. A few of the spots I was lucky enough to see are document within their zine as well as several that remain unseen. An excellent pairing of inside jokes and montaged pages of tags and personal photographs, NGC gives you a taste of what it is like to be writers in Baltimore. Like Natty Bo, it’s cheap, awesome, and sure to show you a good time.

Droid and R2
Droid and R2

Being only familiar with the street work of 907, I didn’t know what to expect when opening the pages of their zine. The cover is decked with tags by some of the top writers on the East Coast, giving a hint that you are probably in for a read that is going to rock your brain. Droid and R2 have brought some of their favorite cudi spots together with some premium interviews. Between the eye catching pictures and a particularly moving narrative about loss, Droid and R2 have pieced the perfect pairing of opposites for this release.

Avoid and Droid
Avoid and Droid

In addition to his release with R2, Droid and Avoid will be showing their zine from last year, which features stories from their adventures riding freights across the country. In the urban jungle where pretty much everything gets you arrested, their tales of run-ins and writing trains is enough to make any New Yorker want to eject themselves from the city for a taste of the fun.

Cover (Courtesy of Subway Art Blog)
(Courtesy of Subway Art Blog)
(Courtesy of Subway Art Blog)

Last, but not least, Subway Art Blog has teamed up with the graffiti writer-based zines to prove to New York that, yes, there is in fact still art in the subways. Now in it’s second issue, Jowy Romano has focused this production on etches and scratchitti. By bringing together graffiti writers as well as enthusiasts, the New York zine table provides short reads for visitors of all tastes.

To pick up copies of these zines visit table A12 (Pantheon Projects). The New York Art Book Fair will be open to the public this weekend from:

Friday, September 28, 12–7 pm
Saturday, September 29, 11 am–9 pm
Sunday, September 30, 11 am–7 pm

All photos by Rhiannon Platt unless noted