Mega-update from The L.I.S.A. Project NYC

August 13th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
Anthony Lister

Anthony Lister

Wow. I have been falling behind on Vandalog lately. I’ve been just a little bit busy at the Mural Arts Program. The last month and half have been almost as busy up in NYC with The L.I.S.A. Project NYC. I’ve got to hand it to Wayne and Rey, the other two main team members there, for really carrying the project this summer as I’ve adjusted to my new job. There’s been some exciting work going up, including murals by a few people that we’d been wanting to work with for quite a while.

L'Amour Supreme

L’Amour Supreme

Let’s start with L’Amour Supreme. We first worked with L’Amour Supreme as part of a Secret Walls event in Little Italy last fall, and he came up with a really fun concept his mural on Mulberry Street: A series of twisted tin toys. I had the chance to hang out in front of this mural briefly while it was going up, and it felt like everyone walking by was stopping to give a thumbs up. Good stuff.

L'Amour Supreme

L’Amour Supreme

And then there’s Queen Andrea. She’s been on our list for a while. She knows how to paint, the work is uplifting, she’s a New Yorker. Her mural, on a security shutter in the East Village, went over a great Phlegm piece that I’ve long admired, but it had been hit with graffiti and it was time for a refresh. I’d say Queen Andrea did the wall justice.

Queen Andrea

Queen Andrea

One of my dreams has been work with Anthony Lister. When we found out that he was due to have a show at Jonathan Levine Gallery, I began pushing that we absolutely had to find a wall for him. I soon discovered that I didn’t have to push too hard. After all, who doesn’t want a Lister mural? He wound up with a pretty large spot on Mulberry Street, in the same lot as Ron English’s Temper Tot and our wall with Secret Walls.

Anthony Lister

Anthony Lister

I thought might have lost the wall at Mulberry and Kenmare where this happened with Mint and Serf, but no. While much of that spot has been taken up with a new display advertising magazines, we were still able to squeeze in a piece by Solus. Solus’ mural is tribute to NYC’s Irish and Italian immigrants, and it makes for great photos.

Solus

Solus

And finally, I’ve been a fan of Michael De Feo‘s work for a long time. His flowers just put a smile on my face, and last weekend, we got one in Little Italy. Another mural that’s long overdue.

Michael De Feo

Michael De Feo

Photos by Rey Rosa Jr. for The L.I.S.A. Project NYC


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Invader turns his art into a game for his fans

July 31st, 2014 | By | 2 Comments »
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Photo by RJ Rushmore

Invader recently released his own iPhone app, but it’s a lot more than a glorified eBook or an artist edition rebranding of standard drawing app. Invader’s app is a game that combines video games with real life. Flash Invaders is played by photographing (“flashing”) actual Invader pieces on the street, for which the players earn points. When players spot an Invader mosaic on the street and flash it, the app compares the player’s photo to a database of pieces to see if it is a match. If it is, the player is awarded a set number of points for that particular piece. Cleverly, the app has been designed to only allow players to flash pieces when their phone’s GPS shows that they are near the piece in question, so you can’t just take all your old Invader photos and flash those for points (trust me, I tried).

Invader’s work has always been a game in some sense, at least for the artist. He’s spoken about awarding himself points based on the complexity of the pieces he installs, and some of his works have even mentioned their point value. Now, it’s not just Invader playing, but his fans too.

I am very excited about this app because A. It’s not quite augmented reality, but it’s close and I could see Invader going in that direction in the future, and B. It’s a way to connect the virtual and the physical. I for one spend way too much time on my smartphone, often to the detriment of paying attention to what is around me, but Invader uses a game on a phone to get people paying attention to their physical surroundings. Players might not spend quite as much of their time in public spaces scrolling through other people’s photos of street art on Instagram. Instead, they’ll be keeping their eyes peeled.

While I have a lot of respect for him, I’m not one who usually gets overly excited about Invader these days, but the prospect of competing against a group of fans from around the world and hunting down his work has got me falling in love with Invader’s mosaics all over again. Kudos.

See you in the game and on the streets…

photo

Screenshots from Flash Invaders

Photos by RJ Rushmore and from FlashInvaders


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Peter Drew in collaboration with Australian asylum seekers

July 7th, 2014 | By | 2 Comments »
Original drawing by Ali Rezai

Original drawing by Ali Rezai

Australian street artist Peter Drew recently installed a series of wheatpasted drawings on the streets of downtown Adelaide, Australia. Of course, that sounds like what plenty of street artists do, except that these wheatpastes aren’t Drew’s design. Each wheatpaste is a blown-up version of a drawing by a person seeking asylum in Australia. The project is an effort to take on the very very controversial immigration detention centers in Australia that those seeking asylum in Australia often spend a great deal of time in, and to humanize the asylum-seeking process in general. This isn’t the first time that these facilities have caught the attention of the art world, but Drew’s project attempts to give the issue a personal touch, which is somewhat less common.

Original drawing by Ali Rezai

Original drawing by Ali Rezai

Made up of 36 drawings by seven asylum seekers, the Bound For South Australia series takes some of the most disenfranchised people in the world and attempts to give them a very loud voice. Many of the drawings had to be smuggled out from the Inverbrackie Detention Centre near Adelaide, where many asylum seekers are currently being held (although the facility will be shut down later this year). One particularly key contributor was Ali Rezai, an Afghani teenager who has made his way from Afghanistan to Pakistan and now to Australia and currently holds a temporary Australian visa. This video tells some of his story:

But Ali is the exception. Most of the other works are uncredited. I asked Drew about that decision. Here is his response:

It’s an ethical juggle. The worst thing that could possibly happen from this project would be one of the participants being deported for their participation. For that reason I’ve only revealed the authorship of those participants who have already been issued a bridging visa. Even that took deliberation. There’s a deliberate lack of information from Australia’s Border Protection Force. They seem desperate to send a message to the world’s asylum seekers that Australia is unsympathetic to their plight. That’s why I wanted to protect the names of participants who might still be vulnerable as they could be targeted to be made example of.
Original drawing by Saad Tlaa

Original drawing by Saad Tlaa

In some ways, Bound For South Australia is similar to JR‘s Inside Out Project, which essentially allows anyone to become a mini-JR using JR’s facilities, and both projects suffer from a similar flaw: authorship. Both projects are ostensibly about giving a voice to those who do not have one, amplifying those disenfranchised people’s voices through a megaphone provided by a well-known artist. Except in both cases, the “artist” is a white male who at the end of the day takes credit for the project, and the often non-white participants are somewhat left anonymous or effectively anonymous, arguably used as props by the “lead artist.” In both cases, there’s arguably a reason for that anonymity. JR and Drew have provided a voice to people living in dangerous situations, who may not be in a position to name themselves safely. These situations are probably entirely necessary. Still, they are ironic, and muddy the waters as to how much these projects actually humanize their subjects/participants.

How well can Drew’s project humanize asylum seekers when journalists pick up on the project as a Peter Drew project and the names of the asylum seekers who drew the works that are on Adelaide’s walls, effectively relegated to the role of technicians, are kept secret? It is telling that even Drew seems to conceive of this as a Peter Drew artwork, not a series of 36 artworks facilitated or installed by Drew.

Original drawing by Ali Rezai

Original drawing by Ali Rezai

What if, in Drew’s case, he had not actually claimed responsibility for the wheatpastes? Would an anonymously distributed press release, or a press release distributed by a human rights organization without Drew’s name, or no press release or explanation at all, have gotten the same attention for the project? I’m not sure. On some level, Drew is taking advantage of the very people he is trying to help, but I get the sense that such exploitation may be necessary for the success of the project, a project with the admirable goal of awareness about the asylum seeking process in Australia.

Original drawing by Ali Rezai

Original drawing by Ali Rezai

Photos by Peter Drew


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Tame DMA enters the Archibald

July 5th, 2014 | By | 3 Comments »
1987

Tame in 1987. Photo by Tame.

The Archibald Prize is generally considered to be the most prestigious art competition in Australia. With a first place prize of $75,000 AUD ($70,500 USD) it’s not the most valuable Australian Art prize, but it garners the most attention in the mainstream press and broader community. The competition is for figurative portraiture of a distinguished person ‘in arts, letters, science or politics’ and is judged by the board of trustees at the Art Gallery of NSW. It’s generally conservative and non-progressive- portraits must be painted from life and finalists are typically limited to a narrow set of Australian icons: celebrities, former politicians, sports stars and patrons of the fine arts.

This year Tame from DMA, entered a tag as a self-portrait.

Tame's entry

Tame’s entry. Photo by CDH.

Each city has its own graffiti heroes. DMA are a seminal graf crew from late 80s Melbourne. Tame is typically identified as the person most directly responsible for innovating the oldschool Melbourne handstyle, although when I put this to him, he cited Prime and Dskiz of Ultra Subway Art (USA, Future 4) as the major influences. That’s Tame- like a lot of older writers he’s non-assuming, reflective and a very gentle soul.

I encouraged Tame to enter and I love this painting for a number of reasons.

Of all portraits in the competition, Tame’s took the least time to create (under 3 seconds) but it also took the most time to create, as he perpetually refined it over 3 decades. Think about the muscle memory in the hand that paints a tag, over and over again, for 30 years.

The entry questions the nature of graffiti: can the tag be regarded as a self-portrait? For four centuries, graphologists have claimed to infer a person’s character by studying their handwriting. The tag might be about damage and destroying the system, but can it also be an expression of identity?

Early 90s

Tame in the early 90s. Photos by Tame.

Picasso once allegedly quipped that patrons didn’t purchase his paintings, they purchased his signature. Ignoring the stylism of Tame’s tag or the conceptual merit of presenting a tag as a self-portrait, the entry’s meaningful as a cultural artefact from Melbourne’s graffiti history. Whether or not the board of trustees have the cultural literacy to recognize this value is almost irrelevant.

Think about Tame next to his professional contemporaries in the Archibald. How many of them would paint for 3 decades without the prospect of ever selling a painting and with the risks writers face to complete their art? All these portraits are just inanimate objects; colours arranged on a functionless canvas. The painters and their reasons for painting are the real expression of humanity.

Finalists are announced on July 10th.

1989

Tame in 1989. Photos by Tame.

Photos by CDH and Tame


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Picking apart our interview with Tony Baxter of the “Stealing Banksy?” auction

April 19th, 2014 | By | 5 Comments »
The former site of Banksy's "No Ball Games" piece in London. Photo by Alan Stanton.

The former site of Banksy’s “No Ball Games” piece in London. Photo by Alan Stanton.

Yesterday we published an interview that Caroline Caldwell and I conducted with Tony Baxter, director of The Sincura Group. That’s the private concierge behind last year’s sale of the Slave Labour piece formally by Banksy and the upcoming Stealing Banksy? auction, which will have at least seven supposed Banksy street pieces up for sale. Not only do I disagree with a lot of what Baxter said in the interview, but I found many of his answers dodges at best and misleading or shady at worst, so, as promised, here are my thoughts on Baxter’s answers…

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An interview with man behind the “Stealing Banksy?” auction

April 18th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
The former site of the "Old School" piece by Banksy that is up for auction next week

The site in London where Banksy’s “Old School” piece, which is up for auction next week, was once located. Photo by eddiedangerous.

Back in February, there was an auction in Miami that included the sale of street pieces formally by Banksy. Shortly before that auction took place, Caroline Caldwell interviewed the auction house’s representative, a so-called “street art expert.” We decided that since the auction felt like a joke and the very claim of “street art expert” sounded like a joke, we didn’t want to ask serious questions, lest that might suggest that he was worth taking seriously. But we did see an opportunity to have a bit of fun at the expense of their “expert,” so Caroline interviewed him in a style befitting The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.

Not everyone agreed with our strategy. A few people criticized us for missing a chance to ask hard-hitting questions about an important topic. While we don’t believe that the salesman we were interviewing would have said anything insightful about the sale he was promoting, we do agree that it would be great to ask thoughtful questions of someone who facilitates the sale of street pieces. Recently, we had that opportunity.

Next week in London, The Sincura Group will be holding a similar auction of street pieces formally by Banksy. That’s the same company that last year successfully sold the Banksy “Slave Labour” wall at auction for just over $1 million. They’ve titled their auction Stealing Banksy? and it will include approximately 18 works, at least 7 of which are street pieces formally by Banksy that have been removed from their original locations, some of them specifically removed for this sale.

The difference between Fine Art Auctions Miami, the auction house with the “street art expert,” and The Sincura Group is that The Sincura Group does not come across as a complete joke. The Sincura Group has publicly tried to address some of the logistical and ethical issues surrounding the sale of street pieces. By titling their auction Stealing Banksy? and calling it a “project exploring the social, legal and moral issues surrounding the sale of street art” rather than just an auction, they try to position themselves as observers to a phenomenon that they want to see debate about, rather than facilitators and promoters of the ethically questionable market for street pieces. They have released statements about their work, making what they do appear to be a somewhat transparent, thought-out and ethically sound process while acknowledging some criticisms like rational people. If you’re just a casual observer, they do an alright job looking like the good guys, a group of people willing to engage in thoughtful debate.

That’s why we decided to interview Tony Baxter, Director of The Sincura Group, and this time, we thought it was appropriate to ask real questions to challenge the way The Sincura Group bills themselves. Caroline wrote the initial draft of our questions, which we then edited and added to collaboratively. Because our time is limited by the fact that we are not a professional news outlet but rather full-time students, we decided to conduct the interview over email. Email is not the ideal format for something like this, but it’s better than no interview at all.

Frankly, RJ finds some of Mr. Baxter’s answers misleading, but he’ll save more of my thoughts on that for tomorrow, when we will publish a response to this interview on Vandalog (UPDATE: Here’s RJ’s response). In the mean time, here’s the interview…

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Category: Auctions, Featured Posts, Interview | Tags: ,

Francesco Garbelli’s street art before “street art”

April 16th, 2014 | By | 2 Comments »
"Altare," 1984

“Altare,” 1984

Recently, VladyArt introduced me to the work of the Italian artist Francesco Garbelli. Garbelli has been working outdoors since the mid-1980’s. While he certainly wasn’t the first to do street art and the term was used in its present meaning as early as 1970’s, Garbelli was certainly active long before the term street art was commonplace, and many of his projects predate by decades similar works by artists that most of us in the street art world are much more familiar with. In this interview, VladyArt asks Garbelli his early work and what it was like to be so far ahead of his time. - RJ Rushmore

"La via per immagini," 1985

“La via per immagini” (“The road to images”), 1985

VladyArt: Do you remember your first urban intervention? What year was it and how did it all start?

Francesco Garbelli: I started quite early, in the first half of the 1980’s. At that time I was writing poems and songs, and I loved the idea of giving these words the opportunity to leave the sheet for walls and sidewalks. I thought it was the way to maximize the word; I called these “letters in action”… but nobody knew about it. I took pictures of these letters, however, my intention was not being as an artist, yet. As an artist, I started only between the ’84-’85 when, together with a group of other artists, I occupied a large dismissed factory (Brown-Boveri), entering down through a window with a rope. It was a great place to work, and quite central, in Milan. We stayed almost a year, calling dozen of artists afterwards. The place was then reopened to the public, totally transformed by our installations. That was probably the most noticeable artistic event of the decade! One of my installations there was called “altare” (altar) to underline the importance of that abandoned but still “holy” place; my church. Life at Brown-Boveri was very inspiring. My first outdoor works popped up on my way to the university, where I studied architecture, in 1985. They were all located between the metro (subway) exit and the university gate. All streets had names of significant people (such as Leonardo Da Vinci) and I deleted all surnames, making the streets being dedicated to no one in particular: Maria, Giuseppe or Davide. After this, in another intervention, I substituted the person’s name with an image of their work (See Escher). Ultimately on this street name subject, I renamed the streets with sentences and meaningful words (as in “Le lettere vi guardano” = letters are looking at you).

"Il ritorno delle parole," 1985

“Il ritorno delle parole” (“The return of the words”), 1985

VladyArt: Did you have any role models or artists who inspired you?

Garbelli: No, especially not in the beginning. All it was taken from my studies and cinema. For example, admiring the wild nature taking back the space at the Brown-Boweri factory, I was immediately thinking of movies such as Stalker and Blade Runner.

"Neo post trans," 1988

“Neo post trans,” 1988

VladyArt: Did you know other active urban artists in Italy, Europe and America?

Garbelli: In those years, painting was getting back in the world of art, under the name of Neo-expressionism in Germany and the States and as “Trans-avanguardia” in Italy. This return was totally welcomed by the art biz. I wasn’t exited about that, however the phenomena were pretty cool: people got back to painting and playing guitar like in the 1970’s! I felt very distant from conventional painting, so much that in 1988 I did the “!” danger sign; underneath the triangle I wrote “Neo, Post, Trans,” meaning beware of post/trans-avanguardia and Neo-expressionism.  Providentially, in the States was emerging a new art scene, a fresh air breath: Rammellzee, A-One (Anthony Clark), Futura 2000, Richard Hambleton, Kenny Scharf, Keith Haring… just to mention a few. The term “street art” did not exist or I did not know about it. We called it New York Graffiti. We knew about the Lower East Side movement or as the Hispanic were saying “Loisaida.” We knew graffiti: some Americans came to Milan, especially at  Salvatore Ala gallery. I actually briefly met Rammelzee, A-One and Haring. I remember particularly A-One, asking, “Are you an artist or a graffiti writer?” to anyone while shaking hands. I understood that for him, the difference was beyond art, it had a social value within. For me it was a bit different: I was not a painter such as in canvas making, extracting bits from Picasso or Carrà, but I was not that urban graffiti type of guy either. I needed my way, a less instinctive approach certainly, and that’s how I got closer to road signs.

Untitled, 1989

Untitled, 1989

VladyArt: So why road signs?

Garbelli: Aside from the historical reasons already mentioned, I have found interest in road sign for their international appeal, the communication made without the words, their attempt to substitute the language with images; a sort of revenge by the old pictography. I was fascinated by some native North American tribe that used knots on ropes or tags on woods to communicate basic concepts; but that’s how our road sign system works! I took the opportunity to launch ironic, fantastic and critical messages through road signs.

"Idrante ionico con fregio," 1990

“Idrante ionico con fregio” (“Hydrant with ionic frieze”) 1990

VladyArt: How did the people and your colleagues react on your art expression?

Garbelli: Opposite and polarized opinions. It was cool for many, while others were wondering whether road signs could be art or not. With the most of my interventions, I got the attention of the media. However, due to the nature of my uncommissioned (and unsigned) installations, I wasn’t aware of that attention in real time; I couldn’t follow the feedback like people can do today via internet. There was much more surprise when buying the papers and finding my latest work on it. In Italy, beside the Macam (an open air contemporary museum in Maglione, Italy), there was not much availability or interest. My really first interventions done with permission were made abroad, in Holland and Germany, were they let me realized my installations without that ton of nonsense bureaucracy we used to have (City Council, local police, fire dept., Church or so!).

"Macam," 1989

“Macam,” 1989

VladyArt: Have you been influential to some younger artists, on your opinion?

Garbelli: I wouldn’t know. The first time I noticed this possibility was by the end of the nineties. I remember two particular episodes, closer to one another. In both cases I was introduced to some younger artist and both told me to have been my fans. As that sounded pretty weird to me at that time. I managed to answer to one: “I guess you had a difficult childhood then,” and we both started laughing.

"Transito Velocipedi," 1990

“Transito velocipedi” (“Transiting cycles”), 1990

VladyArt: How did you make connections within the art community? Physically or even by mail?

Garbelli: Well, Milan in the 1980’s was really hectic and full of parties; we were basically going out all nights. Hedonism and yuppie were not my cup of tea, but the city was truly full of events and opportunity. We gathered pretty easily. Otherwise we used the phone, fax and even letters, especially for sending catalogues, pictures and projects.

VladyArt: What’s your opinion regarding this “explosion” of interest in urban art and urban artists?

Garbelli: The growing success of urban artists (and their art) is the combination of several factors. Certainly, the public opinion has changed dramatically, in a positive way. Today there are plenty of festival and exhibitions about public/street art and this is not only considered acceptable by the people but even strongly encouraged by the authorities. In the 1980’s, the public opinion was hostile and my interventions were marked as vandalism by many, even if I did all so graphically and “clean.” From the authorities and the police I noticed about the same attitude but certainly there was less territorial control compared to today. I had no CCTV on my neck. But mostly, today’s boom is thanks to the internet. The public can see all your stuff; artists can form communities. Isolation isn’t a problem, all can happen in real time. I think this has been decisive. On top of that, consider TV; while the “other” art isn’t truly media-friendly for its contents and tempo, (it’s a hard topic for TV formats), street art is photogenic, camera friendly, young and it fits perfectly. This helps the spread of street art via TV, which is globally still the most popular information tool of our times.

"La via per immagini," 1985

“La via per immagini,” 1985

VladyArt: Have you got new project and installation for the near future?

Garbelli: Yes absolutely, and I will keep you posted about it. Milan will host the 2015 world expo with the theme “nourishing the planet.” I am conceiving a new outdoor installation about the tribal world, the only people who are doing effectively something to help and save the planet, despite being unaware about it. My world, our modern world, is outlined by Non-Places, characterized by ignorant and criminal minds and their visual rapes; as I feel more and more out of the place, I find it appropriate today to care about these people.

"Peace," 1990

“Peace,” 1990

Photos courtesy of Francesco Garbelli


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

Broken Fingaz, beef and lady parts

April 10th, 2014 | By | 7 Comments »
BFCpussycat2-m

(Click here for the original)

A few days ago, an anonymous person painted over two new walls by Broken Fingaz Crew in Hackney Wick, London. Both walls featured curvaceous women engaging in sex with skeletons, which the person buffed black and brandished with the words “Kill all men”. BFC responded to the defacement by altering it to read “Kill yourself” and adding “Why so mad? Give smile pussycat!” Broken Fingaz then shared the incident on their Facebook, sparking a surprising and intense response from their fans that has me questioning Broken Fingaz, their art and the people who enjoy it.

BFC-pussycat-m

(Click here for the original)

I have been a huge fan of Broken Fingaz for a while now. We’ve covered their work on Vandalog over the last few years and I cite them as a personal inspiration for my own art. Skeletons interacting with the living and sexualized women have been two prominent (although mostly separate) themes in BFC’s body of work. Over the last several months, Tant and Unga of BFC have developed a new, highly sexualized body of work. With their SuperSex series, BFC painted people having sex with various animals and a skeleton (which I covered for Vandalog here). The SuperSex series was predominantly women and animals, however they also included Unga’s fat male character, which led me to believe that the series was coming from a place which was inclusive of both men and women. In their more recent series, the crew has been painting women copulating with skeletons in massive colorful orgies. There’s one fat male figure slipped into one of the pieces in the series, but spotting him is like a game Where’s Waldo. My issue with this more recent work is not that it is sexual (though I could see why people might find it problematic in public spaces), but rather that it portrays only women as sexual and never shows women in a non-erotic manner. It’s a simple matter of equality.

I would be open to the idea that these images were painted in an effort to honor the feminine figure, not to merely objectify it. After all, the women are whole people and the men are depicted as skeletons, arguably neutered objects. Yet within the context of their larger body of work, these latest images emphasize BFC’s unequal portrayal of men and women. When men appear in their work, they are typically clothed in formal attire, or are humorously unattractive on the few occasions they are naked. Women are rarely shown in any other setting than a sexual one, and an objectifying one at that. Their fans and this anonymous protestor are not interpreting this as honoring women, and BFC’s comeback to the protestor doesn’t support that idea either with dehumanizing jibe “Give smile pussycat!”

DSC_5489-cc

DSC_5472-cc-1

I’m not saying it’s wrong to show women in a sexual setting, but to only ever show them in such a way reduces their role to merely erotic creatures. One very easy solution to this: paint men having sex with skeletons (in lieu of dropping the series altogether), and paint women in formal, non-sexual settings every once in awhile. Might not be the perfect portrait of equality, but it’s one way to show that they hold men and women with equal respect.

Defacing two walls and writing “Kill all men” over BFC’s work is not a route I would promote, but the dialogue it provoked is important. Much like the commenters on BFC’s Facebook, my knee-jerk reaction was to write this act off as an overly-aggressive reaction from a radical feminist. In all likelihood, “Kill all men” is a derivative of the Twitter hashtag that was turning heads last month, which feminists were using as a space to vent their experiences with misogyny. Yet in closer consideration of this particular incident, this person isn’t saying anything that BFC didn’t say themselves first. Why should we take offense from the statement “Kill all men” when this was written on top of a BFC mural that literally depicted a group of dead men having sex with women?

To this act of vandalism, BFC’s responded with “Kill yourself!” and “Why so mad? Give smile pussycat!” Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and say that this response is comedic ribbing and graffiti bravado in response to being capped, their response incited a slew of sexist and objectifying responses on Facebook, with commenters calling the anonymous vandal(s) a “fucking slut”, “stupid hoe”, “fags”, etc.; which is all a bit ridiculous when you consider that these terms being used as insults are in defense of an artwork depicting women in a way that fits stereotypes of whore-ish/slutty behavior. One commenter said, “Must be one of them ‘broken-b**ches’ … Doesn’t shave under the arm-pits, yet goes to pole dancing class every monday and thursday…”. A female commenter said, “I guess they don’t like drawings of girls fitter than them”. This is exactly why portraying women (and only women) in an exclusively sexual manner becomes problematic. These comments were not made by BFC, but some their supporters, yet would these comments have been made if these fans had felt that BFC were strong supporters of women’s rights?

Curious how our readers feel about Broken Fingaz’ response to this protester and their fans’ subsequent response to the back and forth.

Photos by Broken Fingaz Crew


Category: Art News, Featured Posts, Photos, Random | Tags: , , , , ,

Tim Hans shoots… Dan Witz

March 31st, 2014 | By | No Comments »

DanWitz_TimHans03

Dan Witz is one of the original New York street artists, with almost 35 years of experience getting up. He’s also one of my favorite realist painters and pranksters. If you want to see some of Dan’s work in person, he’s got a solo show opening this week at Jonathan Levine Gallery‘s 529 West 20th Street space in New York City. Tim Hans met Dan at his studio for the latest in our continuing series of photo-portraits of artists by Tim. I asked Dan a few questions over email.

RJ: What’s the best prank (involving art or not) that you’ve ever pulled?

Dan Witz: Hmm-best? Hard to say: I mean most of my street stuff over the past 35 years could be described as pranks. I wouldn’t want to single out a winner, but probably the one that consistently gets the most ‘likes’ out of all my one-off pieces would be the clown face house in Brooklyn.

RJ: How did your work with Amnesty International come about and what keeps you working with them?

DW: They got in touch with me. Or, actually, an ad agency that was handling them in Germany reached out to me. Like most street artists I get a lot of e-mail probes from marketing types eager to link their product or cause with urban art. It’s been pretty easy for me to avoid this because my stuff works much better if I keep my identity, or “brand” as much under the radar as possible. When Amnesty International got in touch though, I was so honored and such a long-time supporter of theirs that I was willing to consider it. And I’d already been working with figures trapped behind grates in my WHAT THE %$#@? (WTF) series, so advocating for illegally detained prisoners was an easy fit.

I am so incredibly glad I opened up to this. The 20 or so Wailing Wall pieces in Frankfurt became one of the peak experiences of my career. Oddly, even with all the media frenzy (and the accompanying police attention) there was no pressure on me to compromise my normally aggressive installation tactics (these days, to avoid easy theft I anchor my grate pieces into the wall, which involves serious industrial adhesives and a hammer drill). It turns out that Amnesty international, despite its mainstream respectability, is a surprisingly bad-ass organization. They recognized that my methods, although illegal, were the most effective way to galvanize public attention. If anything they even pushed me to go larger and bolder than I usually do. I date a huge growth in my street practice to that first Amnesty project.

DanWitz_TimHans01

RJ: Whose artwork hangs in your home and why?

DW: There’s a rotating selection of friends’ work, a few copies of old master paintings I’ve done, (in gold frames, which really class the place up), and the usual magnetized refrigerator masterpieces from our two year old. I have to say, I’ve really been enjoying fooling around with the non-toxic kiddie art supplies. Don’t look for a new Crayola series from me or anything, but it’s reminded me how great it is to draw just for the fun of it

RJ: The kitschy artist Thomas Kinkade called himself a “painter of light,” but that description is probably more appropriate for you. What fascinates you about light in paintings?

DW: Didn’t that guy copyright or trademark the “Painter of Light” thing? And isn’t he like the best selling artist, ever? I’ve never seen one in real life but I bet they have a nice heartwarming glow. To be honest, not to put him down, but simulating light with oil paint isn’t really that hard to do. And yeah, like him (I’m guessing) I’ve never gotten over what a miracle it is. It’s magic. And addictive. Same for me with creating trompe l’oeil illusions of space. I never get sick of it. I guess I should be grateful to artists like Kinkade: if it wasn’t for them I might forget how easily these effects can turn into clichés.

RJ: What are you working on at the moment?

DW: As usual I’ve got a few projects simultaneously dead-lining in my studio. Right now, on easel one I’m preparing this summer’s street art; and easel two has my ongoing Mosh pit painting series. Most days I bounce back and forth—I get sick of one and take refuge in the other. But in a few weeks  I’ve got a show, NY Hardcore, opening at Jonathan Levine Gallery so we’re frantically varnishing and framing and e-mailing and packing. Fortunately my studio has a separate ‘dirty’ room in the garage downstairs so I can spray and do woodwork without endangering the artworks and my family’s health. But it’s out of control over here. Which used to be an unbearably stressful way to live, but I’ve gotten used to it, and sometimes (like now, answering these questions) I even get a brief moment to step back and appreciate how lucky I am to be so busy and have all this crazy shit going on.

DanWitz_TimHans02

Photos by Tim Hans


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The life and death of Detroit’s Brewster Projects

March 25th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
Slits, February 2014

Slits, February 2014

My first encounter with the Brewster Projects was in June of 2012. In the middle of a sunny afternoon, the heat was relentless. The sun bleached, weed filled center circle drive stood out in harsh contrast to the dark empty windowed towers looming around in a group. On my first trip to Detroit at the time, I was too intimidated to venture any further than the ground level perimeter of the site. I had been told it was a sketchy neighborhood and that there was security. I never saw any and there were no fences, so I took pics of Flying Fortress and Nychos hitting up the bottoms of the towers.

In the summer of 2012 the European graffiti crew JBCB (Juke Box Cow Boys) were in town along with other international artists involved with the Detroit Beautification Project.

By the time I got to Detroit there were only 4 remaining of the big, 15-story towers. There used to be 6, but 2 were torn down in 2003. The towers were called the Frederick Douglas Apartments and were built in the 40s and 50s. This was the housing project where singer Diana Ross grew up and where, in the rec center, boxer Joe Lewis trained. The projects are right across the freeway from Ford Field and downtown Detroit. There were other low rise apartment houses there too, but they have been removed in pieces over the years.

Juke Box Coy Boys

Juke Box Coy Boys, June 2012

Nychos

Nychos, June 2012

rem and ff

Nychos and Flying Fortress, June 2012

Flying Fortress and Nychos

Flying Fortress and Nychos, June 2012

Nychos and Flying Fortress

Nychos and Flying Fortress, June 2012

I moved to the Detroit area in the fall of 2013 and made it back to the Brewster towers in October of 2013 determined to check out the inside. On that trip I made it to the top of one tower. In the 15 months since I’d last been there, tons of graffiti had been added to the towers. The bottoms were now grilled with tags, throws and pieces. More noticeably, 3 epic 15-story top to bottom rollers had been executed. In addition, Gats, Feral Child, and Ghost Owl had done rollers at the top of another tower, prominently placed and visible to highway traffic heading south into downtown Detroit. As I climbed I noticed preparations for demolition, but didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. There had been ongoing delays and interruptions in the effort to complete the removal of the projects.

Aerub, October 2013

Aerub, October 2013

Feral, Gats, Ghost Owl and more, October 2013.

Feral Child, Gats, Ghost Owl and more, October 2013

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