This year was my third time visiting the Nuart Festival. I went first in 2009 as a tourist, returned in 2012 to participate in Nuart Plus (the conference portion of the festival) participant, and finally this year participated in and helped a bit to plan Nuart Plus. I have a lot of love for Nuart. For me, the three models of muralism festivals that I look to most often are Nuart, FAME and Living Walls. But, out of the three, Nuart has always confused me the most.
FAME is (or was, since it’s no longer active) perhaps the only no-holds-barred street art festival. It can be difficult to tell what’s been painted legally and what’s been painted illegally, and festival organizer Angelo Milano doesn’t hide his face. In the small town of Grottaglie, Italy, it would be easy for anyone to track down Milano and confront him about painting on their home. Still, Milano never seemed to care. He just wanted to invite amazing artists to town to paint walls and maybe make a print or two at his studio. Grottaglie now has one of the finest collections of murals, graffiti and street art in the world.
Living Walls is one of the most professional DIY outfits I’ve ever encountered. They are the model of a well-run muralism conference with next to no budget, sometimes stumbling but always trying to do something great for Atlanta. Living Walls has the uncanny ability to launch or at least predict the impending launch of a muralist’s career. They produce some blockbuster murals, but usually not from the artists you would expect.
Nuart is a brilliant schizophrenic beast, oscillating between Martyn Reed’s seemingly dueling interests of creating a spectacle of corporate art and disrupting The Spectacle. That was more true than ever this year, with an artist line up including Martin Whatson, SpY, Tilt, Fra.Biancoshock and others. What I mean is, there are artists who were invited to paint murals that function as billboards for print releases and decor for posh hotels, and artists who are invited to install “interventions” (Nuart’s euphemism for illegal street art). Even Nuart Plus was split (and this is an idea I agreed to when we were planning the conference so if this is a problem, I’m as much at fault as anyone) into one day about “activism” and one day about “muralism.”
Sometimes, this schizophrenia results in beautiful things that few other festivals would be able to facilitate. Maismenos‘ mural, indoor work and outdoor interventions this year are a great example. Reed isn’t afraid to let artists get political, with their topic of choice typically being oil, since Nuart takes place in the oil city of Stavanger, Norway. And maybe he’s only able to get away with that because he also brings in artists like Tilt and Etam Cru.
Speaking of the Mural Arts Program, I am really pleased to say that we now have a major Shepard Fairey mural in Philadelphia. Find me some day and ask me the whole story of this mural, but let’s just say it’s complicated and thank goodness for Roland at Domani Developers for getting us a wall at the last minute.
We also have a new much more politically-charged mural from Shepard Fairey through The L.I.S.A. Project NYC, and while I’m sure the process for that was also quite complicated, my friend Wayne took care of that and all I had to do was pitch Shepard on the idea of a big wall in NYC and the property owner on the idea of a Shepard Fairey mural on his building (neither of which were too difficult). I’m absolutely honored to have played even my small role in each of these murals. It was my first time working with Shepard, and it was a pleasure.
Two real kings of NYC graffiti, Blade and Freedom, have shows open now at the Seventh Letter flagship store in LA. Blade is an undisputed subway king who also pushed graffiti forward as an art-form, a rare combination. Freedom is a personal favorite of mine (his piece in my black book is a real prized possession) for combining pop art, an ability to paint very well, comics, and graffiti in an intelligent way without too much of an ego. I’m sad to be missing both of these shows, but I hope LA will give them the love they deserve.
Hi-Fructose posted some interesting GIFs by Zolloc, but the best part of the post is the first sentence: “While GIFs have yet to find an established place in the art world, they’re fascinating because they have the potential to go beyond the frozen image in two dimensions.” Of course, Hi-Fructose is part of the art world, so just having them post Zolloc’s GIFs counts for something. Hi-Fructose seems to be saying (albeit hesitantly) that GIFs being in their corner of the art world, which is great. That’s not a bad corner to be in, and it’s a hell of a lot better than nowhere. So, why be hesitant? If the work is fascinating, embrace it.
Oh Olek, always the best of intentions, but the results are not so great…
Smart Crew have teamed up with Beriah Wall on a series of cool collaborations. Does anyone else see this as further evidence of Smart Crew growing up, aka transitioning from a crew producing illegal graffiti into a brand or collective that does legal (and sometimes commercial) work referencing illegal graffiti? Nothing wrong with that. I’m just noting the transition.
Hyperallergic has been covering artist reactions to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Public performances in Philadelphia (by Keith Wallace) and New York City (by Whitney V. Hunter) exemplify to the unsurprising obliviousness to the situation or at least lack of caring that so many people openly display (for more, see Kara Walker at Domino). It’s amazing to see these two striking performances go widely ignored while it’s mostly prettybutemptymurals that go viral. Is that the state of street art and muralism today? I hope not. And of course, maybe what makes those performances so jarring online is that they were ignored on the street.
I have tried to resit the allure of Pejac’s work for a while, but no more. Yes, some of the jokes are cheap and feel twice-told, exactly the sort of easy made-to-go-viral work that I am complaining about in the previous paragraph, but Pejac is painting them really well, and they consistently catch my attention. As much as I would like to write him off as a Banksy-ripoff who even came to that idea a few years too late, I can’t do so any longer. The work is actually quite good. Have a look for yourself.
Last week I was in Atlanta for the Living Walls Conference. A great time was had by all. I was there to speak with Living Walls co-founder Monica Campana and Juxtapoz editor Austin McManus about the evolution of street art and graffiti over the past five or so year, and Vandalog contributing writer Caroline Caldwell was there to paint a mural. Atlanta got some real gems this year, including new work by Moneyless, Troy Lovegates and Xuan Alyfe in collaboration with Trek Matthews. Juxtapoz hasextensivecoverage. Congratulations to Living Walls on a truly impressive 5th anniversary event.
This coming week I’ll be in Norway for Nuart and Nuart Plus. The artist lineup features some of my personal favorites, including John Fekner, SpY and Fra.Biancoshock. I love Nuart because it’s a festival that always strikes a balance between the best of the best artists painting epic murals on the “street art festival circuit,” and the oft-under-publicized but highly-political activist artists intervening in public space. Putting these artists in the same festival strengthens the work of everyone there, and reminds us that murals can serve many different purposes. I’ll be speaking at Nuart Plus on behalf of the Mural Arts Program in a few capacities. I’ll be moderating a panel about activism in art, presenting couple of short films during Brooklyn Street Art’s film night, sitting on a panel about contemporary muralism and giving a talk about how government-sanctioned art and muralism can be used to promote positive social change. There will be a lot of great speakers at Nuart Plus this year though. Brooklyn Street Art has the whole line up for the festival and the conference.
From May to mid-July, Mathieu Connery aka 500M painted several murals on sidewalks for the second MURAL festival edition. To the frequency of 1 per week, he did 10 abstract murals on the Main, the Saint-Laurent Boulevard, official location of the festival. Guess the organizers really liked the 3 sidewalks murals he painted last year for the first edition of MURAL, as they asked him to enlarge his project this year. The Montreal based artist is well known in the city for his minimalist abstract pieces, “I try to make most of my interventions interact in different ways with the environment, to inspire appropriation of the public space in any other way. It also applies in the streets with concrete, tags that were there before,etc…” I just hope that one day he will get a real wall rather than always sidewalks in Montreal!
And for my own pleasure, a street art piece found this summer, and then a tag of Gawd Mathieu Connery appropriated. Thanks Mister 500M !
If you’re in Atlanta, I hope you’ll come out and support, not just because I would love to see a packed house for the panel that I’m on (although that would be nice), but because I love Living Walls and Living Walls has made me love Atlanta. This is going to be a great conference.
I’m back after a brief blogging hiatus. I’ve been meaning to post my review for this great event that happened back in April over in Western Australia for a while now…
Leaving a cold wet 17 degrees in Melbourne, I was pretty damn excited to fly to Perth on the 10th of April, right in time for the grand finale of PUBLIC by Form Gallery in Perth, Western Australia, which I posted a preview of a while ago.
I arrived to a perfect sunny 30 degrees and soon as I hit the ground, I had a good feeling about Perth, I hadn’t been before, but something felt right. I went straight to the hotel and dropped off my bags, and went for an explore. Within a few hundred metres of my hotel, I could see the amazing Phlegm and ROA murals in progress. I made a beeline straight for them. Upon entering the car park I also saw the work of many other great artists. The works were spread throughout the CBD and inner city suburbs. Here’s a selection of some of my favourite pieces from the event.
While the event spanned over ~30 days, the main event was the painting of Perth’s 1st ever giant murals over the last 3/4 days of the event. In total there were around 30 murals painted for the event, spanning across the City of Perth. I was very impressed by the organization of the event by the FORM Gallery crew. With a logistical nightmare trying to coordinate over 45 artists, paint and equipment, all in 35 degree heat, the FORM Crew did an amazing job, Well done guys!!! A very friendly and hospitable crew. Thanks very much for taking such great care of us while we visited.
There was a great selection of artists from ac cross the globe representing all different styles and genres. Unfortunately there was no graffiti, but I suppose street art was a big stretch for conservative Perth, so graffiti may have been avoided for this reason. For a city not really known for street art, the public reaction was encouraging. People of all ages and walks of life filled the city over the weekend. I love walking around randomly and listening to some of the conversations and questions people ask each other. In particular I was really impressed by the public’s reactions to the HEAVY PROJECTS installations (interactive works of art that use Augmented Reality on smart phones and tablets). Here’s a short video the guys out together to document the event (plus some footage from a previous project).
On the Friday night there was also a great show at FORM Gallery – PUBLIC SALON showing off canvases from the contributing artists, some great work on display, check out some shots here.
And finally. This great video by Chad Peacock is a really accurate representation of the event and well put together. Damn it takes me back!!!
The FORM guys also took a number of artists to visit the Pilbara, a very special part of top end of Australia with breathtaking views and incredible nature (also sadly known for mining – the 2 don’t really go hand in hand). A few of the artists had a paint while there, I particularly like the piece by Remed.
After all of the above, any street art fan in Perth would have to be pretty happy, but it didn’t stop there. FORM has continued putting up murals in Perth, with Creepy (aka Kyle Hughes-Odgers) painting at Perth Airport (a sponsor of PUBLIC) and also Vans the Omega and Beastman’s new piece that went up last week.
What I loved most about the event wasn’t just the art, and was not unique to PUBLIC; is the sense of community I felt. This is something I really love about the street art scene. I got to catch up with some great old friends, and made some new ones who I will undoubtedly randomly catch up with again somewhere around the globe.
Fingers crossed that this event is on again next year. I will be there with bells on!
If you are in Perth, check out the full list of artists and the mural map. FORM has also put together this short book called PUBLICation available for Purchase at the Gallery and viewable online for free here. FORM have also started “PUBLIC Urban Art Walks” to give fans a guided tour of the city, well worth checking out.
Ok, so that’s enough, right? Actually no, there’s more. And it’s massive. Due to some logistical 😉 issues SANER was unable to make it over for the original dates. I was gutted to hear this when I found out, but when I found out FORM are still bringing him over in August to paint in Perth and also the Pilbara, I was pretty damn excited! I’ll make sure to cover this later in the month.
Today we have a guest post from Marika Agu and Sirla, two organizers of the Stencibility festival in Tartu, Estonia. The example of Tartu shows that even smaller cities can have a thriving street art scene. – RJ Rushmore
With a population of 100k, Tartu is the second largest town in Estonia. It’s mostly known for its university, which might not sound attractive in the context of globalization, when it’s cheaper than ever to travel to culturally vibrant capitals. Nevertheless, the town has something unique and unexpected – for a small place like Tartu, there’s an extremely high concentration of highly varied street art. It’s something really new for the town as the scene has evolved in the past 7-8 years.
The local street art festival is called Stencibility. It started out from the stencil scene 5 years ago, since then Stencibility has turned into a street art festival that has bigger significance each year. The festival emphasizes including the local community with educational programs, lectures, workshops, photo competitions, guided tours, street art map, exhibitions etc., and the people living in Tartu are generally positively minded towards street art. Even the city council acknowledges it, even though most of the time the festival is shamelessly promoting illegal street art. For example, one of the local street artist Edward von Lõngus was awarded in 2013 with an official cultural award for an illegal stencil work.
This intense activity has led Tartu to become the street art capital of Estonia and an alternative to nearby larger cities like Tallinn, Helsinki and Riga that have declared a zero-tolerance policy on illegal graffiti and street art. Tartu’s self-designated galleries, hidden treasures in abandoned buildings together with bits and pieces all over town, are must-see spots for every urban explorer. Tartu hosts a wide range of works from foreign and local artists like MTO, Kashink, Facter, Multistab, Edward von Lõngus, MinaJaLydia, Thobek, Brush Lee, Müra2000, Okeiko and many others.
As the street art and graffiti scenes in Tartu have grown, local officials have implemented methods of control that rely on their discretion rather than a one-size-fits-all policy. In May 2013, a controversial incident happened involving the city council and the street art activists who have been organizing Stencibility. Tartu officials decided to buff the most active self-designated gallery in the city, a spot under a bridge called the “Freedom Gallery.” After some alarmed citizens noticed something strange happening under the bridge, they called the mayor Urmas Kruuse to ask for an explanation (it might seem strange, but this can be taken as a positive aspect of a small town). The mayor interrupted the removal work and asked for a consultation with the organizers of Stencibility on how to deal with the spray-painted images. After some thought, those of us organizing the festival decided not to intervene in the city’s natural changing process or the government’s decisions by being the curators of illegal street art. We let the mayor and the other city officials decide for themselves what would stay and what would go. In the end, the “Freedom Gallery” was partially buffed, keeping the works that the city workers in charge of the removal deemed “beautiful” and removing the rest. So, the city is not a free-for-all, but at least officials seem open to the idea that even illegal street art and graffiti may have some benefits.
Although the phenomenon of street art can be found in all parts of the world, it’s important to note that Tartu, with its small size, is significant especially for its street art. You can take this as an invitation because I’d suggest to join the view as long as it’s alive and kickin’.
It was action time last week in Montreal with the second edition of MURAL festival. I will talk of the festival more generally in a next post, but today I want to focus on one of the exhibitions that took place in the line-up of the festival: End Orphans, a solo show by Alex Produkt. Actually, I was here in Montreal to assist in organizing this show curated by my friend André Pace, art addict, collector and owner of a private gallery, so I guess that my appreciation is not quite objective as I have been involved in the organization… But this show was a real beauty! Part of the festival, it also provided the opportunity to Alex to have his own wall (above). For me, one of the best events of the show was also the amazing documentary that Ian Lagarde made during the last months, following Alex at work at his studio, in the streets, trying to capture a small part of his soul. The least I can do is to invite you to have a look, and get inspired by one of the purist street artists I’ve ever met.
A little while ago I heard whispers of something big happening in Perth, Western Australia. I usually only cover Melbourne based art and events, but this is an exception and needs to be shared. I’m heading over to Perth tomorrow so I will be covering the remainder of the event for Vandalog.
PUBLIC started on the 5th of April and continues through to the 13th and will feature street art, projections and installations across the city. 45 amazing artists will paint over 30 giant murals and walls over the fortnight.
The line up is mind blowing and an Australian first, with names like 2501, Phlegm, Yandell Walton, Hayley Welsh, Jordan Seiler, Jerome Davenport, Amok Island, Ian Mutch, Casey Ayres, Chris Nixon, Darren Hutchens, Martin E Wills, Paul Deej, Daek William, Stormie Mills, Hurben, ROA, Ever, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Peche, Natasha Muhl, Phibs, Beastman, Lucas Grogan, Andrew Frazer, Hyuro, Mekel, Mow Skwoz, Drew Straker, Jaz, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Maya Hayuk, Reko Rennie, Pixel Pancho, Jetsonorama, Gaia, Alexis Diaz, Nathan Beard, Remed, Vans the Omega, The Yok and Sheryo and more.
Here’s a couple of work in progress shots I stole from Sam Gorecki via Invurt. More here.
In Mexico City, Labrona and Botkin had a lot of fun painting a mural, wheat-pasting and exploring the capital. The mural was done at a school. Labrona said, “It was an amazing place to paint because all the children got to see us painting and maybe some of them will be inspired to try art. Also, when we were painting, the teachers brought there kids out to watch and draw.”
Ian Strange aka Kid Zoom‘s latest work is FINAL ACT, a project somewhat similar to last summer’s very surprising and impressive SUBURBAN. The results of the project are on display now at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand. As you can see in the photos and video in this post, the work involved artfully deconstructing four homes in Christchurch. The process was heavily documented in video and still photography, as were the results of the deconstruction. Really, the final artworks in this project are the photographs and films (and some sculptures that come from the process of cutting up the homes), and that’s what is on display now at the Canterbury Museum. It’s all a part of the Rise Festival that’s going on there now, and Ian’s response to the earthquake that shook Christchurch in 2011.
If I remember correctly, Ian and I discussed the work of Gordon Matta-Clark when he first showed me some previews of SUBURBAN. SUBURBAN seemed to me like a uniquely Kid Zoom project, but also clearly influenced by Matta-Clark. And there’s nothing wrong with influence, especially if you bring a fresh perspective. I feel that Ian’s work does that. Because he incorporates these intricate photography, videography and lighting setups (as well as paint in the case of SUBURBAN), there’s something different going on than what Matta-Clark was doing. And Ian has grappled with ideas of suburbia in his work for years before FINAL ACT or SUBURBAN, and he’s also acutely aware of the power of documentation. So the work has a different impetuous and a different meaning from Matta-Clark.
Still, when I saw the photos of FINAL ACT, I could not help but say to myself, “Wow. I can’t believe Ian’s just taken a quintessentially Matta-Clark visual and thrown in some fancy lighting, and then done some quintessentially Matta-Clark sculptures.” I suppose I could have brushed this off, except that nowhere in any official descriptions of FINAL ACT could I find a reference to Matta-Clark. It’s not like there was no explanation of the project. There was a written press release, and a sort of making-of video has been released in addition to the 12-minute video art piece and the still photos. Why, in none of that supplementary material, would such an essential reference point be neglected? It would be like this Sherrie Levine piece being described or displayed without any reference to Duchamp. That neglect rubbed me the wrong way.
In the Juxtapoz-friendly art world (or maybe just among PR people), I’ve found that it’s just not usually considered cool to acknowledge an artist’s influences or references unless they are somehow subversive or could be a way of getting more press attention (ps: that’s not a dig against Juxtapoz, just a way of describing a very large scene). I’m guilty of falling into similar traps sometimes too. There’s a lack of critical exploration of the artwork that blogs like Vandalog cover, and examples like this going unacknowledged only continue that pattern. And it’s even worse that museums perpetuate the same issues when education is one of their traditional responsibilities.
But maybe I’m just a pretentious “high brow weiner” (sic). So before ripping into FINAL ACT, I decided to reach out to Ian and ask for a comment on the similarity to Matta-Clark. Here’s his response:
Matta-Clark is a huge influence on my work – Also artists like John Divola, who’s work documenting suburbia and his vandalism series using aerosol, also his recent dark star series.
In Final Act, the initial idea was to use light if it was paint – Allowing the negative space of the cuts to be filled with light and in a sense be an extension of the painted gestures and markings from Suburban.
The house cut works in the exhibition have a strong reference to Matta-Clark’s work. But in this this body of work they were also a way for me to physically archive the Christchurch homes in their museum. The homes I worked on will be demolished, along with the entire neighborhood they are in, that neighborhood is part of over 16,000 homes which will be eventually demolished. I was interested in the works being artifacts which will remain long after the homes are gone – Ultimately I would have loved to move an entire house into the museum, which wasn’t possible.
That’s a well-considered and enlightening comment in what was almost an immediate reply to my email, so it couldn’t have taken too long to write up. And Ian has mentioned Matta-Clark in interviews before, so it’s not like he’s been trying to hide anything. Why couldn’t something like that have made it into a press release or some wall text in the museum (and if someone has been in the museum and they do have some wall text like this, please let me know, but it seems unlikely to me given the text I’ve seen about this project)?
While I still thing the similarities to Matta-Clark’s work are a bit much in FINAL ACT (less-so in SUBURBAN), I appreciate that Ian is trying to do is a bit different. While I suppose he would argue that it’s more than this, I see FINAL ACT as a modern update on a classic, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as we acknowledge it.