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: ,

Tim Hans shoots… Dan Witz

March 31st, 2014 | By | No Comments »


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.


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.


Photos by Tim Hans

Category: Featured Posts, Interview, Portraits by Tim Hans | Tags: , ,

An introduction to Debra Yepa-Pappan from Chip Thomas

March 27th, 2014 | By | 1 Comment »

“Spock was a Half-Breed (Live Long and Prosper)”

Note from the editor: I’m pleased today to have this guest post from Chip Thomas aka Jetsonorama, an artist we have covered on Vandalog many times and also the organizer of The Painted Desert Project. The most recent contributor to the project is Debra Yepa-Pappan, whose piece is shown above. Yepa-Pappan’s work is new to me, so we’re also publishing an interview that Thomas did with her. – RJ

Chip Thomas: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?  Where are you from originally, how did you meet and end up in Chicago?

Debra Yepa-Pappan: I was born in Korea. My father was in the Army and was stationed in Korea where he met my mother. I was born after he had been moved back to the U.S. When I was 5 months old, my mother and I emigrated to the States to be with him. We lived in Jemez for a short time, then on the Army base with my dad in Alabama and then Mississippi, where my parents were married. By the time I was one year old, my dad was discharged from the Army and we moved to Chicago. I’ve been here ever since, although I maintain a strong connection with Jemez and my Korean side. Throughout my childhood and teen years, my parents and I would visit Jemez frequently. And I ultimately went to school at IAIA in Santa Fe to meet other Natives and to be close to “home” that being Jemez Pueblo. Chris and I met there, and I brought him back to Chicago with me when we were both done at IAIA. We’ve been together for 22 years and married for 19 years with a beautiful 12 year old daughter.

CT: What is your art training?

DYP: Growing up, I never really thought of “becoming an artist.” My interest in art started late in high school and I was focused more on design. When I attended IAIA, I began by taking jewelry and then photography. I fell in love with photography. I felt at home in the darkroom and I enjoyed the hands on process of developing my own film and prints. My instructor was Meridel Rubenstien. What I really appreciated about her was that she didn’t teach me to just be a photographer, but she taught me to be an artist. So I’ve never really thought of myself as a photographer, but an artist who uses photography as my medium. I continued on at Columbia College of Chicago where I learned to refine my darkroom skills and where I learned how to use the digital medium, but then I had to “take a break” when I became pregnant. I’m still on that break!


Read the rest of this article »

Category: Guest Posts, Interview | Tags: , ,

Judith Supine is even more interesting than originally suspected

March 27th, 2014 | By | 2 Comments »

Animal just released this fantastic interview with Judith Supine. This actually isn’t the first time Supine has shown his face but the video is still great. I love how cheeky and honest he is. For a man who didn’t speak until the age of seventeen, he’s quick to offer his blunt (and spot on) critique of the art world.

His solo show Golden Child opens at Mecka Gallery on March 29th, and he has worked with the gallery on the release of two prints (one which is already sold out, and another which will be available at the opening). For more of Judith’s unbridled banter, check out his other recent interview on 12oz.

Category: Interview, Videos | Tags: ,

Tim Hans shoots… Mike Ballard aka Cept

March 24th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
Photo by Tim Hans

Photo by Tim Hans

Mike Ballard, perhaps better known to graffiti and street art fans as Cept, is one of the UK’s most fascinating artists or graffiti writers. His artistic output includes oil paintings, video art, sculptures, screenprints, graffiti, murals and highly conceptual installation projects. Tim Hans met Ballard at his London studio earlier this year for our continuing series of photo-portraits of artists by Tim, and I asked Mike a few questions over email.

RJ: What are you working on at the moment?

Ballard: I’m working on a new series of paintings in oil, a new future primitive series, darkly psychedelic baroque hip hop with cosmic nomad overtones. They will form part of a new installation with video and sound, hoping to show it next year, as there is a lot of work to do.

RJ: What is the separation between Mike Ballard and Cept?

Ballard: The work I make under Mike is more patient and considered, it’s the opposite end of the scale from the work as Cept. The work on the street is instant, mostly made up on the spot and executed within a couple of hours, I’ve painted so many pieces, it’s like I’m on auto pilot most of the time, I rarely think about what colours i’m using, unless doing characters, I let the letter pieces flow and see what happens, I rarely draw outlines these days and have started to go straight in with the final outline first. Cept is very impatient, get it done, let’s go to the pub and look at the photos, whereas with my studio work I’m in for the long haul, using brushes and oils, mixing colours, it’s a world away from graffiti, the work on canvas is a lot more considered, it’s a new world to me  painting with oils, so I’m learning all the time, new techniques, different pigments, it’s like getting into graffiti again, I’m super buzzing about it, want to know everything. The studio work allows me to expand my artistic ideas beyond graffiti, but maintaining a sensibility that comes from my years of painting on the street.

Photo by Tim Hans

Photo by Tim Hans

RJ: In mainstream contemporary art, there seems to be this idea that the writers who get into highly conceptual art leave graffiti behind and “graduate” from writing, but artists like Barry McGee and yourself keep a foot in both worlds. What continues to appeal to you about your work as Cept that you don’t get from your work as Mike Ballard and vice versa? Is it a false dichotomy to position writing and conceptual painting, video, sculpture and installation art as different things?

Ballard: Once you’re really into graffiti, I feel there is no stopping, serious writers don’t give up, it goes in waves, sometimes I’m painting a lot outside and sometimes not, but never falling out the game, I’ve been painting for too long to ever stop or turn away from graffiti, what I’ve seen of late in London is a lot of people claiming to be street, coz they done a couple of roller pieces in the wick, painted on the street for 2 minutes then claim to be making some big transition from street to gallery, these are just people who make money not art, and have no integrity in what they do, it’s simply to be famous and get some money, they don’t graduate from writing, they use it as some kind of badge to make them seem cool, and have no presence on the street anymore.

Graffiti is a massive part of me, it is who I am , how I grew up and the friends I have made, I get a lot of satisfaction painting graffiti, it’s instant, in your face, burners all over the place, the whole action of painting a huge piece, it can’t be beat, it’s a feeling like nothing else, where as completing a painting on canvas is a different feeling, it’s again one of satisfaction and challenge, but more personal, a bit more shy and reserved, a whole different context of making stuff, bipolar.

I think it’s how you pull these things together and again in what context you experience them, I incorporate all these elements into my installations, it’s not that they are different things, divisions but whether they have the artist’s style and ideas running throughout the different mediums, to form one big piece of work from many elements.

Photo courtesy of Cept

Photo courtesy of Mike Ballard

RJ: What is the riskiest artwork you’ve ever made?

Ballard: Riskiest in terms of shocking? or riskiest as in most crapping myself? If it’s the latter, probably doing a back jump on the New York subway.

Photo courtesy of Cept

Photo courtesy of Mike Ballard

RJ: What’s the strangest dream you’ve had recently?

Ballard: I always have strange dreams, but telling them to people is like looking through someone else’s holiday photos, a bit boring, you can’t convey the feeling of the experience…

Photo courtesy of Mike Ballard

Photo courtesy of Mike Ballard

Photos by Tim Hans and courtesy of Mike Ballard

Category: Interview, Portraits by Tim Hans | Tags: , ,

Interview with Junky Projects

March 20th, 2014 | By | 1 Comment »
Junky Project. Photo by KayVee.INC.

Junky Project. Photo by KayVee.INC.

Daniel Lynch aka Junky Projects is and has always been one of my favourite Melbourne street artists. The reason is simple, because he’s different. Junky’s creations are a breath of fresh air in Melbourne’s street art scene. With his red hair and awesome taste in fashion, Junky is also one of the most interesting characters in the scene.

Junky describes his work on his website: “Essentially I create sentinels from junk and install them in strategic positions around the place to help remind passers by that if they continue to create so much waste in their lives one day it may come back to haunt them.” I find this idea fascinating and I love finding new characters around the city staring down at me from lamp posts and walls. He also makes amazing sculptures much greater in size than his street work.

Junky has a show coming up on the 21st of March at Dark Horse Experiment called Wasted. I’m looking forward to seeing what he creates for the show. You can see more of his work via this Flickr pool.

I recently caught up with Daniel and this is what we talked about…

LM: Where did your name come from?

JP: I had been toying around with the junk medium for a little while and using old tags that I had been using previously for straight up bombing, but it didn’t seem right. At the time there were a lot of artists popping up with really unusual names, and I dug that straight away. The old kinda more traditional tags were sorta flashy and 80’s sounding. When I heard tags like ‘RotGut’ Or ‘Snotrag’ I thought these were the kinda tags that stood out for me and sounded different. Because I was using recycled waste materials in my work I decided ‘Junky’ sounded like a nice brutal tag and straight away it stuck. But that was when it was all more anonymous. There is a certain luxury in the anonymity which means you can call yourself whatever you want. But then some dickhead Melbourne “Art Critic” took it upon himself to announce on the internet my real name and tag, so I had the problem of people coming up to me at shows calling me Junky, which can be awkward in certain situations. So I added the ‘projects’ part to kind of try and separate the person from the work a little, So that I am Daniel Lynch and these are my ‘Junkyprojects’.

Junky Projects - Photo by AllThoseShapes

Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.

LM: Where did the idea for your characters come from? How did you come up with the idea?

JP: Coming to Melbourne from a smaller town like Newcastle can be a pretty intimidating experience. I had been making art, working a bit of graphic design and getting really involved in the graff scene for some time and of course Melbourne is the place to be if your into that stuff, so down I came. But once your here there are so many big personalities and crazy painters doing their thing everywhere, and doing it well. I just felt like my old approach to getting up was pretty much just that, old. I had seen some work by some guys around the world installing plaque’s and mosaics, even ‘Fuckin Revs’ steel welded sculptures, and I decided to have a crack at something like that. The junk aspect came naturally. I’ve always collected weird crap that I find, this just gave me an outlet for it. Once I put a few up they were really well received so I kept at it. Now its just a snowball I can’t stop.

Junky Projects - Photo by AllThoseShapes

Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.

LM: How long have you been doing what you do? How did you start? Have you always been into art?

JP: I grew up loving art. Art galleries were always amazing beautiful special places for me as a young person. Somewhere to go think and reflect. Very early on I decided that I wanted to be an Artist, but as it goes everybody around me told me that it was a silly pursuit for Bleeding hearts and hopeless romantics, fraught with poverty and woe. Of course I paid no mind and went ahead with it anyway. I did a Visual Communications Degree at Newcastle uni and came out a qualified Graphic designer, but I hated the idea that it was now my job to help the advertisers of the world sell crap to the public that they shouldn’t buy and don’t need anyway. So I decided to use my powers for good instead of evil. I’ve been working as Junkyprojects now for about eight years.

Junky Projects - Photo by AllThoseShapes

Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.

LM: Are there certain materials you like to use the most?

JP: I love the look of old rusty steel. For my street work that’s the best. I also love using old timbers because they have such a rich history. A block of wood was once a tree, then maybe a carport, then maybe get thrown around for a dog to chase, then washed out to sea, makes its way back onto shore and into one of my sculptures, I like those possibilities. Theses days though im really enjoying building sculptures with polystyrene packaging. Its such a disgusting oil based waste product which is available in such abundance if you just look. But it’s also really light and quite strong, and I love the shapes that are inherent in the forms already when I find the materials.

Junky Projects - Photo by AllThoseShapes

Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.

LM: What do you always carry with you on the street?

JP: Hammer, Extra Nails, Stickers, Sunglasses.

LM: Tell us a little about the process. Do you make these characters at home or in the studio and then attach them to things? Or do you make them on the fly?

JP: Usually I make them at the studio, I’ll collect up all the crap I need and the assemble a heap all at once then go out and install them, easy. Sometimes if I’m out somewhere having fun installing work and I run out of pre made pieces, I might make some there on the spot with whatever I can get my hands on. That’s where the spare nails come in.

LM: Aside from your street work, tell us a little about your larger sculptures? Where can we see some of these?

JP: The larger sculptures are just a natural flow of the work I guess. The street pieces are just quick tags for me so I like to put some more time and effort into larger work sometimes. And sometimes I install the larger stuff out and about. There are still a few around Brunswick I think, but because of the ephemeral nature of art out in the streets and because I’m kinda making it all up as I go along, a lot of the bigger stuff has disappeared. But keep your eyes peeled for more to pop up soon. Also the best place to see my larger sculptural work is at my exhibition on Friday.

Junky Projects - Photo by AllThoseShapes

Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.

LM: Do you dabble in any other forms of art? Like aerosol for example?

JP: I’ve always painted aerosol. I love the freedom and the social aspect of painting with a group of mates. It’s good to keep those skills and stay up. And Graffiti will never die.

LM: Apart from your art work, how else do you contribute to Melbourne’s street art culture?

JP: Well I’m a tour guide for starters, so I take tourists and school students around to check out all the amazing art in our alleys and laneways, that keeps me busy. I also do a lot of workshops with young people and disadvantaged youth. Those are great. We really get to engage a wide cross section of kids who are all facing different issues. Art can be a great outlet for these kids and being able to do something creative often really makes a difference to their lives.

Junky Projects - Photo by AllThoseShapes

Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.

LM: Tell us about “Wasted” your latest exhibition at Dark Horse Experiment? What can we expect from the show?

JP: Wasted is a collection of sculptures, collage, assemblage and installation which for me are all to some extent about magic and myth. All these materials have a life force and a spirit and when we turn materials into waste that spirit is broken down . When I create artworks from these wasted materials it feels like I am creating a new life force and a new spirit for that object. The work I have created seeks to harness this mythology and manifest it into real objects.

LM: What else is coming up for Junky Projects in 2014 and beyond?

JP: Who knows. I’d really like to get out and do some serious traveling over the next few years, maybe some artist residencies here there and everywhere. I’m also really interested in going out into regional areas and partnering with some of these communities to create public artworks made from local waste products. Basically I just wanna get out there and make much more art in many wide and diverse places. Have hammer, Will travel.

Junky Projects - Photo by AllThoseShapes

Junky Projects. Photo by AllThoseShapes.

Photos courtesy of Junky Projects, AllThoseShapes and KayVee.INC

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

Tim Hans shoots… Logan Hicks

March 3rd, 2014 | By | No Comments »


Logan Hicks is a forefather of the stenciling medium. With a background in printmaking, Hicks helped pioneer the use of multi-layer stencils to create strikingly complex portraits of urban environments. While many artists are satisfied with two or three stencil-layers to create images, Hicks has used up to 15 in a given piece. He is also known for his documentation of his adventures through the labyrinth of tunnels and pipelines in various cities around the world. Recently, he began incorporating figures into his pieces; contrasting hard architectural details with the softness of female figures floating through water. Hicks continues to explore the creative potential of stencils and the content they are able to illustrate. Tim Hans met up with Hicks last summer for our continuing series of photo-portraits of artists by Tim, and I interviewed him in anticipation of his upcoming solo show “Love Never Saved Anything” at 154 Stanton Street in New York City, opening March 7th at 6:30pm and running through March 19th (open 11:00am-6:30pm daily).

Caroline Caldwell: How did you get started exploring the tunnels and sewer systems in cities around the world? What interests you about it? What are some of the dangers? Any good stories?

Logan Hicks: Moving to NY is what really initiated the push the notion of going places that are ‘off limits’.

I grew up in the country, so I can remember checking out abandoned houses and stuff like that, but never really thought much about it. it was curiosity to see what was beyond the facade. When I moved to Baltimore, I poked around more and that’s when I came across the book ‘The Mole People’ which started me focusing on the city under me. Later I moved to San Diego, Los Angeles, and ultimately New York which is what firmly entrenched me in the idea of exploring places. Especially New York. To me NY has always been the quintessential city. It’s hard not to become amazed by the layers of the city.

I didn’t really know that there were communities of like minded me before moving, but I just ended up becoming friends with few people who shared my sensibilities. I suppose the default title is ‘urban explorer’ but I cringe at that title sometimes. To say you’re an ‘explorer’ sort of oversells it, but I guess saying that you’re a ‘really curious guy’ doesn’t really roll off the tongue. I just like checking out places and I like hanging out with the people that I explore with.

One you’ve managed to check various tunnels and buildings around the world though, it fuels the desire to see even more. Once you see what one subway system is like, you want to see the others. You want to see how it was made. Where it runs too. what is past that dark curtain at the end of the platform. Once you stand on top of a building crane 50 stories up, you can’t help but look up and want to get onto another. Part of it is that you just want to experience the rush. Part of it is that i just like to get away. As social as i am at times, i’m still an introvert at heart. I like to get away. To be unseen. To find quiet pockets of the city to go to. it helps keep me sane.

Stories? I’m sure there are a few, but the most memorable one was when I was exploring a tunnel out in Los Angeles with my good friend Jordan. We started walking into this round tunnel. It was maybe 8 feet wide. We walked in about 25 feet when I think I see something up ahead. Jordan was behind me so he didn’t see it, but I said ‘hang on’ and i yelled out ‘is anybody there’. After a second or two of silence a voice cracks the darkness with ‘yeah’. We were a bit startled cause it was just pitch black ahead and here this voice was up ahead out of our field of view, even with the flashlights on. I ask ‘you mind if we pass?’. “no” he says then follows up with ‘you ain’t got no camera do you?’. I’m a bit nervous at the question wondering if he’s going to mug us but I realize that it’s probably just some homeless guy who doesn’t want to be photographed during his lowest time. I say ‘yeah, but we aren’t taking pictures of people, just tunnels”. he gives a quick ‘ok, come through’ and we start walking. As we get closer we start to make out his silhouette, then as we get even closer we realize that there are actually two people. One standing, one sitting. The guy we talked too was butt ass naked, standing in the middle of this tunnel smoking crack not giving a fuck. There is no tunnel large enough to feel comfortable in as you walk past a naked man smoking crack. I had my hand on my knife the whole time and he ended up being fine. his friend was sitting down in the drainage tunnel letting the water pour over him as he smoked crack. I couldn’t help but think to myself, what is more crazy – us seeing two grown naked men smoking crack in a random tunnel – or the fact that they saw these two guys walk into a tunnel with a camera and never come back? That was probably the most odd experience I’ve had.

Caldwell: Your upcoming show will have a much stronger focus on the narratives of each piece and exploring themes such as old sailor’s superstitions. Can you talk a bit about this?

Hicks: Yes, the new work has evolved away from the architectural works that I’m known for. In the past I’ve worked from a more passive standpoint in my work. the architecture in my work was often contemplative, still, reflective. It was more of an internal thought. But last year though ended up being a fairly turbulent year for me. I had a string of bad luck that just tainted my daily life. Everything from finances, relationships, legal issues, personal happiness – everything. I was trying to salvage a few things in my life when I had a conversation with a friend of mine who said “at least you’re doing what you love”. I replied “Love never saved anything though”. That is the title for the show I am having in March – “Love Never Saved Anything” I started working from a more emotional point instead of intellectual. That is what led me to underwater photography. A good friend of mine in Long Beach offered a pool and herself as a model, so I took the opportunity to explore the medium. I fell in love with it. The drifting, weightlessness, floating model was sort of how I felt internally. It just felt like it was the perfect way to capture what I was going through – adrift in a sea of uncertainty. From there things just came together. I was connected with a great fashion designer out of Chicago who made dresses specifically for the next series of underwater shoots and I kept down that path. Along the way I came across various sailor traditions and superstitions and I was intrigued. There are so many obscure and odd traditions like ‘don’t cut your nails or hair on a ship’, or don’t talk to a redhead or you should shed a few drops of blood before boarding a ship for the season. There are hundreds of them, and some of them are more vivid than others, but I started to realize that these superstitions dealt with the same exact thing that every human in the world worries about – life, love, fortune, happiness, death. It’s the circle of life. It was the same thing that I was going through. So it just felt right to use these nautical traditions as a jumping off point to illustrate my own struggles. It has more of a narrative with these sailor traditions sort of providing the framework for the imagery for the work.

Caldwell: You’ve used the internet in conjunction with your art making for a number of years. You were active on some of the first internet forums and online dialogues about stenciling. Today, you make yourself a presence on social media so that people are able to observe a good deal of your artistic process. Would you say this has had any affect on the work you put out?

Hicks: It does. I think that especially when you have a technically demanding medium such as stenciling, the more you can educate the viewer on how you create the work, the stronger you make it. The aim is to help the viewer see the process and evolution of the work, from idea to execution. Ultimately it’s the work that needs to stand on it’s own, but it’s helpful if people understand how you arrived at the final result. So in that sense I find the communication critical to seeing the big picture. Ideally you hope that people can connect with every aspect of your work – the idea, the process, the execution, the medium, the story behind it, etc. For me it’s important to show people that the results of my work are not happy mistakes. It’s important that people see that you’re striving for something and that I’m working and working towards that vision. Seeing an obscure idea in your head morph into a physical painting is an interesting process.

Caldwell: To what degree do you allow your work to be left up to interpretation?

Hicks: If you’re making work that is so narrow in it’s scope then I just don’t think it’s very successful. I try my best to stay away from specific definitions. I might use a specific story, metaphor, experience, or tradition as a starting point for a painting, but it’s never the backbone of appreciation. It’s the inspiration for it.

If you need a story to go along with a picture, then I kind of feel like you’re more of an illustrator or story teller, but not a fine artist. Artwork is most successful work is when the viewer can connect with. If you’re telling the viewer what to believe, then what’s the point of making work in the first place? Successful art is nothing more than a mirror that allows the viewer to see themselves in. It’s a language that allows you to speak from your point of view that can convey the emotions that you’re feeling. So when I approach my work I try my best not to be so literal with the meanings. If you’re feeling a bit depressed, there are ways to imply that in the work. The colors you use, the strokes of color, the composition, the expressions of the models, even the title of the piece etc But if you have an artist who says “this piece of art is about when my dog Squeaks died and i was super sad, so i made this piece of art to remember squeaks” you just feel like their using art as therapy and you’re the unwitting ear that has to listen to them drone on about their life. I try to make work that speaks to the human condition. the cycle of life. Life, death, happiness, love and fortune. That is the pinnacle that drives most every decision we make.

I try to think as little as possible when I paint. Sometimes you need to think with your hands if that makes any sense. You just need to feel your way around the canvas.

Caldwell: Do you think the street art scene is becoming formulaic, what with the seemingly abundant amount of legal walls, festivals and group shows, or is this still an authentic progression?

Hicks: Street Art is dead. The corpse of street art has wandered the streets trying to find a new label to wear without any success. The original actions, motivations and effectiveness of street art died long ago.There is some phenomenal work that is still produced that could be classified as street art in the fact that it’s art that is on the street, but I think that people trying to still claim that ‘street art’ is revolutionary or subverting the gallery model on it’s head is idiotic. Originally street art evolved because there was this in-between group of kids who didn’t do graffiti, but they didn’t fit into the gallery system. So they found a gallery – the street.

However, when a subculture or movement becomes self aware you can’t claim that it’s pushing the boundaries really. Once you’re self aware, then people start trying to define it. They start to impose these imaginary rules, protocols, and ideas. So now you can say that ‘this’ is street art, but ‘that’ isn’t. These days you have kids paying 40k a year going to art school trying to emulate what evolved in street art decades earlier. You have real estate developers that use street art as a handshake to the surrounding community to ease the transition of gentrification. You have street artists claiming that they’re raging against the machine while wearing Louboutin shoes at the opening. Street art has become a parody of itself. I’m not saying that the work isn’t good, but the definition of street art as an overall movement is antiquated.

If you look at artists like Aryz, C215, or Swoon, and you just think ‘that’s great art’. You don’t think ‘they are good for a street artist’. Good art should be timeless. But you look at some artists and you try to imagine them 50 years from now and the work doesn’t hold up without the street art label to carry it.

The definitions and classification of artists is something that artists shouldn’t concern themselves with. Artists should just make art. Labeling yourself limits how people perceive you. It limits the potential that you have. I’ve been included as a street artist over the years – and maybe I am – but I’ve never embraced it because I never want to feel limited. I just want to make art and I don’t really care if the tight jean fix wheel hipster likes it, or the 80 year old trust fund manager likes it. My focus is just making art that conveys the ideas and vision that I have. Labels and it’s definition is best left to others.

Caldwell: If you weren’t an artist what might you be doing with your time?

Hicks: Crime or drugs or laying in a grave rotting. There has never been a plan B.


Photos by Tim Hans

Category: Featured Posts, Interview, Portraits by Tim Hans | Tags: ,

Tim Hans shoots… Mon Iker

February 24th, 2014 | By | No Comments »

Mon Iker_TimHans

I met Mon Iker at Living Walls in 2012, when she was a muralist for the conference’s all-female year. Since then Mon has relocated to New York. Last summer, Tim Hans photographed her on a Brooklyn rooftop for his continuing series of photo-portraits of artists. I took the opportunity to reconnect with Mon and ask her a few questions over email (although I should have edited them first, note the error in question 4).

RJ: What brought you to New York?

Mon Iker: Although I’ve been in NYC off and on since 2011, last spring I received a scholarship to participate in an artist residency program at the Hemispheric Institute of Performing Arts & Politics (EMERGENYC) where I was able to study and create with world-renowned artists/activists such as the YesLabERRO GRUPO, and Peggy Shaw. It was extraordinary, and I’m very thankful for that opportunity, but living expenses weren’t paid so I had to find a means to make it work.  Happenstance – in particular, a facebook post by the Yes Men – led me to apply for a paid internship at what appeared to be a cryptic sounding but politically minded arts studio called Not An Alternative. The residency only lasted three months, and I hadn’t planned my life that far in advance to know what I was going to do after it ended. Not An Alternative winded up being exactly what I was looking for, so I’ve decided to settle in the city to continue to work with them while also working on my own stuff.

RJ: Your mural from Living Walls 2012 is one of my favorite murals in Atlanta, but I don’t think of you as a prolific street artist. How did you end up painting on the rooftop where this photo was taken, painting with a bunch of street artists?

Mon Iker: Thanks; that means a lot to me. I enjoy what you do. Trek had come to the city and we were hanging out when he told me about a rooftop that a bunch of folks were going to paint later. Art in reclaimed space always gets me excited, so I hopped on board. I ran into LNY, whom I’ve known since Living Walls, and met Icy & Sot, ND’A, Kyle Hughes Rodgers, and Vexta – all incredibly friendly people.  I actually didn’t have any tools on me, so freeloaded some primer white and a leftover paintbrush to make a quick doodle. Hearing about the tragedy that occurred later on that same rooftop really devastated me. My heart goes out to Icy & Sot and all those affected.

RJ: What attracts you to muralism?

Mon Iker: The idea that advertising is the only large scale visual language sanctioned in public space is revolting to me. I feel like muralism and other forms of public art are the only media with the subversive potential to rupture a culture overstimulated by an alternate reality that consumerism creates. One of the things I like to focus on in my work (as well as at NAA) is the repurposing of authoritative language; something that is exploiting all of us is especially ripe for exploitation in itself. Also, did I mention I love to paint? And, to be honest, my piece at the conference in 2012 was the first time I’d ever used spray. I feel like there’s no going back. Absolutely addicted.

RJ: What are the essential tools in your studios?

Mon Iker: I work in a variety of media, ranging from street art, paintings, and photography to performance, animation, and film. So, if I had to narrow it down: my camera, my journal, some microns, spray, and any cheap house paints I can find. I’ll still always love my oils, though. Its funny you mention “studios”, because I’ve actually been homeless for a little more than 2 years. Deciding to stay in NYC was a huge decision; one I’m glad I made because I’m finally able to set up a studio again. I’m also currently in the process of setting up a new site, publishing new work, etc.

RJ: How does New York compare to Atlanta?

Mon Iker: Although I’m not originally from ATL, it’s easy to find the arts community there. Everyone knows each other. Even so, I still never quite felt like I fit in. The support base for artists who are interested in activist/political expression doesn’t really exist there as it does in the city, and my work leans strongly in that direction. Regardless, not having my feet planted firmly in either place yet still makes me feel like a drifter. But perhaps I’ll always feel that way.

Photo by Tim Hans

Category: Interview, Portraits by Tim Hans | Tags: ,

Interview with a “street art expert”

February 17th, 2014 | By | 6 Comments »
Banksy Bandaged

“Bandaged Heart Balloon”. Photo courtesy of FAAM.

On Tuesday afternoon, Fine Art Auctions Miami (FAAM) will be hosting an auction that includes pieces by BanksyFaileKenny Scharf, BambiAiko and Terror161/J.SON that have been pulled (sawed, ripped, unscrewed, hammered off, etc.) from the street and brought to the auction house in Miami. Two pieces from Banksy’s recent NYC residency “Better Out Than In” are up for auction, including a car door from the Crazy Horse installation, and the bandaged heart balloon. You can have a look at the full catalog here (warning: it’s a PDF) or go here to follow the auction live.

Some of you might be thinking “Hey, those were for the public to enjoy!” or “Why should an unaffiliated auction house profit from the work/legal risks of these artists?” Good questions. But consider this… Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a literal piece of New York City from the safety of their home?

Ethical qualms aside, FAAM contacted Vandalog with an opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up: An interview with the auction house’s official “street art expert” Sebastien Laboureau of Moonstar Fine Art Advisors. Since many published authors and curators with extensive knowledge of street art and graffiti still don’t consider themselves experts, I decided to see what I could learn from a real street art expert…

Caroline Caldwell: At what point would a street artist be considered a ‘sell out’? If possible, provide examples.

Sebastien Laboureau, Street Art Expert: Art has a market, and street artists also sell their works, as long as artists stay true to their personal style and create from their hearts the concept does not apply. Recently many works from street artists sell at auctions, and in galleries because this art is contemporary and talks to a wide audience and public. Banksy is the leading street artist, and he sells hundreds of works everywhere in the world every year at increasing prices.

CC: The Banksy’s “Bandaged Heart Balloon” from her residency in New York City is a portion of the wall that was physically removed and transported to Miami. How do you suggest or imagine people display large pieces like this in their homes?

Expert: Street art is amazing in the way that there is no set medium, street artists can work on canvas, metal, walls, doors. The beauty of it is to keep it in its original medium, we find that collectors enjoy buying and displaying street art because it feels like the work is created in their home.

What "" might look like in a home. Photo illustration by RJ Rushmore, using photos courtesy of FAAM and by Bart Speelman.

What “Crazy Horse Car Door” might look in a home. Photo illustration by RJ Rushmore, using photos courtesy of FAAM and by Bart Speelman.

CC: How much of the art available in this auction was actually relocated from the street to the auction house?

Expert: Quite a few came directly from the streets, including two Banksy walls, a metal roll down gate by Kenny Scharf, and another large security gate by Lady Aiko & Terror 161. The great thing about these works is most of them were created in the street and will live a second life now. They will be preserved for eternity.

CC: If a street artists paints work on a canvas, should it be considered ‘street art’ or just ‘art’?

Expert: I do not feel the need to differentiate between the two, all is art, street art is art regardless medium it is created on.

CC: What is the difference between a ‘street art’ and a mural?

Expert: Street art is a style of painting and a mural is large scale work done on a building, one is genre and other is a medium.

"Kissing Coppers"

“Kissing Coppers”. Photo courtesy of FAAM.

CC: Who was the first authentic street artist to refer to themselves as a “street artist”?

Expert: The reality is that street art has always been around us. Some say street art was born in the late 70’s in New York City through graffiti art in public places. Some called it vandalism, some are still calling it vandalism… THIS IS ART!

CC: Should street artists in New York have NYC at the end of their Instagram handle?

Expert: Street artists should have any handle they please, to show where they have come from or where they are working.  New York City is very active in street art, but Miami has also become a street art mecca, with so many murals painted over the past year with an incredible quality and concentration in the Wynwood District. Street art is everywhere, in the London suburbs, in Barcelona, Paris, everywhere! And even in museums now.

CC: Would it be advantageous for street artists to align their personal brands with current trends in urban wear?

Expert: Historically, street art has been linked to hip hop. Fashion has always been intertwined with art. There is no limitation into what can and should be done!

CC: Is illegal street art graffiti?

Expert: It is still illegal in many parts and areas of the world, but more and more artists have been granted areas where they can create their works. Art is above any law, as art is life! Art pertains to our everyday life, and everywhere I look when I see art I see beauty.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 3.40.00 PM

Lady Aiko & Terror 161 on a metal gate originally located on the street in Wynwood, Miami. Photo courtesy of FAAM.

CC: Should there be a different word for street artists who are female?

Expert: There are more and more female street artists. We have great examples at our auction including Bambi and Swoon. Swoon has a museum show set-up in the Brooklyn Museum in April. Kazilla is a very talented street artist from the Wynwood who will be showing works and has brought local street artists together for the exhibition. There are many others! Once again, it makes no difference! ART IS ART!

CC: How long do you need to do the street arts before you’re considered a street artist?

Expert: There is no lead-time. A street artist is an artist that happens to use the streets as their canvas, there is no school. Some artists are better than others, but once again, there is no diploma to become a street artist!

CC: What’s the best city to get blog coverage in?

Expert: Miami is now becoming the street art mecca! But street art is everywhere in the world now.

Photos courtesy of Fine Art Auctions Miami (FAAM) and photo illustration by RJ Rushmore, featuring photos courtesy of FAAM and by Bart Speelman

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

Tim Hans shoots… Vexta

February 17th, 2014 | By | No Comments »


We’ve interviewed Vexta, now a New Yorker by way of Australia, twice before, so why not a third time? Last summer, she invited Tim Hans and I to rooftop in Brooklyn to meet up as part of his continuing series of photo-portraits of artists. What we found there was not just Vexta, but a semi-secret gathering of street artists taking over this random rooftop and just having a fun time together. Thanks to Vexta, Tim ended up photographing a bunch of artists whose photos we have been posting over the last few months. Rhiannon Platt recently included Vexta on a list of “15 Women Who Are Killing It in Street Art Right Now,” so of course Rhiannon was the perfect person to interview Vexta for this post. – RJ

Rhiannon Platt: Tell us a little about yourself.

Vexta: I’m from Sydney, Australia… though I came up in the street art scene in Melbourne where I live for a long time. I moved to Brooklyn about a year and half ago… since then though I’ve been traveling a lot painting walls, making art for music festivals and other exhibitions, commissions and projects in India, Mexico, Australia and across Europe. My artwork is pretty psychedelic and I guess I’m most interested in ideologies surrounding ultimate freedom and the interconnectedness of all matter and how that can relate to us in a real world way.

Rhiannon: Why did you choose this image in particular?

Vexta: It was a while back when I painted this… it wasn’t too long after Pussy Riot had been put in jail in Russia and in general there just felt like this global oppression of human rights and women’s rights… I start thinking about protesting and the connection to graffiti culture and started painting a series of people in bandanas and ski masks… the bandana part of that painting is made up of these diamond stencil shapes. I’ve been using these in my work for a while and they signify transformation and the atomic particles that make up all matter… so they create another layer of meaning too… like a physical representation of communication and the need for it. I like to leave a certain ambiguity in my work though so there’s space for people to bring their own meanings.


Rhiannon: You paint abandoned or repurposed spaces a lot. How was painting this space in Brooklyn different?

Vexta: I haven’t painted that many rooftops because in Australia we don’t have that many locations like that… It kinda felt like painting an empty warehouse only in the sunshine with a view of Brooklyn.

Rhiannon: What was particularly important about painting on this roof?

Vexta: So it was a rooftop accessed by my friends Icy & Sot’s place. We had been talking for a while about getting a group of us together and painting it. So one day we had a bbq up there, spent the day hanging out and painting. I think there was maybe 8 or 10 of us up there painting that day. It’s those moments when street artists come together as a community and inspire each other and make new connections. That part of our world is important – Making art for ourselves and each other, making an empty space beautiful together.

Rhiannon: What did you take away from this experience?

Vexta: Some new friends & happy memories and I left behind a small piece of beauty with some ideas and feelings imbedded in it…


Photos by Tim Hans

Category: Interview, Portraits by Tim Hans | Tags: ,