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 »

LoganHicks_TimHans_01

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.

LoganHicks_TimHans_02

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.

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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 »

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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.

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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…

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Photos by Tim Hans


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

Tim Hans shoots… Icy & Sot

February 4th, 2014 | By | No Comments »

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Last summer, Tim Hans and I visited a rooftop in Brooklyn. Tim was there to photograph (if I’m remember correctly) Vexta for his continuing series of photo-portraits of artists. But what we found there was a gathering of street artists all painting and having fun in this very unexpected location. The rooftop project was organized by Iranian stencil artists and brothers Icy & Sot, who have called New York City home for a couple of years now. Regular Vandalog readers will remember the fantastic new mural of theirs that I posted about in late December. I recently asked the brothers a few questions…

RJ: How are you both doing?

Icy & Sot: We are doing better, keeping ourselves busy with work.

RJ: It was inspiring to see your recent mural on the LES. What does that wall mean for you?

Icy & Sot: It’s simple, we hate guns, obviously for personal reasons plus all the related crimes we see in the news all the time. It’s just frustrating to see how easy is to get a gun in the US.

RJ: Why do you use stencils?

Icy & Sot: We started using stencils back in Iran because it was quickest way to share our vision with the people in the streets, and now we are in love with stencils.

RJ: So Tim and I came up to your roof one day last summer to find probably a dozen artists painting and hanging out. What was this rooftop project about?

Icy & Sot: We had access to a very big rooftop (connecting an entire block) at our house. First we did a piece and then we decide to tell our friends to come and paint and hang out. We love our friends from the art community and was great to include the works of about 30 artists from different parts of the world.

RJ: What’s next for Icy and Sot?

Icy & Sot: We are planning to go to Europe in the summer to work on some walls and show our work there. And we are working on curating a group show, showing the works of NY artists in Iran and our friends from Iran’s work here in NY.

Photo by Tim Hans


Category: Gallery/Museum Shows, Interview, Portraits by Tim Hans | Tags: ,

Tim Hans shoots… Dennis McNett

January 29th, 2014 | By | No Comments »

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Back in November, Tim Hans stopped by Known Gallery just as Dennis McNett was setting up for a show there. As part of our continuing series of photo-portraits of artists by Tim, we’re finally publishing those photos and I emailed a few questions over to McNett. My bad on the delay, but I’m glad we finally have a chance to share these images and chat with one of my favorite block printers.

RJ: How has teaching printmaking at Pratt affected your own art?

Dennis McNett: I’m not teaching currently. When I have the last year or two, it’s usually only one class. I could go on a long tangent about the whole art school thing.

I wouldn’t say it has effected my own work. I’ve been making what I make and doing what I do since I was a kid. What I do walk away with from teaching would be passing on a medium, meeting some great students and being able to cheerlead for their ideas the way Richard Mock did for me. That makes it worth doing.

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RJ: Your work seems to have such a focus on nature, or at least some version of nature. Do you get enough exposure to nature while living in the city?

McNett: Fortunately I get to leave the city quite often. My folks live in Virginia on a mountain and I’m able to go there at least 3 times a year. When I am able to be by the ocean (especially by the ocean), in the forest, in the desert, etc… I feel clarity, like my batteries are charged and truly inspired. I feel humbled by how perfect, beautiful, diverse, micro/macro and complex the whole damn place is. But, to answer you directly, No, I do not get to be in nature as much as I’d like to be and I’m planning to leave NYC for that and several other reasons.

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RJ: Are you trying to do something largely different with your various static artworks and your performances, or are those two sets of work extensions of each other?

McNett: I feel like it’s all coming from the same place. The performance/happenings are a lot of fun. They are more about doing something anyone can participate in, contribute to and usually tell a story stemming from a “mythology” I started in 2006 about the Wolfbat. The 2D work I do alone in the studio, but sometimes that work pertains to the mythology. They could be artifacts like shields or characters from the stories. Sometimes the 2D stuff is just what ever comes to mind like a Leopardsnake (half Leo half snake) which I just daydreamed about and seemed fun to draw/create. Really I just do whatever I am feeling or thinking about at the moment and use what ever medium makes sense for the idea.

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RJ: What is it about printmaking that appeals to you?

McNett: I’ve done sculptures, masks, performances, installations, graphics and woodcarvings. I think above all else, I just love the carved mark. I’ve been making carvings for over 20 years now. I can build and use a lot of other mediums but still just love that mark. I use prints of that mark on pretty much everything I make from 30ft ships, temples or just prints. With printmaking you can also make multiples and I use this to generate my own collage material/drawing material of my carved patterns and images. Once I have the drawing material I can cover large areas pretty quickly. It all just has the flavor I like to work with.

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RJ: What have you got coming up next?

McNett: I’m working with the Philadelphia Mural Arts program in February. I’ll be building a sculpture, doing a mural and working with community kids the entire month. Then potentially Austin to do a project around SXSW, which may be another performative event. I a show in Houston in May. I’m considering moving out west after that.

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Photos by Tim Hans


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

Bom.K talks about his latest solo show “Confusions” at Known Gallery

January 25th, 2014 | By | No Comments »

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With more than 15 years of putting up work in the streets of Paris, Bom.K had his first ever solo show about a year ago in Paris at Galerie Itinerrance. Recently, many have been excited over the opening of his second solo show Confusions at Known Gallery in Los Angeles. Fellow Da Mental Vaporz crew member Sowat described Bom.K in the run up to this show: “Haunted by the visions he sees while lurking the city, by the faces of those he bumps into at every street corner, on each train he rides, Bom.k has spent years completing an imaginary bestiary, full of the hellish creatures that surround him. Like Jerome Bosh, Chris Cunningham or Hans Ballmer, the human body and the deformation of the flesh are one of the major themes of his work.” I asked Bom.K a bit about Confusions and his work in general. Confusions opened on January 11th and closes today, January 25th.

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Caroline Caldwell: Much of the work in this show involves human disfiguration and almost nightmarish reconstructions of flesh. What inspired these pieces?

Bom.K: Most works made for the Known Gallery where produced in an instinctive manner and with the always present concept of shocking the viewer.

I am always amused by manipulating the human body. I love creating figures that can’t really exist nor be imagined. My works are nothing but the smallest fractions of images that goes through my mind everyday in full speed.

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Caldwell: What about Confusions are you most excited about? 

Bom.K: ‘Confusions’ was the perfect word to describe what was going through my creative process before starting to work on this show. I found myself forced to take a step back to see a wider picture of I wanted and what I had to do for this show to be really satisfied. First days of a new production are always doubtful or stressful but eventually confidence leads the way.

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Caldwell: Can you talk a little bit about your sculptures? How did you get started creating your work in 3D?

Bom.K: This is all a little bit new for me. I started working on an ‘Aerotik’ model for my show at Galerie Itinerrance (April 2013, Paris) which led to a second model we should be releasing quite soon. It’s a new direction that I’m very excited to explore and evolve.

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Caldwell: This is only your second solo show, though you’ve exhibited on the streets of Paris for years. How has working on your latest solo show felt in comparison to the previous one?

Bom.K: I consider myself very lucky to have had my shows with galleries that gave me total freedom of creation. I’m quite aware that gallerists takes risks with me as my works doesn’t exactly address the general public and this is something I appreciate and respect them for.

Just as the show in Paris, the one in LA confirmed for me that are many more art enthusiasts and collectors than I ever thought out there, that know my work very well. Talking and sharing ideas with these kind of passionate persons encourages me a lot.

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Photos by Gro Sly


Category: Interview | Tags: , , , ,