If you thought, “Hmm, Vandalog doesn’t seem to be updating as much” throughout 2017… Here’s why: We were focused on Art in Ad Places, a 52-week campaign of ad takeovers across New York City! We worked with Faust, Shepard Fairey, Molly Crabapple, Jess X Snow, and dozens more artists to install their work in NYC payphones.
Now that the campaign has been going for a year, we’re ready to celebrate!
On January 26th, find us at LUCAS LUCAS in Williamsburg for an Art in Ad Places exhibition, and the launch of a book celebrating all of our ad takeovers to date. We’ll have photos from Luna Park, books, a special installation with the help of fellow ad takeover activist Jordan Seiler, and drinks from Ilegal Mezcal. We open at 7pm.
And if you can’t make it to the opening, the show will be open through February 3rd.
In 2017, I curated the We The People series for Mural Arts Philadelphia, a series of six murals by some of my favorite artists. I probably should have been writing about We The People on here regularly since July, but here’s a very belated update from Philly.
Before we get into We the People, a bit of context. The last year has seen the floodgates open in the USA, with national conversations on crises that have been festering under-reported for years, like sexual harassment and racism. The arts community has added their voices to the mix through projects like the Amplifier Foundation, Not Surprised, and the Whitney’s An Incomplete History of Protest.
It’s in a similar spirit to all of those projects that we tried a little experiment in Philadelphia with We The People. When Mural Arts invited me to curate a series of walls for them, I figured it had to be of the moment, and with artists that they weren’t already doing a lot of work with. So we invited Molly Crabapple, Chris “Daze” Ellis, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Dennis McNett, NTEL, and Jess X. Snow to create work celebrating the best of the American spirit right now, while also reflecting current national concerns. Plus, it was a continuation of Mural Arts’ years-long effort to work with more street artists. There was little community engagement beyond what I and the project manager did while hunting for walls, but I think that by being careful about sites, artists, and content, we brought to life some strong, timely, and site-responsive work.
As regular readers probablyknow, I recently curated an exhibition about the tools and strategies of graffiti for the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College. ALL BIG LETTERS closed on Friday. The exhibition featured work from Adam VOID, Aric Kurzman, BLADE, Biancoshock, CURVE, DB Burkeman, Egg Shell Stickers, EKG, Evan Roth, FAUST, Fumakaka Crew, Jordan Seiler, Katherine “Luna Park” Lorimer, Lee George Quinones, Loiq, Martha Cooper, MOMO, NTEL, Smart Crew, Steve Weinik, stikman, and more. Before ALL BIG LETTERS fades into our rear view, I wanted to highlight two more bits of press about the show.
First, I spoke with Brooklyn Street Art’s Jaime Rojo and Steven Harrington for an interview on The Huffington Post. We spoke about curating an exhibition about graffiti for a general audience (and a gallery with an educational mission), the graffiti community’s skill at hacking tools and cityscapes, graffiti as a performance, and more.
If you’re in the Philadelphia area, head out on to the burbs for ALL BIG LETTERS at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, probably my most ambitious curatorial project to date. The exhibition features specially-commissioned work from CURVE, FAUST, EKG, Egg Shell Stickers, and Evan Roth, plus contributions from dozens more artists and photographers.
ALL BIG LETTERS investigates the tools and strategies of graffiti writers. My hope is that visitors can walk into the show with next to zero knowledge of graffiti, and leave with the ability to see a tag on the street and roughly understand how it came be there and why it looks the way it does. Was it made with spray or a marker or something else? Is the style something city-specific, like a wicked? Why did the writer choose that spot? How did they get there? How long did it take to paint? Curve’s installation in particular functions as both an artwork and a teaching tool. A similar thread runs throughout the exhibit, like in Evan Roth’s Graffiti Taxonomy series, which highlights 140 S’s from each many different tags, all written with a variety of different styles and tools.
For people already immersed in the culture of writing, ALL BIG LETTERS is a different take than your typical graffiti group show. This is not tags or throw-ups on canvas. Rather, it’s a show for the graffiti nerds who understand that style is an important part of writing, but it is just one element, and it serves a particular purpose. A collection of homemade tools from MOMO, stikman, Fumakaka Crew, Biancoshock (yes, I know that a handful of the artists in the show fall more towards the street art spectrum, but I swear they fit in), plus commercial graffiti products, is paired with a series of photos by Martha Cooper of writers and street artists that highlight their tools.
From a new diagram by EKG to photos by Luna Park and Steve Weinik (among others) to an investigation into the development of BLADE’s style over time to never-before-scene work by Adam VOID, ALL BIG LETTERS covers a lot of ground that is all-too-often ignored in more commercial settings, and I would like to think that it’s a pretty unique exhibition. On opening night, a handful of Philly writers all told me a similar story: I came out to support a friend in another group exhibition, but this is unlike any graffiti show I’ve ever seen.
So, if you want to see an exhibition about graffiti that’s truly different, an exhibition where the whole of graffiti is acknowledged (the repetition, the drive for fame, the performance, the risk, the competition, the hacking…), I hope you’ll stop by ALL BIG LETTERS. It’s open through March 3rd.
ALL BIG LETTERS is open at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery through March 3rd. Contributors include Adam VOID, Aric Kurzman, BLADE, Biancoshock, CURVE, DB Burkeman, Egg Shell Stickers, EKG, Evan Roth, FAUST, Fumakaka Crew, Jordan Seiler, Katherine “Luna Park” Lorimer, Lee George Quinones, Loiq, Martha Cooper, MOMO, NTEL, Smart Crew, Steve Weinik, stikman, and more. Learn more, and read essays related to the exhibition by RJ Rushmore and Carlo McCormick, here.
NTEL is one of my favorite Philly graffiti writers. From stickers to throw-ups and extinguisher tags to beautiful pieces, plus sculpture and other methods of getting up, is one of the most versatile and unique writers in the city. That’s why I’m so excited to include his work in ALL BIG LETTERS, which opens today at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery in Haverford, PA. NTEL also has a solo show coming up next week at the Deep Space gallery in Jersey City, NJ. With these two shows approaching, NTEL and I thought that it would be the perfect time to chat about art, politics, philosophy, and his unique approach to graffiti. Enjoy!
RJ: Does the title WORLD WAR FREE, or the upside-down flag on the flyer, have anything to do with the fact that the show opens just one week after Trump’s inauguration?
NTEL: Unfortunately, it was not a conscious pre-conceived link to Trump’s inauguration, specifically. It was just a perfect little accident, which sadly would have been just as relevant regardless of who ‘won’ the election. The title, upside-down flag, the color palette of the works, and the Philosophies behind them reflect a variety of issues, locally and globally, that add up to the senseless actions like, electing a racist, ignorant, short-tempered, bully/pussy, sexist, greedy, scared, Narcissist into one of the most powerful positions in the World. The absolute worst part of it is that we as a People, are the ones who hold the most blame. Americans should feel even more responsible, because Amerikkka is often the original engineer of the lifestyle trends, violence, and legislatures that become so popular, World-wide. We let them get away with their Black Coffee Briefings, and never hold them accountable when they breach the laws of Man, Morals, or ‘God’. We allow them to frighten, confuse, exhaust, and overwhelm us into accepting The Christie’s and The Trump’s of our Society. We literally and figuratively buy into what they’re selling from the Capital to Corporations, which only encourages their behavior. It’s all of our faults.
The title, WORLD WAR FREE, is an evolution of WORLD WAR THREE. It is the next stage. WWIII has been going on for years, ‘informally’ through globalization and exploitation of the World’s peoples and resources from biased, mis-used politics, greed, ‘smaller’ wars, injustices, and disregard for Culture. Even though there have been no declarations, or structured movements, or open references to a WWIII – proper, the actions of our policy and product makers over the past few decades have had the same effect. Global Alliances. Social and Economic Abnormalities. Destruction. Hatred.
Generally speaking, when galleries try to bring graffiti indoors, the focus is on style. Those shows portray graffiti writers as designers, illustrators, the new pop-artists and calligraphers… Headlines along the lines of “Can you believe what he does with a spray can? Now you can buy it on canvas!” still seem all too common. But style is just one component of graffiti. Or maybe the shows focus on writers who have gotten up a lot, trying to capitalize on their fame. Or, as in the case of someone like Barry McGee or Boris Tellegen, the art is (largely) removed from graffiti, a separate practice.
For ALL BIG LETTERS, I took a different approach. To write graffiti is, at its most pure, the performance of an illegal act; the performance is as important as the product. The best graffiti is also strategic. It relies on a combination of repetition, longevity, visibility, degree of difficulty, novelty, and style. ALL BIG LETTERS explores all of those strategies, and the tools writers use to realize them.
Because of the show’s angle and some deep digging over the last year, it’s full of surprises. New work from FAUST, Curve, NTEL, and EKG, never-before-seen photos of two Philadelphia graffiti legends at work (you’ll have to come to the show to find out who), homemade graffiti tools dating back as early as the 1960’s, and more.
On a personal note, I worked at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery for just about my entire time as a student at Haverford College. It’s humbling to be invited back to exhibit at the space where I learned so much, and where we exhibited the work of so many amazing artists and curators (Hank Willis Thomas, Natasha Logan, the Dufala Brothers, Sam Durant, Pete Brook, Raymond Pettibon, Christine Sun Kim…). I can’t say thank you enough to everyone at Haverford for this opportunity.
Admittedly, things have been a bit quiet on the blog lately. Not very many posts on Vandalog, and you may be wondering what’s up, but we’ve been staying busy on a few major projects behind the scenes. This week, we’re excited to share to share one of those projects with you: Art in Ad Places (AiAP), an entire year of ad takeovers in NYC.
Co-curated by Vandalog contributor Caroline Caldwell and I, AiAP is a 52-week public art campaign replacing NYC advertisements with artwork. AiAP launched on Thursday with artwork by Adam Wallacavage and an article on Hyperallergic. Every week, starting this week and continuing for a full year, the AiAP team will install a new artwork by a different artist at a payphone in New York City. AiAP is an active and artistic response to the unending proliferation of outdoor advertising in New York City and elsewhere.
AiAP was inspired by a specific instance of an especially body-shaming billboard that we walked by almost every day this past spring, a general dislike of outdoor advertising (consuming advertising is unhealthy, and with outdoor advertising, there’s no way to opt-out, except to remove it), and a desire to see a different kind of ad-takeover campaign. Rather than putting up a lot of ads in one day, AiAP will be sustained over a year, one artist at a time, with each artist giving their reason for participating.
We kicked off AiAP with an installation by Adam Wallacavage. The poster, part of Wallacavage’s Shipwrecks of Unicorn Beach series, can be found in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Further AiAP installations will come from artists from all over the country and who work in a variety of mediums. Artists will be announced each week on Instagram as their posters are installed, with the full line up only being revealed at the culmination of the exhibition.
Next week, I’ll be exhibiting some photos at Tender Trap in Brooklyn as part of Andrew H. Shirley’s #frontallabotomy series. When Andrew asked me to take part, I had no idea what I’d show. Eventually, I realized I’ve taken a bunch of photos of buff, or of artists making work that responds to the buff, and that seemed like a funny thing to have a show about. And now we have Photos About Buff. So come by Tender Trap on August 3rd to have some drinks, enjoy some music, and maybe even check out some of these odd photos.
The Art Conference will take place July 23 and 24th, and includes a ticketed conference portion and a free exhibition component. Friday the 8th is the last day to pick up early bird tickets to the conference, so don’t delay if you want a deal. For more about the speakers, schedule, and tickets, check The Art Conference’s website.
Speaking of Dan Witz, he’s got a Kickstarter campaign going for an upcoming series of street pieces, which he hopes to install inside London’s iconic red telephone booths.
Around this time last year, Philadelphia got great news with NDA moved to town. He very quickly became one of the most noticeable street artists on Philly’s walls. Now, we’re celebrating NDA’s first year in the city with a show at LMNL Gallery. Minor Anniversary opens February 5th. The show is NDA’s diary of the friendly faces, characters, and environments he has come across since coming to Philadelphia.
It’s particularly exciting for me to be working on this show. I’ve worked with NDA before through The L.I.S.A. Project NYC, and been a fan of his work for years. However, until recently I was mostly observing from afar through Instagram or blogs. When NDA moved to Philly, I was finally able to catch his work in person. Maybe I’m a bit biased, but I think the energy of Philly’s street art community shifted when NDA arrived. Over the last year, I’ve seen more wheatpastes than ever, often by NDA or people he gets up with.
And if you really can’t wait for Minor Anniversary to see new work from NDA, he’s also a part of the upcoming #StreetsDeptTurns5 show at Paradigm Gallery + Studio, one of my favorite Philly galleries. #StreetsDeptTurns5 is curated by Conrad Benner of the blog StreetsDept, a stellar blog of Philadelphia street art, and also features Joe Boruchow, NoseGo, and others.