It’s the law link-o-rama

July 6th, 2015 | By | No Comments »
chip

Chip Thomas aka Jetsonorama mural in Bushwick.

Coincidentally, today’s links all revolve around the law…

  • It looks like Starbucks ripped off Maya Hayuk‘s work, and now she’s suing. You might be thinking, “Is Starbucks really ripping her off, or are there just some similarities? A coincidence isn’t impossible. Just try Googling ‘abstract geometric bright colors’ and see what pops up.” Except that ad agency 72andSunny contacted Hayuk to license her work for a Starbucks Frappuccino campaign, and she declined their offer. Now, work remarkably similar to Hayuk’s is appearing in Frappuccino ads worldwide. Plus, Hayuk cites specific paintings of her’s that the campaign rips off. So yes, clearly Starbucks and 72andSunny are in the wrong here morally. Legally speaking though, does she have a case? Wired has a great article on the uphill battle that Hayuk faces.
  • The Detroit police want to arrest Shepard Fairey for some wheatpastes that he allegedly put up back in May.
  • There is now a second 5Pointz lawsuit. This time, specific artists are suing the 5Pointz property owner for whitewashing their work. Now, we could argue whether or not those individual murals on 5Pointz qualify for protection under the Visual Artists Rights Act (an important question that this article covers in detail), but there’s a larger issue here: With this lawsuit, the artists are shooting themselves (and muralists in general) in the foot. I’m now disinclined to work with any of the artists in this lawsuit, and I suspect others will be too. I don’t want to tell a property owner, “Here’s a great artist who will paint a stunning mural for you, but if you ever remove the mural, they might sue you.” And if I’m a property owner and I hear about this lawsuit, I’m a lot less likely to put any murals on my property. VARA is an important law. It protects artists. But these artists aren’t using it responsibly, and that means consequences for all of us.
  • The Bushwick Daily has a must-read piece on the billboards that have begun to infest The Bushwick Collective. The neighborhood is transitioning from a mural hub to a new Times Square. It’s extremely lucrative for property owners, but detrimental to the surrounding artwork and the neighborhood vibe. So what are property owners to do? As Jordan Seiler notes, no reasonable property owner is going to turn down $24,000 per year to have a billboard on their wall, so the answer is regulation. If we, as a society, decide not to allow billboards in public space, or at least in certain neighborhoods, then those neighborhoods can have murals instead. Because of Little Italy’s status as a historic district, property owners cannot slap up billboards on every available surface. That’s part of why The L.I.S.A. Project NYC is able to get so many great walls. Maybe all of NYC, or at least Bushwick, should get the same protection.
  • Speaking of The Bushwick Collective, it’s nice to see them relaxing their unofficial rules barring political murals (where they can still get permission to paint). Chip Thomas aka Jetsonorama installed a stirring mural in Bushwick just in time for the 4th of July (shown above). The Huffington Post has the story behind the piece.

Photo by Chip Thomas


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

One year inside the mural machine

July 1st, 2015 | By | No Comments »
11055841_694284627348887_475301585_n

Murals and graffiti in Philadelphia.

One year ago today, I started a job at the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. At Mural Arts, we have a fundamentally different way of thinking about and creating public art than I’d ever experienced spending time around street art, graffiti, or even mural festivals or programs like The L.I.S.A. Project NYC or The Bushwick Collective. A year inside of “Philadelphia’s community-engagement juggernaut” has taught me a lot. It’s made me fall deeper in love with street art than ever before, and it’s also helped me to better understand the medium’s shortcomings. Here are a few observations:

  • Street art’s greatest strength is its ability to be nimble. Gaia made a similar point at an event at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in May, where he described street art in Philadelphia as something that can fill in the cracks that Mural Arts doesn’t reach. April Fools’ Day? Street art is there. Black Lives Matter? Street art is there. Potholes need fixing? Street art is there. Street art gives artists an almost unrivaled opportunity to respond quickly to the world around them, whether that means making work with timely pop culture references or commentary on world events, or being inspired to the architecture and design of the city. The nimbleness of street art is also closely related to its use as a space for experimentation and free(ish) expression. For all those reasons and more, street art is an essential element of a healthy public space.
  • Decoration is rarely enough. I love art for arts’ sake as much as the next guy, and sometimes there’s nothing better than seeing a beautiful piece on a cool building and just having your day brightened up a bit. If you really feel like your contribution to the world is to make it a more colorful and exciting place with funny wheatpastes or huge murals at street art festivals, that’s great. Do that. But do that because you believe it makes a contribution to a space, not because you want to paint a bigger mural than the last guy and get more likes on Instagram. If the right crop on a photo means that I can’t tell the difference between your studio work and your street work, you’re probably doing it wrong.
  • As we say at Mural Arts, it’s not just about the paint. The most rewarding projects I’ve had a small role in at Mural Arts do things like tell stories about Philadelphia’s history, provide jobs and training for men coming out of the criminal justice system or change the conversation around homelessness and housing insecurity.
  • All that is to say that it’s rare for social practice and socially-engaged art making to be combined with strong aesthetics, but when that does happen, there’s an amazing synergy. Swoon‘s work is a great example. For the most part though, street artists and the street art press (myself included) place far too much of a focus on the aesthetics and decor, not enough on truly transformative work. That’s a lot of wasted opportunities, because street art and public art in general can do so much more than just look cool.
  • Some projects need institutional support. Institutions can provide the resources, credibility, and access necessary to take a project from good to great, from non-existent to a reality. Open Source is going to be amazing, and most (if not all) of the projects in the exhibition would be impossible for artists to do on their own, even with substantial financial resources.
  • Some projects succeed because they don’t have institutional support. Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s Stop Telling Women to Smile series is powerful in part because it can appear anywhere, and that anonymous bust of Edward Snowden is powerful because it appeared somewhere that the state would never allow. Institutions always come with strings attached (like, for example, not breaking the law or not bringing up certain topics).
  • Artists should be paid for their labor. If you cannot pay an artist a fair wage to participate in a project, you should ask why not and seriously consider whether or not the project is worth undertaking at all.
  • Certainly not a revelation, but an important reminder: There is an art world outside of the commercial art world, and it is beautiful. The most powerful art in the world is the art that can’t be constrained to an investment portfolio.

Photo by RJ Rushmore


Category: Featured Posts, Random | Tags: , , , ,

The bots are coming for your tweets

May 10th, 2015 | By | No Comments »
The profile page for the Twitter bot @anagramatron

The profile page for the Twitter bot @anagramatron.

It’s no secret that Twitter bots can be pretty entertaining and/or confusing. Sometimes they’re artworks or jokes. Sometimes they’re somewhat useful tools or coding experiments. Generally speaking though (and excluding spambots), Twitter bots don’t actually interact with other users. You could follow @everyword, but it wasn’t going to follow you back or respond to your tweets. And most of the bots that will respond to your tweets won’t respond unless you’ve reached out to them in some way first (like @DearAssistant). There are, however, a handful of non-spambot Twitter bots that will find you even if you’re not looking for them. These bots are examples of invasive viral art, art that exists only online but acts a bit like street art or graffiti, treating the Twitter stream as public space and public tweets as content to appropriate or engage with.

So what do these invasive viral art Twitter bots look like and do? They all seek out other users’ tweets to engage with, and from there things can go in a few different directions.

Darius Kazemi, one of the most prolific and best-known creators of Twitter bots, has @VeryOldTweets. The bot simply “retweets one of the first 7500 tweets (first 90 days of Twitter) four times a day.” The tweets of Twitter’s earliest users are recontextualized as a semi-random look back at “history.” As much as the bot is interesting to random outside observers, there’s also the engagement of the users whose content is being appropriated. I would find it weird and a bit shocking if a tweet of mine from almost a decade ago was suddenly retweeted.

The most obviously “artistic” Twitter bots of this sort relate to poetry and word games.

Colin Rofls has @ANAGRAMATRON and @HAIKU9000. Both bots mine Twitter and then combine “matching” tweets from separate, otherwise unrelated, users.

@ANAGRAMATRON finds tweets that are anagrams and then retweet the matching pairs. For example, on April 9th, @pranksterstyles tweeted “i did my nails before”, and on April 19th, @warneholly tweeted “I’m so drained by life”. When @ANAGRAMATRON found that the pair matched, it notifies Rofls, and with his okay, the bot retweeted both tweets. @ANAGRAMATRON’s retweets are approved by Rofls so the process isn’t completely automated, but that’s mostly to keep out spambots. It’s still the algorithm doing most of the work. As Rofls notes, “[anagrams are] especially interesting because they’re so hard to come up with manually.” Really, without any cheating, who was ever going to think up the pair “i did my nails before” and “I’m so drained by life”?

Similarly, @HAIKU9000 searches for tweets that each fit the rules to be one line in a haiku, and then combines three such tweets into one poem/tweet with credit to its sources, pulling together disconnected Twitter users and appropriating their words in a way that was probably not the author’s intent.

Maybe I’m just too naively optimistic, but I wonder if any of the users appropriated by @ANAGRAMATRON or @HAIKU9000 have ever connected with one another after their tweets were brought together by the bots. I asked Rofls how people respond to his bots, but the result was disheartening. He said, “Mostly they don’t, to be honest. Very occasionally they’re thrilled, sometimes confused, but mostly just silent.”

Rofls was inspired to create @ANAGRAMATRON after seeing Ranjit Bhatnagar‘s @pentametron, a very popular Twitter bot with this fantastic bio: “With algorithms subtle and discrete / I seek iambic writings to retweet.” Like @ANAGRAMATRON, @pentametron searches out matching pairs to retweet, in this case tweets in iambic pentameter that get retweeted together as rhyming couplets (“You fuel my desire to succeed.” / “How many chances does Hernandez need!”)

And then there’s the (currently inactive) Accidental Haiku from Cameron Spencer, which used to find entire tweets that could be broken down into a single haiku. For example:

The other major category of bots search for certain keywords and offer an (often unexpected) canned response, usually related to pop culture. Maybe not as intricate or clever as the anagram and poetry bots, but a pleasant or confusing surprise for users nonetheless.

Colin Mitchell has been a bunch of these kinds of bots, but unfortunately most are currently inactive/retired (@mirror_magick, @for_a_dollar, @iaminigomontoya). My personal favorite from Mitchell is perhaps the most predictable, but it’s also still active: @Betelgeuse_3. Simply tweet the magic words (“Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice”), and see what happens… Like this guy did.

The most famous bot in this category is probably @DBZNappa. Do you know how often people tweet about something being “over 9000”? Apparently, it’s all the freaking time, because @DBZNappa responds to all of those tweets with “WHAT?! NINE THOUSAND?!”, from a Dragon Ball Z meme, and the bot has tweeted well over a million times since it when live in November 2009. Daniel Lo Nigro, who created the bot, describes it as “a pretty good example of a simple ‘search and reply’ Twitter bot, that could easily be extended to do more useful things.”

A personal favorite of mine, although now inactive, is @StealthMountain, which responds to tweets that use the phrase “sneak peak” instead of”sneak peek”. The one beautiful thing about this bot now being inactive is its last tweet:

Good catch, @StealthMountain.

Of course, there’s no better bot to end on than the most hilarious and low-brow: @fart_robot. The bot searches out mentions of farts on Twitter, and retweets them to its 12,000+ followers with the note: “FART ROBOT APPROVES.” For example:

While not all of these bots creators (Daniel Lo Nigro for example) consider their bots to be artworks, I disagree. Or, the very at least, I think bots like @DBZNappa can/should inspire artworks. It’s fascinating that you could just be going about your day, tweeting whatever silly thing you might tweet to your followers, only to have your words appropriated by @pentametron or to be perhaps mildly embarrassed by @fart_robot, which is not unlike walking to work and being surprised by a piece of street art or graffiti. Most people might ignore that piece or street art or an odd retweet, but for some, the occurrence catches them at just the right moment and it affects them.

We live our lives in the public spaces of the internet. Let’s put art there. I hope there are more Twitter bots to come.


Category: Random, Viral Art | Tags:

Sunday link-o-rama

April 12th, 2015 | By | No Comments »
"the beauty of un-advertising" by VladyArt in Catania, Italy

“the beauty of un-advertising” by VladyArt in Catania, Italy

Got a few things that caught my eye recently, so I’m going back to the old link-o-rama format for a day:

  • A group of anonymous artists installed a bust of Edward Snowden at a park in Brooklyn, but the piece was almost immediately taken down by the city. Luckily, as the artists noted to ANIMAL, “The fact that a risk was taken, the fact that an image comes out of that event that can be passed around can never be undone. So you can rip the statue out, but you can’t erase the fact that it happened and that people are sharing it.” It’s all a bit reminiscent of when the British government forced The Guardian to destroy hard drives containing files leaked by Snowden, even though there were other copies of the files outside of the UK. Of course the sculpture wasn’t going to last. Take it down or leave it up, it hardly matters. We have the photos.
  • Faile and Bast are showing at the Brooklyn Museum in July. So I’m looking forward to that, and you should be too.
  • But if you’re looking for something up now in NYC, definitely stop by Roa’s solo show at Jonathan Levine Gallery. ANIMAL very cleverly made a series of GIFs of the show. I had a pretty similar reaction to this show as I had to Roa’s show at Stolenspace last year in London. Basically, I went in with a negative attitude of thinking I’d seen the work before, and I left happy as a kid in a candy store because Roa’s pieces are so damn fun to experience and play with. It’s a really stupid fear/attitude that I have about Roa’s shows, and it’s one that the work always seems to overcome, proving my preconceived notions wrong. Good stuff, as always.
  • And if you’re in Paris, Know Hope just had a show open there.
  • Check out this spot-on anonymous critique of crappy stencils in Shoreditch by terrible street artist Bambi.
  • It’s great to see Aakash Nihalani getting some love from Juxtapoz for his interactive work.
  • Niels “Shoe” Meulman is retiring his use of the term “Calligraffiti”, because he feels his work is now better represented by the term “Abstract Vandalism,” now that his work is moving away from letters and becoming more abstract. Okay, he’s evolving as an artist, but really: who cares? That’s a pretty standard evolution these days for artists coming out of graffiti. Two reasons this is interesting. First, he’s published a short manifesto of Abstract Vandalism, which I love, and I highly recommend picking up a copy for the great little tidbits like “The difference between art and vandalism is only in the eye of the law upholder.” Second, Shoe is giving up admin control of the Calligraffiti facebook page, which has over half a million likes. In a few days, Shoe will be selecting new admins for the page, artists whose work he feels is in line with Calligraffiti now that his work is not. You can learn more about that, and suggest yourself as a new admin, here.
  • Gotta love Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada’s latest pieces.
  • I’ve never really cared for MTO‘s realistic figurative murals, even though they do play with space in an interesting way, but he’s really piqued my interest with a new piece for Memorie Urbane 2015 in Gaeta, Italy. The piece is a conceptual look into the future, a future where Google controls what information we have access to (oh wait, maybe this isn’t so futuristic…) in public space. The mural is a response to the Google Cultural Institute’s Street Art Project, which ostensibly acts as a digital archive for street art and murals. The project is highly curated and controlled, begging the question: Who decides what’s included, and what isn’t? MTO’s piece also hints at a future where augmented reality is the norm. The re:art has a great article with photos and analysis of MTO’s mural. For now, I’ll just add: I can’t wait for this mural to show up on Google Street View.

Photo by VladyArt


Category: Animation, Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos, Random, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tinder as a platform for art

March 10th, 2015 | By | No Comments »
tinder

Screenshots from Swipe Left

So you’re swiping right and swiping left, swiping left and swiping right, swiping right and swiping left… Tinder is a practically mindless activity, at least anytime I’ve ever seen someone use it. But what are you swiping right and left, yes and no, to? Sometimes, it’s people’s lives.

This isn’t actually a new project, but last summer artist and hacker Matthew Rothenberg was inserting imagery of drone strikes and drone strike victims into Tinder for an artwork he calls Swipe Left. That bearded young man gazing off into the distance wasn’t another Williamsburg hipster. It was Hakimullah Mehsud, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban. Mehsud was killed by a US drone strike in 2013. Which way did you swipe? And what about that odd black and white photo that you liked on “Haki’s” profile? Blurry abstract art? No. Footage from a drone about to unleash hell on a target.

Since Rothenberg has already written so well about the social and political meaning of Swipe Left, I just want to make a note about its meaning within the art world. Rothenberg considers the piece to be performance art, and yes it is, but what I think is most fascinating about Swipe Left is its relationship with street art. It’s a great example of what I’ve called invasive viral art, art that treats digital public space like street art and graffiti treat physical public space. While Tinder users are expecting one thing, Rothenberg gave them another, and he used the app for something it isn’t intended for.

Swipe Left may not immediately appear as art to viewers, but that’s okay. Plenty of street art doesn’t either: John Fekner’s random dates series, Dan Witz’ Broadway Poem, Jenny Holzer‘s Inflammatory Essays when they first appeared on the street as posters, and of course Shepard Fairey‘s early work could all appear as something other than art to someone seeing it for the first time, but it could still reach them. And as Rothenberg points out, “Tinder members who encounter the images are forced to make a decision.” Unlike street art, which can be ignored, Rothenberg’s project can be swiped away or not understood by the view, but it can’t be ignored entirely, and any reaction to Swipe Left‘s content is a valid and interesting data point.

But even if Swipe Left is a bit hidden within Tinder, arguably really meant to be be considered by observers reading about the work later on, not the Tinder users participating in the performance/experiment, the piece shows the potential for a new venue for performance art and invasive viral art.

What if someone like Shepard Fairey joined Tinder and used it to put his art in front of a new and unsuspecting audience? Every day, he could upload a different poster as a profile picture. Suddenly, his work would be reaching people in a relatively random way, like a sticker or a poster on the street does. And if people are playing with their phones and browsing Tinder as they ride the bus to work rather than looking out the window where they might see some street art, why not place that art on Tinder instead of, or in addition to, the street? Reach people where their eyeballs already are. I’d swipe right to that.

Screenshots swiped from Matthew Rothenberg


Category: Featured Posts, Random, Viral Art | Tags: , , , , , ,

What and where are open walls?

December 24th, 2014 | By | 3 Comments »
Partial buffed Barry McGee mural at Bowery and Houston (the buff marks cover more red tags). Photo by Andrew Russeth.

Partially buffed Barry McGee mural at Bowery and Houston (the buff marks cover more red tags). Photo by Andrew Russeth.

UPDATE: Xavi Ballaz (known for Difusor and the Open Walls Conference in Barcelona) has responded to this post with some of the more positive advancements towards open walls, and suggests that the open walls movement does indeed need a manifesto.

A friend of mine recently used an interesting phrase: “the open walls movement.” I thought he was using the term as a synonym for “the street art festival circuit,” which upset me, because street art festivals do not have what I would call “open walls.” But really, my friend was commenting on a larger movement perceived to be spreading around the world to use public space differently (insomuch as walls on private property are public space). On the surface, he’s right. Street art festivals, grassroots muralism programs, free walls, curated alleyways and everything in between now exist in cities and small towns around the world.

Does that make a movement? I don’t know. Nobody is getting together to write a manifesto and participants’ aims and methods are diverse, but there is a disparate group of what I’ll call “open walls people” who share a new way of looking at walls and public space: Public walls are for the artists, murals enliven streets and communities, and there should be limited or no government regulation of murals, but advertising in public space should be heavily regulated or eliminated entirely. Simply put, “open walls people” believe in unrestricted art in (often odd) public spaces.

But how open are our walls today? Surfing the web, it sometimes feels like globe-trotting muralists can hop off a plane in any city, find a wall, and begin painting the next day, or that every small European city is covered in murals. That’s simply not true. Despite valiant and well-intentioned efforts, there’s a long way to go before we have anything approaching “open walls.”

Read the rest of this article »


Category: Featured Posts, Random | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Link-o-rama

October 19th, 2014 | By | 1 Comment »
Gane and Texas in Philadelphia

Gane and Texas in Philadelphia

Sorry if some of these links are a bit dated, but hopefully they’re still interesting:

  • Don Leicht, the original Space Invader, has a exhibition of his work on now at Mary Colby Studio & Gallery on City Island in the Bronx. Leicht has been making space invader characters for the street and for galleries since 1982, often in collaboration with John Fekner. Both Leicht and Fekner have never really embraced the spotlight in the way that others from their generation have (particularly in recent years), and so Leicht’s place in early New York street art often goes unacknowledged. Whereas Space Invader’s characters are generally lighthearted and fun and more about interesting placement than interesting content, Leicht’s content is political. His invaders, painted in camo, serve as a reminder/warning that war is real and of the relationship between videos games and the military.
  • The app NO AD, which I was pretty excited about when it launched and even more excited about once I got to try it out myself, recently announced their next exhibition on the app. NO AD is working with the International Center of Photography to display images from their current exhibition, Sebastião Salgado: Genesis. I love that the ICP is into this idea. NO AD is a fantastic exhibition platform, but it’s also a bit of an odd one, so it’s very cool to see the ICP embracing both augmented reality technology and an anti-public-advertising platform. Click here for more info on the exhibition.
  • Speaking of public advertising, this crazy thing happened in Hong Kong.
  • And over on Hyperallergic, Julia Friedman addresses the major discrepancy in how  New York City enforces laws relating to public advertising. Essentially, the current enforcement strategy seems to punish artists and activists while leaving corporate interests to do whatever they please.
  • I really enjoyed this article on the painfulness of advertisers appropriating street art and graffiti for their own ends, to the point that Perrier actually replaced a mural of Nelson Mandela with an advertisement featuring the hashtag “#streetartbyperrier”.
  • Speaking of water companies, street art and hashtags…  The folks being the for-profit bottled water company WAT-AAH (aka Let Water be Water LLC, or as I like to call them “Evian for Kids”) sent The L.I.S.A. Project NYC a cease and desist letter for using a hashtag that they claimed to own the trademark for (they don’t). Animal has more on that ridiculous story.
  • Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada created a massive piece on the National Mall. Impressive piece. Impressive location. Good stuff.
  • Conor Harrington had a great show in NYC, at a pop up space with Lazarides Gallery from the UK. I went up for the opening, and despite the space being lit like a haunted house and seemingly pumped full of mist from a fog machine, the work looked even better than I had anticipated. Plenty of artists can paint traditionally beautiful paintings, and plenty of artists can use drips and tags and half finished elements and things like that to make their paintings look “street” or to make it look like they are saying “screw you traditional notions of beauty and fine art painting!” Few artists can do what Conor does, which is to utilize all of those styles and techniques, from beautifully staged scenes painted with perfection to all the different ways to make a painting look rough and cool, but utilize those things in the right balance and with respect. To Conor, it looks like a drip is no different than the a detailed brush stroke. The “disruptive” elements look like they belong. He isn’t trying to destroy painting. He’s trying to bring it to new heights, and he’s much better at it than most.
  • It was a surprise to see that Jonathan Jones at The Guardian actually liked a recent Banksy piece, but then again it was a good piece with an even better story in the end.
  • This article on the utter failure of a major “street art biennial” in Moscow is an absolute must-read.
  • This fall I’ve seen (online) two interesting pieces of endurance art, both of them by female artists in New York City who took to endurance art to address what they see as crises.
    • gilf and Natalie Renee Fasano walked 15 miles barefoot around the city. 60 million or more people worldwide live every day without shoes. Interestingly, Gilf’s project was not so much an awareness campaign as an opportunity for self-reflection that she documented and publicized. None of her Instagram posts on the performance provide information about what can be done about this problem, and the video documenting the work provides no context except the text “A day in the Shoes of the Shoeless with gilf!” On some level, I find that frustrating. But of course the work wasn’t about raising national awareness for this issue. gilf’s own description of the project makes that clear. It was more a project for herself. And that’s great and useful too, but on some level I can’t get over the missed opportunity here to make the project more than personal suffering/meditation and self-promotion. Why not simply say, “And if this project is bringing the issue of people without shoes to your attention and you want to help, here’s something you can do.”? Yes, it’s a personal project for self-reflection, but it’s also an artwork that was promoted all over the web. So, I’ll close by saying that if you do want to help provide shoes for people in need, Soles4Souls seems to be the place to go (thanks to Animal for that tip).
    • Emma Sulkowicz has to be one of the bravest, most impressive people I’ve read about in a long time, and I almost hesitate to call what she’s doing an art piece, lest it devalue her actions in an age when so much art is devoid of the kind soul this particular performance/way of living requires. For nearly two months, Sulkowicz has been carrying her dorm room mattress with her to every class, every lunch break, every party, and everywhere else she goes, constantly, and she says she will continue to carry her mattress with her “for as long as I attend the same school as my rapist.” More about this piece, and the reaction she’s received from her fellow students at Columbia University, at Hyperallergic.

Photo by RJ Rushmore


Category: Art News, Festivals, Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos, Random, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Link-o-rama

August 31st, 2014 | By | No Comments »
art_museum

Unknown artist in Philadelphia

Loving my time so far at the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, but it’s definitely more than a 9-5, so it’s time for me to play catch up yet again…

  • Speaking of the Mural Arts Program, I am really pleased to say that we now have a major Shepard Fairey mural in Philadelphia. Find me some day and ask me the whole story of this mural, but let’s just say it’s complicated and thank goodness for Roland at Domani Developers for getting us a wall at the last minute.
  • We also have a new much more politically-charged mural from Shepard Fairey through The L.I.S.A. Project NYC, and while I’m sure the process for that was also quite complicated, my friend Wayne took care of that and all I had to do was pitch Shepard on the idea of a big wall in NYC and the property owner on the idea of a Shepard Fairey mural on his building (neither of which were too difficult). I’m absolutely honored to have played even my small role in each of these murals. It was my first time working with Shepard, and it was a pleasure.
  • Two real kings of NYC graffiti, Blade and Freedom, have shows open now at the Seventh Letter flagship store in LA. Blade is an undisputed subway king who also pushed graffiti forward as an art-form, a rare combination. Freedom is a personal favorite of mine (his piece in my black book is a real prized possession) for combining pop art, an ability to paint very well, comics, and graffiti in an intelligent way without too much of an ego. I’m sad to be missing both of these shows, but I hope LA will give them the love they deserve.
  • Hi-Fructose posted some interesting GIFs by Zolloc, but the best part of the post is the first sentence: “While GIFs have yet to find an established place in the art world, they’re fascinating because they have the potential to go beyond the frozen image in two dimensions.” Of course, Hi-Fructose is part of the art world, so just having them post Zolloc’s GIFs counts for something. Hi-Fructose seems to be saying (albeit hesitantly) that GIFs being in their corner of the art world, which is great. That’s not a bad corner to be in, and it’s a hell of a lot better than nowhere. So, why be hesitant? If the work is fascinating, embrace it.
  • Oh Olek, always the best of intentions, but the results are not so great…
  • Some absolutely great ad takeovers.
  • These projections from Hygienic Dress League are a bit different. Very cool though. Anyone know of other artists who are projecting onto steam?
  • Smart Crew have teamed up with Beriah Wall on a series of cool collaborations. Does anyone else see this as further evidence of Smart Crew growing up, aka transitioning from a crew producing illegal graffiti into a brand or collective that does legal (and sometimes commercial) work referencing illegal graffiti? Nothing wrong with that. I’m just noting the transition.
  • Even when recycling old work, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is always poignant and powerful. She’s also created a new poster of Michael Brown that you can download on her website.
  • I’ve been saying for a while that there’s great similarity between GIFs and street art, so I’m a big fan of this series of installations organized by Guus ter Beek and Tayfun Sarier.
  • Hyperallergic has been covering artist reactions to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Public performances in Philadelphia (by Keith Wallace) and New York City (by Whitney V. Hunter) exemplify to the unsurprising obliviousness to the situation or at least lack of caring that so many people openly display (for more, see Kara Walker at Domino). It’s amazing to see these two striking performances go widely ignored while it’s mostly pretty but empty murals that go viral. Is that the state of street art and muralism today? I hope not. And of course, maybe what makes those performances so jarring online is that they were ignored on the street.
  • I have tried to resit the allure of Pejac’s work for a while, but no more. Yes, some of the jokes are cheap and feel twice-told, exactly the sort of easy made-to-go-viral work that I am complaining about in the previous paragraph, but Pejac is painting them really well, and they consistently catch my attention. As much as I would like to write him off as a Banksy-ripoff who even came to that idea a few years too late, I can’t do so any longer. The work is actually quite good. Have a look for yourself.
  • Last week I was in Atlanta for the Living Walls Conference. A great time was had by all. I was there to speak with Living Walls co-founder Monica Campana and Juxtapoz editor Austin McManus about the evolution of street art and graffiti over the past five or so year, and Vandalog contributing writer Caroline Caldwell was there to paint a mural. Atlanta got some real gems this year, including new work by Moneyless, Troy Lovegates and Xuan Alyfe in collaboration with Trek Matthews. Juxtapoz has extensive coverage. Congratulations to Living Walls on a truly impressive 5th anniversary event.
  • This coming week I’ll be in Norway for Nuart and Nuart Plus. The artist lineup features some of my personal favorites, including John Fekner, SpY and Fra.Biancoshock. I love Nuart because it’s a festival that always strikes a balance between the best of the best artists painting epic murals on the “street art festival circuit,” and the oft-under-publicized but highly-political activist artists intervening in public space. Putting these artists in the same festival strengthens the work of everyone there, and reminds us that murals can serve many different purposes. I’ll be speaking at Nuart Plus on behalf of the Mural Arts Program in a few capacities. I’ll be moderating a panel about activism in art, presenting couple of short films during Brooklyn Street Art’s film night, sitting on a panel about contemporary muralism and giving a talk about how government-sanctioned art and muralism can be used to promote positive social change. There will be a lot of great speakers at Nuart Plus this year though. Brooklyn Street Art has the whole line up for the festival and the conference.

Photo by RJ Rushmore


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Tame DMA enters the Archibald

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

Tame in 1987. Photo by Tame.

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

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

Tame's entry

Tame’s entry. Photo by CDH.

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

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

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

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

Early 90s

Tame in the early 90s. Photos by Tame.

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

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

Finalists are announced on July 10th.

1989

Tame in 1989. Photos by Tame.

Photos by CDH and Tame


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“We don’t do reporting” link-o-rama

June 21st, 2014 | By | No Comments »
Unknown artist in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Unknown artist in Bushwick, Brooklyn

It was recently suggested that Vandalog doesn’t do any reporting or write much anymore, and that’s part of why we suck. It’s true that I haven’t been posting as much lately. In part, this is because I didn’t want to just regurgitate the same press releases and photos that all the other major street art blogs are also regurgitating. I only want to write something when I have something exclusive or something to add, which might not be every day. Plus, at the moment, my apartment has no internet connection, which makes things a bit difficult. That should be fixed soon, and posting will probably start to happen more regularly. As for reporting, if an ad agency wants to buy Vandalog and pay all of my bills for no apparent reason, I’d be happy to take your money and spend more time on “proper” reporting. In the mean time, here’s what I can say from Philadelphia with a day job and without a proper internet connection…

  • Saber and Zes recently painted a mural for Branded Arts in LA. It’s huge, and I really like it. I tend to find Saber’s work hit or miss, but I this one is a major success. I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about legal versus illegal work, illegal work versus the buff and graffiti versus street art. This mural addresses all of those topics on a grand scale.
  • Shok1‘s mural for The L.I.S.A. Project NYC is no more, things are a bit more complicated than that… Before Shok1 painted that spot, there was a really beautiful tag there by Serf. Over time, the rest of the wall got tagged up, and the singular tag was no longer looking so hot. Additionally, we at The L.I.S.A. Project NYC got permission to put a mural at that location. Shok1 was in town and we were itching to work with him, so he got the spot and painted a great piece. Before Shok1 painted though, I reached out to Serf to give him a heads up, and let him know that we would like to find a wall for him and Mint if he was interested in the idea. I don’t normally do that when we cover illegal graffiti with a mural, but I had a lot of love for this particular tag. That was in April. Recently, Shok1’s mural was tagged up, so we quickly buffed out the tag. It was clear that this mural’s life had ended and something new was in order. We called up Serf again, and arranged for Mint and Serf (aka Mirf) to paint something. Their idea was to create a wall that looked almost abstract but full of graffiti, like a bombed-out wall of an abandoned warehouse. It might not be clear to random passersby whether the work was legal or illegal. Kind of like the (slightly more controlled) shutters that SMART Crew painted recently as part of their installation in Chinatown, although Mirf were working on this idea before the Chinatown piece was completed. Turns out, some people don’t like murals that look like illegal graffiti, even if the wall was originally home to actually illegal graffiti that was going unbuffed. Neighborhood residents complained. We knew the mural would be temporary, as the property owner was about to install advertising on that wall, but we thought it would at least last more than 48 hours. Now, the wall has been buffed black and a street-level advertisement has been installed… It looks like this. Animal New York has more on the story. While I’m bummed to see both Shok1’s work and Mirf’s work gone already, that wall has been a learning experience and an interesting experiment of sorts for us at The L.I.S.A. Project NYC. There was illegal graffiti on the wall, then Shok1 painted a colorful mural. That was replaced by a legal mural that looked like illegal graffiti by the same same artists whose illegal graffiti had graced the wall previously without complaint, and suddenly residents had a serious problem with what they were seeing. The truth is that we at The L.I.S.A. Project NYC are often in close communication with property owners, realtors, building managers, restauranteurs and shop-owners when we put up murals, but rarely do we connect with a building’s residents. Usually, this isn’t a problem, and we have received a lot of positive feedback from residents even when they have not been consulted before a mural goes up, but occasionally we have problems like these. Should we slow down our process and always seek input from a building’s residents and nearby neighbors, or should we keep going as is, giving artists more freedom but always risking a negative reaction after the work is completed? A balance has to be struck, but I’m not sure exactly what that balance is. Every mural program and every mural site is unique, so there are no easy answers, but it’s something we have to continue to think about…
  • Mighty Mo, Rowdy, Gold Peg and Horror of Burning Candy have put together a show opening June 27th at the Leeds College of Art. Should be a good one, particularly since Mighty Mo’s work has gone in a very surprising and interesting sculptural direction over the last two years or so.
  • Two more upcoming shows of note are the Crash and Anthony Lister solo shows at Jonathan Levine Gallery in NYC.
  • Pure Evil is trying to do a piece of street art every day for a year. I know he’s not the first to do this kind of a marathon, but good on him for taking on the project.
  • The (unauthorized)Banksy retrospective on at the moment at Sotheby’s in London is well worth stopping by. Banksy’s comment on the exhibition (“As a kid I always dreamed of growing up to be a character in Robin Hood. I never realised I’d end up playing one of the gold coins.”) sounds about right though. It’s hard not to be taken aback by the prices at this exhibition, including almost £100,000 for a single print. And yes, that piece sold, as have others. So while prices may be high, it appears there is demand, even if the buyers aren’t always the most Banksy-literate bunch. One comment I overheard from a visitor to the exhibition is telling. But hey, for those of us who just want to look at some good artwork, it’s a solid show. There are pieces I don’t think I’d ever seen before, and many museum-worthy bits that I’m not sure when I’ll see again. For that reason, it’s worth stopping by. And hey, at least the works at Sotheby’s are (mostly) authenticated by Pest Control (someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think one or two of the test prints are without authentication…), and there are no street pieces. So if you are looking to spend a couple hundred grand on a Banksy at the moment, you could do worse than Sotheby’s, like this forgettable and unauthenticated maybe-formally a Banksy for $40,000+.
  • Max Rippon (aka Ripo) and Roa are currently showing at Stolenspace Gallery in London. Ripo’s show in the front room is solid, but I wish there were more works on paper, or works that are more physically complex. The real highlight from Ripo is this painting on handcut paper, but it’s the only piece like it in the show. The rest are canvases like this one with amalgamations of text in strips or slices of varying size. Nothing wrong with those, but I don’t think the fully showcase Ripo’s talent. Roa’s show is among the best I’ve seen from any street artist in a long while. At first glance, yes, it’s what you’d expect from Roa: Animals in black and white or in varying states of decay on wood, plus some moving parts that allow the viewer to change up the paintings a bit. Honestly, I went to the show to see Ripo’s work and see friends, not expecting to be too amazed with Roa’s work. It’s good and all, but I figured that I’d seen it 100 times before. I was wrong. Graffoto’s review and images (and Stolenspace’s images) provide some idea of what Roa did, but really you just have to walk through the show. I hope someone with a steadicam goes in and makes a beautiful video exploring the space. Still, I’ll try to explain… You can’t just look at the work in this show and call it a day. You have to walk around it and see it from every angle. One piece, London Mole Installation, is made up of four piece of wood, arranged like this with different images of a mole, each running across two of the wooden panels, so that as you walk around the piece, you effective get at least 8 significantly different compositions of the mole depending your angle. But that is just a warm up for Osborn Bat Installation, a 3-piece installation involving mirrors and painted wood panels. Each of the three pieces is interesting on its own and sort of a mini version of London Mole Installation, but then the three pieces also come together to form compositions depending on your angle. You might be reading this and think, “Well duh, you look at installation art from different angles and it looks different,” but this goes beyond that, because every angle you look at this work from actually feels like a complete and different composition. The piece is like a puzzle, except that each piece of the puzzle is interesting on its own too, and the puzzle fits together in a myriad of interesting ways. Really, you just have to walk through this thing. If you happen to be in London, do not miss this show. It proved to me that Roa is not just a guy who can simply by written off as painting the same animals over and over again in the same style. He’s much more than that.

Photo by Lois Stavsky


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