Dismaland: Teenage dream world

September 25th, 2015 | By | No Comments »


Dismaland closes on Sunday, but I’m a slow writer, so I only just finished my review today. Check it out on Hyperallergic.

Photo by RJ Rushmore

Category: Featured Posts, Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags: ,

Connecting street and studio

September 24th, 2015 | By | No Comments »

A National Anthem_Our Hearts Breaking_outdoor_lo res

One of the most common questions I get from people outside of the street art world is some variation on “How do street artists show in galleries?”

My 30-second answer is that just as painters can sculpt and illustrators can take photos, artists aren’t restricted to just one way of displaying their work. I tell them that street artists often have a studio practice too. I tell them that what the street/studio combination looks like can vary, but sometimes the two can feed off of one another in a brilliant synergy.

Our Side_Their Side_outdoor_lo res

That’s a best-case scenario though, overly optimistic, which is fine when I’m being an evangelist for street art, but not quite suitable for a conversation among the already converted. We all know that the reality isn’t so cut and dry. What works for street art, what works for murals, and what works in a gallery setting are rarely the same.

The Fire Took Everything_We Lost Nothing_outdoor_lo res

So how do you find that synergy between street and studio? I don’t have a great catchall answer, but I do have a recent example of someone getting it right.

Taking Sides, a new series from Know Hope, is one of a handful examples that I can think of where documentation of street art actually works as a piece in a gallery. It reaches a rare and coveted level of synergy between street and studio practice. For Taking Sides, Know Hope created a series of subtle street pieces in Cologne, Germany and photographed them at just the right moment. In the gallery, he paired each photo with one of the more “typical” studio works that he is best known for. As street pieces, they are solid. As photographs, they take on a new dimension. Paired with paintings, each piece in the pairing informs the other.

A National Anthem_Our Hearts Breaking_lo res

This approach won’t always work. That synergy isn’t as simple as putting some photos in a gallery. A photo of a mural next to a print based on that mural is going in the exact wrong direction, even though that seems to be how a lot of art is sold. It works for Know Hope (and also Barry McGee) because the photos capture something that their paintings and drawings can’t, and vice versa. That’s the key. And while I’m focusing on Know Hope today and it’s still not a catchall answer, it remains true even if the street and studio pieces aren’t literally exhibited side by side.

Our Side_Their Side_lo res

The Fire Took Everything_We Lost Nothing_lo res

Photos courtesy of Know Hope

Category: Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos | Tags:

Shepard Fairey on art, politics, and being a role model

September 16th, 2015 | By | 3 Comments »
Photo courtesy Obey Giant Art via Shepard Fairey

Photo courtesy Obey Giant Art via Shepard Fairey

As the leading American street artist and one of the country’s most recognizable graphic designers, Shepard Fairey himself needs no introduction. But these are strange times for Fairey, and a refresher might be in order. His latest exhibition, On Our Hands at New York City’s Jacob Lewis Gallery, is set to open on Thursday evening. The show tackles the influence of money on politics, the way that legalized bribery has corrupted our democratic system. His new book, Covert to Overt, is due out later this month. The book tackles the influence of money on Fairey’s art, the way he’s fed his ever-growing fame and commercial success back into the work he’s always been doing. He’s on top of the world, or at least the art world. Except that Fairey also standing trial in Detroit for some wheatpastes that the city calls “malicious destruction of a building,” and he could wind up going to prison. So the next few months could really go either way.

Fairey has left an indelible mark on American politics and culture. No matter what happens next, I suspect he’ll continue on that path in one way or another. As he prepares for the opening of On Our Hands, we had the opportunity to ask Fairey a few questions about his career, his place in the art world, and his politics.

RJ Rushmore: As your own fame has grown, as you’ve gone from covert to overt, how have you learned to strike a balance between using your fame for positive change and simply enjoying it?

Shepard Fairey: There are pros and cons to being known whether you call it famous or infamous, but I definitely try to leverage my higher profile to push socially conscious and sometimes provocative ideas. I have a large audience now, which I view as a tremendous resource but also a group to be considerate of and responsible toward. It may sound trite but I take my situation seriously as, for lack of a better word, a role model. I try to provide strong justification for my actions and my viewpoints and I think one of the reasons many of the doors have opened for me that have, is because I’m community and socially minded, not only with my work but with the organizations I support and the activism I engage in.

Read the rest of this article »

Category: Featured Posts, Gallery/Museum Shows, Interview | Tags: ,

The doldrums

August 25th, 2015 | By | 1 Comment »
Wheatpaste by ND'A in Philadelphia

Wheatpaste by ND’A in Philadelphia

This quote from Dave NoLionsInEngland seems important to share:

“It has been a while, street art has been mired in the doldrums. There has been too many art graduates choosing careers as muralists, not enough vandals…”

That comes from the opening of Dave’s review of Banksy’s Dismaland (for which Banksy released a sort of online commercial today). Expect my review of Dismaland soon.

Photo by RJ Rushmore

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

We’re going to Dismaland

August 20th, 2015 | By | No Comments »
The view from inside of Dismaland

The view from inside of Dismaland

In case you’ve been living under a rock… Banksy’s next major project has arrived: Dismaland. What is it? A sort of Burning Man-esque amusement park / art exhibition curated by Banksy with his own work and work by dozens of other artists. It’s located the British seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, among the ruins of what was once an outdoor swimming pool. Just when you think Banksy can’t outdo himself, he outdoes himself again. Of course, that part is just speculation. Dismaland isn’t open yet. A limited number of journalists, bloggers, and photographers were let inside today, and Dismaland opens to the public on Saturday.

For now, Arrested Motion has a great set of photos from inside the park, Juxtapoz has an exclusive interview with Banksy about the project, and the Dismaland website has the full artist line up (quite impressive and with some nice surprises), a calendar of weekly live music and comedy performances, a map of the park, and ticketing information. To enter the park, you’ll have to buy a ticket. The cost is just £3, and the online ticket system should be live soon.

Caroline and I are on our way to Dismaland now, so keep an eye out for more coverage once we arrive. We couldn’t be more excited.

Photo by Tanley Wong of Arrested Motion

Category: Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags: ,

Largely self-promotional link-o-rama

August 10th, 2015 | By | No Comments »
stikman in Philadelphia

stikman in Philadelphia

Apologies that this particular link-o-rama is full of self-promotion and conflicts of interesting, but I do think these are all interesting projects and I hope you do too:

  • It takes a lot to get my excited about a mural festival, but this year’s Wall\Therapy in Rochester, NY looks great. It’s difficult to put on a mural festival. One short cut is to work with obvious artists. Your festival will look like 50 other festivals, but the walls will probably seem impressive. Wall\Therapy has not gone that route. This year in particular, they put together a surprising and diverse line up to create an arguably cohesive body of new work, and the quality of the murals is still strong pretty much across the board. Check out Brooklyn Street Art’s photos and review for the full story.
  • From the selections I’ve read, I’m still not sure how I feel about the book What Do One Million Ja Tags Signify? by Dumar Novy, but a philosophy book centered on the work of a prolific graffiti writer seems like something that should at least catch the interest of Vandalog readers.
  • Phlegm is in the middle of his latest art-making experiment, spending a month making art in the woods of rural England. I’m loving the results so far, and of course the concept of challenging himself in this way.
  • Shepard Fairey’s latest print about corporate greed and campaign finance reform is about to drop. It’s a nice print, and I’m always glad to see Shepard tackling this important but not particularly sexy topic. Plus, the profits from this print go to two great organizations fighting for campaign finance reform. I’ll just note that Shepard is working on a couple of projects right now for my employer, but campaign finance reform and political corruption really are topics that I care a lot about.
  • Speaking of my employer, I recently got to work on a really fun project with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and Ben Eine. Back in June, Eine came to Philly for a few days and painted almost 40 of his classic shutter letters. Philly now has a complete Eine alphabet, and then some. Eine’s work can be found throughout the city, but the shutters are definitely clustered in South Philly around Southeast by Southeast, a community center and art space for the neighborhood’s large Southeast Asian refugee community. Brooklyn Street Art has more on this project.
  • And one more Mural Arts project to mention: JR recently installed a huge mural right in the heart of Philadelphia as part of Open Source, our public art exhibition curated by Pedro Alonzo. The mural is a portrait of Ibrahim Shah, a local food truck chef who came to Philadelphia from Pakistan about a year ago. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a great profile on Ibrahim. I love how this mural looms large on the side of one of the biggest buildings right in the center of Philly, but isn’t actually that visible from the ground except from a few choice locations. Sounds like that could be a problem, I know, but the mural actually pops out from behind buildings in the most surprising places, and catching a glimpse of it winds up being a thrill, a bit of hide and seek. Plus, that game plays into the meaning of the mural, which is about how immigrants are a big part of our cities, but aren’t always celebrated or allowed to be made visible.
  • Okay, actually, Mural Arts has something coming up with Steve Powers too, but hopefully it will last longer than these signs in NYC! No surprise, a great series of street signs by Powers, installed legally as part of a project with the NYC Department of Transportation, seem to be being ripped down and stolen by greedy collectors or maybe thieves hoping to make a buck. It’s no surprise, but it is still disappointing.
  • A few days ago, I appeared on Al Jazeera English as a guest on their show The Stream. Gaia and I joined their panel to talk about street art. You can watch the full episode, plus some bonus online content, here.
  • If you’re in New York City, do not miss Faile’s exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s on now, and visiting is a really exciting experience. Vandalog contributing writer Caroline Caldwell currently works as an assistant at Faile’s studio, but even hearing bits and pieces from her as things were coming together did not prepare me for the awesomeness that is Savage/Sacred Young Minds. Without a doubt, the highlight of the exhibition is the latest and (I think) largest iteration of Faile and Bast’s Deluxx Fluxx Arcade, with custom foosball, pinball, and of course video games. It’s just an unabashedly fun experience. Arrested Motion has photos of much of the exhibition.

Photo by RJ Rushmore

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

Saber: Bull in a china shop

July 7th, 2015 | By | No Comments »
"TOO MANY NAMES" by Saber at the Long Beach Museum of Art

“TOO MANY NAMES” by Saber at the Long Beach Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of Saber.

Last month, “urban contemporary art” came to Long Beach, California. Thanks to Pow! Wow! and ThinkSpace Gallery, the Long Beach Museum of Art is currently hosting Vitality and Verve: Transforming the Urban Landscape, an exhibition of talented and famous painters like Low Bros, Meggs, Andrew Schoultz, Saber, and Audrey Kawasaki. It was supposed to be a show about painting with artists “demonstrating the skilled and nuanced application of their craft,” and, for the most part, the works in Vitality and Verve are well-painted and beautiful. Except for one. Saber’s installation. Read the rest of this article »

Category: Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Live a little on Coney Island

June 17th, 2015 | By | 1 Comment »
eL Seed. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

eL Seed. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Last Sunday, I visited Coney Island for the first time. I was there to see The Coney Island Art Walls, Jeffrey Deitch‘s latest mural project. Deitch is a master of fun, and he has a habit of causing controversy. The Coney Island Art Walls are no exception. The murals are a great addition to Coney Island’s myriad of attractions, but artnet in particular has been treating Deitch like their personal punching bag, in large part because of the project’s ties to Joseph J. Sitt of Thor Equities, a real estate developer whose company owns the lot where the murals are being installed.

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Photo from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's Instagram.

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Photo from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s Instagram.

People were mad at Sitt for attempting to destroy the history of Coney Island and leaving lots his lots vacant. Those are completely legitimate concerns. Now, they’re mad that Sitts has put something in one of his lots: A bar, some concession stands, and murals by an amazing array of artists, many of which explicitly celebrate the history of Coney Island. Or rather, it’s arts journalists who are attacking Deitch, on the basis of those complaints, for helping Sitts DO THE VERY THING THAT PEOPLE WERE CALLING ON HIM TO DO. Their anger makes no sense, unless those journalists are just desperately searching for one more reason to hate on Deitch.

Ron English. Photo from Ron English's Instagram.

Ron English. Photo from Ron English’s Instagram.

That said, The Coney Island Art Walls are entertaining, which makes the project easy to dismiss as unimportant. But the murals are literally across the street from an amusement park, so of course they’re entertaining! Are the murals tools for gentrification and mindless amusement more than social justice and disrupting the everyday? Probably. And most days I’d prefer to see a piece of illegal street art or graffiti or a “socially engaged” public art project than a wall where the art functions primarily as decoration. Most days, I’d also rather eat a salad than a hot dog. But on that rare occasion when I visit an amusement park, I am there to be amused and I definitely don’t want a salad for lunch.

Lady Aiko. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Lady Aiko. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

The key to the project’s success really is the setting. These are not murals that you’ll just stumble across randomly. It’s a project that you travel to the end of the subway line to see. It’s its own Coney Island attraction, and a good one at that.

Jane Dickson at work on her mural. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Jane Dickson at work on her mural. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Artnet’s Brian Boucher suggested that organizing murals for Coney Island was a new low for Deitch. That’s such a closed-minded view of what and where art can be. The bulk of the murals celebrate the history of Coney Island or at least fit in perfectly among the area’s existing cacophony of iconic rides, amusements, and signage. Aiko‘s piece looks like it belongs on the side of a carnival game, and Jane Dickson captured spirit of wonder in the air. I’m not sure I’d enjoy AVAF’s mural if I had to live across the street from it and see it every day, but it’s fantastic as a contemporary take on an crazy Coney Island signage. The Coney Island Art Walls are an opportunity to install a series of murals that wouldn’t make sense anywhere else.

Shepard Fairey. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Shepard Fairey. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Artnet’s Christian Viveros-Fauné was also flat wrong when he dismissed the project for its “Uniformly colorful murals that individually deploy some of street art’s standard motifs—bright hues, stencils, and graphic punch—but engage in neither activism nor neighborhood politics.” Amongst the color and revelry, there is in fact some politically-charged worked: Shepard Fairey‘s fitting tribute to classic seaside advertising features a call for environmental responsibility, Mr. Cartoon‘s painted a young person of color being chased by a white police officer while the grim reaper lurks in the background, and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s portraits of neighborhood residents are accompanied by this statement: “The day before Easter and the day after Labor Day – People still live here. People die here. People love here.” Politics and activism are far from the focus of the project, but they’re not absent.

Mr. Cartoon. Photo by Martha Cooper.

Mr. Cartoon. Photo by Martha Cooper.

So, go to Coney Island. Check out The Coney Island Art Walls. But go with the right mindset. It’s an attraction to be enjoyed. Take a selfie with Ron English‘s sideshow characters. Snag the perfect photograph of eL Seed‘s mural with a roller coaster in the background. Climb onto Skewville’s oversized boombox and do a little dance. Go home with a smile on your face. It’s good for you.

Skewville. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Skewville. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Photos by RJ Rushmore and Martha Cooper, and from the Instagrams of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and Ron English

Category: Featured Posts, Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags: ,

Sharing Inspiration: Noxer for Frontal Labotomy at Tender Trap

April 29th, 2015 | By | No Comments »
Lance de los Reyes

Lance de los Reyes. Photo by Darryl Nau.

Since reopening in Greenpoint, Tender Trap has hosted an ongoing series of shows curated by Andrew H. Shirley. The Frontal Labotomy series takes place biweekly in a 3′ by 4′ display case in the middle of the bar.

Russell Murphy

Russell Murphy. Photo by Paul Reubens.

Shirley explains:

The idea came to me from staring at my bedroom wall. I was thinking how psychologically explicit the assortment of objects and art I have displayed are- how they tell a story of me and my emotional being. I wanted to be able to create a setting where artists could display themselves the same way. That said, it’s totally up to them how they want to inhabit the box. It’s completely hands-off in the sense that I don’t have any involvement in the content outside of asking individuals to participate in the residency. In the future, I’m looking to curate people from backgrounds outside the world of art- plumbers, vagrants, clowns, convicted felons, and crossing guards in attempt to let the public look into their lives in a more intimate way.


One of Noxer’s pieces for Frontal Labotomy. Courtesy of Noxer.

Tonight, April 29, Frontal Labotomy rotates and New York writer Noxer takes over the space. The opening reception starts at 7pm. Know for bringing his “black man robbing” character to graffiti, drawing, and puppetry, viewers can expect a mixed-media approach to the 4′ x 3′ space, including the above image.

Photos by Darryl Nau, and Paul Reubens, and courtesy of Noxer

Category: Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags: ,

The story behind this crazy Tod Seelie photograph

April 27th, 2015 | By | No Comments »


Tod Seelie is one of my favorite photographers, and his recent book is something that I seem to take off the shelf and show to just about anyone who stops by my place. You might be familiar with his work for any of a dozen reasons, but Vandalog readers are probably most likely to know his photographs of Swoon’s rafts, or his documentation of Bike Kill. His most recent body of work is Outland Empire, shot earlier this year in Southern California during a residency with Superchief Gallery.

In Outland Empire, Seelie explores the eccentricities and underground of Southern California, from the streets of LA to the characters in Slab City to crazy to the literal underground of storm drains. Seelie’s photographs oscillate from depicting the forgotten vestiges of humanity to wild moments full of energy, always with his unique eye and penchant for exploration. Outland Empire is a reminder that the world is more than just carefully manicured people and places. There’s still a bit of dirt and magic out there, for now.

In May, we’ll be exhibiting an expanded version of Seelie’s Outland Empire series at LMNL Gallery, a space I help run in Philadelphia. The show opens this Friday from 6-9pm.

There are a bunch of photos in Outland Empire that I’d love to get the back story on, but the above photo in particular seemed relevant to Vandalog, so I asked Seelie about it. Here’s what he had to say:

I shot this image while with some friends deep in the storm drain tunnels of LA. There is a spot, over a mile deep, where the floor is slanted so the water is more concentrated to one side leaving a “beach” area for hanging out. I have been down here with friends a few times for various things, dinner parties, live music, (there was flaming tall bike jousting, but I wasn’t there for that) and painting graffiti. It’s a very chill spot and worth the wet feet.

For more stories and photos from Outland Empire, check out this post on Hopes&Fears.

Outland Empire is also being exhibited this week at Tender Trap with Superchief NYC.


Photo by Tod Seelie

Category: Featured Posts, Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos | Tags: ,