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.
The word sideshow comes up several times in conversation when discussing the traveling installation centered on Andrew H. Shirley’s Wastedland 2 film. The touring exhibition is as much of a whirlwind as the artist himself, connecting collaborators from across the country in an ever-evolving project.
While the upcoming screening of Wastedland 2 this Friday at Superchief Gallery is the first screening with an emphasis on audience participation through costumes, the film had previously shown in New York City at the Knockdown Center. At this venue, from the moment I stepped into the installation it felt like a family reunion, a theme that is echoed throughout the film. It was a feeling I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and decided it was probably all the personal connections I had with the people and left it at that. However, when I went to interview Andrew, I had to ask if he could illuminate why even people I knew who were not personally familiar with the crews involved still came away with this sense of kinship. Shirley explained, “In many ways Wastedland 2 created not only a new platform of film exhibition, but perhaps exemplified the idea of collaborative action and support from a community that is sometimes over looked as far as how genuinely loyal and generous they are. The graffiti community not only looks out for each other, but they are a family that looks out for people in need- in many ways.” From assisting in the entry of buildings to a floor to call a safe home for the night, the filmmaker was quick to name all of the people and places who helped him out. It may not have been a direct connection, but maybe a friend of a friend, because as he stated they are the family that always looks out for one another.
Last month, The Grifters’Good Buy Boris and I sat down with Radio Slik to chat about graffiti and the internet (or, as Boris would call it, the “internetchki”). We all know that internet is changing the way culture is created and consumed. And of course applies to graffiti too. Performance is more important, styles cross borders faster than ever, and social media is essential. Viral Art is all about that shift, but it’s really Boris who is at the cutting edge of it as a practitioner and content creator. Just checkhisInstagram.
Excerpts of our conversations have been turned into a podcast. Have a listen:
Thanks to MU artspace in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and Radio Slik for putting together that podcast. Boris and I were in town together because MU and the EMOVES festival had invited us to town as part of MU’s #VIRALVANDALS exhibition (co-curated by Jasper van Es and Boris). More about that exhibition here.
At first, graffiti writers wrote on walls to get their names up. Then, they wrote on trains because those trains traveled all over the city, and got their names up all over. Soon, they started snapping photos and mailing those photos to friends in other cities, to get their names known there. That evolved into zines and books, and the culture (and certain names) spread even further. All the while, styles of writing evolved to fit those new communication tools. And then the internet came along. #ViralVandals, an exhibition open now at MU artspace in Eindhoven, considers how graffiti writers have responded to the internet, social media, VR, and other new technologies. It’s a familiar question for me, as it was also the inspiration for my book Viral Art.
It’s exciting for me to see curators Jasper van Es & Good Guy Boris thinking about some of the questions that I looked for Viral Art, and to see how they see the scene having evolved in the years since Viral Art was published. Plus, their focus is more on graffiti while mine was on street art. Which is all to say, I’ve been looking forward to seeing #ViralVandals since I first heard about the idea for it, almost a year ago.
New Yorkers have been seeing a fresh influx of work by GATS this past week. He’s one of my favorite Oakland writers/artists, so it was exciting to see him in town to work with my friends at Spoke Art NYC and The L.I.S.A. Project NYC.
GATS provided a fresh update to one of my favorite rotating walls along Mulberry Street for The L.I.S.A. Project NYC (see above). Not an easy wall to photograph, so it’s especially worth checking out in person.
A hand-painted ad takeover also appeared in Brooklyn. Maybe it’s still there? Let’s hope so, but the lifespan on these things doesn’t tend to be all that long.
And of course there’s the project that brought GATS to town: Against The Grain, his solo show at Spoke Art. Great use of found materials, and as well as techniques like pyrography. Against The Grain is open through June 25th at Spoke’s location on the Lower East Side.
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.
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.
Then again, who wants to read, when you can watch a video that explains it all? CDH‘s latest installation, FAKESY, sums up everything that’s wrong with The Art of Banksy (the exhibition I mean, not Banksy’s art) and the art market in general. For the performance, CDH set up a stall selling fake Banksy art outside of the Melbourne exhibition. Watch what happens next…
Did you catch that? The part where CDH is told that he can’t be selling his Banksy forgeries because it’s not good for business at the Banksy exhibition… At least the exhibition organizers seem to be admitting that their gift shop is also full of forgeries. That’s progress, sort of.
Bless you, CDH, for perfectly capturing this ridiculousness.
Nether‘s latest mural is a tribute to bearing witness. SATYAGRAHA was painted in Baltimore as part of the Baltimore Rising exhibition at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The mural highlights Kevin Moore and Ramsey Orta, who each witnessed police murdering a black man and decided to speak out. Moore filmed Freddie Gray’s arrest, and Orta filmed Eric Garner’s murder. Both have since faced intense police harassment.
Kevin Moore speaks a bit about that harassment, as well as how to interact with police, in this video:
Between two projects launching at Creative Time and preparations underway for two major personal projects (more on one of those in just a moment), Vandalog has been pretty quiet lately. Taking a step back has allowed me to get excited about all the good things happening in street art, graffiti, and public art over the last month or two, and there’s lots more goodness still to come in through the fall. So here’s a bit of a round up of what I’ve been working on, the great things some friends of Vandalog are doing, and all the interesting stuff that people who I were were my friends are doing.
Over at my office job at Creative Time, we just launched Doomocracy, an immersive artwork by Pedro Reyes. Basically, it’s a haunted house in Brooklyn, themed around the state of American politics. I’llet the folks at artnet News explain. I’ll just add that I am consistently amazed by the epic projects that the production team at Creative Time is able to pull off. Tickets to Doomocracy are free, but right now they’ve all booked up. You can sign up here to get an email if we release more tickets.
Simultaneously, we’ve also got the Creative Time Summit coming up in DC next week. Dozens of amazing speakers coming together to talk about art, social justice, and the state of democracy. And tickets to that are still available. See you there?
In January, I’ll be returning to Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia to curate ALL BIG LETTERS, an exhibition about the tools, strategies, motivations, and innovations of graffiti writers. It’s an honor to be curating a show at Haverford’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, where I worked for almost four years while I was in school there. More info on ALL BIG LETTERS as that approaches.
Wooster Collective is releasing a book to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their historic 11 Spring Street exhibition. Although I missed the original 11 Spring Street, I’m looking forward to celebrating the project with this book.
Luna Park, one of the most important photographers of contemporary street art and graffiti, is releasing her first book. (Un)Sanctioned: The Art on New York Streets will launch next month as part of the 10 Years of Ad Hoc Art show at Brooklyn’s 17 Frost Gallery, and you can pre-order the book on Amazon. This is LONG overdue. We all know that there’s a glut of generic street art and graffiti photography books already on the market, but (Un)Sanctioned seems likely to be an essential purchase on par with Trespass, Subway Art, and Stuck Up Piece of Crap.