ALL BIG LETTERS: Exhibiting graffiti tools and strategy

January 6th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

Philadelphia graffiti. Photo by Steve Weinik/@steveweinik.

On January 20th, I hope you’ll join me in Haverford, PA for ALL BIG LETTERS, an exhibition I’ve curated at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, just a few minutes outside of Philadelphia.

ALL BIG LETTERS includes art, photos, tools, and ephemera 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, MOMONTEL, Smart Crew, Steve Weinik, stikman, and more.

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.

ALL BIG LETTERS opens January 20th (4:30-7:30pm) at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery in Haverford, PA. The exhibition runs through March 3rd.

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.

Photo by Steve Weinik


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

52 weeks of ad takeovers in NYC

January 6th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

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.

To keep up to date with AiAP and learn more, check the website, follow the campaign on Instagram and Facebook, and sign up for the AiAP email list.

Photos by Luna Park


Category: Featured Posts, Vandalog Projects | Tags: , ,

Choque Festival – street art or just marketing?

December 21st, 2016 | By | No Comments »

Pagu for Choque Festival. Photo by Jéssica Freitas.

Vanessa Rosa, the author of this post, is an artist based in São Paulo.

This is a story of an alleged attempt to create dialogues between opposite worlds: street art, and one of the world’s most oppressive police forces.

In November of 2016, the same terrifying week that Trump conquered the presidency of the USA, a project called Choque Festival brought street art to the headquarters of a São Paulo military police squad. The plan was to cover the walls of this police station with murals (some of the murals are on exterior walls, but the walls are all inside a gated space that is not open to the public). According to some media and the Festival’s official Facebook page (since deleted from Facebook and Instagram) the event was intended to open an artist-driven dialogue between police and citizens, an artist-driven initiative to make the police recognize the importance of street painting. Other times, it’s been described as part of the military police’s community outreach activities, a police initiative, a festival that would also present other police projects, like kids with disabilities participating in equine-assisted therapy with police horses. When it was first announced, the project received praise in both progressive and conservative media. And although one curator/artist/producer appears front and center in all the videos and articles, with little visibility of other participants, the project did manage to involve several people from street painting scene in Brazil. But things went sour, with artists dropping out and graffiti writers taking aim at those who did participate. What the hell happened?

Read the rest of this article »


Category: Festivals, Guest Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

America is still here.

December 3rd, 2016 | By | No Comments »

America Is

As someone with family in the very red state of Oklahoma, I was especially happy to see Tatyana Fazlalizadeh install this message of strength and defiance in Oklahoma City over the Thanksgiving holiday. Painting a mural in Wynwood is easy, but unimportant. Pasting up a message “to challenge whiteness” (as Tatyana told the Huffington Post) is probably not so easy, but infinitely more important. So while the art world spends this week on vacation in Miami, I’m thankful that Tatyana is doing real work.

You can read more about this piece on Tatyana’s Instagram.

PS, shout out to the fantastic Jess X Chen who is featured in Tatyana’s piece, and will hopefully have a guest post on Vandalog soon! Keep an eye out for that.

Photo by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh


Category: Photos | Tags:

Forged artworks, silly exhibitions, and the Banksy market

November 22nd, 2016 | By | 1 Comment »

Banksy

Melbourne’s controversial Banksy exhibition, curated by Steve Lazarides and unaffiliated with the artist, has been the target of much criticism since it opened last month. The exhibition has a ticket price of $30, was organized without the artist’s permission, includes a gift shop full of un-authorized Banksy merch, and just generally smells of slick businessmen trying to make a quick buck off of Banksy’s name. But don’t take my word for it… just ask the artist who was commissioned to paint a mural outside of the show, or Australian street art critic Alison Young who noted that, at best, the show takes great work and installs and displays it poorly.

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.

Photo by Duncan Hull


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

Film the police!

November 7th, 2016 | By | No Comments »

Nether

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:

EYES ON BALTIMORE from Nether Bmore on Vimeo.

Nether’s mural is also a plug for WeCopwatch, an organization dedicated to educating people on their right to observe police activities.

So remember: when it’s safe to do so, film the police.

Photo courtesy of the Maryland Institute College of Art


Category: Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos | Tags:

Why is someone emailing me about Alec Monopoly, Mr. Brainwash, and Kim Kardashian?

October 25th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
An object by Kim Kardashian, available now on Paddle 8.

An object by Kim Kardashian, available now on Paddle 8.

The following is an open letter to a trio of people (I’ve removed their names) who emailed me about promoting this auction on Paddle 8, and asked for my advice on spreading the word. Despite their C- rating from Charity Intelligence Canada, I am optimistic that the Baycrest Foundation does good work around Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research. You can contribute, without engaging in their auction, here. – RJ Rushmore

Hi X, Y, Z,

So here’s the thing… if you want to promote things made by Mr. Brainwash and Alec Monopoly, I suggest you do it far away from art blogs. Of course, I can’t say what they do is not art, because clearly it technically is an art-like thing, and when something it considered “not art,” it is all too often later regarded as groundbreaking. However, what Alec and Brainwash do is five steps backward. It is, at best, pop art solely for the sake displaying money and celebrity. If Donald Trump collected art (other than, of course, portraits of himself) Brainwash and Alec are the artists that he would collect. They are unabashed displays of wealth, for no other purpose than the display of wealth. These are the guys who show up to your high school reunion wearing a Rolex on both wrists, just because they want to tell everyone that they are wearing a Rolex on each wrist.

Yes, in this particular case, these two artists are choosing to raise money for charity, but have you ever considered why that might be? BP sponsors the TATE in London. Why? Not because they are good people, but because they are looking for a way to look like good people. (Thankfully, Liberate Tate has brought a stop to that.)

I have had Alec tell me to my face that his art is a joke, a money-making/get-laid scheme and nothing more. He knows it.

I have literally threatened to quit two jobs when the question of working with Brainwash was raised, and I was prepared to do it. Actually, one of them I did quit for a few days until they decided not to work with him.

But wait! Perhaps you think: Well, Brainwash is a fun man bringing art to the people. I can’t really convince you otherwise until a recording comes out saying “fuck ‘the people,'” but I don’t think it will because I think that Brainwash is just an idiot and who believes his own hype and doesn’t see how his work is at best misguided and at worst damaging. The one and only time I’ve ever written positively about Mr. Brainwash was when he made a pro-Obama poster, because he accidentally ended up on the right side of history and with a budget to hire a halfway-decent graphic designer to put him there. But with Alec, he’s never hidden it. You may look at Alec and think: He’s “subverting the idea of the Monopoly Man, laughing at Wall Street.” Alec thinks he’s being subversive too, but he doesn’t understand the meaning of the fucking word. Like, he literally believes it means the opposite of what it means. He’s an ostentatiously oblivious piece of shit. Coincidentally, this piece I wrote about Alec a few years back mentions healthcare and elaborates on my perspective.

I could kind of give a fuck about Kim Kardashian and Michael Buble. I mean, if people want to own a thing that a pop star touched and that thing raises money for charity, great. But no art site could possibly care, except for the clicks it would generate.

All the best with the Baycrest Foundation. I can’t quite buy a brain, but I hope that my modest personal contribution is helpful.

– RJ


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

Drills, not guns, with Icy and Sot

October 24th, 2016 | By | No Comments »

Icy and Sot

Gotta love Icy and Sot. I was sad to hear that the above installation didn’t last very long, but even the attempt is pretty fantastic. And while Icy and Sot may have become known for their stencils, much of the duo’s best works aren’t stencils at all. There’s, of course, the balloons above, but there’s also performance, sculpture, and photography. And then there’s also this other recent piece, made with a drill:

Icy and Sot

Kudos to Icy and Sot. I would love to see more street artists really pissing people off with their work and messing with tools and materials.

Photos courtesy of Icy and Sot


Category: Photos | Tags:

Weekend link-o-rama

October 9th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Lady Liberty at Pedro Reyes' Doomocracy

Lady Liberty at Pedro Reyes’ Doomocracy

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.

Photo by RJ Rushmore


Category: Books / Magazines, Events, Festivals, Gallery/Museum Shows, Products, Random | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Clickbait: The cash, flaws and ethics of “revealing” Banksy

September 3rd, 2016 | By | No Comments »

Banksy unmasked

Editor’s note: This guest post is by Peter Bengtsen, one of just a handful of academics worldwide whose research focuses on street art, and I highly recommend his book The Street Art World. – RJ

Back in March 2016, Vandalog published a post that questions why anyone would want to learn the identity of Banksy. In the post, RJ Rushmore echoed the sentiments of David Choe by commenting that focusing on who the artist is “misses the point of Banksy, like watching a magic show from side stage while someone whispers in your ear how every trick is done”, and he stated that “[n]o good comes from trying to reveal Banksy’s identity, or wondering who Banksy is”. In the decade I have been studying street art academically, I have found this attitude to be very common among members of what I call the street art world, and it is one I happen to largely agree with.

The media have of course been attempting to find out who is behind the Banksy moniker for a long time. The latest attempt, published by Mail Online on 1 September 2016, suggests that the artist may be a member of a famous British music group or perhaps is a group of people working together as one persona. While media speculation about Banksy’s identity is nothing new, the avalanche in March of news stories about the ostensible uncovering of the artist’s identity – which most likely prompted David Choe to write his text – stands out because it was a result of the publication of an academic article in Journal of Spatial Science. In this article, a group of researchers presented the results of a geographic profiling study in which they had paired clusters of artworks attributed to Banksy with addresses associated with a named individual who they presented as their prime suspect for being the anonymous artist. Basically, by finding correlations between the clusters of artworks and the addresses, the researchers seemingly substantiated previous tabloid speculation about the identity of Banksy. The media, unsurprisingly, jumped on the story and repeated the name given by the researchers in the article. This was highly problematic, not only for the person being “outed” as Banksy, but also for scholars who are relying on the confidence of members of the street art world in order to do their research.

In addition to the commonsense-based critique, which has been put forward by David Choe, RJ Rushmore and many other members of the street art world, that it is simply wrong to expose an artist who has chosen to work anonymously, it is worth noting that the geographic profiling study seems to be characterised by a number of fundamental methodological flaws and ethical issues. I have described these in more detail in the freely available article Hijacking Banksy: using a contemporary art mystery to increase academic readership, but to name one example, it is a problem that the geographic profiling study focuses on just one candidate for being Banksy. With no other cases to compare their results to, the researchers openly admit in their article that it is “difficult” to make any definitive conclusions about Banksy’s identity.

Banksy revealed

Given the lack of conclusive evidence produced by the study, I find it odd (and highly ethically unsound) that the researchers are still comfortable with publishing the name of the person they have been investigating. While one of the researchers suggested on Twitter that making public the name of the suspect is not an ethical problem because the name has previously been put forward by a national English tabloid newspaper and has subsequently been repeated on thousands of websites, this line of reasoning is clearly flawed. There is, or at least there should be, a significant difference between the expectations we have for the quality of the content of tabloid press stories and academic articles.

So why would the researchers choose to include the name without solid evidence? I can only speculate, but as this segment on the news satire show Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver points out, researchers are in sharp competition for funding, and this increasingly seems to lead to sensationalism within academia, be it in the research itself, the way it is presented to the public, or both. It is no secret that the level of international media exposure the researchers have gained by naming their suspect for being Banksy could be a factor when funding bodies are going to decide where to place their money. Playing the sensationalist card is certainly one way of getting ahead in the race for future funding (at least in the short term), even if it happens at the cost of academic integrity and at the expense of named individuals and the community of street art researchers at large.

Screenshots by Peter Bengtsen


Category: Art News, Guest Posts, Random | Tags: