Banksy + 5: October 19th

For today’s Better Out Than In piece, Banksy posted the video shown above. As of when I’m posting this late on Saturday night, the video somehow has over 50,000 views and I know at least two people who searched all day for the spot where it was filmed. The power of Banksy…

On a related note, since it’s a little over halfway through October, I thought this might be a good time to remind readers what this Banksy + 5 series is about and why I’ve been posting every single pieces from Better Out Than In and accompanied (almost) all of them with 5 photos of street art or graffiti by artists other than Banksy. Initially, I had planned not to post daily updates about every piece in the show. Maybe I’d send out a link on Facebook, but I didn’t want to take the time to write up and format blog posts every day for something that 1000 other sites would be covering. But Jonathan Lynn from Anewspace in Dublin suggested to me, “you should do a column called ‘this is the new banksy & here is 5 more artists who painted today.” From that, I modified things slightly and we got Banksy + 5: Today’s Banksy plus five photos of work that had either been uploaded to flickr or emailed to me within about 24 hours of that day’s Banksy’ going up. Banksy is a mastermind of getting media attention, and I knew that even the simplest posts on Vandalog mentioning Banksy would get more hits than posts mentioning just about other artist or providing interesting or exclusive content. Just as Banksy uses the media, I figured we could use Banksy a bit. So, let’s get on with the + 5…

Today I want to share with by Nathan Bowen, Skeleton Cardboard, Sened, and three unknown artists edit: Anser, Aaron Rose and one unknown artist. Please leave a comment or get in touch if you know any of the artists that I don’t.

Nathan Bowen and Skeleton Cardboard in London. Photo by Dave Nolionsinengland.
Nathan Bowen and Skeleton Cardboard in London. Photo by Dave Nolionsinengland.
Sened in Tel Aviv. Photo by Astra Nilsson.
Sened in Tel Aviv. Photo by Astra Nilsson.
Unknown artist in Berlin. Photo by aesthetics of crisis.
Aaron Rose in Berlin. Photo by aesthetics of crisis.
Unknown artist in Athens. Photo by Jean-Claude Utard.
Unknown artist in Athens. Photo by Jean-Claude Utard.
Anser in Toronto. Photo by Mary Crandall.
Anser in Toronto. Photo by Mary Crandall.

Photos by Dave Nolionsinengland, Astra Nilsson, aesthetics of crisis, Jean-Claude Utard and Mary Crandall

The Urban Artist in Hamburg

From June 9th-14, the guys at Circleculture Gallery will put on a traveling exhibit starting in Hamburg entitled The Urban Artist. Featuring works by American and European artists, the show will highlight the stylings of contemporary urban artists bringing their art indoors today. The line-up includes: Jaybo Monk, Aaron Rose, Christian Awe, Anton Unai, XOOOOX, Stefan Strumbel, Kelsey Brookes, Marco “pho” Grassi, Marcel Walldorf, Various & Gould, Hellie Mardhal, Jonathan Yeo, Kevin Earl Taylor and Katrin Fridriks. A good mix of street and fine artists, the show puts together names that haven’t really been shown together before, which is an interesting twist.

Jaybo Monk

Review: Art in the Streets

Retna. Photo by Lord Jim

Last week, The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art opened an exhibit of street art and graffiti that promised to go down in history, Art in the Streets. It’s a massive exhibit of over 100 street artists and graffiti writers. I visited AITS three times, and still wasn’t satisfied that I’d appreciated the show fully. I think MOCA has delivered something special, but maybe did not quite fulfill that original promise.

I want to spend a good amount of time addressing criticisms of AITS, because that should not be ignored, even if they are far outweighed by the good of the show.

This isn’t the show that I would have put on. This isn’t the show you would have put on. AITS is the show that only Jeffrey Deitch, Roger Gastman and Aaron Rose would have put on. Artists that I would have included without a moment’s hesitation (Judith Supine, Faile, Brad Downey, Jenny Holzer…) were oddly absent, and some artists in the show were out of place or allotted too much space (Geoff McFetridge, Terry Richardson, Mr. Cartoon…). For a show attempting to paint the picture of a history, the historical timeline was given a strange second billing to a hodgepodge of individual artist installations.

The selection process for a lot of the show seems like it was a political battle rather than an ideal model of art curating. When the curators’ names were announced, a good chunk of the show’s line up could already be predicted based on their personal relationships. Luckily, the curators are connected to many of the same people that anyone would have put in a similar show to AITS. What would this sort of show be without a contribution from some Beautiful Losers and artists who had shown at Deitch Projects? The unfortunate thing is that there definitely could have been less of a focus on those well-connected artists, and the many talented artists who aren’t connected to the curators probably had a harder time getting invited to be part of the show (or weren’t invited at all).

Os Gêmeos. Photo by RJ Rushmore

Briefly, it’s worth mentioning the lack of strong political artwork in the show. Any political statements made were “safe” ones, and the most controversial (Blu’s message of “war sucks and people make money off of it”) was removed. But just as all illegal street art and graffiti is inherently political, putting work by street artists and graffiti writers in a museum is a political act, even if the content of the work is not explicitly political.

The outdoor murals and the way MOCA has generally dealt with truly accepting the “street” side of street art and graffiti has also been a bit of a mess, but I think that would be true of almost any institution of MOCA’s size. The buffing of Blu’s mural and then the buffing of Katsu’s tag both tainted AITS, regardless of MOCA’s right to do what they want their walls, and the murals that replaced those two are not fantastic (although Push and Futura’s contributions to Lee’s mural work pretty well). And just this past week, Deitch’s inability to publicly defend and embrace illegal street art being committed near the museum has been laughable and depressing. Critics of the show are right to point out the hypocrisy of his position on the legitimacy of street art being produced today versus that of a few years ago. But just like it is the critics’ job to point out that hypocrisy, it is Deitch’s job to say politically wise things to reporters. Simply put, MOCA haven’t been very ballsy when it comes to the “in the streets” part of “Art in the Streets.” This minor fail is maybe what best points out what AITS is and what it isn’t.

In essence, the show has the wrong name. It is not “art in the streets.” It is “documentation of art in the streets or art by artists who began their careers by making art in the street but probably don’t do that too much now, or maybe they do but this is a different side of their artwork.” Yes, a lot of these artists still get up outdoors, but, for many but not all of the AITS artists, it’s a different sort of thing these days: OBEY posters are advertising, Banksy stencils are tourist attractions that last a few days before ending up on eBay and Steve Powers paints amazing murals for an organization founded with the expressed purpose of covering graffiti like his. I’m not saying that artists can’t or shouldn’t evolve, but many of the street artists and graffiti writers that AITS focuses on make “museum friendly” art. And that’s great for them. But AITS is not a show of art in the streets but art by artists who have, as I’ve heard a few people put it, “graduated” from the streets, even if they still get up a bit. As Unurth points out, there is a general lack of names from the last 10 years. So let’s reframe this for what the show is, and look at it that way. Putting aside the politics and minor flaws that only a street art or graffiti fanatic will pay much attention to, AITS is a huge hit.

AITS has two main components: it has a brief history of street art and graffiti, and it has mini-shows of fine art from some of the most acclaimed street artists, street culture documenters and graffiti writers over the last few decades.

Part of the timeline. Photo by Lindsay T

The timeline is the most “museum-y” part of the show, and it should provide newcomers a history of what graffiti, street culture and street art are about, as well as give long-time fans some new insights. While visitors should also take a trip to see the show currently on at Subliminal Projects to get a better idea about 1980’s street art in NYC, the timeline definitely does its job as a brief overview of the history informing the rest of AITS.

Most of the highlights of the show can be found in the installations.

Three of the best installations make a point of acknowledging that their work is in a museum, even though AITS is meant to be about illegal outdoor art. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Street art and graffiti is about good placement and understanding context. Neckface, Os Gêmeos and the trio of Barry McGee, Todd James and Steve Powers all understand this very well, and it came across in their installations.

Neckface. Photo by Gelatobaby

Neckface’s section was billed as one of his “haunted house” installations, but ended up being a recreation of a dark inner-city alleyway (complete with a drunk, drugged up or just plain crazy homeless man) with some Neckface tags on the walls. Of course, suits and bloggers like me were lined up to check it out, but few of us would be smiling so much if we actually found ourselves alone in that sort of an alleyway at 3 in the morning. That’s the street, the thing MOCA is supposed to be celebrating. It is like a voyeuristic natural history exhibit for historically middle and upper class museum visitors, pointing out the impossibility and absurdity of bringing the streets indoors in the fashion that the title of the show suggests.

Os Gêmeos reinstalled a show that they had last year at a museum in Portugal. It was definitely a highlight of the show, with a little bit of everything from the twins. Hidden in a bit in their cluster of work was one piece of wood where it was written: “This is not graff the graffiti is outside!!” Simple. That installation is their fine art and it is awe inspiring and thought provoking and should be seen. The graffiti is outside. And so is the street art.

Os Gêmeos. Photo by RJ Rushmore
Street (Barry Mcgee, Todd James and Steve Powers). Photo by Gelatobaby

And then there is Street. Barry McGee aka Twist, Steve Powers aka ESPO and Todd James aka Reas reunited to make a new version of their historic Street Market installation, versions of which had previously been put on at Deitch Projects and the Venice Biennale. First of all, this might be the best installation in the show. Particularly when the area isn’t too crowded with other museum-goers, it’s like being transported into another, more Technicolor and mad, world. It’s a graffiti writer’s urban dreamworld where taggers can hide invisible bushes and bodegas sell cans of street cred. The space is an art-crowd friendly dreamworld of a street, where Style Wars isn’t a documentary but a musical without any real-world consequences. Again though, the installation touches on the impossibility of bringing a true street inside, going for the asurd illusion instead. Street is what would happen if graffiti writers could have a ride at Disneyland, and I mean that in the best way, but it’s still a ride at Disneyland rather than an actual street and the artists know it.

Street (Barry Mcgee, Todd James and Steve Powers). Photo by RJ Rushmore
Street (Barry Mcgee, Todd James and Steve Powers). Photo by RJ Rushmore

The show is just too massive to write about everything. This review is already far too long. Sections by Margaret Kilgallen, Roa (who again, understands that he is in a museum), Invader (who plays with the fact that he is in a museum), Shepard Fairey, Banksy, The Fun Gallery, Rammellzee, Retna, Chaz Bojorquez, Swoon, Kaws, Ed Templeton and many others add together to be the most substantial gathering of art by this group of artists that has ever been assembled. I rediscovered artists I’d overlooked, found new favorites and enjoyed revisiting the work of my old favorites. The show is so massive that a pessimist will undoubtedly find something that they do not like and many visitors will be overwhelmed, but it would be difficult to go through the entire show and not find a few gems, no matter your taste in art.

Swoon. Photo by RJ Rushmore

For a moment, forget about the BS and the politics and the buffing and Deitch-hating and Alleged Gallery controversies from a decade ago and the lack of this person and that person and why this person got an installation and that person painted a mural and blah freaking blah. Outside of our art-world BS political pissing contest context where AITS can and will be criticized on many levels, people are going to visit AITS and they’re going to see some amazing art by artists who were and are pillars of street art and graffiti history. I expect that the vast majority of visitors will like what they see and they will learn something. And that’s important. This is street art. It’s supposed to be for “the people,” and “the people” will still enjoy this show even if my or your 4th favorite artist was snubbed or whatever other minor flaw you can find. And if you go and visit the show and you can put aside your minor internal art world squabbles for a couple of hours, AITS should be a magical experience for you, just as it was for me. I highly recommend setting aside a day to visit AITS.

Photos by Lord Jim, Gelatobaby, LindsayT and RJ Rushmore

Art in the Streets Book

Since we haven’t posted about Art in the Streets in a few days, we thought now would be the best time to release some photos of the accompanying exhibit book for the show. Put together by the curators of the show, Roger Gastman, Aaron Rose and of course, Jeffrey Deitch, the book acts as an international retrospective of art, or as much as can be packed into the pages.

Also, here are some more names featured in the show (and book) as well. These could have been guessed, but now they are confirmed: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Stelios Faitakis, Futura, Phil Frost, Os Gemeos, Keith Haring, Todd James, Margaret Kilgallen, Lady Pink, Barry McGee, Steve “ESPO” Powers, Lee Quinones, Retna, Kenny Scharf, Swoon, Ed Templeton

Again, some were known, but now we are starting to get more of an idea what the show is shaping up to be. I’m still surprised what a well-kept secret it is thus far.


All photos via FreshlySerious

MOCA street art show book (and a small rant about the show)

Art In the Streets is an upcoming book by Jeffrey Deitch, Roger Gastman and Aaron Rose. The book, available April 12th, coincides with Deitch’s street art exhibition coming to MOCA next spring (Rose and Gastman are involved in putting the show together). While this will probably be just another nice exhibition catalog once it’s published, the official does provide further insight into what the MOCA show will be about (emphasis added):

The first large-scale American museum exhibition to survey the colorful history of graffiti and street art movements internationally. Graffiti has been a form of public communication and identification since ancient times. In its contemporary manifestation, it has redefined the urban landscape and influenced generations of artists. This landmark exhibition traces the birth and dissemination of styles through “writers” and street artists around the world—including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Blu, Martha Cooper, Shepard Fairey, Stelios Faitakis, Futura, Phil Frost, Os Gêmeos, Keith Haring, Todd James (REAS), Margaret Kilgallen, Lady Pink, Barry McGee (Twist), Steve Powers (ESPO), Lee Quinones, Retna, Kenny Scharf, Swoon, and Ed Templeton, among many others—focusing on New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, as well as international locations. Highlighting the connection between graffiti and street art and other vibrant subcultures, such as those that developed around Hip Hop in the Bronx and skateboarding in Southern California, Art in the Streets explores parallel movements in dance and music. A selection of new works created for the show is presented alongside the historical survey of approximately 30 of the most important artists seminal to the genre. The exhibition is curated by MoCA Director Jeffrey Deitch, working with a curatorial advisory committee that includes Charlie Ahearn, Roger Gastman, Carlo McCormick, and Aaron Rose.

It’s interesting to see the direction this exhibition is taking with the choice of artists, but a bit predictable as well:

  • Aaron Rose is best-known for Alleged Gallery and Beautiful Losers, the film about that gallery, and Deitch Projects picked up a number of artists who had been showing at Alleged Gallery (Steve Powers, Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen), and a number of the “Beautiful Losers” are included in Art In The Streets.
  • A number of the artists (Martha Cooper, Futura, Barry McGee, Shepard Fairey, Stelios Faitakis, Os Gêmeos, Kenny Scharf and Swoon if memory serves) were all involved in last year’s Deitch-curated Wynwood Walls mural project.
  • Blu painted a mural sponsored by Deitch Projects.
  • Deitch Projects also work with Basquiat, Fairey, Os Gêmeos, Haring, Todd James, Scharf and Swoon (or their estates).

People are going to give MOCA shit for this, but you know what… It’s probably gonna be a good exhibition. Obviously it’s not exactly the show that myself or anyone else would have put together, but Deitch and his curatorial committee have good taste. Of course there’s going to have been some financial ties to the artists they select. If that weren’t the case, the show would have been woefully incomplete. Deitch Projects and Alleged Gallery both worked with some of the best artists associated with street art and graffiti. I can hardly imagine a stronger team putting together Art In The Streets, and I hope that, when this opens, people can look past potential conflicts of interests and just appreciate the show on its own merits.

Photo courtesy of Rizzoli

Jeffrey Deitch’s street art show at MOCA LA

One of Jenny Holzer's Inflammatory Essays. She had better be in this show if it's to be any good

A few months ago, this was mentioned briefly in an NYTimes article, but now the first real information is starting to come out about Jeffrey Deitch’s upcoming street art show at MOCA in LA. Culture Monster has a post all about the show, Art in the Streets. I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about this event for a while, but it’s all been rumors, so it’s nice to finally get some facts to write about.

Deitch says that Art in the Streets aims to be a broad look at street art, but will also dig deep into the history of outdoor art. That sounds like music to my ears, but it also sounds like a nearly insurmountable challenge. For example, the show will certainly involve graffiti, but so much graffiti had localized differences that now influence modern street artists and writers. So where do you draw the line at what to include? And what about the Philadelphia Mural Arts program, created to eradicate graffiti? It’s not street art, but it might deserve a place in a show titled Art in the Streets… Anyway, I’m sure we’ll know more in a few weeks when a formalized press release is sent out.

In the mean time, here’s what else is known…

  • Art in the Streets opens April 2011 at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary
  • The show will include work from the last few years as well as art from as long ago as the 1970’s, which seems about right.
  • There will be around 25 artists doing installations/murals.
  • Banksy will be involved, so yeah. That’s interesting I guess… I’m not his biggest fan lately, so it’s hard for me to get excited about that.
  • Over 100 artists will be represented in the show.
  • Aaron Rose (from Alleged Gallery/the Beautiful Losers film) and all-around graffiti and street art expert Roger Gastman are helping to curate the show.

This show could be the best thing to happen to street art since… ever. But even if it’s not perfect, it’s still going to be pretty damn good. Deitch isn’t going to screw this up. He, Rose and Gastman all know their shit.

Photo by Lord Jim

Trouble: A Solo Exhibition with Aaron Rose at Circle Culture

On September 9, the famed contemporary curator and artist, Aaron Rose, will unveil his latest solo exhibition at CircleCulture Gallery in Berlin. Best known for his international launch of graffiti and street art into the mainstream conscious with the touring show Beautiful Losers and the documentary by the same name, Rose premieres Trouble as an homage to the readymades made famous by art pioneers like Marcel Duchamp. Rose uses mostly found suitcases form the 50’s and 60’s as the base of his colorful artworks, but also incorporates chairs, guitars, and lamps as mediums. While this show may be a far cry from his championing of early Shepard Fairey and Barry McGee, it proves an exhibit does not need to be groundbreaking to be thought provoking and interesting to view. Beauty and talent are sometimes enough, as long as there is depth to the work. There is nothing wrong with concentrating on pure aesthetics.

The opening reception will take place September 9 and will run until September 25.

Photos courtesy of Circle Culture

Holiday gift guide: books

There was a very positive response from my first holiday gift guide post about affordable prints, so I thought it might be worth putting together a similar list for art books.

1. The Faith of Graffiti by Norman Mailer and Jon Naar
Okay, this book isn’t actually released until December 29th, but it absolutely needs to be included in this list. A full decade before Subway Art was published, Mailer wrote a brilliant essay to accompany Naar’s photographs of the very earliest New York City graffiti, most of which would be considered tags today. This book is an essential piece of graffiti history, but it has been largely ignored by history in favor of the next book on this list.

2. Subway Art: 25th Anniversary Edition by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant
While Naar did a great job documenting the very earliest stages of graffiti, Subway Art is what turned graffiti into an international phenomena and forced people to look at graffiti as more than petty vandalism. This new edition of the book includes new photographs and is in a much larger format, so many of the photos that are in your old copy of Subway Art are now printed much larger and nicer. While The Faith of Graffiti documents the earliest moments in graffiti history, there is no more important book about graffiti or street art than Subway Art.

3. Keith Haring by Jeffrey Deitch and many others
If you like Keith Haring, this is the definitive book of his artwork. It’s pretty huge, weighing in at almost 9 pounds. It’s not cheap either (almost $40 at the time of this post), so it’s really for those who absolutely love Haring, but you’re not going to find a better book of his artwork.

4. Brooklyn Street Art by Jaime Rojo and Steven P. Harrington
Probably the best of Prestel’s series of street art books, this is a solid overview of Brooklyn’s street art. A great stocking stuffer.

5. Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution by Cedar Lewisohn
In my opinion, maybe the best street art book for the street art lover. Not just a book of photos, this book covers a great deal of street art history in a very serious way.

6. Wall and Piece by Banksy
Honestly, I kind of hope that nobody buys Wall and Piece because it’s on this list. Pretty much anybody who reads Vandalog should have at least one copy of Wall and Piece. Banksy is a genius. ‘Nuff said.

7. Young, Sleek, And Full Of Hell by Aaron Rose
I just read this book a week or two ago, and if you liked the film Beautiful Losers, this book is a great companion. It tells the story of New York’s Alleged Gallery, mostly through pictures and interviews with many of the people who were associated with the gallery over it’s lifetime.

8. Pictures of Walls
A funny little stocking stuffer. One of those things that makes me smile.

9. Untitled II: The Beautiful Renaissance by Gary Shove
This book doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s full of pretty pictures. It’s good overview of recent street art, and includes some new artists that I wasn’t familiar with as well as many of that greats that I know and love.

10. The Thousands: Painting Outside, Breaking In by RJ Rushmore
Can of had to include my own book, didn’t I? What I love about this book isn’t what I wrote, but what other people wrote. Know Hope’s biography of Chris Stain taught me as much about Chris as it did Know Hope’s personality. An excerpt from Mike Snelle’s forward to the book was recently posted on Drago’s website.