ALL BIG LETTERS: Exhibiting graffiti tools and strategy

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

From New Yawk City Walls to virtual reality

Concrete to Data

This weekend, a particularly forward-thinking yet historically mindful street and graffiti exhibition opens at Long Island University. CONCRETE To DATA, curated by Ryan Seslow, explores the history of street art and graffiti from golden age of NYC subway graffiti through to the emerging potential for digital public art in forms such as virtual reality environments and animated GIFs.

CONCRETE To DATA includes work by many Vandalog contributors and friends including Caroline Caldwell, Gaia, ekg, and Yoav Litvin. Seslow also included my book Viral Art and our collaborative project Encrypted Fills in the exhibition. On some level, CONCRETE To DATA feels like vindication and the physical manifestation of Viral Art, albeit through the eyes of another curator. Seslow and I both have a deep love for early street art and graffiti, as well as a belief that some contemporary digital art is created and disseminated in that same spirit.

In a fitting coincidence, the exhibition takes place at the Steinberg Museum of Art at Long Island University in Brookville, NY and will run during the 10-year anniversary of Tawkin’ New Yawk City Walls, an exhibition curated by John Fekner that took place in the same space in 2005. Tawkin’ New Yawk City Walls was actually conceptually similar to CONCRETE To DATA, not just another street art exhibition in the same space. Ahead of his time as always, Fekner included digital works in Tawkin’ New Yawk City Walls and arguably even hints at the possibility of viral art in the exhibition’s curatorial essay. A decade later and the world predicted in Tawkin’ New Yawk City Walls has come to fruition, and artists are creating new works for a new world, as seen in CONCRETE To DATA. In this way, Seslow provides an important and expansive update to his friend Fekner’s exhibition.

But CONCRETE to DATA is more than an exhibition to promote digital media as a route for contemporary street art and graffiti. It’s also an exhibition that attempts to capture, again much like Tawkin’ New Yawk City Walls, the most interesting elements of the contemporary streetscape in NYC and place those in a historical context alongside the best of previous generations. There’s work from Adam VOID, Swoon, Gaia, Fekner, Cash4, and many others. So, there are visuals to enjoy too.

Adam VOID's installation at CONCRETE to DATA
Adam VOID’s installation at CONCRETE to DATA

CONCRETE to DATA opens on Friday, February 6th from 6-9pm and runs through March 21st. Learn more here. I’ll be missing the opening because I’ll be at Sam Heimer‘s Why Are You Here?, opening that same night at LMNL Gallery in Philadelphia, but I’m really looking forwarding to checking out CONCRETE to DATA in person soon.

Photos by Ryan Seslow

Unplugged link-o-rama


It’s been a while since I did a link-o-rama, but I’m really behind right now and it seems the only way to catch up. I’ve been living in my wifi-less apartment, and I’m headed to London, so these few minutes I’m spending in a cafe may be my only chance for a while to write about a few things…

Photo by mermaid99

An update from AVOID pi


One of the interviews I most enjoyed while researching my upcoming book Viral Art was with AVOID pi, a graffiti writer and artist in so many ways. For the book, I spoke with him about zines (of which he is a prolific producer) and really got schooled, I know him best though for his graffiti. AVOID pi recently sent over these photos of his recent outdoor work in Asheville, NC. These pieces aren’t about pushing spraycan technology as far as it can go with 50 different caps and intricate techniques for flawless style, they aren’t about just bombing purely for the sake of destruction and they don’t always fall clearly into either street art or graffiti. For those reasons and many more, I’m a fan.





And under his gallery identity Adam Void, AVOID pi has a show opening in Asheville, NC on Friday. The Crossroads will be held at the PUSH Skateshop and Gallery from December 6th through January 3rd, with an opening on the 6th from 7-10pm. The show will include work by Adam Void ranging from assemblage sculpture to drawing and painting to collage to printmaking, plus some curating. Like Barry McGee’s retrospective earlier this year in Boston, The Crossroads will include a sort of “show within a show” component of work by other artists curated by Adam Void. I’m definitely bummed to be missing The Crossroads, so if you make it out, let me know how it is.

Photos courtesy of AVOID pi

From the Outside: Vagrant Space at Tender Trap

Peter Dear

At the heart of graffiti is the old adage “if there’s a will there’s a way;” this idea manifests itself through the practical application of fire extinguishers, home made etch, and other DIY solutions. Opening this week, Vagrants will focus on the work of what DIY curation Vagrant Space defines as “social outsiders.” On view will be the work of Adam Void, Peter Dear, George Charles Bates, Andrew H. Shirley, Jefferson Mayday Mayday, Chelsea Ragan, Craig Mammano, Jeffrey Vincent, Dylan Thadani, Edwards Harper, Margaret Rogers, Emily Campbell, Misha Capecchi, and Safwat Riad. A combination in the curation efforts of Andrew H. Shirley and Vagrant Space, this show is one not to miss for those who love the grime and DIY ethos behind graffiti.

For a more in depth look at the ideologies behind this project, the following press release offers a key to understanding the work of artists who position themselves outside of traditional contact and society.

Safwat Riad

From the press release:

Vagrant Space is an ongoing curation for a new generation of Outsider Artists. This new school no longer fits the caricatured confines of the self-taught, emotionally troubled, and uneducated recluse promoted by the Folk Art gallery world. Coming of age during the transformative years of globalization, internet proliferation, and social media, these artists share the affects traditionally ascribed to social outsiders: many of them don’t utilize contemporary social media skills, eschew the responsibilities of ‘maturity,’ and most importantly, genuinely reflect the homelessness that is hallmark to this era of twenty and thirty-year-olds.

The fourteen artists featured in the first round of Vagrant Space hail from Asheville, Seattle, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Portland, San Francisco, and Sydney. They all represent this new generation of outsider artist. Many of these artists are travelers, recluses, graffiti artists, and social outcasts. Vagrant Space seeks to share their work with the public at large through a series of pop-up shows, print publications, and an online gallery.
Adam Void
Jeffrey Vincent
Chelsea Ragan
Andrew H. Shirley


Vagrants, the first group show from this collective, will take place Thursday, April 4th from 6-10pm at Tender Trap (254 South 1st St. Brooklyn, NY).

Photos courtesy of Vagrant Space

Adam Void, Curtis Readel, Alice Mizrachi, ELLE and John Breiner in “Lost & Found” @ DUMBO’s Mighty Tanaka

We made it over to Brooklyn’s Mighty Tanaka last week to check out its first exhibit of the new year: Lost & Found.  Featuring the artwork of Adam Void, Curtis Readel, Alice Mizrachi, ELLE and John Breiner, the exhibit features an intriguing array of work in diverse media created largely from found objects. Here are a few images:

Adam Void, Baltimore Sunset, found objects on wood panel
Curtis Readel, Towering Stud, shredded US currency collage
Alice Mizrachi, close-up of Luna, huge installation of acrylic on found wood & metal panels
ELLE, Raven Got Your Tongue, acrylic w/oil paint & wheat paste on found table
John Breiner, Brubreck vs Brubeck, acrylic ink and etching on found book cover

The exhibit continues through February 5 at Mighty Tanaka’s new space @ 111 Front Street in Brooklyn’s DUMBO district.

Photos by Tara Murray & Lois Stavsky