Between Brad Downey and Fra Biancoshock, sculptural interventions are some of the more interesting things happening on the street right now. Toni Spyra is an Austrian based German artist, whose work involves the impractical modification of public space. His indoor work is equally cheeky, and reminiscent of work by the Dufala Brothers. Hoping to see more from Toni!
Sorry if some of these links are a bit dated, but hopefully they’re still interesting:
Don Leicht, the original Space Invader, has a exhibition of his work on now at Mary Colby Studio & Gallery on City Island in the Bronx. Leicht has been making space invader characters for the street and for galleries since 1982, often in collaboration with John Fekner. Both Leicht and Fekner have never really embraced the spotlight in the way that others from their generation have (particularly in recent years), and so Leicht’s place in early New York street art often goes unacknowledged. Whereas Space Invader’s characters are generally lighthearted and fun and more about interesting placement than interesting content, Leicht’s content is political. His invaders, painted in camo, serve as a reminder/warning that war is real and of the relationship between videos games and the military.
And over on Hyperallergic, Julia Friedman addresses the major discrepancy in how New York City enforces laws relating to public advertising. Essentially, the current enforcement strategy seems to punish artists and activists while leaving corporate interests to do whatever they please.
Speaking of water companies, street art and hashtags… The folks being the for-profit bottled water company WAT-AAH (aka Let Water be Water LLC, or as I like to call them “Evian for Kids”) sent The L.I.S.A. Project NYC a cease and desist letter for using a hashtag that they claimed to own the trademark for (they don’t). Animal has more on that ridiculous story.
Conor Harrington had a great show in NYC, at a pop up space with Lazarides Gallery from the UK. I went up for the opening, and despite the space being lit like a haunted house and seemingly pumped full of mist from a fog machine, the work looked even better than I had anticipated. Plenty of artists can paint traditionally beautiful paintings, and plenty of artists can use drips and tags and half finished elements and things like that to make their paintings look “street” or to make it look like they are saying “screw you traditional notions of beauty and fine art painting!” Few artists can do what Conor does, which is to utilize all of those styles and techniques, from beautifully staged scenes painted with perfection to all the different ways to make a painting look rough and cool, but utilize those things in the right balance and with respect. To Conor, it looks like a drip is no different than the a detailed brush stroke. The “disruptive” elements look like they belong. He isn’t trying to destroy painting. He’s trying to bring it to new heights, and he’s much better at it than most.
This fall I’ve seen (online) two interesting pieces of endurance art, both of them by female artists in New York City who took to endurance art to address what they see as crises.
gilf and Natalie Renee Fasano walked 15 miles barefoot around the city. 60 million or more people worldwide live every day without shoes. Interestingly, Gilf’s project was not so much an awareness campaign as an opportunity for self-reflection that she documented and publicized. None of her Instagram posts on the performance provide information about what can be done about this problem, and the video documenting the work provides no context except the text “A day in the Shoes of the Shoeless with gilf!” On some level, I find that frustrating. But of course the work wasn’t about raising national awareness for this issue. gilf’s own description of the project makes that clear. It was more a project for herself. And that’s great and useful too, but on some level I can’t get over the missed opportunity here to make the project more than personal suffering/meditation and self-promotion. Why not simply say, “And if this project is bringing the issue of people without shoes to your attention and you want to help, here’s something you can do.”? Yes, it’s a personal project for self-reflection, but it’s also an artwork that was promoted all over the web. So, I’ll close by saying that if you do want to help provide shoes for people in need, Soles4Souls seems to be the place to go (thanks to Animal for that tip).
Emma Sulkowicz has to be one of the bravest, most impressive people I’ve read about in a long time, and I almost hesitate to call what she’s doing an art piece, lest it devalue her actions in an age when so much art is devoid of the kind soul this particular performance/way of living requires. For nearly two months, Sulkowicz has been carrying her dorm room mattress with her to every class, every lunch break, every party, and everywhere else she goes, constantly, and she says she will continue to carry her mattress with her “for as long as I attend the same school as my rapist.” More about this piece, and the reaction she’s received from her fellow students at Columbia University, atHyperallergic.
This year was my third time visiting the Nuart Festival. I went first in 2009 as a tourist, returned in 2012 to participate in Nuart Plus (the conference portion of the festival) participant, and finally this year participated in and helped a bit to plan Nuart Plus. I have a lot of love for Nuart. For me, the three models of muralism festivals that I look to most often are Nuart, FAME and Living Walls. But, out of the three, Nuart has always confused me the most.
FAME is (or was, since it’s no longer active) perhaps the only no-holds-barred street art festival. It can be difficult to tell what’s been painted legally and what’s been painted illegally, and festival organizer Angelo Milano doesn’t hide his face. In the small town of Grottaglie, Italy, it would be easy for anyone to track down Milano and confront him about painting on their home. Still, Milano never seemed to care. He just wanted to invite amazing artists to town to paint walls and maybe make a print or two at his studio. Grottaglie now has one of the finest collections of murals, graffiti and street art in the world.
Living Walls is one of the most professional DIY outfits I’ve ever encountered. They are the model of a well-run muralism conference with next to no budget, sometimes stumbling but always trying to do something great for Atlanta. Living Walls has the uncanny ability to launch or at least predict the impending launch of a muralist’s career. They produce some blockbuster murals, but usually not from the artists you would expect.
Nuart is a brilliant schizophrenic beast, oscillating between Martyn Reed’s seemingly dueling interests of creating a spectacle of corporate art and disrupting The Spectacle. That was more true than ever this year, with an artist line up including Martin Whatson, SpY, Tilt, Fra.Biancoshock and others. What I mean is, there are artists who were invited to paint murals that function as billboards for print releases and decor for posh hotels, and artists who are invited to install “interventions” (Nuart’s euphemism for illegal street art). Even Nuart Plus was split (and this is an idea I agreed to when we were planning the conference so if this is a problem, I’m as much at fault as anyone) into one day about “activism” and one day about “muralism.”
Sometimes, this schizophrenia results in beautiful things that few other festivals would be able to facilitate. Maismenos‘ mural, indoor work and outdoor interventions this year are a great example. Reed isn’t afraid to let artists get political, with their topic of choice typically being oil, since Nuart takes place in the oil city of Stavanger, Norway. And maybe he’s only able to get away with that because he also brings in artists like Tilt and Etam Cru.
These new works by Fra.Biancoshock make me really uncomfortable. I love them. They are all part of his new series Graffiti is a Religion and were unveiled last month at his solo show Ephemeralism at 77 Art Gallery in Milan, Italy. The series is Fra.Biancoshock’s tribute to graffiti and graffiti culture, but it’s not as straightforward as that. Other artists, if they wanted to pay tribute to graffiti, might replicate what they see on the street onto a canvas. That’s certainly not unheard of. But that’s sort of work is just a facsimile. Fra.Biancoshock wanted the real thing, so he went out onto the streets of Italy and got it. He chipped graffiti off of walls and is putting it back on display in a series of artworks.
With “Graffiti Puzzle,” Fra.Biancoshock plays off the idea of famous paintings that get reproduced in puzzle form. Except, this time, it’s the actual wall that players are urged to reassemble. The wall is by the VMD 70′S crew (or a member of the crew), one of the most famous Italian graffiti crews. Although the labeling on the box suggests that the VMD 70’s were aware of this project and willing participants, I’m not sure, and I’ve decided that it’s more interesting not to know, so I haven’t asked Fra.Biancoshock.
For “Come to see my graffiti collection,” he carefully cataloged a process of removing small pieces of works of graffiti from around Italy and has put the tiny paint fragments back on display like a series of holy relics that references not only the complete pieces from which they were removed but the entire careers of those writers. Destruction, maybe? But as Fra.Biancoshock says, “The culture of graffiti here is treated like any other theme in the history of humanity.”
“Cornerstone” goes a step further and anonymizes the artists, a tribute to graffiti culture as a whole. It is made up of fragments of graffiti by some of the most historically important Italian writers, the people who together form the cornerstone of Italian graffiti culture.
We all long for physical representations of the things we hold dear or somehow important. But graffiti is ephemeral. 99.9% of the historic graffiti has been destroyed, and it’s really only through documentation that anything gets preserved. If graffiti is a culture that many people treat like a religion, what physical representations can we hold on to when the graffiti itself is made to be destroyed? Just old copies of Subway Art and black books I guess…
In this series, Fra.Biancoshock tackles that subject, and while his conclusions may seem absurd at first, they are not totally unfamiliar. Religious relics and historical artifacts are often treated like the pieces in Graffiti is a Religion: They are chopped up and spread so thin that they no long depict the whole of what they were, only reference it. In trying to love and preserve relics and artifacts, we often destroy them, as has been done here. And of as I’ve argued in the past, even ripping an entire artwork off of a wall in one piece, as has happened so often with Banksy’s work, does not really preserve it. That only gives a reference to what once was: An artwork placed on a particular wall in a particular public space. These paint chips are not graffiti, but they are all that we have once the buffman shows up.
With Graffiti is a Religion, Fra.Biancoshock simultaneously brings graffiti indoors and humbly acknowledges the impossibility of such a task. All of these pieces make me uncomfortable. The best art does that.
The Wa, OaKoAk and fra.biancoshock recently teamed up on a project across cities where all three of them made work on the theme of a “safari in the urban jungle.” The work was made in Milan, Berlin, Dusseldorf and St. Etienne. The three artists agreed on a theme, but beyond that each of them had no idea what the other two were making for their contributions to the project.
It’s a shortish link-o-rama this week, but with some really good stories and great walls…
ICHABOD is one of America’s great freight train writers. He also has Asperger’s Syndrome. This article by Caleb Neelon gives rare insight into the mind of a great graffiti writer and an artist with Asperger’s. It is a must read.
We had it right when we were younger: bubble wrap releases endorphins. Fra.biancoshock reminds us of how it’s done with this simple little install. I don’t know if it eliminates stress so much as transfers it from the person popping the bubble wrap to the people surrounding them. But hey, it’s free, it’s fun and why restrain yourself from finding joy in the simple things?