“We don’t do reporting” link-o-rama

Unknown artist in Bushwick, Brooklyn
Unknown artist in Bushwick, Brooklyn

It was recently suggested that Vandalog doesn’t do any reporting or write much anymore, and that’s part of why we suck. It’s true that I haven’t been posting as much lately. In part, this is because I didn’t want to just regurgitate the same press releases and photos that all the other major street art blogs are also regurgitating. I only want to write something when I have something exclusive or something to add, which might not be every day. Plus, at the moment, my apartment has no internet connection, which makes things a bit difficult. That should be fixed soon, and posting will probably start to happen more regularly. As for reporting, if an ad agency wants to buy Vandalog and pay all of my bills for no apparent reason, I’d be happy to take your money and spend more time on “proper” reporting. In the mean time, here’s what I can say from Philadelphia with a day job and without a proper internet connection…

  • Saber and Zes recently painted a mural for Branded Arts in LA. It’s huge, and I really like it. I tend to find Saber’s work hit or miss, but I this one is a major success. I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about legal versus illegal work, illegal work versus the buff and graffiti versus street art. This mural addresses all of those topics on a grand scale.
  • Shok1‘s mural for The L.I.S.A. Project NYC is no more, things are a bit more complicated than that… Before Shok1 painted that spot, there was a really beautiful tag there by Serf. Over time, the rest of the wall got tagged up, and the singular tag was no longer looking so hot. Additionally, we at The L.I.S.A. Project NYC got permission to put a mural at that location. Shok1 was in town and we were itching to work with him, so he got the spot and painted a great piece. Before Shok1 painted though, I reached out to Serf to give him a heads up, and let him know that we would like to find a wall for him and Mint if he was interested in the idea. I don’t normally do that when we cover illegal graffiti with a mural, but I had a lot of love for this particular tag. That was in April. Recently, Shok1’s mural was tagged up, so we quickly buffed out the tag. It was clear that this mural’s life had ended and something new was in order. We called up Serf again, and arranged for Mint and Serf (aka Mirf) to paint something. Their idea was to create a wall that looked almost abstract but full of graffiti, like a bombed-out wall of an abandoned warehouse. It might not be clear to random passersby whether the work was legal or illegal. Kind of like the (slightly more controlled) shutters that SMART Crew painted recently as part of their installation in Chinatown, although Mirf were working on this idea before the Chinatown piece was completed. Turns out, some people don’t like murals that look like illegal graffiti, even if the wall was originally home to actually illegal graffiti that was going unbuffed. Neighborhood residents complained. We knew the mural would be temporary, as the property owner was about to install advertising on that wall, but we thought it would at least last more than 48 hours. Now, the wall has been buffed black and a street-level advertisement has been installed… It looks like this. Animal New York has more on the story. While I’m bummed to see both Shok1’s work and Mirf’s work gone already, that wall has been a learning experience and an interesting experiment of sorts for us at The L.I.S.A. Project NYC. There was illegal graffiti on the wall, then Shok1 painted a colorful mural. That was replaced by a legal mural that looked like illegal graffiti by the same same artists whose illegal graffiti had graced the wall previously without complaint, and suddenly residents had a serious problem with what they were seeing. The truth is that we at The L.I.S.A. Project NYC are often in close communication with property owners, realtors, building managers, restauranteurs and shop-owners when we put up murals, but rarely do we connect with a building’s residents. Usually, this isn’t a problem, and we have received a lot of positive feedback from residents even when they have not been consulted before a mural goes up, but occasionally we have problems like these. Should we slow down our process and always seek input from a building’s residents and nearby neighbors, or should we keep going as is, giving artists more freedom but always risking a negative reaction after the work is completed? A balance has to be struck, but I’m not sure exactly what that balance is. Every mural program and every mural site is unique, so there are no easy answers, but it’s something we have to continue to think about…
  • Mighty Mo, Rowdy, Gold Peg and Horror of Burning Candy have put together a show opening June 27th at the Leeds College of Art. Should be a good one, particularly since Mighty Mo’s work has gone in a very surprising and interesting sculptural direction over the last two years or so.
  • Two more upcoming shows of note are the Crash and Anthony Lister solo shows at Jonathan Levine Gallery in NYC.
  • Pure Evil is trying to do a piece of street art every day for a year. I know he’s not the first to do this kind of a marathon, but good on him for taking on the project.
  • The (unauthorized)Banksy retrospective on at the moment at Sotheby’s in London is well worth stopping by. Banksy’s comment on the exhibition (“As a kid I always dreamed of growing up to be a character in Robin Hood. I never realised I’d end up playing one of the gold coins.”) sounds about right though. It’s hard not to be taken aback by the prices at this exhibition, including almost £100,000 for a single print. And yes, that piece sold, as have others. So while prices may be high, it appears there is demand, even if the buyers aren’t always the most Banksy-literate bunch. One comment I overheard from a visitor to the exhibition is telling. But hey, for those of us who just want to look at some good artwork, it’s a solid show. There are pieces I don’t think I’d ever seen before, and many museum-worthy bits that I’m not sure when I’ll see again. For that reason, it’s worth stopping by. And hey, at least the works at Sotheby’s are (mostly) authenticated by Pest Control (someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think one or two of the test prints are without authentication…), and there are no street pieces. So if you are looking to spend a couple hundred grand on a Banksy at the moment, you could do worse than Sotheby’s, like this forgettable and unauthenticated maybe-formally a Banksy for $40,000+.
  • Max Rippon (aka Ripo) and Roa are currently showing at Stolenspace Gallery in London. Ripo’s show in the front room is solid, but I wish there were more works on paper, or works that are more physically complex. The real highlight from Ripo is this painting on handcut paper, but it’s the only piece like it in the show. The rest are canvases like this one with amalgamations of text in strips or slices of varying size. Nothing wrong with those, but I don’t think the fully showcase Ripo’s talent. Roa’s show is among the best I’ve seen from any street artist in a long while. At first glance, yes, it’s what you’d expect from Roa: Animals in black and white or in varying states of decay on wood, plus some moving parts that allow the viewer to change up the paintings a bit. Honestly, I went to the show to see Ripo’s work and see friends, not expecting to be too amazed with Roa’s work. It’s good and all, but I figured that I’d seen it 100 times before. I was wrong. Graffoto’s review and images (and Stolenspace’s images) provide some idea of what Roa did, but really you just have to walk through the show. I hope someone with a steadicam goes in and makes a beautiful video exploring the space. Still, I’ll try to explain… You can’t just look at the work in this show and call it a day. You have to walk around it and see it from every angle. One piece, London Mole Installation, is made up of four piece of wood, arranged like this with different images of a mole, each running across two of the wooden panels, so that as you walk around the piece, you effective get at least 8 significantly different compositions of the mole depending your angle. But that is just a warm up for Osborn Bat Installation, a 3-piece installation involving mirrors and painted wood panels. Each of the three pieces is interesting on its own and sort of a mini version of London Mole Installation, but then the three pieces also come together to form compositions depending on your angle. You might be reading this and think, “Well duh, you look at installation art from different angles and it looks different,” but this goes beyond that, because every angle you look at this work from actually feels like a complete and different composition. The piece is like a puzzle, except that each piece of the puzzle is interesting on its own too, and the puzzle fits together in a myriad of interesting ways. Really, you just have to walk through this thing. If you happen to be in London, do not miss this show. It proved to me that Roa is not just a guy who can simply by written off as painting the same animals over and over again in the same style. He’s much more than that.

Photo by Lois Stavsky

Weekend link-o-rama

Gold Peg
Gold Peg

What am I missing? Because I don’t have much to add this week for the link-o-rama. It’s the middle of summer? Aren’t people getting up? Am I just not seeing it?

  • Horfe and Coney/Ken Sortais went wild in an abandoned swimming pool.
  • Sweet Toof is understandably upset that a recent mural project in Hackney, where he and the rest of the Burning Candy crew painted some of their best illegal street art and graffiti, intentionally avoided including local artists. You’ve gotta love this quote from Sarah Weir, who heads the charity that commissioned the new murals: “We unashamedly wanted to showcase the best international artists and transform this part of the canal into a destination for street art.” That might be the dumbest thing I’ve read all summer, except for course for arguments defending the NSA or calling for Edward Snowden to return to the USA. First of all, murals (while interesting) emulate street art and graffiti, but there is a distinct difference between legal murals by street artists and illegal street art by the same artists. I’m sure that on Vandalog I have referred to murals as street art for the sake of simplicity, but not in a context like this where the difference between murals and street art is actually quite important. Hackney Wick’s canal already is a destination for street art, in large part due to the work of Gold Peg, Sweet Toof and the other members of Burning Candy. Weir is trying to turn it into a destination for murals, most likely at the expense of street art and graffiti if the intense pre-Olympics graffiti removal efforts in the area are anything to go by. Mural projects and festival are awesome, but they are not the same thing as illegal street art or graffiti.
  • Israel Hernandez, an 18-year-old Miami graffiti writer, was killed this week when he was tazered by police. They were chasing him after catching him writing in an abandoned building. CNN’s coverage of Hernandez’ death was surprisingly fair. Their piece was framed as the tragedy that is clearly is, rather than a piece demonizing Hernandez for his artwork like you might expect from some mainstream media.

Photo by Alex Ellison

Weekend link-o-rama

Ima Golden Phoenix by Loaf

Fun side note from my week: William Parry, author of Against The Wall, spoke at my college today. He’s currently on a speaking tour around the USA, so if you happen to hear that he is in a town near you, I highly recommend going to see him. And here’s the link-o-rama:

Photo by Loaf

Some rollers

Photo by Luna Park

I’ve recently been spending a lot of my recent free time with a paint roller getting the inside of a building to look very white, so to counterbalance that, I’ve been seeking out some more disruptive uses of paint rollers. Here are a few recent pieces that I came across.

Mighty Mo, Sweet Toof and Nemo. Photo by Alex Ellison
Roller and photo by mobstr
You Go Girl! Photo by Damonabnormal
Horror and Rowdy rollers. Rocks by Rowdy. Photo by Becki Fuller

Photos by Luna Park, Alex Ellison, mobstr, Damonabnormal and Becki Fuller

Spotlight on Mighty Mo at Tony’s Gallery

Photo by S.Butterfly

Burning Candy have a show, A Fist Full of Paint, on right now at Tony’s Gallery in London. There’s work by Rowdy, LL Brainwashed, Sweet Toof, Dscreet and Mighty Mo. For the most part, it’s the sort of show you’d expect from Burning Candy. I’m a fan of the crew, so I enjoyed it. But most of the work wasn’t going to convert any new fans. The possible exception to that are the pieces by Mighty Mo. He has continued to develop his style of making realistic models of his outdoor work. These pieces were what everyone at the show was talking about, and they were as fun as ever. In fact, I think Mighty Mo is getting even better.

Photo by S.Butterfly

While Steph can go on about Morley all day long, Mighty Mo an artist who is actually finding an interesting way to transition from the street to the gallery. Like pieces by Invader, many of Mo’s sculptures depict actual street pieces, so the work acts as a sort of nostalgia trigger and documentation/preservation of outdoor pieces. At the same time, there’s a high level of craftsmanship.

Photo by S.Butterfly

And Mighty Mo can paint well on more traditional canvas as well. Check out this collaboration with Rowdy. It’s a knock-out… (yep, had to say it)

Mighty Mo and Rowdy. Photo by Alex Ellison

S.Butterfly has more photos from the show on her flickr, and if you’re curious about all the paint splatter on the walls of the gallery, watch this video.

Photos by S.Butterfly and Alex Ellison

Burning Candy – A Fist Full of Paint

The outside of Tony's Gallery

As you can read in the latest issue of Very Nearly Almost, Burning Candy is a crew in the midst of upheaval right now. Nonetheless, the remaining members of the crew have a show opening this week in London at Tony’s Gallery (just off of Brick Lane). Sounds like A Fist Full of Paint is going to be a madhouse, but what else would you expect from Burning Candy? BC hit the front of the gallery last week with a fire extinguisher full of bright red paint, and extinguishers are due to play a large role in the show itself too. Two members of BC held a showdown with extinguishers in the gallery, and part of the show will be an installation of the aftermath of that fight, as well as a short film depicting what went down. The show will also include some more traditional work from members of Burning Candy and more new footage from Dots, the film the crew have been working on I posted footage from about a month ago. That said, Burning Candy shows always seem to come together and evolve at the 11th hour, so there’s just one thing that can be said for sure about A Fist Full of Paint: Expect the unexpected.

The show opens on Thursday and runs through August 21st.

Photo by AdversMedia

Very Nearly Almost 15 – perhaps the most Vandalog-y VNA yet

The latest issue of Very Nearly Almost, issue 15, went on sale last month. As a fan and occasional contributor to VNA, it’s a magazine that I always pick up. This issue is particularly cool though because it might have the more interviews with artists that I’ve written a lot about on Vandalog than any other issue of VNA. This is a coincidence, but certainly a happy one for me. Besides the interview that I did with Jordan Seiler, there is of course a detailed cover article where VNA speaks to Shepard Fairey, some very insightful words from Logan Hicks, a crazy series of conversations with members of Burning Candy (the VNA team might have been the only people to ever get the full nine current and former members of BC in one room at the same time) and interviews with Ripo and Nychos (who I haven’t written about too much, but now I want to) as well. As always, the guys at Very Nearly Almost have put together a quality zine and I highly recommend picking up a copy.

Here are a few teasers from this issue:

Photos courtesy of Very Nearly Almost

DOTS parts 1-3 online now

A painting from James Jessop's "Subway Fiction" series

Parts 1-3 of DOTS, a series of films about London’s Burning Candy crew, have just been posted on Babelgum.com. The films follow members of Burning Candy as they travel around the world. So far, Luc Price aka Cyclops has visited India to work with signpainters, Rowdy has traveled to the Australian outback to see ancient wall-painting techniques and graffiti-history obsessed James Jessop saw New York City for the first time. Here are their stories…

(okay here’s a trailer first actually)

And now the actual films…

Bomb Chaser with James Jessop, which is without a doubt the highlight of DOTS so far and the one you should watch if you only watch one of these:

Beyond Cosmos with Rowdy:

Bollywood Clout with Luc Price aka Cyclops:

Also, James Jessop has a solo show opening tonight, also called Bomb Chaser, at Charlie Smith Gallery in London. Hooked has more info on that.

Photo by Lyfetime

Is street art still ‘street’?

Graffiti in NYC's Freedom Tunnel. Photo by mercurialn

In the beginning, at a time when rebellion was in the air, graffiti was a call to arms. The late 60s and 70s saw disenfranchised youths, first of Philadelphia and then New York, take to the streets equipped with marker pen and spray can. Seeking to re-claim their city, in much the same way as the Situationists and their revolutionary politics in Europe, these youths not only challenged the geographies of our urban settlements but also influenced generations of writers, artists, photographers and today’s new breed of urban creatives.

Whilst the 1970s style wars on New York’s subways saw the evolution from tag, to dub and finally to end to end burners, the 1990s saw a new change, the evolution into what can be best described as street art. Influenced by the New York subway writers and early street art pioneers such as Fekner, Haring, Hambleton and Holzer, a new wave of artists led by Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee and Blek le Rat revolutionised the way art was produced and displayed to the public on the street. But before I get into any arguments about definitions, graff, street art or the hideously named ‘urban art’ – to me, street art marks a shift from letter to logo and into new forms of artistic expression; stickers, stencils, paste-ups and installations all sitting alongside their traditional graffiti counterparts feeding off the same anarchic roots.

This shift towards new means of expression was an important milestone as it was not the only change taking place in our cities, for the 1990s also saw the increased privatisation of our public spaces – perhaps shifts and changes that actually went hand in hand. With the aim of regenerating our city centres to draw back shoppers from the badly designed out of town shopping centres, authorities up and down the UK formulated new rules and regulations dominated by all seeing CCTV.

Now managed to exclude illicit traders, skateboarders, Big Issue sellers, tramps, beggars and vandals with spray cans, our city centres took on Disneyland style characteristics. They became spaces for just the middle classed shopper and the dazzling lights of advertisement. But as I said, this shift in city design almost went hand in hand with the evolution of graff into new forms of street art expression. It was almost as if city management promoted this new form of art on the streets.

Over the last decade, whist out cities have becomes increasingly privatised and commodified, street art has grown. A hybrid of anarchy, avant-garde practises and the undertones of subculture disorder, street art aims to restructure out cities away from the visual inundation of advertising and image juggernauts like Starbucks and McDonald’s. As Tristan Manco once stated, street art is “in flux between established ideas and new directions.”

However over the last few years, I suppose thanks to a certain stencil artist, amongst others, street art is becoming accepted (to an extent) – Although it must be noted that I say this statement very lightly. Nevertheless, we have seen an increasing number of shop and property owners embracing this raw cultural art form, a far cry from its roots in NYC where Mayor Lindsay claimed it to be vandalistic scrawling committed by kids with mental health problems. And there lies my question, has street art lost its way?

It’s a topic that I have been thinking about for a while, and only last month Burning Candy took out a massive wall in Bristol after getting permission from the building owner, and so it seemed the perfect time to consider the issue and write this piece. Does the increasing legalisation of many pieces of street art remove all their underlying anarchic, rebellious meaning?

Burning Candy - Bristol Cafe Masterpiece. Photo by LL Brainwashed

The BC wall in Bristol actually provides a good topic of conversation simply because of its content. For one, it is well known about the BC members respect and passion for the roots of graff but more importantly, it is their understanding of each other and of the city. Their work always remains free-form, context sensitive and maintains its rapid reaction to what they see. While the work may be ‘legal’ it is certainly not compromising their unique identity.

To some, BC may not be to their taste, and others may make comparisons to other well-known crews or high profile street artists, but comparisons suck as no one ever agrees. However what can be argued to a conclusion is that this piece by BC is self-expression in its rawest form no matter how you look at it. It is ultimately the end product of a group of artists stamping their own identity on the city.

And you would imagine that the local council are not massive fans as it certainly does not fit into the traditional regeneration policies aimed as creating uniform, safe, clean spaces. BC’s legal wall for the Whitecross Street Party in 2010, for example, was definitely not loved by the Islington Graff Squad, and it was painted over as early as possible the morning after the festival finished!

BC at Whitecross Street Party. Photo by Shower

So back to the main question – has the legality involved in street art removed its historical roots? Is there a time when street art can no longer be considered street? Has the new BC wall lost all meaning because it is legal?

The short answer is no, and certainly not the case with regard to BC. Whilst BC did gain permission for the wall, they have set out to re-appropriate the space in their own way, taking a fresh look at the city and re-personalising it, in a similar way to the Situationists and their quest to adapt their own city spaces. In fact, it could be said that their intervention almost becomes open source urban design or perhaps DIY design – but that’s a whole new topic for debate.

To me, street art makes you think or re-think. It makes you smile as you walk past, or makes you stop and stare, or it makes you completely re-think a space or even a city. Street art takes its visual queues from graffiti and the inundation of advertising, and takes its anarchic feel from the revolutionary politics coined by The Situationists, Dada, CoBRA, The Letterist International, and from the overarching increasing privatisation of our public spaces. As such, street art, whether it is ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’ re-appropriates pristine lifeless city spaces and consequently, as with 1970s NYC subway graffiti, must still be considered two fingers up to the powers that be!

Photos by LL Brainwashed, Shower and mercurialn

Skewville, Burning Candy and Kid Acne in Miami

Dscreet, Skewville and Kid Acne

Kid Acne, Skewville and part of Burning Candy worked together a bit in Miami. I think all of these murals were for Primary Flight. Above is a mural they did together, and here are some of the things they did separately:

James Jessop and Dscreet
Kid Acne

And lots from Skewville:

68 pairs of Primarly Flight/Skewville shoes

The folks from Plaztik Mag (is that John Fekner's Stanley Cup in the background?)

Photos by Burning Candy, Kid Acne and Skewville