Many artists are feeling betrayed this week, as they realize that their art has been used without their permission in a McDonald’s advertisement, apparently thanks to the cooperation of The Bushwick Collective‘s Joe Ficalora.
As first noted by Brooklyn Street Art, McDonald’s new ad campaign for the “New York Bagel Supreme” (a burger/bagel hybrid launching in the Netherlands) centers on “the vibe of Bushwick.” They got that local flavor from The Bushwick Collective, one of New York’s more well-known mural projects. A cornerstone of the campaign is a 4-minute advertisement (UPDATE: McDonald’s appears to have taken the advertisement offline, but we’ve uploaded a copy to Facebook) with Bushwick Collective founder Joe Ficalora giving a tour to highlight his project’s collection of murals. Except… At least two of the murals in the ad aren’t even Bushwick Collective murals (despite what is implied) and at least five artists whose work is featured did not give their permission for McDonald’s to use their work.
McDonald’s just teamed up with the Gentrifying Bushwick Collective to exploit street art in Brooklyn to sell Burgers in Netherlands. This will not stand. They did not get my permission to use my work in their psuedo doc and the mural is NOT part of the Bushwick Collective. PERIOD
This afternoon, Caroline and I had lunch at Sea Wolf in Bushwick, at the heart of The Bushwick Collective. Unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy the meal. We were seated right below the most sexualized painting of Lisa Simpson I’ve ever seen. Lisa is eight. I cannot imagine how The Bushwick Collective or the artist, GIZ, thought this was a good idea. Because the mural is NSFW and potentially triggering, I’ve cropped it in the above photo, but you can scroll down to see the full image.
Chris Tackett was, as far as we know, the first to call out The Bushwick Collective for this mural. He wrote an letter to Sea Wolf and The Bushwick Collective on Instagram:
Lisa Simpson is an eight-year-old child. It seems a bit creepy to have her showing her ass on your wall.
As listed on her Wikipedia page, “Lisa is a vegetarian, a strong environmentalist, a feminist, and a Buddhist. She enjoys many hobbies, including reading and playing the baritone saxophone.” She has been an inspiration to young girls for more than 20 years. A mural showing her doing any of these inspiring things would be far more fitting of your fine establishment. By allowing this to remain on your wall, you insult Lisa and make this precocious youngster into a sexual object. It’s weird.
If I may offer a suggestion, I think it’d be a welcome change to replace this with something less pervy, both for the people of Bushwick that have to look at it every day and also so people don’t feel like creeps when enjoying drinks on your lovely patio this summer.
As a huge fan of @thebushwickcollective, I don’t like complaining about something I love so much. But this one just feels off and worth reconsidering.
PS: I should add that I was there last night sitting at the table to the right. I was with four friends and their two infant girls. We had a great time, but it was that moment of sitting there with 4 of my favorite women that I was inspired to send this note. We were all talking about how weird it was. I’m always a little sad to see #bushwickcollective murals rotate out, but I can’t imagine there is anyone at all that will be bummed to see this one go.
Caroline has a great solution: Buff the mural and replace it with a portrait of a breastfeeding mother. I’ll pay for the paint for Caroline’s mural, if goes up in the next week. I’ve reached out to The Bushwick Collective and made that offer, but haven’t heard back yet.
What do Bushwick, Chicago, and Detroit all have in common? Their mural cultures are under threat. In Bushwick, gentrification and greed some to be putting the final nails in the coffin of The Bushwick Collective. In Chicago, the city is failing to pay artists and organizers for murals that they commissioned. In Detroit, city officials are trying to tame graffiti’s Wild West with regulations that are bound to cause problems.
The Bushwick Collective’s year hasn’t started out so well. There was always suspicion among artists and art fans about the project’s motives. Behind closed doors (and sometimes publicly), you’d hear suggestions that The Bushwick Collective was an exploitative gentrification effort rather than a celebration of art, and its no secret that the project is anti-graffiti and doesn’t usually allow political messages in murals. But they have walls, so plenty of artists set aside their reservations and paint there anyway. Now, those rumbling frustrations about gentrification and whitewashing of graffiti have gone explosively public, with ZEXOR dissing over a dozen Bushwick Collective murals with his tags and throw ups.
But are ZEXOR’s accusations based in fact? The latest development at The Bushwick Collective suggests so. This month, what appear to be frames for two billboards were installed on top of Bushwick Collective murals. The (currently empty) billboard frames were installed with complete disregard for the murals they partially cover by Concrete Jungle, The Yok, and Sheryo. So much for subtly transforming the neighborhood in the name of art. Seem to me though that with these billboard installations, The Bushwick Collective is finally showing their true colors.
Sheryo said that she hasn’t asked The Bushwick Collective what happened, but her thoughts on the situation are clear: “It’s such an eyesore they shoulda at least buffed it first… I think there should be mutual respect. Do things right.”
I’ve reached out to The Bushwick Collective on Sunday for comment, as well as for more information about the billboard frames and the building owner’s relationship with the Collective. As of Tuesday night, I have not heard back.
In Chicago, there are a number of great murals by artists like Gaia, Roa and Troy Lovegates that Pawn Works organized in collaboration with the city and Alderman Danny Solis. Unfortunately, it seems that the alderman seriously messed up and the city has so far failed to pay the artists or reimburse Pawn Works for $16,000 in out-of-pocket expenses related to the murals. The city and the alderman claim to be working to fix the problem, but Pawn Works and the artists have been owed money for well over a year. For now, Pawn Works has stopped organizing murals for the city. That mural project was shut down because of Solis’ fiscal mismanagement and bureaucratic snafus, and of course, the artists and Pawn Work still haven’t been paid. At least Solis is “very sorry.”
Finally, politicians in Detroit are trying to change the city’s reputation as the Wild West of graffiti. A city council member is working on new anti-graffiti regulations that would fine property owners for not cleaning the graffiti on their buildings. It’s unclear how new regulations will be different from the tickets that the city is already issuing, but presumably they would make it even easier for a Detroit building owner to be ticketed for graffiti. As the Metro Times asks, how do you determine what’s graffiti and what’s a mural? That’s a determination that the city is already messing up, and the proposed solution of a database of all the legal murals in the city is bound to be incomplete and difficult to maintain.
Regulations like these make me nervous, not just for the graffiti and for property owners, but for all public art in Detroit. Imagine you’re a property owner in Detroit and an artist comes to you about painting a mural on your property. Even if legally that’s okay and you’d love some art on your wall, do you really want to take the risk that there will be confusion and you’ll be fined and investigated by the city? These regulations could have a serious chilling effect on the muralism Renaissance taking place in the city right now.
Detroit can’t seem to properly manage the system they’ve already got to ticket property owners for graffiti. Why give that system more power? More intense regulations like the ones being developed now will only serve to hurt Detroit’s property owners, artists, and public art.
In recent years, a lot of great art has come out of The Bushwick Collective, and Pawn Works, and the overall mural culture in Detroit. Maybe, hopefully, I’m just being a Chicken Little about all this news. After all, there are other murals in Bushwick and Chicago, and the Detroit regulations are a long way from being implemented, but let’s not pretend that everything is all okay. These amazing mural cultures, often held up as some of the best in the nation, are under threat from greed and mismanagement.
Sonni recently painted this piece in Brooklyn on a Bushwick Collective wall. As you can see in the photo above, it’s right by Gaia’s recent piece for The Bushwick Collective. I’m so glad to see that Sonni is out painting in NYC. His work is so fun and it just makes me smile.
Note: This article is the third in a three part series that discusses how three artists dealt with the topic of histories within their Bushwick Collective murals. Check out part 1 here and part 2 here.
Recently, the Yok and Sheryo shared their “Pipe Dreams” with 5 Pointz in Long Island City. This past week, the duo chose to show the Bushwick Collective their present rather their future. Emblazoned with the locals of Bushwick, such as roaches, rats, pizza, and the devil, their composition contains memories of their travels as well as these traces of home. Titled “Road Trip,” skeletons can be seen surfing, which the Yok took in while in Australia, alongside various characters painting and drinking. Together, each of these cartoons rides an extended motorcycle, joining memories of home and far off excursions.
The complex narratives in their collaborative walls often contain coded jokes as well as the dominant narrative; Ping Pong nicknames references to cartoons find their way into the descriptive elements of each figure. Most endearing of any character Sheryo has created was one that surfaced recently in the crew of cyclists. An alien with other worldly features and was placed between a bearded man and a surfing skeleton in the central part of the piece. The artist said that it represented herself as an illegal alien, going so far as to create a unicorn on the being to match her own clothing that day. This self-portrait sees the artist riding alongside representations of her travels and local friends, enjoying the ride.
Note: This article is the second in a three part series that discusses how three artists dealt with the topic of histories within their Bushwick Collective murals. Check out part 1 here.
Long time collaborators and friends Chris Stain and Billy Mode bring a personal history to each mural they create. Through the years, this partnership has lead to a fast, seamless work ethic. From watching the creation of their wall for Open Walls Baltimore in 24 hours to their latest creation at the Bushwick Collective, which took about a week despite weather conditions, the duo always work in a manner that is astounding in imagery and efficiency. When the two artists find time to break from their schedules of school, family, or skateboarding to take on a new project, it is known that it will be nothing less than awe inspiring. On a series of ladders and forklifts, Chris and Billy become like a structured ballet as they weave around each other, never interrupting the other’s flow except to make the odd joke.
While the artists have great personal history, their imagery deals with their hopes for the future. Billy Mode’s text speaks to this message, telling the youth of the neighborhood that the future is theirs to invent. In addition to the this literal embodiment is a figuritive explanation as two children embrace, sharing their love for each other and the future. These girls represent those who will shape the world’s future, the youth of today. Through a combination of metaphors, Billy Mode and Chris Stain hope to give hope to adolescents, whose creations could one day be seen on the walls of Bushwick.
Note: This article is the first in a three part series that discusses how three artists dealt with the topic of histories within their Bushwick Collective murals.
Originally from Venezuela, Mata Ruda drew upon the history of Central America for his first wall in New York City at the Bushwick Collective. Inscribing his images upon the preexisting mural by fellow Open Walls artist Gabriel Specter, the artist combines the context of Specter’s poppy “El Adiós Grocery” with his monochromatic imagery. Using a source photograph of an unknown, undocumented immigrant, this anonymous voice is given an ominous presence within this space. In a city of immigrants, the face of this everyman is accompanied by signage for a store that could exist on any corner in the city, asking us to question our interactions with people and iconography that most New Yorkers would not give a second thought.
Combined with the black and white central portrait are a series of masks that float ominously around him, looming over the grocery’s banner. One of the first Mexican civilizations, the Olmecs were a Mesoamerican culture that now only exists through and is represented by the objects they left behind. The defined faces and hollow eyes of these artifacts have become emblematic of the culture, often called “colossal heads.” By applying traditional imagery from the contemporary figure’s transplanted homeland, Mata Ruda links the importance of a person’s past in their present through the use of historical imagery. The Olmec expression is echoed by the undocumented immigrant, further underlining this message.
“I felt always like I was part of a larger thing, that would encompass a lot of people. And all of those energies of all of these individuals and all of their unique talents and unique contacts is what came together to make that thing happen.”
When Joe Ficalora (pictured left) brought me to the roof adjacent to Alicé Pasquini’s wall he said, “only family comes up here.” The deep personal connection I felt looking over a year’s worth of accomplishments with Joe and Alicé is the feeling that both individuals are trying to instill upon the community surrounding this intersection. A close Italian family who emigrated to Brooklyn only generations ago, the Ficaloras welcome any person to the neighborhood who shares their passion for beautification, like Joe’s grandmother who is always quick with coffee and snacks on cold days.
Although the nexus of this project was marked with personal tragedy, these losses became the impetus for change. Starting during Bushwick Open Studios last year, the area quickly became the Brooklyn hub for visiting muralists, which gave Yok and Sheryo some of their first walls as well as other notable visiting artists, such as Nychos and most recently Alicé Pasquini.
For her first visit and wall in the United States, the artist worked through the wind, which at one point toppled her ladder, to complete a deeply personal mural for the area. The wall that the Italian artist was given previously belonged to Jim Avignon, the yellows of which were incorporated into the space’s latest iteration. The figures in her piece, titled “As Much As You Can,” bustle around the streets of Alicé’s imagined vision of New York City. Having never previously visited the city, the artist imposed the dreams and ideologies of her imagined characters, who represent the beliefs of the many people who come to this city for a new life. Being aware the Ficalora’s roots in her native Italy, the artist painted this piece as a tribute to not only all immigrants, but specifically for his family.
From the sense of family I felt when standing on that roof to the kindness that the Ficaloras extend to any person who finds their way to the neighborhood from the Jefferson train stop, Alicé has distilled this sense of belonging into her mural. By reflecting the vibrancy and closeness that occurs in the small neighborhoods within New York City, one would think she had lived here her whole life, rather than a first visit.