How can one not fall in love with Lisbon! When you walk the streets of this city, in tourist areas or less known places, you see art everywhere. Graffiti, tags, and a diverse array of street art explodes on the walls. Add to all the illegal activity Vhils’ UnderDogs project, and you end up going from surprise to surprise at every street corner.
Lisbon was hit hard by the 2008 economic crisis. As a result, a lot of buildings of the city were abandoned by their owners, quickly enlarging the playground of graffiti and street artists making the city attractive to many international artists.
It’s now a kind of “street art place to be”, which is okay, but you soon find yourself torn between the pleasure of discovering new stunning art pieces and frustration caused by having already seen photos of so many of the murals on the internet. Still, better to share the artwork than not, so here’s some Lisbon street art from Cane Morto, Vhils, Créons, Sumo, Exit-enter, C215, Tinta Crua, Os Gemeos, Kraken, Sam3, Ericailcane, and Mr.chat.
As Shoreditch, an inner city district in London’s East End, continues its transformation from a working class neighborhood into London’s most creative hub, its walls attract not only the best of its local artists, but those from across the globe. Here are a few images captured on my recent visit — more to come!
Photos of Phlegm, Alexis Diaz, Pez & David Walker and Matt Adnate by Lois Stavsky; of C215, Run and Stik by Dani Reyes Mozeson
C215 has gone back to what he does best with his recent show at Stolenspace Gallery in London. For the last few years, a lot of C215’s larger and more significant work has been full of vibrant color. For some artists, color works with what they are doing and they have a great sense of it. For others, less is more. While a lot of people do some to like C215’s colorful pieces, they weren’t for me, at least compared to less colorful stuff. I’ve always preferred his work in black and white or muted tones. With Back to Black, my wishes for less color have been wonderfully fulfilled.
Back in Black opened on the 7th, but I’m just posting about it now because there’s another event happening in conjunction with the show that I’m excited about… This Friday, a new book will be launching at Stolenspace in conjunction with C215’s show. The book, Vitry Ville Street Art, shows off some of the street art and murals in Vitry-sur-Seine, a Parisian suburb where C215 has been quietly bringing street artists for years. I wouldn’t say that the work in Vitry-sur-Seine is a secret, but it definitely isn’t widely known compared to the hype that so many more formal street art festivals get. I haven’t seen this new book yet, but I hope it helps shed light on an underrated little street art hub.
While researching for my new book Viral Art, I conducted about 50 interviews with artists, curators, photographers and writers. Most were done in person or over Skype, but a handful were conducted via email. Only a handful of what came out in those interviews made it into the book, so now I want to publish a few of those email interviews in full here on Vandalog. In these extended interviews, you can probably see even more clearly than in Viral Art how I unashamedly ask leading questions, and the topics jump around a lot, but hopefully they are still interesting.
To start, we have C215. An abridged version of this interview appears in Viral Art. C215 was one of the street artists that first attracted me to the genre. His stencils peppered the streets of London right as I was discovering street art, and each one blew me away. His trademark style is hard to top for beauty and for capturing great details in just one or two layers.
RJ: How do you define street art?
C215: Street art is nothing else but urban poetry that catches someone’s eye. Being a street artist is impossible, because the city itself is the artist. Street art is a collective thing, participative and interactive, extremely linked to web 2.0 culture.
RJ: What was the Underbelly Paris like? How do you describe the Underbelly Project?
C215: For my part, it was an incredible time spent with very good friends. My vision is romantic. I had a nice time with some people Iove, others that I met and then admired after working with them. It was a beautiful collective project, led by beautiful artists.
RJ: Is it important to continue the tradition of illegal graffiti and street art?
C215: Graffiti consists in leaving tracks behind you, street art consists in placing art in the streets. You can do it with authorization, but the poetry of it would not be the same. There is something poetic in taking legal risk just to make your city more beautiful.
RJ: How did you start making art and how did your distinctive style develop?
C215: I began to paint when kid, but my style went strong the night I lost my grandmother. She was everything for me and supported me until her end. For a long time, I have had a borderline personality disorder, and when she disappeared my personality collapsed overnight. I was just lost, not knowing anymore who or where I was. I spent the night cutting a stencil of a homeless person’s face, to express my feelings. I cut it so detailed and with so many bridges that he looked crackled. This became my style for while. This style is now credited to me and imitated around the world, but comes from my self expression and from a very personal story.
RJ: Do you find it difficult to adapt your outdoor techniques to indoors? How did you go about it?
C215: I work indoors as little as possible, since I think my work is made for outdoors. I do not use stencils for doing patterns. I do not repeat images. I use them to go smaller than a spraycan cap, so to get details, and to create a proper artwork anywhere, very quick and without authorization. Galleries are white spaces that I find boring to paint in. It’s not new to paint on a white wall. What is new is to paint a nice work somewhere illegally, and spread it immediately to the whole world through internet.
Note from RJ: A version of this essay by Christian Guémy aka C215 was recently published in French with Rue89, but we both felt it was important to publish a version in English as well. – RJ
For some time, and especially since the English artist Banksy has enjoyed worldwide success, hardly a week goes by without the media reporting an event involving the urban arts, whether it’s a gallery showing “street art,” or auctions of “graffiti,” or the setting up of an “open air museum,” or pure and simple repression of vandalism.
It’s clear that recognition by the public and the media of urban arts has arrived at its apogee, and achieved the summits of popularity. Even so, I am astonished by the absence of distinction among the various practices that make up urban art. Their reclassification into a gigantic ragbag conveniently called “street art” obscures more than it clarifies.
I’m 40 and I’ve been closely involved with urban art since 1984, which is when Sydney presented in France his cult television show “H.I.P. H.O.P.” I tried my hand at graffiti in 1989 and since then I have closely followed the progress of this kind of art. It seems that several “generations” have gone by since, each having very different ambitions and practices that deserve distinction.
Another performance piece today from Banksy for Better Out Than In. This custom Ronald McDonald statue will be traveling to McDonald’s restaurants (okay, restaurants is a stretch) around the city all week, where you can visit it to see “his shoes shined by a real live boy.” Definitely check out the audio guide on this piece. Funny as always.
As usual, we have a + 5 today. This time, I’m featuring work by C215, Clam Nation, Lisk Bot, Dylan Egon (although this piece is also a blatant ad for a show if you look closely, so there’s that…) and Beastie.
Noted artist C215 recently graced a tall building in Paris’s largely working class 13th arrondissement with a huge mural that he describes as a “lovely, simple cat.” A collaborative venture between Le Parcours Street Art du 13e and Itinerrance Gallery, it represents the local government’s attempt to beautify this semi-industrial neighborhood.
Photos by Théo David. Special thanks to Demian Smith of Underground Paris for keeping me informed!
The Street Museum of Art has launched its second venture in “guerilla curating” in London’s artsy district of Shoreditch. Like their first exhibition, it’s basically a self-guided street art tour with museum-like wall labels. The exhibition’s title, “Beyond Banksy: Not another gift shop“, is likely a tongue and cheek reference to the commercial attention that street art has received in London these past few years, with Banksy at the forefront of the movement. In all fairness, Banksy has become enough of a household name that he and Exit Through the Gift Shop are frequently my reference points when speaking about street art to people outside this niche community. For that, I am thankful that I get to SMoA advises that the name is not meant to undermine the work of the beloved stencil artist, rather it is to encourage those who have Banksy as their token understanding of street art to the diversity of the other talented artists on the streets. This exhibition highlights works by artists such as C215, Christiaan Nagel, Eine, Mobstr, Pablo Delgado, Phlegm, Roa, Run, Skewville, Space Invader, Stik and Swoon.
The map of the exhibited works are available here and the hours are… well, unlimited.
The small town of La Louvière, in Belgium is host to a brilliant Urban Art exhibition being held at “Centre de la Gravure et de’limage imprimée” (The Center for Engraving and the Printed Image). Showing through September 2, 2012, “Vues sur Murs” (Wallscapes: Prints in Street Art) features an impressive list of international artists, many making new work specifically for this exhibit and also hitting the town with huge pieces.
Invader, C215, Jef Aérosol, EVOL, Ludo, Denis Meyers, Obêtre, Muga, Doctor-H, Sten & Lex, Swoon and OBEY (Shepard Fairey) are all featured in this show which spans three floors of the gallery. The show’s curator, Marie Van Bosterhaut, had the seed of the idea in 2009 after seeing an OBEY print at the home of a collector. She contacted Fairey’s people for what was initially planned to be an OBEY retrospective…
“But then it appeared it might be more interesting to invite more artists using printing techniques in street art,” said Bosterhaut of the project’s evolution. “It was really great to have all these artists working inside the museum, and also outside. There was like a great energy.”
While some of the artists knew each other, others met for the first time. “This created some small surprises,” said Bosterhaut. Evidence of this is seen in one of the exhibition’s highlights located on the top floor. There, Berlin-based EVOL has transformed several structural columns, which protrude at various levels into the exhibition space. They now appear as EVOL’s signature-style buildings and “artists like Denis (Meyers) & Ludo made some tiny stencils or billboards, creating a kind of interaction between the artists,” Bosterhaut said.
Another highlight of the show is Brussels-based artist Denis Meyers. Mostly known for the large faces he paints, he also prints unique stickers and uses hand-made woodcuts and rubber stamps to produce a wide variety of work which all screams out with his signature style. Many of his sketchbooks are also on display as well as other elements which offer a peek into the artist’s process.
Long-time French favorite Jef Aérosol‘s large iconic work greets you at the entrance of the exhibit but some of his smaller, printed images are framed on the sides and offer a more intimate experience with the artist. Jef also hit the town, painting a three-story-tall face of rocker Jimi Hendrix.
In addition to his brilliant mini-billboard, the Paris-based paste-up master Ludo and his unmistakable green paint occupy a notable section of the top floor, including a full-scale bus shelter (crappy tags included.) For the real experience though, pick up the map supplied at the front desk and follow it to the various “treasures” left by artists around the city. Ludo has posted three large pieces out on the town.
A favorite of mine is “C215” (Christian Guémy.) The Parisian stencil artist painted a large mural for the show. There are also many photographs of his stencil works, and several other painted “objects,” including three mailboxes, a shoeshine box, and a metal sign among other things.
The pioneering Italian artistic duo of Sten & Lex display some of their strong, black & white portrait posters, but the real treat from them requires a 10 minute walk to a parking lot down the road a bit. There, a dramatic and elaborate composition of black & white zig-zagging lines reveal a face that fills the wall and towers over the cars and shopping carts.
Of course the anchor of the exhibition is an extensive collection of OBEY works by American artist Shepard Fairey. In addition to a short documentary video, the display spans his career from his quirky beginnings making “Andre the Giant has a posse” stickers, to the slick, celebrity and political-themed posters pumped out by the Obey Giant Worldwide Propaganda factory today. There are dozens of his limited-edition prints with their graphically-pleasing imagery, and even a trio of OBEY skateboard decks. A definite treat for any Fairey fan.
The show concentrates on the printing aspects of urban art but there’s a ton of other multi-media work to see there as well. Too much art to mention in this article, including great stuff by Invader, Obêtre, Muga, Doctor-H & Swoon.
IF YOU GO: Smack-dab in-between Paris & Cologne, La Louviere is about a two and-a-half hour drive from each, and just 45 minutes south of Brussels. Definitely worth the trip. But remember, it’s only showing through September 2, 2012 – so get going!
Photos by Lance Aram Rothstein (many of these photographs were shot with Film Cameras. Long Live Film!)