Beyond wallpaper: street art works

August 16th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Photo courtesy of Hyuro

Photo courtesy of Hyuro

Note: This post is in adaptation of what I presented last month at The Art Conference in London. So if you were curious about that talk, here you go.

As Rafael Schacter has argued, street art has moved “from dissident to decorative.” We’ve gone from politically radical drawings in New York subway stations to decorating music festivals so that attendees are a bit less bored while they sip beer and wait for Kanye to take the stage.

That safe public art is what I call wallpaper. Wallpaper is what when you mix street art with plop art, those huge, random, mostly abstract or minimalist sculptures that show up in semi-public squares as a result Percent For Art programs where a developer is legally required to install some public art in front of their building, so they just go for something big, expensive, and (most importantly) benign. Wallpaper, like plop art before it, reinforces existing power structures.

We live in a world of wallpaper. Mural festivals provide plenty of examples. When I see yet another mural by a globe-trotting artist who does most of their sketching on transcontinental flights, I have to ask, “Is this wallpaper productive?” There’s only so much funding for murals each year. Artists only have so much brainspace to create. Maybe more wallpaper isn’t the best use of our resources. Wallpaper is like sugar. Good in small doses, terrible in large doses, and we tend to overdo it.

Lady Aiko at the Coney Art Walls (2015). Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Lady Aiko at the Coney Art Walls (2015). Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Take the Coney Art Walls, a project that I actually do enjoy. In many ways, the Coney Art Walls are a prime example of wallpaper: concrete slabs installed solely for the sake of murals, high-end food trucks that the murals are meant to get you to eat at, a neighborhood that functions as an amusement park, funding from a controversial property developer… But unlike most wallpaper festivals, the Coney Art Walls are well curated, there’s a wide range of artists who are well paid and allowed to take risks, and many of the murals reference the historic neighborhood. Still, if the Coney Art Walls is among the best that the street art festival model can offer, it’s safe to say that festivals and similar mural projects generally do not live up street art’s radical roots.

On a good day, what can street art do, when we think beyond wallpaper? It can transform and empower. It can bring people together. It can propose better versions of public space.

Read the rest of this article »


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Philadelphia kicks off spring with new ad busts

March 27th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Joe Boruchow. Photo by Conrad Benner.

Joe Boruchow. Photo by Conrad Benner.

Spring has sprung in Philadelphia, and the local street art community seem to be celebrating with new ad takeovers in the city’s bus shelters. Thanks to Jordan Seiler / Public Ad Campaign’s Public Access initiative, opening the advertising kiosks in the vast majority of Philly’s bus shelters is a breeze. Just this week, Joe Boruchow and NDA, both of whom we’ve recently shown at LMNL Gallery, replaced a few ads with their own artwork. NDA’s pieces were both collaborations with Hellbent, who promises similar work in New York City soon.

NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of Hellbent.

NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of Hellbent.

Jordan Seiler was the first artist in recent memory to bring ad takeovers to Philadelphia, back in 2010. And until last summer, that’s about all there was, until Seiler made the Philadelphia infinitely easier to open up by producing a “key” that matched their custom security screws. Vandalog contributor Caroline Caldwell was probably the first to test out a Philadelphia key. Since then, the tools have reached a handful of artists in the city.

Public Access "keys" by Jordan Seiler. Photo by Jordan Seiler.

Public Access “keys” for various cities by Jordan Seiler. Photo by Jordan Seiler.

Joe Burochow. Photo by Thomas Buildmore.

Joe Burochow. Photo by Thomas Buildmore.

NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of NDA

NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of NDA

Unfortunately, it looks like this new-found street art surface may be short lived in Philadelphia. Hundreds of the city’s bus shelters are being replaced with an upgraded model featuring electronic billboards. With that in mind, for those with keys, here’s to making good use of them while you still have a chance.

Photos by Conrad Benner, Jordan Seiler, and Thomas Buildmore, and courtesy of NDA and Hellbent


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From New Yawk City Walls to virtual reality

February 2nd, 2015 | By | 2 Comments »

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


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This app turns the NYC subway system into an art gallery

September 10th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
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NO AD beta-testers and friends of Vandalog, Luna Park and laserburners

I should be working on something else right now. I should be doing writing that I really need to finish ASAP, writing that could bring me some considerable upside both in money and reputation. But then Jordan Seiler and the heavy projects (as Re+Public) and Subway Art Blog went and released their awesome and eagerly anticipated new app: NO AD. So I’ve become momentarily distracted, and you should be too. Go download NO AD right now (for Android or iPhone), especially if you live in New York City.

NO AD is an augmented reality application that gives you a glimpse of the New York City subway system without advertisements, a world where billboards are for art instead of ads. NO AD replaces the top 100 ads in the subway system at any given moment with art. How? By using the ads like QR codes. Simply download the app to your phone, open it while you’re on a New York City subway platform, and point your camera at an advertisement. On your phone’s screen, you’ll see the ad almost magically replaced by artwork. Download the app now, and give it a try with this image:

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See how amazing that is?

And here’s a short video about the app:

This idea isn’t entirely new. NO AD may remind some readers of Steve Lambert’s Add-Art or Julian Oliver’s The Artvertiser. But Add-Art hasn’t been functional for some time and The Artvertiser never really made it beyond a fun experiment and no longer appears to be in development, so it’s great to see other artists take up the mantle of digitally and legally replacing ads with art.

One question that I’m sure will come up: How does NO AD know what subway ads look like? The app developers essentially have to feed the app information about what ads are up in subway stations at any given time, which means that they have to go out and photograph every different subway ad they can find and rotate ads in and out of the app. As new ads rotate in, so will new artwork.

On some level, NO AD is an ad takeover tool. It takes space that is currently filled with ads and replaces those very specific ads with art. They could have just as easily used other objects around NYC as “triggers” for the art, but they decided to go with ads. Plus, for the initial launch, they’ve partnered with about 50 artists, many of whom have been outspoken critics of public advertising.

Today, NO AD is a kind of “what if,” a thought experiment to get people thinking about what it would be like to replace the ads with art, because of course you still need to take out your phone, open the app, and look at specific ads to see the artwork. So, essentially, it could be said that the app is a gimmick to get people thinking about replacing ads with art, rather than a tool to actually achieve that.

But NO AD may not be just a thought experiment in a few years. Fast forward to when everyone and their mother is wearing some version of Google Glass all day long. There will still be ads on the subway, but with NO AD running in the background on your Google Glass, you won’t see the ads. You’ll just see art exhibitions.

And that’s the other half of NO AD, the part that is more than just a thought experiment or a very long-term thinking anti-advertising strategy: It’s potential as an exhibition space. The first set of artists whose work is being exhibited through NO AD (including Vandalog’s Caroline Caldwell) are a motley crew of experimenters and friends of the organizers, which isn’t such a bad thing since these guys have some very talented friends, but imagine given a single artist a chance to take over all of the ads on the subway, or bringing in a professional curator to use NO AD and the subway system as an exhibition space in a more organized way. NO AD is an exhibition space that exists somewhere between the physical and the digital, always bringing with it an energy of political activism and chance.

NO AD is a glimpse into the future, a new exhibition space, and a platform for activism. I’m excited.


Category: Art News, Featured Posts | Tags: , , , , , ,

Link-o-rama

August 31st, 2014 | By | No Comments »
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Unknown artist in Philadelphia

Loving my time so far at the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, but it’s definitely more than a 9-5, so it’s time for me to play catch up yet again…

  • Speaking of the Mural Arts Program, I am really pleased to say that we now have a major Shepard Fairey mural in Philadelphia. Find me some day and ask me the whole story of this mural, but let’s just say it’s complicated and thank goodness for Roland at Domani Developers for getting us a wall at the last minute.
  • We also have a new much more politically-charged mural from Shepard Fairey through The L.I.S.A. Project NYC, and while I’m sure the process for that was also quite complicated, my friend Wayne took care of that and all I had to do was pitch Shepard on the idea of a big wall in NYC and the property owner on the idea of a Shepard Fairey mural on his building (neither of which were too difficult). I’m absolutely honored to have played even my small role in each of these murals. It was my first time working with Shepard, and it was a pleasure.
  • Two real kings of NYC graffiti, Blade and Freedom, have shows open now at the Seventh Letter flagship store in LA. Blade is an undisputed subway king who also pushed graffiti forward as an art-form, a rare combination. Freedom is a personal favorite of mine (his piece in my black book is a real prized possession) for combining pop art, an ability to paint very well, comics, and graffiti in an intelligent way without too much of an ego. I’m sad to be missing both of these shows, but I hope LA will give them the love they deserve.
  • Hi-Fructose posted some interesting GIFs by Zolloc, but the best part of the post is the first sentence: “While GIFs have yet to find an established place in the art world, they’re fascinating because they have the potential to go beyond the frozen image in two dimensions.” Of course, Hi-Fructose is part of the art world, so just having them post Zolloc’s GIFs counts for something. Hi-Fructose seems to be saying (albeit hesitantly) that GIFs being in their corner of the art world, which is great. That’s not a bad corner to be in, and it’s a hell of a lot better than nowhere. So, why be hesitant? If the work is fascinating, embrace it.
  • Oh Olek, always the best of intentions, but the results are not so great…
  • Some absolutely great ad takeovers.
  • These projections from Hygienic Dress League are a bit different. Very cool though. Anyone know of other artists who are projecting onto steam?
  • Smart Crew have teamed up with Beriah Wall on a series of cool collaborations. Does anyone else see this as further evidence of Smart Crew growing up, aka transitioning from a crew producing illegal graffiti into a brand or collective that does legal (and sometimes commercial) work referencing illegal graffiti? Nothing wrong with that. I’m just noting the transition.
  • Even when recycling old work, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is always poignant and powerful. She’s also created a new poster of Michael Brown that you can download on her website.
  • I’ve been saying for a while that there’s great similarity between GIFs and street art, so I’m a big fan of this series of installations organized by Guus ter Beek and Tayfun Sarier.
  • Hyperallergic has been covering artist reactions to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Public performances in Philadelphia (by Keith Wallace) and New York City (by Whitney V. Hunter) exemplify to the unsurprising obliviousness to the situation or at least lack of caring that so many people openly display (for more, see Kara Walker at Domino). It’s amazing to see these two striking performances go widely ignored while it’s mostly pretty but empty murals that go viral. Is that the state of street art and muralism today? I hope not. And of course, maybe what makes those performances so jarring online is that they were ignored on the street.
  • I have tried to resit the allure of Pejac’s work for a while, but no more. Yes, some of the jokes are cheap and feel twice-told, exactly the sort of easy made-to-go-viral work that I am complaining about in the previous paragraph, but Pejac is painting them really well, and they consistently catch my attention. As much as I would like to write him off as a Banksy-ripoff who even came to that idea a few years too late, I can’t do so any longer. The work is actually quite good. Have a look for yourself.
  • Last week I was in Atlanta for the Living Walls Conference. A great time was had by all. I was there to speak with Living Walls co-founder Monica Campana and Juxtapoz editor Austin McManus about the evolution of street art and graffiti over the past five or so year, and Vandalog contributing writer Caroline Caldwell was there to paint a mural. Atlanta got some real gems this year, including new work by Moneyless, Troy Lovegates and Xuan Alyfe in collaboration with Trek Matthews. Juxtapoz has extensive coverage. Congratulations to Living Walls on a truly impressive 5th anniversary event.
  • This coming week I’ll be in Norway for Nuart and Nuart Plus. The artist lineup features some of my personal favorites, including John Fekner, SpY and Fra.Biancoshock. I love Nuart because it’s a festival that always strikes a balance between the best of the best artists painting epic murals on the “street art festival circuit,” and the oft-under-publicized but highly-political activist artists intervening in public space. Putting these artists in the same festival strengthens the work of everyone there, and reminds us that murals can serve many different purposes. I’ll be speaking at Nuart Plus on behalf of the Mural Arts Program in a few capacities. I’ll be moderating a panel about activism in art, presenting couple of short films during Brooklyn Street Art’s film night, sitting on a panel about contemporary muralism and giving a talk about how government-sanctioned art and muralism can be used to promote positive social change. There will be a lot of great speakers at Nuart Plus this year though. Brooklyn Street Art has the whole line up for the festival and the conference.

Photo by RJ Rushmore


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See you at Living Walls 2014

August 11th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
Troy Lovegates at work in Atlanta

Troy Lovegates at work in Atlanta

This week the annual Living Walls Conference is taking place it Atlanta. This is the 5th year of the conference. Artists for the mural-making portion of the conference include Troy Lovegates, Moneyless, HENSE, Bayete Ross Smith, Borondo and Vandalog contributing writer Caroline Caldwell. This year’s supplementary events include an outdoor screening of Brad Downey‘s Public Discourse, the annual bicycle mural tour, a series of talks with people like Meres from 5Pointz, the opening party at The Goat Farm, and a panel discussion with me and my friends Monica Campana (Executive Director of Living Walls) and Austin McManus (Photography Director for Juxtapoz).

If you’re in Atlanta, I hope you’ll come out and support, not just because I would love to see a packed house for the panel that I’m on (although that would be nice), but because I love Living Walls and Living Walls has made me love Atlanta. This is going to be a great conference.

Photo courtesy of Living Walls


Category: Events, Festivals | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tag Happy, Rx Uppers – spraycan sculptures by Caroline Caldwell

April 1st, 2013 | By | 1 Comment »

Cans

Vandalog is proud to announce the latest product in The Vandalog Shop and our second product in the shop by a Vandalog contributing writer. Tag Happy, Rx Uppers is an edition of sculptures by Caroline Caldwell. These relabeled spray cans include veiled references to key people and places in the history of graffiti. How many can you spot?

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Tag Happy, Rx Uppers comes in black or pink versions, each an edition of 10 which are signed and numbered on the underside of the sculpture. When shipped within the continental United States, Tag Happy, Rx Uppers will arrive as a full can of real spray paint. For all other orders, the cans will be emptied and a small hole will be put in the bottom of the piece. Tag Happy, Rx Uppers are available now at $22 for one black or pink sculpture, or $40 for a matching set of black and pink pieces. Each sculpture also comes with a set of handwritten instructions.

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I’ve had an early version of the Tag Happy, Rx Uppers sitting on my shelf for the last year alongside sculptures by artists including Faile, Sweet Toof, and Skewville, and it more than holds its own against those classics. Caroline’s sense of style is perfectly encapsulated in these pieces, and they’re a friendly reminder for the vandal in all of us.

Starting today, you can find Tag Happy, Rx Uppers in The Vandalog Shop.

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Photos by Caroline Caldwell


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