An Italian in the Big Shiny Apple

"1 Gram" by Nemo's. Photo by Jaime Rojo.
1 Gram by Nemo’s. Photo by Jaime Rojo.

Two of the most provocative murals painted in New York this summer come from Nemo’s, an Italian street artist on his first visit to NYC. Both pieces can be found in Williamsburg, a neighborhood where murals function as billboards and billboards masquerade as murals.

First came 1 Gram (which happens to be the weight of a dollar bill). Brooklyn Street Art notes that the piece faced a bit of censorship, in that the wall owner didn’t like the penis on Nemo’s character and the artist agreed to remove it. But it seems a bit silly to quibble over castration when the penis was a relatively minor component of the mural and it’s overall message is already so bold and potentially controversial.

Stocks – Pillory by Nemo's. Photo by Jaime Rojo.
Stocks – Pillory by Nemo’s. Photo by Jaime Rojo.

Nemo’s followed that up with Stocks – Pillory. At first, the mural might seem a bit cliché: Another critique of the TV entertaining us with the public shaming our latest victim. Except that it’s not quite so simple and cliché. The victim isn’t trapped. The key is just around the corner, and the “prisoner” could probably reach it if he tried. Or, better yet, he could just back right out of his prison. The hole of the pillory are much larger than his head and his hands. But instead of slipping out to freedom, he maintains his clearly painful television existence. And we watch on. Entertained.

Actually, in both murals, the men are there by choice. In Stocks – Pillory, the man rests in the faux-pillory, and in 1 Gram, he feeds himself into the meat slicer. All it would take to stop the agony would be for them to take a step back to examine their lives. But we all know that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. And so the torture of contemporary society continues.

No matter how you read them, neither mural is decorative, the dominant trend in “street art muralism” lately. You’d be hard-pressed to find many street artists painting such provocative murals, especially in New York City. Unless of course, the mural is actually just an ad. When street artists are judged by their murals and those murals get them gallery shows and print releases and larger murals and corporate-commissioned murals, when “street art muralism” is a career path, decorative sells. Why mess with that?

So many street artists are like Nemo’s men: seeing no viable alternative, they sacrifice themselves to the entertainment, advertising, and real estate industries. But the biggest names in Italian street art buck the trend. Nemo’s follows in the tradition of Blu, Ericailcane, and Ozmo, as well as the notoriously rebellious attitude of FAME Festival.

What makes these Italians different? I don’t have a good answer. It could be nothing more than accepting nothing less than their true vision. The power to walk away. When Blu’s mural was buffed in LA, he left town rather than paint something else. When Blu’s murals were being used as as marketing tools in the gentrification of Berlin, he buffed them. When Ericailcane painted a mural critical of Mexico’s president, he painted his ideal mural and then faced a destructive act of censorship rather than self-censoring from the start.

But that’s just a negotiating tactic. It doesn’t explain why other street artists stick to decoration, or why mural festivals tend to work with those artists. So maybe they shouldn’t. The alternative isn’t an impossibility. Take a page of Nemo’s book. You can step back from the pillory and you can stop slicing off your face.

Photos by Jaime Rojo for Brooklyn Street Art

Winter break in Lisbon

Cane Morto (Italian crew)

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

Cane Morto
Créons (Belgian artist)

Continue reading “Winter break in Lisbon”

On the Separation Wall in Bethlehem: Seth, BrotloseKunst, How and Nosm, Banksy & more

On the Israeli-Palestinian Separation Wall -- as seen inside Bethlehem
On the Israeli-Palestinian Separation Wall — as seen inside Bethlehem

I had last visited Bethlehem in 2008. Few of the pieces I saw then on the Separation Wall or in the city itself remain. The wall and its surrounding environs continue, though, to serve as a canvas for a range of – largely political – art. Here’s a bit of what my son and I captured during our recent visit:

French artist Julien "Seth" Malland
French artist Julien “Seth” Malland
Julien "Seth" Malland
Julien “Seth” Malland’s poignant boy amidst the rubble
Germany's BrotloseKunst brings colorful writing to a dismal space
Germany’s BrotloseKunst brings colorful writing to a dismal space; close-up of a huge piece
Sam3 and Erica il Cane
Sam3 and Erica il Cane
How and Nosm
How and Nosm
And still there -- Banksy
And still there — Banksy

 Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson and Lois Stavsky

Sunday link-o-rama

L'Atlas, Mecro and more in Paris
L’Atlas, Mecro and more in Paris

Wait! The weekend isn’t over yet. Enjoy a bit of light reading and cool photos before the work week returns:

Photo by Laser Burners

Back from Boston link-o-rama

Rowdy and Gold Peg in Leeds
Rowdy and Gold Peg in Leeds

I missed last week’s link-o-rama because I was in Boston for the Barry McGee show at the ICA Boston. So worth the trip (more on that soon), but for now here’s what I missed:

Photo courtesy of Rowdy

Weekend link-o-rama

Had a fantastic time in New York last weekend finishing up The Art of Comedy, but that meant missing out on a lot of news, so some of this week’s link-o-rama is a bit more dated than usual:

Photo by Luna Park

Murals at FAME Festival 2012, part one

Erica il Cane

Henrik Haven visited FAME Festival in Grottaglie, Italy for the festival’s opening events last month. Naturally, he took plenty of stunning shots of the new work there. In a two-part series, we’ve selected some of our favorite pieces from FAME 2012. In part one here, we’ve got walls by Erica il Cane, Conor Harrington, Interesni Kazki, Vhils, Moneyless, Brad Downey, Akay and Cyop & Kaf.

Cyop and Kaf
Brad Downey and Akay

Continue reading “Murals at FAME Festival 2012, part one”

Weekend link-o-rama


Well, the big story this week was of course Hyuro’s wall under threat in Atlanta, but a lot more has been happening elsewhere on the web, plus I missed a week of link-o-rama when I was in Atlanta myself, so here’s what I’ve got to share:

Photo by Sam3

Weekend link-o-rama


Caroline and I are out in Colorado this week with my family, so art is coming second, but luckily it looks like it’s been a slow week. Here’s what I almost missed…

Photo by Nolionsinengland

Nanook updates (plus a bit of Ever)

Nanook and Ever in Foligno, Italy

The work of Baltimore-based artist Nanook has been appearing around the world a bit lately. Here’s work of his in Italy, Germany and Canada. His mural in Foligno, Italy with Ever is part of Attack Festival, which looks like they will have more artists coming to Foligno through September including Ericailcane, Sten&Lex and Moneyless.

Newfoundland (installed by Tekar)
Newfoundland (installed by Tekar)

Photos courtesy of Nanook