ALL BIG LETTERS Opens in Haverford, PA

January 30th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

Photo by Caleb Eckert

If you’re in the Philadelphia area, head out on to the burbs for ALL BIG LETTERS at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, probably my most ambitious curatorial project to date. The exhibition features specially-commissioned work from CURVE, FAUST, EKG, Egg Shell Stickers, and Evan Roth, plus contributions from dozens more artists and photographers.

Photo by Kendall Whitehouse

ALL BIG LETTERS investigates the tools and strategies of graffiti writers. My hope is that visitors can walk into the show with next to zero knowledge of graffiti, and leave with the ability to see a tag on the street and roughly understand how it came be there and why it looks the way it does. Was it made with spray or a marker or something else? Is the style something city-specific, like a wicked? Why did the writer choose that spot? How did they get there? How long did it take to paint? Curve’s installation in particular functions as both an artwork and a teaching tool. A similar thread runs throughout the exhibit, like in Evan Roth’s Graffiti Taxonomy series, which highlights 140 S’s from each many different tags, all written with a variety of different styles and tools.

Photo by Caleb Eckert

For people already immersed in the culture of writing, ALL BIG LETTERS is a different take than your typical graffiti group show. This is not tags or throw-ups on canvas. Rather, it’s a show for the graffiti nerds who understand that style is an important part of writing, but it is just one element, and it serves a particular purpose. A collection of homemade tools from MOMO, stikman, Fumakaka Crew, Biancoshock (yes, I know that a handful of the artists in the show fall more towards the street art spectrum, but I swear they fit in), plus commercial graffiti products, is paired with a series of photos by Martha Cooper of writers and street artists that highlight their tools.

Photo by Kendall Whitehouse

From a new diagram by EKG to photos by Luna Park and Steve Weinik (among others) to an investigation into the development of BLADE’s style over time to never-before-scene work by Adam VOID, ALL BIG LETTERS covers a lot of ground that is all-too-often ignored in more commercial settings, and I would like to think that it’s a pretty unique exhibition. On opening night, a handful of Philly writers all told me a similar story: I came out to support a friend in another group exhibition, but this is unlike any graffiti show I’ve ever seen.

So, if you want to see an exhibition about graffiti that’s truly different, an exhibition where the whole of graffiti is acknowledged (the repetition, the drive for fame, the performance, the risk, the competition, the hacking…), I hope you’ll stop by ALL BIG LETTERS. It’s open through March 3rd.

ALL BIG LETTERS is open at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery through March 3rd. Contributors include Adam VOID, Aric Kurzman, BLADE, Biancoshock, CURVE, DB Burkeman, Egg Shell Stickers, EKG, Evan Roth, FAUST, Fumakaka Crew, Jordan Seiler, Katherine “Luna Park” Lorimer, Lee George Quinones, Loiq, Martha Cooper, MOMO, NTEL, Smart Crew, Steve Weinik, stikman, and more. Learn more, and read essays related to the exhibition by RJ Rushmore and Carlo McCormick, here.

Photo by Kendall Whitehouse

Photos by Caleb Eckert and Kendall Whitehouse


Category: Art News, Gallery/Museum Shows, Vandalog Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ALL BIG LETTERS: Exhibiting graffiti tools and strategy

January 6th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

Philadelphia graffiti. Photo by Steve Weinik/@steveweinik.

On January 20th, I hope you’ll join me in Haverford, PA for ALL BIG LETTERS, an exhibition I’ve curated at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, just a few minutes outside of Philadelphia.

ALL BIG LETTERS includes art, photos, tools, and ephemera from Adam VOID, Aric Kurzman, BLADE, Biancoshock, CURVE, DB Burkeman, Egg Shell Stickers, EKG, Evan Roth, FAUST, Fumakaka Crew, Jordan Seiler, Katherine “Luna Park” Lorimer, Lee George Quinones, Loiq, Martha Cooper, MOMONTEL, Smart Crew, Steve Weinik, stikman, and more.

Generally speaking, when galleries try to bring graffiti indoors, the focus is on style. Those shows portray graffiti writers as designers, illustrators, the new pop-artists and calligraphers… Headlines along the lines of “Can you believe what he does with a spray can? Now you can buy it on canvas!” still seem all too common. But style is just one component of graffiti. Or maybe the shows focus on writers who have gotten up a lot, trying to capitalize on their fame. Or, as in the case of someone like Barry McGee or Boris Tellegen, the art is (largely) removed from graffiti, a separate practice.

For ALL BIG LETTERS, I took a different approach. To write graffiti is, at its most pure, the performance of an illegal act; the performance is as important as the product. The best graffiti is also strategic. It relies on a combination of repetition, longevity, visibility, degree of difficulty, novelty, and style. ALL BIG LETTERS explores all of those strategies, and the tools writers use to realize them.

Because of the show’s angle and some deep digging over the last year, it’s full of surprises. New work from FAUST, Curve, NTEL, and EKG, never-before-seen photos of two Philadelphia graffiti legends at work (you’ll have to come to the show to find out who), homemade graffiti tools dating back as early as the 1960’s, and more.

ALL BIG LETTERS opens January 20th (4:30-7:30pm) at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery in Haverford, PA. The exhibition runs through March 3rd.

On a personal note, I worked at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery for just about my entire time as a student at Haverford College. It’s humbling to be invited back to exhibit at the space where I learned so much, and where we exhibited the work of so many amazing artists and curators (Hank Willis Thomas, Natasha Logan, the Dufala Brothers, Sam Durant, Pete Brook, Raymond Pettibon, Christine Sun Kim…). I can’t say thank you enough to everyone at Haverford for this opportunity.

Photo by Steve Weinik


Category: Featured Posts, Gallery/Museum Shows, Vandalog Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sabe KST officially has the best blackbook, and here it is…

July 29th, 2015 | By | No Comments »

Sabe

For me, one of the most interesting writers in contemporary graffiti is Sabe KST. I have to give Faust credit for really turning me to on Sabe’s work, although I doubt that Faust realized he was introducing me to a writer whose work perfectly matched up with what I’d been interested in seeing from contemporary graffiti.

Credit goes to Evan Roth for introducing me to the idea that graffiti is a series of hacks. Graffiti is about re-purposing tools as much as re-purposing space. But modern graffiti writers have access to 1000 tools custom-made for them. Sabe not only continues the art of hacking together your own graffiti implements, but he brings that same energy and ingenuity into his legal work. For his paintings and drawings, Sabe creates custom motorized tools that give him an aesthetic that other artists can’t match, because they don’t have the tools to do so.

With his latest project, Anime Blackbook, Sabe has combined old-school animation with digital art and video art, something else I love to see from writers and street artists. Just watch:

Is that not one of the best possible digital displays of tags? Anime Blackbook works for the same reason that INSA’s GIF-ITI is so popular. It’s an eye-catching way to activate graffiti in digital space of endless scrolling. Actually, Sabe should probably convert each tag into a GIF.

Of course, Anime Blackbook is reminiscent of Graffiti Markup Language (GML)/#000000book/KATSU’s FatTag Deluxe and associated projects from F.A.T. Lab. In fact, I was surprised to find out that Sabe hadn’t simply used GML to capture everyone’s tags for this project.

Regardless of the underlying technology, which is what those F.A.T. Projects were really about, Sabe’s video is a new favorite of mine. By simply adding some music and cool backgrounds, he captures the unique vibes of each writer in the video, something that a tag on a blank background can’t do unless you’re acutely attuned to the intricacies of graffiti. The pairings are perfect. For the writers I know, they make sense, and for the writers I don’t, they immediately tell me something extra about them. Pixote’s tag makes sense on a rocky cliff. Sabio’s tag means something different against a forest. Of course Faust’s tag is set against skyscrapers, and KAWS’ name appears on some ethereal starscape. The idea behind Anime Blackbook is relatively simple, but so many good ideas are. With this piece, Sabe has captured something about writing and the people who write, and any fan of graffiti should be able to appreciate that.

For more about Anime Blackbook, check out Animal’s brief interview with Sabe.

PS, the full list of writers included in the video is… JOZ, EASY, VEEFER, CES, SKUF, RIME, VIZIE, NEKST, WANE, JEST, SACER, ARK, NOV, SYE5, PIXOTE, SABIO, KADISM, RASAD, END, AMUSE126, SEGE, HOUND, KORN, DCEVE, SNOEMAN, CINIK, FAUST, YEAR, REHAB, AKS, REMO, NEMZ, FORES, SHAUN, GUESS, REAS, ESPO, KAWS, LEWY, ADEK, MALVO, KATSU, DAYS, GUNS, OPTIMIST, RESQ, BEGR, PEAR, ZOMBRA, PHAT2, UDON, NUNO, FANTA, TOM246, WANTO, QP, VERY, and SABEKST. Also, the film was produced by Sabe KST with animation direction by Celia Bulwinkel and a soundtrack by Trouble Andrew/Gucci Ghost.

Screenshot from Anime Blackbook by Sabe KST


Category: Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Philly Tech Week talk about Viral Art

April 2nd, 2014 | By | No Comments »
Ted Talk

A piece of viral art. Click the here to understand why.

Okay, so I’m not quite speaking at TEDxPhiladelphia, but I am pretty excited to be giving a talk next week at AIGA Philadelphia‘s Old City headquarters/gallery, SPACE, as part of Philly Tech Week. The talk, Viral Art: Disruptions in the spectacle from spray paint to Google Bombs, will focus on some of the ideas found in my free ebook Viral Art.

I’ll be speaking about two main themes: 1. How the communication technologies from zines to books to the internet have affected the street art and graffiti that we see on walls and 2. How street art and graffiti are closely linked to hacking and net art. That will be followed by a Q&A, which I’m really looking forward to.

So if you’re in Philadelphia, I hope you’ll stop by SPACE on Thursday, April 10th. The event runs from 6-8pm. The talk is free, but you can RSVP here.

Photo courtesy of Evan Roth


Category: Events, Vandalog Projects, Viral Art | Tags: ,

Evan Roth’s intervention in Google Images

June 24th, 2013 | By | 5 Comments »

Ted Talk

Earlier this year at FAT Lab‘s show at Eyebeam in New York, bad ass motherfucker Evan Roth had an installation called Ideas Worth Spreading. Basically, the installation is a mock stage setup for a TED conference, the popular conference with the tagline “Ideas worth spreading.” Getting to give a TED talk is considered a pretty high honor in some circles, but naturally not very many people get to give them. Roth’s Ideas Worth Spreading gave anyone who stopped by Eyebeam the opportunity to at least appear like they had given a TED talk. Naturally, lots of people pretended to give TED talks, took photos, and shared them on social networks, getting plenty of kudos from their friends in the process.

Roth recently posted an update about Ideas Worth Spreading on his blog. As it turns out, a few of the photos were reposted and shared enough that a Google Images search for “ted talk” brings up some of the Ideas Worth Spreading photos in the results. As you can see below, there’s even one Ideas Worth Spreading pic within the first 10 images of the “ted talk” search (it’s the one at the top of this post).

Ted Talk

You may be asking, “Isn’t this Vandalog? What the hell does this project and some Google Image search results have to do with street art?” Hear me out. This is what my upcoming ebook Viral Art is largely about. In Viral Art, I argue that this project falls into a category that I call active viral art, and that street art is also active viral art. Basically, active viral art is art that is imposed upon an unsuspecting audience. That’s what street art is on the street, right? Artist decides to put up work in a public space for an unsuspecting audience, bypassing any art-world gatekeepers in the process. Well, now that we spend so much time in front of screens and online, the internet is a kind of new public space. What Roth has done here is put up his work in this new public space for an unsuspecting audience. In this particular case, I guess the street art equivalent would be a subtle ad disruption.

Am I crazy or am I on to something? Let me know what you think in the comments. I can’t wait to more of my thoughts on active (and passive) viral art later this year when the Viral Art ebook is released (for free of course).

Photo and screenshot courtesy of Evan Roth


Category: Featured Posts, Photos, Random, Viral Art | Tags: ,

Weekend link-o-rama

January 6th, 2013 | By | No Comments »

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Okay Christmas and new years are over. Let’s get back to real life.

Photo by Jake Dobkin


Category: Art Fairs, Festivals, Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos, Random, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Evan Roth provides free speech for Vienna

November 27th, 2012 | By | No Comments »

This has to be one of the greatest projects I’ve seen all year: “Free Speech” by the pretty much always fantastic Evan Roth. It was part of this year’s BLK River Festival. Just watch the video…

Via Rebel:Art

Photo courtesy of Evan Roth


Category: Featured Posts, Videos | Tags: ,

Random link-o-rama

December 7th, 2010 | By | No Comments »

Sure and Faust. Photo by euniyah

I’ve been out of the loop and stuck in libraries lately (and then in Miami for the weekend), and that’s led to me miss posting about a lot of things. I’ve got some catching up to do, so here’s the start of that:

Photo by euniyah


Category: Art News, Featured Posts, Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos, Random | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,