A photo posted by gaiastreetart (@gaiastreetart) on
Longtime Vandalog contributor Gaia posted an intriguing photo today on Instagram. I’ll let these photos and Gaia’s caption speak for themselves, other than to say that this seems to be the great (largely) unwritten critique of JR within the street art world.
This week, Amazon launched the Amazon Street Art Project, which features new limited edition artwork from stikman, Faith47, AIKO, Gaia, Logan Hicks, Ganzeer, and Ron English. Each piece in the project is only an edition of 50, so be sure to have a look before they’re all sold out. Since I curated the series, I thought it would be good spend some time looking at what makes each piece in the collection special.
stikman’s print based on a series from 2008 that he’s revamped to turn into his very first screenprint. What I love about Overture is the illusion of 3 layers that stikman created out of the two black and green layers, simply by printing black layer (both the musical score and the stikman figure’s shadow) on top of the green layer.
With AIKO’s Bunny, we started with a straightforward concept: A print of Aiko’s classic Bunny icon. Then, AIKO decided to go overboard in the best way possible, adding layers and layers of hand-painted customization to every print.
Gaia’s screenprint makes great use of half-tones, something I’ve often seen go poorly with other artists. Usually, you see artists using half-tones to skimp on adding what should be another layer of color to their print, but Gaia uses them masterfully for Amani, adding essential detail and depth to his work.
Logan Hicks’ Wasted Lives is the main reason I keep having to avoid calling this a print series. Wasted Lives is not a print. It’s a completely hand-painted edition. Using his pioneering stencil techniques, Hicks created an edition of 50 original works on paper.
You really have to get in close to appreciate the full beauty of Ganzeer’s After the Starstuff. Yes, the image itself, of the Earth from space and then close-ups on a pile of man-made trash, is powerful, but Ganzeer took this to another level by making this a letterpress print and using handmade hemp paper.
And finally, Ron English’s Monarch Elephant, because if I was going to be working with one of the world’s largest retailers to bring art to a huge new audience, I also needed someone to slip in a cheeky celebration of “the art of evolution.”
In December, an eclectic set of seven prints and editioned works from some of the world’s most interesting street artists will go for sale on… Amazon.com. Starting December 7th and available for one week only, Amazon.com will be offering new works by Ron English, stikman, Faith47, Gaia, AIKO, Logan Hicks, and Ganzeer. There are three screenprints, one etching, one letterpress, one done entirely with spraypaint and stencils, and one hand-finished giclée. Each artist’s piece is an edition of 50, and the prices range from $200-550. If a lot of the artists in the line up look familiar to regular readers of Vandalog, that’s because I curated the collection.
This is the first time that Amazon has worked with a curator to arrange a series of new works specifically for them. When I was brought into the mix, the idea was pretty open-ended: A series of prints by seven street artists to be released in December. With that in mind, I wanted to capture a small slice of the variety that exists within street art, to show how street art resists being defined by a single style or medium. That’s how we wound up with a collection that ranges from Ganzeer’s subtly dark letterpress print to AIKO’s bold pop art utilizing screenprinting and spaypaint.
Schacter has captured a feeling about street art and contemporary muralism, a nagging fear really, that seems to have been bubbling just beneath the surface for a while now. Basically, Schacter argues that street art isn’t rebellious anymore. Rather, that it’s most notable form is as a tool used by corporations to spur gentrification. Agree or disagree, the article is a must-read.
Apologies that this particular link-o-rama is full of self-promotion and conflicts of interesting, but I do think these are all interesting projects and I hope you do too:
It takes a lot to get my excited about a mural festival, but this year’s Wall\Therapy in Rochester, NY looks great. It’s difficult to put on a mural festival. One short cut is to work with obvious artists. Your festival will look like 50 other festivals, but the walls will probably seem impressive. Wall\Therapy has not gone that route. This year in particular, they put together a surprising and diverse line up to create an arguably cohesive body of new work, and the quality of the murals is still strong pretty much across the board. Check out Brooklyn Street Art’s photos and review for the full story.
From the selections I’ve read, I’m still not sure how I feel about the book What Do One Million Ja Tags Signify? by Dumar Novy, but a philosophy book centered on the work of a prolific graffiti writer seems like something that should at least catch the interest of Vandalog readers.
Shepard Fairey’s latest print about corporate greed and campaign finance reform is about to drop. It’s a nice print, and I’m always glad to see Shepard tackling this important but not particularly sexy topic. Plus, the profits from this print go to two great organizations fighting for campaign finance reform. I’ll just note that Shepard is working on a couple of projects right now for my employer, but campaign finance reform and political corruption really are topics that I care a lot about.
Speaking of my employer, I recently got to work on a really fun project with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and Ben Eine. Back in June, Eine came to Philly for a few days and painted almost 40 of his classic shutter letters. Philly now has a complete Eine alphabet, and then some. Eine’s work can be found throughout the city, but the shutters are definitely clustered in South Philly around Southeast by Southeast, a community center and art space for the neighborhood’s large Southeast Asian refugee community. Brooklyn Street Art has more on this project.
And one more Mural Arts project to mention: JR recently installed a huge mural right in the heart of Philadelphia as part of Open Source, our public art exhibition curated by Pedro Alonzo. The mural is a portrait of Ibrahim Shah, a local food truck chef who came to Philadelphia from Pakistan about a year ago. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a great profile on Ibrahim. I love how this mural looms large on the side of one of the biggest buildings right in the center of Philly, but isn’t actually that visible from the ground except from a few choice locations. Sounds like that could be a problem, I know, but the mural actually pops out from behind buildings in the most surprising places, and catching a glimpse of it winds up being a thrill, a bit of hide and seek. Plus, that game plays into the meaning of the mural, which is about how immigrants are a big part of our cities, but aren’t always celebrated or allowed to be made visible.
Okay, actually, Mural Arts has something coming up with Steve Powers too, but hopefully it will last longer than these signs in NYC! No surprise, a great series of street signs by Powers, installed legally as part of a project with the NYC Department of Transportation, seem to be being ripped down and stolen by greedy collectors or maybe thieves hoping to make a buck. It’s no surprise, but it is still disappointing.
If you’re in New York City, do not miss Faile’s exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s on now, and visiting is a really exciting experience. Vandalog contributing writer Caroline Caldwell currently works as an assistant at Faile’s studio, but even hearing bits and pieces from her as things were coming together did not prepare me for the awesomeness that is Savage/Sacred Young Minds. Without a doubt, the highlight of the exhibition is the latest and (I think) largest iteration of Faile and Bast’s Deluxx Fluxx Arcade, with custom foosball, pinball, and of course video games. It’s just an unabashedly fun experience. Arrested Motion has photos of much of the exhibition.
Decoration is rarely enough. I love art for arts’ sake as much as the next guy, and sometimes there’s nothing better than seeing a beautiful piece on a cool building and just having your day brightened up a bit. If you really feel like your contribution to the world is to make it a more colorful and exciting place with funny wheatpastes or huge murals at street art festivals, that’s great. Do that. But do that because you believe it makes a contribution to a space, not because you want to paint a bigger mural than the last guy and get more likes on Instagram. If the right crop on a photo means that I can’t tell the difference between your studio work and your street work, you’re probably doing it wrong.
All that is to say that it’s rare for social practice and socially-engaged art making to be combined with strong aesthetics, but when that does happen, there’s an amazing synergy. Swoon‘s work is a great example. For the most part though, street artists and the street art press (myself included) place far too much of a focus on the aesthetics and decor, not enough on truly transformative work. That’s a lot of wasted opportunities, because street art and public art in general can do so much more than just look cool.
Some projects need institutional support. Institutions can provide the resources, credibility, and access necessary to take a project from good to great, from non-existent to a reality. Open Source is going to be amazing, and most (if not all) of the projects in the exhibition would be impossible for artists to do on their own, even with substantial financial resources.
Artists should be paid for their labor. If you cannot pay an artist a fair wage to participate in a project, you should ask why not and seriously consider whether or not the project is worth undertaking at all.
Certainly not a revelation, but an important reminder: There is an art world outside of the commercial art world, and it is beautiful. The most powerful art in the world is the art that can’t be constrained to an investment portfolio.
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.
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.
A friend of mine recently used an interesting phrase: “the open walls movement.” I thought he was using the term as a synonym for “the street art festival circuit,” which upset me, because street art festivals do not have what I would call “open walls.” But really, my friend was commenting on a larger movement perceived to be spreading around the world to use public space differently (insomuch as walls on private property are public space). On the surface, he’s right. Street art festivals, grassroots muralism programs, free walls, curated alleyways and everything in between now exist in cities and small towns around the world.
Does that make a movement? I don’t know. Nobody is getting together to write a manifesto and participants’ aims and methods are diverse, but there is a disparate group of what I’ll call “open walls people” who share a new way of looking at walls and public space: Public walls are for the artists, murals enliven streets and communities, and there should be limited or no government regulation of murals, but advertising in public space should be heavily regulated or eliminated entirely. Simply put, “open walls people” believe in unrestricted art in (often odd) public spaces.
But how open are our walls today? Surfing the web, it sometimes feels like globe-trotting muralists can hop off a plane in any city, find a wall, and begin painting the next day, or that every small European city is covered in murals. That’s simply not true. Despite valiant and well-intentioned efforts, there’s a long way to go before we have anything approaching “open walls.”
In Baltimore, where every water is uncharted, street art has navigated its own course. What began as a covert creative expression of artistic imagination by individual street artists has matured to become an important force that binds artists and neighborhoods. Baltimore’s growing legion of street artists has piloted a course of creating art on parched streets and using it to quench neighborhoods’ thirst for something beautiful and sometimes provocative in their midst.
When I began wheatpasting, there were only three other street artists in town who regularly got their pieces up: Ways, Gaia, and Nanook. Mata Ruda began wheatpasting about the same time I did and we worked together often. Everyone used a fly-by-night installation approach, using the cover of darkness to get our work up. Unsanctioned street art was something relatively new to Baltimore and the public viewed it as a sort of furtive “where’s waldo” game. We used the element of surprise to start the conversations that our work desired.
Everything changed in 2012. Under the direction of Gaia, Open Walls Baltimore began and with it the Station North neighborhood—Baltimore’s arts district—was transformed by the presence of spectacular, large murals funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and PNC Bank. With the arrival of the street art mural circuit to a city new to street art, Baltimore discovered street art’s ability to change an urban landscape. Most works didn’t deal with Baltimore politics and social issues directly but their presence acted to educate the public about the value of this new-to-it art form in giving voice to and beautifying our town. With Open Walls, Baltimore found a place on the map in the street art world. This place was solidified after the launch of Articulate by Stefan Ways in October 2012.
I’m back after a brief blogging hiatus. I’ve been meaning to post my review for this great event that happened back in April over in Western Australia for a while now…
Leaving a cold wet 17 degrees in Melbourne, I was pretty damn excited to fly to Perth on the 10th of April, right in time for the grand finale of PUBLIC by Form Gallery in Perth, Western Australia, which I posted a preview of a while ago.
I arrived to a perfect sunny 30 degrees and soon as I hit the ground, I had a good feeling about Perth, I hadn’t been before, but something felt right. I went straight to the hotel and dropped off my bags, and went for an explore. Within a few hundred metres of my hotel, I could see the amazing Phlegm and ROA murals in progress. I made a beeline straight for them. Upon entering the car park I also saw the work of many other great artists. The works were spread throughout the CBD and inner city suburbs. Here’s a selection of some of my favourite pieces from the event.
While the event spanned over ~30 days, the main event was the painting of Perth’s 1st ever giant murals over the last 3/4 days of the event. In total there were around 30 murals painted for the event, spanning across the City of Perth. I was very impressed by the organization of the event by the FORM Gallery crew. With a logistical nightmare trying to coordinate over 45 artists, paint and equipment, all in 35 degree heat, the FORM Crew did an amazing job, Well done guys!!! A very friendly and hospitable crew. Thanks very much for taking such great care of us while we visited.
There was a great selection of artists from ac cross the globe representing all different styles and genres. Unfortunately there was no graffiti, but I suppose street art was a big stretch for conservative Perth, so graffiti may have been avoided for this reason. For a city not really known for street art, the public reaction was encouraging. People of all ages and walks of life filled the city over the weekend. I love walking around randomly and listening to some of the conversations and questions people ask each other. In particular I was really impressed by the public’s reactions to the HEAVY PROJECTS installations (interactive works of art that use Augmented Reality on smart phones and tablets). Here’s a short video the guys out together to document the event (plus some footage from a previous project).
On the Friday night there was also a great show at FORM Gallery – PUBLIC SALON showing off canvases from the contributing artists, some great work on display, check out some shots here.
And finally. This great video by Chad Peacock is a really accurate representation of the event and well put together. Damn it takes me back!!!
The FORM guys also took a number of artists to visit the Pilbara, a very special part of top end of Australia with breathtaking views and incredible nature (also sadly known for mining – the 2 don’t really go hand in hand). A few of the artists had a paint while there, I particularly like the piece by Remed.
After all of the above, any street art fan in Perth would have to be pretty happy, but it didn’t stop there. FORM has continued putting up murals in Perth, with Creepy (aka Kyle Hughes-Odgers) painting at Perth Airport (a sponsor of PUBLIC) and also Vans the Omega and Beastman’s new piece that went up last week.
What I loved most about the event wasn’t just the art, and was not unique to PUBLIC; is the sense of community I felt. This is something I really love about the street art scene. I got to catch up with some great old friends, and made some new ones who I will undoubtedly randomly catch up with again somewhere around the globe.
Fingers crossed that this event is on again next year. I will be there with bells on!
If you are in Perth, check out the full list of artists and the mural map. FORM has also put together this short book called PUBLICation available for Purchase at the Gallery and viewable online for free here. FORM have also started “PUBLIC Urban Art Walks” to give fans a guided tour of the city, well worth checking out.
Ok, so that’s enough, right? Actually no, there’s more. And it’s massive. Due to some logistical 😉 issues SANER was unable to make it over for the original dates. I was gutted to hear this when I found out, but when I found out FORM are still bringing him over in August to paint in Perth and also the Pilbara, I was pretty damn excited! I’ll make sure to cover this later in the month.