New Yorkers have been seeing a fresh influx of work by GATS this past week. He’s one of my favorite Oakland writers/artists, so it was exciting to see him in town to work with my friends at Spoke Art NYC and The L.I.S.A. Project NYC.
GATS provided a fresh update to one of my favorite rotating walls along Mulberry Street for The L.I.S.A. Project NYC (see above). Not an easy wall to photograph, so it’s especially worth checking out in person.
A hand-painted ad takeover also appeared in Brooklyn. Maybe it’s still there? Let’s hope so, but the lifespan on these things doesn’t tend to be all that long.
And of course there’s the project that brought GATS to town: Against The Grain, his solo show at Spoke Art. Great use of found materials, and as well as techniques like pyrography. Against The Grain is open through June 25th at Spoke’s location on the Lower East Side.
My first encounter with the Brewster Projects was in June of 2012. In the middle of a sunny afternoon, the heat was relentless. The sun bleached, weed filled center circle drive stood out in harsh contrast to the dark empty windowed towers looming around in a group. On my first trip to Detroit at the time, I was too intimidated to venture any further than the ground level perimeter of the site. I had been told it was a sketchy neighborhood and that there was security. I never saw any and there were no fences, so I took pics of Flying Fortress and Nychos hitting up the bottoms of the towers.
In the summer of 2012 the European graffiti crew JBCB (Juke Box Cow Boys) were in town along with other international artists involved with the Detroit Beautification Project.
By the time I got to Detroit there were only 4 remaining of the big, 15-story towers. There used to be 6, but 2 were torn down in 2003. The towers were called the Frederick Douglas Apartments and were built in the 40s and 50s. This was the housing project where singer Diana Ross grew up and where, in the rec center, boxer Joe Lewis trained. The projects are right across the freeway from Ford Field and downtown Detroit. There were other low rise apartment houses there too, but they have been removed in pieces over the years.
I moved to the Detroit area in the fall of 2013 and made it back to the Brewster towers in October of 2013 determined to check out the inside. On that trip I made it to the top of one tower. In the 15 months since I’d last been there, tons of graffiti had been added to the towers. The bottoms were now grilled with tags, throws and pieces. More noticeably, 3 epic 15-story top to bottom rollers had been executed. In addition, Gats, Feral Child, and Ghost Owl had done rollers at the top of another tower, prominently placed and visible to highway traffic heading south into downtown Detroit. As I climbed I noticed preparations for demolition, but didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. There had been ongoing delays and interruptions in the effort to complete the removal of the projects.
One thing that I’ve been hopeful of since the beginning of Better Out Than In is that Banksy might put up work in every borough. With today’s piece in Queens, that hope is one step closer to becoming a reality. This piece also seems to have been Banksy’s closest call yet, with Gothamist reporting the story of a woman spotting a man leaving the site of the piece wearing construction gear (while there is no nearby construction) while the paint was still wet and there was still a blue tarp pinned up on part of the wall. It was been reported in the past that Banksy might use a tarp to cover up his work while it is in progress. But other than the location and that story, not a particularly interesting piece in my opinion, so let’s have a look at today’s + 5.
For this + 5, I’ve got work by GATS, Trollz, Syd and three unknown artists:
Endless Canvas is one of my favorite art blogs. It is the best site that I know of documenting street art and graffiti in the Bay Area. Endless Canvas has been kind enough to select a few Bay Area artists to highlight on Vandalog this week and sending over some photos that we can use. Today’s artist is GATS, a writer and street artist that I’m a big fan of. I guess the most comparable artist I can think of on the street both in terms of content of the work and style would have to be Swampy. Here are a few of Endless Canvas’ photos of GATS’ work:
The difficulty with photographing sticker art or graffiti stickers is that it’s really difficult to provide context for the sticker without losing all the details that might make it interesting to begin with. This context versus context struggle exists when photographing just about any sort of street art or graffiti, but it’s especially true with stickers. They are usually so small that you have to get inches away for a good photo, but then it’s hardly clear if the sticker is on a busy street or in a leafy suburb, surrounded by other interesting things or the lone bit of culture for an entire block. This is especially important with illegal work like stickers where an artist is taking a risk to put something in a particular location of their choice (okay admittedly stickers are not all that risky). Understanding the context of the piece can really add to my appreciation for it. I don’t know if I’ve the first person or the thousandth to figure this out and I don’t consider myself a serious photographer, but I think I’ve stumbling across an interesting way to take photos of stickers that balances context and content: Panorama mode.
My iPhone has a panorama mode that I don’t think I’d ever used until earlier this summer, when I accidentally realized it could be useful for photographing stickers. I was just fooling around with my iPhone, seeing if the panorama mode could work if you had something up very close and also something far away that both needed to be in focus. So I tested it by photographing a sticker and trying to move from the sticker to some background elements across the street. I saw the resulting image and suddenly I hardly cared about my little experiment. I saw a photograph that captured the details of a sticker while still giving context to its placement, and I fell instantly in love with the technique.
Obviously taking photos with a wide angle lens or in panorama mode is nothing new, but I can’t remember ever having seen it used for this purpose before. If anyone wants to prove me wrong, please leave a comment. I’d love to see what other people have been doing with this technique.
What do you think of this technique? Does it is balance content and context well enough? These are just some early shots by me, and I’m no photographer, so if you think you can take this further and do it better, please do and let me know how it goes. I would love to see others improve upon this. For me, it’s made documenting stickers so much more fun and fulfilling. Anyone can photograph another printed André the Giant sticker, but this technique highlights how context can make even printed stickers unique so long as the placement is interesting.
Endless Canvas’ Special Delivery warehouse show looks like it’s got some cool work from Swampy, GATS, Feral Child and others, but really it’s clear that photos do not do the show justice and that you had to be there.
Oakland has some of the most exciting and slightly underground graffiti and street art going on the USA right now, and GATS (which stands for Graffiti Against The System) is one of the most exciting guys in that already exciting city. iamOTHER is making some videos about what’s going on in Oakland, with a particular focus on GATS. The first part of that series is above.
This post on Hyperallergic pretty much exactly echos my thoughts about a Kickstarter project that hopes to raise $1 million to temporarily cover New York’s water tanks in art by celebrities and celebrity artists (and a couple of cool artists too, admittedly).
One of the most under-appreciated but active street art and graffiti scenes in the USA must be in Oakland, California. Luckily, the site Endless Canvas does great job of posting some of the highlights of what’s going on. Here are a few of my favorite pieces that were just photographed in the last two months…