On Every Street is a show opening this Thursday at Samuel Owen Gallery in Greenwich, CT. Curated by Michael de Feo, it features the work of dozens of street artists. On Every Street includes a diverse of street artists both in style and (from Hargo to Tony Curanaj) and when they were active outdoors (from Richard Hambleton to Gaia).
Here’s the full line up: Above, Aiko, Michael Anderson, Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, C215, Tony Curanaj, Michael De Feo, D*Face, Ellis Gallagher, Keith Haring, Ron English, Blek le rat, Faile, Shepard Fairey, John Fekner, JMR, Gaia, Richard Hambleton, Hargo, Maya Hayuk, Don Leicht, Tom Otterness, Lady Pink, Lister, Ripo, Mike Sajnoski, Jeff Soto, Chris Stain, Swoon, Thundercut, Dan Witz.
Last week, I posted about Jeff Soto‘s friendly cat piece in Lyon. Before he left Lyon, he painted one more cat: Les Chat Terrible. It’s exciting to see Soto working outdoors more, hopefully something that he’ll continue with.
Jeff Soto sent over these photos of a mural he painted this week in Lyon, France. He was in Lyon for a show, Les Enfants Terribles. Jeff says he wasn’t sure what he was going to paint until he got to the spot and saw the neighborhood cat wandering around.
Street Cred: Graffiti Art from Concrete to Canvas is a show opening this month at the Pasadena Museum of California Art focusing on the graffiti writers and street artists who have come out of the LA scenes. Artists in the show include Chaz Bojórquez, Craola, Kofie One, Risk, Jeff Soto, Retna, Revok and Saber. Perhaps just as important, the show will include photographs of graffiti by Steve Grody, because any graffiti art exhibit would definitely be incomplete without documentation out actual graffiti outdoors. Additionally, Retna will be painting a mural on the outside of the museum.
Sounds like Street Cred will be a good compliment to Art in the Streets at MOCA. A number of people I’ve been speaking with recently have argued that LA graffiti has not been given its due in the wider history of graffiti, so maybe Street Cred will help to correct that.
Street Cred opens May 14th and runs through September 4th.
One of my roommates came by a few minutes ago and asked “So, did shit hit the fan?” He knew I was posting something about Underbelly yesterday, but he’s not really the artsy type so he didn’t know quite what it was.
Well indeed shit has hit the fan, but mostly in a good way so far. The Underbelly Project made it into The New York Times and The Age. Also, Ian Cox and Luna Park have posted their photos on their respective blogs. And their photos are much better than mine, so check them out.
It seems most people are liking the project, even if some have some reservations. As one commenter on my last post pointed out, maybe you had to be there to experience some of the awesomeness, but it’s still pretty cool. I think that’s a fair assessment. Some artists’ work is best viewed in person, and the best artworks in The Underbelly Project tend to fall into that category. Posterchild put up an interactive sculpture, and Dan Witz’ art is definitely more powerful when it comes as a surprise and in person.
But there’s been one criticism that I absolutely don’t buy: That The Underbelly Project was conceived and executed purely for commercial gain. Yeah, later this week I’ll be posting a trailer to a documentary about the project, but the organizers, who I think are two very bright people, would have to be complete idiots to do this project if their only interest was a sick book deal. Yeah, there are street artists and graffiti writers out there who do illegal work to get attention and doing well-promoted street art can sell a painting or two. I’ve called out people on doing things like that before. That said, the scale and risk of The Underbelly Project is greater than what could be often by any likely monetary rewards. It would be much easier and less risky to either fake the entire project in a warehouse somewhere or just do something that relies on one or two big events instead of a year of secrecy and dangerous activities. I highly doubt that The Underbelly Project will be an efficient way to make money for the participants, even with any future books or films or anything like that. When I was first told about The Underbelly Project, it was little more than an idea, and the idea was to create a secret street art and graffiti Mecca, not to make a million bucks.
Here are some more photos from down in the tunnel:
I’ll continue this week to post more photos, but you can check out a more full set of my images on flickr.
This summer, I sat in a massive pitch-black room and muttered “Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit…” over and over again. I couldn’t stop repeating “Holy shit” for maybe for five minutes. I’d been anticipating this moment for nearly a year. I was somewhere underneath New York City. I was waiting to be shown The Underbelly Project. Technically, I was there to take photos, but really I didn’t care at all if images came out or not. Really, I just wanted to see firsthand what was going on 4-stories below the streets of New York City.
Imagine Cans Festival, FAME Festival or Primary Flight: Some of street art and graffiti’s best artists all painting one spot. That’s kind of like The Underbelly Project. Except that The Underbelly Project took place in complete secrecy, in a mysterious location and without any authorization. Over the past year, The Underbelly Project has brought more than 100 artists to an abandoned and half-finished New York City subway station. Each artist was given one night to paint something.
Workhorse and PAC, the project’s organizers, have put countless hours into their ghost subway station, and now they’re finally ready to unveil it to the world, sort of (more on that later). So I guess that’s why I was in that dark room, sitting in silence, waiting for them to give me a flashlight. I’m still not sure why I’d been extended the invitation to see the station firsthand, but I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity. The Underbelly Project is going to be part of street art history.
Eventually, Workhorse and PAC came over to where I was sitting and lent me a flashlight. I stood up, already coated in dust and probably dirtier than I’ve ever been, and got a full tour of the station. I’m not somebody who is good at estimating the size of a space, but The Underbelly Project took place in a space that was meant to be a subway station, so I guess it was the size of a subway station with a few tracks. The station is like a concrete cavern: random holes who-knows how deep into the ground, dust thick like a layer of dirt, leaky ceilings and hidden rooms. Except the whole station is covered in art. Think of FAME Festival’s abandoned monastery transplanted to beneath New York City. I’m not an urban explorer, so I had no idea that there are abandoned subway stations throughout New York, but The Underbelly Project seems like just about the best possible use of one.
Of course, having been down there myself, I’m going to be prone to hyperbole. Even at it’s simplest, even if The Underbelly Project is “just another mural project,” it’s a story that the artists can tell for years, and it may even be evidence that street art isn’t so far gone and corporate as some people have suggested.
The list of artists who painted for The Underbelly Project goes on and on, but here are just a few:
On my visit, The Underbelly Project wasn’t finished. In fact, somebody was painting there that night. Nonetheless, the space was already substantially painted and postered. I spent that night wandering around the tunnels, taking photos and getting lost (and also scared – Damn you Mark Jenkins! You can’t put a sculpture like that at the end of a darkened hall. I thought it was a person!).
And what now? The walls have all been painted and the artists have moved on to new projects. When the last artist finished painting the last wall, Workhorse and PAC made access to The Underbelly Project nearly impossible by removing the entrance. Even if any of us wanted to go back (and I do), even if we could remember how to get there (and I don’t), we can’t. Nobody can. For now, The Underbelly Project has become a time capsule of street art, somewhere in the depths of New York City.
Brad Downey once explained to me why he thought Damien Hirst’s diamond skull is interesting. It had something to do with what people would think of the skull in 1000 years, when its original meaning has been lost to time. That’s when the skull is going to become a true icon and object with immense power. In some ways, The Underbelly Project is like Hirst’s skull, without the price tag. One day, decades from now hopefully, somebody may rediscover that old subway station and have no idea what they’re looking at. Hopefully, they’ll just feel that it’s something incredibly special.
I’m a HUGE fan of Jeff Soto and having already had the opportunity to interview him a long time ago, I can safely say I’m a fan for life. There was also that one time when I stood next to him at the opening of his debut UK solo exhibition and didn’t have the balls to say hello, but let’s not talk about that! Instead lets talk about Maxx242 vs. Jeff Soto; a new collaborative project between the two artists and longtime friends which will focus on releasing limited edition items such as toys, skate decks, apparel and prints. The project also includes two limited edition decks made for REAL Skateboards (seen above), both made in limited quantities. The boards (which will have a special coinciding Bearbrick Toy for special release at Unit in Tokyo, Japan) were both made at a quantity of 200, with 50 of each going straight to Japan, so only 150 will be available in the US!
Maxx242and Soto have worked together on various projects over the past 20 years and have always pushed each other to progress as artists and more importantly, they share a deep respect for one another. Now they are joining forces again to make some cool shit for the world!
Update: The original headline on this post, and the one that you probably saw if you are found this on your RSS feed, mentioned a new toy. Then I decided not to mention Jeff Soto’s new toy because I went on a rant about art versus advertising. If you’re curious though, Hi-Fructose has some info on the new toy that Jeff is working on.
Looks like Jeff Soto just painted this piece outside of Eyebeam in NYC. Which reminds me, if you’re in NYC, tonight would be a good night to stop by Jonathan LeVine Gallery. Jeff Soto and Dave Cooper both have solo shows opening there tonight (those shows run through July 24th). Arrested Motion recently posted a studio visit with Jeff, which includes some of the artwork that will be at his show tonight.
Now, I don’t mean to direct any potential negative attention towards Jeff Soto, but this piece reminds me of an interesting argument that I had last night with a friend of mine, who I’ll call James because I’m sure he doesn’t want me to publish his name. I said that I’d rather not be subjected to advertising while I’m in a public space, especially illegal advertising. Naturally, James brings up that I’m more than okay with artists putting up street art illegally. He thinks that I’m hypocritical for hating illegal ads but loving illegal art, especially since the definition of what is art is subjective. I say there’s a big difference, since street art, public art and architecture aren’t trying to sell you anything. Naturally, James makes the point that when a street artist puts up a piece, that’s advertising for their own work. In the case of Jeff Soto, Jeff rarely paints outside anymore, and this particular wall is clearly a form of promotion for his show with Jonathan LeVine Gallery. So it’s an ad, right? Not in my opinion. Yes, it’s an ad, if you know who Jeff Soto is and you know that he has a show opening tonight, which is probably less than 1% of the people who walk by Eyebeam today. For the vast majority of New Yorkers, that’s just a piece of art. Even if Jeff had signed his name, it’s not like he’s put a sign next to it saying “You can buy this image as a print for $70 at potatostamp.com!” (although, actually, you can). Maybe murals like Jeff’s and 99% of street art is a form of guerilla marketing, but it’s only seen as marketing by a tiny minority of the population. For the rest of the world, it’s art in the place of a grey wall, and there’s nothing better than that. So that’s my rant about the different between street art and advertising. Hopefully you agree with me, otherwise I may have just turned a few people off of Jeff Soto, which would suck.