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.
Last Sunday, I visited Coney Island for the first time. I was there to see The Coney Island Art Walls, Jeffrey Deitch‘s latest mural project. Deitch is a master of fun, and he has a habit of causing controversy. The Coney Island Art Walls are no exception. The murals are a great addition to Coney Island’s myriad of attractions, but artnet in particular has been treating Deitch like their personal punchingbag, in large part because of the project’s ties to Joseph J. Sitt of Thor Equities, a real estate developer whose company owns the lot where the murals are being installed.
People were mad at Sitt for attempting to destroy the history of Coney Island and leaving lots his lots vacant. Those are completely legitimate concerns. Now, they’re mad that Sitts has put something in one of his lots: A bar, some concession stands, and murals by an amazing array of artists, many of which explicitly celebrate the history of Coney Island. Or rather, it’s arts journalists who are attacking Deitch, on the basis of those complaints, for helping Sitts DO THE VERY THING THAT PEOPLE WERE CALLING ON HIM TO DO. Their anger makes no sense, unless those journalists are just desperately searching for one more reason to hate on Deitch.
That said, The Coney Island Art Walls are entertaining, which makes the project easy to dismiss as unimportant. But the murals are literally across the street from an amusement park, so of course they’re entertaining! Are the murals tools for gentrification and mindless amusement more than social justice and disrupting the everyday? Probably. And most days I’d prefer to see a piece of illegal street art or graffiti or a “socially engaged” public art project than a wall where the art functions primarily as decoration. Most days, I’d also rather eat a salad than a hot dog. But on that rare occasion when I visit an amusement park, I am there to be amused and I definitely don’t want a salad for lunch.
The key to the project’s success really is the setting. These are not murals that you’ll just stumble across randomly. It’s a project that you travel to the end of the subway line to see. It’s its own Coney Island attraction, and a good one at that.
Artnet’s Brian Boucher suggested that organizing murals for Coney Island was a new low for Deitch. That’s such a closed-minded view of what and where art can be. The bulk of the murals celebrate the history of Coney Island or at least fit in perfectly among the area’s existing cacophony of iconic rides, amusements, and signage. Aiko‘s piece looks like it belongs on the side of a carnival game, and Jane Dickson captured spirit of wonder in the air. I’m not sure I’d enjoy AVAF’s mural if I had to live across the street from it and see it every day, but it’s fantastic as a contemporary take on an crazy Coney Island signage. The Coney Island Art Walls are an opportunity to install a series of murals that wouldn’t make sense anywhere else.
Artnet’s Christian Viveros-Fauné was also flat wrong when he dismissed the project for its “Uniformly colorful murals that individually deploy some of street art’s standard motifs—bright hues, stencils, and graphic punch—but engage in neither activism nor neighborhood politics.” Amongst the color and revelry, there is in fact some politically-charged worked: Shepard Fairey‘s fitting tribute to classic seaside advertising features a call for environmental responsibility, Mr. Cartoon‘s painted a young person of color being chased by a white police officer while the grim reaper lurks in the background, and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s portraits of neighborhood residents are accompanied by this statement: “The day before Easter and the day after Labor Day – People still live here. People die here. People love here.” Politics and activism are far from the focus of the project, but they’re not absent.
So, go to Coney Island. Check out The Coney Island Art Walls. But go with the right mindset. It’s an attraction to be enjoyed. Take a selfie with Ron English‘s sideshow characters. Snag the perfect photograph of eL Seed‘s mural with a roller coaster in the background. Climb onto Skewville’s oversized boombox and do a little dance. Go home with a smile on your face. It’s good for you.
This year Wywood Walls turned five and to mark the special occasion curator Jeffrey Deitch called on on the finest ladies in the field for Women on the Walls. International artists Aiko, Miss Van, Fafi, Maya Hayuk, Lady Pink, Faith47, Lakwena, Kashink, Sheryo, Olek, Toofly, Claw Money, Jessie & Katey, Myla, and Shamsia Hassani all created murals or showed in the adjacent exhibition space. The participating artists have come from cities such as Cape Town, Paris, New York, and London. Part gallery part mural exhibition, the project acts as a history guide to the great presence of women muralists.
Women on the Walls is a dream come true and also a proverbial screw you to people who say that the reason women artists are often overshadowed in the media is due to a dearth in street art. That, to be blunt, is bullshit. Older artists and the younger generation they inspired came together in the Wynwood district of Miami this Art Basel to prove their stronghold in the public art community. The scope of media alone proves their mastery of the craft as spray paint, yarn, text, stencils, and free handed characters all co-mingle to form a variety that has something to please most tastes.
Not only is the perfect storm of artists curated in this year’s Wynwood Walls enough to be in awe of, additionally Martha Cooper has shared some breathtaking progress photos. As artfully as the walls are decorated, each image thoughtfully reveals the personas behind the iconography. Each picture displays the strength of these women, whether unveiling the sheer amount of effort behind a production to those who stand boldly in front of completed pieces. Cooper shows that these women are heroes, or warriors as Toofly depicts, taking on whatever challenges lay in their wake and simply killing it.
Tonight is opening night for Calligraffiti: 1984-2013 at the Leila Heller Gallery. The show is interesting for two reasons:
It examines connections between graffiti and calligraphy at a fancy gallery. Seriously though, this should be really fascinating. There will be work by El Seed, L’ATLAS, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, LA2, ROSTARR, Niels “Shoe” Meulman, Ramellzee and many more artists (including many with no history on the street or with graffiti, but rather with feet firmly rooted in more traditional modern and contemporary art).
It marks the return of Jeffrey Deitch to New York City, basically. He didn’t curate the show, but he did curate a version of the show at the same gallery back in 1984, and the New York Times reports “Mr. Deitch served as Ms. Heller’s sounding board” for this version of the show. Deitch recently resigned as Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles after growing the museum’s endowment from under $10 million to almost $100 million, although it seems as though he is staying on at the museum just a little while longer, through the completion of that goal of reaching a $100 million endowment and the process of finding a new Director.
Yesterday MOCAtv (MOCA Los Angeles’ YouTube channel) announced an open call for content for the channel. Jeffrey Deitch, Carlo McCormick, Martha Cooper, Ethel Seno, and I will be reviewing content on YouTube with “#MOCATVUPLOAD” in the video title and then selecting the best of those films for inclusion on MOCAtv. Read more about the project here.
Expect next week’s link-o-rama to be a big one. It’s mid-term week at school. Speaking of school, I’m organizing an artist residency for young artists at my college. If you are between 18 and 24 and could use $350 to do something creative, I hope you’ll consider applying for the Haverford College Undergraduate Artist Residency. Here’s what has been going on this week off Vandalog:
Remember that beautiful Barry McGee piece in Sydney that we mentioned two weeks ago? That wall of tags? Turns out he wasn’t supposed to paint that, so it’s getting removed. He was meant to, and did, paint another wall, but not the wall that he tagged. Officially, this was an honest mistake and an unfortunate case of confusion on McGee’s part, but if you had a cherry picker or a scissor lift and some extra paint, how would you spend your nights?
New questions about if Banksy’s This Looks a Bit Like an Elephant piece left a man homeless.
Banksy is selling a poster on Saturday at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair, and all the proceeds are going to charity. Just £5 per poster. The design is a “Tesco Petrol Bomb,” referencing the recent riots in Bristol over the construction of a new Tesco supermarket.
Melrose&Fairfax have an article about Jeffrey Deitch’s continued ties to The Hole, the gallery that his right-hand woman Kathy Grayson set up after Deitch Project closed and Deitch became the director of MOCA in LA. Most of what they mention was already well-known or expected and a lot less explosive than Melrose&Fairfax make it out to be, but I’d still be curious to hear what The Association of Art Museum Directors think about this.
Since we haven’t posted about Art in the Streets in a few days, we thought now would be the best time to release some photos of the accompanying exhibit book for the show. Put together by the curators of the show, Roger Gastman, Aaron Rose and of course, Jeffrey Deitch, the book acts as an international retrospective of art, or as much as can be packed into the pages.
Also, here are some more names featured in the show (and book) as well. These could have been guessed, but now they are confirmed: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Stelios Faitakis, Futura, Phil Frost, Os Gemeos, Keith Haring, Todd James, Margaret Kilgallen, Lady Pink, Barry McGee, Steve “ESPO” Powers, Lee Quinones, Retna, Kenny Scharf, Swoon, Ed Templeton
Again, some were known, but now we are starting to get more of an idea what the show is shaping up to be. I’m still surprised what a well-kept secret it is thus far.