One Year of Art in Ad Places

“Blue Lady” for Parker Day, installed for Art in Ad Places. Photo by Luna Park.

If you thought, “Hmm, Vandalog doesn’t seem to be updating as much” throughout 2017… Here’s why: We were focused on Art in Ad Places, a 52-week campaign of ad takeovers across New York City! We worked with Faust, Shepard Fairey, Molly Crabapple, Jess X Snow, and dozens more artists to install their work in NYC payphones.

Now that the campaign has been going for a year, we’re ready to celebrate!

On January 26th, find us at LUCAS LUCAS in Williamsburg for an Art in Ad Places exhibition, and the launch of a book celebrating all of our ad takeovers to date. We’ll have photos from Luna Park, books, a special installation with the help of fellow ad takeover activist Jordan Seiler, and drinks from Ilegal Mezcal. We open at 7pm.

And if you can’t make it to the opening, the show will be open through February 3rd.

Thank you Very Nearly Almost

Roa in London, taken around the time I was interviewing him for Very Nearly Almost.

Sad news to report: Very Nearly Almost, the UK’s premier magazine covering street art/graffiti/muralism…, is shutting down after 10 years.

VNA was an early inspiration for me when Vandalog was just starting out. I would devour their interviews. VNA privileged the voice of the artist, publishing in-depth interviews with street art superstars like Shepard Fairey, as well as people who probably don’t get quite the same chances to take deep dives exploring their work. A few times, I’ve been fortunate to contribute to VNA as an interviewer. Actually, an interview with Case for VNA might have been the first time that someone else published my work.

The community around VNA, a community of contributing writers, photographers, and even artists who collaborated on limited edition covers, is a testament to the importance of the magazine and the genuine love and excitement with which the VNA team approached their work.

To give the magazine a proper send off before they close up shop, dozens artists have contributed work to a charity auction that VNA has organized to benefit Macmillan Cancer Support. Bidding starts today.

Photo by RJ Rushmore


Graffiti Taxonomy by Evan Roth. Photo by Lisa Boughter.

As regular readers probably know, I recently curated an exhibition about the tools and strategies of graffiti for the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College. ALL BIG LETTERS closed on Friday. The exhibition featured work 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, MOMO, NTEL, Smart Crew, Steve Weinik, stikman, and more. Before ALL BIG LETTERS fades into our rear view, I wanted to highlight two more bits of press about the show.

First, I spoke with Brooklyn Street Art’s Jaime Rojo and Steven Harrington for an interview on The Huffington Post. We spoke about curating an exhibition about graffiti for a general audience (and a gallery with an educational mission), the graffiti community’s skill at hacking tools and cityscapes, graffiti as a performance, and more.

And Very Nearly Almost published a short video from ALL BIG LETTERS:

Photo by Lisa Boughter

ALL BIG LETTERS Opens in Haverford, PA

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

ALL BIG LETTERS: Exhibiting graffiti tools and strategy

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

Ad Takeovers: Learn from the best

Public Ad Campaign

Ever wondered how people like Abe Lincoln Jr., Joe Boruchow, or Icy & Sot install their artwork in bus shelters and phone booths? Next week, New Yorkers will have a chance to learn from the best. Public Ad Campaign is leading “a practical introduction” to ad takeovers at Mayday in Bushwick.

Led by Jordan Seiler and Thomas Dekeyser, the workshop will cover the history and philosophy of ad takeovers (the topic of Dekeyser’s PhD research), as well as the tools and techniques that Seiler has spent the last 15 years perfecting and sharing.

I’ve attended one of Jordan’s workshops before, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. It will be fun, and you’ll see just how easy ad takeovers can be. The more people who know how easy it is to open up ad kiosks, and have access to the tools to do it, the better.

The workshop is free to attend, but you have to register in advance.

Catch RJ at The Art Conference

RJ Rushmore

Later this month, catch me at The Art Conference, a new arts festival in London. I’m excited to be speaking alongside some amazing artists, including Jordan Seiler, Dan Witz, Tinsel Edwards, and Lucy McLauchlan. I’ll be there to speak about what street art can be when it goes beyond decoration.

The Art Conference will take place July 23 and 24th, and includes a ticketed conference portion and a free exhibition component. Friday the 8th is the last day to pick up early bird tickets to the conference, so don’t delay if you want a deal. For more about the speakers, schedule, and tickets, check The Art Conference’s website.

Speaking of Dan Witz, he’s got a Kickstarter campaign going for an upcoming series of street pieces, which he hopes to install inside London’s iconic red telephone booths.

Philadelphia kicks off spring with new ad busts

Joe Boruchow. Photo by Conrad Benner.
Joe Boruchow. Photo by Conrad Benner.

Spring has sprung in Philadelphia, and the local street art community seem to be celebrating with new ad takeovers in the city’s bus shelters. Thanks to Jordan Seiler / Public Ad Campaign’s Public Access initiative, opening the advertising kiosks in the vast majority of Philly’s bus shelters is a breeze. Just this week, Joe Boruchow and NDA, both of whom we’ve recently shown at LMNL Gallery, replaced a few ads with their own artwork. NDA’s pieces were both collaborations with Hellbent, who promises similar work in New York City soon.

NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of Hellbent.
NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of Hellbent.

Jordan Seiler was the first artist in recent memory to bring ad takeovers to Philadelphia, back in 2010. And until last summer, that’s about all there was, until Seiler made the Philadelphia infinitely easier to open up by producing a “key” that matched their custom security screws. Vandalog contributor Caroline Caldwell was probably the first to test out a Philadelphia key. Since then, the tools have reached a handful of artists in the city.

Public Access "keys" by Jordan Seiler. Photo by Jordan Seiler.
Public Access “keys” for various cities by Jordan Seiler. Photo by Jordan Seiler.
Joe Burochow. Photo by Thomas Buildmore.
Joe Burochow. Photo by Thomas Buildmore.
NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of NDA
NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of NDA

Unfortunately, it looks like this new-found street art surface may be short lived in Philadelphia. Hundreds of the city’s bus shelters are being replaced with an upgraded model featuring electronic billboards. With that in mind, for those with keys, here’s to making good use of them while you still have a chance.

Photos by Conrad Benner, Jordan Seiler, and Thomas Buildmore, and courtesy of NDA and Hellbent

“Bob-omb,” an all-GIF augmented reality exhibition in NO AD

A screenshot from Bob-omb, featuring stills of art by James Kerr (Scorpion Dagger) and Dave Whyte.
A screenshot from Bob-omb, featuring stills of art by James Kerr (Scorpion Dagger) and Dave Whyte.

Wow. That headline is full of some jargon and gibberish… Sorry. Let me explain…

Today marks the launch of the latest exhibition in NO AD, a new evolution for the smartphone app that simulates a world in which New York City’s subway station advertisements are replaced with public art. NO AD, which I’ve written about before, uses augmented reality to digitally replace the ads on your phone’s screen. Here’s how it works.

NO AD has become a really interesting exhibition space, somewhere between a digital exhibition and a guerrilla street art exhibition. The very platform is an artwork, so NO AD’s art exhibitions exist within another work of art, and the platform gets you thinking as much as the art it displays.

I’m honored that the NO AD creators (between PublicAdCampaign, The Heavy Projects, and The Subway Art Blog under the umbrella of Re+Public) asked me to curate the first exhibition NO AD made up entirely of animated GIF art. That exhibition, titled Bob-omb, launched today and includes artwork from by The Barkers, Caitlin Burns, Dave Whyte, Hrag Vartanian, James Kerr – Scorpion Dagger, Jeremyville, Maori Sakai, Molly Soda, Paolo Čerić aka Patakk, Ryan Seslow, The Current Sea, YoMeryl, and Zack Dougherty.

In the past, the vast majority of content in NO AD has been static images, but Bob-omb takes full advantage of the platform by focusing exclusively on animated pieces, transforming static advertisements into dynamic artworks.

Bob-omb is an effort to weaponize GIF art as a tool for reimaging public space while simultaneously highlighting the variety and depth possible with the medium. The artists range from filmmakers to illustrators to journalists, and their work varies from hyper-short documentary videos to abstract digital illustration.

To view Bob-omb, simply download NO AD for your iPhone or Android device (or update it if you’ve already got the app on your phone), find a New York City subway station, open the app, and start pointing your phone at the ads. Or download/update the app and try the test image below.

I want to give a big thank you to all of the artists in Bob-omb and the team behind NO AD for this opportunity.

test image
Test image: Download NO AD and use this image to see how it works.

Images courtesy of NO AD

Replacing ads with your own messages just got a lot easier

An ad for PublicAccess, I suppose
An ad for PublicAccess, I suppose

Ever wanted to place your own messages into bus shelter advertising kiosks? Well, now it’s easier than ever with PublicAccess from PublicAdCampaign, a new service that will provide you with just the proper art object for opening up ad kiosks in your city.

Since November 2013, Jordan Seiler and a handful of other artists and street art photographers have been using the somewhat curious hashtag #yeahwegotkeysforthat on Instagram. While it was never quite a secret what was going on, perhaps PublicAdCampaign’s most ambitious project to date remained in semi-stealth mode until today. The results of the project were never secret, but it was never fully explained either.

If you were paying close attention, you would discover that Seiler was manufacturing and distributing sculptures to artists around the world. These sculptures double as “keys,” to bus shelter advertising kiosks around the world. Slowly, Seiler has been buliding up an inventory of various key designs (the locks are standarized across a given public transit system, but can vary from city to city) and mapping out where each design works. New York? Yeah, he’s got keys for that. London? Yeah, he’s got keys for that. San Fransisco? Yeah, he’s got keys for that. Hence the hashtag.

Some of the PublicAccess keys
Some of the PublicAccess keys

Until today, Seiler was just distributing the keys to friends and word of mouth connections, but now he’s opening up the project to the general public. At PublicAccess, you’ll find a map telling you which keys work in which cities, as well as links to download each design for free as a 3D printable file or buy a premade key for $35. Now, everyone’s got keys for that.

The open source project is still in the process of expanding, with keys for more cities coming soon. In the mean time, even with just a few key designs, PublicAccess has greatly expanded the general public’s access to bus shelter advertisements.

Of course, the site carries the disclaimer, “THE TOOLS OFFERED THRU THIS SITE ARE HANDMADE ART OBJECTS AND NOT INTENDED FOR USE…” so keep that in mind while you’re using your key.

Photos by Jordan Seiler