I’ve been traveling a bit and I’m in London at the moment, so here’s me playing some catch up:
There seems to be a big question mark on the freshly launched Street Art Project from Google. I’ve been getting friends outside of street art sending me links to the NYTimes article about the project and asking what the hell to think, and everyone within street art that I’ve spoken with seems unsure of what to think about the thing. I’m also unsure so far. On the surface, sounds great: A major institution offering to archive, tag, map and promote the best high-resolution photos of street art around the world. But the more I think about it, the less exciting it sounds: Only a select few contributors (from the amazing Living Walls to the questionableGlobal Street Art), essentially replicating the functions of flickr without the ability for anyone to participate, using art to whitewash the reputation of a controversial company… Honestly, if I had the opportunity to contribute photos to this project, I probably would just because of the possible selfish promotional value, but at the same time I’m not sure that this project is of any real worth the the street art or graffiti communities. I don’t know. I’m just not sold on the idea that this is the best strategy or documentation or archival. Anyone have any thoughts on this thing?
Ken Sortais aka PAL Crew’s Cony had a show on in Paris earlier this month. The show has closed now, but it’s worth checking out the photos. The sculptures are very George Condo-esque, but Sortais has some real talent. The work isn’t completely removed from his graffiti, but he’s certainly not using his graffiti reputation or skills as a crutch for these gallery works, something that happens all too often with less talented artists as they move from the street to the gallery.
All of London is talking about the Roa and Ripo shows opening today at Stolenspace Gallery. I’m looking forward to the opening: Two artists whose work I enjoy, and it will be my first time at Stolenspace’s new location.
Next week four of the great early photographers of graffiti will be on a panel hosted by Jay J.SON Edlin at the Museum of the City of New York as part of the City as Canvas show. That’s one event not to miss. I may even come up from Philadelphia for it, so if you’re in NYC, you have no excuse not to go. Use the discount code in this flyer to save a bit on tickets to the event.
I really like today’s Banksy piece, even though it’s a bit more targeted towards an audience already familiar with street art and graffiti that most of the Better Out Than In. I was shocked these last few days. I was at a big family wedding, and it seemed like everyone I spoke with brought up Banksy. I know he’s got mainstream popularity, but sometimes I forget how much. But hey, if my grandmother doesn’t get this piece, I’m okay with that, because I think it’s a good joke for those who will get it. Plus, with my upcoming ebook Viral Art all about the internet, street art and graffiti, I’m always fascinated by street art that makes a joke about how it will be distributed online. Overall, one of my preferred pieces from the show for sure. The one I’d make a trip out to see in person.
Today Banksy also posted an ostensible “blocked message” to the Better Out Than In site along with this piece: The draft of an op-ed he submitted to The New York Times mocked up to appear as it would if it were published in the paper. But the NYTimes editors rejected Banksy’s article (which argued that Freedom Tower is a terrible building to put up in place of the Twin Towers). That’s not a blocked message. That’s an editor doing his or her job and deciding what to publish. Read the article and see for yourself. Do you really think it meets the standard of quality that people expect (whether or not it’s always reached) from the New York Times? I didn’t have an opinion one way or the other about Freedom Tower before today, and I still don’t have an opinion on it. Shouldn’t that op-ed have convinced me or at least got me thinking about the issue? I’ve definitely offered up some poorly thought out and poorly written criticism here on Vandalog from time to time, but I never expected it to appear in the New York Times or implied censorship when it wasn’t.
So today we have 2 elements to the + 5. First, I want to point out five articles that where I think the writers have done a nice job voicing an opinion about the work of street artists or graffiti writers or the cultures of street art and graffiti:
Sweet Toof is understandably upset that a recent mural project in Hackney, where he and the rest of the Burning Candy crew painted some of their best illegal street art and graffiti, intentionally avoided including local artists. You’ve gotta love this quote from Sarah Weir, who heads the charity that commissioned the new murals: “We unashamedly wanted to showcase the best international artists and transform this part of the canal into a destination for street art.” That might be the dumbest thing I’ve read all summer, except for course for arguments defending the NSA or calling for Edward Snowden to return to the USA. First of all, murals (while interesting) emulate street art and graffiti, but there is a distinct difference between legal murals by street artists and illegal street art by the same artists. I’m sure that on Vandalog I have referred to murals as street art for the sake of simplicity, but not in a context like this where the difference between murals and street art is actually quite important. Hackney Wick’s canal already is a destination for street art, in large part due to the work of Gold Peg, Sweet Toof and the other members of Burning Candy. Weir is trying to turn it into a destination for murals, most likely at the expense of street art and graffiti if the intense pre-Olympics graffiti removal efforts in the area are anything to go by. Mural projects and festival are awesome, but they are not the same thing as illegal street art or graffiti.
Israel Hernandez, an 18-year-old Miami graffiti writer, was killed this week when he was tazered by police. They were chasing him after catching him writing in an abandoned building. CNN’s coverage of Hernandez’ death was surprisingly fair. Their piece was framed as the tragedy that is clearly is, rather than a piece demonizing Hernandez for his artwork like you might expect from some mainstream media.
Klughaus Gallery is about to introduce Paris’ Peace And Love (PAL) Crew is about to the people of New York City with Palingenesis, a show with eight members of the illustrious crew. Like their fellow Frenchmen in the DMV Crew, the members of PAL fuse graffiti, illustration, and fine art. The PAL Crew of course includes the rising stars Cony aka Ken Sortais and Horfe, among others.
Palingenesis opens this coming Saturday (6-10pm) at a new pop up space for Klughaus on the Lower East Side (154 Stanton St. at Suffolk St.). The opening is sure to be a madhouse, so be sure to RSVP.
Although he’s been known in France for some time, Ken Sortais aka Cony finally popped up on my radar this year for his work at Komafest. Now he has his first show on in London. Princes of Darkness is open now through January 12th at Galleries Goldstein. The gallery has released a new screenprint from Sortais as part of the show, and it is available online for £45.
Alternative Paris has images on their site from the show, and they made this video (please note that although there is footage in the video from the film They Live, known as the film from which Shepard Fairey got the OBEY slogan, John Carpenter also made a film called Prince of Darkness just before They Live, which is presumably where Sortais got the title and theme of his show from rather than They Live):
Note from RJ: We at Vandalog are excited to publish Tristan Manco‘s first post on the site, hopefully the first of many. Tristan is one of contemporary street art’s greatest champions and most-distinguished writers. Tristan curated by iterations of Cans Festival, worked at Pictures on Walls for half a decade, has written or in some way contributed to 8 art books since 2002 as well as numerous magazine articles in publications such as Juxtapoz. I’ve known Tristan for a couple of years, and he is one of the people whom I really trust when it comes to art.
Taking place in the 24-hour daylight of a Northern Norway summer on a small island town called Vardø north of the Arctic Circle – Komafest was always going to be a unique event…
Vardø is the oldest settlement in Northern Norway and in recent years has become depopulated with many buildings left empty, partly as a result of the collapsing fishing industry. The curator and organizer of the festival, the Norwegian artist Pøbel saw the potential of a street art festival to make a visual transformation of the town and to show the local people it was possible to make changes. While developing the idea Pøbel spent time getting to know the locals and with his unassuming nature and enthusiasm he began to gain their trust. Soon the public began to get behind the idea and offer up buildings for artists to paint on and volunteering to help in the organization. It became a truly grassroots movement rather than something imposed on the community.
The island, shaped like a butterfly, has an otherworldly atmosphere and is only accessible overland by a winding 3km undersea tunnel, which appears out of the ground like something out of a science fiction movie, but the real stars of the show are its traditional wooden buildings. Many of the wooden jetties, warehouses and buildings are abandoned, weather-beaten and in a state of beautiful decay. Although standing empty these heritage buildings all have owners who are often unable to afford their proper restoration. The idea of project is that the art that is created on them can awaken these buildings out from a coma, giving the festival it’s name – Komafest.
What I found inspiring about this project was the way the invited artists responded to the place. Each artist had some idea of what they might experience but in most cases their preconceptions soon changed once they began to speak to the locals and learn more about their environment. According to local fisherman Aksel Robertsen, Philadelphian artist Steve Powers had many ideas planned but scrapped them as soon as he began to meet the people and experienced the place for himself – all those encounters shaped his final murals; such as “Cod is Great” and “Eternal Light – Eternal Night”. The French artist Remed painted a mural on an old seafront warehouse, which took some of its imagery from the seascape but included the text Hellige Heks Fortuna, (Hellige Heks means Holy Witch in Norwegian). This references to witches dates back to the Vardø witch trials that were held there in 17th century resulting in many of the accused being burned alive at the stake.