Artists in a State of Resistance

January 28th, 2017 | By | No Comments »

Donald Trump is president, and things have gone south even more quickly than most people imagined. Now what? Since the election, I’ve heard from so many artists who are reevaluating their work in this new context. I’ve also heard from or come across artists are already taking action. I thought I’d bring together a few of my favorite public projects so far, in the hopes that they might spark a bit of hope, inspiration, and action in others.

First off, this piece didn’t last long, but I came across the above urinal while I was out in Haverford, PA for the opening of ALL BIG LETTERS. Just glad that I was able to snap a photo (and make use of the work) while it lasted.

On a similar note, whoever is putting up these PLEASE PEE ON ME stickers around NYC deserves a medal.

For more anti-Trump street art (some old, some new), The Huffington Post has a nice listicle.

Protest signs are another way artists can help. Everyone needs a good protest sign. One of the highlights of my week was seeing this post on the British graffiti blog Hurt You Bad. Shepard Fairey has once again been designing some iconic protest posters. And the Amplifier Foundation made sure that plenty of beautiful and powerful posters were on hand for the Women’s March in DC. Hopefully we see more great projects coming from them in the coming months and years. Really though, Hyperallergic nailed it with this post of the best signs from the Women’s March locations across the country.

And signs aren’t just for protests and anger. Organizers in Philadelphia and Atlanta sprang into action for Signs of Solidarity, a project where artists made dozens of handmade signs to hang all over various private buildings throughout Philly and Atlanta during inauguration weekend. It’s amazing to see how quickly and smoothly that project came together. Of Signs of Solidarity is any indication, the art world is poised to mount a serious resistance, but that only happens if we keep taking action.

Of course, being anti-Trump is important, but we also need some acknowledgement of the specific harms that he is inflicting (and the Women’s March touched on that). Just one example from this week (and yes, I know this feels like 25 news cycles ago, but that’s just how bad shit is right now): Trump made moves to restart the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. So now, once again, we need artists who can take on that issue and arm the opposition with strong visuals. This week’s installation for Art in Ad Places, a poster designed by Monica Canilao and Eric Loundy, is one example. Spencer Keeton Cunningham’s new mural in Brooklyn, the latest in a series of murals he’s painted in support of Standing Rock, is another. And okay, maybe Standing Rock isn’t what pulls at your heartstrings. What about immigration? Healthcare? Voter suppression? Take your pick, but do make a choice to be active.

Resist.

Photos by RJ Rushmore


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Saying goodbye to Vandalog contributor Laura Patricia Calle

November 28th, 2015 | By | No Comments »

Laura

This week, we at Vandalog lost a friend and colleague, as well as one of the most promising (and already accomplished) public art advocates in the United States. Laura Patricia Calle passed away this week at the age of 26. In addition to being a Contributing Writer on Vandalog, Laura was a long-time volunteer staff member for Living Walls in Atlanta (most recently as Programming Director). For Vandalog, Laura brought a fresh voice as a champion of South American street art and muralism. In Atlanta, well, she was an integral part of the Living Walls family for as long as I’ve been visiting the conference.

Atlanta’s alt-weekly Creative Loafing has their own article about Laura, which includes an inspiring Facebook post from Laura about the way she lived her life.

Atlanta won’t be the same without her, but Laura’s legacy lives on on the walls of the city and in the hearts of the artists, arts advocates, and friends spread out from Columbia to Paris, and everywhere in between.

Photo from Laura’s Facebook


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Has street art “sold out and gentrified our cities”?

November 12th, 2015 | By | 10 Comments »
The entrance to Wynwood Walls in Miami, Florida. Photo by Osseous.

The entrance to Wynwood Walls in Miami, Florida. Photo by Osseous.

Earlier this week, the online street art community was abuzz about an article by Rafael Schacter for The Conversation, From dissident to decorative: why street art sold out and gentrified our cities. Between the time I left my apartment on Monday morning and when I arrived at work half an hour later, it seemed like a dozen of my friends had shared the article or reacted to it in some way.

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.

Rather than go on my own rant responding to Schacter like I would usually do, I reached out to some of the biggest names in street art and muralism for their reactions. A few of them answered. The prompt was pretty open-ended, basically just to share some thoughts after reading the article. Here’s what Buff Monster, Living Walls’ Monica Campana, 1xRun’s Jesse Cory, Jeffrey Deitch, Libray Street Collective’s Matt Eaton, Tristan Eaton, John Fekner, Gaia, Ganzeer, Carlo McCormick, The Painted Desert Project’s Chip Thomas, Jessie Unterhalter, Vexta, and Wall Therapy’s Ian Wilson had to say (with emphasis added)…

Read the rest of this article »


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What and where are open walls?

December 24th, 2014 | By | 3 Comments »
Partial buffed Barry McGee mural at Bowery and Houston (the buff marks cover more red tags). Photo by Andrew Russeth.

Partially buffed Barry McGee mural at Bowery and Houston (the buff marks cover more red tags). Photo by Andrew Russeth.

UPDATE: Xavi Ballaz (known for Difusor and the Open Walls Conference in Barcelona) has responded to this post with some of the more positive advancements towards open walls, and suggests that the open walls movement does indeed need a manifesto.

A friend of mine recently used an interesting phrase: “the open walls movement.” I thought he was using the term as a synonym for “the street art festival circuit,” which upset me, because street art festivals do not have what I would call “open walls.” But really, my friend was commenting on a larger movement perceived to be spreading around the world to use public space differently (insomuch as walls on private property are public space). On the surface, he’s right. Street art festivals, grassroots muralism programs, free walls, curated alleyways and everything in between now exist in cities and small towns around the world.

Does that make a movement? I don’t know. Nobody is getting together to write a manifesto and participants’ aims and methods are diverse, but there is a disparate group of what I’ll call “open walls people” who share a new way of looking at walls and public space: Public walls are for the artists, murals enliven streets and communities, and there should be limited or no government regulation of murals, but advertising in public space should be heavily regulated or eliminated entirely. Simply put, “open walls people” believe in unrestricted art in (often odd) public spaces.

But how open are our walls today? Surfing the web, it sometimes feels like globe-trotting muralists can hop off a plane in any city, find a wall, and begin painting the next day, or that every small European city is covered in murals. That’s simply not true. Despite valiant and well-intentioned efforts, there’s a long way to go before we have anything approaching “open walls.”

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Link-o-rama

August 31st, 2014 | By | No Comments »
art_museum

Unknown artist in Philadelphia

Loving my time so far at the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, but it’s definitely more than a 9-5, so it’s time for me to play catch up yet again…

  • Speaking of the Mural Arts Program, I am really pleased to say that we now have a major Shepard Fairey mural in Philadelphia. Find me some day and ask me the whole story of this mural, but let’s just say it’s complicated and thank goodness for Roland at Domani Developers for getting us a wall at the last minute.
  • We also have a new much more politically-charged mural from Shepard Fairey through The L.I.S.A. Project NYC, and while I’m sure the process for that was also quite complicated, my friend Wayne took care of that and all I had to do was pitch Shepard on the idea of a big wall in NYC and the property owner on the idea of a Shepard Fairey mural on his building (neither of which were too difficult). I’m absolutely honored to have played even my small role in each of these murals. It was my first time working with Shepard, and it was a pleasure.
  • Two real kings of NYC graffiti, Blade and Freedom, have shows open now at the Seventh Letter flagship store in LA. Blade is an undisputed subway king who also pushed graffiti forward as an art-form, a rare combination. Freedom is a personal favorite of mine (his piece in my black book is a real prized possession) for combining pop art, an ability to paint very well, comics, and graffiti in an intelligent way without too much of an ego. I’m sad to be missing both of these shows, but I hope LA will give them the love they deserve.
  • Hi-Fructose posted some interesting GIFs by Zolloc, but the best part of the post is the first sentence: “While GIFs have yet to find an established place in the art world, they’re fascinating because they have the potential to go beyond the frozen image in two dimensions.” Of course, Hi-Fructose is part of the art world, so just having them post Zolloc’s GIFs counts for something. Hi-Fructose seems to be saying (albeit hesitantly) that GIFs being in their corner of the art world, which is great. That’s not a bad corner to be in, and it’s a hell of a lot better than nowhere. So, why be hesitant? If the work is fascinating, embrace it.
  • Oh Olek, always the best of intentions, but the results are not so great…
  • Some absolutely great ad takeovers.
  • These projections from Hygienic Dress League are a bit different. Very cool though. Anyone know of other artists who are projecting onto steam?
  • Smart Crew have teamed up with Beriah Wall on a series of cool collaborations. Does anyone else see this as further evidence of Smart Crew growing up, aka transitioning from a crew producing illegal graffiti into a brand or collective that does legal (and sometimes commercial) work referencing illegal graffiti? Nothing wrong with that. I’m just noting the transition.
  • Even when recycling old work, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is always poignant and powerful. She’s also created a new poster of Michael Brown that you can download on her website.
  • I’ve been saying for a while that there’s great similarity between GIFs and street art, so I’m a big fan of this series of installations organized by Guus ter Beek and Tayfun Sarier.
  • Hyperallergic has been covering artist reactions to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Public performances in Philadelphia (by Keith Wallace) and New York City (by Whitney V. Hunter) exemplify to the unsurprising obliviousness to the situation or at least lack of caring that so many people openly display (for more, see Kara Walker at Domino). It’s amazing to see these two striking performances go widely ignored while it’s mostly pretty but empty murals that go viral. Is that the state of street art and muralism today? I hope not. And of course, maybe what makes those performances so jarring online is that they were ignored on the street.
  • I have tried to resit the allure of Pejac’s work for a while, but no more. Yes, some of the jokes are cheap and feel twice-told, exactly the sort of easy made-to-go-viral work that I am complaining about in the previous paragraph, but Pejac is painting them really well, and they consistently catch my attention. As much as I would like to write him off as a Banksy-ripoff who even came to that idea a few years too late, I can’t do so any longer. The work is actually quite good. Have a look for yourself.
  • Last week I was in Atlanta for the Living Walls Conference. A great time was had by all. I was there to speak with Living Walls co-founder Monica Campana and Juxtapoz editor Austin McManus about the evolution of street art and graffiti over the past five or so year, and Vandalog contributing writer Caroline Caldwell was there to paint a mural. Atlanta got some real gems this year, including new work by Moneyless, Troy Lovegates and Xuan Alyfe in collaboration with Trek Matthews. Juxtapoz has extensive coverage. Congratulations to Living Walls on a truly impressive 5th anniversary event.
  • This coming week I’ll be in Norway for Nuart and Nuart Plus. The artist lineup features some of my personal favorites, including John Fekner, SpY and Fra.Biancoshock. I love Nuart because it’s a festival that always strikes a balance between the best of the best artists painting epic murals on the “street art festival circuit,” and the oft-under-publicized but highly-political activist artists intervening in public space. Putting these artists in the same festival strengthens the work of everyone there, and reminds us that murals can serve many different purposes. I’ll be speaking at Nuart Plus on behalf of the Mural Arts Program in a few capacities. I’ll be moderating a panel about activism in art, presenting couple of short films during Brooklyn Street Art’s film night, sitting on a panel about contemporary muralism and giving a talk about how government-sanctioned art and muralism can be used to promote positive social change. There will be a lot of great speakers at Nuart Plus this year though. Brooklyn Street Art has the whole line up for the festival and the conference.

Photo by RJ Rushmore


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UK travels link-o-rama

June 11th, 2014 | By | 1 Comment »
Paul Insect and Dscreet in London

Paul Insect and Dscreet in London

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 questionable Global 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?
  • Banksy has updated (and upgraded) his website. Notable updates include the updates to the Q&A section and an embed of this video, titled “Better Out Than In – the movie,” which is essentially a slightly edited version of his Webby Awards acceptance video. The question now is whether that short video is really “the movie,” or a trailer for an upcoming movie. Street Art News seems to think it’s a trailer, but I don’t see Banksy having hinted one way or the other.
  • 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.

Photo by RJ Rushmore


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Exhibiting in an abandoned building in Israel

August 14th, 2013 | By | No Comments »

Tonight at Brooklyn Street Art‘s movie night at the Living Walls Conference in Atlanta, BSA’s Steve and Jaime showed a bunch of interesting films, but one really stood out for me. I think I saw the first few seconds of this video months ago and wasn’t drawn in, so I ignored it. But, watching the whole thing, I see I clearly made a mistake. Nearly a dozen artists took over this abandoned building in Jaffa, Israel earlier this year and covered it in art. Then, they invited their friends to come and see what they had done. The installation was called Feel in the Cracks. The project reminds me of FAME Festival’s abandoned monastery, where much of the best work of the festival is hidden away, only available for those willing to explore.

I’ve got to hand it to Wonky Monky, Untay, Slamer, Signor Gi, Ross Plazma, Nitzan Mintz, Natalie Mandel, Latzi, Kipi, Dioz and Dede for going out and taking over this building, but then being pretty public about it. Plenty of abandoned buildings get painted, but then to host a public party pointing out that fact seems pretty exciting and ballsy to me. It’s a very loud and very blatant call for people to take space and improve it, whether they have the legal right to do so or not because perhaps there is a morality about the use of space that overrules legality.

Anyway, the video is cool…

Feel in the Cracks from Daniel Wechsler on Vimeo.


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Sunday link-o-rama

July 28th, 2013 | By | No Comments »
Jaz, drawing entirely with charcoal.

Jaz, drawing entirely with charcoal in Buenos Aires.

Had a quick holiday in New York City combined with a nasty cold to delay posting this link-o-rama, but I’m back so here we go…

  • Dave aka nolionsinengland has been a friend and also one of my favorite street art/graffiti photographers for many years now. I’m very excited to see that he’s now offering street art tours of London in addition to his street art photography workshops. There aren’t too many people who can take me on a graffiti or street art tour of London, but Dave has shown me around before and he still schools me every time we meet up. This guy knows his stuff, and regular reads of this site have seen his photos on here for years. I haven’t taken this tour of course, but from every experience I’ve had with Dave over the past 5 or so years, I cannot recommend him highly enough.
  • Another longtime friend whose work I’ve admired is Know Hope, so I’m overjoyed to see him getting some serious recognition in the UK with a solo show coming up at Lazarides Gallery’s Rathbone Place location. Like Os Gemeos, Know Hope make work that grabs me and sucks me in to his world, and that’s a rare and beautiful experience. The show opens August 2nd.
  • Banksy’s No Ball Games street piece in London has been removed from the wall and is due to be sold next year. The profits from the sale will be going to charity, but I’m curious if that means the profits for person who owns the wall, or if the group organizing the removal and sale are also forgoing any profits. The company that removed this wall is the same one that managed the sale of Banksy’s Slave Labour street piece earlier this year.
  • Very nice NSA-theme ad takeover.
  • Gold Peg and Malarky are showing together in Stoke on Trent in the UK on August 3rd. It’s not often that Gold Peg shows her work indoors, so this is a really special treat.
  • Faile are on the cover of the latest issue of Very Nearly Almost, so there will be launch events in both NYC and London. The NYC launch is July 31st at Reed Projects and the London launch will be 8th August at Lazarides.
  • This year’s Living Walls conference/festival line up has been announced. The festival (my personal favorite in the USA) will be August 14th-18th in Atlanta. Caroline and I will be there, as well Steve and Jaime of Brooklyn Street Art. I highly encourage you to make the trip out if at all possible. Artist painting this year include Jaz, Inti, Know Hope, Freddy Sam, Trek Matthews and many more. More info about the conference (including all the things planned besides the murals) here. Also, you can donate to the conference here.
  • Remi/Rough recently put together a book of sketches that you can read online. Most artists who have met me know that I’m always carrying around a blackbook, and that I love to collect sketches, so this project of Remi’s was a real joy for me. It’s really fascinating to see what’s going on behind the scenes with this work.
  • Caroline and I went to this show in Brooklyn on Saturday night. I was really impressed with EKG’s drawings. A few of them definitely reminded me of Rammellzee. Col’s screenprints on wood were also interesting as a change of pace for someone who I’ve always known as a master with spray can.
  • Have I missed something? These new Titifreak works for his upcoming show at Black Book Gallery look very different from the Titifreak I remember. Still great though. I hope I get a chance to see this show while I’m in Denver next month.
  • Surreal awesomeness from Dome.

Photo by Jaz


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Art Buff – Looking at Living Walls’ two most controversial murals

July 25th, 2013 | By | 1 Comment »
Hyuro wall buff

Hyuro’s wall in the midst of being buffed

I recently came across this video that does a really nice job of touching on a major issue being faced by a lot of mural festivals and mural programs: The potential that murals are rejected by the communities where the festivals take place. In the last year, two murals organized by Living Walls in Atlanta were removed after they proved controversial. While Living Walls‘ mural removals got a lot of press, this is an issue faced by all mural festivals, and definitely one worth thinking some more about. Is it better to go in and paint whatever and see what works and what doesn’t, or should artists work for the communities and paint murals largely based on the desires expressed by the people who will walk by the wall every day?

Photo by Dustin Chambers via Creative Loafing Atlanta


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Living Walls release their first printed project

April 15th, 2013 | By | 6 Comments »

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Living Walls, Altanta’s public art organization focused on work by street artists and graffiti writers, are released their first printed work this week. Living Walls Volumes focuses on their work with the French artist Roti and his experiences in Atlanta (the most famous experience being that the mural he painted was partially buffed by local community members who objected to the content). The launch party for the book is on Tuesday at Criminal Records in Atlanta.

I haven’t seen much of the finished product, but I’m really excited for Living Walls Volumes. The Roti story is a really interesting and complex one that deserves some serious consideration, the book looks really well designed, and I wrote the forward. So, if you make it out to the launch, leave a comment in this post and let me know what you think of the book.

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Photos courtesy of Living Walls


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