Photos by Rone
UPDATE – LOCATION CHANGE: The Underbelly Show has moved to 78 NW 25th Street in Wynwood, Miami to accommodate the large scale of the artwork in this show.
The Underbelly Project is back. Last year, I posted a lot about the project where 103 artists from around the world secretly painted an abandoned/half-completed New York City subway station. After that initial burst of press here and around the web, The Underbelly Project organizers stayed silent. With only occasional vague tweets from a mysterious twitter account and the appearance on Amazon of an upcoming book about the project. Yesterday though, The Underbelly Project announced that they will be participating in this year’s Basel Miami Week madness with a pop-up gallery in
South Beach Wynwood.
The organizers of The Underbelly Project and The Underbelly Show, Workhorse and PAC, have this to say about the show:
Workhorse: The New York Underbelly was an important chapter for us, but the story hadn’t been comprehensively told. The Underbelly Miami show gives us a chance to present the broad scope of documentation – Videos, photos, time-lapses and first hand accounts. The project is about more than just artwork. This show gives us a chance to show the people and the environment behind the artwork.
PAC: While the experience each artist had in their expedition underground can never be captured, it is my hope that this show will highlight some of the trials and tribulations associated with urban art taking place in the remote corners of our cities. Too often the practice of making art in unconventional venues remains shrouded in mystery and I hope this exhibition will shine a faint light on those artists who risk their safety to find alternative ways to create and be a part of the cities they live in.
35 of the 103 artists from The Underbelly Project will be exhibiting art in The Underbelly Show, plus video and still footage of the artists at work in the tunnel. Here’s the full line-up: Faile, Dabs & Myla, TrustoCorp, Aiko, Rone, Revok, Ron English, Jeff Soto, Mark Jenkins, Anthony Lister, Logan Hicks, Lucy McLauchlan, M-City, Kid Zoom, Haze, Saber, Meggs, Jim & Tina Darling, The London Police, Sheone, Skewville, Jeff Stark, Jordan Seiler, Jason Eppink and I AM, Dan Witz, Specter, Ripo, MoMo, Remi/Rough, Stormie Mills, Swoon, Know Hope, Skullphone, L’Atlas, Roa, Surge, Gaia, Michael De Feo, Joe Iurato, Love Me, Adam 5100, and Chris Stain.
For this show, the space will be transformed into an environment imitating the tunnel where The Underbelly Project took place, right down to playing sounds recorded in the station while The Underbelly Project was happening.
If you absolutely cannot wait until February to get We Own The Night, the book documenting The Underbelly Project, a limited number will be available at The Underbelly Show in a box set with 9 photographic prints and the book all contained in a handcrafted oak box. Additionally, you will be able to your book signed by the artists participating in The Underbelly Show.
The Underbelly Show will take place at
2200 Collins Avenue, South Beach, Miami 78 NW 25th Street, Wynwood, Miami. There will be a private opening on November 30th, and the space will be open to the general public December 2nd-5th, with a general opening on the 2nd from 8-10pm.
Photo by RJ Rushmore
One thing that has come up a number of times on Vandalog and in my personal conversations is the seeming isolation of Australia’s street art scene. Although Melbourne in particular as a street art community to rival many major American cities, it seems that most fans of street art are unfamiliar with Australian-based artists besides Anthony Lister and perhaps Meggs. Now, two of Australia’s most committed street art collectors have teamed up with 941 Geary in San Fransisco to put on the biggest show of Australian street artists the US has ever seen, Young & Free. The show has been curated by Sandra Powell and Andrew King, the couple with what is probably both the best collection of work by Australian street artists, and the best collection of work by street artists in Australia.
13 artists are involved in Young & Free: Anthony Lister, Kid Zoom, Dabs & Myla, Dmote, New2, Ben Frost, Meggs, Ha-Ha, Reka, Rone, Sofles and Vexta. That’s a pretty solid line up, representing most of the best Australian-born street artists (but, as far as I know, Ben Frost is not a street artist). If you haven’t heard of all of those names, you can go to the Young & Free website to get a taste for each artist. Basically, without making the trip to Australia yourself, this show will be the best way to see what’s going on with their street art scene. Hopefully, it will also be a massive step towards putting Australian street art on equal footing internationally with American and European street art.
But of course, a gallery may be a place to experience art, but it’s not the place to experience street art. Street art is on the street. Luckily, all 13 of the artists in Young & Free will be in San Fransisco at the start of September, so here’s to hoping that some walls get painted.
Young & Free is still a few weeks away from opening, with a run from September 10th through October 22nd, but we’ve got a quick preview…
Photos courtesy of Young & Free
Rone and Meggs from Everfresh Studio each have solo shows opening later this month. Rone will be at Backwoods Gallery in Melbourne. Meggs will be at Redbull Studios in London. Meggs’ so is presented by ZeroCool Gallery, so let’s hope this does not end in a repeat of their show last April. Very Nearly Almost has more info and teasers for both Rone’s show and Meggs’ show, here are the flyers:
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.
Here are some more images from The Underbelly Project, and expect more over the coming days on Vandalog and around the blogosphere… Or you can pay £1 to read an in-depth article about it in today’s Sunday Times.
Photos by RJ Rushmore, Workhorse and PAC
Everfresh (the Melbourne graffiti/street art crew with Sync, Phibs, Reka, Rone, Wonderlust, Prizm, Meggs, Makatron and The Tooth) have put together a book. EVERFRESH: BLACKBOOK is meant to give readers a look inside the Everfresh studio.
To be honest, I don’t know much about that artists in Everfresh. I’ve seen work from Meggs from time to time, but that’s about it (except of course, the work I’ve now seen while researching this post). But that’s not because they aren’t a talented group of artists. It’s because, even with the internet, Australian street art still feels, at least to me, cut off from the rest of the world. Anthony Lister found success when he moved to New York. Charlie Isoe had to move to Berlin. It’s weird. You would think that Flickr and ekosystem and everything else would change things, but the internet hasn’t done as much as you would expect for street art in Australia. That said, the people I know who know Australian street art say that the artists in Everfresh are a big part of what makes Melbourne one of the world capitals of street art. The chance to discover of a whole new group of talented artists is a big part of why I’m excited about this book.
EVERFRESH: BLACKBOOK isn’t going to be in stores until September, but you can pre-order the special edition hardcover book starting today. The hardcover edition is limited to 500 copies and available for $80.00 on Everfresh’s website. That edition also comes with a hand-finished cover, a print and a photographic print.
Hi there, my name is Alison Young, and I write Images to Live By, a blog about street art. I’m also an academic at the University of Melbourne, and I’m in middle of writing a book about street art and street artists in a number of cities around the world. Thanks, RJ, for inviting me to do a guest post for Vandalog.
So I’m based in Melbourne, Australia, where there is a huge and diverse street art scene. RJ suggested that it might be interesting for Vandalog readers if I could write about street art in Australia… There’s way too much to cover in one or two posts, but I can certainly introduce people to some of the most interesting artists here at the moment.
One of these is Meggs. I’ve written a little bit on Images to Live By about Meggs, because there are many resonances between his work and that of the British artist D*Face and the Australian artist now living in New York, Anthony Lister, both of whom may be better known to you than Meggs. All three of those artists are interested in the connections between superheroes, masculinity, money and popular culture, and all three use their media to re-present comic strip figures as being in crisis or under stress (click here if you want to read more about this and here for a link to Meggs’s website for more info about his work).
Up till now, Meggs has probably not been too well known outside Australia, but folks in LA are about to get an opportunity to see his work, in a show entitled ‘Crime and Charity’ at Cerasoli Gallery in Culver City.
Here’s a brief description from the gallery about the show:
“In 2007 Australia’s Victorian State Government passed the ‘Graffiti Prevention Act’. This legislation extended the government’s zero tolerance approach to Graffiti and provided police new authority to search any person, vehicle or object they suspect to possess a graffiti implement, within close proximity of public transport.
Ironically, this legislation was passed while Tourism Victoria was using Graffiti and street art to promote Melbourne Tourism on television and web advertisements. Melbourne’s laneways are a big drawcard for tourism and it is undeniable that the diverse artwork is part of the city’s broader cultural appeal.
Graffiti and street art will never disappear. Despite the State Government’s negativity, there are well documented social contributions and benefits provided by many artists, cultural tourism being one. Unfortunately these are only recognised when it is conveniently leveraged for commercial gain.
‘Crime & Charity’ depicts the frustration Meggs feels in the face of this hypocrisy. The characters depicted in his artwork are hybrids of guilt and innocence, both frustrated and persecuted for being part of a culture that is simultaneously celebrated and condemned.”
The work of Melbourne-based artists Ghostpatrol and Miso is very different from that of Meggs, but just as Meggs’s work has been a huge part of making Melbourne’s street art scene what it is today (Meggs is part of the Everfresh crew, famous for putting up all over the city’s buildings), so has that of Miso and Ghospatrol. These two artists have worked in galleries and on the streets for the last several years. Their work primarily uses the skills of drawing and cutting: they create meticulously drawn figures often reminiscent of childhood fairytales. These are sometimes drawn onto unusual surfaces, like a row of pencils (Ghostpatrol, click on this link and scroll down to see some examples) or painted on to a wall like this:
Miso creates beautiful paste-ups, with intricate cut-out sections, on to a wall or a flat piece of wood. Her work sometimes reminds people of the images made by Swoon and Elbow Toe, but I think there are also really interesting evocations of fin-de-siecle artists like Egon Schiele in the magnificently textured images: have a look at Miso’s website for some images of her work.
Ghostpatrol and Miso work both individually and together, and have made paste-ups from photographs of themselves wearing fox masks to disguise their identities – hundreds of these paste-ups appeared around certain areas of Melbourne for a while, a wonderful expression of the street artist as fox (a creature of cunning and stealth which visits the city at night).
From foxes to bushrangers: one of the most famous figures in Australian history and iconography is the bushranger Ned Kelly, a 19th century outlaw figure hunted and eventually hanged by the Melbourne authorities. The artist Ha Ha (also known as Regan Tamanui) has said, ‘Street artists are the bushrangers of the 21st century’, because of the challenge to authority represented by illicit street art. Ha Ha’s work has been hugely important in defining the nature of street art in Melbourne, especially in the early 2000s, thanks to the prevalence of his stencils all over the city. Check out his website to get a sense of his work. He has a particular fondness for robot figures, but he is also interested in celebrity and notoriety:
In this image you can see a portrait stencilled behind the bars over a section of the wall in this laneway (Hosier Lane). The face is that of Mario Condello, an individual thought to be involved in Melbourne’s gangland wars, and who is represented here by Ha Ha in the same way that he stencilled his famous portrait of that other outlaw, Ned Kelly:
I’ll end by going back to where I started, with Meggs’s show in LA, which draws attention to the paradox of the state government here creating harsh new laws against graffiti and street art at the same time as it seeks to make money out of it by using images of street art in its tourism ads. All of the artists I’ve mentioned risk these penalties every time they put up on the street, as is the case in most countries of course. But as you can see from the way that these Australian artists are representing themselves – as struggling superheroes, as foxes and outlaws – we are being given these fantastic images at a high cost: the weight of illegality upon the artists.