For the last week or so until today, we’ve been in the process changing Vandalog’s web hosts. No need to get into the technical details, but now the site should run more smoothly and with less downtime. Unfortunately it means that we haven’t been able to write anything new on the site since that process began (everything that’s gone online was pre-scheduled). So this is a mega-link-o-rama combining the usual weekend link-o-rama content with stuff that I could have written about last week even if I’d had the time.
Martha Cooper turned 70 this weekend, and the graffiti community came together at Bowery and Houston to give her a giant surprise birthday present (pictured above). How and Nosm told Cooper that they were planning to repaint their piece at Bowery and Houston and told her to come by at noon on Saturday, but they didn’t tell her how they were going to have to piece repainted. They brought together a bunch of new and old graffiti legends and painted a giant blockbuster tribute to Cooper. BSA has plenty more great photos of the piece in progress and a perfect shot of Cooper reacting to seeing the mural.
WK Interact’s pop-up show in NYC is absolutely fantastic, a must-see show. Think it this way: This show, as I understand it, is a retrospective but it’s made up of the work that WK had in his studio, not work borrowed or on the secondary market from collectors, so this is a lot of unsold work. And yet, the show is still one of the strongest I’ve seen from any artist in quite a while, and the work holds up just fine next to anything else by WK. Even the work that has been sitting in the WK’s studio for a few years is just masterpiece after masterpiece. Good stuff.
Mr. Brainwash has lost another lawsuit by a photographer upset with MBW’s appropriation. Basically, it boils down to MBW’s work being too similar to the original photograph, with no original contributions to the work by MBW.
It appears that Phil Frost hit a massive billboard in LA, and then the billboard was stolen. But the whole thing seems like a shady PR scam for Ace Gallery. Melrose&Fairfax has the full story, but one point they don’t make is that Ace Gallery has a history of controversy, so that makes me even more doubtful that this billboard and its theft are real. Also, let’s face it, there’s a good chance that the billboard is illegal anyway since this was in LA, so who cares if the ad was stolen off of the billboard?
This weekend Bring Back The Boadwalks is holding a benefit art auction to raise money to help rebuild the Rockaways and Coney Island, two communities were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. The silent auction will have work from some major names including Futura, Swoon, Phil Frost, Faile, David Ellis, Shepard Fairey, and Dennis McNett, and 100% of the proceeds from the auction will go to recovery efforts.
The auction will take place this Saturday, November 17th, at Trais Gallery at 76 Wooster Street (between Broome and Spring) in Manhattan.
This is an essay I wrote a couple of years ago for a book that was to be a collection of essays by a number of different people in the street art world, but the final product has not yet materialized, so I’m posting the piece here instead.
I don’t want to see the plan succeed/There won’t be room for people like me/My life is their disease/It feels good/And I’m gonna go wild/Spray paint the walls – Black Flag
Good subcultures get co-opted by the mainstream. That’s what happens. Punks and preps, hippies and hipsters, gangsters and geeks have all had parts of their cultures brought into the mainstream, and that attention usually harms the actual subculture.
Sometimes it can feel like street art is getting taken over the mainstream more and more every day. Plenty of people have told me that Vandalog contributes to that co-opting of the culture. The most obvious examples naturally also tend to be the most popular names in street art: Banksy and Shepard Fairey. These guys used to be the torchbearers of street art, but their newfound fame as household names has come at a price: they certainly aren’t the revolutionary artists they once were, and I would go so far as to say that in their outdoor work they are as much guerrilla marketers as they are artists. There’s plenty to say on that topic alone, but I won’t get into too much detail about the negative aspects of street art. I still have faith in the general movement of street art: Even as some artists “sell out,” it’s inevitable that street art as a whole will remain authentic, powerful and revolutionary for a long time to come.
Anyone who has read Norman Mailer’s 1973 essay The Faith of Graffiti has probably had a good laugh at Mailer’s suggestion that graffiti was already dying out. Street Art, a book by Allan Schwartzman and published in 1985, makes a similar suggestion about street art. Looking through Street Art, you’ll see the work of early street artists like Jenny Holzer, John Fekner and Richard Hambleton as well as many other names that have mostly faded from the history of street art. Most of those artists no longer make street art. Of course, street art didn’t die out, and Schwartzman was far from the last person to write a book about it, but something special is definitely captured in Street Art: The first generation of modern street art.
While most of that first generation has now moved on from street art into other mediums, they inspired future artists to start working outdoors. In the early to mid-90’s, artists like Phil Frost and Reminisce were members of a new generation doing work on the street. Frost doesn’t work outdoors anymore, and Reminisce only very rarely does. They and many (but of course not all) of their contemporaries have more or less moved on from their roots.Then in the 2000’s, new artists like Swoon and Leon Reid IV became involved in the movement with as much passion as previous generations. While both Swoon and Leon Reid IV are both still actively making work outdoors, they have somewhat moved away from street art’s anti-establishment roots: a good portion of their outdoor work is being done with permission and in cooperation with galleries, museums or arts organizations. Over the last few years, the internet has allowed street art to grow even further, and talented new artists from around the world are coming to light all the time. Artists like Roa and Escif were already well known among street art fans before they first painted outside of their home countries because people had seen their artwork online.That’s an oversimplified history, but hopefully it shows in a very general way that street art is always evolving.
Since the 1970’s, the media has lost and gained interest in street art numerous times. Naysayers often suggest that the interest of media and the injection of money can only serve to destroy street art culture, but each time this cycle repeats, street art is reborn and brought back to its core values by a new generation of revolutionary artists. Even as the most world-famous street artists stop making street art, there’s always a talented and idealistic artist just starting out with a can of spray paint or a bucket of wheatpaste, working their way up from the bottom.
Artists and even people who don’t consider themselves artists are interested in the opportunities that only street art can provide. Once the idea that street art exists is in somebody’s head, it can’t be taken away. Now that the idea of street art has become part of the collective mainstream public consciousness, it can’t be taken away from there either. Even as its general popularity may fluctuate, the idea of street art is always going to be resonating with somebody around the world, and that’s all it takes. People want to express themselves and communicate with the public, and there are few better ways to reach the public than street art.
Street art doesn’t discriminate. A trained artist in a studio with dozens of brilliant assistants can make street art, but so can a teenager with nothing more than a permanent marker and an idea. Practically any wall is an equally valid place for a piece of work for drunken men to piss on or for kids to be inspired by.
The combination of almost no barrier to entry and the fantastic power wielded by street artists, a combination unrivaled by any other art form, is why the underground nature of street art will always triumph over any push to make the genre truly mainstream. It just takes one person with a crazy idea to shift the culture in a new direction, and there are thousands of those people out there trying out crazy ideas every day. You can’t make a culture mainstream if the thing is constantly changing, you can only make out-of-date segments of the culture mainstream.
And does it really matter if one segment of street art becomes mainstream? The fact that you can buy an OBEY shirt in a department store doesn’t diminish the power that street art has in giving a voice to any person who has something to say, and it doesn’t make it any harder to pick up a can of spray paint for the first time. Street art is a great way to buck the system, especially if that system is the street art establishment itself.
For the last three decades in particular, working outdoors without permission has fascinated artists, and they keep finding ways to do it differently. During that time, stars have been born and many have faded away. Media and art-world interest has waxed and waned. In the end though, the mainstream popularity of street art doesn’t make much of a difference. Artists will always have the drive make street art and the public will always notice street art. That’s not going away. Even if it’s just one artist reaching one other person, street art can change the world. Of course, it’s never going to be just one artist. From here on out, it won’t be less than an ever-evolving army.
I’m baking alive here in Atlanta for Living Walls, but damn things are coming along nicely. Nanook and Gaia have finished a couple of walls, including this one. But Living Walls is a busy event, so I’ve been missing out on a lot this week, including some big news from Banksy. Check all that out here…
Channel4 in the UK has two films of note being shown this weekend: Banksy’s tv special Antics Roadshow (it’s about people behaving badly in public) and Graffiti Wars, which is that Robbo (get well soon man) documentary that people have been talking about for a while.
With so much of the art world migrating to Miami this week in a frenzy, there seem to be too many events and parties (and I promise not to blog about the parties in detail. This isn’t a gossip site) and exhibits and festivals and everything else to keep track of. Here’s a roundup of some of the things that I’m most interested in seeing (or not seeing).
Things that have already been mentioned on Vandalog:
Last year, OHWOW Gallery’s It Ain’t Fair show was one of the most interesting shows in Miami. Once again, they have a killer line up for the show including José Parlá, Rey Parlá (José’s brother who is, I believe, a filmmaker), KAWS, Phil Frost, Barry McGee and Neckface.
Carmichael Gallery, Joshua Liner Gallery and others will have booths at SCOPE, and I think Maya Hayuk is painting a mural there, which should be awesome if I’m remembering that correctly.
And of course there’s all the fairs I haven’t mentioned, because there are just so many. So many. Too many. It’s gonna be art overload. But if I’ve missed anything that you think is particularly special, please leave a comment.
His two-man show at Los Angeles Prism Gallery closed less than two months ago, but Phil Frost already has a solo show opening next week at Known Gallery in LA. Phil is a legend and basically in a league of his own. I go through phases of loving or not caring at all for Phil’s artwork. Right now I’m loving it. His paintings (most notably using correction fluid) are entrancing and the obsessiveness with which he has gone about painting them for almost as long as I have been alive only makes them more interesting to me. If you’re in LA next week, don’t miss this show.
The legendary Phil Frost has just put up this billboard in LA for the Undefeated Billboard Project. Previously, artists like Os Gêmeos, Kaws, Barry Mcgee and José Parlá have participated in the project. Such a cool project.
A few days ago I mentioned that Barry McGee and Phil Frost had a two man show opening at the brand new PRISM Gallery in LA. Last night was the opening, and it looks spectacular. Arrested Motion has dozens of pictures, but here are a few that I’ve taken from them.
Of course, Phil Frost is The Guy when it comes to painting tiki-themed artwork.
And then there is Barry McGee. Brilliantly awesome.
Barry McGee and Phil Frost are showing together at LA’s brand new PRISM Gallery. I’m not usually a fan of Phil Frost, but I think he and McGee will look great showing together. I think that’s really all I need to say about a show of this awesomeness.
Urban/street/graffiti art seems to be everywhere these days. One place I haven’t yet seen it much yet though is the Arab world. What better introduction to those genres than Futura, Phil Frost and Stash. Well later this month, KRUNK and Cuadro Fine Art Gallery are putting on a show with those three artist in Dubai.
KRUNK in collaboration with Cuadro Fine Art Gallery is proud to present a historic three-man exhibition in Dubai, featuring original works by urban art pioneers Futura, Stash and Phil Frost. On the pulse of the contemporary art world, KRUNK/Cuadro will provide foreign markets in the Middle East and beyond a rare opportunity to view and purchase extraordinary new collections by these world-renowned Contemporary Urban Artists. The show will launched by Cuadro during Art Dubai, the U.A.E’s contemporary art fair, which in only its third year has become a leader in the global art scene. A Collectors Lunch on Tuesday, March 17th and an evening Preview Reception on Thursday, March 19 will open the exhibition, and it will remain on view to the public until June 17, 2009.
The unprecedented exhibition represents the debut of KRUNK in Dubai, the cultural hotspot of the Middle East, and exposes never-before-seen works by Futura, Stash and Phil Frost to new audiences. Sharing a common interest in innovating unusual avenues in the contemporary art market, KRUNK partnered with Cuadro, one of the largest and the most prestigious galleries in the Middle East, to create a dynamic platform for representing artists in today’s global art community. The exhibition breaks the mold, reaching beyond cultural and national boundaries to present these notable Contemporary Urban Artists in an unparalleled forum and show their work alongside leading Middle Eastern and International artists. Utilizing Cuadro’s cutting-edge space and latest design concepts for displaying fine art, a site-specific installation will be rendered by Futura for this landmark event. Music and film backdrops will heighten the viewing experience and the exhibition will feature a soundtrack by acclaimed producer and electronic musician Damian Taylor using recorded samples of Futura at work. “KRUNK breaks with tradition, and this show is aimed at reaching new audiences. These legendary artists will have the opportunity to connect with an exciting emerging market as part of international art fair in Dubai. It is our pleasure to be presenting Futura, Stash and Phil Frost on this unique stage.”