In the spring of 2014, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program installed psychylustro, a multi-site artwork by Katharina Grosse, across sections of the Northeast Rail Corridor in Philadelphia. Grosse treated walls, warehouses, and even trees as her canvas. psychylustro‘s bold colors and brush strokes certainly changed the scenery for Amtrak commuters, and Hyperallergic described the work as “a mysterious, puzzling, and surprising presence.” But psychylustro was also an intervention at a site usually controlled by graffiti writers.
There was graffiti along the rail corridor before Mural Arts and Grosse got to work, and it’s no secret that psychylustro was tagged and bombed. For six months, Mural Arts regularly revisited the walls to apply fresh coats of neon paint. And then… they stopped, leaving psychylustro to the elements, the writers, and the buff.
Although psychylustro did cover notable graffiti (including works by Retna, Nekst, Skrew, Curve, and Ntel), it also presented an opportunity: Before installation began, Mural Arts invited Martha Cooper to document the graffiti at the sites where psychylustro was going to be. And recently, a little over a year after Mural Arts stopped maintaining psychylustro, they sent photographer Steve Weinik to revisit the installation. The result is a likely unparalleled documentation of graffiti along the Philadelphia section of the Northeast Rail Corridor in 2014 and 2015.
One nice perk of working at Mural Arts is that I have access to those photos. Since I’m about to leave Mural Arts for New York City, it seems like the perfect time to show the evolution of the psychylustro walls, from the graffiti captured by Martha through to how they look today. The photo captions are incomplete, but hopefully useful nonetheless (thanks to NTEL and Air Rat for help with captions). Enjoy!
What is Sever trying to say with this piece? Honestly, I am confused. That Twist head in particular looks really well painted, but the actual meaning of the piece is unclear. Is he taking a shot at street art in general? If so, Vandalog readers know that I would be ready to listen and probably even laugh. But I’m just not sure what the joke is, or if Sever is making a joke at all. Maybe I’m an idiot and the meaning of this piece is apparent to everyone but me (maybe even because it’s aimed at bloggers like me), but I have some questions…
Did Sever intend this as a diss to all street art or just contemporary street art, and what does he think of the artists whose logos he included? Does he like them and just dislike the latest street art? Does he dislike all street art? Is this piece is street art itself? Does Sever do street art now too? If so, what does that mean? Is this not a diss about street art at all but rather just a bunch of iconic images mashed up together because such a piece would obviously go viral? Is street art dead?
I’m curious to hear what, if anything, Sever will say about this piece. He is a member of MSK. Some members of MSK have transitioned over the last few years into doing art that looks more and more like street art on an aesthetic level while still retaining their roots in graffiti. Sever has done some of that as well, not just with this piece, but also with thesetwo and probably others. What differentiates members of MSK who are embracing the aesthetics of street art from the Johnny-Come-Lately street artists whom Sever seems to be bemoaning with this piece? Is it that the members of MSK have years of experience with illegal graffiti (they definitely have that experience)? Is it that the members of MSK are more skilled than other artists (they definitely are skilled)?
Pretty much all that I can say for sure is that Sever knows how to paint and knows some icons of street art/character-based graffiti. The rest of what I’ve got right now are questions. Does anyone out there have answers? If so, please leave a comment.
And if you’re looking for some art where street art is the butt of the joke and the joke is a bit more clear, try Lush, mobstr or Katsu.
Revok called out Fab 5 Freddy for appropriating (or in Revok’s words “stealing”) letters from other artists including Sever and using them in his own work. You can read Revok’s post here, and hopefully I’ll have some thoughts about it in a post on Vandalog over the weekend. A commenter on Vandalog actually noted that Fred was doing this about two months ago.
New York Magazine published an article, and not a particularly brief one, all about a painting that is supposedly by Jean-Michel Basquiat but was denied by his estate’s authentication committee. Well, while the writer of the article tries to get readers to sympathize with going through a potentially daunting and certainly not transparent authentication process, there was really no point for the whole thing: The painting is clearly by Phil Frost, something that the article doesn’t mention at all. So, umm… good work. Thanks to Known Gallery for pointing this all out.