If you looked at Vandalog this week, you’d think it was a slow week in street art. That’s not so, but I’ve been locked down working on Up Close and Personal (opening pics here). So here’s some of what I missed covering this week:
This post at Brooklyn Street Art has the info on a number of shows that are opening or have opened recently (Hellbent and John Breiner in Brooklyn, Matt Siren in NYC, Chicago street artists in Chicago, Ad Hoc Art’s show at New Puppy Gallery in LA, Specter at Pawn Works in Chicago and The London Police in Denver).
Gaia has put up one of my favorite pieces from him ever, and has a show opening with the talented Nanook next week in Baltimore. My Love For You’s post on all that is pretty much exactly what I would have posted.
Dammit. Once again, Specter is messing with people’s heads in an awesome way. For his latest pieces, which he’s calling “sidebusts,” Specter has “collaborated” with various street artists in New York by adding on to work that they had already put up. In the case of the above sidebust of a Swoon poster, the top half of the piece was falling apart and had been partially written over, but Specter brought it back to a state that looks almost like new (in fact, I know at least one other blogger who thought that the work was entirely by Swoon). So far, Specter has done similar work on street art by Skewville, Bast and Faile. Here’s his sidebust of a Bast poster (Specter added the flag and matched it perfectly to a portion of the wheatpaste which had already been torn off):
With Specter‘s recent solo show at Pure Evil Gallery, I thought it would be the perfect time to ask Specter a few questions.
RJ: You were just in London (or are you still there) for your solo show at Pure Evil. What do you think of the city?
Specter: London has a vibrant energy to it. I only got to see a small chunk of the city but have nothing but good things to say about it and the people. Pure Evil was a great host.
RJ: The work at your solo show is part of a new series. Can you explain the series and how it came about?
Specter: The series is based on people who personally influenced me artistically. Instead of painting the subject’s face I decided to paint a garment that tells a story about them.
RJ: On the whole, your street art is more conceptual than that of most street artists. Have you found it challenging to execute and be appreciated for conceptual street art when so much popular street art is, at one level, very graphic and literal? How have people reacted to pieces like your ready-mades?
Specter: I don’t think about it often, but whenever you work outside the framework people have trouble grasping it. I transition between painting and sculpture often and rarely sign my pieces, so it’s sometimes hard for enthusiasts to recognize my work. With hand drawing, painting and constructing everything I put out and commonly taking weeks to find the right spot I get less coverage than your average poster or stencil artist.
RJ: Why do you work outside, and how does your street art connect to your gallery art?
Specter: I work outside because it is all I know and love. I was introduced to art through graffiti and have been working on the streets for over fifteen years. It is my strongest passion and I take it very seriously. I try to be very honest with the street because the street knows when you’re faking. Showing in galleries requires a new approach to one’s work, and it’s a choice I’m happy I made. Adapting concepts to an indoor and controlled environment can be a challenge and you’re also starting from a blank canvass. The transition from the street to the gallery doesn’t work for a lot of artists but for me I feel it is just another venue to express concepts.
RJ: Earlier this year, you took on the issue of gentrification in Brooklyn, and you have consistently depicted homeless people in your art. On the one hand, you’re raising awareness of these issues, but on the other hand, street art is bringing about gentrification. How do you deal with this apparent contradiction? Do you think that your art has had a positive impact in the communities you’re working in?
Specter: I don’t believe those contradictions apply. I put up work where I want to. The neighborhoods are chosen because they are beautiful and the people appreciate and empathize with the subject matter.
RJ: What do you hope to accomplish through your art?
Specter: To get people talking.
RJ: One particular street piece that you did in London has turned out to be pretty controversial. At first, people generally seemed to love it, but then it was pointed out that you had partially covered an old hand-painted sign. I guess I’d like to hear your thoughts on why you put the piece there and give you a chance to respond to the negative things that people have been saying about it.
Specter: At its essence graffiti and street art is both the work by the artist and the public space in which it is put up. As an artist every wall in the public sphere is fair game. I go to great lengths scouting locations for my work and often look for hand-painted signs and walls to revive in the collective eye with my hand-painted installations. I have absolutely no remorse for any placement of my work.
I choose that spot for a reason. I like to involve my pieces in a dialogue with their surroundings. The art is not just my painting it is the entire environment, the interaction of all parts.
I identify very strongly with these old signs and feel that my additions are just part of the evolving cycle of their lives. My incorporations are changes to their ephemeral existence, often highlighting their under appreciated being.
Specter‘s show at Pure Evil Gallery opened a few days ago, and one thing’s for sure: the judges on Work of Art would hate Specter’s new work (sorry Jerry Saltz, but you don’t need to include somebody’s face in a portrait for it to be a portrait), but that may just be proof of how good it is. Almost all the paintings are portraits of artists who have influenced Specter, as represented by pieces of fabric and clothing.
While my favorite artworks from Specter are still his sculptures and readymades, these new paintings are definitely interesting. Perhaps most importantly, they show how much Specter is thinking outside the box that so many street artists become trapped in.
And since Specter is in London for this show, he’s also been getting up outside:
It’s a bit short notice, but here’s my recommendation for where Londoners should be this Thursday evening: The opening of Specter‘s first London solo show, which will be at Pure Evil Gallery. The gallery’s newsletter was pretty vague about what people should expect to see (there was no text, just some photos of Specter’s street art), but Specter is one of New York City’s more interesting and unique active street artists.
Pure Evil Gallery is the place in London for emerging street artists to try crazy things, and few street artists are as well-equipped or brave as Specter to experiment. Specter always seems to have a new series up his sleeve.
The only hint of what Specter might be up to are a couple of paintings by him on Pure Evil’s website that I haven’t seen before. They are portraits of Specter’s artistic influences, but they are abstract portraits of fabrics that remind Specter of those people. Here’s one titled ‘Derek Mehaffey’:
Specter continues with his street sculpture monuments with these two new pieces. These works are an intriguing consideration of street culture and street objects. Taking these readymades produced by happenstance and isolating them into considerate abstractions. Inevitably such pieces bring the awareness back to the simple moments that exist in our everyday surroundings. via LunaPark
Specter and Various & Gould have a show opening on Saturday at Brooklynite Gallery. The opening is on March 20th from 7-10, and the show runs through April 17th. Specter is one of the most interesting street artists working today in New York, and I can’t wait to see what he has made for this show.
From Brooklynite Gallery:
The concept of “work” can be interpreted in many different ways depending on whom you hit up. Brooklyn-based artist, SPECTER and German duo VARIOUS & GOULD have each located discarded materials, used skill and ingenuity and re-conceptualized things in pulsating ways you might never have imagined. All this done in effort to turn the concept of “work” on its ear in an exhibition appropriately titled, “Make It Fit”.
Cart-pushers, delivery boys and slave-laborers – take the spotlight in much of the work created by the artist who goes simply by the name Specter. With all of his portraits based on real people living at the bottom of the capitalist barrel, Specter forces the general public to see what they might rather not – those who got left behind. Collecting materials in much the same fashion his subjects do, Specter incorporates shopping carts, bicycles, and crates along with engaging images of your everyday worker, paying special attention to what makes them tick. His work is hand-crafted, retro-fitted, clever and fresh.
For the creative team of Various & Gould the concept of “work” means looking well beyond the vigor of the everyday tasks one has to perform for a paycheck and instead focusing on the surprisingly graceful interaction between a laborer and his tools. Imagine peering into the cut-out holes we often see at a construction site and being exposed to a vibrant world of multi-colored uniforms, enlarged tools and graphic text. A world where workers trade body parts depending on their needs, moving in tandem while performing their repetitive tasks in a choreographed “workers waltz”. Using found objects, work related symbols and their refined silkscreen techniques, the line between work and play becomes blurred inside the imaginative minds of Various & Gould.
Brooklynite Gallery is located at 334 Malcolm X Blvd., Brooklyn, New York 11233. We are open Thursday thru Saturday from 1pm – 7pm or by appointment. We are located 2 blocks from the A or C subway to Utica Ave. stop.
While I’ve been a little late on reporting this installation, it just seems that Specter has been producing so much dope shit that I can’t adequately space it out for this site! So, without further ado, check out Jake Dobkin’s documentation of the golden shopping cart in Brooklyn. Click the below photo for a larger image.
Honestly I’m stricken speechless by these pieces. Just considering the incredible amount of time dedicated creating these works and their immensely sensitive application just blows me away. I think I say this every time I write on Specter’s work but I just can’t stress enough as to how incredible these posters are. Whoever says that the New York street art scene is dead needs to walk around the city for a bit. Or you can thank Jake Dobkin for this great documentation and for doing all of the walking for you.