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

Tim Hans shoots… Trek Matthews


Trek Matthews is a young Atlanta-based artist whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know through his work with Living Walls. Through complete coincidence, Tim Hans ran into Trek on a Brooklyn rooftop earlier this year. Tim photographed Trek for the latest in our continuing series of photo-portraits of artists by Tim, and Laura Calle met up with Trek back in Atlanta for an interview. – RJ

Laura: Let’s talk about your experience as an artist who  also works on the streets. How did you start painting outside?

Trek: I’m gonna tell a short story to answer this. Basically one summer, when I recently had moved into this city, I think it was the second year of Living Walls but it was the first year that I heard of it. There was a call for volunteers and I got involved and it was rad. I assisted for Gaia and Nanook and Sam Parker and it was super super rad. I had seen their work before cause I had always been passively interested in seeing what they were doing at that time. I decided to keep going with it, and kept hanging out and trying out new things. At that time I was part of the graphic design program at a university, and then shifted the focus to drawing and started to bring that to a certain direction, with no intention of painting, until Living Walls approached me with a project. Until that point I had not done anything large at all, I hadn’t painted on a wall, or at all. I started practicing and experimenting anywhere I could, then I did my first wall a couple of weeks later. So it pushed me really quickly. Then I tried to adapt my aesthetics to different situations and aspects.

L: How do you think you participate in this contemporary movement, which going outside to the streets art, do you see yourself as an illustrator, a street artist, none or all of the above?

T: Yeah, I kinda just try to do a mix of anything instead of being a purist on any intent and that tends to include doing things on paper that I can push myself personally on a small scale and then how that translates to the public realm, whether its sanctioned or illegal, it’s always sort of interesting, to see how things aesthetically adapt to the public environment, or conceptually adapt to the public environment. So, with personal pieces I tend to go more with memory based objects or things that are purely based on what I have experienced or things that I remember, whether they be memories or fractions of memories, and when my work goes into the public I tend to look at how that area has progressed in a very subtle level. So it’s about my personal memory and what I experienced in that area even for the short time that I have worked there. So with things like public transit, public infrastructures, I try to see how they change the specific spaces I come across. So I like putting things both on paper or any sort of material, but I think the ability to react with the public is really good and to have a conversation with people that aren’t ‘art people’ and how they see things, how they react to things, especially now that I am pushing more towards a minimalized and abstract aesthetic.


L: How has your style evolved in the past few years?

T: I was trying to focus on illustration and basically straight up drawing things, drawing anything from an animalistic approach, I liked that a lot at a certain point. I had basically not painted at all so I have always enjoyed deconstructing things and re-drawing them how I’d like to see them, but still pretty simple. I didn’t have too much concept so I tried to look into cultures in my area, the descending cultures of where I was from, and tried to branch out into other cultures without re-appropriating it too much. Just to keep it personal but try and still exhibit a culture that was here previously, so I kinda wanted to keep doing that for a while and got interested in color, cause I was just doing black and white and I wanted to do more color based stuff, therefore I had to start to focus into paintings or pushed ink. So that changed the subject into people and transportation and the process of moving in general. So I tried to make it more dynamic and minimal, I guess I started doing that earlier this year. I’ve been bouncing between doing things large scale and small scale, so I would go to location, like when I was in Spain I’d sketch something and then go and see how that it fits into the space, then bouncing that into paper and adapt that by adding more depth and trying to increase my speed.

L: Does the setting of where you’re working influence you?

T: To an extent, I like to have the composition fit what it’s on to a certain extent and then trying to base it on the loose history of that area, without getting to apparent or in your face, I like to keep it fairly loose and conceptual so that people can give it their own personal narratives or a narrative of that area. So if it’s not sanctioned, they are kind of just compositions that adapt to the area that I’m working on, but I just wanna quickly put it up. But if its sanctioned I want it to be relevant to the area, for example the piece I did in Bushwick in March, I wanted it to relate to the area and how it’s changed. I learned that the spot that I was working at was an area with high volumes of violence towards prostitutes, so I kinda wanted to look into that and keep it very loose, but with that I wanted to make it more powerful on the feminist approach. When I was sketching it, I was keeping that in mind, so the concept that I was going for and the composition reflected that local history.

Photos by Tim Hans

Sunday link-o-rama

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

Living Walls curates walls at Miami Art Basel

In collaboration with Fountain Art Fair and Samson Contompasis’ The Marketplace Gallery, the people of Living Walls have been given 175 ft. of wall space to divvy out amongst artists at Fountain. From December 6 to the 9th, 22 street artists including Rone, LNY, Trek Mathews, Jaz, Ever, Dal East, Faith47, Pixel Pancho, Never 2501, Joe Iurato and more will be painting Fountain’s outdoor courtyard.

The rise in success of Living Walls over the last 3 years has been fascinating to watch. This is their second year at Miami Basel but their first year there curating walls. Indoors they’ll have a booth, showing the works of a few international artists like La Pandilla, Interesni Kazki, and some of the artists listed above, as well as a few Atlanta favorites. Definitely looking forward to seeing their contribution.

Video courtesy of Living Walls