There was a time not to long ago when Justin Giarla loomed large over the street art/graffiti/low-brow art scene in San Fransisco. He owned three galleries simultaneously: White Walls Gallery, Shooting Gallery, and 941 Geary. All three closed quietly earlier this year, with their final shows opening in February. The building was sold. Last month, Giarla and his girlfriend Helen Bayly packed up their things, apparently abandoned his truck on the side of the road, and skipped town for Portland. That’s when the truth finally became public: Giarla hadn’t been paying his artists.
In a Facebook post that went viral, Ken Harman (owner of Hashimoto Contemporary and Spoke Art) claimed, “For years, Justin Giarla stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from artists who consigned works to Giarla’s gallery, White Walls / Shooting Gallery… I don’t know if karma is a real thing (though I like to believe it is) but I do believe that [Giarla and Bayly] are sociopaths and criminals who prey on those who can’t defend themselves. If karma is real, you won’t hear me complaining.”
Graffuturism is one of the best blogs out there for innovative work by graffiti writers. The site is run by Poesia, who has just curated a group show at San Fransisco’s White Walls Gallery based around some of the artists he blogs about. L’Avenir opens this Saturday the 14th and runs through January 4th. I’ve been a fan of Graffuturism for years now and Poesia and I have gotten into some great discussions on Twitter, but we’ve never really had a chance to chat, so I emailed him a few questions about the blog and the show in the run-up to L’Avenir.
RJ: In one sentence, what makes someone a graffuturist?
Poesia: Most likely an artist with a graffiti background who has evolved and progressed beyond his initial roots.
RJ: I guess I always thought about Graffuturism as having to do with graffiti writers going in an abstract direction, but with this show you’ve included a lot of artists known for figurative works and made it clear in your artist statement that the movement isn’t purely about an abstract aesthetic. Can you go into a bit more detail on the similarities you see between say Sainer and Clemens Behr?
Poesia: Many people get this part of Graffuturism confused, but I feel it is because graffiti artists tend to move in a more abstract direction due to graffiti’s initial abstract nature. When compared to street art that already is more representational, Graffiti was and is an abstract form of art already. But we have to remember that graffiti has always used representational images cartoon characters etc since the early days of graffiiti, most the artists that were more inclined to paint representational or figurative work would get character or background duty on walls. Many of these talented artists never learned proper letters because they were always busy painting the backgrounds for the letter artists. One of the positive byproducts of Street Art was that now all these talented representational painters who had painted graffiti characters forever now saw that they could take center stage and create their own work without letters. This was an important evolution of graffiti and thus an artist like Sainer is just as an evolved graffiti artist as Clemens Behr who moved into a more abstract avenue of work. Both have this history that has evolved and thrived in a new age where painting whatever you like is possible without adhering to the traditional rules of graffiti. To me they are the same even if aesthetically polar opposites. The reason why Graffuturism is seen as an abstract movement is more due to the fact that there were more letterbased artists than figurative artists that have gone onto progress thus the surplus of abstract artists versus figurative ones.
Amusement, a show from twin street artists Skewville, is on now through May 4th at White Walls in San Fransisco. How I wish I could experience this show in person (and when it comes to Skewville, even non-interactive pieces seem more like something to experience than to “see”). Amusement has paintings, sculpture, and even a ride. Skewville are, in my opinion, two of the most underrated street artists around, and this show only provides further evidence of that.
Australian street artist CDH is thinking about the preservation of street art in a responsible manner and trying to get the effort going in Australia. Definitely an interesting, and controversial, read.
I was lucky enough to be in San Francisco while Rone is and I got to experience the epic piece he painted on a wall in the Tenderloin district. This is one of the biggest walls I’ve see him paint (with the exception of Pow Wow Hawaii) and while this piece was based on the one he painted in Hawaii it has evolved to reflect his new style.
Also here are some preview shots of his work from his exhibition which opens tonight.
His work just keeps getting better and better, I’m loving his new style.
From the press release:
White Walls is pleased to present “Darkest Before the Dawn,” the first SF solo show of Melbourne-based artist Rone to follow his successful San Francisco debut in the “Young and Free” showcase of Australian street artists at 941 Geary in 2011. “Darkest Before the Dawn,” will feature works on canvas, brick, and paper, varying in size from 3’x2’ to large-scale works measuring over 6’x6’. The opening reception will be Saturday, September 8th, from 7-11pm, and the exhibition is free and open to the public for viewing through September 29th, 2012.
With the face of the same wide-eyed and sharp-featured woman starring in each portrait, Rone creates a modern legend. Separately, each piece is an autonomous work, existing through its own beauty, but when viewed together a narrative is opened, leaving us to wonder what led to the birth of this icon. In “Darkest Before the Dawn,” Rone tells us that his feature character stands as a symbol for the possibility of assimilating our worst moments into a new strength.
By incorporating a variety of techniques, Rone deliberately infuses each piece with the textures he readily encounters when working out in the streets. The build-up and deconstruction of multiple layers is a fluid, free flowing way of revealing a composition by letting it come about itself. The medley of patterns and textures embody the continuity of time passing, while the woman in the midst of it all personifies grace overcoming deterioration.
We all have moments in our lives that make us who we are. These may be both tragedies and great moments that change the way we see the world. ‘Darkest Before the Dawn’ explores the concept of our darkest moments will eventually become our strengths, told through stylized portraits of a modern heroine.
I am trying to tell this story with the textures I see on the street, hand painted signage, torn bill posters and the deteriorating walls that look like they could tell their own stories. Using a palette of muted colours inspired by the fading colours I saw in Miami & Cuba, I am trying to create a sense of 80’s when style was all that mattered.
The show opens Thursday, September 8th, 7-11 pm and runs until September 29th, 2012
If you are anywhere neat San Francisco for this I highly recommend making the effort go and see this.
Vintage typography with a sarcastic edge is perhaps the best way to describe Max ‘Ripo’ Rippon‘s art. Stylish and elaborately drawn, single words or short phrases seek to maximise the aesthetics of both the letters and the textured surfaces onto which they are drawn. Quirky and highly interesting, Ripo has become one of my favourite artists around at the moment.
Now based in Barcelona, Ripo returns to his country of birth for a solo show, ‘Signs, Fines, & Cheap Wines‘, at White Walls Gallery in San Francisco. Judging by these preview shots, this show is going to be fantastic and well worth viewing in person. The opening party is on Thursday 9th August and remains open until 1st September.
Let’s see what has been happening off of Vandalog this week.
I recently wrote a list of Complex.com giving my thoughts on the 50 greatest street artists right now. Let me know what you think. So far, the main criticism (besides the usual “screw you” flame war stuff) seems to be that I did not include enough women.
The London Vandal broke a story about British former graffiti writers being arrested and being released on bail until November under some absurdly restrictive conditions. For example, they can’t enter a train station or use trains in London until November unless they can prove that they are going to court, to visit a lawyer or to make a journey relating to business or education. The New Statesman corrected some of The London Vandal’s claims and so the story is perhaps not as wild as initially reported, but it’s still a pretty messed up situation where bail conditions are being used solely for the purpose of maybe making The Olympics run more smoothly. Hyperallergic has more.
With an interest in superheros and comic book narratives, Meggs delves into the world of fantasy tales to create his latest show, Truth in Myth, opening this Saturday at White Walls in San Francisco.
The show is comprised of a collection of paintings, collages, and sculptures, in which Meggs searches “for balance in the understanding of physical and ideological duality of self” referencing “classic renaissance composition and contemporary pop culture.”
If these teaser shots of Meggs on the street and in the studio are anything to go by then Truth in Myth looks like a show that is well worth a visit!
I’d like to point out two fake Banksy social media accounts that I’ve been enjoying late. The first is the @BanksyIdeas Twitter account. It’s full of ideas for future Banksy pieces that will hopefully never be made. The other is The Real Banksy, a tumblr account made by Cardinal Burns. They are a comedy duo with a new show on E4 in the UK, and the guys behind this video. Their suburban Banksy character will feature in every episode of the Cardinal Burns show on E4. Here’s one of their new Banksy sketches.
Shepard Fairey has worked with Neil Young to make paintings inspired by Young’s latest album. The work will premiere at Perry Rubenstein Gallery’s brand new LA space in June during a one-day private event. Of the one piece previewed so far, the work looks distinctly Shepard Fairey, but also distinctly un-OBEY. I like it.
Saber is upset and taking to Twitter because this fantastic mural was buffed. While Saber seems to think that the wall was buffed for something related to the show Sons of Anarchy, The LA Weekly has the least biased overview of what’s gone down. Whatever reason though, it’s a real shame that that mural was destroyed. I must note that I find it interesting how, in the past, Saber has been all about the rights of property owners to do whatever they want with their walls, but now he has suddenly changed his tone and begun speaking out against public advertisements now that work by his friends has been destroyed. Glad to see the change of heart, but I’m disappointed that it took such an unfortunate incident for Saber to see some of the downsides to public advertisements.
Galerie F, possibly Chicago’s next art gallery focusing on street art, has taken to Kickstarter to help fund the repairs to their space that will make it usable a gallery.
Word To Mother’s show at White Walls looks great. That said, Word To Mother still seems to be finding his voice. He, as usual, experiments with some styles that are little-more than his own riffs on ideas by Barry McGee, Phil Frost and possibly Saber. In the past, he’s fiddled with things very reminiscent of Swoon and Monica Canilao. But the funny thing is that Word To Mother already has a style that is distinctly his own and almost all of his best work is in that style. While yes, the baseball bats inspired by Phil Frost are cool, it’s the original works on wood featuring characters and bits of text that are the stand-outs and the pieces that are most unique to Word To Mother. I understand not wanting to be boxed in and the urge to experiment, but this piece which clearly developed by spending a lot of time looking at Barry McGee/Phil Frost/maybe Saber is not the way to experiment. Still, overall looks like another cracker of a show from Word To Mother.
Two bits of Kaws news this week: He has a show in Hong Kong that his fans are going ga-ga for. I love the red Chum painting, but otherwise I’m not really bothered, although I think Kaws is, surprisingly, someone whose work is best appreciated in person so maybe I’m just plain wrong for being unimpressed by the jpegs. The big news for Kaws though is that there will be a balloon of one of his Companions in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this November.