There are a bunch of shows open now or opening in the next month that I’d like to mention, but there are only so many hours in the day. So here’s a bit of a round-up:
Détournement: Signs of the Times is a group show that just opened at Jonathan Levine Gallery in NYC. It was curated by the legendary Carlo McCormick and features artists who “subvert consensus visual language so as to turn the expressions of capitalist culture against themselves.” Some of those artists in Détournement are Aiko, David Wojnarowicz, Ripo, Posterboy, Ron English, Shepard Fairey + Jamie Reid, Steve Powers, TrustoCorp and Zevs.
Chris Stain and Joe Iurato are showing together for a two-man show at NYC’s Mighty Tanaka. The show opens on Friday. These are two great and underrated stencil artists. I highly recommend checking out this show, particularly given the superb quality of Stain’s recent indoor work.
Sweet Toof has a solo show opening this week at High Roller Society a pop-up space in Hackney Wick, London.
Contemporary Wing’s (Washington, DC) latest group show, opening on the 16th, is an exhibit of secondary market work, but there should some nice stuff, including work by Shepard Fairey, WK Interact, Gaia, Faile and Blek le Rat. I must admit that I’ve included a piece in this show, but I’m not going to say which one (so if you want to help me out, just buy the entire show…).
Just a heads up in case you don’t like murals, unless I get really into procrastination through blogging (which isn’t unlikely), the blog will probably continue to be pretty Miami-centric for the next week or so as I’m bogged down in finals. Now that you’ve got fair warning for that, here’s what I’ve missed covering over the last two weeks in art:
The car company Fiat settled a potential lawsuit with NYC’s TATS Crew after the company used one of TATS Crew’s murals in an advertisement. If you’re interested in the issue of copyright concerning public art, here’s one place to start.
You know what’s really nice? Sleep. Hence, this weekend is a blessing. For now, life is school school school and more school. Hopefully there’s still a trip to NYC in my near future though… Here’s what has been going on around the internet and on the street:
OverUnder and Chris Stain have gotten things started at Living Walls Albany. OverUnder’s portrait looks kinda like an Ethos piece, but it still looks cool. And Chris’ tribute to the 9/11 first responders was painted on wood and has just been moved to the New York State Museum.
A few years ago, there was a castled painted in Scotland by some of Brazil’s best street artists: Nina, Nunca and Os Gêmeos. It was supposed to be temporary, but the owners of the castle want to keep it.
Jim Carrey and Shia LaBeouf are both trying to do some street art. Yep, the guy from Ace Ventura and a Disney Channel star are now technically street artists. Melrse&Fairfax says, “Interesting how street art seems to be more and more an exciting ‘escape’ for celebrities.” I’d like to replace interesting with some other word or words…
So what’s going on here? Why no bids? Do people not want to buy expensive art online? Do people not want to sell good art through an online auction? And what about things like that Richard Hambleton piece going for super cheap, compared to what galleries are trying to sell his work for? I guess that’s that bubble burst, yet again (his auction results are usually much lower than his gallery prices). Maybe one big plus about auctions like this is that they cut through all that hype. Unlike an auction at Christie’s or Sotheby’s, artnet auctions don’t have auctioneers and specialists goading buyers to spend big. And at a quick glance, some of the opening bids look high. Anyway, I’m not going to look through every single listing, but I suspect there might be a few deals hidden in this flop of an auction, if you can wade through everything else.
French graffiti artist KIDULT released this video documenting some of his work on the streets of Paris a few days ago. For thos who aren’t familiar with him, KIDULT uses a fire extinguisher to spray paint on the side of stores. He is concerned with high end luxury brands, like ZEVS, and how hypocritical their place is in a society that predominantly lives under the poverty level.
Fair warning, parts of it are in French which is a bit annoying at times.
Well, I’m just gonna brag for a second. Haverford College just got way cooler. M1 from Dead Prez is doing a residency here. Gonna go see him perform tonight in our tiny music venue. And yes, I am aware of the apparent hypocrisy of being a white male at a private educational institution and getting excited to see M1 perform. Anyway. Back to the art.
Last night, Pictures on Walls opened their holiday show, Marks & Stencils, starring Banksy and Dran. For those of you who read Vandalog daily, you know that I am a MASSIVE Dran fan. When I first lived in London two years ago, I interned for Pure Evil Gallery and the first show I worked on was Je t’aime, an exhibit featuring members of the DMV crew. When I first saw Dran’s work then, I could see this guy was going to be a big deal, and judging by the likes of last night’s crowd- I was right.
In true, POW style, the pop-up exhibit took out all the stops. The space on the Berwick Street in Soho was completely transformed to exhibit as much work as possible. One of the issues that a lot of people debate now is how to exhibit street art on white walls and whether the meaning of the work changes or if it is even street art anymore, albeit done by “street artists.” POW somehow found a solution, albeit temporary, to this raging debate by making the space look like a messy artist’s studio fused with the outdoor components like traffic cones, gray cracked walls and exposed brick.
The space is broken in two levels, with the top styled more like a thrown together group show and the bottom floor transformed into My Everyday Life, a solo show of Dran’s work. The theme the exhibit is Scribouille (featured above) a character of Dran’s imagination who constantly makes art all of the time. The idea was taken literally with areas created to show a workshop, artist’s table and tools, a shopping cart full of cardboard (a material of choice for Dran) and the creation of one of my favorite works by Dran- a cardboard box opened up with eyes cut out and chalk drawings of child-like flowers. The walls were scattered with unframed canvases of Dran’s witty illustrative social commentary addressing everything from the British obsession with football and shortsighted scientists to men’s fascination with porn and a women’s need to control their partners. I laughed out loud most of the time, and I don’t think the absinthe being served was helping my uncontrollable laughter either.
On the end of the space, Dran uses cardboard boxes from around the world to explore socio-political notions relevant to each country. The series is not only innovative, but displays a tension between the light-hearted nature of the drawings and the heavy themes Dran is actually drawing upon. He just goes to show you that simplicity can pack the same thematic punch as heavy convoluted abstracts that attempt to comment on similar ideas.
Upstairs, the art work includes more pieces from Dran, as well as Zevs, Sickboy and of course, Banksy. All grouped together, it was difficult at times to guess which work was by which artist which was annoying at times, but the free show catalog was pretty good about explaining what was what. Sorry guys, I’m not RJ. I don’t know everything that was there. Actually though, if someone know who the Scrabble “Snuff Film” piece was by, drop me a line. It was underneath a ZEVS but I have no idea if it was his. I would assume though.
Anyways, POW put on a great display of graffiti/art that they cited as the work of “drunks and idiots.” All pictures in ornate frames, the photographs are were a clever way to show off work that have not really been seen, but are definitely a crowd favorite.
And of course, to talk about Banksy’s work in the show… Well for starters, there was not that much of it. I was a bit disappointed in the fact that what was displayed were an array of pieces that have similar brethren in an outdoor capacity (like the door, 3D rat or the “Boring” works). What I found more interesting, however, is the close artistic relationship that has seemed to form between Dran and Bansky. I couldn’t peel my eyes off of Dran’s “Mona Lisa” because of how much it resembles Bansky’s painting attack works from a few years ago. I am not saying they are similar styles, their aesthetics are as different as can be, but their mainstream simplistic way of conveying their own social commentary are extremely similar. They both use ideas of art history, children, apes, war and starvation in their pieces as symbols of current situations. It makes me wonder if Dran is just incredibly inspired by Bansky, or if Banksy is actually mentoring the young French artist. One day, hopefully there will be an outdoor collaboration of their work, but seeing two of my favorite artists of today showing side by side is enough for me right now.
Also, for all you Banksy fans who cannot get enough of the show’s curator, the artist’s new print is shown below. Taken from his recent outdoor homage to Keith haring, the print will be on sale in December through Pictures on Walls. “Choose Your Weapon” is a five colour screen print priced at 450 pounds.
All photos by Steph Keller. See the full set on flickr
Dave the Chimp takes a little look at “the buff”, it’s uses and misuses, and where it can head in the future.
I used to live by a small park. Kids walked through the park to take a short cut to school. Drug dealers worked the same route. There was a garage there covered in tags. I had the idea to paint the garage with some friends, covering the tags with a brightly coloured mural. The idea was to make the space a little brighter, a little less like a spot where drug dealers would hang out. I made a fake letter from my local government authority giving me permission to paint the garage, just in case anyone asked, and set to work. This is the result:
One of my neighbours saw me painting and later told me she thought I was doing “community service”, which in England is an alternative to a prison sentence!
ESPO made his own “community service” projects as a way to get his name up, starting with his “Exterior Surface Painting Outreach” program in New York (those infamous shutters), and later with his “Community Service” project in LA, where he buffed graffiti in the way we are all familiar with today (blocks of colour) so that the buff-marks spelt his name.
What I like about this latter project is that it uses the anti-graffiti weapon as the weapon, like a martial artist using their enemies’ strength against them. It also sits nicely with the way graffiti is abstracted so that it becomes a code that can only be read by certain members of society. And it’s incredibly amusing.
Here are some photos of some abstract compositions I made earlier this year by adding my own buff marks to a wall that had been buffed, and other buff marks that I added to spell my name, much like ESPO did, though I created huge letters by only painting the negative spaces in the letters. I didn’t think much about this piece. I had a bucket of paint that was left over from another project I was working on at the time, and I just walked outside to see how I could use it, and this was the result. I’m sure with more thought better pieces could be created with this method. Feel free to take this idea further.
Another body of work utilising the buff was the Toasters‘ Bluff Buff, which inserted the shape of their toaster into areas of buff, as a comment on the inaccurate colours used to cover graffiti: here and here.
I painted characters so they looked as though they were behind areas of buff in Berlin and Hamburg, and turned the actions of the buffer into comedy:
And in this case, the original piece was buffed for real, so I pulled out a marker and turned the buff into fog:
He is featured in an upcoming documentary, along with other buffers such as the “Silver Buff” from Berkeley, California, who believes there is too much “visual noise” on the streets. Watch the trailer here. Something I found interesting is that one buffer in the movie talks about how buffing makes him feel “in control” of life. This suggest that the actions of graffiti and street artists can make people feel like they have no control, making them victims. This is something to consider next time you hit the streets.
Photographer Chris Brennan documents the layers of colour haphazardly applied to the city walls to cover up layers of colour that were made with more thought. His photos often look like the work of abstract artists. One of the photos we see at that link puts me in mind of the work of Mark Rothko, though I doubt the buff in the street can ever be as effecting as being in a room with one of his huge, deep paintings.
Another weapon in the buffers armoury is the pressure washer, that cleans off graffiti. It can also be used to clean dirt off of walls, a fact ZEVS put to great use. Other versions of “clean graffiti” can be seen here. I’m sure we’ve all seen advertisers use this technique too, usually to place logos on city sidewalks.
It’s not unusual to see advertisers use street art techniques, just as it’s not unusual to see street artists fight back against advertising.
I like these pieces by the Thought Police member Eric Pentle, who will happily cut out your carefully constructed copy, or simply paint your whole billboard black. Unlike other artists, such as OX, that use advertising space as their canvas, there appears to be no clever message in Pentle’s billboards. He simply removes their ability to be effective. He is reacting to the lack of control he has in a world full of messages constantly being shouted at him, and thus makes his environment quieter. This is much the same as the Silver Buff does with graffiti. I find this very interesting, as I live in a country where I understand little of the language, and so advertising has no effect on me. It creates a more peaceful daily experience to not be told what to do all the time. See Pentle defuse more advertising here.
As we can see, the buff is nothing to fear. In fact, let us embrace the buff, and see where we can take it. Let us use this negative energy and turn it into a positive force.
One of the advantages of the buff is that, with a little effort, you can get the materials for the job for free. Try ESPO’s technique and tell the city you want to cover the graffiti in your neighbourhood, and are willing to work for free if they give you paint. Failing that, many cities have “paint recycling depots” where unused paint is taken to be disposed of. My friend Ekta in Sweden gets most of his paint for free by going to his local recycling depot and simply asking for the paint. Also keep your eyes open to see where legitimate painting work is happening. Brushes and rollers are often thrown away as people don’t want to make the effort of cleaning them. Soak them in water and the paint soon comes off. Or if they use an oil-based paint and you don’t want to mess around with turps trying to clean them, just wrap them in a plastic bag, they’ll be good for a few more days. Free brushes and rollers! Sorted!
As buffing requires little skill, this fun activity is open to everyone. No need to spend hours cutting stencils, screen printing posters, or learning how to draw – just grab your roller and a bucket of paint and make your mark in the world. The streets are a playground for everyone! I would suggest though that you have an idea before leaving the house, otherwise your efforts will be as destructive and unattractive as The Grey Ghost and his friends.
So come on kids, lets get buffing! Maybe by employing the buff as one of our weapons, applying it liberally around town, we can confuse city authorities so much that they start employing artists to paint art over all of the ugly buff marks in our cities. They can pay us to do what they paid themselves to undo.
Here’s what I missed this week, or where people just wrote things that I couldn’t do or wrote them better than I could:
It’s just a few weeks until Nick Walker’s solo show in London. In Gods We Trust opens on October 12th at Art Sensus, a new gallery. Hooked has details and an image. Very curious to see what Nick comes up with and how it is received not that he’s moved away from his vandal character. Presumably, most of the works will be the things he has been painting in recent months in Paris and New York. I won’t voice my expectations for the show, positive or negative. I wouldn’t want to upset anybody.