Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 2009: Liliwenn in Bristol

I love summer for a variety of reasons: block parties, outdoor concerts, and plenty of street art festivals. From Istanbul to Bristol, the streets get jam-packed with spray paint, wheatpaste, and stickers. French street artist Liliwenn recently participated in Bristol's Upfest. One little piece landed her a lot of press. She writes:

“Inspired by the Southampton SuperCans event, the Upfest was born in 2008 soon after Banksy's Cans Festival. The event brings together an eclectic mix of local, national, and international artist in support of a locally run charity with national coverage. You can expect a real mix of graffiti, stencil, mixed media and contemporary oils from a group of over 150 established artists producing 'live' art.”
“The first Upfest was such an across-the-boards success the organisers wanted to go all out to make this year’s event even bigger and better. Sometimes, the event partners with charities for a good cause. This year, Upfest supported the National Association of Children of Alcoholics. 2008 drew nearly 50 artists to the Tobacco Factory, but this year attracted over 150 artists, including many North American and European imports. Hosted by a range of venues all over Bristol, the event was the largest live urban art festival in the UK. There was a staggering amount of art taking place: beatboxing, exploding paint installations, hip/hop dancing, graffiti stalls, kids areas, and DJs. On top of all these activities, live painting took place everywhere you looked.”
“I received an invitation from an English artist and accepted it with pleasure. Painting in other countries is a good experience, so I took a flight and came over Bristol during this wicked weekend of art. Usually, I work freehand, my goal being to mix different techniques with my own style. This time, I decided to make my first stencil there. I called this painting "The Shout". It was very risky because it's a new technique for me. However, the feedback from the public was great. I received some commissions and "The Shout" was published online at Juxtapose Magazine and Stencil History X. I really enjoyed sharing my art with so many people.”
“In August, I will come over London to paint. Today, I'm working in France on new paintings with a new topic. Maybe I’ll have an exhibition and a publication in Plateform Magazine. I'm working on different projects. I have some commissions from music artists from the US to create some design for them. I’m also involved with the Mind Painters Project. Along with Wax Tailor Crew singer Mattic, we’re making a book full of words, pictures, and maybe music! I'm working on his solo album, too. My other crew, "LeS LiOnNeS eN CaGe,” is performing at different concerts & festivals to mix different forms of arts.”

“I have a lot of projects and a lot of ideas. I’m filled with he obsession to paint again and again. When I have time, I love to put colours in the street!”

Thanks, Liliwenn! You can see more of her work on her Facebook page or MySpace.

Monday, June 29, 2009

In The Headlines

After 5 hours on a bus and getting claustrophobic in the Lincoln Tunnel, I'm back in NYC. My visit to DC pleasantly surprised me. I liked the city much more than I expected to. Seeing Andy, John, Jess, and Tim was awesome and I even found some street art despite the city's pristine appearance. Now it's time for a run and some headlines.

This photo is the latest Mina creation (we spoke to her in Serbia last week).

Metallic Greek gods, reptiles, and phone booth memorials have popped up around New Orleans lately.

Mixing rococo style and rap icons, Kehinde Wiley gives hip-hop a new face.

Thai street artist Bundit Puangthong finds artistic success in Australia.

San Francisco may set aside more public spaces for urban artists.

The exhibit “Graffiti au 104” runs until August 24 at Paris’s 104 Gallery.

Pre-order a copy of Remi Rough’s new book, Lost Colours and Alibis. The text contains a forward by Mare139 (who we interviewed for the Friday ProFile!)

Street art makes the ‘must-see’ list of things to do in La Boca, Argentina.

Examiner contributors debate street art and the use of civic space.

The Irish Times discusses the Irish scene and the country’s particular brand of ‘artivism.’

Arkansas’s police are a bit confused by local taggers. I’m surprised that there ARE taggers in Arkansas.

“Versus 2009” is on display at Rome’s Mondo Pop Gallery Shop until July 31st. The show features work by Stick My World founder Omino71 and other Italian greats.

Project Detonate and Betso show off their latest works at “Chaos Amongst Allies.” The show opens on July 11 at Pink Ghost Gallery in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

"Tales from the Seaside," also opens on July 11 at Brighton's Prescription Art. The show features work by Chu, Pinky, and our old friend Seize.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday ProFile: Mare139

I spent yesterday afternoon on a bus from New York City to Washington, D.C. Normally, I’d cringe at spending 4.5 hours on a bus. Thanks to the brilliance of Bolt bus (free wi-fi AND plugs?), the experience was better than most domestic flights. Also, I finally had time to listen to the Tate Modern podcasts patiently waiting in my iTunes. My favorite is “Street Art Now: A World View,” which features a presentation by Marc and Sara Schiller of Wooster Collective. In their discussion, they mentioned where they thought street art would go in the next 10-20. Sara mentioned a possible revival of interest in graffiti. She thought perhaps galleries would do retrospective exhibits celebrating graffiti from a historical perspective.
Her comments prompted today’s Friday ProFile on graffiti legend Mare139. A self described “New Yorican,” Mare139 was raised on a steady diet of Krylon and wild style. Using the 1, 2, 4, and 5 trains as his canvases, he plastered his tags everywhere. “My name was shortened from Night Mare 139 to Mare139 so I can focus on style writing,” he adds.
Growing up in NYC, life was a battle for graffiti artists. Mare139 faced heartbreak, fights, theft, risk, danger, pain, and punishment for his work. “It’s never a safe prospect,” he explains, “but that’s what makes it fun. I’ve been too slippery, so the law never gave me metal bracelets.” Like most NYC youth, he got his start with the old crews bombing train yards.“I learned from the old masters,” he recalls. “I studied their work, asked for outlines, and painted with them. The relationship was a mentorship of sorts. I also had my brother Kell who was my partner and a good style writer. I’m cut from the cloth of traditional style writing, so I inherited a great bounty of knowledge that keeps me at the apex of this genre of art.”
For the past 33 years, Mare139 has bombed the hell out of New York’s streets. During this time, he’s held membership in crews like ROC (Roc On City), CIA (Crazy Inside Artists), and RTW (Roc The World). While each crew pushed the envelope and produced amazing pieces, jealousy between the crews created friction. Today, he pulls from architecture and early 20th century artists for inspiration.“There isn’t anyone specifically influencing me right now,” he says. “I have enough history in my own work to draw from. My work evolves quickly upon itself, often unfolding its narrative faster then I can create it. Obviously, I have influences from my early years but I have surpassed what my generation initially proposed with the painted trains and walls.”
After a long period of spray painting, Mare139 began experimenting with sculpture. “These projects evolved from my disdain of graffiti pop during the early 80s,” he explains. “I hated painting on canvas and felt graffiti didn’t translate well on it. In a response to my peers, I started sculpting the form of traditional wild style out of metal, in relief form, and finally in 3-D. I felt this was a better evolution. It was purely descendant from the art and culture I came from.” These sculptures caught the attention of local curators. His latest show, "B-Line: The Art of the B-Boy Dance and Sculptures," brought his new sculptures to Jersey City's 58 Gallery.

Through graffiti, Mare139 had the opportunity to travel the world. At the Outsides Project in Wuppertal, Germany, he collaborated with a new generation of ‘writers.’ “Many young street artists like Blue, JR, ZVES, Akim, and others came together secretly to create illegal installations all over this small, sleepy village,” he recalls. “It was an extraordinary time and event that has a place in history.” This experience doesn’t even come close to his most unusual tagging location. “Inside a volcano in Hawaii,” he laughs. From trains to tectonic plates, no surface is too dangerous.

In the future, Mare139 hopes to paint and sculpt on a larger scale. While he doesn’t aim to engage the public, he adds, “I like to think of my sculptures as an intellectual observation object. It’s something which speaks to the relationships the forms have with themselves and with the space they occupy.” When he’s not on the street, he’s enjoying life with his five year-old son, Leo. Just because he’s a father, don’t expect him quietly retire from the scene any time soon. “The world is my canvas and my gallery,” he insists. “If you don’t participate and share your work or theories, you only fulfill half of your obligation as an artist. As a child, I put my life at constant risk to be an artist because I believed in it so much. As an adult, I am no different.”

All images courtesy of Mare139. For more info, check out his website.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

June 2009: "Whole in the Wall" at Helenbeck Gallery

On Tuesday, I took a break from my job (applying for jobs) to stroll over to the Helenbeck Gallery.

Located on W. 35th St. near 10th Ave., the gallery's currently showing "Whole in the Wall," an exhibit dedicated to the best of American and European street art and graffiti. I still find it hilarious that galleries have shows for street art when all the work is on canvas, but that is a conversation for another time.

This spacious warehouse was packed with paintings, prints, and photos spanning nearly three decades. Martha Cooper's photos of fresh-faced Lady Pink decorated the room dividers while Blek Le Rat's trademark rodents held their ground next to Daze's loopy tags. Tagging into the growing toy industry associated with urban art, Frederic Plateus's Technicolor 3-D explosives provided a playful take on the term 'bomb.'
One of my favorite artists represented was Ikon. In "BBoys Ik-Men," the painting pictured above, sullen Wolverines and Storms pout with defiantly crossed arms. Upstairs, "Good Morning, Kids" is anything but G-rated. Ernie brandishes an AK-47 and Rubbie Duck stands ready to shank with a knife in his beak. His bright palate and cheeky take on pop icons definitely won me over.
It's impossible to capture the energy of a street piece in a gallery setting, but I appreciated the show for what it was. My only criticism involved organization. If I were curating, I would've organized the pieces chronologically. Jumping from JonOne to Nunca made the show feel a bit choppy. I would've liked to see some logical progression in the set-up. However, I did enjoy the quirky juxtaposition of antiques and graff on the second floor. Huge paintings by Sharp and other artists decorated a room filled with 18th century giltwood furniture and velvet curtains. When I arrived, Sharp himself sat at an antique desk, doodling new tags as Run-DMC blasted from the boom box.
This exhibit only runs until June 27th, so pop over quickly before it's gone. The Helenbeck is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm. For more information, check their website.

When I post tomorrow, I'll be in DC. Let me know if there's anything I should check out while I'm there!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 2009: Ema in NYC

I went out for a great hunt today and emerged victorious with lots of new photos. Thanks, New York! However, I'll save my stories for another time. Today's post features NYC artist Ema. This accomplished lady has her roots firmly planted in graffiti, but she dabbles in a little of everything. She sent along a whole file of photos and apologized for not sending more (something about 'getting her Ph.D?' Applause, ma'am!) This busy bee writes:

“I have been painting walls since my early teens, and my style has changed quite a lot and many times since then. I used to be a hardcore graffiti writer and now I’m more of a peaceful mural artist. I like to use a bit of humor and sometimes cynicism in my paintings although it is not always obvious. Because of my roots in old school hip hop graffiti, it’s always hard for me to call myself a ‘street artist’, although I guess it applies to me too, since I am making art in the streets.”
“For over 10 years I only painted my different graffiti names (ema, robot, arab, com, buffy….) on various types of surfaces and places, I started painting characters around 2006 and have been exploring a more illustrative/figurative path since then. I have a soft spot for painting chubby guys with moustache, but I also like experimenting other things (for example, a series of ‘lonely spade’ posters I made for this past Valentine’s Day.) I did that as a response to the work of this other street artist from Brooklyn who pastes hearts with happy faces. My spades look sad, grumpy or angry and I pasted them the first time on a lonely Valentine’s Day.”
“I like painting walls in neighborhoods where I know the people will enjoy it. I usually pick crappy walls. Once my painting is there, no matter how good (or bad) it is, it will look at least better than it used to.”
"I spent three months stuck outside the States last year because of immigration problems, so I spent some time in Berlin as well as other places. That was right around the time when the large hydron collider popular fear of black holes was in the news. The sad thing for me was that being stuck outside the country where I normally live felt like a black hole (somewhat because I lost a lot of money and job opportunities). One day, I just painted a moustache-wearing chubby looking LHC physicist."
"This is an Ema piece surrounded by characters from my friends Kid Acne (UK) and YZ (France). I believe this photo is from May 2006. I really loved painting this wall. It was on Bedford Avenue at the corner of Grand Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This street is one of the busiest in the neighborhood. Someone told us we could paint there, so we took the whole day painting. Apparently the owner was not aware of us painting there, so he got mad, and painted over the whole thing two weeks later. It turns out that this spot is a commercial space. You have to pay to advertise yourself!"
Thanks so much, Ema! For more photos and info, check her out on MySpace.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 2009: Mina in Belgrade, Serbia

When it comes to street art press in Europe, the western countries dominate the airtime. Germany, England, France, and the Netherlands all have burgeoning street art scenes bursting with artists. However, more Eastern European artists are joining the party every day. With such a wellspring of creativity, the former Soviet bloc is definitely worth looking into. If they're all as sweet as Serbian artist Mina, I welcome the opportunity. While she's a bit shy in the story department, her graphics are big and bold. She writes:

"Hi, my name is Mina. :)"
"I went to high school for design. Now I study graphic design in Belgrade, Serbia, at the Faculty of Art and Design."
"I love art, illustration, drawing, characters, and toy design."
"I really enjoy creating art and making a world from my own imagination wherever I go. Thank you!"
You're welcome, Mina! You're the best. Thanks for being such a good sport. For more on Mina, check out her MySpace.

Monday, June 22, 2009

In The Headlines

I’m finally in NYC taking deep city breaths. While the weather is less than stellar, I’m still going 100 miles a minute trying to see and do everything at once. After this past year, I have a lot of catching up to do!

Remi Rough made this film with his Agents of Change collective. If you’re in London, make sure to stop by Urban Angel Gallery for his latest show, “Lost Colours and Alibis.”

Hobo One from Agents Of Change on Vimeo.

NC State student Joseph Carnevale’s traffic barrel sculptures landed him in hot water, but the media coverage also made him a household name. (The construction company might even commission him to recreate his infamous monster).

Be sure to catch “Whole In The Wall” at NYC’s Helenbeck Gallery before it closes June 27. The exhibit features works by the biggest names in American and European street art.

In Istanbul, street artists converted an old office building into paint space for “Morphosis.” The exhibit runs through July 13.

I wonder if an ad on a milk carton could help find Osama bin Laden more quickly. Thanks, San Francisco!

The Progressive catches up with Shepard Fairey and dubs him a “citizen artist.”

People queued up around the block and back for Banksy’s new show at the Bristol City Museum.

Indianapolis is abuzz with the discovery of several new anonymous pieces across the city.

Malaysian artist Mahathir Masri discusses the role of street art in his country’s society.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday ProFile: InFame

New York has a long history of street art and graffiti (comparatively, anyway). Europe’s been churning out stencil artists since Blek le Rat stepped on the scene. But in some places, street art is still fresh and new. InFame is one of Ecuador’s street art pioneers. Braving new territory with wheatpaste, spray cans, and stickers, he is one of a growing number of artists taking their work to the streets.
“At school, some friends told me about stenciling and graffiti,” he recalls. “I began to investigate. My first template was Jimi Hendrix.” He is one of the few artists in Quito who uses stencils regularly. Most of the time, InFame works alone but he teams up with other stencil artists from time to time.
For the past 17 years, he’s covered the streets of Quito with his work. “Street art gives me more excitement in my life. Before I became an artists, my life was very monotonous. I wanted to do something that would make people remember me, so I became a pioneer of street art in my country.”
While graffiti artists and street artists coexist in other places, InFame believes there’s a divide in Ecuador. “It's a bit different in Quito,” he says. “There are many writers but there’s a divide between graffiti and street art. People who do street art have a more contemporary designs while graffiti artists opt for a more classic style.”
Regardless of their style, writers face considerable danger on the street. “There’s a lot of intolerance and abuse perpetuated by the police,” he adds. “The first time I painted a stencil, the cops found me. However, they saw the stencil and didn’t think I was doing ‘graffiti’, so they left me alone.”
In the future, InFame hopes to take his work worldwide. “I’d love to show people a different side of Ecuador,” he explains. “I just want to go out and paint in the street.” He believes that Ecuador’s street art scene is still young and there’s plenty of room to go. “The medium hasn’t been exploited for commercial reasons,” he insists. “I prefer to paint for the people.”

Gracias, InFame! For more info, check out his Flickr page or his website. That’s all for now; I’m off to NYC to see what’s there for me. If you’re around and want to hang out, drop me a line! I’ll be happy to see you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

June 2009: Snub 23 in London

Snub was kind enough to fill me in on Bristol's UpFest. Featuring 120 artists from across the globe, the annual urban painting event raises awareness (and money) for the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. Great job, Snub! He writes:

“SNUB is a graphic revolution fighting the uninvited visual invasion of commercialism. Inspiration is fired by frustration; emotion becomes a plan of attack. Anger is the weapon, and any object the ammo in the fight against the optical overload.”
“High impact graphics are used to make a statement on anything from backdrops for parties to album covers, clothes, toys, and then back out on to the streets.”
“SNUB's experimenting with new techniques to produce diverse works using stickers, paste-ups, stencils and freehand spray paints.”
“Coming into being in the 1990s, SNUB is the alter ego of a graphic designer, inspired by fictional robot Hammerstein. As part of the Grafik Warfare Collective and as a solo artist, SNUB has exhibited and painted at events across Europe, growing a glowing reputation with every new piece.”

“SNUB is prolific and unstoppable, and ultimately synonymous with a future technology gone bad.”

Thanks, snub! For more info, check out his blog.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

July 2008: Istanbul

Heaps of Istanbul photos currently clog my hard drive, so it’s time for show and tell.
Out of all the Turks I met, Sena exposed me to the most art and culture. This crazy wild child knew everyone on the circuit: painters, photographers, writers, and musicians. After work, she’d quickly change and run off to an event. Luckily, she’s a sweetheart and often invited me to tag along.
On one particular night, Sena took my friend Whitney and me to URA Gallery on Taksim’s Istikal Cadesi. Various visual artists contributed work for the vent. As the free Efes flowed, the crowd poured in. Creators and appreciators alike gathered together to critique and discuss art, politics, and the latest football match. The room was abuzz with conversation.
In the midst of the crowd, a band soundchecked their equipment and prepped for their set. I didn’t catch their names, but their fierce sound and consequential reverb nearly made my ears bleed. If I hadn’t packed my nerdy earplugs, they surely would’ve shredded my face off. Since the indoor smoking started to bother me, we moved on to our next stop.
Sena took us further into Taksim for a house party. We climbed five flights of stairs and stepped out onto the most beautiful roof deck ever. While tourists paid 20 YTL to get a glimpse of the Galata tower, I could practically reach out and touch it. The whole city, from the bridges to the Bosphorus, was aglow. We met Sena’s cute friend, Berke, and a dull foreign correspondent from England. Cake, wine, and good times were had by all.
To cap off the night, our crew headed over to Dogstar for some dancing. Sena’s friend was on the bill to DJ, but his set time was at 4 am. Taking a break from the dance floor, I looked around the place. Posters from the Iranian biennial and huge stencils decorated the walls (hence the theme for the day’s post). On our search for a cab, I snapped shots of all the street art splattering the streets. I arrive in Istanbul around this time last year, so I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for those amazing summer nights. Sena, this post is for you. To all my other Istanbulus, don't fear, your posts are coming.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June 2009: Hans Around The World

Any e-mail is a good e-mail in my book (well, except the spam variety). Hearing from artists is fabulous, but I especially love hearing from street art appreciators. There’s something so rewarding about finding other people that like snapping photos of street art as much as I do. Today, we’ll hear from Londoner Hans Zinsli as he shares pieces of his collection with us. He writes:
“I've always loved photography but have only relatively recently started taking photos of street art - probably for about 1 & 1/2 years or so. I started in the UK, but I'll visit Australia to suss out the scene in a few weeks time.”
“All of my photos (street art, travel shots, sporting shots etc) are on my Flickr account. I've also framed several for myself, family, and friends. I've had numerous photos used in online magazines and websites, and would like to one day open up my own gallery.”
“I like the edginess of street art: how a lot of it's done under the cover of darkness, the anonymity of the artists, how it's viewed by many as vandalism, and how you really do begin to take notice of it when you keep your eye out for it. (The Space Invaders mosaics around London are a prime example of this last point)."
“To date, the majority of my street art photography has been in London, with some in Germany, Estonia and Italy. I've travelled through 51 countries in the last 6 years and thus have several thousand travel shots - landscapes, architecture, people, sporting events, etc.”
“I'm planning to travel through southeast Asia next and also through more of Australia in the future.”

Thanks so much, Hans! I'd love to see what you find in Australia. Enjoy the trip!

Monday, June 15, 2009

In The Headlines

This will be my last post from CT for a while. I'm in the process of packing up and heading to New York City for the summer (hopefully permanently, if I can find employment). If you or anyone you know is aware of job openings down there, please please please let me know! At the moment, my move is temporary but I would love nothing more than to stay. Anyway, in the midst of all this moving chaos, I still managed to pull the headlines together. While I wrap up this work week, you should check them out.

Eveyone’s abuzz about the new Banksy exhibit opening in Bristol.

With so much popularity, some question Banksy’s street credibility.

NC State student Joseph Carnevale, a.k.a. U Live and You Burn, was charged with larceny after he remodeled some construction barrels.

Paris’s Musée des Graffiti may be less frequented than the city's other cultural centers, but it’s definitely worth a look.

Street art’s gaining popularity in the most unexpected locations. Take a peek at what’s going on in Uganda.

Shepard Fairey finally speaks out about his Boston arrest earlier this year.

Out in California, street artist Este gives motorists a new type of hood ornament.

The New York Times discusses graffiti’s growing popularity around the globe.

In Edmonton, Canada, city officials try to sort out the difference between graffiti and vandalism.

If you’re in Paris on June 15th, stop by le Grand Palais for Mimi the Clown’s latest exhibit opening.

Due to the Tube strike in London, Remi Rough’s aforementioned show at Urban Angel was postponed until Thursday, June 18th.