Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday ProFile: PQ Family

Contrary to what you might think, toilet paper has many uses (beside the unmentionable). When your nose runs, you can use it as a tissue. Need a quick Halloween costume? A few rolls of TP transform ordinary people into mummies or zombies. In high school, we used to toilet paper the lawn of my cross-country coach’s house. (Since then, the girls have opted for more environmentally friendly vandalism alternatives).
Members of the Marseille-based PQ Family cast toilet paper in a whole new role (yeah, I did it). One day, one of the “family members” came up with the toilet paper tag. With a little practice, the crew took their ultra-soft idea out of the WC and into the streets. Over the past five years, they’ve bombed Marseille, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Brussels, Barcelona, and other European cities.

“In the beginning, we were going to stick posters like we tagged: at night with the fear of ‘danger’,” family member Julien recalls. “But with time, we learned that the display is really different from the vandalism spray.” Tagging in their hometown sometimes led to trouble. He remembers, “One evening, we were going to paste in Marseille. While we were on a roof being completely hysterical, two people from the neighborhood popped out of a window and threatened us with a gun! Nothing happened, but we were very scared. From that day on, we were more wary of people in the street and we stopped sticking at night.” While the cops sometimes scold them, PQ Family often stick in peace.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of their style; that little roll of TP packs a big punch. “Toilet paper is made to wipe shit,” Julien laughs. “It is associated with a particularly private and taboo, yet everyone uses it. Spreading his picture in public spaces creates a gap and makes it funny. We repeat the same logo to anchor it in people’s heads. It’s the same strategy as advertising, except that we have nothing to sell. We want to reflect on the use of public spaces because cities are fun galleries!”

When they’re not bombing the streets, you might find them rapping or beatboxing. “We have a great respect for people who are active in the street,” Julien explains, “And we are all influenced by hip hop culture.” Some members work in the school system, with computers, or in construction. Recently, they initiated a project that promotes the arts in disadvantaged schools. “We’re recruiting artists to decorate a building in a poor district,” he says. “We really want to invest in this new structure and to collaborate with emerging graffiti artists that people don’t know yet.”

No matter what community they find themselves in, PQ Family commits itself to making cities beautiful. “People must speak and be heard,” Julien insists. “You cannot just leave it in the hands of private entrepreneurs or advertisers. In the future, if street art becomes increasingly recognized by the media and the general public, so much the better!

Merci, Julien! For more info on PQ, check out their MySpace page.

One more thing before I’m out. I got an e-mail from Billy the Artist and he’s incredibly excited about his latest project. We’ll hear from him about his Swatch collaboration next week. Bon week-end!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 2000: Ellis G. and friends

Since my time here is limited, I packed my Wednesday full of art. SoHo houses some of my favorite galleries, so I braved the rain to explore.

First stop: Collective Hardware for Ellis G.’s show, Ocular Echoism. Sadly, I missed the opening last week and I have to peace out for the follow-up party tonight. However, you should definitely stop by.
Ellis brings the street indoors with a deftly arranged collection of trash, leaves, and newspaper boxes. Photos of his street pieces adorned the walls and I loved recognizing each piece out of context. While I still think his street stuff is my favorite, I appreciate the new take on his classic style.
As I read up for this post, I stumbled upon a great interview at Arrested Motion. Apparently, Ellis started chalk tagging after he was robbed outside of his house. Seeing his attacker’s shadow left him hypersensitive. To face his fear, he hit the streets at night and started tracing other familiar shadows.
After Collective Hardware, I passed by both Deitch Galleries. On Wooster Street, I was completely grossed out by Black Acid Co-Op, the latest collaboration between Jonah Freedman and Justin Lowe. The whole project explores how subcultures intersect with the mainstream. As you enter the site, you are swallowed whole. Passing from Chinese grocery to university library to meth lab, the exhibit might be more aptly titled Black Acid Trip. The kitchen tables filled with Sudafed, empty 40s, and spider-webbing tubes contrasted the emptiness of the rooms. At one point, another viewer peered through the doorway and I screamed. The oppressive environment put me on edge and left me feeling like a dirty intruder.
Then I followed up the Wooster Street Gallery with the Dash Snow memorial on Grand St. Ellis used to tag with Irak heavy, so Dash’s memorial tied my whole trip together. After the meth lab excursion, I felt a bit sick watching footage of Snow’s “hamster den.” Fans and friends alive covered the gallery with Polaroids and personal messages for Snow. The experience got me thinking: Was Dash exploited by the art world or did he calculate his every move? Ten years from now, will we view him as a genius or a flash in the pan? How much talent DOES it take to come on the New York Post? With all the media coverage, I feel like Dash’s live was one big out of body experience that I’m still trying to suss out. Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 2009: Hana at Hearty Magazine

If you wait for someone to give you an opportunity, you'll be waiting your whole life. Particularly in this economy, nobody's offering a free handout. I'm all about the movers and shakers who take matters into their own hands. When I started this blog, I had no idea it would grow and develop so much. Hana of Hearty Magazine knows the feeling, too. As the magazine's creator, she spearheaded the project and watched it take off. Today, we talk to her about how Hearty works, what's up next, and who she loves in the street art world. She writes:

«I finally decided to start Hearty when I couldn’t get hired for the work I wanted to be doing because of the recession—or at least I’m blaming it on that. It began as a creative outlet for myself and my talented, passionate friends (and friends of friends). Hearty wouldn’t be where it is today without the team. Each one of them is unique in their own way and their dedication to the project is the direct result of Hearty’s awesome monthly issues and daily news. I think it’s the unique and strong personalities that make up the team of staff and bloggers that attract readers. The culture is so male dominated, so I think it’s important for women to have a space that represents them.»
«It would be so much easier if we were all in the same city! Hearty is pretty much unofficially sponsored by BlackBerry Messenger. Email obviously helps. Since we were friends first, phone calls often turn into more of a gossiping session than they do about work. We’re really all over the world so technology helps. Hearty has people in New York, L.A., Montreal and Vancouver. My programmer is all the way in Berlin! The time zones can be a pain in the ass, though.»
«There've been so many interesting interviews! Colin Munroe, Keys n Krates and Bijlues were all great because I made new friends from them. Emily Haines was truly inspiring. And I’ve known Dennis from Crooks and Castles for a while now, so it’s always great to chop it up with him. I loved having him as a part of Hearty’s first issue and that one was really fun because it went down in LA so I got to see the new shop and hang out with him in his town.»
«Depending on when this interview comes out, our next issue features the top four women in streetwear culture. We’ve used a theme and there will be special illustrations. Pretty dope!»

«I heart street art. I like that people are individually able to change the landscape and look of places. I think someone like Banksy is awesome. The wit and social messages in his work are amazing. Also, Claw Money who will be featured in our upcoming issue (oops, did I just give away more info!). She was creating street art when there weren’t many women in the game. New York is obviously awesome for street art because it’s everywhere and is so diverse. But a couple summers ago I was in Portugal and surprisingly saw a lot of really cool street art. I think it’s rad to see how street art covers the globe.»

«Thanks Meg! At hearty we love ladies who are doing their thing.»

Thank you, Hana! For more things to heart, check out Hearty's online hub.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

June 2009: Montauk and Cape Cod

Adam is definitely one of the coolest people I know. He's an artist and a biologist who drives a 1979 Volkswagen van. At one point, he had a mohawk so tall that it impeded his driving ability. (To solve the problem, he had to pull the seat back low-rider style). He owns an impressive collection of 1970s suits and collects old school electronics from the Salvation Army. With his affinity for Space Ghost, Taco Bell, and glow sticks, he's definitely a character. This is why I love him. Today, he shows us what's going on in Montauk and Cape Cod. He writes:

"I have always loved finding concrete ruins, especially out in the middle of the woods or someplace unexpected. I also love graffiti. Therefore, it follows that when I find concrete ruins in some remote or unexpected place, and these relics happen to be covered with spray paint, I get very excited. Graffiti makes worn out buildings come to life. It gives these forgotten places new purpose; to act as a forum for graffiti artists. And these ruins are good at fulfilling their new purpose. A mysterious concrete bunker can make even mediocre or faded graffiti more interesting. That being said, I will now share some graffiti I have found recently, even though some of it is mediocre or fading, because they all happen to share the characteristic of being painted on defunct military bunkers along the northeast coast."

"The June 9 blog about concrete ruins dealt with Montauk, NY on Long Island. It showed some images of the few remaining accessible tags located within Shadmore State Park. New pieces were a regular occurrence some years back before the state acquired the property. The land contains two large concrete WWII bunkers and is located on the ocean bluffs just south of Ditch Plains. Once the state took it over, however, the outsides were painted and the insides sealed up. Since then, only a few new tags have popped up there and many are locked away inside. (See the June 9 blog for pictures of the graffiti) The satellite image below shows the location of the two bunkers."

"While the tower and several other areas that may be home to some tags are blocked off, there are plenty of other buildings on which one would expect some graffiti. The prominent walls are painted over and maintained, but the backs of the buildings are just waiting to be tagged. However, there is not much to be found. As far as I know, the back of the old bowling alley shown here is the only wall with any graffiti whatsoever."
"The larger bunker is in the main clearing and has the most paint on it. The outside has several tags, but they are old and faded. Two walls are shown here."

"It was my moving to the Outer Cape that got me looking at these locations again. My most recent concrete ruin discovery is not in Montauk, but rather out in the sand dunes of Truro/Provincetown on Cape Cod. It is an open, aboveground foundation." "Perhaps it is the remote aspect of these sites that keep them relatively free of graffiti. Maybe artists don’t want to trek out there to paint them. Maybe these ruins are less desirable because the work would not be seen by many people. But I think this is what makes these sites more interesting for the people who do get to see them. They know they are one of the few privileged viewers who have stumbled upon the bunker and the graffiti. So while this weblog probably does not openly endorse painting on local, state, or federal government property because it is less than legal, I will. Get out to these old ruins and help them fulfill their purpose. They may be hard to find, but satellite images and coordinates help with that bit. And I am sure there are many other similar places out there waiting as well."
"P.S. Does anyone have pictures of some of those Montauk places before they were painted over, sealed up, or restricted? Has anyone been out to any of these locations more recently and seen some fresh paint? And does anyone know of any other remote concrete ruins that are now being used for graffiti?"

Adam, you're the best! (But you already knew that). If you've got photos to share with Adam, send them my way and I'll b sure to pass them along.

Monday, July 27, 2009

In The Headlines + Party Time!

Crazy times this weekend. I missed Ellis G.'s opening party but I popped by today to snag some photos. At some point, I want to check out the photo exhibit at the New Museum. I'm brainstorming new ideas for sewing projects and I can't wait to pick up fabric. Plus, Victoria's home from Senegal! We had a reunion that involved brunch, 40s, and hilarious storytelling. (When Lynnese is involved, you know it's a good time.) Now it's time for a Monday update with all the latest news.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: I'm going back to CT, so we're having a party next Wednesday (August 5). If I've written about you, published your pieces, or piqued your interest with my posts, definitely stop by for a drink. I'll be at Art Bar from 7 p.m. onward. Connecting with people is what this blog is all about, guys! Hope to see you there.

Allan Hough explores Berlin’s street scene with a walk in the park. He also talks about signs he sees on the way to work.

Florence Waters isn’t a big fan of “Born in the Streets.”

People are freaking out over the Michael Jordan piece made entirely out of Gatorade bottles. I wonder what his favorite flavor is.

In California, Claremont’s TRACKS Activity Center presents pieces created by students in the after school activity program.

Bernadette Alibrandi conducts tours of Melbourne’s street art scene.

Perth’s art collective Ololo curated the Condor Tower Carpark Project. The show is the largest street art exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere.

If you haven’t seen the Willowby Windows Project yet, it’ll be on display in Brooklyn through November.

Mr. Read is bodying the streets of New Orleans with his fresh tags.

xxCrew’s new show runs through August 16 in Paterborn, Germany. Check their site for more info.

Omino wants you to check out his blog. If you can’t read Italian, pop it into Google Translate!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

May 2009: Figurehead Experiment in Willimantic

A few weeks ago, I posted on Klub 19's Figurehead Night in Lodz, Poland. This event coincidentally occurred on the night of Figurehead's Sticker Expo in Willimantic, Conn. Thanks to the wonders of MySpace, the two independent parties were able to connect and share photos after the fact. Here's what happened at the Sticker Expo:
“Hey, sorry if it's too late, but here is some stuff on the Figurehead Sticker Expo. For a few months before our sticker expo, we had an open call for stickers and any other kind of ‘street art’. Work poured in from all over. We had stickers from as far away as South America and Italy.”
“We had five local indie bands playing the whole night. As you can see from the photos, we had two big tables full of free stickers. We also set up some tables with copies of The Figurehead for people to draw on. Later on, we taped up all the drawings people made. We also left a big stack of blank USPS labels on this table.”
“It’s cool that Klub 19 set up a Figurehead theme night because we had no idea! Since learning of what they did in Lodz, Poland, we will attempt to set up several simultaneous Figurehead themed parties all over the world sometime next year. If anyone would like to help us meet our goals, they can contact us though our MySpace page.”
“Thanks! Again, sorry for the delay; we have been way too busy lately!”
It's great to hear you're so busy, guys! It's never too late for a follow-up. Thanks so much! I wish I could've made it to the expo, but I'm definitely in favor of a world-wide Figurehead fandango. I was also thrilled to find a photo of my stickers! I don't do much sticking myself, but I love passing them out to friends. Glad to see they found a good home! I also noticed that some people were remixing them and making their own. Fabulous! If you made your own Illicit Exhibitions sticker, I would be honored if you'd send me a photo. Great idea, guys!

Also, can we talk about this for a second? THANK YOU to Mike and the whole crew over at the Kronikle. You're fabulous!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 2009: Following Up With The Krah

In a perfect world, I’d love to get a Ph.D in street art. I feel like the history of the medium is so interesting. While we spray, paste, and stick our ideas in public spaces today, the concept of graffiti isn’t anything new. With street art growing in popularity, I’d love to write a dissertation on the importance of its place in the art world. In my dreams, I’m a Doctor of Philosophy in Montana 94s. However, those degrees cost Gs, so I’ll keep my research project on the back burner. If it ever does materialize, I think I’ll ask The Krah to be my research assistant. He shared some stuff from Athens a while back. Now, he’s gearing up for his own gallery show. He writes:
“Is graffiti art? I don’t really care. I was reading about the history of graffiti and found some interesting facts.”
“As we all know, all ancient civilisations such as the Athenians, Incas, Egyptian and lots more all carved or painted on walls and temples without permission.”
“When Renaissance artists such as Pinturicchio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Ghirlandaio or Filippino Lippi descended into the ruins of Nero's Domus Aurea, they carved or painted their names and returned with the grottesche style of decoration. That’s something I didn’t know.”
“Anyway that’s all history now. I am looking forward to my solo show in Berlin this August. It’ll be my first solo show in Germany. I want to spread my graffiti like a virus all over the city.”
Thanks, man! I’d love to be back in Berlin. If you’re already there, head over the ATM Gallery to check out his stuff.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 2009: Senyc Lies in New Jersey

I've driven through New Jersey many a time, but the only time I've ever spent there was at a rest stop. However, I'm always down for a good graffiti hunt. Senyc Lies is, too, apparently. A few weeks ago, I received a random e-mail filled with his photos. Apparently, they're pretty fresh paint. Here's what's happening in the Garden State's fourth largest city.

"Hi,Meg! Senyc again,I Got a few more shots for you!!! hope you like these as well as the last I sent you. All of these shots were taken in Elizabeth, New Jersey. This ended up being a two day project, but it was well worth the two days. I work on all of my pieces alone and paint with other people next to me while they do their thing. It is a fun thing to do do; I just free my mind and explore through the colors. That's how I see things when I'm painting. The idea for this piece was all freehand. There wasn't any sketch work or plans on how the letter structure were suppose to go together. The colors were a wild pick, but I wanted it to be very colorful and to pop out of the wall. The people in the neighborhood gave me a lot of great feed back on this particular piece. I was so ecstatic with all the remarks that I received. Right now, I'm working on a few logos on the computer. I'm also designing a few drawings for shirts and looking into legal walls so I can do greater and better pieces. If you know of any walls, let me know."
"This piece was painted in May 2009. My style kinda went with my mood that day. I felt very cartoony that day. I spent that Sunday off looking for a place to paint."
"This photo was taken in May 2009. I really enjoyed this freestyle piece. It was a nice sunny day. I used some of my scrap cans and tips on this piece."
"The last shots were taken around April 2009. The piece took about an hour, maybe less. It was a freestyle thing without sketches. I wanted the piece to map out in my mind."

"I will be sending you some more flicks.... I'm not done just yet! But enjoy these photos and please share your thoughts."

Thanks, Senyc! Does anyone know of any legal walls he can hit up? If so, shoot me a note or leave a comment.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In The Headlines

Can't quite believe I survived this past weekend. I spent three days at Camp Bisco, a music festival in upstate New York. Unfortunately, it rained for a good chunk of the time. Camping in a field suddenly loses its luster when you're ankle deep in mud. Fortunately, the show continued and I saw some great stuff (Pretty Lights being my fave). When I returned, I found my inbox stuffed with news. Take a look!
Ash and other Sydney-based graffiti artists banded together to brighten up the city’s suburbs.

Shepard Fairey’s Boston street exploits may have landed him in hot water, but he helped put the ICA on the map.

Pieces by Skint, Paco, and others currently hang in Scotland’s National Portrait Gallery.

Berlin’s LC Art Gallery kicks it old school with works by Mode2, Czarnoble, and others.

Does graffiti still have a rebellious side or is it too trendy to care?

If you’re headed to Rome in the near future, here’s an idea of what to expect from the city’s street art scene.

Urban Angel has most of their summer show available online. Check their Flickr for all the details. You can also look at the first batch of prints by Best | Ever.

Armed with $500,000 of equipment, street teams are set to wipe out tags in Melbourne.

If you’re feeling crafty (and can churn out a design in 4 days), send in your best creation for Seattle’s new signal boxes.

Michael Krimper over at Pixel Vision lists his favorite spots to catch street art in San Francisco.

Can a bookstore owner, a muralist, and the former drummer of The Doors save the Los Angeles street art scene?

Zane Fischer questions why street art makes the majority of people uncomfortable.

GEC sent over this video of his “light graffiti” project from this past weekend.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday ProFile: Hannap

Born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Gustavo Peres a.k.a. Hannap travels around the world and leaving a trail of tags behind him. Currently, he’s away from his home base in Barcelona while he travels around Israel. No matter where he goes, he loves learning about the locations he paints. “I’m more interested in the sociological aspect of street art than styles or techniques,” he insists. “I do not think about my style. It’s something that emerges over time and just changes.”
Hannap’s name stems from a childhood habit. He recollects, “When an adult said something that seemed like bullshit, I would say, ‘Hannaproudious! You do not know.’ I felt like the word had some significance in English.”
As a child, he spent hours drawing. One of his first memories is of recreating a picture in his house. “It was an image of a bottle of water lying horizontally,” he recalls. “Inside the bottle, there was a landscape with houses, animals, plants, and people. I remember drawing this picture, but I drew it up side down. The whole scene happened left to right, but I am left handed so I drew it right to left.” Although his childhood years are behind them, he taps into that innocent creativity when he paints. “I think we’re all very spontaneous as children,” he explains. “Everything is closely linked to our instinct, to abstraction, and the nonlinearity of thought. I’ve tried to preserve this quality as I got older.”
When he’s not painting, he can often be found doing yoga, cooking, or playing the guitar. All these activities feed into his creative process. Hannap draws inspiration from the people around him. From his family and yoga instructor to artists on the Internet, everyone contributes to his work. While he’s never been scared to post in the streets, he says, “The biggest fear is to shine and be happy.” This fear drives Hannap to paint and share his work. “Feelings move me,” he adds. “I’m driven by very intimate feelings like desire, fear, courage, and curiosity.” In general, he’s not concerned about sending a message or becoming famous; it’s all about communication. “I think drawing and painting have magical powers,” he says. “My message is only to generate health, happiness, and love. I want to bestow good things on my family, my friends, and society. It all depends on what I feel.”
When asked about the future, Hannap replies, “My goal is to continue doing what I like: being connected to the world, sharing affection. Technically, I want more flow between each: feeling, thinking, and doing.”
According to Hannap, street art owes a lot to old school ‘80s taggers. “Graffiti started the whole story,” he insists. “It was about protest, so the art was in the streets. Today, there is much more freedom, less political interest, and more social acceptance.” In the future Hannap believes that street art will continue to grow and change with cities. “I’d like to be increasingly integrated with the people and the city,” he explains. “I think there will be more possibilities in terms of style and technique. I’m optimistic.”

Thanks, Hannap! For more shots, check out his web site. I'm currently in a field in upstate New York at the Camp Bisco music festival, but I'll be back on Monday with the news and plenty of stories.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 2009: Untho Around the World

In the past month or so, many more people have visited the site. We've had hits from Syria, South Korea, and even Iran. A few weeks ago, this note from Costa Rican artist Alessio, a.k.a. Untho, landed in my inbox. I love it when new people reach out to me! He writes:

“In '99, Alessio Schiavon created a word and icon to define his online art gallery and street project: UNTHO. In the beginning, the idea was based on the making of a web site able to contain his artworks. In all the paintings, the attention of Alessio is focused on the faces of the people living in the city. He uses cardboard and pieces of wood taken from the street to make his artworks.”
“Three years later, Alessio decided to share his thoughts with the people.” Instead of making artworks in his studio, he started to screen print posters and to paste them on the city walls. The idea was to spread a provocative message: Untho is never tired. Since that day, Untho’s posters and stickers have appeared all over the world.”
“Untho is made by the first and the last letter of Urban Trash Optimized. Urban represent the city. Trash represents the materials used by Alessio to create his works. Optimized refers to the images ready to be published in the web.”
“The Untho face comes from Alessio’s paintings. He made it without particular features, only straight and simple lines. His idea was to design an icon that everyone could identify himself with. The Untho position comes from the will to spread a message from the top, like a teacher at the desk.”
“Untho provokes those who suffer the city rhythms. Untho interferes in the occupation rules of the vision spaces. Untho proposes an aesthetic intervention for the liberty of expression in the public space. Provoke, interfere, and propose.”

Grazie, Allessio! For more photos and news, take a look at his web site.