Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday ProFile: Ellis G.

When I was a kid, I love coloring on my driveway with chalk. My sketches were never very good, but I enjoyed leaving my mark for other people to see. These early chalk drawings led to other creative endeavors. Ellis G., on the other hand, took the reverse approach. Hailing from Manhattan's East Village, this native New Yorker started out bombing and ended up chalking. Don't be fooled; while the medium seems simple, his pieces are anything but.
As a kid in the late 1970s, Ellis marveled at graffiti culture springing up around him. "I was certainly inspired by what I saw out there in the streets," he recalls. Bombing with IRAK crew members like Earsnot and the late Dash Snow, he spent his youth getting up around the city. Since 1979, he's left his mark in New York, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Miami, Amsterdam, Negril, and Bangkok. No matter where he roams, he alway returns to his roots. "I have a special affinity towards New York," he says, "I'm from here."
After a good fifteen years in the graffiti game, Ellis decided to mix things up. Taking a stick of chalk to the street led him in a new direction. After choosing an object (perhaps a bicycle or fire hydrant), he works quickly to chalk a vibrant outline around its shadow. Each shadow remains frozen in time long after the sun's position changes or the object gets moved.
In addition to his chalk pieces, Ellis also keeps it spicy with his trademark fire-tagging. "I did it once at a friend's place on a piece of plywood back in 1999," he remembers. "I didn't revisit it until late 2008. I was working in a gallery and I was bored, so I decided to cop a tag on the bathroom wall and set it ablaze." Since those early endeavors, he's experimented and improved his technique.
Don't think for one second that chalking is easy; before I spoke with Ellis, he'd been picked up by the cops. (Will they start going after children next? Clearly my early hopscotch days were a violation.) "There's always the risk of being arrested," he insists. "I have spent many a night in central bookings. Not fun."
In spite of the challenges, Ellis continues to hustle. His chalk pieces are all over the Lower East Side. This summer, "Ocular Echoism: The Autonomy of Ellis G." drew steady crowds at Collective Hardware. "As an artist, I want to create more," he says. "I would like to develop into large-scale installations. I am currently working on various projects. As a person, I want to be the best father I can be." Although his work can seem a bit fantastic, Ellis's message is a big reality check. "I'm motivated by the need to create and engage," he insists. "People need to take a second out of their schedules to become aware of their surroundings and the life around them."
Thanks, Ellis! I caught up with him at Willoughby Windows this summer and agree that he's a really cool guy. He brought his son, chatted with friends, and talked about new projects. When I camped out in front of the Os Gêmeos mural, he stopped by to chalk out his respects to Dash Snow. Ellis is definitely someone you can grab a beer with after his awesome gallery opening. For more info, check out his website (it will direct you to his MySpace etc.) Hope everyone has a great Halloween and I'll see you Monday!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 2009: Stencils in Storrs, CT

I love going to visit my sister at UConn. Maybe it's because we're always ridiculous when we get together or perhaps it's because I miss the atmosphere (all those 18-22 year-olds crammed into one place). At any rate, I never expected to find stencils on campus. Storrs is even quieter than my hometown, but someone's been busy. Here's a taste of what I found.
Apparently, "deception promotes cross-pollination." Who knew? I wonder if this person has seen Ludo's robotic flora.
We found this owl watching us from afar. I zoomed in close to get a better look.
This stencil was located on a bench outside an academic building. Who knew Venus was born on concrete?
Finally, this umbrella sits just outside my sister's door. I saw it on move-in day but came back later to photograph it. Are they all by the same person? Can anyone offer some insight? Drop me a note or leave a comment and I'll get back to you. Tonight, I'll pull together the ProFile as I put the finishing touches on my Halloween costume. I promise photos and stories in the near future.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

June 2009: Djentrification In South Korea

Back in July, Djentrification gave us a taste of what's happening on the Japanese street art scene. Today, he's back with more from the Far East. This time around, he's got a host of photos from Seoul, South Korea. He writes:

"Nana is everywhere in Seoul...never seen so much wheatpasting in my life."

"Street art is on rotation like a neighborhood ice cream truck with new treats daily! These shots are from Hongdae and many other neighborhoods."

"There are many tags too. Some people have no style to his/her tags while their art and concepts are awesome. Ha!"

"Amongst taggers, there are rivalries. Nana is apparently battling a bit with Demos who is up a lot, too. You see them crossing each other out...corny."

Thanks, D! We really appreciate the update.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

September 2009: Dan Bergeron in Toronto

When most people develop photos, they look at them for a day or two and then put them in a box. After that two day window, the likelihood of anyone seeing these photos again is pretty slim. Dan Bergeron takes a different approach. Instead of tossing his photos aside, he wheatpastes them up for everyone to see. This Canadian artist generously took a second to give us an update. He writes:
"I started pasting my photos up outdoors around Toronto in 2002. In the spring of 2003 I happened to make a trip to London to visit some friends and I got up a bunch while I was there. That trip and the excitement of discovering the street art scene in London made me feel like I was part of a larger group of people who were spreading ideas and images with the same anti-authoritarian feeling as graffiti, but with different tools, approaches and sentiment."
"Generally, I work alone. The thing I like about putting work up outdoors is that it allows me to express myself without interference from anybody else. It also forces me to get to know and accept myself by spending a great deal of time alone to create and install the work. And if there was ever anything to go wrong with the police while I was installing a piece, being by myself means that I wouldn't feel bad for someone else getting in trouble if they were with me. However I do have assistants that work with me on large scale commissioned pieces. In terms of collaborating, I have only worked with Gabriel Reese, aka Specter. We completed A City Renewal Project with the help of Red Bull 381 Projects. It was a pleasure and I look forward to teaming up with him on another project sometime soon."
"When I took film in university I was really into old gangster films, especially the chiaroscuro lighting techniques. When I got into photography a couple of years later I first enjoyed fooling around with colors, especially the contrast of the color. When I first started to make my black and white paste ups I took my ideas of contrast and appreciation of the chiaroscuro lighting techniques that I loved and tried to give that feeling to my prints. Lots of mistakes ensued until eventually I got the work to where I liked it."
"There's a spot in Toronto 's west end called the Dufferin bridge. I've hit the wall there a bunch because I like the area and it feels like home."
"I've been extremely lucky in terms of having to deal with any repercussions for putting up my work illegally. But, but, there's always a but. Once when I was out priming a wall on an abandoned building, a large, irate dog walker from the adjacent park hopped a fence to intimidate and threaten me. We yelled at each other for a good 15 minutes until he left after realizing that I wasn't a punk kid that he could scare. The next 6 months every time I would see him in that neighborhood I would call him a Vigilante and he would yell an obscenity at me. Until finally on a very cold February morning I saw him and decided to ask him if we could squash the beef. Surprisingly he replied by telling me that he had started to notice my work and that he liked it and had a new respect for outdoor art. That felt pretty great."

Thanks, Dan! For more info, check out his website or Flickr.

Monday, October 26, 2009

In The Headlines

How is the weekend already over? I didn't do anything! Most of my time was spent catching up and bracing myself for the coming week. :Sigh.: Anyway, I pulled together a bunch of new headlines for you this morning. Let's see what we've got.
Victor Ash is busy as always in Berlin. Here's a taste of his latest piece.

The LA Times busts Shepard Fairey's chops about the AP debacle. Ouch. Question: do you think he's going to be able to recover from this perjury affair? Discuss in the comments.

The New York Times mentioned the updated edition of Graffiti World in the book review.

With the creation of the High Line, lots of Chelsea's graffiti got the scrub.

In San Francisco, Art In Storefronts hopes to revitalize bleak streets.

NBC News seemed a bit confused by Dick Chicken's show in Williamsburg last Friday.

Omino 71 interviewed Fida on Roma Street Food.

In Australia, Melina Vassallo's new book immortalizes the street art of Sydney's inner west.

Some unusual pieces of art popped up in Dunedin, New Zealand, over the weekend. The locals aren't sure how to react.

Paris embraces graffiti with "Né Dans La Rue" at the Fondation Cartier.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday ProFile: LukeDaDuke

During the day, Luke Da Duke teaches school kids ages 12-18. However, this Dutch art teacher spends his nights filling the streets with stickers. When he was the same age as some of his students, he discovered graffiti. “I had two cousins who got up,” he says. “I tried it twice but got busted both times. I wanted to get myself out there and Netherlands sticker scene in the mid to late ‘90s was booming. There were guys like Influenza, Erosie, and ZIME getting up everywhere. I wanted to have a go, too.”

Stickering opened a slew of doors for Luke Da Duke.“I see new places, meet new people, and get inspired, all because of a little piece of sticky paper or vinyl,” he says. Over the past 10 years, he’s covered walls across London, Paris, Stockholm, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bern, and more. “The dog is still the same as ten years ago,” he explains. “I place the dog in different graphic surroundings. In the first couple of years, he was alone.”

“Putting up stickers for the first time was something that gave me a kick,” he laughs. “It was something of mine, anonymously, out there for everyone to see. I still have that feeling when I’m in a new town or city and putting up stickers or posters.” While he insists he’s never been afraid while stickering, his habit has landed him in trouble. “A couple of times, I got busted for doing graffiti and stickering,” he remembers. “The first two times, I got away fairly easily and without any problems. On the third time, I got a fine for 30 euros…that was it.”
Flying solo is fun, but Luke Da Duke loves working with a crew. He’s a member of Grafik Warfare and VST Crew. “The good part about crews is that you hook up with the best people around,” he says. “It’s hard being international, though, because we’re so far apart. It isn’t like we meet on a regular basis.”
Don’t ask Luke Da Duke what he’s working on; he lives without a plan. “I will see where my work will go,” he adds. “I’m not doing it for the money or to get world fame or anything. I just want to have fun making the stuff that I enjoy making.” There’s no ulterior message to these slaps, either; it’s all about having a good time. “I'm not a moralist,” he insists, “I just hope I brighten people’s days just a little.” While he doesn’t know what’s in his own future, he believes a few dedicated souls will keep street art alive. “It will probably only get bigger and bigger size-wise: bigger stencils, bigger paste-ups,” he predicts. “At the end, most of the people out there right now will be out. Only a couple of hard heads will keep it alive.”
Thanks, Luke! For more photos, check his Flickr. I'm looking forward to a weekend at home since the past two weeks have been absolutely bonkers. Here's to not working and sitting on my couch!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

September 2009: Rojo Roma in Buenos Aires

It doesn't matter if it's a wall, a train station, or an eroding concrete block. Give Rojo Roma a surface and he'll paint on it. The Buenos Aires based artist shares his story and photos from the southern hemisphere with us. He writes:
"I started to paint graffiti in 1996, just to play and show the people something new. I was thinking about the streets and the nature out there. I wanted to give a gift to my town."
"I paint alone and for me. I painted with lot of artists around the world in other towns/cities/cultures, too. It's so cool to meet other artists while doing art. I enjoy helping other people. It's very rewarding for me do something for somebody without worrying about who that person is, what they think about life, or whatever. Don´t think about what you should do; just do and do and do."
"I came up with my style by looking the city, listening to music, and reading some books. I think I incorporate the views of my family, friends and experiences of trips. Painting with spray cans is very difficult to do. It takes a long time to make some good stuff. But when you get the line, that line, you've got the sky.
The fileteado porteño was a very good practice for me. That ornamental movement is very representative of my city and culture, too. People like this art a lot."

"The streets are my favorite places to paint, but I enjoy the challenge. I think any area likely to support writing is good."
"Today, I work creating ambience. I´m a graphic designer, too, so I live off any creative activity. I'm painting a lot, making designs for importants brands, generating new aesthetics, and working on artistic projects ranging from books and animation to bikeparks, skateparks, and local commercials."

Gracias, Roma! For more photos, check out his Flickr. Roma also supports the Global Transmission Project, so take a look.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

September 2009: The Stickheads in Milan

The Stickheads may not have a lot to say, but they sure do a lot. This Italian crew teams up with other local artists for the Stick My World project. (I sent some stickers in this year; it's a great time!) Here's a look at their work, who they are, and what they do:
"At the beginning of the 21st century, the crew was proudly founded by: Run 128 and Naws."
"In 2002, Curt and S103 joined the crew."
"In addition to the original crew members, Story 134 and Undo work with us."
"We're all about stickering, postering, and writing."
Thanks, guys! Stay up on all the Stickheads news by visiting their website.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 2009: Florentign Hofman All Over The Place

Dutch artist Florentign Hofman's work doesn't look like anything I've posted on before. His portfolio includes a neon penguin (named Michael Moore?), a huge rubber duck, and a wooden muskrat. Hmmm. What the hell is going on here? Hofman sent us some words and photos to give us a clue. He writes:
"The work of Hofman is known for intriguing and interactive installations in public spaces. Obviously, he oscillates with great joy between performance (public) art and the domain of the sculpture (only to mention a few of his used media) and has a strong wish to amaze and make life a little more fun."
"The fact that Florentijn Hofman is not an average gallery-exhibited artist should be obvious. The world is a huge playground and he can choose just about any spot or material in which to display his installations."
"Asked by the borough of Delfshaven in Rotterdam to work on the site of a derelict block awaiting demolition Hofman painted the entire exterior of the property with a 2 micron layer of blue paint that transformed it into the most photographed section of the city. The application of the paint was intended to slow further deterioration. Such urban dereliction is usually a material reminder of the alienating power of urban planners and developers to disperse communities and erase local history. By amplifying the memory and meaning of the space for those people living in and passing through the neighbourhood, the surreal energy of Hofman’s work temporarily reclaims that alienation while the building awaits deconstruction via wrecking ball."

"The Loire River in France was the starting point of a project that ultimately became a giant rubber duck. Measuring 26 m in height, it may look like the favourite toy of Sesame Street’s Ernie, but it’s too big to fit into anyone’s bath (and it's impossible to ignore). According to Florentijn Hofman, the Canard de Bain crosses all bounderies and does not discriminate or have a political connotation. The friendly, floating Rubber Duck has healing properties; it can relieve mondial tensions as well as define them."

Thanks, Florentign! For more info, check out his official website.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In The Headlines

Not feeling my best this morning. A combination of late nights and wandering in the cold wintery mix left me a bit under the weather. While I make tea, take a look at the headlines. (I promise I didn't sneeze on them.)
This week's the last week to catch the Mutate Britain festival. Featuring pieces by Sickboy, the Krah, Lilliwenn, and more, the show runs through Saturday.

Shepard Fairey still maintains that he took the photo that inspired his Hope poster, but the courts don’t buy it. The Warhol Museum doesn’t mind though; they’ve still invited him to put on a retrospective of his work.

In Boston, Art Street brings new takes on museum pieces outdoors for everyone to see.

For the Ghostvillage Project, Remi/Rough, Stormie, and others decorated an abandoned town with colorful graffiti.

Can electric box art really discourage graffiti?

Chicago street artist Goons talks about his work and the city’s scene.

These creepy cutouts popped up in San Francisco’s Mission District this past week.

Korakit’s amazing prints look good anywhere (even under blacklight).

My friend Jess got back from Costa Rica last week. I wonder if she saw any of the country’s great street art.

Brooklynites have mixed feelings about the murals on Myrtle Ave.

In Denmark, people recognize a difference between street art and graffiti.

Here are some more shots of JR’s “Women Are Heroes” series in Paris.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday ProFile: Lunar

The Eastern European bloc doesn't receive nearly as much press as its Western counterpart. That's a shame, because writers like Lunar know how to hustle. This Zagreb native reps Croatia with pride but also takes his pieces to the far corners of the globe. While he's painted in Vietnam, the USA, and most countries in Europe, he insists he doesn't have a favorite. "I could speak about the good side of cities for days," he says, "but I think one of the keys to a great city is if you have friends there or you're traveling with good people. If it's only you, it's not nearly as good."
Lunar hasn't always travelled the globe, but he embraced his artistic side at an early age. "My parents fed my imagination with crayons and markers," he recalls. "When my dad taught me my letters, he created a blackboard and drew a noun starting with the letter, like "A is for automobile." When his parents weren't looking, Lunar doodled on his closet's walls. As he grew older, he took these sketches to the street. Copping his name from the ZX Spectrum game "Lunar Jetman," he completed his first solo piece in 1993 and never let up. "I felt an adrenaline rush every time I tagged or painted illegally," he confessed. "It used to be like that until the end of the '90s. Then I started focusing on work, not just experience."
Solo pieces were cool, but Lunar liked painting more when he was with others. He's rolled with YCP since 1992 and collaborated with Croatia's Blackout Crew and Germany's GBF. Sometimes, he even paints with his brother. "Being out there with people you love, sharing a passion for painting, travelling, and living life with no prejudice are what drive me," he insists. "I'm meeting interesting people and I have the opportunity to work side by side with other artists I admired as a kid. It's like a game where I'm collecting experience points. Every time I rack up points, I upgrade to the next level.
Sometimes, the streets get pretty hectic. In the '90s, Lunar spent many nights in jail and knows how dangerous graffiti can get. "One of my worst experiences happened in Osijek, one of my favorite cities," he explains. "I'd been painting in that city for about 15 years. This time, four of other from other cities met up with two local friends. On the way to the city centre at night, we were surrounded and attacked by a big group of local football supporters. Luckily, we got out alive."
In spite of the risks, Lunar says writing is worth it. Writing opened doors for new opportunities, like designing CD covers for friends and painting internationally. At the end of the day, Lunar just wants to be happy. "I don't like sterile things," he argues, "and I get goosebumps from the idea of living in a cage. A boring life is a cage which results in frustration, anger, and aggression towards yourself or someone else." Through writing, he keeps it spicy and always changes up the tempo.
"It's hard to predict precisely where street art will go," Lunar adds, "but I strongly believe that the people who invest their work and love into the medium will reap sweet fruits and their work will look amazing." To the next generation, Lunar advises, "Think and work. No matter what you're doing in life, it's important to think about what you do, why you do it, and to be persistent. Talent is an important part of making that choice, but persistence is key. You must develop and evolve in order to get on top and stay there."

Thank you, Lunar! That first photo up there is mine; I snapped it in Amsterdam back in 2007, so I was super psyched when I got an e-mail from him. For more photos, check out his website. This week seemed super long, so I'm looking forward to a post-conference rocking out session. Snow won't stop me!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

September 2009: Doodlez in the Bay

Whenever I hear about people in San Francisco, they make me want to visit. My friend Tanya rocked out this summer at Outside Lands. Shoshana posted great photos from the Lovefest a couple of weeks ago and Bryan always tells me to come visit his class. Doodlez is just one more reason to switch coasts. The Bay-Area artist writes:
"Hi. I'm a 20 year-old artist living in Oakland, CA who goes by the nickname 'doodles.'"
"I grew up in the Seattle area, then moved to the bizarre city of St. Petersburg, Florida for two years to pursue the study of marine biology."
"St. Petersburg’s severe lack of young culture gave me the motivation to focus on more creative projects. After a year and a half, I put a stop on my marine science dreams and decided to focus on art. That said, I still love narwhals, giant squid, manatees, and lobsters."
"I draw from my influences including: the Pacific Northwest, traveling, animals, graffiti, small towns, large towns, and underwater creatures. Doodles' work can be found in the streets of London, New York city, San Francisco, Seattle, Sweden, France, Ireland and Italy. I am a resident artist at the collaborative group Islands Fold."
Thanks so much, Doodlez! I'm glad to hear you turned a dull situation into something completely awesome! For more info, check his Flickr.