Thursday, April 30, 2009

April 2009: Berlin

I met my friend Rio two years ago in Barcelona. At the time, I was traveling alone and he was with his friend Paul. We were all assigned the same hostel room, so we ended up spending some time together. That night, we shared delicious vegetarian food and wandered Las Ramblas for hours. In the morning, I left early for the Barcelona Marathon and they returned to Germany. 
As I planned my trip to London this year, I dropped Rio a line to coordinate a visit. The result couldn't have been more perfect. His parents fed and housed me even though they'd never met me. Rio introduced me to his friends and gave me an extensive tour of Berlin. Obviously, this tour contained a lot of street art.
The amount of graffiti and street art in Berlin is almost oppressive. Since the cost of living is fairly inexpensive compared to other European cities, countless artists call Berlin home. It seems like everyone is putting their works up in the streets. 
From big names like Os Gemeos to local artists like Bürek, the scene ranges from pieces and throwups to wheatpastes, stickers, and stencils.
To thank him for his hospitality, I brought Rio an assortment of stickers from home, we stuck a few up as we roamed the city. Stickers by The Figurehead Experiment, The Cronk Burger, Ektin, Biafra, and Buy It now all have a home in Berlin.I hope Rio sends more photos when he uses the rest of the stickers. He's an absolutely amazing photographer; check out his stuff here. Although I don't know when I'll see him again, I certainly hope our paths will cross. Who knew a chance encounter could lead to such a good time?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April 2009: "A Força da Rua" in London

Well, that was a nightmare. Thanks to train construction, missed connections and tight time crunches, I didn't make it back to my house last night. (Thanks, Adam! Your van saved my life.) This is an improvisation on the post I planned since none of my photos can be accessed. Still, here's a taste of what I did on my break.

London is home to some amazing street art, but there is a lot going on indoors as well. Last Thursday, street artist Remi invited me to the opening of "A Força da Rua" at Shoreditch's theprintspace. Remi was one of twelve UK and Brazilian artists who contributed customized Gibson guitars and limited edition prints to the charity event. All proceeded benefited the Brazilian child welfare organization Action for Brazil's Children.
Each guitar exhuded its own powerful personality. Pure Evil created a fresh take on The Beatles' iconic Sergeant Pepper's album cover. D*Face painted a collage of police tape, skulls, and robots on his guitar. Remi's trademark smudgey swathes of color translated perfectly on this unusual medium. Kid Acne's pink and black critters parade across his Flying V.
In addition to the guitars, each artist contributed a batch of standout prints. Remi explained, "Originally, the proceeds were to be split equally between the artist, theprintspace, and ABC. Then Pure Evil spoke up and said, '100% of the charity or it's not a go.'" Thanks to the artist's generosity, the gallery was packed with prints by Inkie, Will Barras, Speto, Titi Freak and more.

Small details transformed the event from a simple opening to a full scale party. Two beverage stations downstairs served up free beer and Vitamin Water to a thirsty crowd. Downstairs, visitors sneaked a peek at the trailer for Lorna Lavelle's documentary, A Forca da Rua. The film explores the evolution ofthe project and the impact of ABC on Brazilian youth. London DJ Stopmakingme provided the soundtrack to the evening. Spinning tracks from Talking Heads and Sebastian Tellier, he got the crowd to move their feet.

While the opening made for an enjoyable evening, the project's contribution to ABC is undoubtedly the best part. Tonight, the guitars are up for grabs at London's Cuckoo Club; rumor has it that Eric Clapton has his eye on one. Can't afford a custom axe? The prints are on display at theprintspace until May 12. Take a look at this and other ABC events at its website and be sure to pay attention to its new community initiatives. Great stuff, guys! Tomorrow, I will be back home and ready to go. (I hope?)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 2009: Athens with The Krah

Depending on where you are in the world, I’m probably on a plane as you’re reading this. London and Berlin rocked my boat and I’m ready to get back to work. While I was away, I received a great note from Greek street artist The Krah. Born in Athens and currently based in London, The Krah takes us on a journey from his early tagging days to his current projects. He writes:“The Krah is a strange creature, a collecto-maniac with deep psychological issues that finds the beauty in what other people see as useless rubbish. It often uses interesting surfaces to paint on, such as rotten wood and rusty junk parts of metal. After decorating them with scribbles that some people call art, he returns them to their natural environment. We have had sightings of him from CCTV cameras coming out of second hand charity shops with all sorts of frames. He also buys canvases from car boot sales. What a weirdo! As a self-taught vandal, spray paint is his weapon of choice. Mix it up with some spicy stencils and some fresh free hand skills, a touch of paintbrush strokes for some extra flavour and you get a taste for The Krah’s recipe! Please read the warning sticker on the packet: don’t eat if you’re allergic to nuts.”
“When I first got into graffiti, my crew and I were very strict with each other. We did that to keep our styles up to the same level. As one of the most known crews in Athens, we all had to fit the part. The rules of the game were simple: no biting (copying other styles) and keeping our style as original as possible.”
“I started doing tags and vandalism in my neighbourhood. I got some cheap spray paint and did my first characters on a wall in 1997. There were not a lot of graffiti artists in Athens back then. We were the second generation, so it felt like it was an underground art movement. I became known for my characters when most of the other graffiti artists were painting letter-forms. Then I got into painting subway trains and my crew, SR SQUAD, toured Europe in the late 90’s painting in every European capital city. Nowadays, I am too mature for so much excitement, so no more adrenaline fueled good times for Grandpa Krah! But I still find the time to rock the streets with funky visuals.”
“I work in different ways, mostly freestyle experimental paintings with funky colours. (Translation: visuals created under the influence of some sort of intoxication or the consequences of watching to many sci-fi films as a kid). In the streets, I do a bit of everything, from illegal graff, legal murals, paste- ups, stickers and lock-ups. I also stick my sculptures on buildings around London.”

“I was out doing graff with Cyclops, Sweet-toff and Rowdy after an opening night at the Leonard Street Gallery when we bumped into Pure Evil. He showed me the new space in the basement of his gallery. Then he asked me when I was going to do a show there. I’d met him before at exhibitions and he liked my work and that I did it the streets. Since my show at Pure Evil, I have been invited to do lots of shows in galleries all over the UK and abroad. I am also with Little-Art-Book, an on-line gallery that promotes underground urban artist and sells limited edition screen prints. They have started organising some cool exhibitions in mad venues here in London.”

For more info about The Krah, check out his online portfolio. If you're down to buy, stop by his online store to get the goods.

Monday, April 27, 2009

In The Headlines

I’m back from Berlin, hanging in London, and running on two hours of sleep. Throughout the coming week, I’ll share my photos and stories from my trip while mixing in some new contributions and interviews. Right now, enjoy the news while I go take a nap.

Sorry, Gothamist, but Illicit’s totally got you beat. We profiled Knitta before you got to it, but we still love you.

Take a look at this collection of photos from Tel Aviv.

Artist Katie Freeman uses colorful pastels to decorate her Knoxville, Tenn., neighborhood.

Is Boston's Shepard Fairey exhibit still open? Get it together, Kansas City.

Voice of America columnist Ted Landphair discusses the history of graffiti and some of its legal forms of expression.

Allen Hough professes his love for San Francisco’s Valencia Street art wall.

Graffiti in New York City’s Financial District is busting Wall Street’s chops.

Mark your calendars: if you’re in London on June 22, head to Royal Albert Hall for free admission to LOAD, its street art and graffiti exhibit.

Arizona artist in residence Nick Georgieu may show in galleries now, but his paper-based sculptures originated on the streets.

Australian journalist Lisa Perkovic explores the complexity of Melbourne’s ‘renewable galleries'.

Even The Wall Street Journal is up on its street art; Barcelona artist Sixeart discusses his career and the transition to gallery space.

The LA Times analyzes the evolution of the city’s street art and graffiti scene.

Faile put up a piece in Brooklyn last week, but some dumbass jacked it. Thanks.

Okay, nap time. I missed you all last week, so let's get back at it!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday ProFiles: Knitta

Knitta's humble beginnings stem from a lonely light pole looking for love. Founder Magda Sayeg explains, "I started knitting for my shop's door handles. I had to stare at the steel façade all day long and I really wanted to see some warm, cozy color. I did it and it instantly put a smile on my face. People passed by and loved it. That's when I thought, 'Why not other places?' For the light pole, people got out of their cars, scratched their heads, and touched it."

Magda's passion for crafting began at an early age. She tried her hand at knitting as a teen, but the results were less than favorable. "I tried making a scarf for a boyfriend," she recalls, "but it wasn't finished by the time we broke up!" While she excelled in math, the right side of her brain demanded creative stimulation. Taking up her knitting needles once again, she was more successful the second time around.
Since she first decorated Raye, her Houston, Tex., clothing boutique, Magda has recruited fellow crew members with clever monikers like P. Knitty and PolyCotN. She's traveled to New York City, London, and parts of Italy for various commissions and installations. Her brother brought a Knitta piece on a trip and placed it on the Great Wall of China. What started as a side project has now turned into Magda's full-time gig. Although she creates exclusively wooly street art, she switches up her own style to keep it interesting. "Now I'm into large scale creations," she adds. "I don't want to do one parking meter; I want to do 50!"
Law enforcement doesn't know what to make of Knitta. Magda says, "I've been approached by the authorities, but they're okay with it since I don't have a spray can in my hand. They don't really know what to do." With her crew by her side, Magda is driven by a desire to beautify her surroundings. She insists, "I felt that a stop sign would look better with yarn on it. It makes me happy and it makes other people happy. If it was negative, I probably wouldn't do it. I just feel like it's the right time for a project like this."
Knitta's projects encourage people to explore the world around them. "I think there's something very satisfying in that concept of stopping and smelling the roses," Magda says. "There are all these pieces of the urban landscape that we've grown accustomed to: fewer trees, more freeways. I think we really feel powerless in those situations; we stop complaining and looking at it. I feel like my knitting a light pole or a fire hydrant is better for me and for other people to see."
With new projects and trips in the works, Magda doesn't show any signs of stopping. This summer, she's traveling to Australia to put up some fresh pieces. The crew has a book in the works that will show readers the tricks and tools they need to start their own crews. What's Magda's advices for aspiring knitters? "Follow your dreams!" she exclaims. "I am 35 years old and a mother of three. This project has made me feel like I can do anything. I think that what's happening to me is magical. I'm watching these dreams come true."

If you're not from the Houston area, take a look at Magda's boutique, Raye. For more Knitta photos and info, check their website. Thanks so much, Magda! Good luck with going pro.

"The time has come," the walrus said, "to get on a plane and get the hell out of here." Truer words were never said. I will miss you all while I'm gone, but don't fret! With 100+ archived posts, there's more than enough material to whet your appetites until I return. Check back on Monday, April 27, for a piping hot post and all the details of my trip. Have a great week and I'll be back soon! 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

March 2009: Burkina Faso with DaCruz

Before we get started, you may notice a slight difference in the posting format. Since it was Illicit’s 100th post two days ago, I figured I’d get it something nice. Behold, the Share bar. With this little tool, you can Digg, Delicious, Stumble, and Twitter to your heart’s content. If you like a post, share it with someone new! Now on to today’s post. Keeping with the theme of traveling to new places, French artist DaCruz tells us about his recent trip to Burkina Faso. He writes: 

“I’ve been in Burkina Faso to work with my two different associations. One’s from Paris and other is from Sabou, about 90 km from the capital.” “We went with 8 young people from the popular areas of Paris to work together on music and graffiti. We brought our knowledge of different parts of hip-hop culture to share in a popular Sabou festival. We stayed almost 3 weeks in March to prepare for it. The festival was a really special moment.” “I love to travel and paint. Every time I get the chance, I try to move and bring my colors everywhere.” “My style of graffiti is a mix of different 'primitif' cultures with an urban touch. That's the reason I'm trying to find a style that can be understood in the middle of a village in Africa or South America.”
In addition to Burkina Faso, you can find DaCruz in Senegal, Portugal, Spain, and France. For more info, check his MySpace.  

Merci, DaCruz! Only one more post lies between me and a week-long break. Want a post about you when I get back? Send me your stuff! I should note that you don't have to be a street artist to post. All you need is some of your own street art photos and a story about why you like them. Simple enough? Great! Send them to me on MySpace or through e-mail. While I may be roaming, I promise to check my e-mail obsessively. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

May 2009: China with Jef Aerosol

Jef Aerosol is to France as Barry McGee is to the States: a living legend of street art.  He began stenciling in 1982 and has dabbled in nearly every medium since then. From the Lille Art Fair and rock star portraits to spreading his “Sitting Kids” across the globe (I have one in my photo collection), Jef Aerosol is hard to pin down. He was kind enough to share his latest project with us. He writes: 

“Hi! I hardly have any time to write now, not even on my own web pages! I am so, so, so busy and overworked right now. Each minute is precious and I work from morning till late at night!”

“Monsieur Chat, L’Atlas and I didn't ‘pick’ China as our next trip. We were selected by CulturesFrance to go there, so it's an official trip.” “We'll paint live on 3 huge canvas walls (5 x 3 m) during the two opening days of Art Beijing, an art fair.” “Then we'll go to Chengdu where they have built big walls (2 walls, 15 x 2,50 m) for us. We may leave, but the murals will remain. Cheers, Jef”
For more photos, check his Flickr. Jef is on Facebook, MySpace, and has a new website coming soon. 

Thank you so much, Jef! I really appreciate your response in spite of your busy schedule. And finally, for all my Francophone readers, take a look at this clip from France3.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April 2009: 100th Post with xxCrew

Happy 100th post! To celebrate, I'm pulling out all the stops. Today's post comes from Germany's xxCrew. What's so special about them? They spread their trademark stickers inside DVD cases. Observe:
“The idea for the DVDs came from The Ragtag. We wanted to make something people could find in the store that critiqued the sellout machinery.” “Actually, they’re just a lot of fun. I designed the cover and then we filled the hull with our stickers. On the hull of the printed barcode, we had graffiti by a Polish magazine. We got the DVD cases from the flea market.” 
“The finished DVDs are smuggled in Brussels, Dresden and Munster in a well-stocked museum shops and design/graffiti art bookshops.”  “We started the project in late January in Brussels, but only distributed about 10 DVDs the first time. No messages came through about a reported purchase or attempt to purchase. The stickers, however, are by us and by friends over the world, so we do occasionally encounter them sometimes on the Internet.”  “xxCrew has been around for about seven years, and it’s been four years since our first Ragtag experience. Our early stickers were small and very simple scenes with figures or small stickers with texts. We like working on stickers, but we’ve also created major projects like the road sign series in Brussels.” 

On their blog, you can find more photos of DVDs released into the wild. For more info, check their website. 

Awesome, guys! Thank you so much. I am so impressed with your idea! I hope a lonely DVD case somehow ends up in Berlin so I can find it on my visit. To all my readers, thank you so much for sticking with me. I'm so pleased that 100 posts later, Illicit is still going strong!

Monday, April 13, 2009

In The Headlines

Well, that was a change of plans. I was all set to go to NYC when a wave of exhaustion overwhelmed me and changed my mind. Instead, I stayed home and didn't do any of the London prep that I should've. I'll get to it. On Thursday. It's the week before vacation, so we're going out in style with some heavy-hitters. You'll have to wait and see! Today's photo comes from my friend Lindsay. Last week, she had a week off from teaching in Baltimore. Fully capitalizing on her break, she took off for San Francisco and sent me this Os Gemeos on the side of a building. Merci! And now, headlines.

A staircase at Five Pointz collapsed, leaving a woman critically injured.

ABC Local News ran a piece on Pacific Art Collective. 

Street artist Ellis G. does firetagging? By the looks of these photos, he appears to be indoors. What gallery has that kind of insurance?  (Thanks for the tip, Beaks!)

Residents of Bristol are still reeling after the defacement of Banksy’s murals. 

When spring has sprung, gallery openings crop up all over the place. On May 1, Auckland’s Cut Collective presents “Paper, Scissors, Stock,” a show at CCHQ.

Caleb Neelon’s San Francisco show is in full effect at White Walls. He chats with Allan Hough about the past, present, and future of his work.

If you’re in Chicago on May 2, stop by Revolution Tattoo and Art Gallery for Toby Stanger’s and Matthew Ryan Sharp’s show opener. 

Remi/Rough’s friend Jaybo has a solo show coming up at the Nancy Victor Gallery on April 24 (I may actually be able to get to this one!) 

I’m jealous of all my Argentines in Buenos Aires. On April 21, head over to Hollywood in Cambodia for a one-night display of Michael De Feo’s work. Definitely worth the trip! 

In Worcester, England, an anonymous street artist created his or her own wall inscribed with doodles, drawings, and declarations. 

In the near future, L.A. muralist Kent Twitchell may be coming to a city near you. He speaks about his early days and discusses his future career plans. 

Citizens of Fall River, Mass., are unsure of what to make of the town’s recent street art sightings. 

Miami artist Roman Alvarez predicts a promising future for graffiti and street art in a Miami Herald interview. 

Finally, I'm really digging on Danish artist Bobsmade's designs. Give her a shoe, a set of headphones, or a tee and she'll cover it in her sweet and spicy critters. For more info, check out her MySpace page.

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I should probably get packing, but I think I'll do that tomorrow. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday ProFiles: Jon Burgerman

Sticker fiends can tag some unexpected locations: in alleyways, on billboards, even airplanes.  English artist Jon Burgerman cites that last place as his most unusual bombing location. He recalls, “The sticker survived the flight but its legs were missing.” While he leaves the tagging to others these days, Burgerman credits his foray into stickers with jump-starting his career. “A lot of my early success came from my stickers which helped establish my work, leading to professional commissions and the opportunity to exhibit my art,” he says. 

Since his early sticker days, Burgerman has branched out to include a wide variety of mediums and products. While he still produces stickers, his repertoire also includes customized skateboards, designer toys like the Burgertown Heroes collection, and color-your-own wallpaper which was exhibited at Britain’s Hay Festival. Provide the medium and he will decorate it. Originally from the UK’s Midlands, he now lives and works in Nottingham. As a child, he remembers drawing with family as his first artistic exposure. He recalls, “I would draw with my mom in our spare room before my brother was born. I drew an orange tree with pastels on blue sugar paper.” After graduating from university with a degree in fine art, he built his career online by showcasing his work on the Internet. Since then, word of mouth and a strong fan based helped the commissions roll in. Citing a laundry list of influences, he draws inspiration everywhere, from Barry McGee and Phil Frost to Cy Twombly and Picasso. He also extracts ideas from his surroundings. He says, “I’m inspired by so many things: street art, stickers, dirt, tissues, art, graphics, design, and listening to lots of music.” Over the years, his style has morphed and changed because, he adds, “I want to improve and develop. Also, I get bored easily.” His daily routine consists of “Work, eat, and snooze,” he says, adding, “I don’t think you ever really ‘turn off’ as an artist.” Although he sometimes works alone, he collaborates with other members of his “crew,” art collective Black Convoy, on a regular basis. While the specifics of his career plans are hazy, Burgerman insists, “I just want to maintain a career and keep working. That's all I really want to do and it's the only thing I'm 100% certain of.” However, he does dream of an interesting collaboration someday. According to his website, Burgerman says, “I think I’d like to work with a baker and design a series of character cakes and buns. People could buy them, look at them, get bored of them and then eat them. No waste and full bellies before bedtime. It’d be perfect!” Confections are perhaps the one medium he’s not yet tried. Although the scene may change over time, he believes that street art will remain a constant presence in daily like. “Perhaps new technologies will be utilised by some artists,” he predicts, “but there will always be paint and stickers.” All images courtesy of Jon Burgerman. For more information, see his website or Flickr.

Thanks so much, Jon! I'll be over on your side of the pond in about a week now! If anyone wants a post of their own, now's the time to do it! E-mail me or hit me up on MySpace for the details. Also, I'm packing my suitcase full of stickers to pass around, so let me know if you want yours included in the stash. Have a delightful weekend and I'll see you all back here on Monday.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

April 2009: Tijuana with Luchuk

I hope to do some traveling this summer and Mexico is near the top of my list. Guess I should get a book and work on my Spanish, ja? I'd love to see some of these stickers if I go. Luchuk, a street artist from Tijuana, Mexico, shares his thoughts and stories about his work today. He writes:

“My name is Eder ‘Luchuk’ C.L. and I am from Tijuana, Mexico. I’ve studied graphic design and drawing since I was small. I always knew I wanted to devote myself to art. I draw fan art, comics, and cartoons. I’ve been doing street art for about four or five years. It’s addictive!” “When I’m not painting on the streets, I personally love painting in my room because it has everything I like. My small studio space is where everything comes to life.”  “Fortunately, I have never been caught, jaja! Getting away with it creates the rush you feel when you’re painting or gluing things in the street.I think the street is a giant canvas. It is the best space where you can express yourself and show your stuff to hundreds of people. Obviously, I respect locations like homes or private places.” 

 “I feel that if my characters express something. They express my feelings or emotions when I am sad, frustrated, angry, or melancholy. However, I want people to view them the way they want to see, not the way that makes sense to me.”

“I feel that here in Tijuana there's not much support for street art. However, there is a lot of good talent. My goal for the future is to expand to other areas and to do collaborations with other artists.”

“Right now, I'm doing a lot of large stencils, new sticker designs, wheat pasting posters, artwork made by pasting cardboard, decorating beer and wine bottles, drawing portraits for friends.” 

All images courtesy of Luchuk. For more information, visit his MySpace or blog.

Luchuk, gracias por su contribución! Me encantó sus fotos y historias. I'm off to New York tonight to visit my ladies and my favorite Ghanian will actually be in attendance! However, I promise to have your Friday ProFile ready and raring to go. Well, perhaps a little later in the morning than usual. We'll see. Have a good one!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

November 2006: San Antonio

This blog receives a lot of traffic from Texas, so it's only fitting that my favorite Texan would report on the state's graffiti scene. Nick and I met abroad (see last week's Amsterdam post) and have since kept in touch. Last week, he sent me a note about the unexpected turn of events that piqued his interest in San Antonio's transient graffiti. While the photo quality is not optimal (the images are film stills), the pictures offer a glimpse at what the Lone Star State has to offer. Nick writes:


“In November of 2006 I was developing a short documentary for a production class at Trinity University.  Since I was completely devoid of ideas, my film involved following around my friend Phil, a fellow classmate, as he made his documentary about TUVAC, Trinity's community service organization.”

“At the time, TUVAC participated in a city initiative called Graffiti Wipe-Out, which was exactly what it sounds like.  Initially, I took no issue with the project, assuming it involved painting over gang tags and other crude forms of vandalism.  This couldn't be further from reality.”

“This particular day involved whitewashing two long walls filled with extremely skilled and meticulous street art.  Each mural was the work of a different artist, and varied in subject matter and style, but never in devotion or skill.  The artists obviously came from all over the state (or country), and put a lot of thought into each work, often inserting local subject matter and topography.  One featured a detailed overhead map of downtown San Antonio, with its famous Riverwalk snaking through the center.”

“My objective quickly switched from recording Phil's process to documenting as much graffiti as I could before it was destroyed forever.  I covered as much ground as possible with my DV camcorder, but it was impossible to record everything with the limited time frame and overabundance of material.”

“As I filmed, a middle-aged man snapped photos with a disposable camera.  He lived in the area and was also disappointed that the city was painting over these masterful pieces.”

“The raw footage is all that remains.  I hope that street artists continue these types of projects in the future.  Even if the city council doesn't appreciate them, a vast majority of the citizenry does.” 

Thanks, Nick! For more photos, check out his Photobucket. Also, if you're interested in cheesy films, take a look at his blog, Your Stupid Minds, where he reviews all things corny, tasteless, and tacky. Fabulous!