Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday ProFile: Gabri le Cabri

Many people discover street art on their own. Through books, videos, or their own observations, they mess with the techniques and pick up skills along the way. Parisian artist Gabri le Cabri had the good fortune to learn stenciling techniques at school. “I started doing stencils thanks to my art teacher in high school, when I was 15 or 16,” she explains. “In the late ‘80s, stencils were one of the only forms of expression besides hand-style tags and graffiti pieces one could see in the streets. I lived in the east of Paris where many stencil artists were active. I also felt more attracted to stencil because it was commonly used in punk imagery, which was the music I used to listen at. So when our teacher taught us how to cut out our own stencils, I chose a picture of The Clash for my first try. She later introduced me to another schoolmate who already bombed in the streets, under the name of TNT, and he asked me to go with him, which I did very soon afterwards.”

Born and bred in the city of Paris, Gabri knows her way around the City of Lights. While she drew on walls as a small child, she never outgrew the habit. “I always wondered why my hands could not realistically draw the perfect representation I imagined in my head,” she insists.
Back in the ‘80s, Gabri was active all the time, covering the streets of Paris with her work. Then she took a ten-year break before diving back into photography, collages, and stencils. “I think my style has evolved in its content because I am now a more complex person than I was when I was a teenager,” she reflects. “I explore more themes than I used to. According to the media, I can express things that would not fit in other contexts, either because of the size of the media, or of the technique. The technique used by other stencil artists also encouraged me to do more challenging stencils.”
Since last year, Gabri has worked with other members of S/75 (Paris sous les sticks). The group dynamic transformed the way she approaches projects. “I think it is a rich experience,” she confesses, “since it is based on a sense of friendship between the members and we can all benefit from the others' experiences, influences and help. For the moment, I am happy to be part of a crew whose members also act independently.”
Whether she’s working with stickers or stencils, Gabri represents her views. “I prefer to promote ‘equality between genders’ or even better, ‘equality between all human beings’ than just ‘girl power.’” Gabri believes that it’s important for women to participate in street art. “Like in all the other domains,” she argues, “I think women bring a different point of view, but I like to imagine it as a complementary point of view, not as an opposition or a struggle. I'm not very attracted to what I would call ‘girlie’ street art. To me, it is a reflection of the separation between genders and even sometimes a tendency to show girls as sexual objects that are supposed to be pretty and attractive or as people who can only create ‘cute’ things.”
In 2010, expect to see more themes of peace, respect, curiosity, and multicultural acceptance in Gabri’s work. “I would love to have more time to spend on my ‘non-commercial’ activities to develop my technical skills and to be able to produce more,” she wishes. “But right now I have no real plans except a few projects for new stickers and stencils in mind.” No matter the style, Gabri says, street expression is all about “interaction with the city, questioning anonymous citizens, and putting a little sunshine in everyday life.”

Merci, Gabri! For more photos, visit her Flickr. That's all for now. If you're in CT, definitely head down to New London for the Hygienic "Salon des Independants" opening. Hopefully, I'll make it down there next week. Until then, there's nothing but work and meets in my future! Rest up this weekend and I'll see you on Monday.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

January 2010: Mr. Di Maggio in Milan

Mr. Di Maggio knows how to mix work and play like a pro. By day, he makes money through graphic design. In his spare time, he creates huge wheatpastes and decorates the streets of Milan. He writes:

"I started pasting my characters on walls back in 2004. I called myself The Stoned Face. I got the name from a remake that I did on The Stoned Face logo. Back in the day, I used to work as graphic designer. I sat for hours and hours in front of my computer drawing characters, remaking logos and making lots of graphics while working!"

"I got my start with graphic design. Since then, I kept developing my style. I think it all comes from my character, my attitude: I get bored quite often in general so I always need to change. What I do nowadays is different than before. I only work as a freelance graphic designer when I get paid for it. Otherwise I spend my day painting paper, most of which get pasted out on the street as billboards. I always try to keep a graphic stroke in my paintings and I draw different types of faces!”
“I like to paint at my studio in Milan. I believe that it’s the best place ever to hang paintings in the street, but I hate the city where I live. I will probably move to Berlin soon, maybe in April, I think! I need some ‘fresh air,’ to find new ideas and see different people and cultures.”

“I have to say that I have never had particular problems doing my work out on the streets. The only thing that makes me pissed off a lot is when I paste my big posters at night and then come back after a few hours to take photos only to find that it has been pasted over with some sick advertisement. Instead of taking pictures, I start working again to gently remove the adverts and get my poster back alive!”

“Right now I am working on large sized posters to paste and photograph. Get ready, Berlin!”

Thanks, Mr. Di Maggio! For more photos and projects, take a look at his website.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January 2010: C. Finley in NYC

Nobody likes taking out the trash. The bag is usually overfilled and ends up spilling by the time you make it to the can. If someone left a half-full can of tuna in there, all the better. Hauling that nasty, drippy bag into a festering cesspool of refuse isn't a good time. But what if instead of a cold steel box you placed that junk in a pinstriped vessel? How 'bout a paisley bin? C. Finley understands the importance of aesthetics and is out to beautiful New York City one dumpster at a time. She writes:
“I started doing street about two years ago.”
“I always try to get as many people involved with my street art as possible. It usually takes a village. Chris donates wallpaper from Composition Workshop in Brooklyn. James, Annabelle and Shaina help me with the press release. Kate, Rachael and Matthew help me with the actual wallpapering of the dumpster. Waste management has to approve the project...and on and on. I have great friends who help me in the dead of winter in NYC.”
“I started off painting and went to the Pratt Institute. It was amazing to work in NYC with some talented peers and great professors. Then I worked as a set painter for a few years. I learned how to coordinate projects and make large scale work quickly. Completing my MFA in California helped me with my voice, to refine what my stakes are in the world. For the last year or so I have been living in Rome, which feels like a dream. I love to paint wherever I can! Rome has been amazing.”
“Once, Italian officers stopped me and I lost all of my Italian language skills in that moment. I kind of had to charade myself out of that one.”
“For the next few weeks, I will be wallpapering dumpsters in NYC and hopefully will earn some grant money to do ten cities in 2010. I continue to paint and draw nearly every day.”

Thanks, Finley! For more dumpsters and other projects, check her website.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

May 2008: Jana + JS in Paris

When I see a wall covered in street art, my first instinct is to photograph it. But what if that same street art was poised to take a photo of you? Jana and JS create intricate stencils that depict people with cameras popping out of alleys, phone booths, and sidewalks. While they live many miles apart, they still find time to collaborate on big pieces. They write:
JS: I cut and painted my first stencils when I lived in Madrid between 2003 and 2004. I met Jana who also lived in Madrid, at the same time!
Jana: I started a year later back in Austria.
JS: When Jana came to settle in Paris in 2007, we really started working together, and soon we designed our work with a joint identity.

We are part of the WCA Collective. It was founded in 2005 by Artiste-Ouvrier and includes others like 6lex and Marybel. Today, it is more difficult to work together because we live so far from each other. However, we still have joint projects, such as an exhibition that took place in October in Paris.”
JS: I was introduced to the technique of cutting and painting that we use by Artiste-Ouvrier, whom I met on my return to France in 2005. But we're both photo enthusiasts, and all our work is inspired by the photos we take. Our style was therefore built around the desire to create images on the border of painting and photography. We try to keep frames, structures and realistic prospects in tact while still playing with the forms and technical aspects like the stencil and spray.

"It is difficult to speak of an ideal location, but we like the old walls best. We especially love the places where our work is meaningful, either because the two are related or because the sites can interact with the environment.”
We were recently in Vienna this for the installation of our exhibition at Galerie Inoperable. The opening took place on Saturday, January 16.

Merci, Jana + JS! For more photos of their photos, visit their Flickr.

Monday, January 25, 2010

In The Headlines

Busy times and working on the weekend make it feel like I never left on Friday. Can it really be Monday already? Interesting art openings await next weekend, though; New London's Hygienic Festival kicks off next Saturday. I'm excited to see what's in store! Let's brave the week together starting with these headlines.
Jef Aerosol's been busy in New York this week. Here's a photo of his latest stencil, courtesy of Jaime Rojo.

Here's a spot of background on Banksy's Sundance premiere.

Deitch Galleries will close its Wooster Street location, but not before Shepard Fairey stops by this May.

Mear One, Kofie, Retna, and El Mac received plenty of work space and planning time for their Los Angeles Art Show contributions.

Babelgum interviewed Aakash Nihalani.

Blu's animations are really cool; you should watch them here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Profile: Last Plak

From a young age, the members of Dutch collective Last Plak displayed their work on the street. Back in the day, many members wrote in chalk on the streets. As they grew up, they graduated to markers and drove their parents crazy by writing on the walls. Ten years ago, Last Plak came together as a collective and the group has added members ever since. "In Dutch, 'last' means 'annoying' and 'plak' means 'sticker,'" they explain, "so Last Plak can translate to 'annoying sticker'."
Armed with more than just sticky creations, they've bombed the streets of Berlin, Saint Petersburg, Los Angeles, New York City, and their native Rotterdam. While they make a yearly pilgrimage to Berlin, they agree that Rotterdam is still their favorite place to work.
Over the years, the group experimented with different styles. "We started out with graffiti letters," they recall. "Then we moved on to characters based on graffiti shapes." The group loves spreading their work across city blocks. According to Last Plak, "Street art just seems a bit more gentle than graffiti." It's hard to deny the accessibility of their work. From heartbroken penguins to teeth with legs and a smiling cyclops, their characters wave a friendly hello to pedestrians.
This fearless collective experienced their fair share of run-ins with the police, but they never let it cramp their style. In fact, they'll work on pretty much anything: ice sculptures, dining room chairs, shoes, and even a church (with permission, of course). Regardless of the location, they say, "We just like to see our work in public spaces. When we see one of our characters in the street, we always say hello."
Currently, the members of Last Plak have a fresh studio space and hope to open a gallery in Rotterdam. At some point, they'd like to paint whole buildings with their colorful characters. Finding inspiration everywhere, they explain, "We try to keep it up to date with the media and the news. We try to put our opinion in the work." Collaborating with the group means no rules, plenty of respect, and endless possibilities. "You never know how it will develop," they insist, "but you know for sure it will get better the longer you work on it."
Thanks, Last Plak! Best of luck with the new gallery. To keep abreast of the Last Plak news, visit their website. Not much weekending will happen this week, but I'll be sure to round up a good batch of headlines for Monday (like the hyper-linked Banksy film site).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

November 2009: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Short sweet post today. I've been meaning to share these photos for a while now. Back in 2008, I met my good friend, Hüsne, in Turkey. She rolled down to Argentina and reunited for our friend, Sena, for a while. During her stay, she snapped some photos around Buenos Aires. She writes:
"Purple, darling here is some street art for you to enjoy."
"This is Buenos Aires; of course there will be an accordion on the walls and Carlos Gardel.""I found them on the streets of the old neighborhood on San Telmo.""Hope you like them. I'll be on a hunt for more of them for you. Kisses, love you, Rhea."

Teşekkür, darling!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January 2010: Jerm IX in Vancouver

Jerm IX may live and work in Vancouver, but you can catch his work all over the place. From the Bogotá Stencil Festival to Venice Beach, California, he makes his presence known. Armed with paper, stencils, and quotes (both his own and those of other celebrities), he shares his thoughts and images with people across the globe. Today, he checks in from western Canada. He writes:
"I toyed around a bit with aerosol in the early 90's, but it was about 4 years ago that we started the Jermalism campaign."
"My wife, Ninja IX, is my partner. We spend a good chunk of our time together creating pieces, which are hand-made with stencils and permanent markers, as well as wandering every nook and cranny of the city together. I have also enjoyed collaborating with several street artists, both locally and globally. But I'm at my best when I'm flying solo; that's when I make the best work because I'm brutally honest. I write alone, always.""When we came to the conclusion that we should be putting up our own work, it was just a matter of convenience. I found myself with access to unlimited amounts of purolator stickers, which I immediately began to stick together end to end and create large 'banners'. I chose to abandon the idea of tag form, or any sort of script, and settled immediately on the traditional store bought 2 inch stencil letters. I find that not only do the stencil letters give the illusion of authority or authenticity to the piece in its urban home, but also by removing any aesthetic and creativity from the letter style, the words themselves take center stage. Eventually when the sticker supply dried up, I happily moved on to tearing scrolls from large rolls of paper.""When you spend the majority of your existence wandering, you witness a lot of craziness. One night in a notorious drug alley in Vancouver's infamous downtown eastside, while pasting up giant band-aids with a few friends, a group of people jumped a guy behind us and literally kicked in his skull. Then they scattered it. It was vicious and made me feel sick. But 99 percent of the missions are pleasant."
"Still firing off the scrolls and direct quotes, and very much enjoying it. I'm in the process of recording a hip-hop album and I'm also writing a novel with heavy street art themes. I have sent out over 200 paste-up packs of my banners around the world in the last week and a half. There are a few other projects in my head."

Thanks, Jerm IX! For more photos, check out his Flickr.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

December 2009: Villas in Barcelona

Rodrigo Villas is no slouch. While the winter weather may be cooler than usual in Barcelona, Spain, he's been out painting and already snapped shots of his 2010 pieces. What a busy guy! This Brazilian born artist shares a bit about Rio's style, Barcelona's scene, and what he has planned for the new year. He writes:
"I started tagging as all children from my school did at around 10 years old. That was really funny and exciting but we were just kids playing around in Rio de Janeiro. At that time, I got to know the few graffiti pioneers back then, such as Eko, Acme, Lets and a few more. I never stopped admiring them. There were no good graffiti supplies at that time in Rio. Those guys were responsible for keeping the scene alive and inspiring the next generation of street artists. That was like 10 years ago and right now there is a third generation in Rio really rocking. "
"I think that style is one of the most difficult things to explain or discuss. If it's real for you, I mean, if it's your true style, it's the most personal thing you can share with other people. I always try to be true to myself and keep my work developing in this way. I guess it's not just aesthetic; it's somehow the way you see the world. I think world doesn't need a revolution, just some restructuring. That's my belief and that's what I try to share in the streets."
"My favorite places to paint are the places that I try to understand better. I like to interact with people, listen what they have to contribute, and even let them participate. In Rio, I usually go paint in a favela that is near my place in Ipanema, called 'Favela do Pavão'. Last year we made a nice documentary about how graffiti can be a good way to start a city / favela relationship. I strongly believe that painting cities is important for claiming public space, but more often I go into places that regular people don't even know exist. It´s a good way to make these places part of our everyday life and to make people pay attention to the people living in those places. I think a lot of street artists today are just painting in streets to promote themselves and get famous. That's just ego, and it doesn´t bring anything positive."
"Rio de Janeiro is very liberal about graffiti and street art. I think that most of the time it's between you and the owner of the wall. If he doesn't complain, it's all right. One day, a really heavy police patrol car stopped and a lot of cops came out of the car carrying huge weapons. We were really scared, but the chief just said, 'Hey! Nice work!' and one of then took a picture with his telephone."
"I just finished a serie of graffiti attacks here in Barcelona called 'My Little Playground'. That was a tribute to all my friends that become fathers and mothers this last year. That was a really 'baby boom' in my circle of friends and I tried to make a tribute to their love! I'm still running my character project called 'Love Bird'. That is another kind of street art and it's just a little point of color in the middle of the city. It's my way to make visual poetry. The bird represents a lot of personal stuff.The birds are always on trees or some high point to remind people that it is important to look the sky sometime during our stressful days. Discovering a bird on the street puts a smile on people's face and that what I´m looking for. I want to spread love!
Also, I'm planning a big installation that I would like to finish in a couple of months. I'm trying to construct something that can be a middle point beteween the street art work and a piece that can integrate some ephemeral and ethereal elements into an inside space."

Obrigado y gracias, Villas! For more updates on his projects, visit his website.

Monday, January 18, 2010

In The Headlines

What a great weekend! With amazing friends, delicious food, and lovely weather, 24 feels pretty good. I have the day off, so I will spend today chilling with friends and bracing myself for more work and meets this week. While I sip coffee and figure out my day, take a look through the week's headlines.

When life gives you potholes, you can always make street art.

Global Voices Online explores street art in Colombia, Peru, and Guatemala.

Sometimes overanalysis is a good thing; check out Graffiti Analysis to break down any tag.

Once5 reinterprets The Last Supper with a Communist version featuring Fidel Castro.

In India, this year’s Madras Art Initiative derived inspiration from graffiti.

Sydney tries to sort out its double standard about street art.

Sakristan and Skount have a new show opening on January 22 in Madrid, Spain.

In his spare time, a Salem schoolteacher photographs street art. He’ll exhibit his photos from February 2 to April 4.

As part of the Bonjour, India partnership, ten French street artists including Jef Aerosol and L’Atlas will show works in India from January 16 to the 23.

In addition to his appearance in India, Jef Aerosol’s show All Shook Up runs from January 29 to February 21.

Artists in the Cayman Islands harness the power of street art for public outreach initiatives.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday ProFile: Alsacherie

In urban spaces, it's common to see a few tags or stickers dotting the urban landscape. But what if a child's face stared back at you from the side of a building? If you hail from eastern France, though, the charming photographs come as no surprise. Obviously, they're from Alsacherie. Born in Chamonix, Alsacherie moved to Mulhouse and bought a host of influences along with him. According to him, "Everything I see influences me: photos found on the floor, magazines, advertising, the Internet. Nothing escapes me."
As a child, Alsacherie loved drawing and was particularly taken with the art of creating letters. "I love writing for the gesture," he says. "I love the beauty of the capital 'M' and the wind blowing through the lower-case 'f'. Unfortunately, I am also very bad at spelling. However, the result is much more beautiful than the original." Combining graphics and text, Alsacherie's style changes constantly. By working alone, he has the ultimate control. "The great advantage of being alone is that everyone agrees!" he admits. "You're mobile, more stealthy, and stronger with every piece."

Street art can lead to some unique experiences. "I stuck the faces of two unknown children on a building with the consent and finances of the city," he recalled. "When I finished pasting, a lot of people who lived in the building asked, 'Who is this?' I answered truthfully and admitted that I didn't know! People were still happy to see children on their building. Children are the symbol of life and what we are."
Sometimes, law enforcement is less than receptive to his projects. "Once, the French general intelligence though I was a terrorist activist because I made a collage that said, 'Mulhouse, capital of France, BASTA!' The 'basta' was too much, he though I was with the ETA. I was a bit scared." Whenever the police intervene, he always complies with their requests. "I am a pacifist, so I will remove my collages if asked," he says. "I actually prefer people to remember my collage after it's gone that to have them look at it until it becomes trite."
As a full-time artist, Alsacherie constantly pushes the boundaries of what is possible. "The prospect of doing things makes my life wonderful," he insists. "I love getting up in the morning with the desire to stick something in the street that doesn't fit with the normal routine of urban space." In the future, he believes urban spaces will continue to be molded and shaped by the artists that inhabit them. "Too often, the cultural posture of the state or the artist is solely expressed in galleries," he argues. "Street art has the extraordinary power to be practiced by everyone for all the world."

Thanks a million, Alsacherie! For more photos, check out his website. That's all for now. I'm off to run and plan birthday celebrations (tomorrow I turn 24, YIPE!). Have a great weekend and I'll report back on Monday!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

December 2009: Olivier in Paris

First off, I must say happy birthday to J, my cousin. Congrats on 22 years of life! To celebrate, we go to Paris to hear from Olivier Kosta-Théfaine. This versatile artist works with everything from spray paint to lighters, using the latter to burn intricate patterns onto walls and ceilings. Today, he shares a few photos and words about his experience as an artist. He writes:
"I did my first graffiti in 1988 in Paris's suburbs."
"In the past, I have collaborated with other artists. Today, I work alone."
"I develop my style by observing the city, traveling, and being curious."
"I like enclosed places, those who are not necessarily accessible by the greatest number of people. I paint in the tunnels of Paris, in old factories from the Socialist era in Berlin, and in hamlets abandoned in southern France."
"I love going to abandoned places to paint. It makes me feel like there is a treasure waiting to be discovered. It feels very strange, a sort of attraction and repulsion. Rediscovering a place that nobody seems have visited over the years is a strange feeling. The most formidable location is certainly an adventure!

Merci, Olivier! For more photos and news, take a look at his website.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

December 2009: Erik Burke in Nevada

Born in the desert of Nevada (okay, Reno, but close enough), Erik Burke looked towards the horizon for graffiti inspiration. While he currently lives in San Francisco, he bebops back and forth between his hometown, the Balkans, and Baltic nations. No matter where his travels take him, he always makes sure to leave his mark. He writes:
"I started doing street art, or something along the lines of street art, in '98. I had just seen the best and last issue of 12 oz. Prophet which featured Os Gêmeos and I was amazed. I had been dabbling with graffiti but it never really fit. I saw their work and was like, 'Okay, you can do more than write your name.' So I became that weird kid in Reno that drew pictures and wrote quotes from the Tao Te Ching on rooftops. It was rad in those early stages of pure inspiration and naivety. I learned an incredible amount really quickly.

Over the next decade I would ebb and flow with traditional graffiti but always be in a mindset of experimenting with new mediums. I guess that is what categorized me more akin to the street art world than the graffiti world. Above all, I think that I just wanted to be out working in the street. It's funny though because now the public space seems to be more connected to the Internet than the actual streets. I can find out what's going on in the graffiti/street art world faster by checking a few Flickr contacts than by going on a bike ride through the neighborhood."

"I've had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with a lot of inspiring and amazing artists over the years. From the beginning, my brother has been a bad ass and always offered a helping hand or a tallcan. Broken Crow and I have made some rad murals going back a few years now and I love their graphic work and support. More recently, Cahil Muraghu has been inspiring me and we've been working on an intense west coast east coast mail exchange. Lastly my friend Yale Wolf and I have created a lot of work and murals in an almost telepathic way. All these people work in different and awesome ways but I try to work solo for the most part. It's a lot more stealthy to run solo and have no one dragging their feet. I also think there is something very genuine about doing something completely from your hand and head. Graffiti allows me a chance to define myself and even more so, find myself."
"I'm not really sure if I have developed a style yet in my work. But a proper aperture and exposure to the right amount of mischief is helpful.

I love traveling and finding spots that have a weathered character: the train layups out in the Nevada desert under a full moon, or near the beat up roll up doors of NYC, or in a bombed out building in Sarajevo. The place is definitely important but the recipe is always a little different.""I guess the craziest/luckiest thing that ever happened was while I was getting chased from a spot in Seattle by the cops. I ran through all these blackberry bushes and came to a house. The cops were right behind me and as I was running around the house there was nowhere to go except a small hole. Well, I stepped into the hole and it broke way into a spider web-infested basement and I just froze and tried not to breathe. I could see their flashlights and their feet and I just tried not to move as I felt spiderwebs covering my whole body. I stayed there for what felt like forever, just waiting. I saw the sun starting to come up and walked home to the best shower of my life."
"On a personal level, I've been having an art buffet. Sometimes I look at my work and am like, 'Man, people must think you are schizophrenic. Why can't you just pick something and stick with it?' But I think there is more to work than doing something over and over until you have mastered it, you know? I appreciate a craftsman but I respect a great idea.

That was my major qualm with most graffiti and street art. It was founded so much on repetitiveness that its only spontaneity was its placement. However, the catch-22 is that without the repetitiveness, the work loses its punch; it loses its narrative. So it's no wonder that when street artists have gallery shows they always struggle with its impact on the audience because they are fighting with that spontaneity that the street offers. Some artists pull it off though. Most don't. But there are many sides to it, I suppose.

I, too, spent the majority of the last few years concentrating on the repetitive, iconic, sloganeering of graffiti. It culminated in a video called '
Still Life' where I compulsively drew an abstract shape reminiscent of a piece of paper in the wind, a bird, a wind sock, a triangle with a tooth (as a graffiti writer once said). The shape was kind of a logo for me. The idea was that you float through life and cling on to certain people and places, but for the most part you are 'dust in the wind'. I've done a lot of floating the last decade from Reno to biking across the country to exploring the Baltics and the Balkans, and always leave some sort of bread crumb trail. It may be best summarized by H.R. Fricker, 'My graffiti is my shadow.' Or as my favority artist buZ blurr calls graffiti, 'an announcement of presence.'"

Awesome, Erik! Thanks for sharing. For more photos and info, visit his website.