Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday ProFile: Encore

Creativity isn’t always about making something new; viewing old material from a new perspective can lead to interesting results. Back in 2006, German street artist Encore transformed a Sonic Youth album cover into a stencil. The result led to him further down the rabbit hole. Today, he’s got street art down to a science. “I think there are two phases in the process of my works,” he says. “First, I stay at home, searching for new motifs, printing and cutting stencils, painting stickers, poster etc. Then, I go out on the streets painting, sticking, pasting.”

Some people might not enjoy the planning stages of a project, but Encore makes it fun. “The first phase certainly takes the most time and I am often working alone. But I am very thankful to a few persons who always help me with answering my questions like ‘Which color would you take? Which frame, which size, which photo?’ They spend the evenings with me cutting, painting, talking, watching TV, drinking and smoking! Without them, cutting would often be so boring.”

After the planning comes adventure. While he lives and works in Freiburg, he loves traveling around and sticking everywhere. “Most of my work is actually put up here,” he admits, “but I think 95% of it are simple stickers. I try to achieve a huge quantity, because I think this is one important aspect of techniques like stencils, stickers and posters: copy and copy and copy your motifs until the multiple color layers destroy your stencils. I try to combine my everyday life with street art! Going to work, shopping, or partying? Always take some tiny stickers with you! I hate the moments when I see a nice spot and haven't any stickers with me.”
Encore doesn’t just stick to stencils and stickers. Recently, he played around with abstract paintings and collages. “I like to try out many different techniques of making stencils, but that results always in quite different looking pictures,” he explains. “Last month, I made some really extensive stencils which should look like a kind of photorealism style with strong black / white contrasts. But the cutting is so exhausting and it takes quite a long time without seeing any results, so I feel the need to do something else besides stencils.”

This willingness to experiment means Encore’s ready to branch out in the future. “Next I would really like to try out screen prints,” he says. “Some people planned to do a workshop to practice but nothing happened. I have to phone them again. I have always been inspired by Warhol’s screen prints. He is something like an idol for me. My first stencils were often copies of his screen prints, so I think it would be a nice thing after doing stencils all the time in the last 4 years to go back to the roots, now with the right technique.”

Thanks, Encore! More photos are right over here at his Flickr. That's all for now; I'm ready for some 85 degree weather and plenty of outdoor activities this weekend. Mix that with some sleep and you've got the perfect weekend right there. See you Monday!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 2010: San Francisco Part 3

I didn't do much sleeping last week, but I did catch up with a lot of people. Tanya took me to brunch at Lime, an experience that was well worth the wait. Louie showed me around Oakland and drove me to a tiny sushi place in San Ramon. Matt and I met up for Indian food and World Cup discussions. Ross met me at the Haight Street party and we reminisced about college days. Reunions are the best, particularly when they occur in amazing locations.

Near the end of my trip, I took a break from walking around and went to see Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop. Most excellent! The film features so many of street art's heavy hitters: Space Invaders, Shepard Fairey, Swoon, and (supposedly) the big man himself.

In addition to loving food, I also have a horrible coffee addiction. Normally, I try to limit my caffeine intake, but it was impossible in this city. Fortunately, I had plenty of options:the Grind, Oakside Café, Café du Soleil, Café Internacional. Armed with a giant pint glass (or two) of coffee, I steeled my nerves and prepared for the day.

Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge ranks in the top three of the week's best experiences. I woke up early and rented a bike in North Beach. Now, anyone who's seen me walk would question this decision; I don't have the best balance. But since I'm on my "no fear" grind, I peddled that thing past cars, trucks, and the occasional tour group. As I wound through the Presidio, I snapped shot after shot of that bridge. While I worried there would be wind or fog, the day was clear and I could see all across the bay. Beautiful!
Thanks for bearing with me, guys! I hope you've enjoyed the photos as much as I've loved telling stories. Tomorrow, we'll be back to normal profile formats.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April 2010: San Francisco Part 2

Next stop on the tour: Lower Haight. Not to be confused with Haight-Ashbury, this location is a little more hipster than hippie. Filled with coffee shops, record stores, bars, and parks, it's the perfect place to chill or rock out depending on your mood.
Prior to visiting, I added Fifty24 and Upper Playground to my list. The gallery presented Jason Jagel's series of drawings, paintings, and wood carvings. Upper Playground's tee shirts featured work from artists like David Choe and Koralie in addition to their trademark walrus. However, my favorite artwork was just outside the door; the exterior walls of both buildings feature robots and other spray painted creatures.
I loved the neighborhood's street art, but its residents are even cooler. On the first afternoon of my trip, I joined a crew of people on a stoop grilling steak and corn on the cob. Everywhere I turned, I found friends ready to show me around, take me out to dinner, or sit and chat over a cup of coffee. Since I spend most of my days with high school students and married teachers, it was wild to be surrounded by people my own age. Thanks to Bryan, Galina, Nick, Marcus, Caitlin, Jicheng, Sylvia, Lalit, Luce, Jan, and all the other Lower Haighters for making my week.
One of my favorite moments took place on Haight Street. On Friday night, we went to a party at D-Structure, a clothing store/art gallery. The boys from Nature's Mistake came up from LA to paint Nick's Corvette, so we posted up on the sidewalk and watched them work. Inside the store, people jammed out to Michael Jackson and Drake, checked out the artwork, and generally got wild.
In the middle of this craziness, a band walked by and decided to post up outside the shop. As they played, a stranger grabbed the mic and started rapping. Well, rapping is a subjective term, because all he shouted was, "I got my band with me! I got my friends with me!" The spectacle drew attention from the crowd and even a Chronicle reporter. Later in the night, they were invited inside to play the party. Never boring, kids.
Thanks for indulging me this week; tomorrow's post will cap off the series and then we'll go back to the normal profile schedule on Friday. See you then!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 2010: San Francisco Part 1

This week is dedicated to last week's trip to San Francisco. I could probably go on for weeks about how amazing it was, but I'll limit myself to three posts. First stop: the Mission.

Located next to the Castro, the Mission is filled with graffiti and street art. While main streets like Valencia and Mission have the occasional piece, it's worth it to take a wrong turn and wander alleys.
In addition to old school mural art, new artists like Barry McGee and the late Margaret Kilgallen spearheaded the Mission School. Banksy recently hit the neighborhood and placed a piece up on Valencia.
If you're hungry, stopping by the Mission is an excellent idea. When we ordered Mexican, I asked for a small bowl of guacamole and received a salad bowl full of it. My cousin, Matt, also took us out to an Indian restaurant for dosa and samosas. Walking around is a necessary post-meal ritual.
Once your food coma kicks in, stumble into Dolores Park and chill for a bit. No doubt there will be a couple of unemployed hipsters spending the day there. On my visit, I bought a tangelo and checked out the skyline. There was also an interesting photo shoot involving a woman dressed as a princess and a man in silver spandex wearing a glitter mask. I'm not sure of the effect they were trying to achieve, but I was definitely impressed.
Another stop on the tour was 826 Valencia, the tutoring/bookstore/pirate supply company spearheaded by Dave Eggers. The organization hosts countless workshops for teachers and kids, but you can also pick up a kickass patch and pirate flag.
Photo tours exist, but you've really got to check this neighborhood out for yourself. Tomorrow, I'll share more graff and weird stories from my week away.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In The Headlines

Words can't rightly capture the level of pure fun experienced last week. From street barbecues and brunch in a nightclub to graffiti parties and miles of winding walks, I am completely exhausted and so grateful for my time in San Francisco. Don't worry, I documented it extensively so you'll get to see pieces of my adventures. Today, I managed to overcome the time change and compile headlines. Enjoy!
Tomo's been busy with some projects lately.

San Francisco's White Walls Gallery presents "Faces in the Mirror" featuring Blek le Rat and Above. The show opens May 1 from 7-11 pm. Jealous.

Apparently, Banksy and I had the same idea: we visited San Francisco at the same time. Also, he's still feuding/collaborating with Robbo in London.

David Choe is back in Los Angeles for a new show. Banksy also hit LA while he was in Cali.

Shepard Fairey painted over the NYC mural space on Houston and Bowery, but taggers have already scribbled on it.

Mr. DiMaggio pasted this latest piece and shared it with us.
This is why I love Long Island City.

In Ireland, ADW covers Dublin with new interpretations of national political figures.

Hanoi's street artists compete against and collaborate with each other.

Street artists like Zevs and The London Police traveled to Hong Kong and decorated some indoor walls.

Venezuelan street artists critique their government through their public pieces.

Later this year, apartment buildings in Rome will become canvases for street artists.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday ProFile: Meki

Peru's population of 29 million consists of Amerindians, Africans, Asians, and Europeans. Each group contributed their own set of rich traditions to Peru's cultural heritage. This diversity results in a wide range of expressions within the artistic community. Lima based artist Meki is a great example of this creative range. When she's not painting on the streets, you can find her making costumes or writing plays. While she's painted across South America, her hometown of Lima is her favorite location.

As a child, Meki developed a consistent practice of drawing every day. When graffiti arrived in the city, it changed everything. “Whenever I saw graffiti and street art, I felt great admiration for the artists,” she explains. “On one trip, I saw a train painted completely and I was impressed. I created my own style by drawing in my notebook when I was in class.” After some practice at home and on school walls, she took her ideas outside. Taking her moniker from a childhood nickname, she hit the streets four years ago and never looked back.

Over time, Meki noticed a change in Lima’s street scene.“The style has changed,” she explains. “It’s taken on its own aesthetics and no longer completely copies Philadelphia or New York. I’m not old school, but I believe that the tagger was the predecessor of what you see on the streets now.” Despite the changes in approach and technique, Meki doubts she’ll grow tired of street art any time soon. “Life motivates me,” she says. “Emotion, friends, stories, adrenaline, boring towns, good times!”
Sometimes, street art can get ridiculous. “We had a tool that uses a lot of air pressure like a fire extinguisher,” she recalls. “We put these on our backs and walked around pretending we were in Ghostbusters! With these, you can bomb gigantic areas in seconds. Many times, the police followed us on their bikes but they couldn’t say anything because it wasn’t obvious that we were painting.”
Collaboration is the best part of street art. “I was part of ‘Chafe,’ which consisted of three friends,” she remembers. “Sometimes I reconnect with this crew, but one member moved out of the country. Right now, I roll with Fumakaka, which is comprised of Naf, Seimiek, ioke, bear, dok, and me. This crew does graffiti as well as sculptures.” Working with others, Meki feels, improves the quality of the work. “A crew goes beyond just production,” she insists. “We are friends and family!”
Meki has big plans for her next endeavors. “Right now, I’m working with my crew on adapting Where the Wild Things Are into a play for children,” he shares. “When I finish studying anthropology, I would like to mix my degree with art.” Although she's indoors for now, Meki prefers to work outside. “I think the streets are a better place to work because it allows more heartfelt reactions than in a gallery," she confesses. "I’ve worked in galleries. I think there are some spaces out there that are willing to do things with more time or better lighting, but it’s still not as varied as in the streets. If you want to see graffiti, take a walk in the street!”

Gracias, Meki! For more photos, head over to her Flickr.

Next week is my April vacation, so that means a break from the blog and a trip to new places. This time, I'm off to San Francisco! I plan on drinking lots of coffee, biking everywhere, and snapping hundreds of street art photos. I'll miss you all, but I'll be back on April 26 with more stories to share!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

March 2010: Cedric Bernadotte in PACA

In busy urban spaces, it's important to take a minute and be mindful. It's all too easy to run from the train to work and back without actually observing the outside world. Fortunately, Cedric Bernadotte's street pieces encourage a minute of quiet reflection. In addition to photographing his friends' works, he uses super stretchy plastic to create ephemeral furniture in the most unusual places. He writes:

"I was born in Bourges, but I work in the large cities of France's PACA region: Metz, Pau, and Montpellier. I love the city of Marseille. It's the site of many of my interventions. I love interacting with the inhabitants.
"When I'm not being an artist, I occupy a multimedia space where I collaborate with other artists. I work with Photoshop, Joomla, Wordpress..."
"I really dig Space Invader, Zeus, Gordon Matta Clark, Otto Piene, Banksy, and Stalker."
"Questions and discussions drive me to create. I like to make interesting projects with huge resources."
"Once when I was stopped by the police, I told them that I was an animator of the city. They bought it!"

Merci, Cedric! View more of his plastic creations at his Flickr.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

March 2010: Lapiztola in Oaxaca

Street art can be superficially beautiful, but it also serves as a potent political tool. Stencils and other forms of street art reflect and critique what's going on in the city. Mexican collective Lapiztola understands the importance of a well-placed stencil. They write:
"We are three people: Yankel, Roberto, and Rosario. Before, we painted separately but we started working more as a collective in 2006. We are in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico. We love to work here, but there are many limitations from the government that limit the expression of urban society."
"Our style emerged from the need to express and demonstrate against what was happening in our city."
"Our style emerged from the need to express and demonstrate against what was happening in our city."
"Although we have been invited to put pieces in enclosed spaces such as galleries, the greatest satisfaction is when we see a lot more people looking at our work. That only happens in the street, where it becomes part of a structure of the city."
"Right now, we are working on projects like making shirts. We've had a little exposure in our city and we're working on several things."

Gracias, Lapiztola! For more photos, visit their Flickr.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

March 2010: 1010 in Hamburg

Last year at this time, I was getting ready to visit London and Berlin. That trip completely blew my mind. I feel like the more time I spend away from Germany, the more I miss. There's just so much street art exploding within its borders! Today, 1010 checks in as an ambassador from Hamburg to share his work and philosophy. He writes:
"I started graffiti in the mid 90s and pasted my first cutouts around ten years later in 2003. I live and work mostly in Hamburg, Germany."
"It's nice to go out painting with friends but I mostly work alone. I don´t have a partner in crime. Art and groups tend to be less dynamic and spontaneous. My style developed because I got bored by all the faces, characters and
their expressions. I wanted to explore some more abstract characters and more subtle forms of communication.
That´s one of the reasons why I leave out eyes, for example. They tell too much. I prefer the picture to be more open to different interpretations."

"Some weeks ago, I was lucky to have a whole abandoned office building for myself for a few days. Six stories of untouched rooms. It felt like being inside a huge sketchbook."
"So far nothing really crazy happened to me while doing street art. Actually, I find it a very calm and peaceful activity. It's all about finding the right spot and the right timing."
"I'm basically trying to concentrate on my next show at the ATM Gallery in Berlin in the beginning of June. But spring just popped up here after the longest winter in 20 years and I really feel like going out pasting more often again."

Thanks, 1010! For more photos and updates on the June show, pop by his website.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In The Headlines

Wild weekend. I saw Slingshot Hip Hop and Crazy Heart, consumed delicious coffee, and drank sweet tea on the porch with friends. Now there's only six days standing between me and San Francisco. If you have any ideas about where I should go, what I should see, or if you want to meet up, shoot me a note in the comments section. Now, onto the headlines!
Alsacherie collaborated with some students on this collage.
New York street artists want Mayor Bloomberg to stop hating on their work.

Street art visits South Carolina's Columbia Museum of Art.

Artists in British Columbia think their street work has a positive impact on the community.

The murals in Philly make this multicultural city even more vibrant.

If you're in Tel Aviv on April 23, go over to Modelet 13 and enjoy beats, artwork, and good company.

Peat Wollaeger shares his love of St. Louis through stencils.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday ProFile: Oré

In the beginning of Beautiful Losers, Ed Templeton says, "I think as a kid, you're always drawing, coloring, and doing crafts and that seems to be totally normal as a thing you do as a kid. I think kind of a weird tragedy is when you become an adult, you 'grow up' and you stop creating. You stop coloring and involving yourself in the joy of creation. I just feel like I was lucky enough to never really lose that." Fortuantely, French artist Oré has two young sons and the high school students he teachers to remind him how to be a kid. Based in Normandy, Oré has left experimental pieces in Le Havre, Caen, Paris, Marseille, Toulouse and other cities outside of France.
Oré works hard to see the world through the eyes of a child. "Very often, adults don't see what children observe with attention," he insists. "Children discover the world and are very attentive to their environment." This novel way of seeing the world led him to embrace a unique type of art. "I started doing graffiti in 1989. I was in a neighborhood where hip hop culture was just arriving. Few people knew about graffiti and there were about six or seven people who were doing it. It was magnificent; I was practicing a new activity known to very few people. Like the majority of my peers during this period, I was influenced by Subway Art and Spraycan Art because they were simply the only books published on graffiti. There weren't any magazines or the internet."
As a pioneer of French graffiti, Oré experimented to hone his style. "When I began tagging, I was looking for a name with a few letters to write quickly in the streets," he recalls. "I wanted to choose letters which worked well together, formed a named, and sounded good together. I liked to tag O, R, E, and these letters worked well together. When I added the accent to the E, it formed the name 'Oré,' which sounded good."
After seven or eight years of pure graffiti, a series of fortunate events impacted Oré's style."Graffiti was developing and people were already spreading tags throughout the country," he says. "At the end of the '90s, people grew tired of tags and stopped paying attention to what they saw on the walls. I started to create a more personal aesthetic. My travels to Mexico profoundly influenced me. I discovered Pre-Colombian art and became equally interested in Arabic letters. For me, the link between tags and calligraphy is evident. Like lots of graffiti writers in France, I read Hassan Massoudy's calligraphy books."
People usually respond positively to Oré's work. "I had a great painting in a wonderful spot at the university. All the students new this painting. One night, one guy destroyed it by tagging, so I decided to repaint on this spot. I went on a Sunday afternoon. Some guys were playing soccer nearby, but they stopped playing and came up to me and said, 'Stop doing this right now, fucker! You're painting over Oré! We love his paintings!' I answered, 'Do not worry, guys! I'm Oré. Someone destroyed my painting three days ago. I just wanted to paint it over!' At the beginning, they did not believe me. But after five minutes, they saw my way of painting and they finally believed me. I was so happy and proud to learn that people could protect my paintings like this. For a graffiti artist, I think it's the most amazing thing."
Styles may change, but Oré feels like he's hitting his stride. "I would like to continue in the same vein that I've been working for the past three years," he admits. "I'll collaborate with musicians, directors, photographers, and other painters. I never thought that graffiti could grow into such a big scene." No matter where street art takes him, he doesn't feel like the movement will fade any time soon. "The drive to express oneself in the street is a vital need. It will never go away."

Thanks, Oré! Stay current with his work by visiting his website. That's all for now! I'm ready to relax this weekend and mentally get ready for San Fran next week! If you're in the CT area, the Trinity Hip Hop Festival is on today and tomorrow. I might pop up there and check it out. You should, too!