Category Archives: graffiti

On Shepard Fairey

(Image from photos I took of Shepard Fairey’s visit to the Boston Phoenix offices)

In this week’s New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl comments on the storm of recent Shepard Fairey news, with some interesting points-of-view.

Fairey’s fight with the AP over whether the Obama photo he used for his famous “Hope” poster is downright stolen or covered by fair use laws, Schjeldahl says, is a “predictable legal snarl”:

“The general issue is an old story of our litigious republic. Appropriative artists, including David Salle, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince, have been sued at intervals since Campbell’s soup went after Warhol, in 1962 (but then thought better of it). As an art maven, I’m for granting artists blanket liberty to play with any existing image…. and I’m bored by the kerfuffle’s rote recurrence, with its all but scripted lines for plaintiff and defendant alike.”

Fairey cites Warhol as one of his primary artistic influences – no surprise there – and it’s interesting that nearly 50 years after audiences struggled to consider images of soup cans as art, we’re still having trouble with the concept of blatant, purposely apparent borrowdness as a medium.

“Fairey’s stylistic borrowings from Russian Revolutionary, Soviet, and W.P.A. propaganda are often remarked upon,” Schjeldahl writes. “But borrowedness itself—studied anachronism—is his mode of seduction.”

Schjeldahl only makes a brief-yet-poignant mention of Fairey’s arrest, implying that the incident is only worth a few words – can you hear that, Boston.com commenters? – because the pro- versus anti-graffiti/street art argument has probably been around longer than Fairey himself. Street artsists exhibit their work in galleries often, and many have been arrested. Fairey just did it on a grander scale (at the ICA), and at a moment when the public (in Boston and elsewhere) happened to have all eyes on him.

“Boston’s I.C.A. has condoned a citywide smattering of street art by Fairey, as an extension of the show. That makes sense. So does the decision of the Boston police to arrest him for it, on his way to the show’s opening.”

Perhaps, much like Warhol did for pop artists, Fairey – as America’s best-known street artist at the moment (besides Banksy, whose anonymity lends him a separate and unique set of issues) – is creating a whole new set of inevitables for street artists making a foray into the museum and gallery world. Or maybe it’s just history repeating itself.

The show by street artists that’s not about street art… sort of.

Photo by Hargo

Photo by Hargo

You could say I’m slightly obsessed with the Wall in Central Square. It’s sort of the same way I feel about certain bands, or certain musicians. Like when I’m watching a really phenomenally great band, and it’s maybe a band that not many people have heard of, or that isn’t making any money really (that’s pretty much everyone nowadays), and I get to witness That Moment. The moment where someone is just totally and completely lost in the music – hunched over, or crawling on the floor, or shaking their head, and sweating, and just totally oblivious that anyone is watching, because they are so absorbed and enamored by what they are creating, and I’m sort of caught up in it, too – well, those are my favorite moments. It’s amazing and slightly overwhelming, even just to witness, especially when it’s people I know or am friends with, because I feel suddenly feel so in awe of them that I don’t even know what to say afterwards. “Great show?” “Thanks for spilling your guts out on stage for no apparent reason other than just to do it?” And this is what makes me love music.

And that’s the same feeling I get from street art. When you walk into the alleyway by Central Kitchen that encompasses the Wall, it’s like the visual incarnation of that moment. Honestly, I think I have a stronger emotional reaction to the wall than to the Louvre or the nine million churches I was forced to visit for art history classes in Italy. I’ve always been more of a modern/20th-21st century art gal. The Mona Lisa, etc. always felt sort of dead to me, not just in the sense that the artist is literally dead, of course, but it just didn’t really speak to me in any way that later art, also by now-deceased artists like Mark Rothko or Matisse could. Obviously there is a place in this world for fine art; there’s a whole chain of influences in place. But visiting the Wall just feels so now. It’s truly imaginative, put there for no other reason than to create art, and all you have to do to see it is walk down the street.

So, when I heard about the latest show at the Distillery Gallery, in South Boston, I knew I had to write about it – just based on the list of names alone: Hargo, Dark Clouds, Buildmore, Kenji, Noir Boston, Alphabet Soup…

From today’s Phoenix:

Not long after walking into the Distillery Gallery on a Monday evening, Thomas Buildmore removes two painted-over NO PARKING signs that had been screwed into the wall. “This show isn’t about street art,” he says.

If it were, “we’d have some cliché conversation about street art versus fine art.” Moments prior, I’d had that cliché conversation, with Cantabridgian artist Morgan Thomas. We agreed that “Paint It Now” — the show that opens tonight at the first-floor alt-gallery in the Distillery, South Boston’s living space-cum-artistic haven — is street art moved into the fine-art world. It’s just a change of location, with the added luxury of time, which most street artists — who are constantly looking over their shoulders — lack.

Buildmore’s sentiment is a surprising one, given that the show features a dozen or so artists, many of whom use city walls as their canvases. He and Thomas, who are part of a collective called Overkill Studio that’s based in the same building, organized the show with Scott Chase, the director of the Distillery Gallery.

The idea behind “Paint It Now” is simple: give two white walls and an unending supply of black paint to several of Boston and New York’s young artistic talents, and see what happens.”

Read the rest here. (Or come to the opening tonight.) Also, I took a film making class, and made my first ever movie at (you guessed it!) THE WALL. I’ll post that eventually.

Street art attack: the crafty side of street art

From the Phlog:

Street art is fascinating enough on it’s own but, given it’s ephemeral nature, the act of photographing it is essential. And sometimes a photograph of street art, when it’s from an interesting angle or incorporates experiments with color, light, and/or contrast, is a piece of art in itself. Annie Ridlon, of Moontree Studios in Jamaica Plain, writes on her Flickr page:

“In my neighborhood there’s a 300 foot wall tucked away behind the train tracks, which serves as the canvas for one of the most gorgeous, ever-changing street murals I’ve ever beheld. It’s pretty much a secret, so there’s not many people who even know of its existence.

The wall is in a constant state of flux. Every day new pieces are added, old paint crumbles or is intentionally destroyed, layers of tags and signs and full-blown pieces are layered on top of one another. It’s an incredible riot of color and texture. It’s also a testament to the creative subculture which created it, and to the ever evolving nature of art itself.”

Photographing the mural has become a project for Ridlon, as it has for many members of Flickr’s street art groups, who scour the streets on an unending treasure hunt for the perfect (or imperfect, which can be just as alluring) stencil or freshly wheatpasted poster. Below, a smattering of Ridlon’s photos, which she’s selling prints of on the website/crafters heaven, Etsy.


Photos by oxymephorous.

We’re also digging this conceptually similar, up-close photo of the Wall in Central Square, snapped by eatskisleep.

And speaking of crafting, knitgirl is injecting originality into Vancouver’s street art scene, one brightly woven cozy at a time. If Banksy spent a few afternoons hanging out with your grandmother, this might be the result, and we totally adore the concept. knitgirl’s works seem to be everywhere – poles, trees, bikes – and it’s making us want to steal the idea, pick up some knitting sticks, and spread the trend to Boston. There’s just something so friendly – not to mention more accessible – about it. Not all street art is so easily likeable – sometimes glaring tags can be offputting. knitgirl’s work is like a friendly reminder that street art can be created in any medium, and in any place. After all, who hates mittens? Photos below.


Photo by Yorri¢k.


Photo by REDRUM (AYS).


Photo by Knightmusik. [Ed. note – We totally want one of these for our bike.]

More knitgirl photos here.

Mental Detox week

Via the Phlog:

Happy Mental Detox week! Yeah, so Mental Detox week began on Monday and I have yet to actually turn anything off – or at least the things that AdBusters, who launched the original TV Turn-Off week (now renamed Mental Detox Week) back in 1994, want me to. AdBusters has changed the guidelines to be both more forgiving and more inclusive. Sign of the times: I actually (unintentionally) haven’t turned on my TV at all this week, which means if it was still plain-old TV Turn-Off Week, I’d be all “Hey, no problem! I can go without TV easily,” but the Internet?! Here’s the thing, a job that requires staring at Snap Judgments and bus stop street art on the Internets all day + IFFB + newly downloaded episodes of My So-Called Life, which I can’t believe I’m still obsessing over, via Miro + Does seeing live music count? Because I’ve already done that twice this week = Too Many Complications for Mental Detoxification. FAIL.

Here’s what AdBusters wants me to do:

“Today you’re not going to listen to your iPod. You aren’t going to stare at a computer screen any more than you absolutely have to. Today you won’t worry about unanswered email, and you’re not going to login to Facebook. You’ll cut the time you spend on digital devices right down to the bone.

In the evening maybe you will watch your favorite TV show for an hour, but after that you switch off, have a conversation, wash the dishes, read for a bit, and just relax. You do that for five days, and then on Friday night you make a decision to unplug completely for the whole weekend.

For a couple of days you might feel like an addict in withdrawal: peevish, agitated, and distracted. But then something will happen. Your over-stimulated brain will cleanse itself. You’ll relax. You’ll feel calmer, more grounded.”

The fact that all of this is posted on a website (and now I’m reposting it on a blog) is sort of cloaked in irony – how are we supposed to spread the word about Mental Detox Week and actually detox at the same time? Smoke signals? Snail-mail chain letters? Don’t get me wrong, Mental Detox week would be great if I could take the week off and go camping at Yosemite, gather a group of friends and a cooler of cold beverages (but no road-tripping tunes, of course!!), but I can’t. I guess this is just my way of saying “Hi, My name is Caitlin, and I’m addicted to glorious, musical, visually-stimulating technology, AKA mental toxins.”

Daily street art.

From the Phlog:

Yes, I know, I should rename this whole street art series something like “Sporadic Street Art Updates,” or “Sometimes daily street art.” Let’s just say I’m using the term loosely. This weekend I plan on visiting my favorite street art-related spot in town: the Wall in Central Square, so I can capture some photo updates of what’s going there. As I’ve mentioned before, the whole project began last October, when a who’s who of Boston and New York-based street artists threw their stuff all over the formerly boring brick outside of Central Kitchen (and on the roof, and other how-did-they-get-there? spots). Then, inevitably, shit fell down or was spray painted over with non-interesting “0’s,” etc. NOW there’s more art over the old art, this layer over that layer over that layer, so it’s spanned beyond just a street artist’s roll call – it’s a concentrated statement of what’s happening in cities all over the world, everyday. Here’s hoping it keeps going!

I don’t know a ton about today’s handpicked local artist, noirboston, but I’m a fan of his gold (and sometimes neon,) Scooby Doo zombie character-like stencils currently lining the streets of Boston with other familiar characters, like Nineta and Goldenstash, like Boston’s freaky, unofficial street art mascots, greeting you en route to wherever you’re going.

As for the non-local street artist du jour, Roadsworth‘s stuff seems to be popping up everywhere, from Amsterdam, to Montreal, to Quebec, to Berlin, if Flickr is to be trusted as a location source. Roadsworth’s shtick is using road markings as a base for his or her artwork, transforming crosswalks, manhole covers, and other common city staples into statements of inspired cleverness. This is a somewhat Banksy-ish tactic that I’ve written about before; and the artists who do this – use pre-existing environments a the catalyst for artistic ventures – are the some of the most interesting. It’s a means of changing expectations for what you might see on a daily walk – who doesn’t want to stumble across art right under their feet?

In Boston: noirboston


Photos by noirboston.

Not in Boston: Roadsworth



Photo by nomsaleena.


Photo by greynotgrey.


Photo by hobbes313.


Photo by François @ Edito.qc.ca.

Daily street art.

From the phlog:

In Boston (Cambridge): Stenciled-on musicians are brightening those bleak, concrete walls

Awesome pics by sushiesque, who also captured a heartbroken Loch Ness monster. We miss Elliott and Kurt too, Nessy.


Not in Boston (???):
Christine Autturio, my artsy, in-the-know co-worker, pointed out Skelewags, the crafty, Tim Burton-referencing street art currently decorating sewers and other unappealing city locations, by an artist called Chewy, on conceptart.org.  Actually, decorate isn’t even the right word, because Chewy incorporates his artwork into pre-existing structures, cracks, pipes, plants, etc. These things are not just canvases for the artwork, they’re part of it. It’s sort of Banksy-type thinking, that street art can be both inspired by and an improvement upon it’s surroundings. Chewy’s website is currently unfinished, and I wasn’t able to pin down exactly what city these photos are from, via extensive Google researching, but my could-be-totally-wrong guess is somewhere in Portugal, based on this. If anyone knows for sure, help a sista out and shoot me an e-mail.

Photos by Nuno Caria.

Art on the streets.

Here’s a little something I’ve been doing recently. It’s sort of an ongoing project, born from an ongoing obsession.

In Boston (Nineta, on Comm Ave and beyond):

Photos snagged from l_a_i_a.

Not in Boston (Talking Britneys in Vancouver, British Columbia):

Photos swiped from jerm9ine. In Boston (South End):

Flickr photo by (who else?) Hargo.

Not in Boston (on a subway car in Holland, the Netherlands):

Photo by ces53 on Flickr.

Also not in Boston (Te Aro, Wellington, New Zealand):

Photo by bronzebrew on Flickr.
In Boston:

Via hargo on Flickr. (Otherwise known as the man behind the Wall.)

Not in Boston (Tirana, Albania):

Via sys68escuadrilla on Flickr.

Gotta get out there more with my own camera, so I can cut down on all of this Flickr thievery. Tune in here for more installments.