Tag Archives: Boston

On Rihanna and Chris Brown.

Today on Here and Now, the mid-day news program on the Boston-based NPR affiliate WBUR, reporters spoke with Boston-area teens about the recent news that pop singer Chris Brown allegedly physically abused his girlfriend (and fellow pop star) Rihanna. The idea for consulting local youths came from a recent survey conducted by the Boston Public Health Commission , which produced some surprising results:

  • 51% said Chris Brown was responsible for the incident
  • 46% said Rihanna was responsible for the incident
  • 52% said both individuals were to blame for the incident, despite knowing at the time that Rihanna had been beaten badly enough to require hospital treatment

On Here and Now, students from Match public charter high school shared their opinions. “She must have done something to provoke Chris Brown to hit her like that,” says one male student, adding that he doesn’t know enough about the relationship to say whether it was “right” or not – somewhat disturbing sentiments, until a female student named Denise disagrees, as does another male student, who says Brown needs “anger management.”

Much like the survey indicates, this sampling of students is conflicted over the boundaries between arguing and abuse in a relationship. Here and Now guest Nick Shiggs-Quiroga, a third grade teacher at Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, expresses that same thought, saying that he feels this is something he needs to discuss with – and to some degree, teach to – his students.

As someone who tutors Roxbury high schoolers (via 826 Boston), helping them to analyze and discuss required literature, this report made me feel like I should be spending less time on Hemingway heroes, and more time on the fact that no one (male or female) ever “deserves” – the word that several students used on Here and Now – to be physically abused. I recently had a conversation with a tenth-grade female student at English High, about how Frederic Henry from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is similar to men that she knows, in that they are both emotionally unavailable. That may be par for the course with tenth-grade boys – I don’t remember any of my sophomore year relationships being rife with outpourings of emotions – but abuse is an entirely separate issue, one that I hadn’t considered as a topic to be discussed during school hours before. But maybe it should be – or maybe we just need more groups like Girls Leap out there.

On MOMA, Poster Boy, and street art marketing.

One museum’s major exhibit-worthy street artist is another’s vandal, I suppose. Last week, while Boston was all a-chatter about Shepard Fairey’s exhibit at the ICA, and his arrest (en route to the opening, no less) for plastering our city walls with sneak peaks of said exhibit, something different was going on with MOMA.

The Museum of Modern Art’s crafty marketing executive, Doug Jaegar, “CEO of the brand-management agency the Happy Corp and president of the prestigious Art Directors Club,” according to New York Magazine, came up with an ad campaign that involved reproducing 57 of the museum’s most famous works, and wallpapering a Brooklyn subway station with them. But then, knowing that a) subway ads are prime targets for graffiti and street artists, and b) Poster Boy is New York’s street artist du jour, Jaeger recruited Poster Boy to intentionally “re-mix” the ads, in his own style – in the hopes of attracting even more attention to them. The remixes included giving Warhol’s screen print of Marilyn a nose job. NYMag writes:

“Early on we saw Poster Boy’s work, and we realized it was inevitable that if we did this project, his crew would likely see it as an opportunity. Whenever you create something, you want to make sure you’re prepared for that,” Jaeger says. “What I would hope is that it would cause debate and generate some argument, at a minimum.”

This is an ingenious move, especially for a museum of contemporary art. Simply plastering the subway with images from MOMA might remind some people of the great artworks that reside there – the Warhols, the Rothkos – or, it might introduce certain subway riders to artists they did not already know, thus drawing them to the museum.

But inviting Poster Boy to remix the ads presents a new angle. It’s the idea of sort of new art vs. really new art. It’s unpretentious and all-inclusive. It’s like MOMA saying, “Hey, we have a plethora of works by important artists from the last few decades, AND we’re also on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the art world now, from the echoing halls of our museum to cement ones on the streets, and in the subway stations.”

It’s not all that far off from what Shepard Fairey was doing in Boston, wheatpasting walls in virtually every neighborhood of our city to promote his show. The city may have arrested him, but at least the ICA had his back. The same can’t be said for MOMA, who made the decision to sever all ties with Jaegar after the Poster Boy incident, and denies approving the re-mixed (or destroyed, as the naysayers are calling it) ad campaign.

The museum had previously declined to comment, saying only that the destroyed ads would be reinstalled by Wednesday. But today it denied authorizing the attack. When it was suggested that actions took place with MoMA’s consent, Kim Mitchell, the museum’s spokesperson, responded: “That is not correct.”

Shouldn’t MOMA be defending and promoting new art forms, rather than discouraging them?

View photos of the remixes over at NYMag.

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.

Tonight: Red readings

From the Phlog:

Tonight: Amy Goldwasser and a few of the Red contributors come to the Harvard Coop at 7 pm.

I want to write something for Red, the recently-released, Plume-published collection of 58 essays by teenage women, “on what fires up their lives today.” Or rather, my teenage self would like to. While I was scribbling bad poetry about trees in my journal (the old-fashioned way), the Red writers keep up a group blog, opine politically for the Huffington Post, dash off op-eds for the LA Times and Newsweek, and their words may soon become a play. How’s that for college application fodder? (Founding the Anime Club now seems so much less impressive, doesn’t it?)

The exposure is both exciting and warranted. Red gives these 58 essayists a place where their thoughts are appreciated – which probably does not happen often enough for teenage women. If I could time-travel back to 1998 and offer my high school aged, Baltimore Catholic school girl self the opportunity to pen something candid for a book, I have no idea what I would have said – but hopefully it would be as compelling, unpretentious, and reflective as this assemblage of writings, some of which are by Boston locals (or semi-locals).

The book is the brainchild of Amy Goldwasser, a freelance editor and writer for publications like the New Yorker (NYer devotees will remember her hilariously fantastic Talk of the Town about Christian Louboutin over-the-knee boots), Vogue and the New York Times. The idea to collect and publish essays by teenage women dawned upon her by virtue of a steady volunteer gig, teaching writing at the LowerEastside Girls Club. Goldwasser admired the strength, honesty, and lack of compulsion to conform to a certain style of the writers she worked with there (as opposed to professional writers, whose work she edits daily), and thought that type of writing needed an outlet.

“I’d say in a lot of ways seeing if I could turn this into a book was a selfish idea,” Goldwasser says via -email. “Because I was enjoying the volunteer editing more than my paid work. I thought maybe I could combine them.” So, she sent an e-mail to a few dozen friends, seeking writing submissions from teenage girls across the country, and not long after, she was sorting through 800-something submissions.

Red reads like 58 diaries at once; it feels simultaneously enthralling and verboten, like a hidden entrance into the private thinking spheres of teenage girls, circa 2008. No tiny gold key is required to gain access, though – these women gush their thoughts with ease, about everything, from the challenges of being tall (as relayed by Tufts student Charlotte Steinway), to divorce, to spelling bees, to being too fat or too skinny, to losing friends to the clique-commandeered world of middle school, to losing friends to fatal car accidents, to having crushes on boys, to having crushes on JohnnyDepp, and to having crushes on other women.

“People stereotype and categorize us and assume they know us,” e-mails Caro Fink, 18, from Lexington. Fink penned an extremely brave piece for Red, about her battles with cutting, as a tool for coping with emotional distress. “This book really showcases the variety and intensity of our lives and gives a real version, not censored by psychology and preconceived notions.”

“Teenagers’ opinions often are disregarded because of our lack of experience,” e-mails Sara Harari – who, coincidentally, is also 18, and from Lexington. “I think that the essays in this book show that while we may be young, we have a lot to say, whether or not you’re ready to listen.”

Harari’s essay an intensely thoughtful and emotionally charged account of dealing with a high school nemesis; a boy pseudonymed “Todd,” whose very vocal case of homophobia was a daily challenge for Harari.

“I can’t help fantasizing about punching him in the face and breaking his nose cleanly in two,” she writes in Red. “Disfigured for life, he will be forced to see the error of his ways… Maybe flaming liberals like me who support women’s rights, world peace, and wind turbines just weren’t meant to get along with sexist, war-obsessed, gas-guzzling raging conservatives like him.”

Harari never clocked “Todd” in the face, luckily. Instead, she fought back with her writing. “The essay was my way of retaliating,” she says in an e-mail. “I was eager to get word out about facing homophobia in high school, even though it wasn’t directed at me.”

“Paint Pens in Purses” #2

From the Phlog:

Don’t try to say the name of the show three times fast, just go see it. I was lucky enough to loiter around LAB – the city-hip clothing store/experimental art space/purveyor of weird Japanese toys/record seller and occasional DJ party spot – on Friday night, while store owner Kim Harris, “Paint Pens in Purses” founder Shayna Shenanigans, and other artists hung prints and photographs on the store’s walls, and created a large, trippy, animal-filled mural on LAB’s front windows, before the eyes of anyone passing by on Brighton Avenue. (Transforming windows into canvases, thus taking advantage of the instant audience: Allston’s heavy sidewalk traffic, is the LAB crew’s thing – check out photos and time-lapse video of past works here and here.) Shenanigans and friends were at LAB till the wee morning hours, prepping the space for the opening of the second installment of PPP, the “all-female urban art series” – the first was at Via Matta in August. From the looks of the packed reception party Saturday night, it was worth it. Here’s hoping there’ll be a third, fourth, etc. installments. Look here or here, for more information about the show. Below, you’ll find photos of PPP coming together.

Banksy news round-up

From the Phlog:

(Photo by Robert Stolarik for the New York Times.)

News about the famed, mysterious, prolific, trend-setting, point-making, globe-trotting street artist Banksy has been abundant in the past few months. In July, the Mail on Sunday published an annoyingly smug article, outing the artist as Robin Gunningham, “perhaps all too predictably, a former public schoolboy brought up in [the] middle-class suburbia” of Bristol, in the United Kingdom. (A middle-class public school kid created street art?! How dare he?) Their verdict relied mainly on this photo, of a man believed to be Banksy painting in Jamaica four years ago, and on interviews with friends of Robin Gunningham – none of whom actually came out and said the guy is Banksy. “Naturally, Banksy denied the picture was of him. Indeed, as we discovered, Banksy and those close to him tend to deny everything,” the Mail complains. (Ha! Banksy: 1, Mail on Sunday: …sort of also 1)

Unfazed by this attempt at cramping his style, Banksy went to New Orleans in August, around the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and planted a dozen or so pieces of artwork on the streets. The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com put together an excellent video of these works, and local reactions to them, watch it here. Unfortunately, one of Banksy’s pieces has already been painted over entirely – apparently not all New Orleaners were psyched on a world-famous street artists coming to town.

Then, rumors swirled around New York City, after a very Banksy-like mural of a rat in a “I ♥ NY” t-shirt surfaced at Grand and Wooster Streets. “Has the elusive British graffiti artist Banksy struck New York again?” the Times wondered. (Maybe they should have consulted Vermin or Pest Control. According to Artnet News. “a controversial new organization, a group named Vermin, was established to authenticate Banksy’s Street Art works for the art market — without the artist’s approval — in competition with Pest Control, the authentication body headed by Holly Cushing and operating with Bansky’s okay.” (Emphasis not mine.) Two groups are needed to authenticate his work? And one without his permission? It’s no wonder Banksy flees from England so often. They can’t seem to cut the guy a break.)

So! Today, the Phoenix‘s beloved music editor Michael Brodeur alerted me to the fact that, indeed, Banksy has struck New York again, and not just with the rat mural. The Times reports today:

“On Wednesday a Banksy piece was unveiled at 89 Seventh Avenue South (near Bleecker Street) in Greenwich Village.

This one is not a mural but an installation: a mock pet supply shop, filled with animatronic creatures like a rhesus monkey and would-be creatures like fish sticks swimming in a tank. The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill, as the green awning reads, is Banksy’s first official exhibition in New York, his representatives say, and it will be open to the public daily through Oct. 31.”

Wooster Collective says: “A clear departure form last year’s behemoth show in Los Angeles, Banksy’s first ever show in New York City (the others have been fakes) is being held in a tiny storefront that’s less than 300 square feet and can’t hold more than 20 people at any one time.

One of our favorite things about what Banksy has done is that the entire show is completely visible to the public both day and night through the store front windows. And unless you’re a hard core Banksy fan, or until someone like us tells you, it’s absolutely impossible to know that the work has been done by Banksy. There are no paintings or graffiti in the entire space.”

The Times, Gothamist, and Wooster Collective all have a bevy of photos from the installation posted on their respective sites but, Wooster Collective warns: “still images don’t do the place justice!”

I say: time for a road trip to New York City?

“Where Fish Sticks Swim Free and Chicken Nuggets Self-Dip” [NYT]
“Banksy’s Village Pet Store and Grill” [Gothamist]
“The “Village Pet Store And Charcoal Grill” Opens in New York City [Wooster Collective]

Rock and roll is dead.

I made a poster: