Photos from a series I shot for the Boston Phoenix of the Paint Pens in Purses art show at the recently-closed Marty’s Liquors space. See the whole series here.
Photos from a series I shot for the Boston Phoenix of the Paint Pens in Purses art show at the recently-closed Marty’s Liquors space. See the whole series here.
Photo from a series I shot for the Boston Phoenix, when Shepard Fairey put a mural up outside the offices.
If you’re in the Boston area tomorrow (Saturday, April 4), you might want to check out the Institute of Contemporary Art’s Design as Social Agent talks and tours, which they call a “full day conversation on design and culture.” There’ll be talks happening all day long, from 10 am till 3ish, by all different types of people – art critics, street artists, designers, curators, etc. I’ll be sharing my own street art-adoring point-of-view at 11 am in the galleries.
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?
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.
Photo by ICA Boston. Check out more of their photos from the event here.
When friends from the ICA phoned on Monday to alert me to the fact that Shepard Fairey was going to be wheatpasting in Harvard Square like, right then, the boss handed me a camera, and I dashed over there. Fairey’s got an exhibit going up at the ICA in February, and – let’s face it – a press release just can’t be the right way to spread the word for the former Andre the Giant posse-founding, Providence skater kid turned Obama-poster-designing street art luminary. He’s gotta spread the word, street-style! So, rather than battle the frozen, ice-covered disaster that is Boston in February, he got the ball rolling on that this week. (Keep an eye out: word is that he’ll been in town till Thursday, so watch for his artwork, coming soon to a blank wall near you.)
Along with Phoenix art critic Greg Cook and a few others, I was fortunate enough to hang with Fairey for the afternoon, while he pasted up two murals in Harvard Square – unfortunately I had to jet before he bolted over the Wall in Central Square, where friends told me he was careful not to disrupt the awesome, ongoing artwork happening there. Below, you’ll find interviews, and video footage of Fairey and his crew art-ifying the formerly plain, old red wall outside the Tannery, and a boarded up store across of the Harvard Square T-stop. (We have to note that the Tannery is directly across from Urban Outfitters, which carries Fairey’s Obey clothing line. Which means that fans could have watched him slap up artwork, DIY-style, and then walked across the street and bought his clothing. Is he living the dream? Or would the 19-year-old broke artist version of himself be groaning in disbelief?)
Semi-fame seems to be heading nowhere near the artist’s head, however. He chatted and handed stickers to anyone who approached him. He even gave a piece of his art (posters he was using for a wheatpasting collage) to an oblivious woman, who walked up to him and asked “Where can I get one of those posters?” then asked someone who that guy was as she walked away. (This was slightly annoying – I had had a friend salvage an unused Fairey piece, which was crumpled and discarded in a trash can, moments earlier). We won’t dwell, though.
Click here to see a video I shot of Fairey and crew hard at work (artwork) in Harvard Square.
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.)
“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.”
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]
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.
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.