Books

A huge sticker fan, I first discovered iwillnot‘s stickers almost a decade ago while combing the streets of DC in search of striking street art. Soon afterwards, I met him and was struck by not only his outstanding aesthetic sensibility, but his huge passion for stickers and its wonderfully democratic collective culture.

In his recently released and hugely popular book, Smashed: The Art of the Sticker Combo, iwillnot shares not only his story, but provides us with tremendous insights into the entire sticker culture.

Intent on trading his stickers with other sticker artists, iwillnot had early on established a network of artists to exchange sticker packs. He was soon installing sticker combos in cities throughout the East Coast. And in 2011, he began to envision “smashing an art gallery in a major city with thousands and thousands of stickers.” Smashed: The Art of the Sticker Combo documents the realization of this dream.

With the support of street art enthusiast and Fridge Gallery founder and curator Alex Goldstein, iwillnot curated a 12.5 feet tall by 20 feet wide 10,000 sticker installation in 2013. By 2016, the entire gallery was smashed with hundreds of thousands of stickers, representing over 500 artists from 15 countries. The 2016 DC Street Sticker Expo reached over three million people.

With dozens of photographs documenting it all, Smashed: The Art of the Sticker Combo is certain to appeal to all of us sticker art fans and street art aficionados. The book can be purchased through Amazon or directly from the author here. And if you would like to participate in this year’s DC Street Sticker Expo, you still can!

All images courtesy iwillnotthe third image features — Foes, Mr Say, Skam, Sore Infest (top) RX Skulls, Obit, Who, and Ride (bottom); book reviewed by Lois Stavsky

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Brilliantly countering any claims that feminism is dead and that the Hip-Hop culture “is detrimental to women and girls,” Jessica Nydia Pabón-Colón has written an impeccably researched study of the grrls who have paved their way into the predominantly male graffiti culture, claiming their own space.

Based on interviews conducted with over 100 graffiti grrls across the globe over the span of 15 years, the author, now an Assistant Professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at SUNY New Paltz, provides us with a window into the minds, practices and experiences of a wide range of female writers crossing cultures and generations.

Among the many assumptions and false claims female writers often have to contend with are that they are writing graffiti to get noticed by guys or doing it to make their boyfriends happy. Or that they aren’t writing at all; it’s their boyfriends who are doing it for them. Rumors, too, regarding their sexual promiscuity are rife.

And yet, for various reasons, many are reluctant to identify as “feminists,” a term too often associated with man-haters. Pabón-Colón relates how when she first asked the famed bomber, Miss 17, if she was a feminist, her immediate response was a brusque, “No.” Five years later – in 2009 – Miss 17  had tempered her views, largely due to the friendships that she had developed with the likes of Claw Money and the author, herself.

Throughout Graffiti Grrlz: Performing Feminism in the Hip Hop Diaspora, the author convincingly advances both feminism and graffiti as positive and vital social and political forces. Australian artist Ivey, for example, recounts the pride she feels on seeing her tag up and credits the graffiti culture with helping her get through difficult times and motivating her to pursue her education after graduating from high school.

Whether of not graffiti grrls identify themselves as feminists or perceive themselves as political, Pabon-Colon compellingly affirms that their “performances of feminist masculinity” merge the fundamental social, cultural and aesthetic aspects of Hip-Hop culture with the feminist movement

Published by New York University Press, Graffiti Grrlz is the first academic study on women’s participation within the graffiti subculture. Appended with examples of black book pages, comprehensive notes and an extensive bibliography. Pabón-Colón’s work is a rich tribute to the grrls whose voices are too often silenced and a gift to all of us who love graffiti, perhaps the most significant art movement of our time.

You can order the book directly from the author with a special discount here. And follow news of her readings and signings here.

Note: The third image features NYC native Abby and the final one features London-based Chock painting in the Bronx.

Images courtesy of the author; book review by Lois Stavsky

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Recently released by Schiffer is Tokyo Graffiti, a delightfully intriguing and wonderfully informative survey of  Tokyo’s current street art and graffiti scene documented by London-born photographer David Sharabani aka Lord K2. After reading the book, I posed a few questions to Lord K2:

You’ve documented urban art in several cities and have previously published a book on Santiago’s rich street art scene.  What drew you to Tokyo?

Tokyo’s street art scene has never been documented and published before in a book of this format, and its urban art is relatively overlooked by locals and tourists alike. The walls and streets are so pristine and well-organized — many with an abundance of logos and commercials – that you may get the impression that street art is not needed. But when well-placed and in the right context, it enhances Tokyo’s well-planned and maintained architectural surroundings.

Also, I saw this book as a challenge. I was in Tokyo photographing the Sumo wrestling culture. The majority of my time was spent handling bureaucratic paperwork, and out of frustration and impatience, I decided to hit the streets. Initially, I wasn’t entirely sure there would be enough art out there to justify a book. But the more I dug in, the more hidden gems I discovered. Since Tokyo’s graffiti is not so apparent, I thought it would be a good idea to compile a book of some of the most significant pieces in one format to be viewed easily.

How does Tokyo’s street art and graffiti scene differ from other cities you’ve visited?

Regarding graffiti and art that is often regarded as vandalism, it’s not in the nature of Japanese to vandalize, rebel or speak up. Their economy functions well; there is virtually no street crime, and the education system is excellent. It seems that there is not too much to protest about. Also, conformism is an integral part of the Japanese way. Going against the flow of polite dignified behavior is considered a far more extreme form of misconduct than it is in most other countries.

Another distinct difference between Tokyo and many other cities is that in Tokyo it is a nightmare-of-a-process to obtain permissions, limiting the quantity of “decorative art,” even though the quality is generally high.

There are, though, a fair amount of stickers mounted in the highly populated central neighborhoods of Harajuku, Shibuya and Shinjuku, since these are quick and easy to put up with a minimal chance of being caught. Many of these stickers have been put up by foreigners.

What were some of the challenges you’ve faced in documenting it?

A big challenge was getting the artists to talk. They were happy to be interviewed, but cautious as to what they would reveal. It was hard to extract any juicy or emotive information. Fortunately, I was introduced to Little Pink Pills, who was already well-informed on the scene. She ended up writing the book’s text that accompanies my photos.

The other challenge was sourcing the graffiti. Even though artists would pinpoint locations, this didn’t suffice. I had to scout the streets for hours on end on my bicycle. I was inevitably much fitter for it.

Do any particular images or styles stand out to you? Any that are distinctly Japanese?

The mural that stands out most to me is one that was painted by German artist Case Maclaim. It’s a gigantic mural on the back of a building in Tennozu Isle painted for Pow! Wow! Japan depicting Sumo video game fighter E .Honda. It’s striking to see it in the distant urban scape.

Half the street art in Tokyo is painted by Westerners. They often incorporate images from popular Japanese culture such as Samurai, Geishas, Sumo, as well as comics that portray social issues. Japanese artists do not have a collective style of painting, as each individual/crew has its own distinctive style. Many of them incorporate less commercial elements of Japanese culture. For example, Usugrow blends Japanese calligraphy with pointillism and Los Angeles Cholo culture. Shizentomotel paints Namahage, a traditional Japanese folklore demon. Dragon‘s style is a fusion of graffiti, manga and ukiyo-e. Tamura Yoshiyasu, a manga artist, painter and illustrator, mixes modern manga with traditional Japanese art.

I’m so glad that you and Little Pink Pills made this book happen! Congratulations!

Photos 1 Book cover 2 Fin DAC 3 Unidentified 4 Kami and Sasu aka Hitotzuki 5 Assorted stickers 6 Little Pink Pills 7 Case Maclaim  & 8 Makoto; interview by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Born in East Harlem and raised in Astoria, Queens, Louie “KR.One” Gasparro has been sharing his vast creative talents — both as an artist and as musician — with us for decades.  “Louie was an original,” Sacha Jenkins writes in the introduction to the recently-released KOLORSTORM: The Art of Louie “KR.One” Gasparro. “KR was a master of paint at a time in graffiti when there were more court jesters than kings, more tags and throw ups than masterpieces.”  Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to catch up with the impassioned artist while visiting his studio.

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It’s been almost three years now since your first book Don1: The King from Queens was launched with a panel discussion at the Museum of the City of New York. How has the response to that book been?

The response has been overwhelming. I put a light on a NYC graffiti master who had been forgotten.  He had influenced so many of us, but was living in obscurity. I was determined to uncover his story and share it with others. I spent nine years doing that. But my persistence paid off.  I had folks from Italy writing to me after the book was released.

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And what about your current book? It’s quite impressive! How did that come about?

While working on Don1: The King from QueensI developed a relationship with its publisher, Schiffer Books. And when I proposed a book of my own works, I was encouraged to see it through.

I love the way your new book is organized into distinct chapters on different themes — such as The Early Days, Black Books, Model Trains, Abstracts, Walls and more. There is such an amazing variety of works and styles represented here, as well as a documentation of your journey as an artist — from subway graffiti pieces dating back to the early 80’s to contemporary urban art. How long did it take you to get it all together?

I spent two years working on it.  The greatest challenge was deciding which works to include. Originally, I had 600 images. I then had to cut that down to 400.

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Kolorstorm is also an amazing foray into your inspirations and passions.  Can you tell us something about your influences?

There are many. Comic books, cartoons, graffiti art, rock & roll, heavy metal…

Who were some of your favorite musicians back then?

Among them are: Jimi Hendrix, Rush, Yes… For me — and for many of us — graffiti was never related to hip-hop. The connection was largely an illusion that was accepted by many as “fact.” Graffiti transcends all concepts of race, religion, culture and class. That’s what makes it so great.

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In what ways has your work evolved through the past few years?

The entire process has become easier. My artwork is more detailed, and my line works are better.

Your Abstrakts are on a whole different level! What inspired them?

I was just experimenting with colors and shapes. The Abstrakts evolved from the experimentation. I’ve been told that they are “informed by graffiti.” And so they may be!

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What’s ahead?

More art, of course! And opening Saturday (tomorrow) night is Art As An Answer, a one night only pop-up show with new works, presented by The Astoria Boyz and The Urban Foundation Gallery, at 208 East 73rd Street in Manhattan.

Congratulations!  It’s certain to be wonderful!

Images:

1. Cover of KOLORSTORM: The Art of Louie “KR.One” Gasparro, published by Schiffer Books

2. Louie “KR.One” Gasparro in his studio

3Louie “KR.One” Gasparro, The Lost Art of the Tag, True York

4. KR.One and Fome 1, IRT #2 Line, Bronx, 1982, Photo © Martha Cooper

5. Louie “KR.One” Gasparro, Abstract, Greyburst3

6Louie “KR.One” Gasparro, Band Member, Keyboardist

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; images 1, 4, 5 & 7 courtesy of the artist; 2, 3 & 6 photographed by Lois Stavsky in Louie’s studio

Note: Hailed in a range of media from Wide Walls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Penned by photographer, writer, neuroscientist and street art aficionado, Yoav Litvin, 2Create: Art Collaborations in New York City is a distinctly elegant ode to the art of collaboration. Recently released by Schiffer Publishing, it was formally launched last month at the Bronx Museum of the Arts alongside a collaborative photography exhibit, 2gether: Portraits of Duos in Harlem and the South Bronx by Litvin and Tau Battice. A textual and visual documentation of the creative and collaborative process among nine pairs of artists, 2Create also presents first-hand accounts of each one’s early life and work.

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Featuring such duos from NYC-based Al Diaz and Jilly Ballistic to the Iranian brothers Icy and Sot, 2Create: Art Collaborations in New York City showcases a broad range of styles, sensibilities and processes. It also introduces us to the specific locale — from Manhattan’s Union Square Subway Station to a Greenpoint, Brooklyn rooftop — of each of the collaborative works featured. With its astute insights and superb design, it stands out among the dozens of street art-related books published last year.

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After reading the book, I posed a few questions to Yoav:

Your first book, the highly acclaimed Outdoor Gallery: New York City, focused largely on individual artists. Why did you decide to focus on duos in this book? 

In contrast to other art forms, such as music or dance, the visual arts involve a more solitary practice. Painters are famous for being hermits: closing themselves off from the world in their studios where they paint their masterpieces. At least, that’s the popular narrative. I feel that because the visual arts are easily commodified and objectified, they have evolved in such a way.  While I was working on Outdoor Gallery, which focuses on 46 individual artists, I noticed several duos of street and graffiti artists who produced incredible works, and I was fascinated by their practices. In 2Create I seek to investigate the art and practice of collaboration in different mediums — collage work, screen printing, stenciling, graffiti and mural making. My goal with 2Create is twofold: to present the behind-the-scenes processes of these artists and to investigate the secrets of collaboration, with the ultimate aim of encouraging others to create together. Just like any skill, collaboration needs to be practiced!

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How did you decide which duos to feature in 2Create?

My process with 2Create was mostly democratic. I was looking to present a diversity of styles, messages, mediums and locales. I am cognizant and weary of the politics involved in the arts and attempted to focus on artists that I felt were doing radical, innovative work and were constantly challenging themselves. Throughout my research on collaborations, I discovered there were two major categories that lie on a continuum — from complementary collaborations – individual works presented side by side – to integrative, a single piece that seamlessly integrates the work of two artists. I chose nine duos that present the full spectrum.

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What insights did you, yourself, gain into the collaborative process, particularly among visual artists?

Collaboration is a skill that should be practiced by any visual artist as part of his/her development. Collaboration is an exciting and stimulating process that can produce immense growth if approached correctly, but can be very challenging at times. An artist needs to respect and trust his or her collaborator and be willing to be adaptable and open to critique. The collaborative process can open new doors for an artist  — in techniques, messages, ideas and human connections that can be useful moving forward.

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The book, itself, is masterfully designed. Can you tell us something about that? 

For the design I worked with the designer Dan Michman, who is also an excellent childhood friend. It was important for me that every aspect of this project be collaborative. Dan is the best designer I know, plus I like him a lot and knew from experience that we’d collaborate well. Our process was incredible. Dan took my materials — images and texts — along with my notions on the artistic process and on collaboration, and created a stunning design “language” for the book. It was a truly integrative collaborative process. I could not be happier with the way it turned out. Plus, the cover design is simply stunning. Lastly, Schiffer Publishing did a great job in the book’s production.

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How has the response been to 2Create?  Is there any particular readership you’d like to reach?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In addition to appealing to the street art and graffiti fan crowd, my hope is that 2Create will integrate as a text book for art schools, colleges and universities. I believe the behind-the-scenes process shots, the revealing interviews and the insight into the art of collaboration make it a unique resource for artists in general, and visual artists in particular. But 2Create is more than a book on art. It is a document that presents the collaborative duo as the basic unit of a collective humanity in which empathy and collaboration trump disregard and domination. In an era of the cult of celebrity, war and climate change, collective action is not only beneficial, it is necessary. 2Create expresses these radical notions and I hope it will serve to inspire activists fighting for the greater good.

For more listen to Yoav speak on Counterpunch Radio here.

Images

1 & 2 Rubin and Dasic 

3 & 4 Bunny M and Square 

5  Stikki Peaches and Dain

6 & 7 Icy & Sot

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All images © Yoav Litvin

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Penned by Ulrich Blanché, Banksy: Urban Art in a Material World focuses primarily on Banksy’s relationship with consumer culture.  With its thoroughly-researched appendix documenting everything from Banksy record album covers to his exhibition catalogs, it is the first comprehensive academic study of Banksy’s art.  An interview with the author follows:

Your book, Banksy: Urban Art in a Material World, began as a dissertational thesis.  Why did you choose to focus your studies on Banksy? What is it specifically about him that so intrigued you?

I was first introduced to street art and stencils in 2006 on a trip to Melbourne, Australia. And while visiting a museum bookshop there, I discovered Banksy’s book Wall and Piece. I was instantly fascinated and found myself going through it page by page. I liked the way each of his pieces has a distinct message or lesson that is transmitted in a humorous way.  I knew then that I would like to research and write about his work.

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You draw parallels between Banksy and the contemporary British artist Damien Hirst. You discuss their collaborations, as well. Can you tell us something about that?  What are some of the essential similarities between the two? What did each have to gain by collaborating?

It might still shock some people that Hirst, the personification of capitalism, and Banksy, the art guerilla, collaborated. They knew each other since about 2000, and Hirst supported Banksy early on. It was kind of like Warhol and Basquiat.  The established artist gains coolness and the newer artist gains credibility.  The two artists admired each other’s works – and both Banksy and Hirst shared a morbid and humorous sensibility. 

Among Banksy’s subjects are both capitalism and religion – often merged in a particular image.  Do any particular images stand out to you? And why do they?

Banksy does not really focus on religion except in relation to consumption. Shopping/ Money is the god of today. No particular work stands out for me. Some are weaker; some are better.

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To what do you attribute Banksy’s extraordinary commercial success?

I suspect that Banksy actually earns much less than people think he does. His income comes from the sale of prints, books, DVDs… The people who bought a Banksy for 50 quid 15 years ago or received a Banksy as a present have profited  tremendously.

As Banksy rails against consumerism, he — himself — is a master at manipulating consumers.  Why might we have become such a society of consumers? Any thoughts?

We are easily manipulated, even when we know we are being manipulated.

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How essential are the streets to Banksy’s success?

The street is his canvas – it is the means he uses to communicate. To remove the street from Banksy’s work is like removing a figure from a Rembrandt. If you manage to keep the context with photos, videos, background info, the work may survive indoors – once it’s no longer on the street. In Banksy’s words: “’I don’t know if street art ever really works indoors. If you domesticate an animal, it goes from being wild and free to sterile, fat and sleepy. So maybe the art should stay outside. Then again, some old people get a lot of comfort from having a pet around the house.”

Where is it all going? Will Banksy’s popularity and commercial success continue to rise? Will Banksy continue to use the streets as a canvas? Or will he become less dependent on them? What are your thoughts?

Street Art is over.  Most works on the street today are authorized murals or pieces in areas where the artist wants to be seen and photographed by the “right” people — whoever that might be.  Street art has become urban art for Instagram. Banksy will last. He will put a few works on the street every year and pull off a big event every few years. I hope he will publish another huge book of his works or lead a little revolution somewhere. That would be fun.

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Originally written in German and published by TectumBanksy: Urban Art in a Material World has been translated into English and is available here.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; images 2, 4 & 5 Creative Commons & 3 captured by Lenny Collado in NYC

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An in-depth analysis of graffiti and street art, the Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art presents a strong sampling of the current scholarship in the field. Edited by University of Baltimore Professor Jeffrey Ian Ross, it is appended by a glossary of graffiti terms and a chronology of graffiti beginning with early cave paintings.

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Published earlier this year by Routledge — the world’s leading academic publisher in the Humanities and Social Sciences — it is divided into four sections, offering a range of theories by thirty-seven contributors on the:

  • History, Types, and Writers/Artists of Graffiti and Street Art
  • Theoretical Explanations of Graffiti and Street Art/Causes of Graffiti and Street Art
  • Regional/Municipal Variations/Differences of Graffiti and Street Art, and
  • Effects of Graffiti and Street Art.

With its mix of aesthetic, cultural, sociological and political perspectives across a richly diverse spectrum of topics – from the history of freight train graffiti in North America to the value of street and graffiti in the current art market – it is a fascinating foray into one of the most significant global movements of our time.  Among the many essays of particular interest to those of us immersed in the current scene are: Rafael Schacter‘s thesis of graffiti and street art as “ornamental forms;” Jessica N. Pabon‘s examination of gender in contemporary street art; Jeffrey Ian Ross‘s discussion of London’s contemporary graffiti and street art scene; Mona Abaza‘s analysis of the graffiti and street art that surfaced in post-January 11 Egypt, and Peter Bengtsen‘s discussion of the value of street art removed from the street.

An interview with Professor Jeffrey Ian Ross follows:

What initially spurred your interest in graffiti?

Beginning in childhood and continuing during my high school years, I spent a considerable amount of time creating visual art – graphic design, painting, photography and sculpture. Frustrated and/or disappointed with the quality of instruction in my public high schools, I enrolled in and completed courses at the Ontario College of Art–now Ontario College of Art and Design — in Toronto. Later, I was accepted to the Central Technical School Commercial Art program, as well as the Photographic Arts program at Ryerson College — now University–, but I chose not to attend. In many respects, my study of graffiti and street art, and the content of this book represent a way of coming full circle. The scholarly study of graffiti and street art deals with many subjects close to my personal interest areas, including codes, control, crime, criminal justice, deviance, gentrification, harms, illegalities, identity, state responses, power imbalances, protest, punishment, resistance, subjectivity, subterranean processes and networks, surveillance, urban incivility and vandalism.

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What inspired you to edit a book of this nature?

In 2012 I decided to teach an undergraduate class on “Graffiti and Street Art” at the University of Baltimore.  Over time, as I started to read the body of work on graffiti and street art, I noticed that it was short on empirical scholarly analysis, was of uneven quality, and was distributed through a diverse number of scholarly venues. What was missing was a reference book that presented and analyzed the important research, theories, and ideas related to the field of graffiti and street art. I was determined to assemble a collection of original, well researched and written pieces created by experts on this subject under one literary roof. This handbook is the result of this effort.

How do you account for the increased interest among academics in graffiti and street art?

Graffiti and street art are pervasive in cities around the world. You cannot ignore it. Because the amount of graffiti and street art has increased since the 1960s and has changed in form and content, it is something to be examined by an interdisciplinary cadre of scholars.

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How did you decide what topics to include?

Through an intense reading of the scholarship of graffiti and street art, and by consulting with some of my contributors, I was able to disentangle what are/were the most important topics to include in the book.

And how did you decide which academics/scholars/authors to include?

Again through a careful read of the scholarship and by engaging with my contributors with respect to who might be the most appropriate scholar/author to write on a particular topic, I was able to narrow down which academic to invite to write a chapter.

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Are there any particular theories presented here that particularly surprised or enlightened you?

I am a big fan of subcultural theories of crime, but recognize that there are numerous other theories embedded in other social sciences and the humanities that are relevant here, including different kinds of literature that play into the study of graffiti and street crime, like gentrification, space, etc.

Who is the audience for your book?

The Handbook is easy to read and designed to answer common questions asked by undergraduate and graduate students, as well as by experts on graffiti and street art. This book is also accessible to practitioners — individuals working, or aspiring to work, in the fields of criminal justice, law enforcement, art history, museum studies, tourism studies, urban studies, etc., as well as policy- makers in these fields. In addition, it is of interest to members of the news media covering stories on graffiti and street art. The analysis and writing are accessible to upper-level university students — typically referred to as juniors and seniors at American universities — and graduate students. This volume will also be useful for scholars and libraries, and can easily be utilized in the classroom context. A reference book of this nature will be of interest not only in the previously mentioned scholarly fields, but it will also be specifically relevant to those institutions that have programs in cultural studies, visual arts, tourism, and museum studies. Last but certainly not least, the Handbook will appeal to a wide international audience.

Photos for this post by Jeffrey Ian Ross: 1. Baltimore (Graffiti Alley); 2 NYC & 3. Santiago, Chile; interview by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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To celebrate the launch of the new book from Wooster CollectiveELEVEN SPRING: A CELEBRATION OF STREET ART, artist ELBOW-TOE remembers the historic event and its impact on the world of street art.

I was talking to a younger artist the other day about street art that I was involved in as opposed to murals — which she considers street art — and she said, “Oh, you mean vandalism.”

How did we get here?

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I recall the moment that I knew I wanted to be a street artist – I was at work, and one afternoon, my friend pointed me to this post on a blog I had never heard of called Wooster Collective. It was an image by an artist who had photoshopped street signs, so that they looked transparent from the correct angle. It was absolutely magical. How did it get there? Who was the artist? I had seen some street art around over the years: WK Interact when I was in school in the early 90’s and around the early 2000’s quite a bit of NECKFACE around the corner from a print shop I was using.

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As I began to explore the archives of Wooster Collective, I saw that there was in fact a community that had built up around these random acts of art that I had paid little heed beyond the internal “huh, that’s interesting.” What was truly fascinating about the work was that, aside from a moniker, the work was anonymous. In that anonymity there existed a mystery. It elevated even the most banal work, purely by the act of risk that was involved. And for the first time in over a decade in the city, it pulled me out of my tunnel vision and got me looking at the walls as spaces to be activated.

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The Wooster Collective site was such an impeccably curated space that it got people outside of the movement to give it their attention. Having known the Schillers over those early years, I, of course, was head over heels when I was asked not only to be involved in their secret project but to be given a coveted space on the main floor. At the time I don’t think any of us realized that this exhibition would have the impact that it did.

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11 Spring was truly a transformative exhibition; it reflected the very transition that would occur wholeheartedly in this movement just by walking from the outside of the building to the inside. The exterior of the building still had the raw power of getting your work up. The work was often messy and might last only a few hours before being covered by a new piece. Contrast the organic energy of the ever-changing composition on the shell with an impeccably curated show inside the five floors of a gutted building, where all these artists were able to truly flex their technical and creative muscles without concern of the work being damaged or transformed by others.

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It was this mercurial quality of traveling from the outside to the inside and then back out again that gave this show such power in my opinion. I am not sure that there is a direct correlation of this show to the mural program that followed, but it certainly opened a larger audience up to the possibilities of their public spaces’ potential.

I will always cherish the experience.

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Note: With its outstanding documentation, along with an introduction by Shepard Fairey and an afterword by JR,  ELEVEN SPRING: A CELEBRATION OF STREET ART captures an important moment in the history of the movement. Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 29 — from 6:30 to 8:00 PM — Marc and Sara Schiller, along with FAILE, Lady Pink, Michael DeFeo, and WK Interact, will be at the Strand for a special signing and celebration of the book’s launch. You can buy tickets to the event here

Images 

1.  COVER, ELEVEN SPRING: A CELEBRATION OF STREET ART

2.  ELBOW-TOE  (BRIAN ADAM DOUGLAS), EVERYBODY’S GOT ONE, MADE WITH WOOD BURNER, YARN, AND PAINT. PHOTO ELBOW-TOE

3.  WK INTERACT, THE FIRST ARTIST INVITED INSIDE THE BUILDING. PHOTO JAKE DOBKIN 

4.  11 SPRING STREET, THE DAY OF THE OPENING. PHOTO JAKE DOBKIN 

5.  SHEPARD FAIREY, HARD AT WORK, MAKING IT LOOK EASY. PHOTO WOOSTER COLLECTIVE 

6.  BARNSTORMERS’ COLLABORATION WITH PAINTINGS BY Z¥$, DOZE GREEN AND KENJI HIRATA. PHOTO JAKE DOBKIN

7  JUDITH SUPINE AND DAVIDE ZUCCO (R3KAL), THERE IS HELL IN HELLO. PHOTO DONALD DIETZ 

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Conceived and curated by Native Californian Neely ShearerIn Heroes We Trust: Street Artists and Their Heroes features the musings and artworks of 60 international artists on the theme of heroism. After reading the elegantly engaging book — with its foreword by Ron English and preface by Jef Aerosol — I posed a few questions to Neely.

What inspired this book/project?

One of my clients happens to be the CEO of a publishing company, Knock Knock. After purchasing some artwork, she suggested that I do a book based on the concept of my shop, In Heroes We Trust

Why did you choose to focus on street artists?

I had already been working on projects with artists and decided to make my new shop a mash-up of fashion and street art. Street artists have always had my respect, and they quite amuse me. They are a certain type of character  – bold, independent, determined. That’s inspiring to me. The walls of my shop have been painted, stenciled and wheat-pasted by street artist friends. I had asked them to do their own personal heroes, keeping their own original style.

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What inspired the particular title — In Heroes We Trust— of both the shop and the book?

I came up with it some years ago driving solitary along an ocean road listening to the David Bowie song ‘Heroes’. It really speaks to me at core level – the idea of being a Hero. Not in a grand gesture way, but in terms of living life daily as a Hero to oneself, and ultimately to others. Being human isn’t always easy, but if we can do our best to be the best versions of ourselves and share that with others, perhaps we can all get along better, live fuller.

How did you decide which artists to include? 

I had my favorites, of course, and I did a lot of research. I looked for the talent, the message behind the work and the artist’s integrity.

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Did this project pose any particular challenges to you?   

I had to keep my nose to the wheel to track many of them down, as their contact info wasn’t always easily accessible.

How did the artists respond — as it’s not the usual question posed to them?

Most artists seemed excited about the project right away. In a few cases, an artist had said No at first; however, with more communication between us, we came to understand one another and what this was about. The artists get hit up a lot by various projects and surely it’s not always clear what’s what and who’s who. They need to protect themselves. It was definitely a wonderful learning experience in communication. And I had such a great team at  Knock Knock – my editors Jamie Stern and Erin Conley, who were of great support and positivity behind the scenes. They really trusted me to do my thing, and that meant a lot.

Hula-In-Heroes-We-Trust

Did any artist responses particularly surprise you?

Yes, one in particular. One artist’s manager wrote back quite a strict reply saying that the artist would never do such a book for the benefit of promoting my shop. I explained that this was a real gift for all of us that the publisher had offered us. Basically — a book showcasing them and their work on another, more personal, level. Sure, the book will shine light on what my shop is doing – which is to promote artists. And I am thrilled about that! I’m similar to them in that I’m a one-person show… getting by on what I love to do. Collaborating and supporting one another is really IT. It’s how we move forward, follow our passions and live what we are here to do.

What was the outcome? Did you successfully convince this particular artist’s manager?

Yes! That artist did join the project and is featured in the book.

In Heroes We Trust

How has the response been to the book? All of us here who have seen it love it.

From what I’ve seen firsthand, people think it is a beautiful little book of inspiration. And the artists who have seen it have said they are honored to be included with so many other artists whom they admire. For me, that was surely my hope. I wanted to present the best of the best and for all the artists to feel proud of their work in the company of their peers.

Who are some of your personal heroes?

In high school, I kept a photo of Joan Rivers with Boy George on my locker door. I loved that they both caused such controversy by being outrageous. I know Joan got pretty crazy into the insults later in her career.  However, she opened up so many doors for women in the entertainment industry and beyond; in her generation women held back, but she didn’t.  And Boy George just rocked his style and sexuality like no one. He let freaks be freaks! The two of them were good friends and that was also pretty cool – kind of two people you wouldn’t expect together. I’m interested in these kinds of people who don’t give a f*#k about normality. They break barriers for the rest of us. Today we have Martha Stewart and Snoop together – and I love it. It’s a great example of people connecting beyond age, race, upbringing and past lives.

Images

1. The London Police, All Hail Sir David Bowie. From In Heroes We Trust, published by Knock Knock LLC © 2016

2. Jef Aerosol, The Sitting Kid. From In Heroes We Trustpublished by Knock Knock LLC © 2016

3. Pichiavo, Trojan Heroes. From In Heroes We Trustpublished by Knock Knock LLC © 2016

4. HulaKahu. From In Heroes We Trustpublished by Knock Knock LLC © 2016

Interview by Lois Stavsky 

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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We’ve been huge fans of Stik and his distinctively singular — now iconic — character since he first visited NYC several years ago. We are delighted that his first book that was released in the UK last year is now available here throughout the US.

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Featured in STIK are dozens of artworks ranging from unsanctioned pieces on the streets of East London — painted when the artist was homeless — to huge international murals across the globe. All are fashioned from six lines and two dots, the style Stik began when he had to paint quickly to evade the authorities.

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Described by the artist as “a journal of the progression of the Stik Project,”  STIK is a fascinating journey into the artist’s consciousness and aesthetic. Stik’s strong social mindfulness and acute political awareness are evident in this first collection of his works, as he increasingly devotes his talents and energies to a range of causes, often working in collaboration with children and members of vulnerable communities.

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With over 200 heavy gloss pages and an exclusive, limited edition print, the book — published by Penguin — has now made its way into bookstores across the globe.

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You can meet Stik and purchase a signed copy of his book with an orange or teal print — exclusive to the first US edition of the book — tomorrow, Thursday evening from 6-8pm at Strand Books, 828 Broadway on the corner of 12th Street.

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Anyone who buys a copy of STIK or brings in a pre-purchased copy of the book for Stik to sign at Strand Books is eligible to enter a lottery to win a pair of artist’s unfolded, card stock Stik posters, signed by Stik himself. The posters, one orange and one blue, are number one of only five artist’s proofs and depict the same image seen on the book’s cover.

All photos courtesy Stik and Penguin Press

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