interview

raphael gonzalez and Giz <em>Hip Hop Utopia: Culture + Community</em> at Jerseys Citys Dineen Hull Gallery Through February 21

While visiting Hip-Hop Utopia: Culture + Community at Hudson County Community College‘s Dineen Hull Gallery this past Friday, I had the opportunity to speak to Michelle Vitale aka woolpunk who — along with Fred Fleisher — curated the wonderfully eclectic exhibit.

What a fabulous tribute to hip-hop this is! What would you say is the exhibit’s mission?

Its mission is to celebrate the culture of hip-hop. Its four elements –  MCing, Graffiti, DJing and Breakdancing — have had a huge, positive impact on today’s society. This exhibit is our way of paying tribute to these elements and to the community that has nurtured them.

Dipset graffiti <em>Hip Hop Utopia: Culture + Community</em> at Jerseys Citys Dineen Hull Gallery Through February 21

Did anyone or anything —  in particular — inspire it?

The notion of curating an exhibit on hip-hop was first suggested by Hudson County Community College Vice President Dr. Pando.  It seemed like a great concept, as I love the communal aspect of hip-hop. Among the many inspirations was music industry veteran Tony Drootin who serves on the board of  Hip Hop Public Health.

Yishai Minkin Biggie <em>Hip Hop Utopia: Culture + Community</em> at Jerseys Citys Dineen Hull Gallery Through February 21

Just what is Hip Hop Public Health? I see it is represented in this exhibit.

Based in NYC, Hip Hop Public Health uses music as a message to improve health literacy and encourage positive behaviors among school children.  Its founder and president, Dr. Olajide Williams, MDMS serves as Chief of Staff of Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center.  Among the artists involved in Hip Hop Public Health are: Doug E. FreshEasy A.D Harris and Jordan Sparks.

Karlos Carcamo sculpture mic <em>Hip Hop Utopia: Culture + Community</em> at Jerseys Citys Dineen Hull Gallery Through February 21

Can you tell us something about some of your other partners? There are some great T-shirts on display here!

Among our partners is Chilltown Collective, an apparel and lifestyle brand based here in Jersey City. It was co-founded in 2015 by Lovelisa Dizon as a platform for “passionate creatives.”

chilltown collective <em>Hip Hop Utopia: Culture + Community</em> at Jerseys Citys Dineen Hull Gallery Through February 21

And there are quite a few bikes in the gallery!

Yes! We’ve partnered with both Grove Street Bicycles and Animal BikesGrove Street Bicycles is a nearby full-service shop that sells all kinds of bikes, accessories, clothing and shoes and handles all kinds of bicycle repairs. And Animal Bikes, owned by Ralph Sinisi, supplies bike parts for BMX street riding and also sells gear.

Fred Samboy and more art <em>Hip Hop Utopia: Culture + Community</em> at Jerseys Citys Dineen Hull Gallery Through February 21

What are some of the challenges you faced in curating an exhibit as multi-faceted as this one?

Once we knew what direction we wanted to go with the theme of Hip-Hop, everything came together easily. Our Karma has been great! We are showcasing works of noted established artists together with talented younger ones, several who are Hudson County Community College alumni. We have local DJ’s participating, as well as spoken-word artists.  We’ve planned a range of events open to the community.

Cultural Affairs Hip Hop Flyer Spring 2017 <em>Hip Hop Utopia: Culture + Community</em> at Jerseys Citys Dineen Hull Gallery Through February 21

How has the response to the exhibit been?

We’ve been open just a few days, and the response has already been great.  We’ve been featured in the Jersey Journal and listed as one of the top 10 current attractions in Jersey City.

Freddy Samboy Hip Hop Utopia <em>Hip Hop Utopia: Culture + Community</em> at Jerseys Citys Dineen Hull Gallery Through February 21

How can folks see the exhibit?

Our opening reception takes place Tuesday evening, January 31, from 6-8pm. The exhibit continues through Tuesday, February 21 at 71 Sip Avenue 6th Floor. Gallery hours are: Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free and those who attend have a chance to win a graffiti-tagged, fat-tire bicycle donated by Grove Street Bicycles.

Michelle Vitale <em>Hip Hop Utopia: Culture + Community</em> at Jerseys Citys Dineen Hull Gallery Through February 21

Congratulations! It’s looking great!

Images

1.  Raphael Gonzalez, The Art of the Throw Up! Giz

2.  Alex Melo, Diplomatic Immunity

3.  Yishai Minkin, Biggie

4.  Karlos Carcamo, One, Two Three… 

5.  Mr Mustart with Chilltown Collective, I free myself…

6. Freddy Samboy, two works suspended from ceiling; Grove Street BicyclesDonated Fat Tire Bikes and Videos courtesy  Grove Street BicyclesAnimal & Hip Hop Public Health

7.  Raphael Gonzalez, Danielle

8. Freddy Samboy, Breaking Free

9. Jeremy Coleman Smith, DJ Shrine with Michelle Vitale aka wool punk seated

Photos and 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.

en play badge 2 <em>Hip Hop Utopia: Culture + Community</em> at Jerseys Citys Dineen Hull Gallery Through February 21

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sara erenthal art on piano Sara Erenthal Gives New Life to Discarded Objects on Park Slope Streets

A self-taught, multi-disciplinary artist, Sara Erenthal has a strong presence on the streets of Park Slope, Brooklyn. We recently spoke.

You’ve established quite a presence here on the streets of Park Slope. What keeps you coming back?

There is a lack of public art in Park Slope, and there seems to be a hunger for it. Folks here have been so receptive to what I am doing. They seem excited to have something interesting and different to look at.  Park Slope is where I am living these days, and so it’s easy for me to get around either by foot or by bike.

sara erenthal street art nyc Sara Erenthal Gives New Life to Discarded Objects on Park Slope Streets

With the exceptions of the walls you are commissioned to paint, your canvas is almost always some type of discarded object. Why is that?

Since folks take many of my works home with them, I feel that I am saving trash from ending up in landfills. Also – what I am doing is not illegal. I cannot take the legal risks of doing unsanctioned artworks that could land me with a fine, time in jail or both.

sara erenthal upcycled art nyc Sara Erenthal Gives New Life to Discarded Objects on Park Slope Streets

You almost always seem to be drawing faces. Can you tell us something about them?

They are variations of myself – subconscious portraits. Growing up in a cloistered ultra-Orthodox world, I was limited to just one hairstyle. The changes in the hairstyles represent the changes in myself.

sara erenthal mural art Sara Erenthal Gives New Life to Discarded Objects on Park Slope Streets

I’ve noticed folks stop and often photograph you while you are drawing.  Do any particular interactions with passersby stand out?

Yes! Recently a woman ran after me as I was rushing out of my house — in my pajamas — to the local health food store to buy some ginger. I was sick at the time. She asked me if she could bring her father – a huge fan since he had seen my work on a mattress — to meet me. He showed up almost instantly for his daughter to snap a photo of the two of us  – with me decked in my pajamas!

sara erenthal public art work park slope nyc Brooklyn Sara Erenthal Gives New Life to Discarded Objects on Park Slope Streets

In addition to your work on found objects, you’ve also painted on a range of sanctioned surfaces this past year. Any particular challenges? Any favorites?

Painting on a shuttered gate was definitely a challenge as I generally paint on flat surfaces. Among my favorites is the artwork that I painted at D’Vine Taste.

sara erenthal street art Park Slope Sara Erenthal Gives New Life to Discarded Objects on Park Slope Streets

Yes! I love the stark simplicity of the white on black. It’s beautiful! And what about the piano? How did that become your canvas?

A local pre-school threw it out last spring with a sign “Free piano.” Six months later it was still there. I asked then for permission to paint it. And I love that it is still there! I feel as though I gave it a new life.

sara erenthal make art from your heart NYC Sara Erenthal Gives New Life to Discarded Objects on Park Slope Streets

You did! What’s ahead? 

I am now preparing for a solo show to open at FiveMyles Gallery at 558 St Johns Place on March 9 from 6-9pm. And later in the spring, I will be exhibiting my work at Google’s New York site in Chelsea. An outdoor mural in Gowanus is also on the horizon.

I’m looking forward to it all! Good luck!

Photo credits: 1-5 & 7 Lois Stavsky; 6 Tara Murray; interview conducted and edited 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.

en play badge 2 Sara Erenthal Gives New Life to Discarded Objects on Park Slope Streets

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toxicomano mural art gama mexico city A Visit to GAMA, a Creative Urban Arts Space, in Mexico City

While in Mexico City several weeks ago, I had the chance to visit GAMA, a distinctly impressive artists’ space and gallery in Colonia Hipódromo, and speak to its founder, Daniel Martinez and his partner, Kas Chudleigh.

This is such a wonderful space with so much positive energy. Can you tell us a bit about GAMA? There are quite a few people here. Who are you?

We are a group of artists that seek to nurture each other and others by collaborating, offering workshops, showcasing our work and providing opportunities for creatives.

root rises art graphic art mama mexico city A Visit to GAMA, a Creative Urban Arts Space, in Mexico City

How long have you been in this particular space? It is ideal.

We’ve been here on the ground floor of Comitán 10, Hipódromo since June 30th.

How would you describe GAMA‘s mission?

With a particular focus on street art and urban art, we work with a diverse group of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers and muralists. We perceive the GAMA space as an education and resource center that offers a wide range of events, talks and exhibits, along with opportunities to collaborate with brands.

Yolka graphic design A Visit to GAMA, a Creative Urban Arts Space, in Mexico City

Can you give us some examples of the workshops offered here?

Upcoming workshops include: watercolor painting with Diego Andrad; working with 3-D in the gif format with Chacalall, and designing illustrations with Yolka Mx.

You’ve also curated outdoor murals. I visited the one painted by Werc and Gera Luz earlier today. When did you first become interested in street art? 

In 2005 — over 10 years ago — I started creating stickers and wheatpastes. I also began following online what was happening throughout the globe, and then I spent time in Berlin and Barcelona, where I saw so much amazing art on public spaces.

Werc and gera luz street art mexico city A Visit to GAMA, a Creative Urban Arts Space, in Mexico City

What would you say is your greatest challenge at this point?

The major one is attaining the support we need to maintain the space.

What’s ahead? Any particular projects — besides all the wonderful things happening here?

We’d like to produce a series of documentaries about some of the artists we work with. We are especially interested in the creative process. What motivates and inspires artists? We’re also interested in establishing alliances with different cultural projects in Mexico and connecting to more emerging artists.

gleo colombian artist gama A Visit to GAMA, a Creative Urban Arts Space, in Mexico City

It all sounds great! How can folks contact you if they would like to visit or become involved?

They can contact us at contacto@gamacrea.com. They can also follow us on Instagram and on Facebook.

Images

1. Toxicómano

2. Root Rises

3. Yolka Mx

4. Werc and Gera Luz

5. Gleo

Photos and 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.

en play badge 2 A Visit to GAMA, a Creative Urban Arts Space, in Mexico City

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Viajero mixed media 2016 A Visit to <em>Home, Memory, and Future</em> at Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institutes (CCCADI) New East Harlem Home

While visiting CCCADI’s inaugural exhibit in its new East Harlem home, I had the opportunity to speak to one of its curators, Regina Bultron-Bengoa

Just what is CCCADI?

The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute is a multi-disciplinary arts center that showcases and promotes the distinct contributions of African Diaspora cultures.

How would you define its mission?

Through arts, education and activism it strives to advance change by uniting the various cultures of the African Diaspora, while promoting their value.

Viajero installation close up A Visit to <em>Home, Memory, and Future</em> at Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institutes (CCCADI) New East Harlem Home

When was it originally established?

Dr. Marta Moreno Vega founded it in 1966 as a center where African and Native cultures of Caribbean and Latin American countries could be recognized and honored. Its first home was on East 87th Street and its last home was in a brownstone in Hell’s Kitchen.

Can you tell us something about its present locale here in this landmark space on East 125 Street in East Harlem?

A few years back, several shuttered landmark firehouses were offered to cultural institutions. With city and state support, nine million dollars were raised to renovate this particular historic one for CCCADI, and on September 16, 2004, we broke ground.

Scherezade Garcia Sea of Wonder 2016 A Visit to <em>Home, Memory, and Future</em> at Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institutes (CCCADI) New East Harlem Home

Who is its audience?

We have a wide audience from students and educators to arts professionals to families. We offer a huge range of free or low-cost exhibits, workshops and activities.

Your inaugural exhibit, Home, Memory, and Future is quite impressive. It is divided into three distinct parts.

Yes. Part I: Harlem: East and West features the works of three acclaimed photographers who have been documenting Harlem since the 70’s. Part II: Harlem and Home in the Global Context showcases artworks that suggest how cultural traditions are used to establish “home” in distant places. And Part III: Mi Quirido Barrio (My Beloved Community) – focusing on the social history of El Barrio — takes place outdoors and in cyberspace, using augmented reality. Among its themes are: migration, nostalgia for the past. gentrification and looking to the future.

che memorial wall east harlem nyc A Visit to <em>Home, Memory, and Future</em> at Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institutes (CCCADI) New East Harlem Home

Can you tell us some more about the outdoor element of the exhibit?

Yes. It features locations of importance within the social history of El Barrio. Among these are memorial walls painted on the streets – whose history is documented on a free mobile app, Blippar. Through augmented reality, the app allows us to bring the past to life.

That is quite amazing! How has the response been to CCCADI‘s new home and inaugural exhibit?

The response has been great. There were long lines for the fall opening, and folks who see it love the art and identify with it.

Chino Chan Memorial Mural El Barrio NYC A Visit to <em>Home, Memory, and Future</em> at Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institutes (CCCADI) New East Harlem Home

How can folks contact CCCADI if they would like to visit or become involved?

They can email: info@cccadi.org

Images 

1 & 2 Adrian “Viajero” Roman, Mixed media, 2016

3  Scherezade Garcia, Sea of Wonder, Mixed media, 2016

4 & 5 Oliver Rios & Luis Martinez, Memorial Walls, as seen on the Blippar app while on site

Photo credits: 1-3 Lois Stavsky; 4-5 Courtesy CCCADI

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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sticker collage fridge dc  iwillnot on the <em>DC Street Sticker EXPO 3.0</em> at the FridgeDC

Currently on view at the FridgeDC is DC Street Sticker EXPO 3.0, an extraordinary ode to street art stickers. Curated by iwillnot and hosted and sponsored by the Fridge Gallery, it features over 100,000 striking stickers. They’re all here: handsome handstyles, curious characters, political posits and social statements. While in DC, I had the opportunity to speak to iwillnot.

When did you first become involved in the sticker art culture? And what attracted you to it?

It was about ten years ago. I liked the way I could easily transport stickers in my pockets and get them up quickly on the streets.

And what was it about the streets that appealed to you?

Getting my name and message across in a public space.

trump sticker art fridge dc  iwillnot on the <em>DC Street Sticker EXPO 3.0</em> at the FridgeDC

This is the third sticker art exhibit that you’ve curated at the FridgeDC. What inspired you to bring it indoors?

My son was born five years ago. I no longer had the time to hit the streets. Nor could I take the legal risks. DC’s laws are harsh. One can get fined $1,000.00 and be sentenced to 3o days in jail just for getting a slap up.

Gee… And with Trump here, the penalties could get even harsher.  How does this current exhibit differ from the previous two that you curated?

This is the first one that covers the entire gallery. There’s been more involvement, and — with a six-week run — it will be the longest-running sticker expo that I’ve curated.

trump and more sticker art  iwillnot on the <em>DC Street Sticker EXPO 3.0</em> at the FridgeDC

What were some of the challenges involved in curating such a huge exhibit?

It’s quite costly. Getting something like this together is expensive. And it demands endless hours of work, including time spent training volunteers.

How were you able to collect so many stickers? There are tens of thousands here!

When I first started posting my stickers online, Skam reached out to me to trade stickers. I’ve been trading with artists all over the world ever since. Every participant in the expo gets a return pack from me. It takes months to get them mailed out… but a trade is a trade.  After years of trading with artists I have hundreds of thousands of stickers.

Dont Trump Women and more sticker art  iwillnot on the <em>DC Street Sticker EXPO 3.0</em> at the FridgeDC

And how do you keep track of them?

I document each and every entry. I tag each one and acknowledge receiving it.

That must be some task!

It’s a year-round lifestyle.

political sticker art and more  iwillnot on the <em>DC Street Sticker EXPO 3.0</em> at the FridgeDC

How has the response been to this show? The opening was packed with folks of all ages!

The reaction has been great. People seem to have discovered an untapped passion for this art form. All year round, I’m asked about the “next sticker expo.”

How can folks see the exhibit?

It continues through New Years Eve at the FridgeDC, 516 1/2 8th Street SE, and is open Thursday-Saturday 1–8pm & Sunday 1-5pm.

DC sticker expo  iwillnot on the <em>DC Street Sticker EXPO 3.0</em> at the FridgeDC

Great! I’m already looking forward to next year’s!

Note: Among the many artists featured in the above close-ups are: SkamBeas, Klozr, Jamie XV, Ed Geiniwillnot Hugh BrismanSarah JamisonSladge & Konjak, 2front, Psyco, Nikolay Milushevda_weiss, 702er, P Lust, Zas, Chris RWK, nite owl, Feln One,…(more to come!)

Photo credits: 1 Tara Murray; 2 – 6 Lois Stavsky; interview by Lois Stavsky

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rae bk new years eve  New RAE BK Exhibit, <em>All Systems Go</em>, to Launch New Years Eve with DJ Kool Herc at 99 Bowery

NYC’s prolific RAE BK will join forces with the legendary DJ Kool Herc at 99 Bowery on New Year’s Eve for an unprecented event. A brief interview with RAE BK about his new exhibit  and its New Years Eve launch follows:

This sure seems like a fun way to spend New Years Eve! What spurred you to do this? 

After everything that has gone on with this Presidential Election in the US, I decided the best way to bring in a 2017 is with a bang.  I hope it’s a way to at least turn the page for an evening for those who attend. The name of the exhibition is All Systems Go and it centers around the comparison of discarded objects and human beings.

What kinds of works can we expect to see? On the streets we’ve spotted everything from your stickers to your huge installations?

There will be about 40 pieces ranging from ‘found object’ sculptures to large scale canvases to paintings on paper.  These are works I have made over the course of eight months.  And what better way to say goodbye to 2016 than to have a living legend, the Father of Hip-Hop, DJ Kool Herc, to bring some bass and get people moving later on?

rae couple  New RAE BK Exhibit, <em>All Systems Go</em>, to Launch New Years Eve with DJ Kool Herc at 99 Bowery

Can you tell us something about the found objects that you have been working with? Where did you find them?

A lot of the parts I have collected and used to make the work have come from an area in Willets Point. Queens, NYC.   It’s about a 10- block section full of “chop shops,” huge pot holes and some really weathered people. The feeling is third-world for sure. For someone looking at it from the outside — like me — it’s like the land of the forgotten.  Mechanics look like they’ve put in a week’s straight worth of doing car repairs. Others are selling drugs and looking to turn tricks. The work I have created is as much a reflection of the materials as it is of the environment.  A lot of rusted metals, worn fabrics and scraps of plastics… Think “pop-artifacts.”

What was it like to work with these objects?

While working in my studio, I kept seeing the worn and weary faces of the people I encountered in the weathered parts. I adopted the philosphy of making the best of the materials you are given.  And these materials came from the people of Willets Point. People there do what they have to do to make a living. Whatever it takes. The interesting thing is that for all the rusted, decayed, crushed pieces I found, I also found stuff that had a nice gold or silver shine or burst of color that created a cool high-end, low-end quality to the finished pieces.

RAE Red Hook Receyled edited 1  New RAE BK Exhibit, <em>All Systems Go</em>, to Launch New Years Eve with DJ Kool Herc at 99 Bowery

How can one attend All Systems Go on New Years Eve?

Opening night will be a ticketed event with open bar and music spun on vinyl by DJ Kool Herc.  I will be giving away a small original piece of work just before midnight too. You can get tickets here.

And if we can’t make it to the New Years Eve opening, will we still be able to see your show?

Yes! The show will run for at least another week after that. Check my Instagram for updates.

Interview by Lois Stavsky; photos 2 & 4 from NYC streets, Tara Murray

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.

en play badge 2  New RAE BK Exhibit, <em>All Systems Go</em>, to Launch New Years Eve with DJ Kool Herc at 99 Bowery

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banksy urban art in a material world edited 1 Ulrich Blanché on <em>Banksy: Urban Art in a Material World</em>

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.

Banksy stencil art  Ulrich Blanché on <em>Banksy: Urban Art in a Material World</em>

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.

Banksy in NYC Ulrich Blanché on <em>Banksy: Urban Art in a Material World</em>

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.

Banksy stencil art creative commons Ulrich Blanché on <em>Banksy: Urban Art in a Material World</em>

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.

Banksy stencil art Shop Until You Drop Ulrich Blanché on <em>Banksy: Urban Art in a Material World</em>

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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 SVA invite handball Roger Gastman on <em>Wall Writers: Graffiti in Its Innocence</em> and Its December 9th NYC Premiere  at SVA

Focusing on legendary writers of 1967 – 1972, Wall Writers is a comprehensive, feature-length documentary on graffiti “in its innocence.”  Conceived and directed by Roger Gastman and narrated by legendary filmmaker John Waters, its NYC premiere will take place this Friday evening at SVA Theatre.  A brief interview with Roger Gastman follows:

You’ve authored several key books on graffiti and have been deeply involved in its culture. What spurred your initial interest in graffiti? And how old were you at the time?

I was 13 years old and living right outside of Washington DC. A lot of my friends all had tags, and I needed to have one also. It was all around me. Everyone was doing it, and if you went downtown, you saw it everywhere. Names like COOL “DISCO” DAN covered the streets and the metro walls.

Your current project — Wall Writers – is an extraordinarily comprehensive documentation of the early days of graffiti. What motivated you to undertake this project?

I was working on the History of American Graffiti book with Caleb Neelon and I honestly got sick of everyone BSing the year they started writing. I knew enough about the history to know when I was talking to legit people and not. I figured so many of these people have never told their stories I might as film them. I had no intention of this film. I was just documenting.

ROCKY 184 and STITCH 1. Circa 1972. Photo courtesy of ROCKY 184 Roger Gastman on <em>Wall Writers: Graffiti in Its Innocence</em> and Its December 9th NYC Premiere  at SVA

Can you tell us something about the process? How long did you work on it? What were some of the challenges you encountered?

I worked on the film on and off for 7 years. But it feels like my entire life. On projects like these some of the hardest part is finding photos and footage and other pieces of the puzzle that help you tell your story. The process would usually be to let it take over my life for 2-4 weeks at a time then go back to real life for a few months and dive back in. I could still be digging – but had to call it at some point. I know there is more out there and I hope someone discovers it.

How has the response to Wall Writers been?

So far we have had packed theatres everywhere. It’s been awesome. People have really enjoyed the film. We are even doing a show at the MCA Denver in February where we bring the book and film to life.

BAMA poses in front of his painting Orange Juice at the Razor Gallery. 1973. Photos by Herbert Migdoll. Roger Gastman on <em>Wall Writers: Graffiti in Its Innocence</em> and Its December 9th NYC Premiere  at SVA

Wall Writers is premiering here in NYC at SVA Theatre Friday night. What can we expect? 

Friday is the big NYC premiere. I am very excited to finally show NYC the film. We will have most all of the NYC cast from the film there including TAKI 183, SNAKE 1, MIKE 171, SJK 171 and so many more. Come out and support!

It sounds great! And, yes, we’ve been waiting for it here in NYC!

Note: A pre-signed 350+ page companion book will be available for purchase. Tickets to Friday’s NYC premiere are still available here.

wall writers at SVA Roger Gastman on <em>Wall Writers: Graffiti in Its Innocence</em> and Its December 9th NYC Premiere  at SVA

Interview by Lois Stavsky; featured images include:

2. Rocky 184 and Stitch 1, circa 1972, courtesy Rocky 184

3. BAMA posing in front of his painting “Orange Juice” at the Razor Gallery, 1973, photo by Herbert Migdoll

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CHema Skandal paints Speaking with Graphic Artist and Music Enthusiast CHema Skandal!

On our recent visit to Chicago, we discovered the delightfully playful aesthetic of the hugely talented and prolific graphic artist and music enthusiast CHema Skandal! An interview with the artist follows:

I love your artwork’s playful, spirited – often-irreverent – sensibility. What is your main inspiration? The roots of your aesthetic?

I grew up in Mexico City, and its distinct culture has inspired my aesthetic. I was influenced by everything I saw around me – hand-painted street signs, eye-catching graphic designs, everyday visual communication… Popular culture, in general, – and particularly music – is a constant inspiration. And since coming to Chicago, my work has been influenced by what I see here.

CHemaSkandal street art Speaking with Graphic Artist and Music Enthusiast CHema Skandal!

On visiting Pilsen, we came upon a mural that you painted. When did you first paint on the streets?

Yes, that was precisely the first time I painted on the streets. The first mural I ever did is here in Chicago.

What inspired you to paint a mural in a public space?

That mural in Pilsen was commissioned by a city cultural program. It coincided with me wanting to explore and try a different medium like this. At the same time I met Oscar Arriola  and Brooks Golden (RIP) who brought me into street art and exposed me to many graffiti and mural artists. Reflecting on it, I had done some wheat pasting before while promoting concerts or sociopolitical topics.

CHema Skandal street art unmasked Speaking with Graphic Artist and Music Enthusiast CHema Skandal!

How does Chicago’s street art and underground art scene differ from Mexico City’s?

A decade ago it was easy to find stickers and wheatpastings within Mexico City. But there have been mural and graffiti artists for longer, and really good ones…mainly in the outskirts. I don’t have this background, so I can not tell you much about this, but I think in many ways they are very similar. Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world, so you can find practically any type of art, whether independent or more affiliated to cultural organizations or brands. I feel that the scene here in Chicago is more open. Here I was embraced and welcomed by individuals and galleries alike.

Where else have you shown your work – besides here in Chicago and back in Mexico City?

I’ve shown in different places, from alternative spaces and libraries to galleries and museums. Among the cities I’ve exhibited in are: Toulouse, Lyon, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, Addis Ababa, Kingston, Puebla, Oaxaca, Tokyo and here in the U.S.

CHema Skandal exhibit Speaking with Graphic Artist and Music Enthusiast CHema Skandal!

Do you have a formal art education?

Yes. I studied Visual Communication & Illustration at U.N.A.M.’s National School of Art.

How do you feel about the role of social media in all of this?

I was the last one to use it! I think it can be overwhelming, but it has become a helpful platform for us artists to share our work and promote ourselves.

And is your artwork the main source of your income?

Yes, as of right now I am lucky my illustration work is steady. My projects range from publicity — like flyers, magazine illustrations and printed posters —  to commissioned art.

chema skandal mural art with people Speaking with Graphic Artist and Music Enthusiast CHema Skandal!

Can you tell us something about your process?

Almost everything I create is by hand. I work with inks, acrylics and oils. I usually start a project like that and then transfer it to the computer to finish it off. I especially enjoy the painting process. I like the organic texture of what I can produce that way. I’ve also studied traditional printing techniques. Lately I’ve been getting back into block printing, one of the first mediums I learned. I find it interesting how you can reproduce prints and also the history of it.

Any favorite artists? Artists who’ve influenced you?

I like and admire many, mainly for their unique way they represent their visions. Among my favorites are: the late Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada; the American comic artist Charles Burns and the satirical street artist Banksy.. I also like American and Cuban poster makers from the 60’s.

CHema Skandal installation Speaking with Graphic Artist and Music Enthusiast CHema Skandal!

How has your work evolved through the years?

I think as an artist you are always learning from others. I’ve discovered work that inspires me and makes me want to emulate a technique and try it. Most of the time during this experience you find something that fits your work, like with street Aart in my case. I am still exploring it. My work has changed, and I hope it keeps evolving.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

I think an artist is an amplifier of society. Artists should stimulate the feelings and ideas that are hard to digest. This can be very subjective, of course, but in the end that is where the individual’s sensitivity should focus on. An artist should reflect on the social movements of our time.

CHema Skandal street art characters Speaking with Graphic Artist and Music Enthusiast CHema Skandal!

What’s ahead?

I would like to learn old painting techniques that are not in use anymore. And to find a residency in a far deserted island.

Sounds good!

 All photos courtesy of  the artist; interview by Lois Stavsky with Tara Murray

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.

en play badge 2 Speaking with Graphic Artist and Music Enthusiast CHema Skandal!

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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.

Jeffrey Ian Ross Book Cover Jeffrey Ian Ross on <em>The Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art</em>

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.

jeffrey Ross Baltimore graffiti alley Jeffrey Ian Ross on <em>The Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art</em>

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.

jeffrey ross graffiti street art nyc Jeffrey Ian Ross on <em>The Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art</em>

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.

Jeffrey Ross Santiago Chile Jeffrey Ian Ross on <em>The Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art</em>

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.

en play badge 2 Jeffrey Ian Ross on <em>The Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art</em>

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