political art

The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak

While in Mexico City shortly before the devastating earthquake, Roberto ShimizuCreative Director of The Antique Toy Museum of Mexico (MUJAM) and co-organizer of Mexico City’s street art festival All City Canvas, introduced me to over a dozen murals — mainly in the neighborhoods of Roma Norte, Doctores and downtown. Featured above is by Mexico City – based Curiot who — upon returning to Mexico City after living in the US —  painted a center for youth who struggle with difficulties within the traditional school system. What follows is a sampling of several more murals, organized by Roberto Shimizu, that I saw:

Arty & Chikle, the first gay street art couple to come out in Mexico City

Valencia-based Escif — at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, where the Tlatelolco massacre occurred on October 2, 1968. Students met in this plaza for a peaceful demonstration and reportedly hundreds of them were shot and killed when the military opened fired on them. The image depicts former Interior Secretary Luis Echeverría requesting President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz to order the shooting. Decades later, Echeverría was put on trial for the massacre.

UK-based D*Face

Mexico City-based Edgar Flores aka Saner

Mexico City-based Hilda Palafox aka Poni

LA-based El Mac on his mural: The image I painted is based on photos I took of a social activist and poet named María Guardado, who was tortured and left for dead in 1980 by government forces during the civil war in El Salvador. She was one of thousands of civilian victims of that war, during which the US-backed Salvadoran government employed death squads to kill and terrorize everyone from poor farmers to nuns to students. Maria survived and fled the country for Los Angeles, where today she is still a passionate fighter for social justice.

All photos by Houda Lazrak

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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Cairo-based artist Mohamed Radwan aka Sober recently completed a mural dedicated to female empowerment at Sahel’s Sea Hub compound on Egypt’s north coast. A brief interview with the artist follows:

When did you first paint in the public sphere? And what motivated you to do so?

During the Egyptian revolution and particularly starting 2012, I was motivated by opposition to the political status quo.  I started painting on the streets as a form of political expression of this opposition and solidarity with certain revolutionary figures and ideals.

Why did you choose to create a mural on the theme of “Women Empowerment?”

I believe that graffiti must serve a social purpose or advance a cause. For this particular mural — because of its location and high visibility — I felt that it was important to choose a topic that wouldn’t be divisive and would, also, get the huge exposure it deserves. In my mind, there was no topic more in need of  attention in the Egyptian community, in particular –and globally, as well — as women’s rights and  empowerment.

And why did you decide to feature Wonder Woman so prominently in your mural?

Because Wonder Woman has evolved into a symbol of women empowerment globally. She even had a brief run as a United Nations honorary ambassador. And with the release of the Wonder Woman movie this summer, she has achieved iconic status.

What were some of the challenges faced in creating this particular mural?

The first challenge was the size of it. The wall is 70m long and 5m high. I had never worked on such a large scale before. And that was a huge challenge to me. The second challenge was the very limited time for implementation. We had seven days to complete the mural — which meant spraying 10 meters a day. This, coupled with the hardships of the coastal weather in Egypt — which is extremely hot in the morning and very windy and humid at night — made it very hard for us artists to work continuously for seven days. And not only that, but the humidity and wind were also affecting the stencils on site. Thankfully, I was blessed with a crew of highly professional and highly committed artists and volunteers, who were intent on making this happen.

Have any objections arisen among the religiously and politically conservative elements in Egypt to your subject matter or portrayal of women in an outdoor setting?

Not at all. Women are commonly portrayed in public settings in Egypt — in commercials, billboards and such. It’s nudity that normally causes objections, and I don’t have that in this mural.

How has the local media responded to your mural?

So far the mural was well-received by both formal and social media. But we are seeking more exposure for the mural and contacting numerous media outlets.

All photos courtesy the artist; interview by Lois Stavsky

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A range of artworks and writings — by members of the Harlem Art Collective aka HART and the East Harlem community — on the theme No Rezoning, No Displacement, No Gentrification have made their way onto the Guerrilla Gallery on East 116th Street. The image pictured above — painted by Kristy McCarthy aka DGale and Zerk Oer — features a color-coded map with median prices of real estate sales and incomes of East Harlem residents, illustrating how increasingly difficult it is for working-class folks to afford to live in their own community. Several more images follow:

The following two images — featuring actual people who live in the neighborhood, including the homeless man who sleeps in front of the Guerrilla Gallery every night and the woman who sells tamales on the corner — were painted collaboratively by Rosi Mendoza, Maire Mendoza, Marisa Steffers, Harold Baines, Samuelson Mathew, O’Sheena Smith, Michael Mitchell, Amar Bennett, Shani Evans, Anni Merejo, Ralph Serrano, and Nathan Zeiden. The “Derecho A Techo” and “El Barrio No Se Vende” (further down below) signs were fashioned by Mi Casa No Es Su Casa: Illumination Against Gentrification.

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The Trojan Horse — centerpiece of project

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 Earlier on — Ralph Serrano at work

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Kristy McCarthy aka DGale prepares wall for public comments —

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The community contributes: a poem by the Poets of Course from Urban Innovations, assorted artwork, an article about the cost of keeping one person in prison for one year ($60,000 +), prints of paintings depicting the arrivals of Christopher Colombus and Hernán Cortéz and other depictions of colonizers “discovering” new lands.

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 Adam Bomb with an announcement

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Photos 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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I discovered David Hollier‘s distinctly provocative aesthetic a few years back when I came upon his huge murals of such luminaries as Nelson Mandela and John F Kennedy on the streets of Brooklyn.  Earlier this year, I saw his intriguing work on the 69th floor of the World Trade Center. And, yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit his solo exhibit, Ladies and Gentlemen, at Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and pose a few questions to him.

When did you first start integrating text into your artwork?

I began in 2010.

What inspired you to do so?

Before incorporating text into my artwork, I was working with lines. I then started repeating words within the works. And when a friend commissioned me to create a portrait of her husband using words, I incorporated a brief biography into the portrait. The response was so positive that I continued working in this style. By 2012 I’d given the collection the name Imago Verbosa, meaning a picture made of words in Latin.

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What media or tools do you use in fashioning these portraits?

I sometimes use a vintage typewriter. I also use acrylic paint. Huge photographic images are often projected and copied onto a range of surfaces.

How do you choose the subjects of your work? Ranging from Susan B. Anthony to Jay Z, they cross generations, nationalities and sensibilities. Among them are many musicians and politicians. 

Yes! I generally select icons. But some are commissioned, and those are selected for me.

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We’ve come upon quite a few of your works on the streets of Brooklyn. Do you prefer working in your studio or working on the streets?

They’re different experiences, and I like both. But the streets can be more challenging.

Do you have a formal art education?

Yes. I studied Visual Art and Public Art at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, and I earned a Masters degree in Computer Imaging and Animation from London Guildhall University.

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I’m fascinated by your choice of text infused into each portrait, as many have strong social implications. This exhibit is quite impressive. Do you devote yourself full-time to your artwork?

I divide my time between painting and teaching. I’ve taught at Parsons since 2006.

Congratulations on this! And we especially look forward to seeing more of your public artworks on the streets of NYC.

Note: A CLOSING RECEPTION takes place, tonight, Friday from 6 until 9pm. The show ends of Sunday, July 16th. Sideshow Gallery is located at 319 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Images

1 Taylor Swift, Text: “Never Grow Up,” Acrylic on board, 48″ x 48″

2 Jimi Hendrix, Text: “Fire,” “Voodoo Child” and “Are you Experienced?” Acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 60″

3 Star Stuff, Text: from Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos,” Acrylic on canvas, 72″ x 60″

4 The artist with Susan B. Anthony, Text: from “Women’s Rights to the Suffrage,” Acrylic on board, 27″ x 40″

Photos by Lois Stavsky; interview by Lois Stavsky with Bonnie Astor

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On view in Jersey City through June 16 is DISRUPTION, an exhibit of politically and socially charged artworks by a diverse group of NJ-based artists. While visiting the exhibit at Jersey City Theater Center‘s Merseles Studios last week, I spoke to its curator, Allison Remy Hall .

Can you tell us something about the title of the exhibit — DISRUPTION?

Yes! It is part of a larger series of events and performances presented by Jersey City Theater Center that focus on the theme of rapid change — from the environment and climate to industries and social systems — that has resulted in a sense of “disruption.”  Lucy Rovetto, Jersey City Theater Center‘s Visual Arts Coordinator, invited me to curate this exhibit.

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What has the theme of DISRUPTION come to mean to you — in the course of curating the exhibit?

I originally thought of it as a disruption of norms and expectations — as most prominently evidenced by the results of the November election. But I’ve since been thinking more about the moral and spiritual disruptions that characterize our present times as a result of these changes. We have come to value things solely by their material worth.

How did you get the word out to the artists whose works are on exhibit here? While I’m familiar with Distort, Mr Mustart and Sam Pullin from their work on the streets, others here are new to me.

I reached out directly to some artists whose work I know and like, and Jersey City Theater Center launched an open call.


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Did curating this exhibit exact any changes within you — how you, personally, think about these issues?

I feel now that what we are facing is bigger than just a political challenge. It’s not simply about left and right; it’s about right and wrong.

How have people responded to the exhibit?

They’ve responded really well.  It has brought people together and has started a conversation.

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How do you — as an artist and curator with a strong social consciousness — feel about the role of art in these challenging times?

Art allows us to reclaim the narrative.  It is a means for us to transmit a message: We are humans and this is how we are being affected. Art has an essential role in these times.

How can folks see the exhibit before it closes on June 16th?

They can email me at info@nosucharts.com. And ongoing events are posted here.

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Note:  Merseles Studios, a venue of Jersey City Theater Center, is located at 339-345 Newark Avenue, 2nd floor.

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 Icy-and-Sot-political-stencil-art

Committed to using art to transform the ways that teens are prosecuted and sentenced in New York’s adult criminal justice system, Young New Yorkers’ fifth annual Silent Art Auction will fund its grassroots arts program for teens facing criminal charges as adults. Curated by Layqa Nuna Yawar and Ann Lewis, the fundraiser features works by over 80 artists. On Wednesday, May 10th, the Annual Silent Auction will take place from 7-10pm at 548 W. 28th Street in Chelsea, Manhattan. Its special honoree is the wonderfully gifted, Brooklyn-based actor and activist Michael K. Williams.  Among the artworks to be auctioned are several with a distinct political consciousness. Featured above is Icy and Sot, Stop Police Brutality, Spray paint on wood. Here are several more socially-engaged artworks to be auctioned:

Guerrilla Girls, What’s The Difference Between A Prisoner Of War And A Homeless Person?, Offset lithograph

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Jordan Seiler, Collisions – Bullseye, Inkjet 

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Kara Walker, Lost Mountain at Sunrise: Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), Offset lithography and screenprint on Sommerset textured paper

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Distort, Estranged, Enamel and engraving on aluminum

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Nicholas Galanin,  The American Dream is Alie and Well, Archival Ultrachrome ink on Epson ultra smooth fine art paper

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And with the purchase of any artwork from Young New Yorkers, you will receive one of these Amplifier prints designed by Shepard Fairey 

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You can purchase tickers here for May 10th’s Silent Auction and bid on the artworks at Paddle8 here.

Images of artworks courtesy Young New Yorkers

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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Tara Houska

With her passion for justice and her elegant aesthetic, Brooklyn-based Lmnopi has been enhancing public spaces in NYC and beyond while raising our consciousness. I recently had the opportunity to visit her studio and speak to her:

When and where did your artwork first surface here on NYC walls?

I pasted up the first time in 2008, in Williamsburg, a stencil of my cat, Joe. I think it was on North 9th Street.

What inspired you to do so?

The thrill of lawlessness. Freedom, beauty, passion and communication beyond gallery walls. I just felt like it.

Delon the Pigeon

Was there anyone in particular who inspired you to hit the streets?

I remember hanging out at Ad Hoc Art on Bogart Street a bunch and meeting other artists there. Chris Stain gave me some solid advice early on about stencil painting. I used to be really into C215. I love the artist Blu. He’s probably my all time favorite, actually. It wasn’t any one person though… more the lure of freedom that inspired me.

You’ve gotten up and painted in legal spots – such as Welling Court Mural Project and Arts Org in Queens. Yet much of what you do is unsanctioned. Have you any preference?

I prefer pasting up without permission. I have favorite places that I revisit now and again. It takes me awhile to pick my spots; I watch them for a little while first. Placement becomes more important when your paste-up is the only one in existence at a particular site. I also love the aesthetic of decay as erosion happens. Right now there is a piece of mine on Jefferson — that has been there for so many years — all that is left are her eyes and her mouth. It’s uncanny how that happens. It makes me pause and wonder: Why did her eyes and mouth stay the longest? What’s that about?

Have you any preferred surfaces?

My favorite is plywood. My least favorite is brick. I love pasting on glass, especially new condo windows.

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How do you feel about the increasing tie-in between street art and gentrification? The role of street art in gentrification?

People often blame gentrification on artists — instead of the underlying cause which is capitalism. Street artists are often used as tools for real estate CEO’s to increase their property’s value. However, it’s up to us as artists to decide if our work serves the community’s interest or the profit motive. I try to approach my work with the community in mind. When painting a mural on someone’s block, I take into consideration who lives there and how can I reflect their reality in my work. As great as it is to see tons of murals on walls, it turns people’s neighborhoods into destinations for outsiders to spend money in businesses that are run by non-local owners, so the financial benefit is not kept within the community, at all. The neighborhood becomes hollowed out; a place where people who grew up feel they no longer belong or can afford to live. The money spent there leaves the neighborhood when bodegas are run out by bourgie delis and trendy cafes and bars. When rich developers from other countries altogether come in and tear down perfectly good buildings and build hideous condos, it rips a hole in a community. It changes the landscape, removes the character and homogenizes the place. Gentrification is essentially urban colonialism. Creating community run-organizations which provide gathering spaces not centered around commerce and profit,  but instead around: discussion; education; making art, growing food; organizing and sharing resources, is an effective way to combat gentrification.

Yes! And in the current political climate — more necessary than ever.  I’ve also seen your work in gallery settings. How do you feel about bringing street art into galleries?

I enjoy group shows and getting out and being with the community of other street artists. I like to make miniatures of my murals for folks who want to bring them home and live with them. I struggle with the dissonance between anti-capitalism and the need to survive in a capitalist society. But it’s a great feeling to sell work.

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

I generally prefer working alone. but in the context of a larger community working towards change, I prefer being part of that wave.

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Are there any other artists with whom you’d like to collaborate?

I look for certain people when I am out scouting locations, locally. It’s like having a delayed visual conversation on the street with other wheat paste artists like Myth NYCity KittyEl Sol 25, QRST, Sean Lugo… I also am inspired by the work the Justseeds cooperative is doing. Art and propaganda are like cinnamon and sugar on toast. So delicious. I’d like to collaborate with Chip Thomas from the Painted Desert Project. I also hope to do some painting in Indian country soon. I want to collaborate with people who are also committed to environmental justice.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Yes. I feel like they come alive.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

Most of it when I am not sleeping or gardening or exploring.

Welcome

Have you a formal art education?

Yes. I studied painting and printmaking at SUNY Purchase where I got my BFA.  But most of what I am doing now is all self-taught.

What is your ideal working environment?

I’d love to have a studio in a straw bale house on land by a river with enough open area to grow food and enough forested area to forage wild mushrooms. I have a tiny studio which works all right for the time being, though, with my rooftop garden here in Brooklyn.

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

The Internet never forgets…which can be good or bad depending on what is out there to not be forgotten. For my kind of work, which is ephemeral by nature, it’s great. I love instagram because I get to see fellow artists’ work from all over the world. There is little static; it’s all visual. But as someone who was an adult before the phenomenon of the Internet existed, there was something really profound about seeing work in person that seems a bit lost now because everything is so accessible. People don’t have to travel to see anything; they just click around. Maybe that promotes a devaluation of work. I make a lot of work, but I don’t put a lot up. I think less is more…kind of a homeopathic approach.

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Did any particular cultures influence you?

Ancient wall art. Petroglyphs. The earliest known graffiti art. I’ve seen them in person and it’s a mystical experience being in the presence of art that old.

How has your art evolved in the past few years?

From paint brush to x-acto knife back to paint brush. I went from painting with oils – high brow – to materials I could buy in a hardware store. The transition from oil painting was through stencils and spray paint. But I got really sick of using an exacto knife…too rigid. I love the paint brush. These days I like painting with house paint the most.

Do you work from a sketch or do you just let it flow?

When doing a mural, I sketch it out first; usually, I make a small painting of it prior to getting up on the wall.  When I am working in my studio, I just go to it.

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What inspires you these days – with both your street art and studio art?

Right now my heart is very much with frontline communities who are bearing the brunt of the fall out from the corporate take over of the government: climate change (aka climate chaos), the fight against the fossil fuel industrial complex, the plight of kids caught in refugee situations and the Indigenous environmental movement. I am working from these struggles — working to communicate and amplify those voices, especially those of women, elders and kids.

What’s ahead?

I’m busy making art about everything that everyone else I know is also freaking out about. I am working on staying calm and making self-care a priority so I don’t burn out. I am developing some prints from paintings and drawings, a way to duplicate my work to make it more accessible for people who might enjoy having it or wearing it. I am thinking in terms of how to translate the continuous tone of painting into printable dot and line patterns for printing. I love the aesthetic of engravingsl and I have been training myself to paint in a way that mimics it. I am weaving the concept of editions that was possible with stencils together with the language of paint strokes I have been cultivating. In my painting practice, I have been destroying the object in a sense, breaking up the portrait with under-paintings of topographical maps, macro designs from botanicals and geometric forms and bringing in the occasional surrealistic imagery..Travel and time in nature are ahead of me and more frontline stands, hopefully some hot springs, plenty of walls to paint out there and forgotten doorways to paste up in.

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

Artists are change makers and translators; art transcends borders and language barriers. Art is a unifying force. Artists can speak truth to power. We can show that the emperor is not wearing any trousers. We have artistic license; so far we still have free speech. We lift people’s spirits and let them know they are seen. We embolden people to laugh at fear. We clear out tear ducts.

Note: You can follow Lmnopi on her Instagram here and check out her online store here.

Interview by Lois Stavsky; all images courtesy of the artist

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UBcover

A Brooklyn-based artist collective with a mission, unbag is planning to release its first arts publication this spring. I recently posed a few questions to unbag co-founder, artist and writer Andy Wentz.

Just what is unbag?  When and how did it all begin?

unbag is an arts organization that runs an ongoing critique group, curates shows with partner galleries, and is now producing its first publication. We started out as a small group of friends who wanted to do group studio visits about two years ago. It was always about supporting the folks within our small community. And this ethos of supporting artists that are underrepresented and share similar values to ours has continued to inspire us to expand the organization.

What is the significance of its title? It’s rather bizarre!

We needed a channel to organize members of our little critique groups, so early on we created a Facebook group to host events and announcements. Our idea to create the Facebook group came before we even saw a need to come up with a name for the group. So we just put it as Un-Named Brooklyn Artist Group and for some reason the acronym unbag stuck. I think it made sense to us as a name because it is a clunky synonym to ‘unpack’ which is what we were doing during the critique group. We’ve since dropped the long form title and are just unbag now.

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What prompted you to launch this particular project — a digital and print publication?

My friend, Aaron Cooper, and I were organizing the unbag critique group and leading some panel discussions at an experimental space called Sleep Center in Chinatown.  We started meeting a ton of artists from all over the world through these events, and that’s when we started to get the idea to have a project space of our own. But we weren’t interested in a brick and mortar gallery, and we thought that an interesting alternative would be to host artist projects online and in print. We realized early on that what we were doing wasn’t going to be a journal or a magazine in the traditional sense —  but rather something more malleable that would conform to the types of projects that our contributors are interested in sharing.

Who is your audience? Are their any particular groups you are targeting?

We are definitely targeting people in the art world, but folks who don’t take it too seriously. We’re not aspiring to be the next Art in America or anything like that. We hope to reach people who are interested in art, culture and political practice from artists who don’t necessarily already have a platform to share their work. We also hope that our readers are people who would become future contributors and join in the unbag community.

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How did you decide what to feature in Issue #1?

We started with an open call for projects that use trickery as a strategy in their artistic production. We were definitely thinking of artists like Sophie Calle and Jill Magid when we came up with the idea for the theme. These artists are subversive and obsessive, and their motivations are not always clear to the viewer. Along with the open call, we also reached out to some artists and writers who, we thought, could contribute great projects because they already had a more subversive practice. We ended up getting about a hundred submissions and finally narrowed it down to thirteen projects that we thought fit the theme and worked well together as a group.

When will your premier issue be officially released?

The project will officially be released in May, and we will be hosting a launch event at Quimby’s in Williamsburg. Stay tuned for an official date for that event.

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What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in producing this first issue?

We’ve had to completely build everything from the ground up for this. So that means marketing, design, printing, fundraising, and more. All of these aspects have been a challenge. But we’re banking on the first issue being the most difficult to produce, and that in the future — with all these structures in place — it will be more about just finding the right contributors to feature. So we’re looking forward to the next issue for those reasons.

Note: The unbag Kickstarter continues through this Sunday, March 12.

Interview by Lois Stavsky & all photos of images courtesy Andy Wentz

Images

1. Haleigh Nickerson

2. Manuel Arturo Abreu

3. Peter Rostovsky

4. Loney Abrams & Johnny Stanish 

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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On exhibit through Wednesday at MICA — the Maryland Institute College of Art — is Baltimore Rising, a powerful and poignant exhibition featuring the works of 15 artists who address the issues that led to the uprising following the death of Freddy Gray.  Featured above is a close-up from Logan Hicks’s Freddy Gray’s Day. What follows are a few more images from this timely exhibit:

Logan Hicks, Hot Spot, aerosol on linen

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Tony Shore, Hands Up, Don’t Shoot, acrylic on velvet

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Tony Shore, Confrontation, acrylic on velvet

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Also by Tony Shore, The Vigil, acrylic on velvet

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Nether 410, Satyagraha, outdoor mural for Baltimore Rising

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Photo credits: 1-5 Lois Stavsky; 6 Tara Murray

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With the mission of fostering a dialog with the surrounding neighborhood and urban landscape, High Line Art — curated by Cecelia Alemani — presents a wide array of provocative artworks in a range of media. Pictured above is I want a president, Zoe Leonard‘s 1992 text-based work installed on the occasion of today’s election. Here are several more works that can be seen on the High Line.

 Tony Matelli, Sleepwalker — for Wanderlust, a group exhibition exploring the themes of walking, journeys and pilgrimages

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And alone at dusk

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Matt Johnson, Untitled — repurposed original High Line rail track  — for Wanderlust

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 Kathryn Andrews, Sunbathers II, as seen at dusk

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Barbara Kruger, “BLIND IDEALISM IS REACTIONARY SCARY DEADLY, an adaptation of a quote from Frantz Fanon

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Photo credits: 1 & 6 Lois Stavsky; 2 & 4 Dani Reyes Mozeson and 3 & 5 Romare Taylor

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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