political art

Charged with glorifying terrorism and insulting the monarchy in his songs, Spanish rapper Pablo Hásel was arrested and imprisoned last month. For the past several weeks since his arrest, demonstrations have erupted almost daily, and dozens of murals have surfaced advocating “freedom of expression.” While the demonstrations have, on occasion, turned violent, the street art has been a peaceful diversion.

The image above, painted by the talented Barcelona-based Catalan artist Cinta Vidal, features the rapper as he is being painted over — or obliterated — by the king.  Several more of the ephemeral murals follow:

Barcelona-based Galleta Maria depicts a double-headed snake that is preventing a woman from speaking

Graffiti writer Kader One at work painting the rapper hanging while grasping a keychain featuring a crown

Spanish artist El Edu, at work on “La Llibertat (h)a mort,” mourning the death of freedom

Graffiti writer Antón G. Seoane aka SlimROK, “Freedom or Fire”

Barcelona-based Argentine artist Zosen, “Libertad Expresion,” a call for the “freedom of expression”

All photos by Fernando Alcalá Losa; courtesy, Audrey García

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Kicking off the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, Street Art for Mankind launched earlier this week a one-year anti-child trafficking billboard campaign online and in the streets of NYC.  Participating in this #FreeChildren Campaign are nine major street artists, who are taking over 100 billboards with visuals that educate the general public about the reality of child trafficking. All of the visuals can be activated by the free AR app “Behind the Wall,” available both on Google Play and at the App Store, that allows us to get the facts and take action simply by scanning the image.

The billboard featured above was designed by the immensely talented Spanish duo PichiAvo. Several more images of billboards that have turned into interactive installations in the streets of New York or online (video here) follow:

Spanish artist Lula Goce

Barcelona-native Cristian Blanxer

Amsterdam-based Judith de Leeuw aka JDL

Copenhagen-based Victor Ash

This #FreeChildren Campaign has been launched in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations (Alliance 8.7 co-chair), the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations (Alliance 8.7 co-chair), NYC Mayor’s Office (ENDGBV), the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, JC Decaux, along with renowned experts and activists.

All photos courtesy Street Art for Mankind

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Raised in Juneau, Alaska and residing now “on the ancestral lands of the Indigenous Peoples of the Paiute, Wasco and Warm Springs Tribes,” Filipina-American artist Bekah Badilla combines symbols of past, present and future as she questions and challenges Western notions of progress. It is a progress, Bekah asserts, that is “tied up in patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism, as man and nature became increasingly separated.”

The image above, “Born Again Babaylan,” features the artist’s recent 18×44′ outdoor mural in Bend, Oregon. Melting out of the glacial ice is the spirit of a Babaylan, a matriarchal leader, spirit guide and warrior prevalent in pre-colonial Philippines. Embodying both technology and nature, the Babaylan offers knowledge and guidance through spirituality, mysticism and ancestral strength. To her right, a young girl is shown uplifted by her lineage and empowered to fight the battles of her time.

“As violence and oppression persist in our society,” states Bekah, “the values inherited from the Babaylan hold no consequential utility or materiality, and often carry no weight by American standards. Yet, it’s this same reason they have the power to transcend the linear and shed light on the nature of our present circumstances.”

Several close-ups from the mural follow:

The circuit boards, explains the artist, are a symbol of current and future technology,  fusing here with nature.

Bekah Badilla, alongside a segment of  “Born Again Babaylan”

All photos courtesy of the artist

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Inspired by the various picket signs that surfaced in Atlanta, Georgia following the murder of George Floyd, Bogota-based Lorenzo Masnah began creating a series of images that has evolved into an expansive, expressive body of work. An exhibition featuring a a diverse selection of these singularly timely visuals is currently on view in the newly-launched Gallery Estrella in Charlston, South Carolina.

The tryptic featured above, “Rosa, We Didn’t,” was crafted with spray paint and markers on Batik fabric. Several more artworks presented in Paper Cuts — Masnah’s first solo exhibition in seven years — follow, along with images of the artist captured by Leigh-Ann Beverly at Mosquito Beach, a refuge for African-Americans during the Jim Crow era.

“My Execution,” Spray paint and markers on canvas

At Mosquito Beach

“No New Jails,” Spray paint and markers on canvas

At Mosquito Beach

“Silence Is Betrayal,” Spray paint and markers on canvas

“Georgia’s Blues,” Spray paint, acrylic and markers on canvas

Lorenzo Masnah at Mosquito Beach

Proceeds from “Paper Cuts” will benefit the community center in San Basilio de Palenque, the largely Afro-Colombian village, whose members are direct descendants of African enslaved people brought to Colombia by Europeans during the colonization of the Americas.

Located at 121 Spring Street in Charleston, SC, Gallery Estrella, is open Wednesday through Sunday.  Check here for hours, and find out about the gallery’s mission here.

Photos: 1, 2, 4, 6 & 7, courtesy the artist and Gallery Estrella; 3, 5 & 8, Leigh-Ann Beverly 

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On view at the prestigious National Arts Club through January 27, 2021 is Voices of the Soho Renaissance, an exhibition showcasing several artworks that had first surfaced on the plywood used to board up stores in Soho earlier this year. For those of us who first saw these works in their original sites, it is a delight to view them in such a stately setting. And if you missed seeing them earlier on, this is your chance!

The image featured above, The River Unconscious, is the work of the immensely talented Brooklyn-based artist Brendan T McNally. Additional images of artworks by members of the The Soho Renaissance Factory (SRF) on view follow:

Politically conscious African-American, Brooklyn-bred Amir Diop, “Samson and the 400 Years of Bondage”

Lebanese-American glass and light artist Trevor Croop AKA Light Noise in collaboration with Amir Diop, “We Are Used in Your Wars Even Though We Can Be Gone in a Flash”

Trevor Croop AKA Light Noise, “Change”

Native New Yorker Sulé whose masked characters don timely political slogans, “My Execution Might Be Televised”

Indigenous American multimedia artist Konstance Patton, “Godezz Mildred of Peace and Comforter of the Inner Child”

Brooklyn-based  Manuel Alejandro Pulla aka The Creator, “Brooklyn Bridge March for Justice”

Along with these artworks on exhibit are more than two dozen photographs documenting these extraordinary times — when protests were sweeping our streets daily — by acclaimed photographer Graham Macindoe.

Located at 15 Gramercy Park South, the galleries at the National Arts Club are open Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Admission is free, and you can make a reservation by filling out this form.

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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When the plywood returned to the streets of Soho shortly before the November presidential election, the artists got busy again. What a treat for us street art lovers! The image pictured above is the work of the increasingly prolific NYC-based Pure Genius. A small sampling of what’s been happening on the streets of Soho follows:

Brooklyn-based Manuel Alejandro Pulla aka The Creator with a call to support small businesses

Eyes that Love Art brings his mixed-media aesthetic to Grand Street plywood

Konstance Patton‘s signature lady with Amir Diop‘s political art to her right

Konstance Patton with a message; Sule on the door to her right and Light Noise above them both

Two short-lived works by One Rad Latina in her signature style

One of several collaborative works by Calicho and Jeff Rose King

Photo credits: 1, 4 & 6 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3, 5 & 7 Ana Candelaria; 

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Few NYC street art spots are as reflective of our times as is Freeman’s Alley, located off Rivington Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. And in these challenging times, the nation’s precarious political state and its ongoing pandemic have been the major themes of the street art that has emerged there.

Pictured above is NYC-based artist SacSix‘s portrait of our vice president-elect, Kamala Harris — a representative of the change we so sorely need. Several more images captured this past Sunday follow:

NYC-based Raddington Falls‘ politically-conscious Lego-inspired characters

Crkshnk’s depicts  former NYC mayor and current Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani as court jester

California-based Jeremy Novy laments the loss of “free hugs” in the time of Covid-19

 NYC-based DeGrupo celebrates President-elect Joe Biden’s victory

NYC-based Eye Sticker — in this pre-election paste-up — asks us to vote out “Trumpkin Season”

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4-6 Ana Candelaria; 3 Lois Stavsky

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A stirring pubic art exhibition has recently made its way to 6th Avenue and 43rd Street in Midtown Manhattan. Brazilian artist Alexandre Keto imagines the future lives of Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Agatha Felix had they not become “victims of deadly brutality.”

The image featured above depicts Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old African American woman who was found hanged in a Texas jail cell three days after she was arrested during a traffic stop in July, 2015. Several more images from Alive with Us /Viva com Nós follow:

17-year-old Florida-based African-American high school student Trayvon Martin, murdered in 2012 by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, to the left of 18 -year-old Michael Brown who was fatally shot in 2014 by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo

Alexandre Keto — captured at work in the final stages of the mural’s production

Michael Brown, closer-up

Brazilian 8-year-old Agatha Felix, shot in the back in a Rio de Janeiro favela in 2019

And, again, Agatha Felix

Produced by Art Bridge and presented in partnership with Arts Brookfield, “Alive with Us /Viva com Nós” is part of City Canvas, an initiative of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs

Photo credits: 1-5 Lois Stavsky 6 Sara C Mozeson

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A Presidential Parody continued to make its way around town on Sunday — despite the steady rain — with stops at Trump Tower and neighboring sites. A brief interview with New Yorker actor/creator Maia Lorian, who conceived and enacted — along with Enormvs Muñoz and kelci greenway — Sunday’s gorilla art performance, follows:

What inspired this particular chapter of A Presidential Parody?

My latest ad takeover for A Presidential Parody was made under the truest digital dystopian duress that is 2020. A solo work, from creation through install, made during the last days of my mom’s life. The piece is admittedly darker than my previous works, as virtual vigils and FaceTime goodbyes — followed by my dear mother’s Zoom funeral — took place in the background. This piece is in honor of my mom and every other life tragically lost during the Trump presidency. I like to bring my posters to life, like in a true ad campaign, which allowed this poster to progress into a funeral march

In what way does this current piece — both the ad takeover and the performance — differ from some of your former ones? Your other pieces seemed lighter. And despite your playful costume, it is quite intense.

This takeover is a true product of the 2020 dystopian nightmare reality that came to be under Trump — the poster created and installed during the last day of my mother’s life, with the funeral procession taking place after her Zoom funeral.

This performance piece also entails a procession. Can you tell us something about that?

In a typical funeral you see who’s there, and they’re able to offer condolences. I was filmed at my mom’s and wasn’t able to speak to anyone that attended. Grieving is isolating to begin with; grieving during a pandemic makes it even more so. I imagine there’s a group of us from 2020 that deeply understands what it means to have a FaceTime goodbye with the person you love most.

After my father died, for coping I went out dancing a lot. I was also in a play at the time. Neither of those are realities in 2020. 2020 has consumed so many of us with grief, whether it was loss of a loved one, or loss of employment, loss of ability to socialize the way we used to, even loss of the way we used to be able to hug, and most importantly, the loss of basic human rights. Watching the Trump debacle unfold during these last four years, and now during a pandemic, has been too next level. It’s more important than ever to get out the vote. So I created a funeral march of sorts, to honor my mom and the many other lives tragically lost under the reign of Trump, because it’s time for the Demon Cheeto to go.

We last spoke over a year ago. Have you any further thoughts on the state of our nation?

The country’s become a dumpster fire, but we have to keep trying, or it’ll just get worse. We must vote Trump out of office, ultimately- this work is to help to get out the vote.

What do you see as your personal mission in these dire times?

To help get out the vote and get Trump out of office. I come from a background in comedy — CollegeHumor, The Onion, SNL. Trump’s reign has been so negatively absurd, it’s been made up of laugh and cry at the same time moments — moments of horrified disbelief, so I like to unite people with laughter, since we all may be crying on the inside.

And what’s ahead for you?

I will keep on creating, fighting, and trying to help make a difference by using my privilege to subvert, owning my risk with embrace, and hope my mom and dad are up above, watching and protecting.

Thank you for what you are doing. And I am sorry for your loss.

Note: Maia’s wonderful wings were created in collaboration with Matt Siren

Photo credits: 1 Courtesy of Maia Lorian 2-7 Lois Stavsky 

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Pictured above in Part II of our documentation of the politically-driven “Shared Freedom” mural art project — curated by Will Power at First Street Green Art Park — is Calicho Arevalo‘s playful mural, as captured by Ana Candelaria. A few more artworks follow — with even more to be featured on the StreetArtNYC Instagram page.

NYC-based Miami-native Sacsix, “Chokey on the Smokey”

NYC-based multimedia artist Early Riser

Painter, actor and professional skateboarder Danny Minnick in front of huge segment of his beguiling mural — as captured by Berky

Veteran Bronx-based graffiti writer and painter Zimad – as captured by Berky

And Zimad earlier at work — as captured by Berky

Painter and graff master Heart1

And Heart1 — with spray can in hand — as captured by Berky

While visiting the “Shared Freedom” mural art project, be sure to stop by the  POP UP GET OUT THE VOTE / RETAIL STORE that has been set up  adjacent to First Street Green Art Park — on 35 E 1st Street. And don’t forget to VOTE!

Photo credits: 1 Ana Candelaria; 2, 3 & 7 Lois Stavsky and 4, 5, 6 & 8 Berky

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