by Charlotte Jansen

London - Legendary Spanish artist PEZ has just opened a solo show in London, at the Westbank Gallery W11, up until the 24th of this month. Following on from a solo gig earlier in the month in Sweden, Pez returns to London for the first time since his 2012 exhibition at Tony’s Gallery. The propagator of the “Funny Happy Barcelona style” – which in its basic form, is a smiling fish – presents new works on canvas, plus collaborative works with “friends” – among them, Sickboy, Stinkfish, Cranio, Cope2, Flying Fortress and The London Police. Look out for new murals too popping up around the city. Credited as one of the first graf writers to develop a logo in the place of a tag, the friendly-fish loving artist is now based in Bogota with his wife and two small children. Pez’s message over the past two decades has been positive energy and good vibes – it’s all about sharing his smile around the world. You can’t really argue with that. Unless you’re a cynic. —Charlotte Jansen (Image on top: PEZ, 15 years smiling with friends, acrylics and markers on canvas.) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
by Monica Torres

News - “The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn.” T.S. Eliot From graffiti art covering a burnt-out chapel in a Hollywood blockbuster, remnants of a mural etched on a designer shirt, graffiti is a commonplace influence found in popular culture, a far stretch from the underground where it originated. But, recently, there's been a spate of recent lawsuits involving street artists lately, accusing marketers, designers, companies, and even film directors, of copyright infringement. Surely street art can be an inspiration to other creatives. But when does influence become theft? According to Revok, Reyes and Steel a.k.a Jason Williams, Victor Chapa and Jeffrey Rubin, major designer Roberto Cavalli derived the designs for his new fashion line from a mural they painted in San Francisco’s artistic Mission district. They are suing the fashion label for copyright infringement. The street artists 'Jaz', 'Ever' and 'Other' working the Buenos Aires mural which is reproduced in The Zero Theorem; Photograph: Hollywood Reporter Just last month news broke out that Miami’s Ahol Sniffs Glue was suing American Eagle Outfitters. It seems lawsuits are becoming a bit of a trend. Argentinian artists Franco Fasoli and Nicolas Escalada – AKA Jaz and Ever – along with a Canadian artist, Derek Mehaffey, known as Troy Lovegates or Other, are suing film director Terry Gilliam, production company Voltage Pictures and distributor Amplify Releasing in a US federal court in Illinois, asking for an injunction to halt the film's US September 2014 release. They are also seeking statutory damages, profits and costs. The trio of artists claim Gilliam used their intricate artwork, located in popular Buenos Aires “zona de graffiti,” to adorn a church in his new film. And that's not all. Maya Hayuk, artist of colorful diamond, drooping-paint patterns “Chem Trails” located on the Bowery Graffiti Wall, claims Coach and singer Sara Bareilles incorporated her piece into their marketing campaigns, using it to sell products. She is suing them both for $150,000 each. Are some of these artists stretching it? Is it possible these major designers were simply inspired by artwork similar to their own or are these powerful companies exploiting the independent artists’ genius? Just Cavalli; from Hollywood Reporter Courtesy Juxapoz Magazine —Monica Torres (Image on top: Maya-Hayuk; Photo From Bowery Boogie) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
by Monica Torres

Miami - Over the weekend of September 19 to 21, 2014, the Miami Downtown Development Authority, in collaboration with various artists, cultural organizations and institutions, presents a three-day art filled event. Various venues including art galleries, theaters, museums restaurants, parks, and cultural centers will host free film screenings, tours, projects, parties, and exhibitions, connecting residents of the city through the arts. In recent years, Miami’s public spaces have grown into a cultural landscape. Late last year, the Perez Art Museum Miami unveiled a magnificent architecture for international art. Since then, its hanging gardens have flourished over the bay. Just a few months later, Museum Park opened next door. Next, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science will open in the same location. These venues will all host events during Art Days. The opening of these cultural institutions is turning Miami into a pedestrian city. Street art is best experienced up close: while walking through the city’s streets one is happily surprised by finding art on the walls, sidewalks, and buildings. Throughout the weekend, free transportation between participating venues will also be provided to participants courtesy of Freebee. Here are some of the Street Art highlights: Art4Space: A Film By Space Invader: Space Invader has invaded Miami. Not only are his 8-bit video game mosaics visible through the Magic City’s streets, but his “Space One” balloon was also launched into the stratosphere above the Everglades. Robert (William) de Los Rios of will present a screening of Space Invader’s 2012 film “Art4Space” where he documents the launch. There will be two free screenings at 11:00 A.M and 1:00 P.M each day at the historic Olympia Theater. Giants in the City Enormous inflatable balloon structures will be exhibited on the lawn of Bayfront Park. One of the pieces, “The Mirror,” is a collaboration between various Miami street artists including Luis Valle and Buddah Funk. There is also a large inflatable wall that participants can spray paint, getting a chance to be an artist themselves. The event is presented by Irreversible Magazine An International Art Project. For a full list of events visit Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
by Charlotte Jansen

Paris - Last week the ASS editorial team was in Paris for our AGM, where we got a special tour of the LASCO project at the Palais De Tokyo. A very amiable and informative guide took us down the basement/security exit—normally closed to the public—that for the last two years has housed a new initiative to bring graffiti into the public gallery: two French artists, Lek and Sowat, have been inviting other artists from their scene to paint the walls of this cavernous underground maze. The problem is, like an embarassingly sexy Mum who smokes pot and listens to Nicki Minaj, public galleries just don’t get graffiti culture. With the title, the Palais de Tokyo aligns the practice of graffiti to the Lascaux cave paintings. There is a parallel to an extent—both are visual expressions enacting existence. But in the implication that cave painting foreshadows the latter artistic practice, they ignore an entire, unique culture that comes with graffiti. Bando. The problem is that here again comes a big gallery with an idea of the importance of #graffiti and its impact on culture today, but who doesn’t know how to handle it. They don’t want it in the gallery, because they can’t accept that it is part of ‘contemporary art’, nor the fact that successful graffiti writers that have evolved into artists are just as ambitious, with equally as many conceptual concerns, as say, Ed Atkins (who is exhibiting upstairs). But they don’t want to keep them out entirely – as then it would be out of their control. So they put it in this literal in-between: they relegate graffiti to an art purgatory, where access is denied to the public except for 1.5 hours a week when visitors can be carefully led through with a guide. The massive irony of this is that those visitors can see any of these artists, at any time, for free, just by walking on the streets of any major city: Paris being one of the best spots in the world for it. (That is, until the capital opened a special unit for buffing and hunting down writers.) Horfé & Ken Sortais, Biolensu, Palais de Tokyo, 2014. And the biggest paradox of all: the only artist left outside the underground coven is Cokney, a hardcore train bomber. His work is presented with police reports, and a photograph, evidence used in a prosecution trial (the artist wound up with a fine of more than 200,000 euros). The police description incisively evaluates Cokney’s work for the purpose of identification, raising a potentially fascinating question about the phenomenon of the legal authority as art critic—something that happens in jurisdictions the world over. But in its context here, the corollary seems to be that graffiti can only be legitimized as art by the authority—legal or cultural. Cokney, Guerre du Nord, 2014. triptych: photograph taken by police of a Cokney burner; police report including description of the graffiti writer's style; visual interpretation of the police report description by Cokney, painted in the gallery. The tension between the artists and the Palais De Tokyo is suggested in giant mock 500-euro notes that peel down from one ceiling, pasted up by the artist—an allusion to the inferior sum the artists received to take part in the project. Lek, Sowat, showing the photocopies of the 500 euro note, pasted on the ceiling. It’s an insight into the way the major institutes are still holding back when it comes to graf. By curating them into narrow projects that undermine their culture and evade any important questions, public spaces are not allowing these artists to develop their careers. In France particularly, where culture is shaped by venues like the Palais de Tokyo, they can massively influence which artists succeed. Futura 2000; Palais de Tokyo. While some curators and smaller spaces have begun to recognize this and break up the paradigm, public galleries are still way off. The participation of so many great artists is testament to the fact these artists do want to show in these spaces, and demonstrates how few opportunities there are to present: but the galleries are just not brave enough. My suspicion is that by using graf artists Lek and Sowat as mediators to invite other artists, they avoided interacting directly with the artists themselves. entrance. Philippe Baudelocque Vhils, Scratching the Surface Project, Palais de Tokyo, 2014. —Charlotte Jansen (Top image: entrance to the exhibition. All images: At the Palais de Tokyo; photos courtesy Natalie Hegert) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
by Stephanie Berzon

Alessandro Gallo at Jonathan LeVine Gallery - 529 W. 20th
Q&A - The (m)animal clay sculptures of Alessandro Gallo present humans moving in form, doctrines and in space; whether it is depicted as a bipedal donkey in surrender (Surrender) or several human-animal hybrids in a more obvious state of transit in Metro. Animal heads rest on anthropomorphic bodies and suggest carrying more of the human role through their rendered posture, clothing and setting; the half-rooster, half-man is holding baguettes with a gaze off to the distance, the hybrid hare is sitting on a cardboard box and the topless lizard man is covered in tattoos. Gallo humorously captures fleeting moments lost to daily absorption. The figures are unaware of themselves in a way that breaks away from metamorphosis or mythology being the cause for their bizarre corporeal makeup. The biodiversity simply exists in an urban reflective state. Gallo has displayed these pieces, along with other media including screen-prints, at the Italian Pavilion in the 54th Venice Biennale and in solo exhibitions at the Jill George Gallery in London and the Marco Canepa Gallery in his hometown of Genoa, Italy. His first solo show in New York City will take place on September 6th at the Jonathan Levine Gallery. Alessandro Gallo, Beginning of a great adventure; Courtesy of the artist and Jonathan Levine Gallery Stephanie Berzon: The presence of animals in art is rich in symbolism and metaphors. What is the relationship you see between human nature and the subjects in your work? Alessandro Gallo: Animals display biological features and behavioral patterns that can be extended to humans, lending themselves to embody the basic disposition of a person. Animal heads represent our inclinations and background, like a genetic legacy from imaginary ancestors—but also some cultural belief or even simply a mood or a temporary state of mind. All animals tell a different story: every species has different features. Some of which can be applied metaphorically to humans. The chameleon, for example, can change skin color and has independent eyes that can see in all directions, qualities that would benefit an opportunist. Some animals are carnivores, other vegetarian. Some chase, others run away. Some eat carcasses. Some are cold blooded. Some thrive in swamps, some crawl in the desert, some are nocturnal and so on. Other animals have a strong cultural and folklore history. Donkeys are stubborn, eagles are noble, and pigs are greedy. Every language and culture has numberless associations between animals and emotions, i.e. 'angry like a bull', 'horny like a rabbit', ‘monkey business’, ‘culture vulture’, ‘rat race’ and so on. Whether from nature or culture, animals evoke direct associations that need little mediation, and in so they are ideal in illustrating and embodying our basic disposition or nature. Which is why they've been used: they embody abstract values and vices across all ages and cultures in numberless stories and myths. Alessandro Gallo, I feel good; Courtesy of the artist and Jonathan Levine Gallery SB: Are you superstitious? AG: I guess I am, moderately so. I don’t really really believe in it but some superstitions traditional in Italy or specifically in my family (especially from my grandmother) still survive in my everyday life as funny rituals. I don’t really think that wearing that particular shirt is going to affect the outcome of some event but wearing it for that occasion reminds me with humor of how important that outcome is for me. SB: Tell me a story of a 'funny ritual' that still exists in your life. I was raised in South Florida and superstition sort of suspends the land’s spirit. AG: I guess the silliest small superstition ritual happens at dinner tables. I never pick the saltshaker from someone else's hand directly. It's considered to bring bad luck. He or she will have to put it on the table and then I'll pick it up. It comes from my Grandma Marta, she did it all of the time. I guess it's a tongue in cheek family thing. I did some research. Salt was extremely precious in ancient Rome so as to be used as currency. The word 'salary' in English comes from the Latin term 'salarium' meaning ' (soldier's) allowance to buy salt, from 'sal' meaning 'salt'. Because of its value it was important to determine the moment when the property, and the responsibility, passed from the seller to the buyer. To avoid any dispute on spillage, the bag of salt was placed on the floor between the two and then the exchange of hands. That doesn't make it rational but at least it's interesting. SB: How else do you think your Italian identity has impacted your work? AG: Some people told me that the way I try to render fabric in my pieces reminds them of art they've seen while traveling in Italy. Perhaps. Although I don't think that coming from Italy affects directly what I do and how I do it. When it does it is very difficult to articulate and measure. Surely Italy impacted me as a man. I've lived 12 years in England, I love traveling and I often do. At the moment I'm in the process of moving permanently to the US. But Italy, and Genoa in particular, will always be my home, that's for sure, and, as they say, there's no place like it. Alessandro Gallo, Come fly with me; Courtesy of the artist and Jonathan Levine Gallery SB: Please discuss the light switch moment that turned you to study art instead of pursuing law after your studies in Genoa. AG: There’s always a before and an after when we make big decisions and choices but what led me to it was actually a very gradual process. There were a lot of good reasons for pursuing both options. I was doing very well in my law studies and I have that type of personality that enjoys researching, whatever the subject. I also loved painting and drawing but somehow I initially feared the risks connected with making it a profession. At some point logic alone was not enough to come to a conclusion and I just had to dive, following my inclination. It took me a while to understand how lucky I was to have one. SB: Research is usually a solitary venture. How would you describe your personal relationship to the research process? AG: Some research is solitary especially the main concepts running through your work. As solitary is growing and learning, professionally and personally, although some people beside you can make it, sometimes, at least a little easier. Some things can be learned but can't be taught. Some others can and I think it's important to surround yourself with people that know more than you about it. When I started working with clay I realized how many technical aspects were essential to get good results and I was very lucky to meet a few very capable people that were willing and able to share their knowledge. I learned a lot from workshops, residencies, apprenticeships, studio sharing and mentorships. That information is then processed, filtered and made your own in a solitary way, yes. And I obviously kind of enjoy it. Alessandro Gallo, She belongs to me; Courtesy of the artist and Jonathan Levine Gallery SB: Did you make art as a child? AG: Yes. Since I can remember. I’ve always loved drawing. SB: I am curious about the choice of subjects in your the collaborative piece with Beth Cavener, Tangled Up In You. The rabbit and the snake: I couldn’t think of two animals more opposite symbolically. AG: My collaboration with Beth on that particular piece was limited to the narrative choices, drawing and painting of the imagery running through the snake body as a Japanese style tattoo echoing snake skin's natural patterns. Concept, design and sculpting are all Beth’s. I guess she’d be the right person to answer your question. All I can give is a subjective interpretation that’s as good as anybody’s. Besides I think that one (of many) fascinating aspects of her work is that it is always open to many different emotional and intellectual considerations and responses. That work represents a conflict between two forces, the snake and the rabbit. It can be read as a fight between two different agents but also as an internal psychological struggle between opposing drives or beliefs. I’ve always seen it as a self-portrait. Alessandro Gallo, The man who sold the world; Courtesy of the artist and Jonathan Levine Gallery SB: From what I can recount, chess has occurred twice in your body of work in the form of a screen print and chess piece sculptures resting on a checkerboard. Do you play? AG: I love chess, its ruthlessness and its intellectual and logical discipline. It’s incredibly fascinating, suggestive and challenging to me. I play online, when I can, and always less than what I’d want. I’m an ‘amateur’, from Latin ‘amare’ that means ‘to love’. I’ve studied quite a bit but not enough to compete with the very good ones. SB: Would you describe your relationship to art as ruthless and disciplined? Duchamp once said that 'while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists'... AG: I think you always need a lot of self-discipline or at least you do given my personality traits, driven to perfection and prone to distraction. Not only in art. I've known about Duchamp's passion for Chess for a long time. I came across a few of his best games too. Chess is art and war, logic and imagination. I don't think that all chess players are artists—only the very good ones. SB: Is there an animal you most identify with? AG: The donkey because he’s proverbially stubborn stupid, and works hard. I use it as a reminder not to take myself too seriously. —Stephanie Rae Berzon (Image at top: Alessandro Gallo, artist photo; Courtesy of the artist and Jonathan Levine Gallery) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
by Natalie Hegert

Norway - Reflecting on my experience at the Nuart Festival this weekend in Stavanger will take some time. It was a week filled with art, music, parties and panels, with much to digest and consider. But here's some photos from the week to tide you over while my full report is forthcoming. More photos can be found on our Instagram account (ass_mag, get it?), also here, here, here, here, and by searching #nuartfestival The landscape in Stavanger is stunning. Tilt. Spy. Port of Stavanger. Swoon and David Choe. Dabs Myla. Herakut. The Vålandstårnet above the city, hit by graffiti writers Rebel and Mask and more... Hush. View from the bridge of the crew working on the Tilt mural (not in the shot). Nice kitty... A DJ at the Numusic Festival. Vhils. The bookstore at the exhibition. Etam Cru. Martin Whatson. Downtown Stavanger. Mathieu Tremblin documenting local graffiti writer ASMA interacting with his piece. —Natalie Hegert (image at top: Strøk at Tou Scene) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
by Peter Augustus

The Fringe Club
Hong Kong - Billing itself as “the World’s premier live art battle”, Secret Walls recently kicked off its second series in Hong Kong at the city’s iconic Fringe Club. Created in 2006 by Terry Guy at a bar in London, each event features two white walls side by side, 90 minutes on the clock, booze, a live DJ and two artists with the mighty black marker for battle. The winner is chosen based on a 3 point system, with input coming from judges and the all-important crowd vote, scientifically measured by a decibel reader. In epic fashion, the yearly event spans 5 months with four qualifying rounds, two semifinals and finishing with the grand finale in December, where the series winner is announced. From its humble underground beginnings, Secret Walls has grown internationally via social media and word of mouth marketing with similar events taking place throughout Europe and NYC. Showcasing an impressive mix of emerging and established artists from all walks of street art life, the battles have a decidedly unique and raw feel. In Hong Kong, it’s nice to see the passion back in original local art, especially as it is lacking a price tag. Hong Kong’s sold out event paired local artists Alex Wong and Jay Cawdell against each other in what proved to be a spirited competition of live performance art. Cawdell, who participated in Hong Kong’s inaugural Secret Walls last year, drew inspiration from the present battle, creating a scene starring himself and his opponent in a final throw down. With his trademark style of heavy dark lines and solid, clean shapes, Cawdell proves a formidable opponent to the most established of street artists. Meanwhile, Wong seemed to defy time, creating a highly detailed mural in the allotted hour and a half time frame. His work took a more imaginative theme with ice cream cones and a supporting cast of characters in an old school style, while impressively filling the entire white space with even the smallest content. Sponsor Absolut Vodka and MC R VEE kept the crowd pumped throughout the night, with the latter officially announcing Wong as the winner of Series 2, Round 1. He will now move on to the first semifinal in November, battling a yet to be determined artist of equal skill. Post battle, the walls are (sadly) painted over so you’ll have to attend the event in person to experience the thrill of art being created right before your eyes. Pick up tickets to Round 2, set for 8 September, here. —Peter Augustus (All images: Courtesy of Dee Wai and Josh Law for Secret Walls) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
by Eva Recinos

Poesia at Shooting Gallery
San Francisco - Beyond his individual work, artist Poesia has made a huge impact on the world of graffiti. As the founder of the site, the artist launched a movement that resulted in group shows everywhere from Los Angeles to Paris. In San Francisco, he recently curated the show A Major Minority, which showcased the work of more than 100 artists from more than 18 countries. In both his curatorial work and his style, the artist continues to inspire budding talents in the graffiti and street art spheres. Poesia, Death of Marat, Mixed media collage, 7.5x9.5in.; Courtesy of the artist & Shooting Gallery But at White Walls Gallery, the attention comes back to the unique work he creates himself. For “Reflexive,” the artist presents new work that include large-scale pieces, clearly showing the many styles that influence him. Not only does he find inspiration in street art and graffiit but also in classic painting, with many of his works feeling abstract and even Cubist in nature, while his Old Masters series makes direct references to Classical pieces. One piece cleverly bases its composition on “Death of Marat” by slicing the classical piece with geometric shapes. The harsh lines seem to place this classic painting into another time altogether. As with many of Poesia’s pieces, one must look for meaning in these strange shapes — or simply enjoy the composition that arises from them. The show is on until September 6th. Poesia, Eve, Mixed media collage, 8.5x11in.; Courtesy of the artist & Shooting Gallery Poesia, The Age of Bronze, Mixed media on reclaimed postcard, 4x6in.; Courtesy of the artist & Shooting Gallery Poesia, Mary on the Rocks, Mixed media collage on photograph, 18x12in.; Courtesy of the artist & Shooting Gallery Poesia, Untitled Study, Mixed media on paper, 8x8in.; Courtesy of the artist & Shooting Gallery Poesia, Vulcan Presenting Venus with Arms, Mixed media on canvas, 96x54in.; Courtesy of the artist & Shooting Gallery —Eva Recinos (Image on top: Poesia, Poesia Letter Study II, Mixed media on paper, 14x10in.; Courtesy of the artist & Shooting Gallery) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
by Abraham Ritchie

Throwback - This interview was originally published way back on ArtSlant Chicago, in May, 2008, on the occasion of Mario Ybarra Jr.'s exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. The LA-based artist is known for his installations drawing from pop and street culture, including a recent solo show examining the mythos of Scarface at LA's Honor Fraser Gallery. Right now his work can be found on a billboard in Mobile, AL, part of Los Angeles Nomadic Division's Manifest Destiny Project. Mario Ybarra, Jr. is a LA-based visual and performance artist who has created room-sized installations all over the world and most recently right here in Chicago for the Art Institute of Chicago. This year Ybarra was also selected to participate in the Whitney Biennial. Beneath Ybarra's friendly demeanor lies a keen observer who is quick to expose visual rhymes in seemingly unrelated sources and to expand and build upon those connections until a cohesion is reached, or as he might say, a story. Ybarra graciously met with ArtSlant's Abraham Ritchie while putting the finishing touches on his installation at the Art Institute. Ever the raconteur, Ybarra talked about his native LA, baseball and King Arthur. Below is an excerpt of our conversation. Abraham Richie: I think a lot of Chicagoans, and everyone, might want to know what the connection is between Southern Los Angeles, Catalina Island and Wrigley Field? It’s kind of funny to think that Wrigley Field had a “secret brother” or something like that on the West Coast, because I am not sure that many people remember or know about this other Wrigley Field. Mario Ybarra, Jr.: Well that’s where this whole project started for me. About a year ago Lisa Dorin, the Assistant Curator in the Contemporary Art Department, asked me if I wanted to come up with a proposal to do a Focus project here at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I said I would think about it a little bit. The way that I try to work is that I try to make some kind of relationship between a personal experience, or my personal understanding or knowledge and the place that I show. I don’t like the idea of coming in and claiming an expertise on a place that I know nothing about. I’ve found that doing something that starts in the realm of the personal and then taking it out to another place and trying to make relationships between those two places is the most successful tactic for me. . . I try to make bridges, so to speak. As a kid we would take trips out to Catalina Island, which is part of the Channel Islands, about 26 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. I remember part of the tour was the local history. They’d always tell us that William Wrigley, Jr. owned Catalina Island and he had famous movie stars of the time going out there, like Clark Gable. His Chicago Cubs would go out and have their spring training there. The main town there is called Avalon and it gets its name from [Wrigley’s] niece, who told [Wrigley] to name it that after the Avalon of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and those stories. So it has this mythological side of it too. It has real histories, the local histories, of it being owned by Wrigley, and it has this mythological history through the King Arthur association. My studio back in LA is on Avalon Boulevard and they named [the street] that because that’s where the boats used to take people out to Avalon Harbor on the island. I started doing research about that, I’m like a de facto historian, and I found that Wrigley, along with owning the island, owned this other Wrigley Field that was in South Central Los Angeles on Avalon and 66th street. So we had the Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island, my studio on Avalon, this field that Wrigley owned was also on Avalon, I just kept following the line. I thought I could take this story from Avalon, to Avalon Boulevard, to my studio, to Avalon were the stadium was, to all the way down Highway 66 to Chicago and the Art Institute. I’m figuring out ways to make these relationships between historical figures like William Wrigley, who was important to historical cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, and bring these stories together somehow, make bridges between the stories. Between what I know and my experiences and the places that I go. AR: Sports are the site of an obvious physical conflict and throughout the exhibit are interesting juxtapositions: the Mexican flag and the U.S. flag, the sword and the baseball bat, the fist of the Revolution and an image of a capitalist’s private island. The history of the island reflects conflict as well, in the seventies it was occupied by the Brown Berets. How are sports, especially baseball, viewed both literally and metaphorically for this project, and the issues it raises? MY: Well I have always thought of the history of baseball as particularly related to the United States. It’s billed as “the American Game;” it’s not really played around the world at all other than some Latin American countries, like the Dominican Republic where all these new players are coming from and where young people are specifically groomed to be ball players. But in relation to the United States, and this comes from the different things that I have watched or read, the developments of social movements in the United States almost always came ten years later than in the ball game itself. Baseball has been very slow to change, and it hasn’t changed really over the few centuries its been played here. But it still has these kind of leading edges. Let’s take for example the story of integration and civil rights. Jackie Robinson starts playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950's and certain places, like schools, weren’t integrated until the early sixties or late sixties. Baseball reflects a little bit in advance the kind of social movements that will happen in the United States. Another thing that I think is very interesting in terms of conflict and it being a spectator sport, even though there are rival teams and most big cities have their own team, [there is a sense of unity]. Before professional baseball, each little town would have a team, even though there was a sense of rivalry or competition, the people were brought together as spectators to cheer on their team. So even though there was a site of conflict, it wasn’t like it was Rome and gladiators were getting fed to lions [laughter]. There is a sense of sportsmanship [. . .] Related to issues of capitalism and revolution, or acts of civil disobedience, there is a sense of teams. I play off that with the posters, we have here a baseball with two bats crossed, but instead of a regular team you have the Brown Beret guys who tried to occupy the island in 1972 so they’re like “the team.” The idea of “the team” is important too and the metaphor of a team. The idea that everyone has their positions but also act as a unit is very important and is a metaphor for myself. AR: The idea of teams is also apparent in this wall of flags you have installed. What are the flags we have here? MY: This is the state of Illinois’ flag. The flags are also stadium-esque, they always have them. The other thing, again about making relationships, is this is the state of Illinois’ flag, which has an eagle perched on a rock holding a shield and in his mouth is a banner. I thought that is very interesting, because over here is the Mexican flag, and again we have the eagle, this time perched on the cactus, and the snake in his mouth pretty much mimics the banner in the Illinois flag. Those kinds of aesthetic relationships and symbolic choices are very interesting. AR: Even looking at the Illinois flag, that’s more of an Aztec style eagle than a typical American-style eagle. MY: Yeah. Those are the kinds of things I noticed in my visits to Chicago to prepare for this show, last year and earlier this year. I started seeing these kinds of relationships, like the Illinois flag’s similarity to the flag of Mexico. This row of flags will start off with the U.S. flag, the state of Illinois flag, Chicago flag, Los Angeles flag, state of California flag, and the Mexican flag. We have these different relationships between these two places starting with the cities and then going to the states. We have the state of Mexico flag, even though California is not part of Mexico, it used to be part of Mexico, but it’s related to the histories that we have here. Catalina Island was occupied by the Brown Berets because in the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which separated the Southwest from Mexico after the Mexican-American War, the island wasn’t specifically mentioned. This is why the Brown Berets tried to occupy it. There are interrelationships between the two places [Chicago and LA]. I thought that was another kind of metaphor for the show, in terms of Wrigley being this character and starting with him, saying no man is an island, or no city, or no country or land is an island. They’re all in relationship, in context, to their neighbors. Imagine if we thought that we could do everything, under our own power, we’d get ourselves in trouble. We can talk about it in relationship to land, in relationship to people. Or no island is a man, we could even switch it. I wanted to draw these kinds of relationships together, one between Los Angeles and Chicago, two between Mexico and the States, three between baseball and mythology. Different symbolic orders, things like ships or bubble gum. ArtSlant would like to thank Mario Ybarra, Jr., Jenny Gheith and Lisa Dorin for their assistance in making this interview possible. Additional thanks to the Anna Helwing Gallery and the Art Institute of Chicago - Abraham Ritchie (Top image: Mario Ybarra Jr, Manifest Destiny Project billboard, 2014; Courtesy of LAND. All other images are installation views of Take Me Out. . . No Man Is an Island, 2008; Courtesy of the Artist) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
by Andrea Alessi

MU | Witte Dame
Eindhoven - I crouched down, picked up a marker, and tried to remember the illegible scribble that used to be my “tag”: a gesture of sharp points and steady curves punctuated by a strategic line slashed through the whole inscription. In high school I would trace it onto book covers and notepads and think I was cool. It came to me eventually, the first delivery unsteady as I carefully considered which shapes fit where; in a second, more successful attempt, I let my arm do the work, confidently forging my mark in muscle memory. Yours truly, tagging the graffiti wall, F.A.T. GOLD Europe; Photo: Ben Harvey. I was in Eindhoven attending the Free Art and Technology (F.A.T.) Lab’s exhibition F.A.T. GOLD Europe at MU, which ended in January. The show, which also took place in April last year at Eyebeam in New York, was a sort of five-year anniversary round up of the Internet collective’s practice. (F.A.T. Lab has now entered its seventh year, but the originally scheduled retrospective was put on hiatus in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.) But back to the incident at hand. Why, at an exhibition dedicated to a network ostensibly operating online, was I contributing my meager tag to a sanctioned graffiti wall? F.A.T. GOLD Europe, installation view, MU | De Witte Dame, Eindhoven; Photo: Andrea Alessi. The connection isn’t so far fetched. Some of F.A.T. Lab’s twenty-five members—an international network of artists, engineers, scientists, lawyers, and musicians—are themselves graffiti artists. Their core values, which include “spreading open source and free ideals into popular culture” through DIY entrepreneurship, open source, and activism, have more than a few intersections with street art. On the one hand, art on the Internet can be viewed through a street lens: it can bypass normal distribution channels, appealing directly to viewers. Turning the comparison on its head, street art can be seen as a form of “hack”—an unendorsed appropriation of space, medium, or idea. Evan Roth, Ideas Worth Spreading (TED Talks), at MU | De Witte Dame, Eindhoven; Photo: Andrea Alessi In his recent book, Viral Art, Vandalog blogger RJ Rushmore looks at how the future of street art, with its focus on “unmediated distribution,” might find a natural home in the digital domain. He uses the term “Viral Art” to describe both shareable and invasive online practices that have an affinity, if not a direct evolutionary line, to street art (n.b. “Viral” here implies a level of approachability that excludes some older forms of Internet Art. The pioneering duo JODI, for example, have a great exhibition at Showroom MAMA in Rotterdam right now that isn’t particularly accessible or viral). F.A.T. Lab’s projects don’t always fall within the categories Rushmore outlines either—viewers may seek out content rather than encounter it serendipitously—yet they do open onto notions of self-dissemination, egalitarianism, activism, and anonymity. In fact, there are examples at MU of some of the very works discussed in Rushmore’s text—namely, Ideas Worth Spreading, a mock-up TED Talk stage where visitors can record images of their own “talk” to share online, and 40,000 GML Tags, a massive screen showcasing graffiti gestures in GML, or Graffiti Markup Language, “a file format designed to be a universal structure for storing digitized graffiti motion data.” Geraldine Juarez, Kopyfamo', watermark on mirror, at MU | De Witte Dame, Eindhoven; Photo: Andrea Alessi Some F.A.T. Lab projects exist in the real world, others are strictly manifest online, and many straddle the two—that is, projects shaped in the real world and shared online. The MU exhibition, curated by Lindsay Howard, highlighted them all, offering documentation, online viewing stations, and even physical objects and artworks. Where F.A.T. GOLD differed from the typical exhibition was that most works were not autonomous objects, but rather reproducible examples of a wider practice. Motivated viewers could (and can) recreate many of these works on the web or at home*, and the materials for some projects, like an Obama PRISM mask, were even available at the exhibition. F.A.T. GOLD Europe, installation view with Free Universal Construction Kit, MU | De Witte Dame, Eindhoven; Photo: Andrea Alessi Good fun is always on the menu: in F.A.T. GOLD there was a sub-genre of works touting the douchiness of Google Glass and its adopters, and a presentation of Greg Leuch’s viral Add-on Shaved Bieber, which censors all mentions of Justin Bieber online (earning Leuch more than a little hate mail from teenage fans). But some of the best and most shareable projects are greater than their capacity for the lulz. The Free Universal Construction Kit is a set of adapters that makes ten brands of children’s construction sets, like Lego and K’Nex, interoperable. It’s eminently cool/novel/clever, but it also visualizes the ways in which childhood playthings ostensibly meant to spark creativity are limited by proprietary measures. The F.U.C.K. undermines these protective implements, removing barriers to cross-trademark creativity. The exhibition featured a complete set of adapters, a construction/play station, and a 3D printer that staff members kindly set to printing new pieces whenever visitors turned up. (3D models of the adapters in .STL format are available online for free download.) Tobias Leingruber, Facebook Identity Card, video presentation of ARTE Creative, Social ID Bureau, 2012, portrait of Mark Zuckerberg, at MU | De Witte Dame, Eindhoven; Photo: Andrea Alessi F.A.T. Lab’s perspective seems carefully poised between an irreverent techno-optimism (“look at these cool things we can do!”) and deep skepticism at the ways in which technologies can be regulated, marketed, and used for power and control. Given these positions, in which use of certain technologies seems self-evident, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has access to the distributional paradigm shift that is the digital domain. Rushmore’s account also overstates viral art’s present accessibility: an encounter with this type of work is more likely to be spread within specific enclaves of Internet activity, with limiting factors being not geography, but usage. The case for “unmediated” distribution is further undermined by the cryptic algorithms used by Facebook and Google for post placement and search results—the very systems F.A.T. Lab exploits when images of their fake TED Talks turn up in search results. In a destabilizing twist, F.A.T. Lab often coopts the very technologies and systems it protests (or defends). Tobias Leingruber, Skatekeyboard, keyboard attached to skateboard deck, at MU | De Witte Dame, Eindhoven; Photo: Andrea Alessi In a way, that’s why it was such a treat to see some of F.A.T. Lab’s works in physical form, Away From Keyboard as it were. F.A.T. GOLD did a great job of making works and ideas accessible to people who might not be tech-savvy or know what terms like “net neutrality” and “Open Web” mean. Or those who aren’t necessarily ready to accept or understand this sort of practice as “art.” The exhibition was forward looking, but also rooted in the past and present—a thought-provoking bridge between time, technologies, and disciplines. Be it in a subway tunnel or on a homepage, a mark on the wall is a sign of presence; it can be a declaration of ego, of resistance. Or like my clumsy signature, it can be an affirmation, a “Like” or an “upvote”: I was here, with so many others, and I want to be counted. Becky Stern, Knitted Compubody Interface (knit one yourself!), at MU | De Witte Dame, Eindhoven; © Photo: Andrea Alessi *The MU exhibition ended on January 26th, but interested readers can see the projects online or in the new F.A.T. Manual (available for purchase or free download), released on the occasion of the exhibition and the collective’s five-year anniversary. —Andrea Alessi F.A.T. GOLD Europe, installation view, MU | De Witte Dame, Eindhoven; Photo: Andrea Alessi Image on top: F.A.T. GOLD Europe, installation view, MU | De Witte Dame, Eindhoven; Photo: Andrea Alessi.] Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f