Bigindicator

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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.) Horfee. 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 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. 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 —Charlotte Jansen (Top image: entrance to the exhibition. All images: At the Palais de Tokyo; photos courtesy Natalie Hegert) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
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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
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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
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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
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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 Graffuturism.com, 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
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by Laura Havlin

Manchester - Buy a print from a rising artist and still have change for a pint: at Common Bar, the venue and bar central to Manchester’s creative scene. Situated at the beating heart of Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter—an area where a Banksy has been lovingly preserved with a Perspex box (only for that to be covered in stickers and fresh street art), Space Invader aliens loom over you from the red brick of buildings, and Manchester heroes (including the city’s own appointed Creative Director, the famed graphic designer Peter Saville) are immortalised in mosaic on the side of the iconic Afflecks Palace—Common Bar aims to counter the tendency to reminisce about glories gone by, by dedicating the walls of its bright and vibrant bar to the artwork of an impressive roll-call of local, national and international artists. Iwan Roberts and Duncan Sime, the creative forces behind the art and events at Common Bar tell ArtSlant STREET about their unique proposition: “When Common opened its doors back in December 2004, starting out with quite plain walls, someone questioned if their bar was actually finished,” says Sime, adding, “But I think that was its intention, to showcase some of the best art around using its blank walls as a huge canvas.” The very first exhibition was a collaboration between Guy Mckinley, Matt Sewell and Lynsey Casson. Common now has three exhibition spaces and has gone on to showcase work from Dot The Eyes, Superdead, Jim Medway, Rob Bailey, Ruse, Matt Sewell, Paul Hemmingfield, Guy Mckinley, Chris Gray, Zoe Byrne, Roy McCarthy, Dr Me, Savwo, John Butcher, Nick Robertson, Rabbit Portal, Jon Burgerman, Ghost Patrol, Pin, David Bailey, Lows Bors, Mr Gauky, DXTR, Mr Penfold, Adam Mead, Kristian Jones, Steve Hockett, Teacake, Text Book, Caroline Dowsett, Alex T Frazer and many more. “In the past most of it has been about artists from in and around Manchester; it then slowly extended its way around the North West,” explains Sime. “We have now hosted artist work from Berlin, New York and London, to name but a few. We are always looking at extending our artistic circle, that's what it's about isn't it?” “My personal favourite pieces of work are [by] 'Billy/Alex' a great artist from Berlin—she is such a pleasure to work with; her work is super bright and cheerful—and of course Rob Bailey's current exhibition, although I am quite glad we have completed his trilogy of work, if we have to work together again we may kill each other—worth it though, looking at the work,” he adds. Rather than just static decoration, the work featured at Common Bar is changed regularly, and since it is more often than not painted directly onto the walls as murals as opposed to confined to a series of frames, has the effect of completely altering the overall feel and ambiance of the venue each time. “It can go from 1000s of A4 pieces of pasted riso up on our wall to a big tree right in the middle of the bar,” says Roberts. "It’s a beautiful thing.” “Because anyone can hang pictures on a wall, most venues don't really think much about the process of putting art on the walls; we like to push boundaries and each other,” says Sime. “Common is an integral part of the Northern Quarter and as part of that we represent the creative and artistic side of this through our exhibitions. We hope that the work we put in attracts the right people and this is what a lot of the business is based upon: nice people in a nice bar.” “I think we see a lot of needless work up on walls in various venues in Manchester,” offers Roberts. “And a lot of these are put up without any thought on space and how the space can benefit the work. We are fortunate to have a great pool of artists, designers, musicians, etc. in Manchester and beyond. We never struggle to find talent, although we struggle to find the energy and time to shine a light on all of them." Where the exhibition does comprise prints and framed one-offs, customers are able to support the artists by buying some of the work at an affordable price point. “I’d like to think that people can buy a piece and still have change left over for a pint,” says Roberts. “The medium most of the artists use (risograph, screen printing) lends itself to making the work affordable. We’ve displayed paintings prior and they’ve done well, especially Chris Drury’s show—he did really well. You often see many painted canvases in a few establishments with mind blowing price tags and most of the work is often pants and out of place. It's cool that people can come to Common see a £20 limited-edition screen print and buy it. I have about eight John Powell Jones originals, six Steve Hocketts, countless Dave Baileys all up in the house because everything is so accessible. It’s cool that we can make all these amazing artists' work so easy to take home with you.” Common, 9 Edge St, Manchester, Greater Manchester M4 1HW http://www.aplacecalledcommon.co.uk —Laura Havlin Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
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by Howie Stier

Q&A - In a week when the world roiled—when rockets rained on Israel and Israeli troops let loose into the Palestinian territory of Gaza, and when, as if the world stage were in fact a formulaic three-act Hollywood action blockbuster, a civilian jetliner blasted into oblivion over Ukraine leaving an incredulous global audience gasping for the credits to roll—Abby Martin, a Russia Today (RT) TV host, immersed in this hell-broke-loose cluster-fuck of a news week, ended it by stepping away into the art world. Namely, into the haven of a Washington D.C gallery where her intimate, jewel-box like graphic paintings are getting the exposure they merit. The five works on paper—now part of the summer group show at Randall Scott Projects in Northeast D.C—describe an inner experience, a voyage recounted in precise lapidary lines and a Jungian field-day of symbols, each a horror vacui composition that echoes the intensity Martin delivers on her news show (Breaking the Set). Having never spoken at length about her art work, Martin eagerly shared insights into her motivation and process with Artslant STREET, talking on the phone from Washington D.C . “It started off as catharsis—a visual diary that I can’t display through language,” said Martin, explaining how she began painting a decade back. “People just see this firey person who is pissed off all the time, but I’m inspired by nature, abstract imagery, different cultures. My painting goes along with my way of looking at the world—that’s what I’m trying to encapsulate in these pieces.” Abby Martin, Festival of Earth, 2014, 6.5x7”, Collage, paint pen, on panel; Courtesy of the artist A dizzying variety of figurative images appear in Festival of Earth (2014), one of the smallest pieces in the show; from an ornamented elephant to a tiny-hatted creature that may have playfully popped out of the trippy Mr. Do! arcade game circa 1980, it keeps the eye roaming in a vortex around the composition. “I love Alex Gray, and Andy Goldsworthy I’m infatuated with, and I follow a lot of Juxtapoz, low-brow art,” confides Martin, speaking of her varied artistic influences, and the whole pronounced aesthetic presence evokes the psych art of another generation. One can see elements, for example, of a psych rock album I pull out of my record bin—1968’s St. John Green—with its swirling cosmic dragon cover art, as well as the shaman drawings of Graham Hancock, the ayahuasca-eating journalist with a penchant for tripping balls. Martin uses paint pens, “pound[ing them] into paper until they burst,” and while crafting these paintings she generates a rhythm that for her is therapeutic. “I start looking for images, thumb through magazines, National Geographics, cut out images and put them in different themes and colored schemes. Then [while painting] OCD goes into full effect. I obsess over the perfection, every dot has to be perfect, dozens of hours, twenty layers…” Abby Martin, Ganesha-Nagarani, 2014, 8x7”, Collage, paint pen on panel; Courtesy of the artist Though her recent painting is highly ornamental, another strain of Martin’s graphic output is overtly political. In work distinct from the pieces showing at Randall Scott displayed on her online portfolio, Martin avers the convictions of the Occupy movement, from which she first emerged as a blogger. “Before I did Breaking the Set I did more political work, but now since the show is so time consuming, it’s a team effort, but I’m constantly writing, editing, researching, booking guests—my choice is not to have politics as the focus of my work.” But, Martin says, a return to this style is likely in the future. Cultural manifestations of the Occupy movement continue to be seen as street art across the globe, with work directly addressing issues of wealth inequality, United States militarism and corporate hegemony; those concerns too inform Martin’s paintings such as Killing Hope. Not in a dull, ironic, agit-prop style so played out (as in the recent Shep Fairey/Ernesto Yerena immigration piece, for example) but in a quaintly wistful return to the art of another generation. Her painting I Pledge to Empire, an American flag emblazoned with skulls and swastikas, evokes protest banners I saw at the Rock Against Racism/Reagan Central Park hardcore show in 1984. But that’s the year Martin was born. Abby Martin, BP'S HOLOCAUST OF SEA CREATURES; Courtesy of the artist An acrylic painting, Killing Hope, denounces President Barack Obama for branding his election campaign and buying propaganda—ie. collaborating with Shepard Fairey, perpetrator of the “Hope” image, which was to play a role in garnering the youth vote. “I’ve spoken about this [on TV] and I think it’s completely bizarre: he created this propaganda symbol, but he’s said he’s disappointed and I give him props for that.” Abby Martin, SKULL-EXPLODING; Courtesy of the artist An intense, desperate work, Breathe and Try Not Die, can easily be read as what Occupy activist and author Chris Hedges theorizes is the corporate agenda to manifest a sense of hopelessness, and acquiesecence. It is anything but, explains Martin. “It points to times when there’s an overwhelming sense that life doesn’t make sense,” spurred, she says, by a dark period in her life. “It’s an encouragement to work through it. You have to breathe, and take it slow.” Martin not only maintains a street art sensibility in the economy of materials she uses but in the attitude she holds towards fine art. Her talk turns to galleries and art academies, then she takes the art world down in a breathless ground and pound: “Art, for me, real art, is such a labor of love and your soul is poured in, so when I see work that is completely bland, that says nothing, and hear those who pontificate about how profound their art is? I think that whole gallery scene is bullshit and a lot of the art is a lot of shit. It seems very elitist to me and very exclusionary and that’s why I believe a lot of people react negatively; they get convinced they shouldn’t pick up a pencil or a paintbrush. But if art can bring people joy and inspiration and also have them think, if it speaks to them—like my Nazi flag [I Pledge to Empire] I’m making it that obvious, very extreme very over the top—if it can create a dialogue than I’ve succeeded.” Abby Martin, CRISIS OF CIVILIZATION; Courtesy of the artist While living in a communal art house in San Diego, Martin collaborated on a wall painting adorning a raw food restaurant. “I have the greatest respect for people that do mural work,” she said, recounting how she worked aside Canadian graffiti writer BIRD on one giant mural installation, “and it was the most amazing thing I’ve done, and I would love to do that more.” And as there’s nothing worse than half-finished novels and artists with unresolved visions hampered by time and expense, let me put out the call: we can bypass the mundane Kickstarter thing; someone rack the paint and get this artist a wall. Her sketchbook sized paintings grown into a larger-than-life scale—that’s a world I would want to walk into. —Howie Stier (Image on top: Abby Martin, RIOT-COPS; Courtesy of the artist) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
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by Natalie Hegert

NuArt Festival
Norway - I’ve been doing a bit of studying up lately. So far I’ve learned that the rules concerning the sale of alcohol in Norway rival those I’ve encountered in Utah: not available on Sundays, or after 6pm most days; for some reason there’s a couple of days in May that are totally off-limits; oh and supermarkets only sell beer that’s 2.5% alcohol (worse than Utah’s 3.2!), for the stronger stuff you’ve got to go to someplace called Vinmonopolet (I’d venture a guess that literally means “wine monopoly”), which is a state-run non-profit organization. And of course if you buy a beer at a bar, it will likely set you back around $13. Can’t be easy to be an alcoholic in Norway! Seems like I’ll be nursing that beer all night.[1] I’ve undertaken this research because I’m headed to Norway, to Stavanger, for this year’s Nuart Festival, featuring artists like Tilt, Martin Whatson, Icy & Sot, Borondo, dotdotdot, Mathieu Tremblin, Maismenos, M-City, Levalet, Spy, Etam Cru, Andreco, fra.biancoshock, and others who will be painting the town red… and blue, and black, and yellow… I’m happy to announce that I will be representing ArtSlant for Nuart Plus (September 4-6), where I will be joining the likes of RJ Rushmore of Vandalog, Carlo McCormick, Evan Pricco of Juxtapoz, Brooklyn Street Art’s Steve Harrington and Jaime Rojo, to discuss the state of the art, the rise of muralism and street art’s activist roots. You can find the schedule of talks here. And take a look at the epic teaser video Nuart just released a few days ago: NUART FESTIVAL 2014. PROMO from NUART on Vimeo. You can also read our report from last year, by Jonathan Roze. Now, back to my research, where I am—likely unnecessarily—trying to master a few Norwegian phrases... See you in Stavanger! [1] But not likely during this, which I’m heartily looking forward to: Fight Club. —Natalie Hegert (All images: Courtesy of NuArt Festival) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
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by Natalie Hegert

Los Angeles - Los Angeles, California is synonymous with car culture. From lowriders to hot rods, Woodies and Super Deluxes, customized historic cars are a commonplace sighting on the streets of LA. At the height of the movement in the 1970s, the historic locus of the lowrider cruise was Whittier Boulevard, and throughout the city of Whittier one can see signs of this cultural heritage. Newly local to the area, I checked out the 14th Annual Uptown Whittier Car Show on August 16. Greenleaf Ave bustled with locals, car aficionados and their families, regarding the rows of automobiles-turned-art-objects lining the street, while a panel of judges appraised the contestants of the Calendar Girl Competition, a row of barbers gave haircuts en plein air to customers seated in vintage barber’s chairs, and a constant stream of people circled through the Lowdown in Uptown boutique to check out their lowrider-inspired art show. The car show is open to any classic car (all makes and models 1979 and earlier), and the variety was astounding. Shiny or matte, polished or rusted, built up or stripped down, ornamented or strikingly unadorned, each car clearly reflected the personality of its owner. Details and accessories abounded, historically accurate or whimsically eccentric, all meant to enhance the aesthetic vision of the car; in some cases the absence of details served the same purpose, for instance in the removal of door handles so as not to interrupt the smooth line of the car’s body (known as a “shaved” look). There were cars so low to the ground they resembled panthers in repose, resting on their haunches, ever ready to pounce. Cars like mid-century visions of the future, all bubbly curves and cartoonish grills. Quirky VW Beetles, replete with vintage surfboards on the roof rack. Cars with teeth. Pinstripe masterpieces. Fins for days. It’s quite clear that the pursuit of the perfect car is an art form unto itself. —Natalie Hegert (All images: Courtesy of the author) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f
20140820071425-tilt
by Lori Zimmer

Pera Museum
Istanbul - Graffiti and Street Art in a museum setting have a new audience, at the Pera Museum in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul. Curated by the museum’s Roxane Ayral, “Language of the Wall” is the first exhibition of its kind in Turkey to bring graffiti indoors in an academic setting, taking over three floors of the private museum. For its introduction, Ayral has chosen an impressive roster of international artists as well as familiar locals to educate the Istanbul art connoisseur, including Futura, Carlos Mare, Cope2, Turbo, Wyne, JonOne, Tilt, Mist, Psyckoze, Craig Costello (aka KR), Herakut, Logan Hicks, C215, Suiko, Evol, Gaia, Tabone, Funk and No More Lies, plus photographs from the archives of Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant and Hugh Holland. Along with the museum exhibition, Ayral has extended her street art lesson into the city proper, bringing murals by most of the artists to legal walls in neighborhoods scattered across Istanbul. Being a relatively new movement in terms of art history and recognized by the art market in terms of monetary value only recently, street art has progressed in a sense; yet this attention and acceptance has come at the dismay of some graffiti purists, who find work done in the studio or on canvas to lack the authenticity or spirit that street pieces have. With this in mind, Ayral chose to set “Language of the Wall” apart from other museum shows. Instead of presenting each artist’s studio work, she has turned over the museum itself, having each artist create a site-specific work directly on the walls. The effect is less stoic than a traditional show of rows of canvases inside a white cube; it brings the viewer face to face with each artist, each mural dwarfing the visitor into an immersive experience with each piece. Being that Istanbul and the Pera Museum are late to the game, perhaps Ayral learned from the mistakes of exhibitions already past. But either way, her choice to use the pristine private museum walls itself as a giant canvas sets “Language of the Wall” apart from being “just another street art exhibition.” Mist; Courtesy of the artist and Pera Museum At this scale, and without the confines of the distance between the viewer and the canvas, visitors can examine the detail and work that goes beyond just tagging. For example, stencil artist Logan Hicks’ pieces for the show enable a better understanding of his intricate and painstaking process by allowing visitors to go nose to nose with his multi-stencil layer murals – which are unusually crisp on the museum’s carefully gessoed wall, rather than a textured wall of the streets. The same goes for C215, whose multi-layered portaits of his daughter Nina are accompanied by a film about the artist’s journey from painting illegally to using his art for social justice. French artist Tilt brought his own bus to the Pera, installing the bisected vehicle directly on the wall before creating his masterpiece. It is hard to believe that Mist’s enormous abstract wall, which shows a trompe l’oeil of highly magnified spray lines, was painted with spray cans. In this multi-colored mural, the artist has shown his expert can control, with precise, purposeful lines and edges. British duo Herakut’s piece is an immersive environment, adding cardboard, photography, neon and drawing to their iconic figurative renders to create a powerful installation that pays tribute to the origins of street art (including a distorted photograph of the artists with New York icon Futura, which appears as an upsidedown metal pot on the head of the main figure). This piece is a stand out in an already impressive show, showing Herakut’s abilities to add more layers to their powerful work in a gallery setting. Futura’s piece itself seeps into Herakut’s installation, before it blooms into the artist’s signature abstraction in bold red, black and white. Another artist evolving beyond painting is Carlos Mare, aka Mare139. Mare has taken inspiration from his early days of painting New York City subway cars in the 1980s to the third dimension, translating the loose stylistic loops of tagging into abstract swirls of curved metal. The hanging sculptures have the curvaceous characteristics of a graffiti tag, giving them the appearance of being lightweight, even though they are made from layers of different textured metals. The resulting sculptures can be read as both abstract and having graffiti origins, changeable by the context in which they are presented. Logan Hicks, Courtesy of the artist and Pera Museum To accompany these freshly painted site-specific pieces (and to give breadth to the education process) are documentary photographs by Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant and Hugh Holland, who captured the iconic beginnings of graffiti culture in the 1980s. “Language of the Walls” may gain attention as being Istanbul’s first exhibition on graffiti and street art, but it holds its own, too, as an extensive and experiential exhibition of the medium. —Lori Zimmer (Image on top: Tilt; Courtesy of the artist and Pera Museum) Read-more-graphic-0c90fea6dc5d183f7daca739bdcd0f1f