Category Archives: Street Art

KNOWLEDGE: STREET ART EXPLAINS RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FINANCE AND LOVE

Art can do many things. It can provoke, teach, offend, inform, comfort, inspire, scare, stimulate and bond us.

Street art, can possibly do even more things. Its public nature — in “the streets” —  gives it more reach and exposure to a much larger, broader audience than most of the art confined to the indoors of a museum or gallery. That said, most of the audience exposed to street art do not care for street art.

That public may not “get it” nor like it nor think of it as “art,” but as they drive by or walk by street art, they cannot unsee it (at least not without some kind of head-trauma induced amnesia or decades of expensive professional psychological counseling).

In this way, street art is like a billboard, or what people in the ad agency business called “OOH” for “out of home” advertising.

So any explicit message contained in the street artwork has as much power or influence as a billboard, which itself may be inconsequential or great depending on the content, images and message. In any case, while that influence can be hard to precisely measure, nobody is in doubt, however, about its visibility and potential.

Occasionally street art, or art in general, imparts some gem of wisdom and understanding in the viewer. Often, depending on the media, it’s nuanced, subject to interpretation and open to speculation. But sometimes it’s clearly stated, expressed using the power and clarity of the written word, relying more on text than image.

No money, No honey” (our comma) is the message in the stencil street art pictured here on a stretch of pavement in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. The stenciled art provides a pithy, hyper-concise breakdown of the relationship between purchase power and sex (preferably of the hot kind).

The statement is a generally understood observation, and an unethical and shameful popular notion, that has existed since the beginning of time. To put it another way, it’s saying there’s a relationship between money and love, or the facsimile of love.

Is there a real-world example that might illustrate this relationship? Why, yes, there is, savvy reader! Yes, there is!

Take the case of Melania and Donald Trump. Melania here is the “honey” in the equation. The Donald has the “money.” If Donald does not have the money, it’s quite likely he wouldn’t have the “honey” (that’s Melania — c’mon folks follow along!). Because, really … Melania would give up the honey for this without the money?

Under any circumstances, the image of Melania giving up the honey for Donald Money is something we can’t unsee. It’s like street art. Or a billboard. Or street art ON a billboard. A really frightening billboard. 

Revealed: Pablo Picasso was “Bad Hombre”

There’s that famous song by every hipster-music-nerd’s favorite band the Modern Lovers with the remarkable observation that Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest artists of all time, was “never called an asshole.” 

We highly doubt this. But put that aside for a moment and assume that, in fact, the artsy Spaniard was never called an asshole.

But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t — as Trump might say — “a bad hombre.”

The street artist collective that works under the moniker Decisions & Review has put up this fresh artwork depicting Picasso wearing a cowboy hat and brandishing a pistol. He looks like a badass, albeit an artsy badass.

It’s food for thought, which is maybe why the word “think” is painted above Pablo’s head.

So what does it all mean? It means Pablo was a bad hombre. And, let’s face it, he probably an was asshole, too, even if you accept that he was never called that. (But we assure you, he was called that. Maybe not to his face everyday, but often.)

What do you think? What’s your interpretation of this artwork? Tell in the comments section below! We really want to know! 

How High-Low Can You Go? New Banksy Mural in London Rips Basquiat for Basquiat’s Sake

There’s a new Banksy in London!   Okay, okay, okay — calm down! We know how exciting this must be for you. Us, too! But let’s take a moment and catch our breath, ’cause this is no ordinary new piece of street art from the world’s most mysterious artist.

The latest Banksy is ripping off one of the most famous and original popular post-modern artists to emerge from New York City in the heady 1980s.

You know the ’80s, right? It’s that era when people did lots of coke and wore lots of pastel-colored clothing in America, say, like a a pink linen blazer with the sleeves rolled up past the elbow (’cause in the ’80s they figured out that wearing your blazer that way made it all the easier for you to drive your convertible white Ferrari Mondial around the broad and desolate mean streets of Miami at midnight with a moody expression on your face).

Anyways, that important ’80s artist was the late, great Basquiat, as in Jean-Michel Basquiat. In the 1990s, Hollywood produced a biopic about him with Jeffrey Wright, Dennis Hopper, and David Bowie (who played artist Andy Warhol in the film).

So Banksy is ripping off Basquiat for his latest work. Well, “rip off” is a harsh term. Did we really say that? Kind of, maybe, not really. We meant “riffs” off. (Or is it “riff on”?). Or rather what we meant was Banksy is giving “a nod” to Basquiat.

Let’s clarify. Banksy has created an original Banksy artwork that depicts two police officers in his usual style of monochromatic black and gray graffiti-painted stencils.

The police are patting down and writing a citation for a very authentically-rendered impressionistic black figure painted in a style that is mind-blowingly like a Basquiat painting.

Nearby is a painting of a very Basquiat-esque dog growling, as well as a mash-up of a very Keith Haring-esque (as in Keith Haring, another late, great ’80s NYC art star) and a very Basquiat-esque human figure leaping into the air.

Is Banksy ripping off Basquiat (or Haring for that matter)? No, Unequivocally, “no!” we say.

The artwork is an homage and a site-specific work referencing a new massive exhibition of Basquiat’s work at the Barbican Centre in London. The show is awesomely titled “Boom for Real.”

Banksy’s artwork here is fucking brilliant. It’s a collision of high-brow and low-brow in a way that makes so much sense and says so much.

Basquiat, a street artist who became a legit art star and darling of the art world, if he were alive today and walking down the streets of central London might not be able to go see his own exhibition at major museum without being stopped by police or racially profiled as suspicious. There’s some bitter irony here.

Go see it while it lasts or before the neighborhood becomes so much more expensive that you’ll need to take out a mortgage to buy a flat-white coffee.

 

Here Comes the Neigborhood: Mural of Basquiat Ups Real Estate Values in Hip Gentrifying Hood

There’s a pattern of tell-tale signs that indicate that a once-undesireable neighborhood is undergoing gentrification. One of these signs is the changing nature of street art, and, more tellingly, the arrival of public art.

Although street art is kind of constant throughout the gentrification process, it’s usually in abundance in the neighborhood pre-gentrification and continues to pop up more frequently and blossom as the process unfolds. What’s different over time is the type of street art and its content and how it changes as the neighborhood gentrifies.

As the process plays out and rents and condos become more expensive, the street art becomes “neater,” bigger, less controversial, broader in appeal, and more referential of the established traditional post-modern and contemporary art canon.

More importantly, the street art you see starts to be commissioned rather than illicit. Galleries pop up. Art “events” appear. There’s public art. There are bigger and bigger murals. The “street art” at this stage is increasingly really officially developer-approved mural work by established street art figures and established non-street artists instead of “guerilla” artworks painted in the dark of night. 

The mural pictured here in the Los Angeles Arts District depicting the late, great artist Jean-Michel Basquiat seems to fall somewhere in between the official and unofficial, a signpost somewhere in the middle of the gentrification-process spectrum. In and of itself, it is not significantly remarkable. In the context of the streets, it’s awesome, it’s cool, and will add to the area’s cachet for would be home buyers and investors who love it and want to tap into the “cool” of the Arts District.

The artwork is adding value. Rents will go up — ARE going up — and fast!  (In fact, since you started reading this, the average monthly listing price on a 400 square-foot studio apartment in the area has probably increased by $2,416.39, to the penny.)

The painting is by the very talented artist Alex Ali Gonzalez, and it’s self-referential for the art world and also a kind of visual, symbolic creative cue, an homage to an important beloved artist and what that artist represents — Basquiat started out by creating graffiti and street art in what at the time were the derelict streets of downtown Manhattan, an area of New York City that is now completely gentrified and unaffordable for most people.

Basquiat symbolizes something for both the struggling young artist being priced out of the Arts District and to the property developer turning a textile warehouse or widget factory into multi-million dollar condos affordable by only the wealthy, who it has been observed are often people who are not professionally creative and often lack imagination in a way that is inversely proportional to their wealth.

Neighborhoods pass through phases of gentrification, from pre- and “pioneer” phases through to “early hipster,” “late hipster” and “second,” “third,” “fourth” waves, etc., and finally “establishment” phase. (You’ll know the last phase because hipsters are no longer moving to the neighborhood and there’s at least one condo with its own private elevator.)

The Arts District of Los Angeles, which is really the industrial area that’s psychologically an extension of Downtown LA (DTLA) is not at the establishment phase of gentrification, but it’s very close, or rather at least pockets of it are really close. Other areas, not so much. It’s a vast area that could easily be divided up in to two or three distinct neighborhoods.

But there’s more and more large-to-epic scale commissioned street art. Look for more images of the Basquiats and Warhols and others of the artworld Pantheon in the future and fewer “Kook Streets” and “Wrdsmths” and “Banksys” (although, given the monetary and cultural value of a Banksy artwork at this point, it would actually be a welcome addition even on an expensive DTLA condo, maybe it would be painted inside that private elevator.) 

Street Art Begs Passersby to “Stop Making Stupid People Famous” – We Disagree!

On the surface, the sentiment seems straightforward, sensible and pleasantly righteous enough: “Stop making stupid people famous.”

That sounds like a great idea. After almost two decades of Hiltons, Karadashians, a Richie, assorted “House Wives of …” and bearded redneck dynasties AND Honey Boo Boo, as well as countless reality shows of the type that require participants to compete not on vocational skill, but on guile, personality and the whims of flaky group politics, well, we’ve easily seen a lot of stupid people made famous.

And it seems just plain wrong that stupid people should be famous, that idiocy and narcissism, and bad behavior should be rewarded with the financial spoils and celebrity that most hard-working people will never even get close to in their lifetimes, even if they aspire to it.

So the sentiment to stop making stupid people famous is well-placed and understandable.

But we’re going to disagree.

Making stupid people famous is an industry and it’s not going to stop in the foreseeable future, not until people (audiences) lose interest in watching stupid people. It’s the watching of them that makes them famous. Yes, they may be stupid and undeserving and crude and base, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not interesting. In fact, they can be very interesting. #sad.

At minimum, in the lowest-common denominator way, stupid people doing stupid things on TV is very entertaining. Packaged the right way, a lot of people will want to witness all the above variations of stupid-famous-people behavior (what we refer to as “SFP bevavior”).

This entertainment just can’t be “created” in the same way as a TV comedy or drama is. Though the set-ups, scripting and scenes may be planned ahead of time by a cadre of writers and producers, and reality TV shows are full-scale “productions,” and though reality TV stars are playing to — or are at least aware of — the camera, their behavior, even when easily predictable, is unscripted and often hammy and this can be fascinating, entertaining, cringe-worthy, amusing, laughable, intriguing, offensive and simultaneously all of above rolled into one. Because they’re not actors and because they’re not “acting.” And maybe because they’re a little stupid.

The sentiment  and argument doesn’t just apply to reality TV stars, of course, but to others in the industrial-entertainment-media complex: Super models, film and television actors, musicians, politicians. Not all, not most, but a damn lot.

Takeaway: We need somebody to unassailably, righteously roll our eyes at and laugh at, somebody who is a deserving target, and somebody we can point to as a cautionary tale and as a teachable example of how not to be, how not to be an intelligent, decent human being.

Full disclosure: We once appear on a very popular mid-2000s reality TV show with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie called “The Simple Life 2: Interns.” We appear on camera with these stars for less than 15 seconds.

 

Nostalgic Street Art Desperately Pines for ’80s NYC Cool

There’s a mini-era of years in the early 1980s in New York City when Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and Afrika Bambaata were each their own hot streak of underground influence and cultural relevance.

Warhol the uber-successful pop artist now in the latter part of his enormous career, as iconic himself with his shock of white hair as his Campbell’s Soup cans 20 years earlier.

Grace Jones, an androgynous alien born of art and post-disco club music, who was a Bond villain and a model.

Afrika Bambaataa, the genius behind one of early commercial hip-hop’s most influential, ground-breaking tunes, “Planet Rock,” and true pioneers of the genre from its Bronx roots through to the MTV music video era.

At the time, each was very much a product of NYC and helped define the look, style and sound far-reaching beyond its immediate place and time.

These are cultural heroes. In SoHo, downtown NYC, somebody ephemerally enshrined them as images on old, worn, black wooden door.

Ok, that’s cool.

But there’s something nostalgic about this. No doubt, the greatness and bona fides of these pop-cultural icons of cool is timeless and legit, and it’s great to know these influences and appreciate them, but the shrine feels like a momentary lapse of facile nostalgia, which, frankly, saddens us.

The Warhol-Jones-Bambaataa street art shrine feels suddenly like a cheap, all-too-easy artwork as wistful signifier of a deliriously idealized memory trigger of good times, of doing lines of coke at a SoHo loft party filled with downtown art-scene celebrities and a television showing MTV music videos with the sound turned down. A party where the DJ in the corner is playing Duran Duran records,  while the actual members of Duran Duran mingle with the actual Andy Warhol off to the side a few feet away. It feels like escape from the present and pining for a “better” time.

That’s sounds like it would have been a fun party. But we want to focus on the 2017, and we want new art to speak to the present and the future, even with all the scary, crazy political weirdness going on in America right now. In fact, we need to focus on the present and future BECAUSE of the all the scary, crazy political weirdness going on.

Street Art on Cars: “Lamest of Lame Sauce” or “Coolest Thing Ever”?

Artist Kenny Scharf is, as Ron Burgundy might say, kind of a big deal. Actually he really is a big deal. His artwork has appeared in the streets and on the walls of galleries and museums worldwide in a career that has spanned nearly four decades.

Scharf has got an iconic body of work, mostly paintings of often contorted retro-futuristic comic heads and faces in a style like those of 1960’s-era Hanna-Barbera cartoons “The Jetsons” and “The Flinstones.”

We’ve documented some his artwork over the years, from the streets of NYC to a recent exhibition at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (another example here and here).

Now his artwork is also appearing on a late model Honda Fit in the greater LA metro area. LA being LA, that Honda is most likely crawling at 10 miles-per-hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a SoCal freeway right now.

Artwork on cars has always left a funny taste in our mouth. When we say “artwork,” we’re not talking about the kind of decorative flourishes of paint and decals that adorn classic cars, low riders, racing cars or hot rods. That shit is legit.  It’s for the car. It’s part of the car as an expression of the car’s owner in service of the vehicle’s style. It’s decorative and artful and a craft that is a byproduct of car culture itself.

No, what we’re talking about here is when an artist that has nothing to do with cars puts their artwork on a moving vehicle, merely using the car as a canvas on wheels. Sometimes it works amazingly well and can stop us in our tracks and put a smile on our face. And sometimes it doesn’t and we’re recoiling from the sight.

In other words, it can be really lame. In fact it can be the lamest of lame sauce. (That’s pretty fucking lame!) Or it can be the coolest thing E-V-E-R. 

Kenny’s artwork has never resonated with us in a big way in terms of aesthetic, but we like his work and we’ve always enjoyed and appreciated his art and style. His site-specific painting on a massive set of walls in the lobby of the Hammer Museum was AWESOME.

But seeing one of his iconic painted cartoon faces blazing on the side of a compact sedan parked on a Santa Monica side street just kind of made us die a little bit inside. It felt cheap. It felt too easy. It looked lame.

Maybe it was simply a matter of aesthetic: That hue of red for the face on that electric-midnight blue of that car just doesn’t feel right.

That said, street art evovled on the foundation of graffiti art, which started the tradition of “getting up” large, visually stunning graffiti on trains and commercial trucks — perfect canvases for exposing one’s work to a large citywide audience in New York back in the day. At the time, many recoiled at the sight. It was considered an eyesore. Now, we look at it differently.

Yet, for Scharf, we expect the art to be more hallowed and to look better. That might be wrong, but it’s just us. So, Kenny, dude, step away from the vehicles, bro! Step away from the vehicles.

Of course, if that Honda Fit is Kenny’s, then everything we just said above doesn’t matter. What you do to your car is your business. And more power to ya’!