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November 2010

Gum Wall in Seattle

Gum wall I was just told about the Gum Wall in Seattle - a city I have visited at least 5 times and went to the Pike Market every time. Shows you how observant I am. I never heard of this.

So here is the description from wikipedia - The Gum Wall is a local landmark in downtown Seattle, in Post Alley under Pike Place Market. Similar to Bubblegum Alley in California, the Gum Wall is a brick wall now covered in used chewing gum. The wall is covered several inches thick, 15 feet high for 50 feet.

The wall is by the waiting line for the Market Theater, and the tradition began around 1993 when patrons of Unexpected Productions' Seattle Theatresports stuck gum to the wall. Theater workers scraped the gum away twice, but eventually gave up after market officials deemed the gum wall a tourist attraction in around 1999. People initially stuck coins to the wall using the gum, and some people create small works of art out of gum. It was named one of the top 5 germiest tourist attractions in 2009, second to the Blarney Stone........

....or my bathroom. LOL

Gum wall 2

WK Black Palace with the Jonathan LeVine Gallery

WK Black Palace Worldwide renowned street artist WK will create a mural installation in Mexico City named Black Palace on the exterior of the Archivo General de la Nación (the General National Archives). The building served as a prison from 1900 to 1976, and was commonly known as the “Black Palace of Lecumberri.”

The monumental mural, which will measure 200 meters wide by almost 7 meters tall, will be inaugurated on November 20, 2010 and will be exhibited until January 20, 2011. The work is inspired by the Mexican Revolution, which this year commemorates its 100th year anniversary. The mural expresses, with WK’s characteristic energy and dynamism, the power-struggle between the federal and the revolutionary armies. “The soldiers in the mural are majestically riding their horses, an element that is very special and present in Mexico’s culture and modern history, from the Spanish conquest to the present day. The horse serves as unifying force and brings movement to the piece,” explains the artist.

The location of the mural at the Archivo General de la Nación is of extreme importance to WK, given the historical relevance of the building. Lecumberri’s jail was built by Porfirio Diaz’s government in 1900 and President Francisco Madero was assassinated there. Additionally, historical figures such as Pancho Villa and the legendary muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros were jailed in Lecumberri. Today the Archivo houses an important part of Mexico’s graphic legacy, and a section of the building will soon be transformed into a museum. This mural will become an important contribution towards this project.

The artist, who will donate the mural to Mexico City, sees his work as homage to Mexico’s great muralist tradition, starting from the exterior decoration of the pre-Hispanic cities, up to the majestic works of the Mexican muralists of the XX century.

Where is the Location of the Underbelly Subway Station?

South 4th street subway The recent spate of articles on the Underbelly project has also spurred great interest in where this mysterious subway station / art gallery is located. The New York Post helped to narrow the location of the gallery citing in a recent article that it is in an abandoned G train station in WIlliamsburg, Brooklyn.

People are flocking the station, trying to get in and have a look. Unfortunately so are the police. The police are also aware of the location and have been sending plains clothes cops there to arrest any tresspassers. Twenty were just rounded up last week.

But where is the station exactly? Here is an excellent guess from the blog Second Avenue Sagas:

Based on the visual evidence, it is in the never-used, once-built shell of a subway station at South 4th St. and Broadway in Brooklyn. I traced the unique origins of this long, lost part of the Second System two years ago, and Subway & Rail has a full gallery of this station online. Built in an age when the city built shell stations for cheap with an eye toward future expansion, this shell has set empty since the day the concrete was poured. Rumor has it that one can access the station via the G train stop at Broadway with the appropriate key.

And Second Avenue Sagas has another post indicating that the Transit Authority is starting to seal it all up.... right around South 4th Street on the G line. Hmmm.

So before it is all sealed up - Are there any brave souls who want to try to access it?

5 Pointz Food Drive

IMG_9277 5Pointz, located in Long Island City Queens, is world known for being an aerosol graffiti gallery / museum. This weekend and next weekend however, 5Pointz also becomes a focal point of a food drive. Here is the email from Meres. Bring food for this great cause -

5 Pointz Food Drive

We @ 5Pointz have decided that this year we want to help give back to the less fortunate. 5 pointz will be organizing 5 drives. The first of which is a food drive. Anyone interested in contributing to this cause can bring non perishable food items to the loading dock of 5 Pointz on the weekends of November 13th, 14th, 20th, and 21st to help feed the hungry this Thanksgiving.
We'll be accepting all canned goods, as well as any dry boxed goods. Please NOTHING perishable such as produce, meats, or anything that needs to be refrigerated or frozen before opening. Thanks. 5ptz.com

Tiny Cardboard Box People Appear All Over Singapore

Amy tang Street art does not ahve to be two dimensional. In fact using the concept of discarded amazon cartons to make figures and misenscenes fits into my definition of street art too. Here, Singapore-based artist Anton Tang takes unused plastic figurines and repositions them in Lilliputian set-ups full of humor and pathos, thus reimagining what it means to be human.

A Graffiti Arrest?

1287064144-julietorres According to an article in L Magazine, Julie Torres, an artist living and working in Williamsburg Brooklyn was arrested for taping some of her artwork on a construction site wall. The charges were for creating graffiti which sounds like a stretch to me. Here are the particulars in her own words:

On Saturday, July 17, at about 2pm, an unmarked car pulled up beside me on North 11th Street in Williamsburg, and three men in baseball caps leaped out. They surrounded me and asked for my name, identification and address. I hesitated, but stated my name and fumbled for my ID. I didn't immediately give them my home address. They became increasingly hostile, demanding that I provide it. I live around the corner from that spot, and I was uneasy. I asked if they were police officers. They laughed, "Yeah, honey, we're cops." I was alone on the street. I requested proof, but had no way of discerning an authentic badge from a fake one. My mind flooded with scenarios. I asked to speak with a uniformed officer. That only made things worse.

For the past two years I've been painting and selling artwork on Bedford Avenue. Selling one's art on the street is legal, and a great way to paint outdoors on nice days. I set out last year with a folding table and some small paintings, but since then my work has grown. I was looking for a way to continue painting and selling art outside with larger pieces.

North 11th Street and Bedford Avenue is an ideal location, with lots of foot traffic, great light, and a huge construction site fence that has seen better days. I figured I couldn't possibly do any harm there, so I taped a few completed watercolor paintings to the fence, along with some blank paper. I painted and sold work at that corner for months without incident. Uniformed police officers made conversation in passing, never indicating that I was doing anything illegal. Only when that unmarked car pulled up in July did I find out that I could be arrested for temporarily taping a watercolor painting to a construction site wall.

My request to speak to a uniformed officer brought two squad cars screeching to a halt beside me, sirens blaring. I still didn't understand what was happening. I thought the uniformed officers would talk to me, but they followed the plainclothes cops' orders, handcuffed me and threw me into the back of a police car. I asked what my charges were. The answer was incomprehensible. Baffled, I thought, "This can't be happening!" I was being arrested for graffiti.

I was photographed, fingerprinted and processed at Central Bookings in downtown Brooklyn, and led into a tiny holding cell full of mice, roaches, one toilet, and 20 other women crouched on the floor. I was held for 23 hours until, finally, my name was called and I saw a judge. My case was adjourned pending further documentation from the officers, and I was released onto the streets of Brooklyn. My art materials, over 40 tubes of paint worth hundreds of dollars, are still being held as evidence.

I've been back to court once since then, and I have another court date on October 13. From the original three counts of graffiti, I've been offered a lesser charge of Disorderly Conduct, which I didn't accept. My hope is that this case will eventually be dismissed, but I'm told that could take over a year, with several more court dates in between. I've met with friends, lawyers, artists and activists, trying to figure out my next move. For now all I can do is wait for my next court date. And hope.

In the meantime, I'm back on Bedford Avenue and North 8th Street most weekends with my folding table and small paintings. Stop by and chat if you're in the neighborhood.

You can find Julie's work online at julietorres.weebly.com 

Read about her day in court here.

My thoughts on this are as follows - while I know that graffiti is illegal, exhibiting work for sale on a construction site temporary wall, work that (incidently) will not be left there after the artist leaves the site, should not and I believe is not illegal. And to put an individual in the position of having to accept lesser charges to dismiss the case implies that the individual is guilty and is not right. Can anyone suggest what we as a citizenry can do about it?

Frankly I am not of the opinion that graffit on a temporary wall such as a construction site should be illegal anyway but that is another post at another time.....

In case you want to explore this issue, check out Crimes Of Style: Urban Graffiti and the Politics of Criminality

Jean-Michel Basquiat : The Radiant Child

Jean-Michel Basquiat Arthouse Films has just released a new 93 minute documentary on Jean-Michel Basquiat which will be available on November 9, 2010.

Full disclosure - I was offered a review copy of the film. Another full disclosure - I love Basquiat's art work. So needless to say I was happy to receive my DVD in the mail yesterday and was anxious to view it. And I was prepared to be a stern critic of it should it be less than spectacular. Happily, I can honestly say that the film is excellent and I expect to watch it again and again.

For those who do not know much about Basquiat, the film offers a rich and intensive look at his work not only through the eyes of friends, lovers, curators, collectors and gallary owners but also from Basquiat himself. For those who know the legend that was J-M B, the film will give you a rare glimpse of him in his own words and also gives you a psychological back-drop to his ultimately destructive behavior. Who knows? You may even learn something totally new about the artist in the process. I for one did not know that Jean-Michel sold his first painting to Debbie Harry for $200. I also did not quite recall the juggernaut time line of his art world ascent. Only two years! I feel like a schlepper in comparison.

Film creator and director Tamra Davis includes her raw footage of personal interviews with Basquiat from the 1980s when they were friends. In the bonus feature on the DVD there is an uncut interview with Davis where she spoke about her internal struggle with these interview tapes. She did not want to exploit the memory of Jean-Michel but after 20 years, was convinced that this was a good time to open up her archives and share these precious never-before-seen interviews publicly.

As someone who experienced NYC in the 1970s and 1980s I loved the historical footage of the East Village and the Lower East Side of that time that helped to imform Basquait's street art cred. And I also loved seeing the interviews with Julian Schnabel and photos of Keith Haring who was a one degree of separation acquaintence of mine as well as the very first street artist I saw "in action" at the 14th St uptown F train stop in the early 80s one weekday morning.

The title of the film is from the title of the first major art review article about Basquiat's work. He was the Radiant Child whose prolific work (over 100 paintings) helped transcend the concept of street art into high art.

For more information, check out these related sites:

The Radiant Child and Arthouse FIlms and New Video

The Underbelly Project in NYC

Underbelly project Today in the New York TImes (and reported in L Magazine and even in some Australian newspapers) there is another article on street art - is this a trend? If so I like it. A Times reporter gained access into a part of the New York Subway system where an abandoned station sits, unused and unadorned.. that is until some famous street artists found it. Now it is a huge underground art gallery that few can see and few know how to locate. I love the mystery!

A vast new exhibition space opened in New York City this summer, with a show 18 months in the making. On view are works by 103 street artists from around the world, mostly big murals painted directly onto the gallery’s walls. 

It is one of the largest shows of such pieces ever mounted in one place, and many of the contributors are significant figures in both the street-art world and the commercial trade that now revolves around it. Its debut might have been expected to draw critics, art dealers and auction-house representatives, not to mention hordes of young fans. But none of them were invited. In the weeks since, almost no one has seen the show. The gallery, whose existence has been a closely guarded secret, closed on the same night it opened. Known to its creators and participating artists as the Underbelly Project, the space, where all the show’s artworks remain, defies every norm of the gallery scene. Collectors can’t buy the art. The public can’t see it. And the only people with a chance of stumbling across it are the urban explorers who prowl the city’s hidden infrastructure or employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. That’s because the exhibition has been mounted, illegally, in a long-abandoned subway station. The dank, cavernous hall feels a lot farther than it actually is from the bright white rooms of Chelsea’s gallery district. Which is more or less the point: This is an art exhibition that goes to extremes to avoid being part of the art world, and even the world in general. The show’s curators, street artists themselves, unveiled the project for a single night, leading this reporter on a two-and-a-half hour tour. Determined to protect their secrecy, they offered the tour on condition that no details that might help identify the site be published, not even a description of the equipment they used to get in and out. And since they were (and remain) seriously concerned about the threat of prosecution, they agreed only to the use of street-artist pseudonyms.


Click here for the full story.