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March 2013

Gimmie The Loot

IMG_0261I have to admit that I am always hesitant to embrace graffiti-linked mainstream movies because I am concerned about too much mainstreaming. But this movie looks like it has promise. It certainly has the research to back it. Titled "What's Not To Love About Graffiti" the movie Gimme the Loot was reviewed in the NYT. Indeed, what is not to love?


Over the past five years Adam Leon has gone from working for film festivals to being honored by them. After a stint on the payroll of the New York Film Festival he eventually took his love for film behind the camera, writing and directing a feature debut that got festival audiences buzzing and distributors calling. That movie is “Gimme the Loot,” about two young graffiti writers from the Bronx whose quest to tag the New York Mets home-run apple takes them on a lively adventure throughout New York City. It includes encounters with drug dealers, a little petty theft and walking shoeless through the city streets.

“We were in 50 locations,” Mr. Leon, 31, said of the production. “We kind of wanted it to be this low-budget epic.”

The film had its premiere at last year’s South by Southwest festival, where it won the narrative jury prize and was acquired by Sundance Selects. Then, like its neighborhood-hopping teenagers, the movie began popping up at festivals all over, including Cannes. It lands in theaters on Friday.

Mr. Leon spoke with Mekado Murphy in Austin, Tex., last year at South by Southwest, then again this month in New York, where Mr. Leon lives. These are excerpts from those conversations.

Q. What were some of your narrative goals for “Gimme the Loot”?

A. I wanted to do something about the joys of youth set in a grittier, urban environment. I was really interested in telling a story about kids who come from vivid lives and tough, working-class backgrounds but aren’t necessarily miserable people, though I never wanted to sell out their existence.

What inspired you to make your lead characters graffiti writers?

I grew up in the city. I had a lot friends who were graffiti writers, so I was aware of the culture to a degree. But then I co-wrote and co-directed a short film a few years ago, and we cast a couple of graffiti writers in it. And getting to know them, I found that they take it so seriously, and they are very passionate about it. I saw them as these real-life action heroes, where they’re climbing buildings, scaling walls and jumping rooftops. I thought that would be a great jumping-off point for a fun adventure.

How did you aim to portray the graffiti world accurately?

We brought on this guy called SP1, who’s kind of a legendary graffiti writer from the ’80s, and he was our adviser. We did graffiti class for months, where we would learn to write and learn about the culture, the history and the language, so we could turn our cast into writers. It was absolutely essential to us to be as authentic and real as possible, because movies have treated graffiti very poorly.

Many of the locations aren’t the ones we usually see in New York movies, like bodegas in the Bronx.

We wanted to do hits, B-sides and rarities, in terms of New York. We do have a scene in Washington Square Park and certain iconic shots. But we really wanted to show a New York that was a bit unexplored.

How did working at film festivals help you make your own movie?

I got to know a lot of people who really care about movies and work with movies, from filmmakers to programmers to sales agents to distributors. You get to see behind the scenes of how the machine operates if you ever have a product for that machine. I highly recommend it to people trying to make a small independent film.

What was it like taking your movie to Cannes?

It was sort of beyond our dreams to go there. Because the movie is basically a comedy, and it’s light in tone, we never expected that to happen. We went into that experience saying: “We’re really blessed to have this opportunity. Let’s make the best of it and have a fun time.”

Keep Up A Piece of the Wall!

A heinous act! Here is a transcript from AM news in the Australia about the atrocity committed in Berlin against art and sensibility. When is enough profit, enough?

Berlin wall 2013Berlin Wall murals removed amid protests

TONY EASTLEY: Campaigners trying to save a much-loved section of what was the Berlin Wall have been dealt a bitter blow. Several sections of wall have been removed to make way for a luxury housing development. Not even the efforts of an American television star could save the day.

Europe correspondent Barbara Miller has more.

(Sound of heavy machinery)

BARBARA MILLER: They came at the crack of dawn with heavy machinery. Several sections of what's known as the East Side Gallery were removed under a heavy police presence.

Campaigners say it's an outrage. Andy Weiss is a member of the East Side Gallery Initiative.

ANDY WEISS (translated): The way we are being treated is incredible. Only two weeks ago we spoke to the Berlin mayor and were under the impression there would be a compromise. He seemed to care and now this.

BARBARA MILLER: A gate has been placed in the hole in the Wall. It's thought to allow access for vehicles to a building site where luxury riverside apartments are to be constructed.

The developer Juergen Schueneman says it's his right to carry out the work.

JUERGEN SCHUENEMAN (translated): From a legal point of view we have a building permit. We also have a contract with the district council in which we have been asked to remove that section of the Wall of get access to our property.

BARBARA MILLER: The East Side Gallery is the longest remaining stretch of what was the inner section of the Berlin Wall which separated East from West Berlin during the Cold War; gallery - because it's covered in murals painted after the Wall came down in 1989.

The paintings themselves have become tourist attractions. There's one of the Soviet leader Brezhnev kissing his East German counterpart Erich Honecker. There's one of a Trabant car, which many East Germans now remember fondly despite its limitations.

There are also concerns that to remove sections of the Wall is to do a disservice to the dozens of people who died trying to scale it.

DAVID HASELHOFF (singing): I've been looking for freedom, still it can't be found...

(Sound of crowd cheering)

BARBARA MILLER: Earlier this month the former Baywatch star David Haselhoff joined the campaign to save the Wall on a visit to Berlin.

DAVID HASELHOFF: I was honoured in 1989 to sing on the Wall. It was a big surprise to me when they called and asked if I could sing on New Year's Eve and I said only if I can sing on the Wall, knowing they would say no. And they said we need to get Helmut Kohl and chancellor Honecker to say yes. Both prime ministers, would you call them prime ministers?

JOURNALIST: Chancellors.

DAVID HOSELHOFF: Chancellors, both chancellors had to say yes. They called back two days later and they said yes.

BARBARA MILLER: It's been a bad day on the whole for Berlin's tourist sites. Possibly after the driver fell asleep, a car ploughed into one of the pillars of the Brandenburg Gate. It at least is still intact.

This is Barbara Miller in London reporting for AM.


Duke of Landcaster - Graffiti Ship

Graffiti shipTake an  abandoned ocean liner, add some amazing graffiti artists and what do you have? "It's got the potential to be the biggest open-air art project in the world" says Paul Williams, Duke of Lancaster manager.

Three monkeys dressed in suits crouch on bulging sacks of money, striking the symbolic pose of "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil."At more than 10-meters tall, the imposing chimps are the size of a three-storey building, dwarfing onlookers gazing up at their grim, spray-painted faces.

The menacing monkeys are joined on all sides by similarly fantastical and macabre creatures -- from skeleton divers to slobbering pigs -- and you get the feeling that out here, in the desolate British marshlands, no one would hear you scream were they to come alive.

The 'Council of Monkeys'The 'Council of Monkeys'

Welcome to the Duke of Lancaster. A hulking, rusting, abandoned ship on the Dee Estuary in north Wales, which has become a canvas for some of the most renowned graffiti artists from across Europe.

At a whopping 137-meters long, seven storeys tall, and weighing 4,500-tons, the former cruise liner is an awe-inspiring sight in the deserted countryside.

It was this remarkable setting which prompted graffiti collective DuDug -- a word play on the Welsh for "black duke" -- to approach the ship's owners with the innovative idea of turning the abandoned vessel into a thriving arts destination.

With the owners' approval, artists from across Europe began spray painting the decrepit ship, using cherry pickers -- a type of hydraulic aerial work platform -- to reach its towering walls.

They are now campaigning to have the site reopened to the public as the centerpiece of an arts festival.

"When the pieces first started appearing, we had some people say 'that's no way to treat the ship.'" Williams said.

"But there's no doubt that what they're doing is art -- the key definition between art and graffiti is graffiti is done illegally. This, however, is done with the owner's knowledge and accommodation.

"And if it's the catalyst for regeneration, it's got to be a good thing," added Williams.

Brooklyn Street Art = This Week's Edition


New Lesuperdemon in Mexico City

In the Mexico City neighborhood of Condesa a new mural from Lesuperdemon appears on a long wall of a historic house. The act of adding a mural to a wall is part of tradition in Mexican culture, so any new developments like this, even as they intersect with the relatively new graffiti or Street Art [...]

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Street Artist AIKO in “Edo Pop” at The Japan Society

Tidal waves of fertility and good luck are stenciled across the walls inside the Japan Society right now by Street Artist Aiko as part of the Edo Pop show that is examining the impact of Japanese prints on the work of contemporary artists.  Using motifs like the rabbit and butterfly, two of Aiko’s favorites that [...]

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Knock Out Film Debut from MTO “FL: Unpremeditated Movie”

French Painter and Street Artist MTO has made a great film and we want to share it with you today. It’s a knock-out.

MTO “Go, Go, Denise Go” (photo © courtesy of MTO)
Dude it’s Saturday, put down what you are doing and watch this for an hour. He painted it, filmed it, edited it, and now [...]

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Film Friday 3.15.13

Aiko. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening: Aiko “Edo Pop”, ART POLLUTION with: Overunder, Jilly Ballistic and The Yok & Sheryo
BSA Special Feature:
Aiko: “Sunrise” for The Japan Society exhibition “Edo Pop”
In this new video released by The Japan Society, Street Artist [...]

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Alice Pasquini in Ithaca, NY

Ithaca, near the geographical center of New York State, is a socially progressive town that has experimented with its own currency (“Ithaca Hours”), was one of the first cities in the US to confer rights to same-sex partners (1986), and is the home of two universities (Cornell University and Ithaca College).  At the southern end [...]

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WK Interact in “360″, A Survey of Conflict in Degrees

“If his work on the street is an indication, it has been a constant state of war. Look at these images and themes that reappear in WK’s work since he first came to New York; Ever-present fear, violence, anxiety, overheated sex-play, fishnets & firearms, contorted figures racing, martial arts kicks to the head, hand-to-hand combat, [...]

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STIK on London Streets and Walls

London Street Artist Stik has breathed a relaxed at-ease quality into the familiar stick man of your childhood and expanded his reach across walls, boarded windows, doorways, and buildings. Working on the street (and sometimes living on it) for the last ten years, the former live art-school model has grown in stature on the scene [...]

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LNY Talks About “The Golden Hour”

Street Artist LNY was in the Fountain Art fair this weekend and is on the street 24/7 right now in lower Manhattan as part of a Fourth Arts Block public arts project directed by Keith Schweitzer.
The sweeping careening necks of the long billed birds are wrapped around a malfeasant from below, wrestling in a [...]

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Images of the Week 03.10.13: Happy 70th Birthday Martha Cooper

“I can’t believe it. I never expected this, ever.”
The Houston Street Wall was the site of a sidewalk surprise birthday party Saturday  for photographer Martha Cooper, who was planning to stop by for what she thought would be a new mural shoot. The world famous graffiti photographer had no idea that artists How and Nosm [...]

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Fountain 2013 Shots of Street Art Above and Below

The Fountain fair raised the Street Art to the rafters this year with an installation curated by Mighty Tanaka Gallery and Robots Will Kill. The canvasses wave above the exhibit floor in this historic Armory space while below thousands of people milled through the booths of a varied collection of this years offerings. Here are [...]

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BSA Film Friday 03.08.13

ESSAM (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening: Drones and Street Artist Essam.
BSA Special Feature:
Drones, Rand Paul, and Street Artist Essam
Street Artists use their medium of message on the street sometimes to entertain, engage, or educate the passerby. Whether it’s a personal, cultural, [...]

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BSA Guide to Street Art @ Armory Week

Armory Week is back in New York for the 2o13 Edition. Millions will be traded, thousands sold, and probably more will go unsold. Works by artists who are identified as Street Artists are on target for more exposure in these more formalized settings than five years ago thanks to the globalization of the phenomenon, but [...]

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For Crochet Street Artist OLEK “The End is Far”

For those who follow this sort of thing Street Artist Olek has monopolized the category for pink and purple camouflage crochet sculpture on the street.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say she actually invented the category, owing as much to the D.I.Y. and hand-crafting movements as to public artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, whose work also [...]

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Paris Has A Street Art District - Go Figure

I always think of Paris as pristine. Beautiful but pristine. So I was surprised to find out that Paris has a street art area that is not far from tourist centers. If you find yourself on the French side of the Atlantic, check out the street art in Paris.But if galleries are touting street artist works now, will we begin to see less work on the streets themselves?

Paris: Joie de graffiti


Jane Borden

Works by Da Cruz and others can be found on the Quai de L’Oise, 19th arrondissement, Paris.

Paris has always been able to boast of an artistic supremacy, so it makes sense that when they even do something like street art, they put America to shame. With its vibrancy, sophistication and sheer volume of production, the Parisian street art scene -- graffiti, stenciling, paste-ups -- makes ours look like it's still in grade school. Sketches and tags pop up throughout the city, yes, but beyond the central circle of neighborhoods, or arrondissements, designated areas boast entire blocks coated end-to-end on both sides with imagery that's constantly changing.

Hami Delimi of L'Oeuf Creative -- an agency helping artists with branding and representation -- says that many communities agree not to prosecute, particularly their native sons and daughters.
"People are proud to have the artists there," Delimi says. "However, if someone not from the community writes over a piece, that person might get in trouble."

In the 19th arrondissement, which Delimi considers a first stronghold of the Parisian graffiti movement in the '80s, that local hero is Da Cruz. His big-featured faces and bold colors are calling cards on the area's buildings, municipal walls and mailboxes; no one paints over his creations. Other celebrated tags to locate across the city include Miss.tic, Nemo, Jerome Mesnager, Jeff Aerosol, Art of Popof and Atlas.

The Futura is now

Whether you think street art-ists working with luxury brands are receiving justified exposure and cash or are selling out, the practice is here to stay. And its most recent contributor is also one of the art form’s truest legends: Futura.
Lenny McGurr, originally known as Futura 2000, began his career tagging New York City subway cars in the late ’70s. He also toured with The Clash, painting onstage while they played; enjoyed a long history of success in art galleries, largely in Paris, which housed his first exhibit in 1982 (he’s currently represented by Galerie Jerome de Noirmont); went on to make album covers, T-shirts and toys; and, of course, owns a spot in the canon. Then he was quiet for a while. But on Aug. 13 he’ll add a Hennessy label to his collection. The limited-edition Cognac bottle is classic Futura: an abstract work of bold primary colors featuring his signature atomic swirls.
“The movement I graduated from, what I call the subway school of art, is, for all intents and purposes, over,” McGurr says. “But then the next generation of artists — Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Swoon — gave importance to this kind of work again. And that ultimately opened the door for me to return.”
Cheers to that. Or, rather, Sante.

Meet the artists

The scene has developed to the point where traditional galleries are also littered with street artists’ work, one of the more recent crossover successes being an artist named Nasty. It’s also now common for luxury brands to tap the graffiti scene. The artist named Kongo printed scarves for Hermès and another street artist who goes by Monsieur A created a label for Caviar Kaspia. But some artists seem to think it’s a faux pas to use their talents for commerce. Kidult has notoriously vandalized luxury-brand storefronts in revolt.