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August 2015

FAILE Prayer Wheel Revealed in NYC Times Square

FAILE TS prayer wheelThis just in - A giant, beautifully hand-carved, wooden prayer wheel has appeared in the heart of Times Square, courtesy of Brooklyn-based artist duo FAILE. Standing seven-feet-tall on the major thoroughfare of Broadway between 42nd and 43rd Streets, “Wishing on You” is the largest iteration of artists Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller’s signature guerrilla prayer wheel sculptures; not only upsized, it also takes shelter in a decorated, temple-like structure fitted with neon lights. Unlike their previous prayer wheels, which have appeared in public at random, “Wishing on You” emerged as a Times Square Arts project, in collaboration with FAILE’s ongoing exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, Savage/Sacred Young Minds.

The structure stands as a temple of desire, with nearly every section of its surface decorated with colorful text and imagery related to themes of vanity and consumption. Rather than the expected spiritual mantras emblazoned on traditional prayer wheels, eye-catching letters spell out words like “Celebrity,” “LOTTERY,” “XXX MOVIES,” and “The Generation of Sensation” that cover the upper frieze and the stepped platform of the wheel’s surrounding structure, interspersed with American folk-art patterns. Below the frieze, squares recalling the metopes on classical Greek temples serve as additional mini billboards. The prayer wheel itself is a patchwork of flashy advertisements and promotions — a veritable reflection of the actual electric commercials surrounding it on all sides. Branding “Wishing on You” is FAILE’s own name and the pair’s signature 1986 insignia, both stamped all over the structure.

Nearby, a small sign provides instructions to passersby:

Engage this interactive sculpture by spinning the central column, and meditate on the role of spirituality and desire in Times Square. The act of spinning will power the sculpture’s neon lights and illuminate the neighborhood’s storied past — its nickel arcades, glossy ads, and carnivalesque spirit.

Traditionally, spinning a prayer wheel is supposed to have the same effect of reciting a prayer, helping individuals calm and cleanse their minds. Rather than evoking the quiet meditation of traditional prayer wheels, FAILE’s rendition presents a column of loud voices clamoring for one’s attention; the brilliance of the neon lights that appear upon turning the wooden cylinder creates an atmosphere that’s the opposite of tranquil. “Wishing on You,” set in one of the world’s advertisement capitals, is a temple devoted not to serenity and sanctity but to consumerism — a biting commentary on what our society values and considers sacred today.

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Interestingly, many people did not seem aware of the work’s interactive nature, engaging with “Wishing on You” mostly by photographing or sitting on it. Those who did try to spin the wooden wheel often struggled to do so, nudging it by just a few inches. The wheel is simply too heavy for many individuals to move on their own, which may suggest an even darker present: are our lives saturated with commercial distractions to the point that experiencing true peacefulness is simply unfeasible?

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Wishing on You continues in Times Square on Broadway Plaza between 42nd and 43rd Sts. through September 1.


England's Newest Theme Park - Dismaland by Banksy

Dismaland-map Dismaland-map Dismaland-mapIf you find yourself in Weston-super-Mar (North Sommerset, England) be sure to stop by and see the newest Banksy installation, up through September 27, called Dismaland.

Banksy has constructed a dystopian riff on Disneyland in a derelict seaside resort in Weston-super-Mare, England. Called Dismaland, the ambitious five-week project is sure to attract visitors eager for the artist’s brand of viral culture jamming and populist humor, but there’s a twist. Most of the art on display at Dismaland is not by Banksy — though he has contributed 10 new works — but by 58 artists invited to participate, including blue-chip names Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, and David Shrigley, and popular artists associated with street art like Espo, Escif, Bäst, and El Teneen. The scale of the project is impressive.

An abandoned Cinderella Castle has been constructed at the heart of the fairgrounds, while a glitchy Little Mermaid sits on a rock in the middle of a putrid green pool. In one end of the pond there is an armored police van fountain, while further afield works that are equal parts funny, topical, and dark offer their own takes on contemporary life. One sculpture of a woman on a bench being overtaken by a flock of pigeons looks like a lost scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, while on a nearby merry-go-round a butcher wielding a machete sits on boxes labeled “lasagne” as a plastic horse hangs close by like it would in a meat locker.

Read more here.


The Bronx Art Maze is Back

City-Maze-EntranceUp until September 12 at 39 Bruckner Blvd in the Mott Have neighborhood of the Bronx, Art Maze boasts some of the best known street artists.

Jane Dickson’s City Maze (1980) was one of Fashion Moda’s most celebrated exhibitions. The installation, which consisted of an elaborate cardboard maze adorned with graffiti, was a collaboration between Dickson and the graffiti artists Crash (John Matos) and Noc 167 (Melvin Samuels). Unsurprisingly, the artwork-cum-playground was a huge hit among the neighborhood’s kids.

Preceded a year earlier by John Ahearn’s South Bronx Hall of Fame (1979) (in which Ahearn made casts of local residents) and immediately followed by the enormously influential Graffiti Art Success for America (GAS) (1980) (one of the first exhibitions of graffiti art), City Maze was part of a triumvirate of exhibitions that put Fashion Moda on the map and seized the attention of the New York art scene.

Now, 35 years later, Dickson and Crash have reunited to create a new iteration of the iconic installation. “This is City Maze 2.0.,” Dickson told Hyperallergic over email. “It’s not a recreation but a new version referencing the first.”

The Return of City Maze is the second of two consecutive exhibitions at Wall Works dedicated to the artists of Fashion Moda (for a review of Session I click here). The newest version of “City Maze” includes facsimiles of historic street art work by artists such as John Fekner, Anton van Dalen, the Guerrilla Girls, and Christy Rupp, as well as new works by artists such as Judith Supine, the TATS CRU, Don Leicht, and Stefan Eins. As with the original installation, visitors are invited to draw or paste their own images on the walls of the maze.

According to Dickson, The Return of City Maze required around six months of planning and a week of preparation and installation. Dickson redesigned the maze’s layout so that it would fit within Wall Works’ space. The new maze is also more robust. The work was built with cardboard sheets instead of used cardboard refrigerator boxes, and the entire structure is held together with zip ties as opposed to staples. “I was afraid of how much work it would be and that I wouldn’t remember how I built the first one,” said Dickson. “Crash assured me he had a crew to help and he bought the materials.”

The mixing up of historic and contemporary pieces is a key strength of the work. The Return of City Maze appears to preserve the integrity of the original installation without falling prey to reverential nostalgia. Young kids will have endless fun running around the maze and inventing their own games, while adult audiences can appreciate the legacy of New York’s Downtown and graffiti art scenes.

“I included copies of street posters by me and my Downtown friends and collaborators from around 1980 to nod to the history of the original in a mash up with the new graf’ works” Dickson told Hyperallergic. “The energy of that moment came from the cross-pollination of gay/straight, uptown/downtown, sound/image, hip-hop/punk, black/brown/white … I want to celebrate that spectrum again here.”


Harlem Art Collective

As recently reported in HyperAllergic:

In 2014, a group of artists named Harlem Art Collective (HART) saw aesthetic potential in an abandoned wall located in a stalled construction site on East 116th Street. After filling out forms and waiting one year to get approval from the NYC Department of Buildings, without any replies, they went ahead and turned it into East Harlem’s newest street art gallery, naming it “Guerrilla Gallery.” “The wall had been dilapidated for the past eight years. We wanted to beautify the neighborhood and have something people could gather around and talk about,” says Harold Baines, a filmmaker and member of the group who coordinated the original mural along with artist Kristy McCarthy. An open-ended project, the gallery invites East Harlem residents and anyone else who’s inclined to post their work and messages on the wall. Since its launch in May, expected and unexpected changes have occurred at the site.

Emilio Zappa putting up his work on the Guerrilla Gallery (click to enlarge)

Emilio Zappa putting up his work on the Guerrilla Gallery

At first, the gallery consisted of a clean blue wall and 10 pieces of art hung by neighbors and passersby. Erik Ramos, who works at a deli next door, was one of the first local artists to add work — sketches of Aztec pyramids, flowers and birds, along with a portrait of famous Mexican actor Cantinflas. Later, others began to add stencils and graffiti. But only four weeks after its launch, local Mexican artist and activist Emilio Zappa covered the entire background of the wall with posters and stencils featuring the faces of the 43 students from the Rural Teacher’s College in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, who were violently “disappeared” by police. These changes were not welcome at first.

“Originally it was just the wood paintings, but surprisingly, a week into it we came back and the wall was completely changed and the whole Ayotzinapa statement with those images were up on the wall. The artist was not from our collective, but is a local activist from the neighborhood. He worked at night and actually took our art off the walls,” Baines said.

Most relatives and parents of the disappeared students are farmers and workers who had to give up their jobs to start a full-time search for their children. Zappa is part of a Latin-American group called “Los Hijos del Maiz” (Sons of the Corn), named in honor of these farmers and formed to advocate for indigenous people’s and immigrants’ rights. Two months after the disappearance, the group began working on a series of large print posters and stencils showing the faces of the students, and posted them on walls in Harlem, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Westchester. And when Zappa walked by Guerrilla Gallery one night, he saw the sign that said “post your art” and had an idea.

Emilio Zappa (left) holding one of his posters at a commemoration event for the disappeared students (photo by Beatriz Elena Lopez)

Emilio Zappa (left) holding one of his posters at a commemoration event for the disappeared students (photo by Beatriz Elena Lopez)

“I unscrewed the pieces in the mural, covered the wall with the Ayotzinapa posters and stencils as a background, and put the rest of the pieces back up,” said Zappa on the phone.

“At first we all felt a little betrayed and we didn’t know who was responsible for it,” Baines said. “There was a lot of debate because we were mostly upset at the way he went about doing it. We had invited people to put single pieces of art, and he took our entire creation and turned into his statement, with our stuff on top of it.

And yet, “once I stopped to think about how much of a profound statement it was, and what he went through to make it happen, I realized that he had nailed it,” Baines added.

Today the wall includes 25 paintings and drawings posted over Zappa’s background. The works that have gone up in the meantime also reflect the current political climate, albeit the one in New York. But the parallels are striking. In December, as thousands of protesters marched in NYC after the Eric Garner grand jury decision, Mexicans in New York also rallied, demanding justice for Ayotzinapa’s students. The gallery’s different messages speak to some of the issues affecting East Harlem’s black and Latino residents. For example, the spray-painted words “I can’t breathe” appear alongside the illustration of a face with its mouth covered, while the number 43 over it represents the disappeared students in Mexico. “Although we are politically oriented, we hadn’t thought that someone would use this to make a broader statement about the violence in Mexico. But after a couple of meetings we realized that this is exactly what we wanted. It was a beautiful learning experience and now we know: you ask people to contribute and post, and they will post,” said Baines.

The Guerrilla Gallery with Zappa's work and new pieces posted over it

Harold Baines and another member of HART working on the Guerrilla Gallery, which shows Zappa’s work and new pieces posted over it (click to enlarge)

The Guerrilla Gallery is located at E 116th Street between Second and Third Avenues (East Harlem, Manhattan).


Brooklyn Street Art - August 2015

Here is the latest BSA newsletter:

BSA Images Of The Week: 08.02.15
Editorz, 02 Aug 04:02 AM

Did you see the blue moon over New York Friday night? Looked to be more crimson actually. Welcome to August and the hot sticky band of dirty grit that comes with to it. Escape from New York if you can, even if it is just on a lawn chair in a park. NYC parks have […]

Barlo and Andrea Casciu and “The Dance” : Housing, Squatters, Art
Editorz, 01 Aug 02:00 PM

Barlo and Andrea Casciu did a summertime mural project in Bologna last week as a metaphorical commentary on machinations and struggles happening during the current housing crisis in Italy. It is an awkward, tormented series of movements in concert with and against partners entitled “The Dance”. Barlo . Andrea Casciu. Bologna, Italy. July 2015. (photo […]

“Djerbahood” Book About Tunisian Open-Air Museum Of Street Art
Editorz, 30 Jul 04:02 AM

It seems like we’ve talked to you about this great project before and undoubtedly you have heard of it, but we weren’t prepared to see the high-quality, visually succulent and densely compiled tome that arrived in the mail this spring commemorating Djerbahood. Djerbahood/Open-Air Museum Of Street Art. Mehdi Ben Cheikh. Editons Albin Michel. Paris 2015 […]

WALL\THERAPY 2015 : Surrealism and The Fantastic
Editorz, 29 Jul 04:02 AM

Surreal is the way the world is portrayed across all of our devices today. It may be the shrinking staff and budgets of newsrooms who are veering ever closer to the sensational or simply the yellow journalism and the PR-planted hyperbole that is rushing to fill the vacuum, but the presentation of our own world […]

London Kaye’s New York Skyline Crocheted on a Wall
Editorz, 27 Jul 11:00 AM

Street Artist London Kaye has been yarn-bombing around New York Streets for a couple of years creating a variety of figures and forms on fences, walls, and even subway handrails. This week here attention turns to the city itself in this sidewalk-level diarama of crocheted city buildings, bridges, subway trains, and people flying through the […]

Wall/Therapy 2015 Day 4
Editorz, 23 Jul 04:02 AM

“Love is Sacrifice” says the calligraphic script on the new wall by Jeff Soto and Maxx242. The two words rarely appear one without the other, as any sentient being will tell you. Maxx242 . Jeff Soto. Wall Therapy 2015. (photo © Courtesy Wall Therapy) As with most artistic endeavors there are sacrifices to be made […]