Go See City as Canvas: Graffiti Art from the Martin Wong Collection

About 3 weeks ago I was back in New York City for a handful of days, thoroughly enjoying the dark skies, slushy snow, and freezing wind. What can I say? I’m a winter baby. I had a short list of critical TO DO’s for my visit: 1. eat any and all Latin American food (things like tostones y arroz con habichuela don’t exist here in Abu Dhabi, neither do proper burritos); 2. eat all the pizza you can get your hands on; 3. eat a burger smothered in dill pickles; 4. stock up on all the things you take for granted (like unscented soap for sensitive skin); 5. walk through the village; 6. visit 5pointz and witness the disgraceful remains of the whitewashing; and finally, go see City as Canvas: Graffiti Art from the Martin Wong Collection. My priorities revolved around food and graffiti…but, considering where I was and what I do, that probably makes a lot of sense.

I didn’t know it, but I have been waiting for something like City as Canvas for almost four years.

I first learned about Wong—the East Village Chinese American artist/advocate/collector who died from AIDS related causes in 1999—in 2009. The Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University hosted a panel discussion and organized an exhibition highlighting the cultural context of 80s and 90s NYC within which Wong and his friends lived and worked called Art, Archives, and Activism: Martin Wong’s Downtown Crossings. The exhibition was created with works drawn from the Fales library, memorabilia from friends (like Lee, Charlie Ahearn), Semaphore Gallery, and PPOW Gallery. Sitting on the panel, Lady Pink and Hugo Martinez described him and his commitment to their work and graffiti subculture in the 80s/90s culture wars and amidst yet another push for NYC’s “urban renewal.” I remember thinking how his apartment must have been an extraordinary place, an intimate, precious, and unique vault of moments in NYC graffiti’s early history. I wanted to see it ALL.

The works in City as Canvas are also from the 80s, but the 70s are present as well. Turns out, in 1993/1994 Wong donated the “treasure trove” that was his apartment to the City Museum; he had been collecting since 1982. Viewers can watch clips of Wong talking to friends on the phone about his decision; there is also a short video (by Ahearn) of writers like Lee and Daze talking about Wong, looking at the memorabilia, and explaining the context of the work. Described by Felicia Lee in the New York Times, as the “remnants of the schism between the outlaw art form and mainstream institutions,” on view are: blackbooks—so many blackbooks—encased in glass just asking to be thumbed through (that part is a tad torturous); giant pieces of scrap plywood painted by Futura 2000 and Zephyr; a bust of Jesus altered by LAII’s markings; a too cool wooden grid of tags collected by Wicked Gary; framed Martha Cooper originals, including the infamous Dondi photo; a video of painted trains passing by; and spray-painted jean jackets (this photoblog has a nice bit of images). For certain writers, you can see the original piece that you’ve only seen in books. You can also see really early sketches and works on canvas, where space, color, line, depth, and medium were being tested and innovated. It’s impossible to process everything at once. I gotta go back.

   New York Magazine’s “Approval Matrix” placed City as Canvas right at the intersection of highbrow, lowbrow, brilliant, and despicable (technically in the highbrow and brilliant square)—a fitting spot for a show on graffiti art in a city that has always had a love/hate, consume/reject, celebrate/criminalize bipolar relationship with the movement.

Basically, my message here is simple: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET, GO. You have until August. You can purchase the exhibition book at the museum gift shop along with all kinds of goodies, like this mug that I simply had to have.

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Support the important cultural work this show is doing for graffiti subculture, the writers, the aficionados, and the advocates. If you have not been to a museum since high school, or think all museums are places of “high art” snobbery…take thee to this exhibition. This is your history NYC; part of a movement born on your streets that speaks to those beyond those streets and thrives in cities around the world. Like Wong, we must recognize the worth in a genre of art making labeled criminal or aesthetically displeasing. In a capitalist world drowning in the proper, the conventional, the luxurious, and the mainstream (pop culture), we must support the despicable, the alternative, and the lowbrow popular cultures—the cultures of the people.

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Urban Acrobatics: A Circus and Graffiti Spectacular

Urban Acrobatics: A Circus and Graffiti Spectacular

My colleague Caitlin Bruce is organizing something really cool in NYC this week…check it out!

The first in a two part series of workshops investigating the shared history and aesthetics of circus and graffiti art. Please join us for a fun experiment in movement, publicity, and wonder.

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1404133039812068/

Blog: http://circusgraffitispectacular.blogspot.com/

Under Pressure Graffiti Festival: Women & Hip Hop Symposium

Sadly, I can’t always make it to the events I’m invited to…but I can help promote and get bodies there! I’ve attached the press release for this women in hip hop event in Montreal below the digital flyer.

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Press Release

Women & Hip Hop: Conference.

Long before its popularization by the established art world, street art was viewed as a second class art form, associated with nighttime, deviance and crime. This stigma and its sharp contrast with the stereotypical ideals and values society has historically imposed on women ensured that street art remained a mostly inaccessible and uninviting platform  for  women  to  showcase  their  talent. Despite its commercialization, street art has so far been closed to women, both globally and locally. Hoping to address this, the Montreal group OFFMural-es was formed, its mission being to shed some light on the inequalities that exist between men and women street artists.

Launching this movement has helped us to focus our criticism of the representation and visibility of women in Hip Hop. Whether as Bgirls, street artists, graffiti artists, MCs, or Deejays, women are part of this culture. Our goal is to encourage them to come together with their male colleagues and begin a dialog about the status of women in a cultural industry that remains very sexist.

Do these women feel 100% integrated into Hip Hop culture, and if so, how have they have achieved this integration? Were they obligated to deny their femininity in order to be accepted in a milieu where women are often seen as objects? We also invite those rare feminist men taking part in Hip Hop culture and ask them whether they consider women as artists, and whether they engage with their female colleagues in the same way as males. Although there is no single answer, we hope this new conference will help us find ways of encouraging women to commit to and involve themselves in Hip Hop culture entrepreneurship, so that they are no longer mere actresses, but real and significant players.

Information:

-Thursday August 8th

-Starting at 6:30PM

-At Fresh Paint Gallery, 221 Saint Catherine East.

-A 2$ contribution is asked at the Fresh Paint gallery door.

-Limited acces, only on booking confirmation (name and surname of each guests) at

marine@underpressure.ca

For any questions please contact marine@underpressure.ca

Interview with Chock GOT

I have some EXCITING NEWS!!

The Girls on Top (the UK’s first all-female graffiti crew) are coming to NYC for group exhibition at bob bar this MAY (see bob bar page)!!! So, to hype you all up for the show, I thought I’d share an interview I did with Chock—one of the crew’s founders—in April. So, enjoy your reading and get to know the girls (or, ya know, one of them!) before they get here!! Hope to see you for the opening reception on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 at 7PM!!

Jess: How’d you choose “Chock” for a tagname? And what crews do you rep?

Chock: I chose it as I wanted a feminine name, but I really liked chocolate! I always used to paint the O as a heart. GOT THC BRS and United Artists thanks to Duster.

Jess: Care to share your 9-5?

Chock: I’m a full time artist. I teach workshops and paint commission mainly. I am also into public sculpture and hope to get that underway with regards to commissions this year. My workshops are in schools and other community centres.  My company is called Paint My Panda.

Jess: Writing for how long and how did you get started?

Chock: 15 years. I was a skater as a kid and always saw graff a lot didn’t think to do it until I went interailing with my boyfriend of the time and the whole continent was smashed! Thought I have to do some of that and got on with it at the age of 17 . ~I was a rubbish skater anyway.

Jess: When did you get down with GOT and how did it happen?

Chock: I started the crew with another girl (NED) in around 2000 cos we were both bored of being the only girls, it was just for fun and she stopped writing, I kept it on because it is boring being the only girl and most of the male writers I have met are not gentlemen!

Jess: What particular aesthetic do you bring to the table and how does that differ from the rest of the crew (if it does)?

Chock: My style is usually very bold and colourful. I lack on the finer details like Cry can bring with her portraits cos my eyesight is shit! I used to have to get people to tell me if anyone was coming in yards, I swear I see fuck all without my glasses! I like to paint cartoons and silly animals too and take pride in my letters. Sabe paints tattoo styles, luna is illustration, cry is photorealistic portraits and 80s style letters, pixie paints cartoony stuff, punish paints calligraphy styles and neo nita paints crazy neon monsters J

Jess: Do you think there is a relationship between hip hop and graffiti?

Chock: There is deffo a relationship. I love hip-hop music I also love loads of other music. We try to post dope females in art music and dance on our blog along with our own work.

Jess: What is hip hop?

Chock: A way of life, a subculture, a style of music, dance and art

Jess: What new trends or types of graffiti are you seeing?

Chock: Photorealism has been around for ages now over here, I see the fine art styles coming through more deffo in my work also as I did study it graduating in fine art sculpture in 2001.

Jess: What do you think about graffiti culture being online, does it change anything?

Chock: It helps people all over the world communicate, it’s a good thing but don’t put your train stuff up cos its hot! You can get famous quickly from all that but also get busted. Over here so many people go to prison for it and that type of stuff is used as evidence against them- don’t boast on the net! I spend a lot of time on here as I work as an artist as use it as a promotion tool, Facebook and other sites have helped me get work and be known for the projects I run over here.

Jess: Tell me what you know about women in graffiti history.

Chock: err…Barbara and eva 62, lady pink, mickey…Martha coopers pics… we are under represented in the main but maybe because we are unique. Not many girls can do what we do due to family pressures or no desire to get so dirty and poor!

Jess: Do you think graffiti reflects, represents or retools your identity in any way?

Chock: It rebuilt my identity, it allowed me to change things in my life, relationships, jobs, situations I didn’t like and create what I wanted to do and be and allowed me to surround myself with people who inspire me not drag me down.

Jess: Do you think of yourself (and your work with GOT) as feminist? What is feminism?

Chock: For me feminism is just belief in ones self. Not allowing shit you don’t like to happen to you and being proud of who you are as an individual.

Jess: What does the word “community” mean to you?

Chock: The people around me. I do lots of community work and charity painting projects. Everyone’s actions affect each other and it is important to engage with people around you to create a better future for everyone not just yourself. There are many people worse off than you.

Jess: Can you tell me the history of GOT (how has GOT changed over the years?, who are the members?, etc.).

Chock: GOT was started in 2000 by myself and NED in Manchester, we drifted apart as she stopped painting and I carried on in other crews in London. I got on the graff girls site [RIP GraffGirlz.com] and started meeting girl writers (akme, numi) to paint with again which was cool cos I really had been the only girl painting for time, there is no one in my area at all who does it! I met up with a mates girlfriend called mira we did some pieces and some bombing together and I put on a jam at stockwell, London in 2007 and put akit, luna, Claudia de sabe and lyns in the crew too; did more jams in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and have now got a nice 7 person line up of Chock, Luna, Sabe, Pixie, Punish, Cry and Neo Nita. The jams are a cool chance for us to get together and jam basically, its not a sexist thing cos we want some boys come down too but its mainly for us girls cos we need support we don’t get from lads. Not all of us have great boyfriends!

Jess: GOT is a “Female graffiti crew started in 2000 to help unite the females in graff world” according to Facebook…can you elaborate on what prompted this? What it means to you? Why it is important?

Chock: As I said its just about friendship really and a love of graff, life is dull on your own

Jess: Do you work collaboratively with other crews/collectives, magazines, or websites?

Chock: Not so much yet the crew is looking to do more of that this year and onwards really we have done a few bits with COP and put the jams on so we can all meet up with other girl writers but the scene is not massively strong over here still its very much in the minority, there are many female artists and illustrators but they don’t love the can so much.

 

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Chillin’ with Few and Far in Miami

OH, Art Basel. What do you do when you have too much to see and not enough time? Prioritize! My goal for Basel was to meet the ladies of Few and Far in person, finally. For the 2nd year in a row, these grrls were once again rep’n the only all-grrl wall at Basel (unless I missed something). I talked to HOPS, MERLOT, 179, and BETH, but I mostly spent time talking with MEME (F&F founder) as she finished up her piece—part of a gorgeous rainbow-themed 13 person production in the backyard wall at Brisky Gallery.

While I was there, they received their first piece of fan mail!! Dope! An aspiring female writer had a goodie package—complete with candy and stickers—delivered right to the gallery! It also included a note thanking them for being a badass group of women, models for female writers everywhere. ❤

Do yourself a favor: follow their work, support their movement.

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TEDxWomen Recap!!!

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Wow. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so inspired, so supported, and so fancy! 😉 I just got home from the most incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience at TEDxWomen in DC. Basically, I got to spend 3 days making personal connections with radical feminists the likes of spoken word artist Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes, Lynne Hurdle-Price of Nomada What Productions Inc., Courtney Martin and Vanessa Valenti of Feministing, Emily May of Hollaback!, Gaby Pacheco of the Trail of DREAMs, Angela Patton of Camp Diva, and Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency. I was so invigorated by all of the wonderful work these women are doing and immensely honored and privileged to be amongst them. Be sure to check out their talks and to support their various projects!

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After my talk, the super-talented Eve Ensler congratulated me and said that she loved my presentation…it doesn’t get much better than that! Speaking of, I learned about her new project: One Billion Rising. You should check it out!

You can watch the unedited version of my talk here! After my talk, people thanked me for opening their eyes or expanding their minds in regards to graffiti, and expressed their love for the art they saw in my presentation. Ladies! you knocked their socks off! I hope you enjoy watching it, as much as I enjoyed presenting it!

The Paley Center posted their photos on a Flickr photo stream!

I just want to thank all of the women in my study one more time because without them I wouldn’t be where I am. xoxo

One more thing, I have a new Facebook page, please like it!

From the Archives…EGR

Who? EGR

Where? NYC to Toronto via email

When? Forever ago…well, early 2009.

Toronto-based graffiti artist EGR caught my attention a long time ago. When I started my PhD program, and picked right back up interviewing writers, she was one of the first women I contacted. Even though we only had a brief email exchange, I’ve kept up with her work. Her characters captivate me, and let’s be real—I have a soft spot for fairies and other winged beings…so I can’t get enough of her aesthetic. EGR has a solo show at the Mark Christopher Gallery right now (!) called “We are Nature” so I thought I’d dig up her old interview. I meant to get this up sooner, but we had a Hurricane here in NYC and life got crazy for a bit…so here it is. If you are in the Toronto area in the next 7 days, you have exactly ONE WEEK left to see her show live and direct. [Click here to go to a recent interview about the show].

So here is a quickie, a flashback interview with the lovely and ambitious EGR…

What’s your tag and how did you come up with it? EGR- describes my ambition. Used to write Eager then abbreviated it.

What’s your 9-5? Artist/Illustrator/Muralist

Crews? Solo

How would you describe your style? EGRism

How long have you been writing and how did you get started? Since ’96. I got into it after a high school friend showed me his ‘work’ in my hometown along the train tracks. At the time I was experimenting with so many new artistic mediums, it seemed only natural. I was instantly hooked.

Graffiti is often spoken about through and alongside hip hop. Do you feel like a member of the hip hop nation through your involvement with graffiti? I feel like a member of the hip hop community through my live painting experiences at hip hop events, and also because Graffiti art is one of the elements of hip hop. That’s one of the things I love about hip hop.

How would you characterize a “hip hop aesthetic”? Fluid and bright, fresh or old school, with a reference to music, and the elements of hip hop. Do you think your graffiti reflects, represents or retools your identity in any way? How so? My art is a reflection of my thoughts and experience, and my graffiti is an extension of my art. They are inevitably linked.

Do you think of yourself as a feminist? No, I’m not a feminist, although I believe in equality.

^^EGR progress shot by John Lee at ReSurface event, Toronto^^

Is graffiti about resistance? If so, what are you resisting and how do you know when you are successful? Graffiti resists conformity, to me. I don’t necessarily think success can be achieved through non-conformity, depending on how you would define success. I think it’s about the process, the message, and feeling like you’ve accomplished getting your message across. It’s about communicating.

Does your graffiti take on a message, or is it primarily about style and recognition-or both? My work is often concept based; I hope to incorporate positive imagery in my work.

Does location affect your choice of theme/character or topic? If so, how? Graf is often about freestyling and vibing off your environment and/or situation. Its making something out of nothing, and using what you’ve got.

Are the effects of globalization being felt, translated and/or responded to through your work at all? Yes. [I bet if she were to answer this question today, she would have a lot to say…see her blurb about the “we are nature” show and you’ll see what I mean.]

BIO: Erica Gosich Rose aka EGR, grew up in Burlington; a quiet suburban city just a train ride away from Toronto, Canada. Her fascination with street art intensified while traveling to and from Sheridan College for Interpretive Illustration; the aesthetics and concepts of which are still featured prominently in her work today. EGR’s works can be found on crumbling city walls and in pristine art galleries, from fine art to murals, illustration and even live art. Part of EGR’s appeal is her ability to bridge art, design and functional purpose. She is just as comfortable with traditional oil paints and brushes as she is wielding aerosol spraycans—in locales as far as Australia and even Florence, Italy. Pop culture and social references abound in the work of EGR, though the female perspective is a recurring staple. As women are still a minority in the boys’ club of urban art, many consider her a pioneer in the street art world.

http://www.egrart.com

Twitter @EGRart

“We are Nature” Press Release:

Eternally Mimi, works by Japanese Graffiti Artist Shiro, Opens August 29th!! NYC

(When it seems like I am slacking on the blog front, it is most likely because I am putting together something like this…please come through)

 Eternally Mimi

works by Shiro 

Curated by Jessica N. Pabón

Opening Reception: August 29th, 2012 at 7pm

Exhibition Dates: August 29th–September 29th, 2012

bOb Bar is pleased to present Eternally Mimi, a solo exhibition of work by Japanese graffiti artist Shiro. Please join us on Wednesday August 29th, from 7:00 p.m. to close, to meet the artist and celebrate the work.

 In Eternally Mimi, the latest series in a career-long study of the self, Japanese graffiti artist Shiro explores the paradox of identity through her iconic character Mimi. Asking what the self between the constant and the evolving might look like, Shiro imagines her sometimes mortal, sometimes immortal alter ego in different times and places—but she remains Mimi, a robust female character inspired by hip hop culture and Buddhism, eternally.

 Shiro began painting graffiti in 1998 in Shizuoka, Japan. A truly international graffiti artist, Shiro is down with GCS, TDS, Universal Zulu Nation Japan, and SUG. She has exhibited works in Australia, China, Germany, India, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and the US. Shiro is also the designer and owner of the clothing brand “BJ46.”

http://www.bj46.com

shirojapan [at] gmail [dot] com

bOb Bar
235 Eldridge Street
New York, NY 10002
212-529-1807   www.bobbarnyc.com