Tag Archives: Street Art

Ten Great Street Installations

I have love street installations. I write about street art installation in my book on Melbourne’s public sculpture because street installations, although not officially sanctioned, are still seen by the public.

Junky Projects, All Your Walls, 2013 (2)

The new Junky Projects that is part of All Your Walls in Hosier Lane is the largest that I have yet seen on the streets, becoming more abstract in his compositions. It a Dadaists/Futurists.

Pop Cap, All Your Walls, 2013

The Lego men in also All Your Walls by Pop Cap.

Will Coles, Nothingness

Will Coles, Nothingness, does anyone notice if a pigeon dies?

psalm-rainb2

Photograph that Psalm sent to me, this urban Rainbow is some of some of his fine work. Showing that he can do installations and other street art.

psalm-drain2

Another photograph by Psalm of his work, Drain, its an old gag but worth doing well.

GT Sewell, Clown Serpent, 2013 (2 Blender Alley)

A great serpent clown by GT in Blender Lane.

Tea pot CBD

Yarn bombing referring back to the tea-cosy. Is yarn bombing trying to make the city more cosy?

Les Futo's spiral of lighters

A temporary installation; Les Futo’s great spiral of used lighters, presented at the Brunswick Festival in 2008.

Buckets in AC:DC lane

Can fling-up be art? In 2009 these buckets appeared in AC/DC Lane.

B1 Crucified, Brunswick

B1 Crucified in Brunswick in 2013. Is this a reference to cuts to the ABC?


Charlatans of the Art World

The accusation of charlatan is sometime levelled against some artists. Robert Hughes made this accusation to Jeff Koons. Koons replied to was to point out that if had put his talents to use in the business world he would have a bigger income.

Chelsea, NYC stickers, 2013

Chelsea, NYC, stickers, 2013

I smile sadly at the street artists who snigger about all the street art photographers, the artists who dislike collectors and the accusations of “toy” amongst the street artists. I understand the artists who hate critics, although I think that critics are misunderstood. For all of these people are all part of a system that creates and defines what street art is.

Artists, collectors, curators, critics, gallery visitors, gallery directors have many different ambitions, drives and desires; one artist may have many different ambitions, drives and desires. The game of art, if it resembled any game, is like a role-playing game; in these games the players are not directly competing against each other but playing characters in a story.

I regularly play tabletop role-playing games and the players have a variety of ambitions within the game: the power player, the character actor, the storyteller and the puzzle solver are the typical variations. Like any game there people playing it for a variety of reasons from the social to personal. In the game of art there are artists and other people playing with all kinds of ambitions within and outside of art.

There is early episode in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, when Tom and Huck are playing at highwaymen and Huck complains about the futility of playing at gentlemen highway robbers.

“He (Tom) said if I warn’t so ignorant, but had read a book called ‘Don Quixote’, I would know without asking… So then I judged that all that stuff was only just one of Tom Sawyer’s lies. I reckoned he believed in all the A-rabs and the elephants, but for me I think different. It had all the marks of a Sunday school.”

Tom Sawyer’s self-conscious play demonstrated awareness of the rules of genre whether it is highwaymen or pirates. He makes the painting of his aunt’s fence into an event, although the event lacking any authentic emotional or artistic quality it is very profitable one for Tom. (Read more in my forth-coming book, Tom Sawyer, Art Entrepreneur. Syndicated chapter from the early years about Tom getting the local street artists to paint his Aunts fence for nothing, they even brought their own paint. But I digress.)

One can always have doubts about Tom Sawyer’s true intentions or have doubts about Duchamp – serious, joke or both? Tom Sawyer chooses to play at being pirates or highwaymen just as Duchamp chooses to play at making art. However whereas Tom Sawyer slavish follows the conventions of the genre, to Huck Finn’s great consternation, Duchamp incorporates jokes about them into his games. Jokes were about being aware of the conventions of the art gallery and the art world. Duchamp did not change the conventions of art galleries and the art world, the changes had already been made.

Isn’t a charlatan just the opposition’s view of a magician? (Are we talking stage magician or someone like Gandalf?) I am referring to Jed Perls’s new book Magicians and Charlatans.

DSC05944


Illustration Bombing

The name of my file for these street art photos is “bomb illustration” – I don’t know what else to call it. They are throw-ups, as in a quick bit of graffiti using one or two colours and it is an illustration. They are about style and imagination. There are artists who do a lot of these like MaxCat and Sims who can fill a whole wall with it. There are artists who do it as a kind of visual tagging, drawing the same thing over and over. And there are unknown artists who draw or paint on walls when the opportunity and the environment presents to them. I enjoy them.

Makn, Brunswick, 2011

Makn, Brunswick, 2011

Robots, Brunswick, 2008

Robots, Brunswick, 2008

Sims, East Richmond Station, 2009

Sims, East Richmond Station, 2009

MaxCat, Brunswick, 2009

MaxCat, Brunswick, 2009

unknown artist, Melbourne, 2009

unknown artist, Melbourne, 2009

unknown artist, Melbourne, 2009

unknown artist, Brunswick, 2009

Altered buffing, unknown artist, Brunswick, 2011

Altered buffing, unknown artist, Brunswick, 2011


Rone “When She’s Gone”

There was only one unsold work at the opening of Rone’s “When She’s Gone” exhibition at Backwoods Gallery on Friday night. Almost everything had been sold before the opening – red Backwood’s sticker beside them on the wall. When she’s gone she’s gone.

It was not surprising as Rone is a Melbourne street art legend, a member of the Everfresh crew, who was busted by the cops with Civil at the 2003 Canterbury “Empty Show”. Rone started decorating skate decks and skate parks and he then moved to large-scale faces of women. The high contrast images of the beautiful face of a young woman look like so many photographs from fashion magazines.

Rone has been refining his close-up image of a woman’s face for years in stencils, screen prints, paste-ups and stickers. And the image has become very refined. In 13 works in the exhibition and walls everywhere Rone’s image of a woman’s face was everywhere. Rone was giving away sheets of stickers of his postage stamp version of the woman’s face.

Everyone at the opening was talking about the works on real brick cladding that Rone was using as a support on four works. It is not that remarkable, just Google “real brick cladding”, and a bit hyper-real given that it didn’t matter what the support was, paper, canvas or brick cladding.

Rone uses the Situationalist International process of décollage (de-collage or tearing away) posters. The Situationalists like “anonymous lacerations” of advertisements defaced by vandals, they became “found images”. “In 1961 Jacques Villeglé and Raymond Hains exhibited their décollages—torn and ripped agitprop posters—at the exhibition titled in a play on words, “La France déchirée” (France in Shreds).” According to McDonough, Hains’ displayed the posters in order to expose the Algerian war. (Whitney Dail “A Critical Review of ‘The Beautiful Language of My Century’ by Tom McDonough”) Unlike the Situationalists Rone doesn’t use décollage for explicitly political purposes – it was all on top of Everfresh and other posters.

Rone’s exhibition is pure pop beauty. The triptych “I know what I know” fills the whole wall, like a series of comic book panels with text. Rone’s titles have pop culture references to song lyrics, like “Hurt So Good” (John Cougar) or “Blue Monday” (Joy Division) or “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers).

“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

It’s not warm when she’s away.

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

And she’s always gone too long

Anytime she goes away.”

- Bill Withers


Not Just Two New Galleries

Lots of galleries open and close each year in Melbourne but the opening of two new galleries in Melbourne this year is worthy of note: Screen Space and Rtist. They are worth noting because of the type of art that each gallery is focused on and how they mark the establishment of these art forms. Screen Space specializes in video art. Rtist specializes in street art.

Screen Space on the ground level of 30 Guildford Lane, specializing in video art. It is not that other galleries aren’t showing video art but a gallery focused on presenting video art is notable step. On the floor above Screen Space there is another new gallery Beam Contemporary, a pleasant converted warehouse space typical of many of Melbourne’s galleries. I was not surprised to find that there are more galleries now on Guildford Lane, clustering along this small inner city lane, as Melbourne galleries tend to develop in clusters. First there was Guildford Lane Gallery then Utopian Stumps joined them, moving into the city from Collingwood at the end of 2009.

Screen Space has two rooms, a lit reception gallery with a large screen tv and a unlit second gallery with a video projector, all presented with an elegant uncompromised minimalist design. The difference between video art and art movies is that you can sit down and watch an art movie in a conventional cinema whereas you see video art standing up in a gallery – so in keeping with many contemporary galleries there are no chairs.

On Friday night, April 1st, I went to the “unofficial opening” at Rtist gallery in Parhran. Another cluster of galleries developing in Parhran with Helen Gory Gallery a few doors further along St. Edmonds Road from Rtist. Although Rtist is not the first gallery to specialize in street art in Melbourne it is a further indication that street art has become part of the establishment. The gallery space with its polished cement floor and attractive entrance area is beautifully designed. There is even space for some live spray painting on an outside wall along the side of the gallery.

The “unofficial opening” was a packaged spectacle like the exhibition of street artists. There were plenty of the usual suspects drinking at the opening and hanging on the walls – piece by Jason Jacenko, Sofles, Slicer, Shida, Numskull, Beastman, Amelia Lackman, Gimiks Born, Adnate & Ojae, Deams, Itch, Vans the Omega, Johnny Duel, Urban Cake Lady, Rone, Stabs, Phibske, Lucy Lucy, Roachy and Marko Maglaic. Like the gallery, the art on exhibition are equally well presented on quality mounts and framed, well-crafted versions of the pieces on the street – repeatable, recognizable, high quality souvenirs of the spectacle of Melbourne street art.


Athens Graffiti

“People who want to make me stop make me laugh”

I saw this painted on a wall along the Athens metro line out to the airport.

I could read it because it was in English, in Roman and not Cyrillic alphabet. Lots of graffiti in Athens is written in English, there is very little written in Greek, apart from a few political slogans.

Taggers in Athens use English words for their tags. Graffiti has become an international style with very little regional differences.

I am currently in Greece on holiday but I am trying to write and research about art and culture for this blog as I travel. I have been looking at a lot of classical art and architecture in Greece but I have also been looking at the graffiti and street art.

There is graffiti everywhere in Athens, apart from metro stations and on the ancient monuments where only scratched graffiti survives. This antique graffiti raises different issues about history and conservation than the contemporary graffiti; some of it is already in the museums. It records the interest of 19th and 20th century visitors in these ancient sites, like the temple of Aphaia on Aegina. To remove this antique graffiti would be to further damage the ancient stone and it would also damage the historic record of use of the site. And in understanding that there is antique graffiti of historic value raises questions about the way that contemporary graffiti is buffed, conserved or left to fate to decide on its preservation.

Back to the contemporary graffiti in Athens. With the economic collapse and the riots this year and last year in Athens it doesn’t look like anyone can afford to buff, or paint over, any of the graffiti. Anarchy symbols, tags, bombs and other marks cover every second building, it is all along the metro lines and on the metro cars (although the metro stations themselves remain untouched).

“Even cops die.” The graffiti writers are clearly frustrated with the political developments but I wonder what the point of writing political slogans in a foreign language.

Most Greek graffiti writers are not the experienced crews making masterpieces in aerosol, as in other cities; although I did see a few good pieces on the way to Piresas. The Greek graffiti writers will try anything, pens, paint brushes, paint rollers, stencils (only one colour) – it is a fun but amateurish mix of styles and techniques.

There is a lot of graffiti on the buildings and laneways around the ruins of the Roman agora. “Bicycle revolution now.” reads one slogan. The old buildings in Athens with their accretions of architecture now have a new layer of paint on them. If Athens is an example of how bad and ugly as unrestrained graffiti can get in a city then graffiti, even in its most basic form, is not a disaster for a city it is a fact of urban life and will be with us as long as there are cities. Athens graffiti shows that without draconian legal restrictions on graffiti writers, like canning in Singapore or jail in Melbourne, there are more tags, more political slogans, less quality work by professional street artists and more strange experiments.


Viva Brizvegas

Readers may be aware from my last two entries that I have just returned from Brisbane, or Brizvegas as it is called. “Brizvegas” was first used in print in a 1996 edition of the Courier Mail in reference to the opening of the new casino and the popularization of poker machines in Brisbane’s bars and clubs. The commercial sex of Fortitude Valley sits alongside the art galleries, bars, cafes and discount clothing stores.

I only go to Brisbane, Queensland when accompanying my wife, Catherine to her conferences. When she at her conference I fill in the day looking at art and photographing street art. There is not a lot of joy for a tourist interested in art in Brisbane. You could fill in a day if you went to all the major galleries on the South Bank. If you were really determined and wanted to see galleries for a second day, you could see all the galleries in Fortitude Valley along with the street art. Catch a train to South Bank station and see the gallery at Queensland College of Arts (QCA) and walk across the Goodwill footbridge across the river to the Queensland University of Technology Art Gallery. I was fortunate – at the QCA Gallery there was an exhibition of Juan Davila’s work on paper – Graphic!. I managed to stretch this out to three days by repeat trips to GoMA and looking at the exhibitions at the Queensland Centre for Photography and Jan Manton Art.

Street art in Fortitude Valley

Street art in Fortitude Valley

The street art in Brisbane is mostly in Fortitude Valley and mostly in the form of stickers. There are stickers on the back of every street sign along the street. Stencil art is still strong in Brisbane’s street art scene and I recognized several artists, Mzcry and ZKLR from my work with the Melbourne Stencil Festival.

I had dinner in the West End with my old housemate Ben. Ben recommended dinner at the 3 Monkey’s. Ben had the lasagne, Catherine had the haloumi platter with pita bread and Greek salad, and I had a gourmet pizza. Ben and I both had a slice of cake for desert. Looking back it was amongst the best food that I had in Brisbane. The food on the South Bank was mostly over priced rubbish in small portions. Surprisingly the other good food was at the conference dinner. It was very good but not as good as the after dinner speech by writer Nick Earls. He was excellent and the perfect dinner speaker for a conference of medical librarians from around the world.

Stefen's Skytower

Stefen's Skyneedle

But I digress and I want to return to Brisbane’s West End. Brisbane is a small city where a flamboyant hairdresser can still make a big impact. Stefan’s Skyneedle is the largest gay erection in Brisvegas – a piece of fantastic, pointless architecture in Brisbane’s West End. At night the globe flashes with light, multi-coloured fluorescent tubes make patterns and spotlights span the sky – it is quite a show. The Skyneedle is an 88m tower that was constructed for the World Expo ’88. At the end of Expo’88 hairdresser Stefan Ackerie bought the Skyneedle and moved it to his company’s headquarters in the West End. It had another sculpture in the car park when I visited.  Massive blocks of unfinished white marble form the plinth for a marble Janus eyes, that looks both ways.

Stefen's Eye

Stefen's Eye

The base around the Skyneedle is derelict. There are improvised stairs going up to its tiled hexagon base. Underneath the brass awning/collar is a wooden box painted silver enclosing the base of the tower with a locked door. The light show must be on automatic, as it didn’t look like the door was unlocked frequently.

Base of Skyneedle

Base of Skyneedle

Brisvegas appears like a left-over; a left-over from the expo, the capital city of a former tropical fascist state on the mend, a work in progress with footpaths closed for building works. However, I did also see some great new public libraries in Brisbane with beautiful architectural design, so there is reason to hope for Brisvegas.


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