Tag Archives: Famous When Dead

Urban Art Agenda #1 – #3

Urban Art Agenda #3 is an international street and stencil art at Famous When Dead. This is the 3rd year that JD Mittmann has organized the Urban Art Agenda exhibition. The 1st Urban Art Agenda was held in the middle of winter in Shed 4, an old corrugated iron warehouse shed way out in Melbourne’s Docklands. The works was hung on temporary fencing partitions within this large space. The exhibition had a variety of artists from Europe, USA and, mostly, Australia, mostly, Melbourne, to be precise. And a good variety of styles, from cartoon style to multi-stencil realism but there were a lot of stencil art of urban landscapes by Kenji Nakayama, Fremantle, Logan Hicks, Klingatron and Ralf Kempken.

There are still many urban landscapes in the exhibition but there are many differences between Urban Art Agenda #1 and #3. JD Mittmann now runs Famous When Dead gallery and so the exhibition is properly hung in a white walled gallery. The exhibition appears less-street oriented; OZI’s “Tinker Bitch”, an image of a stripping Tinkerbell is one of the few street-style works. The exhibition is focused more on stencil art. Urban Art Agenda #3 has artists from Europe, USA, Brazil, Iran and Australia but there is only one Melbourne artist in; El Moocho, El Moocho is also the one artist in the exhibition using found materials in his art. His work using street signs is particularly effective; using a Stop sign for a painting to say ‘stop child soldiers’.

The technique of multi-layered stencils to create images of urban landscapes has been a constant feature of the Urban Art Agenda exhibitions. Kenji Nakayama from Boston is again in the exhibition with stencils of the Brooklyn Bridge. Stencil art is an excellent media for these images because the colour separation (often computer assisted) makes the urban landscape more aesthetic. However, there is little content to these urban landscapes, unlike the political and humorous content of the street style art. Orticanoodles, from Milan, and Penny, from London, manipulate their images more on the computer. But these stencil urban landscapes are becoming as common as once were watercolour rural landscapes.

Spin That Thing @ Famous When Dead

What do you do with Gerry Rafferty’s 1979 album Night Owl? It is a gold record selling over 500,000 units (records, tapes or compact discs) so it is not rare but not as popular as Rafferty’s Baker Street that has sold 5.5 million copies. And if you had listened to it in the last ten years you would be getting more use out of it than most owners. So why not paint it?

The vinyl record has become a popular support for street art paintings. It is symbolic of music and turntables although once painted no longer functional; it is the street art equivalent of turning an old book into art. Spin That Thing at Famous When Dead Gallery is an exhibition of painted 12-inch records by visual artists (not recording artists) from around the world – Australia, Iran, Netherlands, Norway and the USA.

The opening on Friday night was busy and numerous records sold before I arrived. Toby and Melika, from 696, were waiting outside for Catlin Rigby to tell her that both her pieces had sold. The prices are reasonable, most were between $100 and $200; J.D. said that next time he does an exhibition of painted records there will be a standard price. I talked with a few people (hi Fray and Doyle) as I worked my way around the crowded room, first with a beer in hand, the second time with my notebook.

It is a good exhibition, there are 75 12-inch images to look at, but it is patchy. Only a few of the artists (mostly from Melbourne, Australia) used the format of the record in the art. Liz Racz used the round 12 inches diameter piece of black vinyl form with a spindle hole in the middle effectively. Racz uses the nail supporting the record in the middle to puncture the painted hands in both her images: “Sister Clancy Bernadette obeys Her Master’s Voice” and “Sister Clancy Bernadette’s DIY Miracle of the Other Hand”. Adi makes reference to the content of the Rick Wakeman album that it is painted on with her image “The Tree That Whispered A Secret To Merlin”, as well as, on another record using paper cutting on an album sleeve to reveal the image painted on the record. On a less attractive note, Paul Wain simply broke records and glued them on top of others.

A few of the artists have made musical references, like Mark Whatson from Norway remixes the iPod advertising images, or Megan Dell from Melbourne “Not the Beetles”. But most just used the record as a support for art, like the powerful psycho pop images of Miz Cery and ZKLR, from Brisbane. Harddrive from Stanton, USA ignores the format all together and glues 5 or 8 records together to create a larger surface. Most of the art is aerosol stencil but there are a few brush paintings and a few collages (including two beautiful ones by Papermonster from New York).

And finally it appears that Gerry Rafferty has disappeared.

São Paulo Artists in Melbourne

It was a beautiful summer Sunday in Melbourne and my idea of a good time was to take the tram to Victoria Market. Eat some bratwurst and have a wander around looking at market: everything from meat and vegetables to crystal balls can be found at Victoria Market. And then walk up the street to see Poesia Urbana, an exhibition of works by ten street artists from São Paulo, at Famous When Dead Gallery.

The São Paulo artists exhibiting were: Alto Contraste, Bete Nóbrega, Celso Gitahy, Cena7, Ceson, Daniel Melim, Emol, Highraff, Ozi and Sprays Poéticos. It would be foolish of me to try and sum up São Paulo’s famous street art scene from a single exhibition. Remarkably there is frequent contact and exchange between Melbourne and São Paulo street-artists so I am becoming more familiar with some São Paulo street-artists. I had seen Celso Gitahy’s work before this year at the “Spray The Word” exhibition at The Library Artspace in August and at Famous When Dead Gallery in April.  Bete Nóbrega had also exhibited work in Spray the Word. Her sweet folk style stencils of horses and birds with text were instantly recognizable.

Celso Gitahy, Emol and Cena7 were meant to be in attendance for live spraying and artist talks. But as it was only Celso Gitahy was there spraying away with his dredlocked manager on a table out the front of the gallery. I was interested in watching Celso spray but I was about the only one there. Celso uses stencils with plastic netting that held isolated islands of the stencil in place and he uses different bright colors on parts of the same stencil.

JD Mittmann, the director of Famous When Dead, said that he’d last seen Emol and Cena7 having a good time at Blender Studios and maybe they were still there partying. Hanging out in Blender Studios is an essential experience for every visiting international street artist (and more fun than a quiet Sunday at Famous When Dead, so I don’t blame them for not turning up). I must write more about Blender Studios as it is a dynamic place with both street-artist and contemporary artists working there.

Emol and Cena7 had received a grant from the Brazilian Ministry of Culture to come to Melbourne for the exhibition. Celso Gitahy and his manager had paid their own way (was this the reason why he was busy spraying more work?).

Celso Gitahy explained his art to me. His images are concerned with the duality of the spiritual/natural with the material/artificial. His images were evolving from humans with car heads to giraffes with electronic heads.

A couple of the São Paulo artists work showed an interest in fashion. OZI had made a pig shaped work, “Fashion Pig – Luis Vitao”, with a Louis Vuitton pattern. Alto Contraste had used paper-sewing patterns for supports for the “Fashion Freak” series. And Celso Gitahy’s “Solidao” features a stylish jacket emblazoned with bright images.

Poesia Urbana only occupied the front gallery-space of Famous When Dead, the back space was filled with a selection of work from the stock room. It was meant to be the last day that Famous When Dead Gallery would be open for the year but JD said he was going to keep it open for a few more days.

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