Posts tagged with "graffiti":

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In Chicago, graffiti comes into its own as public art precedes major building developments

Graffiti in Chicago is not always vandalism. Though tagging, the stylized signatures sometimes used as gang markings, still pervade alleys and the occasional blank wall, graffiti has come into its own as public art. Whether on “permission walls” or commissioned by businesses, many neighborhoods in Chicago are filled with large-scale artworks that, until recently, were relegated to train cars and out-of-the-way places. But in neighborhoods on the near northwest side and near south of the city, fewer and fewer commercial walls are left blank. Partially as an attempt to stem random tagging and partially as an attempt to connect with young locals who may be future customers, businesses and developers are commissioning, or at least allowing, massive works of graffiti on their property.

Along the Milwaukee Avenue corridor, through the Wicker Park and Logan Square neighborhoods, new midrise developments are being built every few blocks. As developers negotiate with locals who are often opposed to the new projects, new modes of community involvement are arising. In the case of one of the recent high-end apartment buildings, graffiti was at the forefront throughout early construction.

The 300-foot construction fence around what would become the L Logan Square, designed by Chicago-based Brininstool + Lynch, was handed over to local artist AMUSE126 to curate. Along with Galerie F co-owner Billy Craven, AMUSE126 gathered 10 local and national artists to produce a continuous mural on the fence. Though the fence would stand for only a few short months, the L has incorporated graffiti-inspired artwork into some of its common spaces, including its 200-spot bike parking room.

Less than a block away, a group of now-vacant buildings known as the Mega Mall is covered in technicolor portraits and vibrant lettering. Once a bustling flea market, the Mega Mall slowly declined until the last tenant left after the building was bought earlier this year. Once again, AMUSE126 and Craven were called upon to gather artists to cover the building in art. In late May, two dozen graffiti artist went to work on the building, working for free and providing their own supplies for the opportunity to paint along the highly trafficked street. At the time, it was anticipated that the building would be demolished shortly after the mural was complete. Yet delays in the permit process have led to the works staying up for over half a year, a very long time in terms of graffiti.

The project planned for the Mega Mall site has been dubbed Logan’s Crossing. Announced over a year ago, the project has not always been met with open arms by the community. Recently developer Terraco, Inc. and Chicago-based architect Joe Antunovich released new renderings based on community input over the last several months. Delays to the demolition of the Mega Mall along with other “permission walls” near the site have produced a half-mile stretch that would have been unimaginable in the past.

Chicago’s relationship with graffiti has often been a strained one. Through the 1980s and ’90s the city struggled with taggers, leading to the formation of the “Graffiti Blasters” under Mayor Richard M. Daley. To this day, unwanted tags will often be removed by the city’s teams, even if they’re not requested to be. The team removes over 60,000 pieces of graffiti every year. In 1992, the city passed an ordinance that would ban the sale of spray paint within city limits. This ordinance led to a lawsuit by spray-paint makers and sellers that would go all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1995, the ordinance was upheld, and for the last 20 years no stores in the city have sold spray paint. Recently, though, the same alderman who originally penned the ordinance has brought a plan before the city council to lift the ban in order to bring business back into the city. While the streets of Chicago have never been cleaner, it is arguable whether the ban had any major effect.

While the conversation about graffiti as a legitimate art form has definitely begun to lean heavily in favor of the much-maligned practice, the debate came to a head in 2010. Late one February night a crew of five graffiti artists painted a 50-foot wall along the then-new Renzo Piano–designed Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. The graffiti protested the museum’s lack of recognition of graffiti as a modern art form. The act would make headlines and be the basis for a play entitled This Is Modern Art. The play itself was also controversial.

Well before this act of civil disobedience, one of New York’s more famous graffiti artists, Keith Haring, came to Chicago and was asked to produce a major piece. In May 1989, just blocks away from the Art Institute, Haring, with the help of 500 Chicago public school kids, produced a 480-foot mural in Grant Park.

Vandalism in Chicago can lead to felony charges. Yet with more “permission walls,” often designated by the city itself, and property owners allowing for graffiti, the definition of what public art is is quickly changing. As developers use graffiti to connect with younger communities, and businesses more regularly use it as street-front advertising, the street-art form is no longer only being associated with the disenfranchised or criminal elements of the city. Instead, perhaps graffiti is on track to skip the fine-arts scene and jump straight into the corporate art world. Whatever the case may be, graffiti is coming out of the shadows, and onto bigger things.

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How one artist is creating an empathetic cityscape by repurposing old couches into "Comfort Extension"

From grandma’s plastic covered loveseat to the once-loved, now-wrecked college futon, all couches doomed for the dump are revitalized in this art installation that seeks to make cities a friendlier—and more comfortable—place to inhabit. Friends of French-born, New York–based artist Shani Ha found their old couches repurposed and transformed into sculptural, functional wall pieces, appropriately named Comfort Extensions, that aim to encourage individuals to invade public spaces in a comfortable and odd way. Comfort Extensions maneuvered its way into New York City's public spaces and seized nooks, crannies, and light posts to make way for an in situ exhibit that focuses on public space appropriations and the reconsideration of social behavior. The project, entitled EmpathiCity, is a transitory form of three-dimensional graffiti that serves as an extension of architecture, and, when used by people, can create a welcoming environment in fast moving cities. Paris, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Brussels are among the cities targeted by these infectious political art statements that encourage individuals to reflect on their social behavior and break loose of the typical non-empathic characteristics that city-goers presumably harbor. "These actions of leaning on architectural surfaces can be interpreted as active ways to live in the city and affirm our presence by appropriating portions of public spaces" said Ha, "It’s almost a form of protest, a social statement. EmpathiCity doesn’t solve the problem but tries to address it." [h/t Designboom.]
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Bureau V's experimental music venue with a high-tech vibe set to open in a former Williamsburg sawmill

Brooklyn designers Bureau V have completed National Sawdust, an experimental performance venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that will be home to the Original Music Workshop (OMW). The name of the venue comes from the existing building’s history as a sawmill. OMW is a nonprofit led by composer Paola Prestini, whose advisory board includes heavy-hitters such as James Murphy, Laurie Anderson, Suzanne Vega, and Philip Glass. The 3,000-square-foot space in the heart of Williamsburg at North 6th Street and Wythe Avenue was a collaboration between Bureau V and Arup. It was originally conceived back in 2012 with an estimated opening of 2013. In 2014, it was still unfinished, and a Kickstarter campaign raised over $100,000. Now the project is slated for an opening in October. The design is a mix of a traditional European theater and a black-box space, combining the “crafted beauty of the former” with the “experimental programming and roughness of the latter.” The particular history of the site will add another layer of spatial interest to the building, as its industrial past is conflated with a high-tech present. The result is a sublime collision of new and old: technology and ruin, progress and history, refinement and grit. The acoustics are state-of-the-art and were developed with Arup. For more details on the design, see AN's original 2012 coverage.
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This graffiti-covered Bowery landmark is about to turn luxury, but developers plan to preserve years of spray paint on its walls

In December, AN wrote that prolific developer Aby Rosen had picked up 190 Bowery—a six-story, graffiti-covered Renaissance Revival building that had been the private home and studio of photographer Jay Maisel since 1956. Maisel purchased the building for $102,000 and repeatedly turned down offers to sell it despite its skyrocketing value. Rosen's RFR Realty ultimately purchased the landmarked property for $55 million. So, you can understand that when 190 Bowery sold we predicted that its graffiti would be "power-sprayed into oblivion." Well, turns out we were wrong about that: The graffiti-covered building will continued to be a graffiti-covered building even as it transitions into an commercial property with ground floor retail. NY YIMBY reported that Higgins Quasebarth & Partners and MdeAS Architects recently presented their conversion plan to the Landmarks Preservation Commission which includes the "restoration of metal gates, wooden doors, stained glass, and other elements, but not removing the graffiti or cleaning the facade." The project's light touch pleased just about everyone. Landmarks commissioners loved it, the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors was pretty happy with it, the Historic Districts Council was smitten, and Community Board 2 approved it, as did the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
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Detroit city council asks, graffiti: art or vandalism?

Graffiti: art or vandalism? For some there's an absolute answer to that question, but for most there's room for debate. In New York City, police chief Bill Bratton calls graffiti "the first sign of urban decay," while work from Banksy (and sometimes lesser-known street artists) fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at New York auctions. Detroit became the latest city to grapple with this question in an official capacity, with city council members previewing ordinances designed to cut back on blight that have brought a somewhat philosophical question into sharp legal focus: How do you distinguish between blight and art in a city renowned (or reviled) for both? Council member Raquel Castañeda-López told Detroit's MetroTimes she and her colleagues are considering a variety of ordinances. One would fine building owners for not promptly removing graffiti on their property, and offer tax incentives for installing deterrents like security cameras. To exempt legitimate works of art, Castañeda-López also said they're looking into creating a citywide registry for street art. That's a complex task, however, especially for a cash-strapped city like Detroit. They're trying to avoid repeating an embarrassing mistake made last year, when city officials issued more than $8,000 in fines to commissioned graffiti galleries along the city's Grand River Creative Corridor. Collectives like the Heidelberg Project and individual artists like Brian Glass, known as Sintex, continue to battle with city officials who must enforce vandalism statutes while enjoying the creative community's substantial tourist draw. Funding for the citywide registry could come from a “one percent for art” program that earmarks public development money for cultural programs. "We're deciding what makes the most sense for the city," Castañeda-López told the MetroTimes' Lee DeVito. The city will schedule public meetings later this month to continue the conversation.
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Satellite captures the world's largest street art GIF from 430 miles above Earth

  INSA, as the undercover street artist is cryptically known, is the net generation’s equivalent of the legendary graffiti artist Banksy. While INSA’s doodles also dapple the walls of buildings in London as well as around the world, the artist creates GIFs—or “GIF-ITIs” as he calls them—based on photographs of his own graffiti paintings. He shoots these over and over with slight alterations in each frame in a technique not unlike stop motion animation until he can make a loop of images—essentially what a GIF, or Graphic Interchange Format, is. In a cyber wasteland of GIFs composed of cat pictures and film snippets, INSA’s artistic “GIF-ITIs” have made waves online. Recently, Scotch whiskey brand Ballantine's commissioned INSA to create the world’s largest GIF in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, inspired by INSA’s trademark "Looking For Love" motif. Four days of work, a 20-person team of painters and over 619,000 square feet worth of paint went into creating a mural of repeating yellow and pink hearts. The mural was then photographed over two days with a camera-equipped satellite orbiting 430 miles above the earth. Given the massive wherewithal that went into the project, the result is a little underwhelming—to say nothing of the fact that it’s only viewable online. The end result is an animation of moving hearts with the before-and-after shots of boats pulling in and out of the harbor and the receding sunlight reflected on the water. INSA’s GIF-ITIs have even inspired an iPhone app, which enables the user to point the iPad at a GIF-ITI and watch it animate on-screen. Take a look at some of INSA's other work below.
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Eavesdrop> Taking A Name in Vain: Petition launched to stop 5Pointz trademark

5 Pointz, the Long Island City, Queens graffiti mecca, might not have been lucrative enough for developer G&M Realty to keep on its property, but it sure makes for a nifty marketing ploy to attract potential renters to its soon-to-be constructed pair of residential towers. Jerry and David Wolkoff, the father-and-son owners of G&M, filed an application last spring to trademark the street art name for the new development. The application has been denied twice, but the Wolkoffs are still determined to figure out a way to capitalize on the 5 Pointz name. The artists whose work once covered the walls of the demolished warehouse are none too pleased. 5 Pointz curator and artist Jonathan Cohen (a.k.a. MeresOne), has launched a petition on, seeking to fight the trademark. (As of this publishing, the petition had nearly 2,500 names.) According to the New York Daily News, the developers, who’ve pledged to dedicate 12,000 square feet to artist studios and exhibition space, are befuddled by the protests. Well, why would the artists take issue with the condo building using the beloved 5 Pointz name? All G&M did was surreptitiously whitewash the building in the middle of the night, erasing any trace of art.
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SLO Architecture helps preserve New York City's disappearing graffiti walls

Demolition of the graffiti mecca known as “5Pointz” in Long Island City, Queens has become a flashpoint in New York City development. The iconic arts institution was literally whitewashed by the developer last spring and has since been turned to rubble to make way for two rental towers. As the controversial project continues in Queens, the destruction of another world-renowned graffiti forum, just a few miles away in the South Bronx, has gone largely unnoticed. The graffiti-covered walls of Boone Avenue are currently being demolished to make way for a massive housing development. For decades, some of the world's most respected street artists came to this desolate, industrial stretch, turning warehouses into canvases. The result was a constantly-evolving public gallery, curated by Cope2, a living legend in the street art world. But, let's be clear, this is not the same story as 5Pointz—the new development will not be luxury towers, but much-needed affordable housing. Still, the loss of a cultural institution is the loss of a cultural institution. Since the city broke ground on the development, a coalition of artists, architects, and students has formed to preserve as much of the site's history as it can. The project is called The Boone Room and its being run by SLO Architecture, the Bronx River Art Center, and students from Fannie Lou Hamer High School in the Bronx, and The New School in Manhattan. Last spring, students conducted video interviews with local artists and photographed existing work as part of an online exhibition that will go live in January. To create new, permanent street art in the neighborhood, artists, under the curatorship of Cope2, were commissioned to paint an interior wall of the Fannie Lou Hamer High School. The team behind The Boone Room has also worked with the developer to preserve some of Boone Avenue's colorful, roll-down gates which are being repurposed into a canopy for a performance space outside of the Bronx River Art Center. When AN recently visited Boone Avenue, local artist and resident David Yearwood, was working on what's known as Boone Avenue's "practice wall.” (This wall is expected to be demolished by a later stage in the development.) “Doing art in the neighborhood is a hard thing to do,” said Yearwood. “I’ve got a lot of friends that don’t like art, so you’ve got to find things to do get out of the neighborhood.” So Boone Avenue is where Yearwood comes, almost every single day. Finding somewhere else like Boone won’t be easy. "It’s basically a rough life right now for a lot of people,” he said. “There’s nowhere else to go.”
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How murals could save Candela's decaying Miami Marine Stadium

An abandoned, decaying Miami stadium that once hosted the likes of Gloria Estefan, Elvis Presley, and Richard Nixon may finally be coming back to life. Since AN visited the 6,566-seat Marine Stadium last year there is new momentum to revitalize the iconic venue. And just as graffiti symbolized the stadium's decline, street art could help secure its future. PBS reported that Friends of Miami Marine Stadium—the group advocating for the 60s-era venue—invited 20 street artists from around the world to cover the space in murals. Why exactly? Well, the organization is now selling prints of those murals to draw attention to the building and raise cash for its transformation. And it turns out that initiative is strongly supported by the stadium's original architect—Hilario Candela. The revenue from those pieces, though, will likely only represent a small piece of the $30 million that needs to be raised before January. Estefan recently helped chip away at that figure with a gift of $500,000. To get a sense of what the stadium could look like if that $30 million goal is met, check out these conceptual renderings below from architect and designer Arseni Varabyeu.
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Farewell to the Famed Graffiti Haven: 5Pointz Demolition Moves Ahead

It is the end of an era. The New York City Council voted in a favor of a plan to demolish the iconic 5Pointz, the former manufacturing building-turned-graffiti-mecca, in Long Island City, Queens, to make way for a $400 million residential development. The New York Times reported that the Wolkoff family, the owner and developer of the property, will build two residential towers—one of which will climb up to 47 stories—consisting all together of 1,000 units. But first, the Wolkoffs needed the approval of City Council to build beyond the current zoning regulations. Before today's decision, the developer negotiated a deal with Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and the community board to bump up the number of affordable apartments to 210 and accommodate 12,000 square of artist studio space. The $400 million project will also provide wall space for aerosol artists to exhibit their work. The graffiti artists, however, are disappointed with this offer and the final outcome. Jonathan Cohen, curator of 5Pointz, told the New York Times, that this development will “just destroy more of what made New York what it is. Now it is just boring, full of bland boring towers of boxes of glass."
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Graffiti Mecca in Queens to be Replaced by Residential Towers

The former record needle and clothing manufacturing building, 5 Pointz, in Long Island City, Queens, is one of the few remaining refuges for graffiti art in New York City. For the last two decades, aerosol artists have flocked to this 200,000-square-foot warehouse to exhibit their work. But now the graffiti art mecca is one step closer to being demolished and replaced by two 47 and 41 story residential towers. In spite of Queens Community Board 2's opposition to the plan, the City Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve a special permit that would allow developer G&M Realty to build a larger structure than permitted by the existing zoning. DNAinfo reported that Queens Borough President Helen Marshall also came out in favor of the plan with the stipulation that the development include 75 affordable housing units and studio space for artists. The plans, not surprisingly, have been controversial and elicited protests from local residents and aerosol artists. Next up, City Council will vote on the permit. But regardless of the outcome, the developer will still have the right to demolish the existing structure and build something new, but to a size that the current zoning permits.  
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Alloy Development Proposes Modern Take on Brownstone Brooklyn

Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood is home to many a loft, but few, if any, townhouses make up the neighborhood streetscape. Curbed reported that boutique development firm and architect Alloy Development plans on building five adjacent, 6-story houses at Pearl Street in place of a graffiti-covered garage. But these won’t emulate your typical 19th-century Brooklyn-style brownstone, they will include a single facade built of ductal concrete fins with wood on the ground level. “While these are the first townhouses in DUMBO, we’re hoping to bring the same level of thoughtfulness and care as we have to the other projects,” wrote AJ Pires, executive vice president at Alloy, in an email. Alloy has been behind other residential projects in DUMBO including two warehouse conversions at 192 Water and 185 Plymouth Streets. According to the Brooklyn Paper, some preservationists, are not pleased with the proposal. They not only want to keep the colorful graffiti-covered garage, but have also expressed concern that the chosen materials—concrete and wood—will not mesh aesthetically with DUMBO’s predominantly brick facade buildings. These same questions came up last week when Alloy presented its plans to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Overall, the feedback was positive, but Alloy will return in a few months with revised plans.