Archive for the ‘Artists’ Category

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Wikipedia bound

5 June, 2009

Wikipedia by Rob Matthews, 2009
5000 pages, fully printed

The wonderful world of the interweb is evermore glorious when reminded of the sheer vastness of information that it contains. Even more impressive is the notion that it’s  all held together by a seemingly haphazard yet infinitesimally detailed overlapping of data that spans across networks in an ordered fashion. What better example of this than in the pages of Wikipedia, the massively successful partner of the now defunct encyclopedic project Nupedia, which too was based on collaborative user contribution (experts exclusively on the latter) for reference content published and available freely under copyleft license. Long gone are those days of Encyclopædia Britannica infomercials with special offers on gold-embossed A-Z volumes requiring a sturdy new bookcase of their own. Not even the online version of the classic American public school library mainstay has been able to compete with Wikipedia and its magnitude of documentation that (despite its increasingly sophisticated system of editing and global moderation) is seldom permitted for citation in academic research due to much whinging by the establishment over its accuracy and lack of official review.

But of course much has changed since Wikipedia was launched formally in 2001, today with a tally of wikis (‘quick’ in Hawaiian or ‘what I know is’ in backronym) spanning 262 languages at a grand total of 2.9 billion articles in English alone. And thanks to the brilliance of Brighton-based artist/designer Rob Matthews, his 2009 project rightly titled ‘Wikipedia‘ demonstrates its immense scale through the actual printing and binding of roughly 2,529 articles comprising the niche featured articles section. According to Matthews’ mission statement for the project, his aim is to ‘question its use as an internet resource’ by ‘reproducing [it] in a dysfunctional physical form’. This single volume (photo above) equates to 5000 pages literally standing at a fraction of around 1/1,140th of all existing (English) articles. And aside from the obvious fantastical sight of seeing a book that is so much taller lying down than when sitting upright, the dimensional challenge it poses visually whilst in print is one that truly reaches the core of what Matthews hopes to achieve through this bizarrely tangible display of the virtual web.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Great unveiling (pieces at random)

Typographer’s bible (pieces at random)

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Corner piece

11 March, 2009

Dan Flavin - Corner Piece

Dan FlavinUntitled (Corner Piece), 1987 4 neon tubes ed.3/5

I.

Vision

underwhelmed
by the image
not there,
we resign
to inequity
in fear

alone in our existence
we cannot be justified

and onward we walk
from ashes to dust,
time casts her shadow
as life slowly unravels.

II.

Trick Mirror

So we met one night
right here as we do
immersed in the darkness
of the search-and-conquer,
And you sat on a bench
with eyes unfocused
as your blankness gazed
expressionless and small

You turned to me then
as you turn to me now
with head held in hands
sizing-up whilst smiling,
Beneath shadows cast
by a deception drawn
you affirm the void within
your meaningless defense.

– Sarah Badr

© 2009.  S.H.Badr, All Rights Reserved.

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Gallery — Last Time

27 February, 2009

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

The Last Time I Saw You (29.97744,31.132318)
by Sarah Badr, 2009
60 x 40 cm matte giclée print

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

The Last Time I Saw You (30.029444,31.261389)
by Sarah Badr, 2009
50 x 75 cm matte giclée print

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

The Last Time I Saw You (30.0571,31.2272)
by Sarah Badr, 2009
60 x 40 cm matte giclée print

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

The Last Time I Saw You (29.62095,31.25185)
by Sarah Badr, 2009
60 x 40 cm matte giclée print

Sarah Badr © MMIX

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Gallery — Cloudscape

13 February, 2009

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

Cloudscape v.1
by Sarah Badr, 2009
2048 x 3072 px digital

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

Cloudscape v.2
by Sarah Badr, 2009
2048 x 3072 px digital

Sarah Badr © MMIX

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Mideast unveiled

9 February, 2009

Untitled from the Like Everyday Series
by Shadi Ghadirian, 2000-2001
C-print, 183 x 183 cm

Following the rather successful inaugural exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery last October, the time has come for yet another show to take over the gallery’s stunningly spacious new home over at The Duke of York’s Headquarters in Sloan Square. Still in line with the geopolitical themes presiding in The Revolution Continues: New Art from China, the second installation sees Charles Saatchi travelling to the Middle East to compile the latest additions to a collection of work steeped in the controversies of history, politics, ideology and tradition. Unveiled: New art from the Middle East presents a group of artists primarily from Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia, many of whom are based in the United States and throughout Europe. And it comes as a result of this variance that their work is diversely broad in scope, style, and media all ranging between full-room installations comprised of industrial materials to more intimately-sized abstractionist paintings. Having visited every Saatchi exhibit since The Triumph of Painting in 2005 (Wilhelm Sasnal’s Girl Smoking portraits are still firmly placed amongst my favourite contemporary pieces today), I am certainly looking forward to attending Unveiled this season.

Though admittedly as someone who has long been exposed to the art scenes of both Mideast proper and that which has situated itself around expatriate communities abroad with a connection to the region, I am curious to see how viewing such works chez Charles will impact my perception of the nature of these pieces as well as the general state of the thriving art markets of cities such as Cairo, Beirut and Dubai. And as was the case with The Revolution Continues, there are several artists whose work I will be particularly wanting to see: the photography of Shadi Ghadirian (image above), Kader Attia’s Ghost installation, the quilted mixed-media piece of Sara Rahbar, and the highly stylized paintings of Hayv Kahraman. Also in light of the beautifully clean canvas that is provided by the vast walls of  The Duke of York’s HQ, the collection will without a doubt be very much in line with continuing the Saatchi Gallery legacy of housing the work of artists not conventionally shown in other contemporary art institutions in London, and as such once more shaking up the art world to launch a trend that will sweep through the marketplace with just as much controversy as the talent that it serves to showcase.

Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East runs until 6th May, 2009.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: USA Today (pieces at random)

New Saatchi home (pieces at random)

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Going indoors

4 February, 2009

As the young Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude overlooked the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a tag was described in narration as being ‘a reply, a call to those who heard, like a dog’s bark understood across fences’. Set on the Heights Promenade in The Fortress of Solitude, a sentence from that chapter still lingers with me years after having read it: ‘Under oblivious eyes, the invisible autographed the world.’ It was through this monumental saga by Jonathan Lethem that I first began to understand street art and the multifaceted history that has brought it off streets and into galleries today. In a plot spanning generations in Brooklyn’s Gowanus projects between the 1970s and 90s, the Solitude‘s story was one painted by graffiti as representation of cultural identity, musical heritage and gentrification. Tags representing names were the artists’ signatures sprayed on the sides of  buildings and trains, to be displayed to the world en route to the next destination. A fine line running through the graffiti underground defined the segmented yet not entirely separate areas of self-expression, vandalism, and street culture that were so richly diversified by an impoverished creative youth and their livelihoods often stereotyped by gangs and crime. Yet since its very inception, the cryptic messages alluding to the characters bearing credit for colourful blurbs and stencilled imagery were just as much a mark of their own brands as it was their ideas.

The cover of the Faber edition of the Solitude pays homage to the tags within: ‘DOSE’ etched in black, sprawling in its myriad ways. Anyone from Gowanus would have known that it was the work of Mingus Rude. And Dylan Ebdus’ as well, although he himself had no ‘name’ of his own, and therein lay the metaphor of his personal conflict. Since before the time of Christ, the etches and inscriptions on surfaces (‘to scratch’ in Italian’s graffiare) served as signage to communicate messages for public consumption (initially believed to be that of prostitution). It’s interesting to think that even the current revival of graffiti in the Middle East, for example, can be drawn back to examples of proto-Arabic Safaitic in the Arabian peninsula region in prehistoric times. But ‘modern’ graffiti as we understand it today began to take its overt shape in the late 60s on the streets of cities such as London (‘Clapton is God‘), Philadelphia and New York. Implemented by music-lovers, activist ideologues and groups protective of their urban territories, New York City came to the fore as a graffiti centre in the 1970s, where the use of tags as ‘bombs’ was introduced onto the subway network, and the mirroring of a growing hip-hop music scene in both competitive quality and source of inspiration was undeniable. It’s this street sub-culture with its off-shoot terminology and music that’s conjured the names of Lethem’s characters (Bob Dylan and Charles Mingus) and the likes of Bomb the System.

Written by Adam Bhala Lougha, the award-nominated film features a group of New York graffiti artists and coincidentally enough, a fantastic score composed by alternative hip-hop artist El-P. But it took until halfway through the 1980s for street art to go indoors and formally enter the art world. The very foundation of the United Graffiti Artists in 1972 served the eventual purpose of drawing artists into a gallery environment that would spotlight their work with a respect often lacking in its habitual haunts of the urban built environment. Neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat was the graffiti artist formerly known as ‘SAMO’ (Same Old Shit) whose work bore the ‘wildstyle’ combo of hip-hop and spray-paint. Graffiti artist John Fekner was said to have demonstrated the plight of New York’s deteriorating standards in urban living through ‘art interventions’ portraying many concerns towards the social and political welfare of the city’s inhabitants throughout the 80s. Fekner is well-known for these word installations underpinned by contemporary urban issues and stencilled on buildings throughout New York. And consequently, as city officials moved to drive forward ‘clean-up’ campaigns to rid the streets of what they viewed to be vandalism, graffiti became more commonplace in galleries overground.

It is this move that helped to continue the ‘culture jam’ of political and socio-economic subversion dominating as artists’ themes. While a debate raged on as to whether or not graffiti was ‘art’ in the first place, Basquiat and others like him exhibited in their own studios. A show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2006 has since paid tribute to such graffiti legends, and designer Marc Ecko has long been an advocate of graffiti as art. Increasingly popular in the commercial mainstream over the years, advertising has picked up on graffiti in tactical account planning to push product hype: IBM launched a campaign in 2001 which saw the spraying of sidewalks in San Francisco with tags such as ‘Peace, Love and Linux’. Last year, Youdoodoll founder Sarah Lu launched a ‘paint-off’ in association with Pepe Jeans, stencilling some colour onto Portobello Road’s façade. And of course who can forget Obey Giant’s Shepard Fairey (headline photo) and his iconic posters for Barack Obama? Widening acclaim for his cross-hatched propaganda and street art has landed him at the Irvine Contemporary with Regime Change Starts at Home, and Manifest Hope over at the DC Gallery. Fairey has also collaborated with Syd Garon and Paul Griswold on N.A.S.A.’s debut promo for the track ‘Money’ — once more seeing the meld of hip-hop, street art and bold political statement.

The current exhibition of subversion artist Brad Downey over at StolenSpace‘s Dray Walk Gallery in East London is another fine example of street art being contained within the confines of a gallery setting. Titled An Honest Thief and running until 8th February as his first solo show in the capitol, Downey presents visual challenges to urban archetypes through the mangling of street signs and riddling of traffic markers (photo above). His concoctions of ‘found art’ in the urban spaces of Atlanta, New York, London and Berlin are founded upon his being a member of a family within which his upbringing inextricably bound him to the US Marine Corps’ itinerant lifestyle. As such, Downey’s understanding of varied systems of regulation endemic to geopolitical landscapes is one of the reasons why he is so fine-tuned in producing provocative displays of de-regulation in the public setting. Currently a lecturer on ‘unsanctioned public artwork’ (himself a graduate of the Slade School and Pratt Institute), his understanding of urban art within a framework of social context is translated into his assembled pieces. By removing the facets of mundane objects succumbed to the status quo, he re-interprets them only to then put them back in — infusing re-instalment with a new-found sense of meaning still relevant to their initial metropolitan situations set out by political city officials and ‘official’ urban planners.

Another exhibit I’ve visited (although almost exactly a year ago to date) was an Urban Angel retrospective in East London. The primary grassroots urban art dealer comprised of a small group of private collectors and affiliated artists diversified in the creative styles of stencilling, urban sculpture and contemporary street art is set firmly amongst my favourite of creative London rosters today. With the work of street artist PURE EVIL‘s Charley Edwards and his vampire bunnies featuring last year with pieces such as the pink-sprayed ‘FUCK ART LETS DANCE’ and infamous ‘LIVE EAST DIE YOUNG’, the space presented many more examples of graffiti artistry. Edwards, influenced by San Francisco’s skateboard culture and graffiti artist Twist, launched a spray-campaign in London to examine what he states as being the question of the ‘big picture’: ‘What does evil look like?’ The  positive reception it received is certainly far from surprising: February 2008 saw the industry puritan Bonhams‘ first auction dedicated to urban art, further anchoring the style in commercial mainstream. Having newly opened its permanent Art Lounge space on Redchurch Street this past December, the show titled XXI is previewing tomorrow by invitation and will run throughout the month with original features from artists such as Copyright, Derek Albeck, Dotmasters, Inkie, Know Hope and Zeus (of the distressed Chanel graffiti given mention here a while back).

And bidding us return back to New York is yet another specimen of London graffiti via the world-trekking Banksy. Obviously not needing any more formal introduction, Banksy exhibitions taking place since 2000 and his recent selling of works at auctions for unprecedented sums in the urban art world is news buzzing regularly through today’s media circuit. He is, of course, one of the most recognizable icons in the graffiti street art movement; and with a reputation that precedes him, he’s acquired fame despite his adamantly maintaining pseudonymity. In October last year, Banksy’s comical ‘Village Petstore and Charcoal Grill‘ sprang up in New York’s West Village (see video below), taking his incredibly intelligent style of satire to even higher levels. The tongue-in-cheek guerilla installation, as filmed by the talented filmmaker Seth Brau, pokes fun at everything from consumer culture and fast-food, to surveillance society and its own self-deprecation. The animatronics involved so greatly departs from anything else seen on street art’s urban horizon that it nearly inadvertently demonstrates the great diversity and potential in street art as an artform in its having done so.

And so it is in the midst of all such irony that it appears the artworld’s institutionalized industry of traditional, ‘un-street’ setting most famously adorns the greatest visual impacts of artists whose autographs are no longer invisible — and whose audience is not so oblivious after all… Filmed and edited by Seth Brau. Music title ‘Barefootin” by Daniel Holter and Kyle White of the Burst Collective. Courtesy of Burst Labs and Extreme Music (Sony/ATV).

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Street value (pieces at random)

Warhol v Banksy (pieces at random)

My playground (pieces at random)

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Gallery — Machine

3 February, 2009

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

Machine (Upper Chamber)
by Sarah Badr, 2009
90 x 120 cm colour lithograph

Sarah Badr © MMIX