Wednesday, 11 November 2015

JR - Crossing

Lazarides Rathbone
16th Oct to 12th Nov 2015

All photos: Dave Stuart aka NoLionsInEngland


Ephemerality – a quality word we like to bandy around when generalising about the culture of street art. We tend to forget that also gallery shows don’t last forever so if you are reading this review after 7pm today, Graffoto apologises as it's now too late to catch this show. Which is a shame and I thank my lucky stars that at last I managed to visit the show and grab a quiet hour in there today, the last day.

JR is a street artist whose work is best described as “Big Art”. He has been doing art and a grand scale for many years including a lot of jaw-dropping traffic stopping work in London.

JR London
Cordy House - 2008


JR London
Cordy House - 2008


JR London
Old Truman Brewery, 2008


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Inside Out Project 2011 (audience participation event!)


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Inside Out - Somerset House 2013


JR London
Inside Out - Somerset House 2013


The “Crossing” referred to in this show refers to the journey undertaken by many immigrants to the USA, on arrival in Upper New York Bay the gaze of the Statue of Liberty (est 1886) bid welcome while Ellis Island served (1882 – 1954) as a credential checking facility for the 8 million mainly European migrants who passed through its registry room. According to Wikipedia, a mere 2% of the arrivals were repatriated whence they came for reasons of poverty, chronic ill health or “insanity”. Eight thousand died in the hospital facility established on Ellis Island and it is in those derelict ruins that JR filmed a very moving elegy to an immigrant’s passage, featuring Robert de Niro.

The exhibition has four aspects. The film at the top floor, is worth watching first as it is beautiful, the narration is poetic and it provides a lot on context for the Elis Island archival photographs.

Immigrants, nurses, travellers and welcoming party, JR has sought to represent all parties in that early 20th century human migration drama. The Ellis Island aspects of the static art divides into JR pasting Ellis Island archive photos onto beautifully weathered wood, and JR’s photographs of his paste ups in situ in the old hospital of the Ellis Island portraits.

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"Arriving on Ellis Island #6"; Ellis Island archive photo on wood - a welcome party?


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"Arriving on Ellis Island #3"; Ellis Island archive photo on wood


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Photo of paste up in situ, Ellis Island Hospital


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The fourth element resulted from JR’s 2014 collaboration with New York Ballet Company. Ballerinas photographed in urban and industrial contexts are fine but the real photographic gem is the portrait created by oversize half tone dots imprinted on ballet dancers costumes. At a reasonable distance the dancers fade but we gain an appreciation of a portrait of a pair of eyes in huge scale.

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Les Bosquets, Eye See You


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Now you see it


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Now you don't


Close up, the portrait disappears and the individuals emerge. It’s all about humanity, near or far.

This staged example of a ballet dancer dancing inside an opened container in a stack of empties is very impressive in its execution and brings one thought to mind – globalisation; the USA is the world’s greatest exporter of fresh air in empty containers, that’s trade imbalances for you. That may or more likely may not have been JR's point.

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"#198 Métal et Tutu"

JR’s exhibition prompts one great big question which is, supposedly one third of the USA population can trace roots to that half century of immigration so if we are inclined to romanticize that early 20th century migrant movement, then surely we must question our individual and big society response to the largest movement of war-displaced migrants in a generation now taking place across Europe.

Links:

JR: http://www.jr-art.net/

Ellis Island https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellis_Island

Lazarides: http://www.lazinc.com/exhibitions/1313,jr-crossing

Monday, 26 October 2015

Mustafa Hulusi: Flyposting (Indoors) & A Retrospective Of Flyposting (Outdoors)


29 Sep - 30 Oct 2015

Cass Bank Gallery
59-63 Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7PF

All photos: NoLionsInEngland


Did you see it? The best street art exhibition of the year? It was in London too, not somewhere overlooking the gloopy mud of the Bristol Channel at low tide.

Mustafa Hulusi

Flyposter clusters around London have been co-opted by Mustafa Hulusi into a multi site conceptual exhibition. Mustafa Hulusi took the simple, low overhead, moderate risk approach of pasting plain white statements on walls which said “Mustafa Hulusi A RETROSPECTIVE OF FLYPOSTING” .

One instant exhibition! The adjacent flyposters were no longer just illegal adverts, they were non consensual elements of an Hulusi art concept.

Mustafa Hulusi
Mustafa Hulusi, 2015


Mustafa Hulusi
Mustafa Hulusi, 2015


Mustafa Hulusi first came to my attention as a panellist at a talk in Tate Modern’s 2008 “Street Art” extravaganza, he gave an illuminating talk on the commercial imperative of flyposting. He talked about illegal advertising sites, how flyposters couldn’t give a toss about going over street art, it was all about cash and eyeballs. Picking up a few quid as a flyposter, Hulusi used the placement techniques of a flyposter to put his art in the public domain. As a result I have had the pleasure of photographing Hulusi’s art on the streets at regular intervals in the years since.

Paste up still life flowers turned out to be stunning photorealistic painting reproductions, these were placed in an illegal advertising spot which Hulusi has been using for several years and indeed still does.

Mustafa Hulusi
Mustafa Hulusi, 2011


Mustafa Hulusi
Mustafa Hulusi, 2011


Some had a strong fractal art hurt-your-eyeballs graphic design aspect

Mustafa Hulusi
Mustafa Hulusi, 2011


Mustafa Hulusi
Mustafa Hulusi, 2011


The piece above had Graffoto blog compadre HowAboutno and me scratching our heads when we found it as we knew Richard Long was a venerable land artist and the "Allotment I" paste ups next to Hulusi's image puported to advertise a 1987 exhibition, we wondered if Hulusi had put those up as well. Perhaps Hulusi's Flyposting Retrospective idea in a another form has been fermenting in his mind for quite a while.


Intensely textured tree trunks appeared

Mustafa Halusi
Mustafa Hulusi, 2012


And most recently, a stunning collection of decaying fruit. These ones reminded me so much of the death and decay timelapse cameo pieces in Peter Greenaways’s “A Zed & 2 Noughts”.

Mustafa Hulusi


Mustafa Hulusi


Mustafa Hulusi


Mustafa Hulusi


The placement of some of those richly coloured paste ups on Toynbee street puts Hulusi’s work in knowing conflict and competition with flyposting , it being a spot long favoured by clandestine illegal advertisers. The scale of Hulusi’s work outdoors shows an access to printing facilities few other street artists possess. He also is highly aware of and accesses illegal or abandoned advertising sites. The most obvious comparison in terms of technique is Dr D (in fact I have pondered if Mustafa Hulusi and Dr D might possibly be one and the same but concluded it seems unlikely).

Mustafa Hulusi
Musafa Hulusi, 2015


Hulusi is a curiosity, his non commissioned and indeed illegal public art lies a bit outside the realm of what would normally these days be considered as street art. A search on the Banksy forum returns “no posts”. He doesn’t court the street art fan boys, my hazy recollection from that 2008 Tate panel talk is that he thought them rather puerile. He has avoided the established stencil – print – gallery show street art band-wagon, in fact he sits quite outside and aloof from street art despite regularly placing his work out on the streets. He is fine artist with (thankfully) a bit less academia and a bit more grit.

When he does exhibit indoors it’s not to a street art crowd but more to the art establishment, smarty pants with an educated conventional appreciation of art and probably a bit more wedge. The stark Cass University space houses huge Hulusi staples very carefully pasted to the walls.

Mustafa Hulusi


He hasn’t been tempted to go all “street” by for instance roughly layering his art and hanging it at wonky angles or faking a pastiche of faux brickwork and tags. Plain and simple it’s Mustafa Hulusi’s art indoors.

Mustafa Hulusi


The “pomegranate” series are quite stunning photography. Rust coloured bursting fruit set are against a scorched ash dusted mud and surrounded by brittle papery looking leaves. An arid and lifeless landscape is implied yet there’s a promise of fertility and rebirth.

Mustafa Hulusi
Pomegranate (detail)


The tree trunks have a mesmerising flow and twist in the grain of the bark. The painted flowers could be something a very patient vicar’s wife might conjure up without leaving her garden.

Mustafa Hulusi


Mustafa Hulusi


Mustafa Hulusi


Mustafa Hulusi places his art around the streets but his practice borrows more from graffiti and flyposting that from Street Art. At the heart of graffiti is a letter fetish, Hulusi lifts the ego and font fascination from graffiti but renders his name in crisp graphic letters owing no debt to graffiti pieces.

Mustafa Hulusi


Mustafa Hulusi


A takeaway collection of Hulusi’s photographs in large paper magazine format looks like it might be a gallery souvenir but in the way the pages unfold to double size, Hulusi is encouraging us to participate in the dissemination of his work by perhaps pasting outdoors ourselves – welcome to Hulusi’s world. The huge pile of these magazines isn’t a signal that the artist perhaps overestimated a huge audience inclined to get all activist with the wheatpaste but I see it as an installation in itself. The clues are there, they aren’t placed by the gallery assistant’s window ledge seat to be handed out to visitors, they form a monolithic bed of processed materials in the centre of a room, directly speaking to the images of decaying and transforming fruit in the art on the walls.

Mustafa Hulusi


Mustafa Hulusi


The images on the walls are Hulusi’s art. Images in the magazine and in a slide show projection room show Hulusi’s art out in the street. The idea of using real world illegal ads to stage his outdoor “Flyposting Retrospective” neatly avoids the trap of becoming an advert for the gallery exhibition, indeed the clever idea modestly is not actually referenced in the gallery, you could visit the show and leave totally unaware that the street retrospective took place.

Mustafa Hulusi


The gallery show imports Hulusi’s work indoors and the strength of the outdoor work is such that it survives moving inside, in effect the street is not essential to enjoying his art. However the outdoors “Flyposter Retrospective” shows how Hulusi’s art engages with the politics of placing art on the streets in terms of its guerrilla annexation of the public realm, its directs augmentation of flyposter locations, its somewhat provocative co-opting of illegal commercial imagery as a vehicle for his art and its knowing nod to the activities of the flyposter business.

Mustafa Hulusi
Mustafa Hulusi, 2015


The outdoor “Flyposter Retrospective” and the indoor exhibition “Flyposter” share common concepts but neither specifically refers to the other, they exist independently. The outdoor “Flyposter Retrospective” stands as the far more challenging and interesting piece of art.

Or have I been conned? Is the whole Flyposting Retrospective one big advert from someone deeply immersed in product promotion on street walls, in which case I better re-write the whole thing putting Hulusi right alongside all the other street art whores.

Mustafa Hulusi
Mustafa Hulusi, 2015


Mustafa Hulusi
Mustafa Hulusi, 2015


Mustafa Hulusi

Mustafa Hulusi, 2012

Links:

Mustafa Hulusi

Dr D

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Dismaland - Banksy in Weston Super Mare


Weston-super-Mare
22nd August – 27th September 2015

All photos: NoLionsInEngland except Dismaland logo courtesy www.banksy.co.uk


It has been a while, street art has been wallowing in the doldrums. There has been too many art graduates choosing careers as muralists, not enough vandals (particularly from America, we like American vandals) and a prolonged period of inactivity from Banksy. Well, at last one of those has been fixed.

Banksy has taken over a bankrupt and decaying seaside amusement park barely rising above the sludgy worm ridden mud flats of the Severn Estuary in Weston Super Mare. I grew up in Wales looking out of a bedroom window on the other side of the estuary looking at WSM's twinkling lights imagining untold foreign glamour - an illusion now ruined. "For the next five weeks the Tropicana [its previous incarnation] will once again echo to the sound of crying children". Thanks Banksy!


from www.Banksy.co.uk


It's not exactly Thorpe Park but Banksy has managed to amp up the scale of the art and the location, making this exhibition provides a worthy successor to 2008's Cans Festival and 2009's Banksy v. Bristol Museum. Banksy has dealt with humour and he has dabbled with spoof children’s rides in the past - remember the riot cop on the pony ride in the 2009 Bristol show - this event puts those themes on turbo boost.

The central feature of the park, poised in the middle of a stagnant, shit filled pond is a derelict oily looking castle straight out of a Disney landscape re-imagined by, say, Mutoid Waste (but...although Joe Rush is included in the catalogue I didn't see any mechanoid fire belching steampunk shit like you'd expect).

 Dismaland Castle


Inside the castle is a crashed pumpkin coach with a dead princess spilling out off the window with papparazzi photographers capturing the kind of graphic gore that daily pads out our tabloids.  It's more a critique on media intrusion than an unlikely empathy with the Royal family.


Banksy



Shit filled pond (sometimes it's the attention to detail that is all important)


How about the Banksy art? Well, Banksy wasn't the first to use for counter cultural humour and he has inspired many followers and as there are no labels it is not always easy to be certain what is Banksy and what just might be. Fans of Banksy as stencillist will be bowled over by the use of corrugated wall cladding as a shower curtain under which a pair of boys watch (perhaps) one of their mums showering - a teenage fantasy staple apparently!


Banksy


The catalogue says that Banksy did the woman attacked by seagulls, in which case where is the work by taxidermist Polly Morgan as advertised on the list of artists? [there may have other work by Polly Morgan tucked away in the "gallery" which might have been missed].


Banksy - he says it's his so it must be


Political reaction to one of biggest humanitarian crises ever is lampooned by Banksy’s boat pond. Fully functioning radio controlled rust buckets bearing a cramped cargo of shivering migrants scoot around an oily sea with scattered floating bodies harassed by gun boats and no, that isn’t a lighthouse, it’s a gun tower defending the mother land.


Banksy



Banksy


A rather fast and slightly distressed carousel whizzes around with its screaming human cargo plus a manikin wearing white overalls. When the merry-go-round stops we see a brilliant sculpture of a butcher with a roundabout horse hanging from its hooves about to enter the food chain, clearly referencing last year’s horsemeat in processed food scandal.  Is it Banksy? Not sure but it has his humorous twist on mass produced "budget" price point food prioritizing profit over welfare.


Banksy


Some of the pieces have a sense of déjà vu as Banksy returns to old themes and repetition of previous jokes. Pollution and wild beasts in captivity? Here’s your killer whale performing tricks out of a toilet into a pool much too small for it. Death dances the macabre in his bumper car to the tune of “Don’t Fear The Reaper”, an exact reprise of its appearance in 2013 for the “Better Out Than In” residency on the streets of New York.


Banksy


Part of the outer ramparts of Dismaland look like what the facade of a Disney castle would look like if some incontinent political prisoners held a dirty protest from its walls. On one of these ramparts seemed to be a bar, you had to be up there to operate the levers that animated a Paul Insect/Bast collaborative puppet theatre made from thrown away shit retrieved from Hackney Wick. Sadly the bar was too popular doing what bars do, no one bothered operating the puppets. Photo not included.

One of the best "bemusements" was "Pocket Money Loans", a small and rather specialised finance boutique by Darren Cullen fast-tracking the next generation of debt service slaves into a life of financial "chimney sweeping". A chilling ensemble of beautifully fabricated spoof toys accelerate young innocents to a variety of worldy experiences at far too young an age – Baby's baby is pregnant!


Darren Cullen


Like all mediocre fun fairs there are a range of amusements designed to engage and interact with, right from the moment you enter through Bill Barminski’s stark X-Ray search spoof.


Bill Barminski


Dismal "experience enhancement operatives" conduct niche performance art posing as miserable, unhelpful buggers, though perhaps it wasn't a faked performance in some cases.  Dotted around the park are seedy looking games you throw things at, shoot guns at, fish from, ride, pose with (Lush’s photo boards), just remember to wash your hands afterwards.


 David Shrigley - Topple The Anvil (for a Meaningless prize)










Banksy's previous group shows have been high impact fast food comedy art, you got it quick and
moved on. At Dismaland there are installations which could keep you engrossed for frankly hours without football transfer news or porn being mentioned once. Go to Guerilla Island, the art is political, conspiracy theories are the common denominator, it is epic working class trade union banners and a "Comrade Advice Bureau" among many other anarchist agendas, some not so "entry level" as touted in Dismaland's website.  A stand of political literature and anarchist manifestos rejoices in a name which itself subverts the trademark of a well known (in the UK anyway) high street bookshop.


No Borders


Perhaps the most practical nugget dug up were the "Guide To Interacting With Bus Stop Advertising Spaces" lying in a photocopier out-tray.

The work of Ed Hall first came to lower general public indifference thanks to artist Jeremy Deller (the odds of either them ever featuring in Graffoto again are pretty long!).   Banksy takes us outside our comfort zone and reveals art where we least expected it: outdoor walls, union banners, polluted cesspits and so on, this is a key part of the essential magic of a Banky production.


Ed Hall & others


|As the the fairground bemusements are so overwhelming (-ly dismal) it is too easy to enter the actual indoor gallery part and think "oh - Art. I'd rather be overwhelmed by the fairground bemsements", which is exactly what I did think. The show stopper is Jimmy Cauty's model village, an installation he has titled "Aftermath Displacement Principal",  This is his Jam Jar Riots gone on a viral rampage. In a darkened room police crawl all around sink estate crime scene detritus, depending upon where you come from it's either incredibly life like or impressive model making.


Jimmy Cauty - Aftermath Displacement Principle


Canvasses, sculpture and photography abounds by artists from GB, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Curiously, little or  no work seems to come from the Far East unless you count Australia.  Bringing these talents into our consciousness in this bemusement park is a doomed venture as the outside works won’t release you from their grip, the inside art feels like something to be swiftly whizzed through before heading back out into the sensory overload of the main park.


Banksy



Jeff Gillette (USA)

Looking at Jeff Gillette's painting above, he is clearly having a little subversive fun at the expene of Disneyland and indeed the whole branding of Dismaland is a gnat's appendage away from the Disney theme park brand.  Banksy of course has previous with Disney having created the Guantamo prisoner alongside the Florida Disneyland Space Mountain, as documented quite comprehensively in his 2011 film "Exit Through The Gift Shop".


This is undoubtedly another Banksy master piece so it's interesting to ponder what’s new? Certainly the art hung on the walls indoors is by artists from more diverse geographic, cultural and creative backgrounds than say Cans Festival.  In 2008 Banksy opened our eyes to two things, the huge world of international stencillists doing more than just illegal single layer stencil work, remember until Cans Festival none of us had heard of Vhils!   This time round it seems likely that more than just a few of the exhibited artists have never tagged a toilet cubicle never mind put up a piece of illegal street art or some hit and run graffiti.

Secondly, he taught us we could all be stencil artists. This time he is clearly going beyond the stencil technique and indeed beyond the confines of the street art straitjacket.

What remains the same?  The Banksy philosophy, art is for everyone. No need to risk a brief intrusion into a posh intimidating gallery, here we are all welcome and it doesn't matter whether we "get" art or not.  The scale of the production is also phenomenal. It is interesting to recall that Banksy’s two most recent British epics were done aided and abetted by Steve Lazarides,  Dismaland ranks right up alongside any of the vast undertakings Lazarides has staged in the past, the apprentice does not need the master!


"Mediocre" - Axel Void

What's missing? The art-by-anyone "rock up and spray" element that was such a huge success at the 2008 Cans Festival for a start.


Judging by the photographs used in the couple of days leading up to Dismaland’s opening to ramp up the hype, there are a few pieces such as Ben Long’s scaffolding horse which it seems are expected to become visual set piece images of the show. I don’t get it, cant see the meaning or a relevant context for the piece other than it something you don't expect to see scaffolding being used for.  At least it photographs nicely at night.




What could be added? Well an explanation of the term "neoliberalism"  which appears in the catalogue (Dr Gavin Grindon) for a start,  Banksy’s purpose is to expand our spirit of adventure and develop a broader appreciation of art which probably ought not to be allowed, not to look up dictionaries.


"Mediocre" - Axel Void (and an Exit)

What is the most subversive thing Banksy does this time? Probably introducing into popular culture the work of artists, many from the middle east, who are making direct, well structured anti establishment political art. It is insidiously placed among the "easy green" idealogy and the dismal jokes.


Banksy? some think so


Heading back to London on the last train before the milk train i receive a text advising that the fireworks were good, they aren't supposed to be good, they should be damp squibs!