Against the backdrop of Paris Fashion Week which introduced several collaborative projects between high fashion brands and big names from the art world (Dior partnered with KAWS and Takashi Murakami continued collaborating with Virgil Abloh, the new artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection), the French capital was hit for the first time hit by the world’s most elusive street artist—Banksy.
Without previous announcement or warning, Parisians began to discover several new street pieces that quickly materialized in the urban/street art galaxy of the social media universe and were eventually confirmed on Banksy’s official Instagram account.
The first piece was found near the Porte de la Chapelle metro station, where Paris’ refugee centre “La Bulle,” was located until August 2017. A city within a city, it was home to a makeshift camp of some 2,700 refugees and was dismantled an estimated 35 times before 2,000 migrants were bussed to temporary shelters. This was done as part of Emmanuel Macron’s wish to remove the refugees “off the streets, out of the woods,” as stated during his campaign.
With this in mind, Banksy revisited his “Go Flock Yourself” piece from 2008, and created a new version as commentary on the current political situation in France and throughout Europe. Depicting a black girl painting a Victorian wallpaper pattern over a swastika, the artist is commenting on the way politicians are concealing wrongdoing and potentially fascist policies.
The second and third pieces appeared soon thereafter. One depicts a suited man luring a three-legged dog with a bone while hiding a saw behind his back, a metaphor for politicians tricking people with promises that often have a masked, devastating agenda. The other is Banksy’s take on the iconic painting “Napoleon Crossing the Alps” by Jacques-Louis David, a symbol of French power and influence. By covering the rider with his own cape, the artist is commenting on the current misguided way the government is leading the country, blinding people with propaganda and false promises.
The last three pieces introduce Bansky’s signature rats to their genesis—Parisian artist Blek Le Rat and his rat stencils were a great influence on the Bristol-born artist, or as he stated in one of his recent IG posts: “The birthplace of modern stencil art.” Placing them around the city in ways that interact with local graffiti and building facades, it may appear as though they’re having fun blowing things up. But in reality, they are a reminder of a volatile period of civil unrest that took place in May 1968 when the government temporarily ceased to function.
In one piece a rat is propelled by a popping champagne cork. Using this symbol of affluence as their vehicle to overtake obstacles, the rodents are once again Banksy’s metaphor for working class people making significant change when they join together and fight for similar cause.
Of particular note in this Banksy “invasion” was that some of the works were miraculously revised overnight, allowing the artist to highlight one of the biggest advantages of stencil technique–its ability to be applied quickly and precisely. With this in mind, a small rat prepared to blow up a Pompidou Center sign suddenly morphed into a much larger rat with bandanna covered face. It now wields a large X-Acto knife, a common symbol of stencil cutting.
Included here are many of the works that have since emerged in Paris, but you can see several more here.
Update: This article was updated on 6/28/18 to include new images and details.
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Meticulous Acrylic Paintings by Shawn Huckins Erase Historic Works from the White House Art Collection
At first glance, Colorado-based artist Shawn Huckins’ “Erasure” series looks like a collection of images that have been altered using a digital eraser tool to reveal the empty checkered pattern layer beneath. A closer look reveals that the works are actually meticulously detailed acrylic paintings, recreations selected from the White House Art Collection. Superimposed on the works are hand-painted erasure marks that serve as a commentary on the ideas of history, legacy, and whether or not those things can be wiped away in the present.
While the patterned marks range from measured and uniform to seemingly haphazard flourishes, for Huckins the resulting “obliteration” of history is the same. “The underlying works chosen for this series originally served as testaments of those who came before us and the indelible mark they left on the world, in a very short time, not so long ago,” the artist said in a statement. “In an era where the internet makes everyone a publisher, and digital editing tools bestow the power to create realities out of pixels, The Erasures forces us to examine our assumptions regarding the longevity of individual influence and institutions, thus raising enormous questions concerning the fragility of legacy.”
Huckins shares with Colossal that the collection of paintings are his “response to the current US administration’s policies and ethics surrounding a divisive country.” In his statement he poses several questions to the viewer about one person’s ability to “erase the impact of another,” whether or not longstanding ideals are more easily erased than recent progress, and how the events of today will be “recorded, judged and preserved when anyone can create, or re-create, his or her own reality with a keystroke, or a mouse-swipe, or a dead-of-night tweet?”
Shawn Huckins will debut 18 paintings from the Erasure series as a part of an upcoming solo exhibition titled Fool’s Gold, which opens at Modernism Gallery’s new space in San Francisco on July 11, 2018.
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For the past several months, a collective of artists in Dublin known as Subset has been coming up against the letter of the law, as the Dublin City Council (DCC) issues orders requiring Subset to paint over their colorful murals with swaths of monochromatic paint. Blindboy Boatclub, an Irish comedian and hip hop artist who was the subject of a Subset mural, points out the conundrum in an interview with JOE:
Subset have been brightening up dull spaces all over Dublin. People were engaging… taking selfies, having craic [fun conversation]. That’s what art is supposed to be, socially engaged. A genuinely engaging spectacle for real people, not just hidden away in a gallery for those with an art education. Dublin council have disappointed me. How is it OK to paint a wall one dull color of paint? But it’s illegal to paint the same space with multiple colors.
The sweep of mural removals began in late 2017, despite previous successful collaborations between DCC and Subset, as cited in the Irish Times. Although the murals are created on private property and with explicit permission from property owners, under current law the artists are still required to apply for permits for each painting. These permitting fees are calculated by square meter, and can cost thousands of euros.
As explained by RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) Ireland’s national public-service media organization, “The permission available to the artists at present is fixed and rigid whereas they require a more fluid process allowing them to apply for spaces on an ongoing basis and vary their artwork in response to changing events. As it stands, the collective must apply separately for each mural. The amount of time, bureaucracy and expense required to do this detracts from the spontaneity and impact of their art, so they don’t apply.” In contrast, the more up-to-date and efficient licensing processes in Irish cities like Limerick and Waterford have been beneficial for both artists and the city governments.
In response, members of the Subset collective have teamed up with other artists to paint new murals throughout Dublin, with a goal of adding twenty five new works. Some are vibrantly colored, drawing attention to the role that such large-scale public artworks play in enlivening urban environments. Others feature grey palettes in solidarity with the #greyareaproject hashtag, which is being used to unite the pro-mural movement, and you can see examples of both below.
Residents are also using the hashtag on social media to document pre-existing murals, as evidence of the city’s rich mural scene. You can follow the conversation on Subset’s Twitter and Instagram and via #greyareaproject on both platforms.
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Banksy (previously) has emerged this week on the streets of New York, creating at least two new artworks, his first pieces in the city since his ‘residency’ five years ago. In one large work spanning the length of the famed mural space at the corner of Houston Street and Bowery in Manhattan, tally marks form prison bars, symbolically counting the days of imprisonment for artist Zehra Doğan. The Turkish painter is currently serving a nearly three year prison sentence for the creation of a single painting. The mural is a collaboration between Banksy and street artist Borf.
Doğan, who also worked as a reporter for the now defunct Dicle news agency, created the painting in 2016 which depicts operations carried out by Turkish security forces against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The artwork, derived from a photograph, shows buildings reduced to rubble, plumes of smoke, and gathered military trucks, all part of a multi-year effort in Turkey’s southeastern towns and cities to clear out PKK militants.
The aspect that the Mardin 2nd High Criminal Court deemed a crime are the Turkish flags that Doğan included, draped over the facades of some of the standing buildings, elements that also appear in the original photo.
As a result of her artistic rendering of the destruction in Mardin province Doğan may the only person in the world imprisoned for the act of painting. In Instagram posts about his depiction of Doğan’s sentencing, Banksy is encouraging people to repost her work and tag Turkey’s president, who is also active on Instagram.
Update: A previous version of this article did not attribute Borf as a collaborator.
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French duo Ella & Pitr (previously) tackle the gravity of the global refugee crisis in their latest mural, Le Naufrage de Bienvenu/The Shipwreck of Bienvenu. The massive outdoor work reaches over 47 meters (154 feet), scaling the surface of Piney’s Dam in La Valla-En Gier, Rhone-Alpes, France.
Ella & Pitr frequently highlight neglected societal groups such as the elderly and homeless by placing them on highly visible urban canvases like snowy hillsides or old airport tarmacs. Their choice of a dam―a huge aquatic blockade―could be interpreted in reference to the swelling crisis of displaced people crossing the Mediterranean from Africa.
The artists and their team spent ten days suspended from the dam to complete the painting. You can follow more of Ella & Pitr’s work on Instagram.
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French artist JR just unveiled a new work in progress at the US/Mexico border. The large photographic piece depicts a child peering over a border fence from the Mexican side, apparently in reference to Trump’s effort to rescind the DACA program which protects the children of undocumented immigrants from being deported. The artist is known for his towering photographic installations backed by scaffolding such as his pieces at the Louvre and the Rio Olympics.
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Somewhere in Virginia on the outskirts of private farmland sits the completely bizarre sight of nearly 40 giant U.S. president busts crumbling amongst the weeds. The mammoth heads—each estimated to weigh in excess of 7,000 pounds—were originally commissioned from Houston artist David Adickes as the centerpiece for Presidents Park, a ten-acre open-air museum with presidential sculptures and informational plaques located in Williamsburg, Virginia. First opened in 2004, the museum closed just 6 years later due to lack of attendance and most of the heads were eventually moved to a private farm where they sit today.
Photographer Patrick Joust recently made a trek to the presidential graveyard and shot these amazing photos of the eroding statues. The pieces are already faded and peeling from the elements and display a number of structural scars from repeated moves. The post-apocalyptic scene is reminiscent of the final moments of Planet of the Apes, or a modern take on the giant mysterious heads sprawled across Easter Island. The artist also sculpted a second set of presidential busts which were on display near Deadwood, South Dakota in an outdoor park setting operated by the artist himself. After closing the heads are now scattered—Abraham Lincoln’s bust now rests in front of the the Lincoln RV Park in Williston, North Dakota, and Theodore Roosevelt’s bust sits outside the Roosevelt Inn in Watford.
Update: This post has been updated to include the artist’s name as well as refer to a second set of presidential busts that were originally on display near Deadwood, South Dakota.
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Editor's Picks: Street Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.