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Street Art and Social Change: Mobstr Mocks Public Advertising

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One of the strongest political channels in the street art movement is the questioning of what is allowed and what isn’t allowed in our shared public spaces. Advertisements are almost everywhere we look today in most major cities, and some artists and activists question what this does to our individual and societal psyche. What effect does being pummeled by consumerism, commodity, and lifestyle advertisements have on us? Well, one very well known critique is the British artist, Mobstr. Mobstr is known for his urban interventions, and progression pieces, which he “collaborates” with city cleaners/buffers. Today we look at a couple new pieces by Mobstr which invite observers to questions both the lack of democratic process involved in what happens in our public spaces, and also the effects of technology, image, and self-absorption. Well done, Mobstr!

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Street Art and Social Change: Steven Grounds Reclaims a Native American Boarding School

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Artist, Steven Grounds, has been working hard the last couple years, filling the interior and exterior walls of an abandoned Native American boarding school in Concho, Oklahoma. The boarding school, during its years of operation from 1909-1983, had members from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes among other Native American students. Grounds is Navajo and Euchee himself, and he obtained permission to paint the buildings from the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe two years ago. He has been painting portraits of  his heroes and even of students who once walked the same halls ever since.

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Native American boarding schools have a dreadful history in the United States. They were built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to provide education and to give opportunity for children with no formal schools in their vicinity. In reality, Native American boarding schools were seen as the means for the government to achieve assimilation of Native Americans. Children were usually immersed in European-American culture through appearance changes with haircuts, were forbidden to speak their native languages, and traditional names were replaced by new European-American names. The experience of the schools was often harsh, especially for the younger children who were separated from their families. In numerous ways, they were encouraged or forced to abandon their Native American identities and cultures.

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Abandoned Native American boarding school in Concho, Oklahoma

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Photograph from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency’s Catholic School (1920-33) (via Bureau of Indian Affairs. Concho Agency/National Archives and Records Administration)

Grounds’ work is connecting history, culture, and time to place. The abandoned school was left for ruin but he has done what street artists are good at – activating spaces. “When you walk in here you can feel that energy, that there is a history here,” says Grounds. And about his portraits he adds, “I take them as a way to show reverence. So what I paint in here comes from a place of respect.”

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Street Art and Social Change: Biancoshock’s “VIP” Street Intervention

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Italian artist and urban interventionist, Fra Biancoshock, recently visited Tartu, Estonia, where he created several site specific street installations. His “V.I.P – Very Important Poverty” installation is gripping – a homeless person under a blanket on a red carpet with boundary ropes around. A poignant piece, as global wealth divide and inequality is at an alltime high. Baincoshock’s work has the beautiful and also alarming ability to cut right through the observer. His interventions walk the fine line between art and …something else – maybe reality.

For a very long time he didn’t consider himself as an artist, until, one day he decided to understand the purpose and the nature of his work. Soon becomes clear that there is no existing “category” that can fit his urban inclination, typical of the Urban Art, and his expressive process which is very close to the classic activist and performative art; this is the reason why he decides to give birth to EPHEMERALISM. Ephemeralism has the purpose of producing works of art that have to exist briefly in space but limitlessly in time through the photography, the video and the media.

He has realized more that 750 interventions in the streets of Italy, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, England, Hungary, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovak, Slovenia and Spain and he is not thinking about stopping. Thank you, Baincoshock. We can’t wait to see what you bring next!

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Street Art and Social Change: Ever for Farmers in Paraguay

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Argentinian artist, Ever Siempre, just wrapped up painting this wall in Asunción, Paraguay. The piece is entitled “Chokokue” (“Farmer”) in the indigenous Guarani language, and represents a somber and violent history the country’s government has had with this agricultural social group. Ever writes:

“During 1989-2013 they were executed and disappeared 115 leaders and members of peasant organizations. These attacks has the objetive of acquire the land of the farmers this is a due to large corporate interests linked to models agribusiness such as soy, this situation has led Paraguay to be the country with the most unequal land distribution in the World . More than 80% of the land is in the hands of less than 2% of the population. This work is a claim to peasant social struggle in Paraguay, a universal human right. Color grading turn is the abstract representation of the “triple Alianza” War (Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay) funded by the English colony. The consequences of this war was that almost 80% of the Paraguayan population were killed during that war, a latent print in the history of Paraguay.”

 

Ever’s signature style of portraiture with encircling gradients and color fields has a powerful effect. Using both brushes and spray paint, his works are largely social based, telling stories through visual art. Ever has painted walls around the world and continues to connect people and place through his large public works. We’re always excited to see his next installment!

Street Art and Social Change: Eduardo Kobra “Ethnicities” in Rio

 

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The 2016 Summer Olympics are officially over, and Rio has many new additions in the city to remember the monumental event with. One massive addition is the powerful, vibrant, and meaningful mural entitled ‘Ethnicities’ by Brazilian muralist, Eduardo Kobra. The work features Kobra’s signature style of kaleidoscopic color filled faces of 5 indigenous people from around the world. The intent of the piece is to show the humanity that we all share, that we are all connected in our modern globalized world, and that we are all one. “We’re living through a very confusing time with a lot of conflict. I wanted to show that everyone is united, we are all connected,” said Kobra.

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Kobra and his team painted the piece in preparation for the games with support from the City of Rio. Clocking in at 3,000 square meters (over 32,000 sq ft), the mural brought Kobra and his crew a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest spray paint mural by a team. “Color, style, and cultural vibrancy. Three adjectives that describe the city of Rio de Jainero, and the illustrious 560-foot wall that now holds a Guinness World Records title,” wrote the Guinness World Records on their website.

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Street Art and Social Change: BEZT Paints a Mourning “Europe”

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Polish artist, BEZT, recently just wrapped up painting this beautiful and thought-provoking mural in Mannheim, Germany, as part of the Stadt.Wand.Kunst street art Festival. One half of the powerhouse Polish muralism duo, ETAM CRU, BEZT is known for his ability to masterfully blend captivating imagery with his illustrative realist style. This piece, entitled “Europe”, depicts three women wearing shawls and carrying flowers, as if in mourning. The mural has a somber tone and reflects on the shifting state of Europe today, with tensions high between the European Union, politics, borders, economics, immigrants, culture, religion, and safety. Powerful and poignant, as usual, from BEZT!

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Street Art and Social Change: JR Installations for the Olympics in Rio

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Prolific French photographer and installation artist, JR, has been hard at work with this team in preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The games are officially underway, with the grand opening taking place last Friday night, and JR has installed a number of massive olympians around Rio. Known for his ability to connect people with place, JR’s works in Rio are site-specific installations of athletes interacting with the city. Usually JR is wheatpasting his large photos on existing physical structures in cities around the world, but for his Olympics installations he has erected huge scaffolding structures and draped over them his photographs printed on fabric.

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Much controversy has surrounded The Games this year, with huge protests taking place before and during the games. NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro writes, “Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s elected president, has been suspended and is awaiting an impeachment trial in the Senate for fiscal mismanagement. Her former vice president, the right-of-center Temer, is now heading the country. Polls show he is hugely unpopular. He’s been pushing through austerity measures to reboot the country’s tanking economy.”

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“This is Mohamed, a Sudanese athlete who couldn’t make it to the Games because of an injury. He still came to Rio and jumps over a building in Flamengo,” JR shares. “80 years ago the Olympics happened in Berlin. Hitler wanted to use them to demonstrate the supremacy of the Aryan race. Today they will open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a “mixed race” country (“país mestiço”). Even though Brazil is going through political and economic turmoil and the necessity of the Games at this moment can spark controversy, the Olympic spirit will joyfully be welcomed by the people […].”

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Street Art and Social Change: INO Paints “Instability” in Ukraine

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Greek master of design and meaning, INO, just finished his largest wall to date in Kiev, Ukraine. The piece is entitled “Instability” and depicts a ballerina dancing on a spherical bomb. The artist is known for his powerful and highly provocative imagery, which almost always has a social or political edge to it. Standing at 48m high, this piece was painted in context with Ukraine’s recent political instability. INO is adding to the narrative of humanity’s apparent inability to grow toward a more harmonious living. Check out the images and a aerial video of the finished piece below!

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INSTABILITY from INO on Vimeo.

Street Art and Social Change: Shepard Fairey’s “Earth Crisis” in Paris Continues

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Shepard Fairey has just completed a large mural on the streets of Paris, France, which continues his ongoing project there titled, “Earth Crisis.” The project has included an installation, murals, fine art, and prints, all of which are centered on the imposing environmental crisis that we are facing on a global scale. This recent mural, painted in District 13, is of a mandala with imagery that symbolize both threats to nature and incitement to respect it.  The mandala images, composed of climate change and environmentally themed graphics, are positioned to raise awareness and provoke discussions about the Earth’s future.  The colors used in the globe design connect blue and green of air, water, and vegetation that allow the earth to sustain life.

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The ongoing Earth Crisis project is made possible by Galerie Itinerrance. Building on Earth Crisis, Fairey approached this new body of work keeping in mind different ways to engage people through art. He created a series of six letterpress prints that will be available along with the fine art and sculpture pieces for the Earth Crisis exhibition opening this Friday, June 24 at Galerie Itinerrance in Paris, located at 24bis boulevard du Général Jean Simon 75013. The prints and fine art continue to address and spark conversations about protecting the planet through the powerful environmentally-themed art. Proceeds will be donated to support global environmental organization – 350.org.

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“The installation, the murals, the fine art, and the prints – they are all different platforms to put across the message that we are facing an earth crisis. I think that art is a way to engage people. Art can initiate conversations when other media fails. If a viewer likes my mural, if they like my installation, like my art pieces, that may make them consider what the image is addressing. This new body of work reflects on and builds upon, my entire history of environmentally-themed art. I hope that it appeals visually AND sparks the needed conversation about protecting our planet for future generations.”
– Shepard

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(photos © Lionel Belluteau)

Street Art and Social Change: Nevercrew Paint “Inhumane Barriers” in Manchester

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As part of the street art convention, Cities of Hope, in Manchester, England, Nevercrew painted this beautiful and poignant piece titled, “Inhumane Barriers.” Hailing from Switzerland, the duo of Christian Rebecchi and Pablo Togni executed this exquisite mural that depicts a beautiful giant crystal with silhouetted figures beneath it scrambling to try and climb atop it, many of them falling off below. Nevercrew writes, “This project is about immigration and integration: about the loss of humanity and empathy, about barriers and values, and about the distant and often presumptuous position of who’s on the “right part” of the border.”

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The image touches on the issues surrounding immigration, a difficult and arduous event for most. Nevercrew worked with local action group, WASP (Women Asylum Seekers Together), who fight for rights and raise awareness about the issues that force women to seek international protection and the effects of the injustices of the UK immigration system. Cities of Hope is a street art convention which brings 9 of the worlds best artists to Manchester with the objective to force witness to 9 key social justice issues. Each artist and issue is being linked to a vital local organization that fights to help the lives of those affected by the issues, at a grass roots level. The event was produced by Vestige, a not for profit social justice organization that uses the Arts to inspire action on the social issues that define our time and support the work of agencies that champion these. Well done, everyone involved!

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(photos © Nevercrew)