March 2nd – May 20th 2017
Each artist from the selected group taking part in this exhibition keeps a conceptual coherence with their work on the street, continuing to develop the same expression in different spaces, regardless of canvas. Each of them creates in their respective mediums, ranging from screen print propaganda, stencils, drawings, and collage, to adbusting and street photography, without ever diverting from the original idea of their street-based artistic activism.
Introducing these activities into a deterritorialized setting, OPEN WALLS Gallery will serve as an alternative territory for two months. It will become a place that thrusts us deep into the vitality and originality of a movement which never ceases to reinvent itself.
There’s no Better School Than the Street
As one of the most ubiquitous spaces of artistic activity, street has become an unconventional gallery of contemporary art. It is an open showroom in which creatives can display their work without compromise, a clashing point of countless styles and expressions. Street is a symbol of ultimate freedom and complete diversity.
In this public mixture of languages and melange of voices, pictograms of road signs and surreal messages written by street artists live side by side, while a simple commercial communication can easily confront the political. A careful observer can easily detect a rather noisy undercurrent of our society in the street, a dominion that generates its own methods of communication.
Every city’s streets abound with messages crying out for attention. They prompt, but also conceal the germs of a distinctive street-talk, a phenomenon that in all probability predicts many aspects of our forthcoming lifestyle. The street is a stage of the multi-colored, multi-ethnic masses, a platform for their cultural expression and a dojo for their powers of persuasion. This power is something we witness every day.
Being inherently connected to the people, the street is a natural place of inspiration for the artists of our exhibition. Our goal is to serve as an intermediary in their activities in order to support them and make their work possible. We feel that such clever forms of activism deserve broader attention, both from the public and from the artistic community. Finally, we do not doubt their immediate impact on direct observers.
From City Walls to Gallery Walls
Wandering through the last 40 years of tags, paste-ups, stencils and interventions that came and went, we can accept Urban Art as the new term for the Contemporary Street Art Movement. Developed out of the raw underground movements of Graffiti and Street Art, this postmodern expression now holds its own in the white cube. Observing both the streets and the market, this new artistic trend has spread across the world in the past decade and a half. It is still rapidly securing spots in major art galleries and collections. Internet and the expansion of social media has made the Urban Art movement more popular than ever. More people are involved with its cutting-edge visuals, terms and theories than ever before, including both art connoisseurs and neophytes.
Street Art / Inventory exhibition aims to support the movement and allow interested collectors, enthusiasts and first-timers in the art industry to attain pieces that have been created in the same way as their street counterparts. As the most authentic contemporary movement, Urban Art has proven to be of interest to new collectors, who can easily connect with its designs and slogans. Fresh approach these enthusiasts have appreciate this new language of diverse codes and styles laid upon any painted surface, silkscreen print, or paper.
Seven names curated for the Street Art / Inventory exhibition are a part of the OPEN WALLS core program. They are presented to the Berlin public as a result of an almost a decade long dedication to the cause. This eclectic group consists of Levalet, Alias, Madame, SP38, Vermibus, Jordan Seiler and Thomas von Wittich, all of whom come from different backgrounds and have different expressions. What they all have in common is the devotion to city interventions, as well as an intrinsic manner of communication with the observer. Every one of them continues to push the boundaries of public expression, staying true to their original idea. Contrary to the popular trend of large-scale murals, often sponsored by large corporations, the art of these seven renegades is conceptually thought provoking and stylistically stratified. It is created out of sincere urge to act rather than for commercial purposes, always calling the observer to contemplation and subsequently – to action.
Urban Artists from the Open Walls Street Art / Inventory
When he was just a student of photography, Jordan Seiler already engaged in acts against visual pollution in city environment. He took it upon himself to cover public advertisements with simple, geometric black and white designs, purging the urban landscape from imposed advertising. This act of rebellion against visual pollution soon turned into a greater critique of social effects advertising had on people, slowly turning into outright activism. Seiler founded the Public Ad Campaign, a global adbusting movement, which propagates liberation from the aggressive advertising we encounter daily. Today, there are over hundred artists involved, utilizing the hand-made adbusting keys this artist so relentlessly manufactures. Standing against consumerism, the name of Jordan Seiler is somewhat synonymous to the adbusting movement.
The art represented at the gallery comes in form of photographs, which can be viewed as static works of art, but also gazed upon through the Public Ad Campaign app and be seen as testimonies of a real street-based social act.
Inspired by the long wanderings around the streets of Paris and born out of the wish to give back to some of the liveliest urban environments in Europe, the art of Levalet is garnished with both humor and social criticism. Clever interventions the artist executes are always site-specific, interacting with a particular space in the city landscape. Based on drawing, which is transferred onto walls in a form of a paste-up, Levalet’s expression has roots in both classical art and the situationist tradition of French street art, especially in the works of Ernest Pignon-Ernest. Scaled to correspond with an immediate observer, Levalet’s interventions might offer a comical relief at a first glance, but once thought about, all of them refer to specific issues cities face today, from homelessness and poverty, over different absurd regulations to migrations and refugees.
The only intimist in the group, Alias is dedicated to appealing to the observer on a much more visceral level than any other street artist. His stencil works are executed to perfection in a recognizable illustrative style, on carefully selected surfaces. Usually tucked away in distant and hardly visible corners, his works deliver an emotional message already announced by their location. These single-figure mini narratives speak of specific feelings, referring to the awkward periods of life. They speak of alienation and evoke loneliness so frequently seen in our society, even though communicating has been made smoother than ever. Universal characters Alias portrays are easy to relate to, appealing to our inner worries and hidden fears, letting us know that we are not alone after all.
When he transfers his work into a non-street setting, Alias is careful to pick a certain background. All the materials for it are scavenged from the street, usually made of layers of rusty scrap metal, providing an ideal reminder of the original purpose of every stencil he recreates.
Vermibus is dedicated to nurturing his strong voice of criticism against the advertising and fashion industry by addressing the impossible and shallow beauty standards we face daily. Acquired in the street, advertising beauty and fashion posters of different scales, serve this artist as a canvas upon which he intervenes in a very original way. Treating these printed images with solvent fluids and intervening by rubbing and scratching, he alters the visuals beyond recognition, unveiling the superficial nature of the initial picture. What is gained is a washed image of a dissolved glamour, more resemblant to a horror visual than to a fashion ad. Altered and stripped from lie, advertising posters are then returned to their original place in the public for the passers-by to see and contemplate.
Taking his belief that beauty is artificially manipulated, Vermibus launched his Unveiling Beauty project, busting ads across the major Fashion Week centers across the globe.
The only female voice in the group belongs to Madame, a French street artist whose art is saturated by humor and wit. Sprung from the travel collages she created from various newspaper clippings, Madame’s expression grew and soon found its place in the streets of Paris. Mixed-media used to assemble the original pieces include paper, cardboard, engravings, drawings, pictures, fabric, metal, and wood and it’s hardly a street art technique as such. These small-scale works are rather blown up into large-scale prints, which the artist pastes in selected locations.
Rich and colorful, the works Madame creates tell a universal story, advocating tolerance, gender equality, solidarity and acceptance. They are filled with whimsical, imaginary creatures, cut-out messages and reverted stereotypes, inviting the viewer to embrace all of life’s moments.
Originally from France, SP38 has been spreading the art of word around Berlin for over twenty years. Inspired by the post-wall Berlin and the alternative lifestyle it offered, this urban poet saw the city change over two decades, changing his artistic interventions from lyrical to engaging. His handwriting is one of the most recognizable in the large Berlinian realm, with angular lettering and clear, unequivocal information. Still, what SP38 does is hardly graffiti, since he hand paints his words on large, pasted white sheets of paper. “Escape”, “Occupy”, “No Money No Art” speak for themselves, while addressing deeper problematics of urban environment, gentrification and elitism in the art market. Democratic and honest, the art of SP38 is clearly an act of activism, originally executed in the street and transferred to the gallery in a form of a print.
Originating from the graffiti scene, Thomas von Wittich quickly became enchanted by the magic of the camera and opted for photography. Today, he is one of the most prolific street art photographers in Berlin, who shot work processes of such artists as Riot, Vermibus, Alias and Lush just to name a few. Dedicated to black and white photography, this artist documents the precious moments and secrets of street art that would have otherwise been lost. Von Wittich’s work follows the foundations of street photography laid down by Martha Cooper and her peers, but transforms his snapshots into an independent artistic expression. His latest endeavor was a series “Adrenaline>” which follows the inspirational and daring adventures of the notorious graffiti group Berlin Kidz, portraying contemporary acts of urban defiance.
Serious Devotion to Street Art
Sprouted from Stattbad Wedding as one of the Berlin’s street art hubs, OPEN WALLS Gallery has brought a new outlook on curating public art. Since it was established in 2012, the gallery became a favorite gathering spot of urban art collectors and the most promising talent coming directly from the street. Unique roster of artists represented by OPEN WALLS is carefully selected, considering every individual expression, method and philosophy.
The main focus of the curatorial duo running the gallery falls on sharing the true values and significance of street art in its original form, emphasizing its impact on both local community and society at large. The rebellious, critical side of public art is elevated, while the gallery is seen as a mediator, an agent that helps keep these creative street activities possible. In this dynamic environment, discussion about street art is encouraged and the conversation on necessity, influence, legality and value of street art is keenly kept alive.
One of the main points of discussion is the very term “street art”, to which a new definition is offered. This form of artistic creation is no longer seen as bound to the street, but rather the opposite: The street itself becomes a medium for artists, a place inherent to their individual expressions. As such, the spirit of the street can be transferred into a different setting, while preserving the primary idea.
The fact that every artist from the selection is active in the street, each one with a clear action plan and agenda, is what sets OPEN WALLS Gallery apart. A piece purchased from the gallery is therefore not only a collectible, but also a symbol of support for the urban contemporary movement in the most direct way.
In extension of its exhibitions, the gallery offers various workshops and art consulting services, as well as specially designed guided street art tours where the works from its artists can be seen in their natural habitat in Berlin.
STREET ART / INVENTORY
JORDAN SEILER, LEVALET, ALIAS, VERMIBUS, MADAME, SP38, THOMAS von WITTICH
Vernissage: Thursday March 2nd – 19:00-21:00
Runtime: March 3rd 2017 – May 20th 2017
OPEN WALLS Gallery / Schröderstr. 11.1 / 10115 Berlin