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Terrorist or graffiti tagger? Os Gêmeos’s The Giant of Boston

A mural by the Brazilian street artists Os Gêmeos, installed in Boston as part of their first US solo show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, has drawn some divisive comments and stirred up debate about cultural understanding.

The twin brothers painted the 70-foot-tall mural The Giant of Boston depicting a boy wearing a red jacket wrapped around his head in the city’s high-traffic area of Dewey Square (the figure of a shrouded graffiti tagger is a common motif in the artists’ work). But when the local Fox news affiliate posted an image of the mural on its Facebook page and asked its readers, “What does it look like to you?” some responded with bigoted comments: “terrorist”, “towel head”, “Mooselim protected by Obama!” and “a Muslim woman in a head scarf holding an AK-47 in her hands”. The figure isn’t holding anything in its hands, but the image used by Fox features a crane in front of the mural that could look like a gun.


Eric Magnuson
The Art Newspaper

“If You See Somethin”, Jean Seestadt (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Since the never-ending “War on Terror” commenced so publicly a decade or so ago, an intermittently insistent campaign exhorting the public to be aware of odd things and behaviors has beat a steady message of fearful dread in New York. Posters on buses, brochures in city offices, and disembodied, firmly voiced recordings on trains and in airports remind us that evil walks secretly amongst us and we should be ever-vigilant and tell the nearest police officer if you see something suspicious…The billowing cloud rising in Manhattan this time is from artist Jean Seestadt, whose cut paper installation in the bus stop entitled “If you See Somethin” evokes one prevailing vision of the unmarked package spilling forth it’s curvilinear bilious hot plume into a public place with a stylized hand.


Jaime Rojo & Steven Harrington
Huffington Post

Jenny Holzer

Ten best street art works:

Street art

Chosen by

Tristan Manco

(Photo: Luna Park)

In my travels across New York City documenting street art and graffiti, I’m always excited when I stumble across full-blown illicit installations. While stenciling and wheatpasting continue to explode in popularity, it takes another level of commitment, chutzpah if you will, to pull off something more involved.

Using salvaged or re-appropriated materials, NYC street artists are both piggybacking their pieces onto existing street furniture and brazenly installing work of their own. There are highly skilled carpenters and iron workers amongst the ranks of artists — the sole unifying factor in an otherwise diverse group is the placement of their work on the street. Some pieces last but a few hours, but you’d be surprised how many fly under the radar and run for years.

To see images, go here.

Luna Park
Guest post on Hrag Vartanian’s Hyperallergic

Jessie Hemmons works on a Rittenhouse Square tree with boyfriend Jerry Kaba’s help. (Photo: Sharon Gekoski-Kimmel)

The magnolia tree on the north side of Rittenhouse Square looks as if it were plucked from a Dr. Seuss book. Its split trunk is wrapped in a whimsical sweater of pinks, blues, purples, and oranges.

The tree cozy is the work of Jessie Hemmons, 23, a graduate student in psychology at Chestnut Hill College and census worker – and a graffiti artist with a soft side.

Hemmons is part of a growing trend of rogue knitters who have taken their “yarnbombing” to the street to brighten the cityscape. She ties crocheted flowers to lampposts, wraps bike racks with rainbow-colored covers, and gave the Rocky statue a scarf.

Her motivation is simple.

“Times are tough,” Hemmons said. “People want to see something bright and pretty.”

Yesterday morning she put up her largest installation yet. Passersby stopped to watch and snap pictures as Hemmons began stitching about 15 feet of knitting – a 30-hour project – to a tree near 19th and Walnut Streets.

The yarnbombing trend made headlines this month when three women in West Cape May, known only by their tag name, Salty Knits, began putting up knitting under the cover of night in the borough’s Wilbraham Park and outside private businesses.


Chelsea Conaboy
Philadelphia Inquirer

The mural of a Rat holding a machine gun by Banksy is said to be one of his largest works in Britain. (Photo: ALAMY)

The mural, a 30-foot tall painting of a rat holding a machine gun, will disappear after the businessman bought the former Liverpool pub it adorns and promised to paint over it.

The Grade 2 listed Georgian property was adorned by artwork from the Bristol-born graffiti giant Banksy, around the time of Liverpool’s Biennial art festival in 2004.

But after purchasing the artwork at auction on Thursday for £114,000, property developer Billy Palmer, 44, admitted he has no interest in preserving the painting, despite protests from art lovers.

“I’m not a fan of modern art, I can’t say I know much about it really,” he said after the auction at Liverpool’s Marriott Hotel.

“All I was concerned about was getting this great building for a good price, I’m going to turn it into luxury flats.


Andrew Hough


From skateboarder to famous street artist, Shepard Fairey has seen the inside of numerous police cells in his long career. This week his ubiquitous portrait of Barack Obama, which appeared on billboards, T-shirts, hats and magazine covers throughout the 2008 election season, was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

Until he came up with his Obama image and went on to be named “Icon Maker” of the year by Time magazine, 38-year-old Fairey was best known for his rock-music album covers and an advertising campaign that featured a wrestler named Andre the Giant.

The artist’s most recent arrest was last August when he was in Denver for Mr Obama’s nomination to stand as the Democratic presidential candidate. He was busy postering an alleyway with some friends while a film crew documented their work, when riot police showed up. Fairey, who is diabetic, recalls how he and his fellow street artists dropped their posters, brushes and buckets of paste and legged it down the alley, only to be confronted by five paramilitary-style police pointing guns at their heads.

“I guess we got too close to the hot zone down town,” Fairey recalled as he waved a pretend gun in imitation of the cops: “Get on the ground or we’re gonna kick you in the head … We were quickly zip-tied and taken off to jail.” He spent the night in a cell with some anarchists and was fed the favourite snack of all American teenagers: “peanut and jelly sandwiches”.

Fairey graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and went on to found a design studio which specialised in “guerrilla marketing”.

While Mr Obama was accepting the Democratic nomination, Fairey, out of jail with a slap on the wrist, was already filming a YouTube account of the 14th arrest in his meteoric career as America’s foremost street artist.

The story of his famous Obama portrait, a large-scale, mixed-media stencilled collage, is already taking on the mythic qualities of a quintessential American narrative. Emerging from humble beginnings in the back alleys of Los Angeles, the portrait became an instant sensation, a pop culture “icon” that was willingly embraced by the Obama political machine.

Before the President-elect swears his oath of office on Abraham Lincoln’s personal Bible, the portrait has become part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery, which is conveniently only a few blocks from the White House. Fittingly for the narrative of change, the Obama portrait was donated to the gallery by the head of Mr Obama’s transition team, Tony Podesta, and his wife, Heather.

The striking resemblance to the Che Guevara portrait which has decorated generations of student bed-sits, has not been dwelt on. But a little way from where Fairey’s portrait will hang there is a small portrait of the Cuban revolutionary by Charles “Chaco” Chavez, drawn from the famous photograph by Alberto Korda.

The portrait gallery is better known for its stuffy collection of George Washington portraits than street art, but the museum’s curator, Carolyn Kinder Carr, said simply: “We all fell in love with it. We always like portraits that reflect a particular moment in history, and we like the fact that it is an image that resides in popular culture.”

It’s not the first time that street art has been brought in from the cold, she noted: “The posters of [Henri de] Toulouse-Lautrec are essentially street art.” And there seem to be few bounds to Fairey’s capacity for self publicity. This week, for example, it was announced that he has donated a new image to, to promote the cause of rescuing street mutts. Mr Obama is hoping to adopt a pet from a shelter for the White House.

Fairey explained that he is “a big believer in speaking up for all who suffer injustice, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or, in this case, species!” He created a limited-edition run of 400 signed and numbered silk-screen prints in honour of a dog he had as a child growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, a mutt named Honey.

At the portrait gallery, meanwhile, the director, Martin E Sullivan, intoned: “This work is an emblem of a significant election, as well as a new presidency. Shepard Fairey’s instantly recognisable image was integral to the Obama campaign.”

Fairey’s collage became the central portrait image for the Obama campaign and was initially distributed as a limited-edition print and then as a free download. His other works are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The new portrait will be hanging at the gallery by 17 January, three days before Mr Obama’s inauguration. Suitably enough it will be in the “New Arrivals” section on the ground floor.

Leonard Doyle
The Independent