URBAN ART ICONS, CHAPTER I

Within the exhibition "Urban Art Icons", we approach the work (and personality) of Blek le Rat, The London Police, Shepard Fairey and Mark Jenkins. The vindication role of urban art leans on many referents of our society to build a impact message. In the construction of the narrative, the artists resort to different techniques and aesthetics, and in the case of these four artists, their works usually resort to a unique concept, which they reinterpret and use to feed their discourse.

BLEK LE RAT

Blek le Rat is one of the first artists who made of Urban Art what it is today. His jump into the streets came after having studied at the School of Fine Arts and Architecture, in Paris. Despite his academic training, his revolutionary spirit prompted him to make the city his own particular canvas, before leaping to international action. His first works were made directly on the walls of the French capital, which earned him a conviction for damages on the property. From that moment on, he began to work a new technique, the stencil, with such a success that street art of the late 2oth century could not be understood without this tool. His glued works, instead of painted on the walls, were the ideal vehicle for his artistic narrative, where the message of political denunciation was a constant.

The political and social iconography characterises the imaginary of the French artist Xavier Prou. Rats and soldiers are the emblematic images associated with his work. The rat, animal that carried the Plague to the Middle Ages symbolises freedom, and Blek le Rat began to represent it to announce to the observer that the graffiti would spread worldwide, just like the Plague in the Middle Ages. The characters of the father of the stencil seek to move, stir consciences, the reaction to art, the provocation.

Blek Le Rat

His Master is Voiceless red, 2008

Serigraphy

74 x 72cm

Blek Le Rat

Resist Against The Imposters, 2007

Serigraphy

65 x 54cm

SHEPARD FAIREY

Shepard Fairey is one of the most representative artists of the American underground scene, although he prefers to call himself a populist and provocateur. Fairey's artistic style is unique, and it is inevitable to relate his works both because of his aesthetics and his topics with the propaganda posters used during Soviet Russia. The activist and revolutionary message of his works, in which he defends progress and justice in society, together with his singular iconography, have turned his work into a communication channel of enormous social repercussion through his impressions, stickers, murals and posters.

The creation of the famous poster with the image of the former American fighter "André the Giant" with the word "OBEY", was the definitive step for the American artist to take the leap to fame. Music, social and political criticism, popular culture and environmental issues are the most recurrent subjects in his artistic career. His influences are multiple: Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, street art, psychedelic rock posters of the 60s, musical icons such as Bob Marley or Sex Pistols. Some of these topics can be seen in works like "Vote" or "Earth Crisis".

Shepard Fairey

Misfits, 2017

Screen printing on paper

61 x 46cm

Shepard Fairey

Big brother is watching you, 2006

Screen printing on paper

61 x 46cm

Shepard Fairey

End Corruption, 2015

Serigraphy HPM, mixed media and collage on wood

61 x 46cm

THE LONDON POLICE

The work of the British collective The London Police, currently formed by the artist duo Chaz Barrisson and Bob Gibson, two of its founding members, is easily recognizable by its genuine "LADS" icons, characters with round heads, simple bodies and happy expressions. When they moved to Amsterdam in 1998, they were called to modernize the decadent streets of what was the world capital of drugs.

TLP has invaded the urban spaces of many cities with murals in which they combine circular and linear elements in black and white, characteristic "boys" and architectural illustrations. The London Police's works have gone from street walls to the walls of galleries in more than 35 countries around the world, examples of which are their drawings in indelible ink on canvas such as "Keith Egg Peterson rides again" or "Samurai Magic ".

The London Police

George Rotterdam, 2013

Marker on fabric

40 x 40cm

The London Police

Samurai Magic, 2016

Indelible ink on fabric

40 x 40cm

MARK JENKINS

Although urban art easily identifies with mural work, graffiti and painting, it is more difficult to specialise in sculpture within this discipline. However, the main line of work of Mark Jenkins, an installation artist who dares with the urban space and who usually takes advantage of the elements of the city to create a coherent and witty critical discourse. Born in Virginia, his first work started in Rio de Janeiro, where he began experimenting with plastic and tape to create hollow figures interacting with the environment. In 2005 he returned to Washington to start a collaborative project with artist Sandra Fernández: "Størker project". With this proposal, the duo Jenkins and Fernández invaded the streets of many cities with small figures of babies made in transparent plastic that created an active dialogue with urban elements.

The subsequent work of this artist continued to evolve to incorporate new materials, merge techniques, and experiment with new proposals, risking more and more with the dimensions of the works and the scope of their impact on the city. One of the milestones that have most marked his career was his collaboration with Greenpeace since 2008. From that moment on, a significant change in Jenkins' narrative discourse is evident. His projects transformed into art complaint where awareness of the environment and the free use of the weapons are recurring themes in his work. This is what happens in "The Dugout Blue" or "Boys 2 men", pieces in which the artist questions the double morality of Western society about who is authorised to use weapons and who does not, or how anonymity allows transgressing the rules based on fear and ignorance. His hooded figures delve into the icon of the anonymous terrorist while posing the paradox of arming their characters with water pistols. An acid criticism of the collective behaviour of xenophobic reaction, distrust and boom of ultra-rightist movements that are gaining ground in the 21st century.

Mark Jenkins

The Dugout Blue, 2015

Mixed media

131 x 77cm

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The cultural agenda gradually recovers after the health-crisis halt and art lovers are eager to enjoy the rich cultural offer that the different spaces and museums throughout our geography have to offer. In addition, one must remember that these centres have made an enormous effort to adapt to the demands that the new situation imposes and have created abundant online-accessible content to overcome confinement. We bring you a selection of content that can be visited both in person and through the web. There is no excuse for not enjoying contemporary art again.

Olafur Eliasson, “En la vida real (In real life)”, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao continues with its exhibition dedicated to Olafur Eliasson and offers numerous resources to understand not only the exhibition but also the work of the centre in the assembly and installation process. The website allows us to expand content with interviews with the artist, the download of the audio guide and the vision of the curator Lucía Aguirre, who offers us different video-pills on the pieces in the exhibition.

"Olafur Eliasson: in real life" brings together a part of this artist's work since 1990 through sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations that play with reflections and colours. Likewise, the integration of elements such as moss, water, ice, fog... put the visitor in a situation that confuses the senses and tries to challenge the way we perceive our environment and move in it.

Regina de Miguel, “Isla Decepción”, 2017

The Botín Centre in Santander hosts the exhibition "Collecting processes: 25 years of Itineraries" which brings together the work of 25 of the 210 scholarship recipients who, to date, have enjoyed the Botín Foundation Plastic Arts Scholarship, started in 1993. With the works Lara Almárcegui, Basma Alsharif, Leonor Antunes, Javier Arce, Erick Beltrán, David Bestué, Bleda and Rosa, Nuno Cera, Patricia Dauder, Patricia Esquivias, Karlos Gil, Carlos Irijalba, Adrià Julià, Juan López, Rogelio López Cuenca, Renata Lucas, Mateo Maté, Jorge Méndez Blake, Regina de Miguel, Leticia Ramos, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Teresa Solar Abboud, Leonor Serrano Rivas, Jorge Yeregui, David Zink-Yi, the exhibition is a good example of up-to-date and young contemporary art contributed by artists with very diverse profiles.

Clemente Bernad. Series “Ante el umbral”, Madrid, 2020

The Reina Sofía Museum wanted to create a visual chronicle of what the confinement and the tragic numbers of infected and deceased have meant for the lives of many of us: a tale of pain, nostalgia and uncertainty made by the photographer Clemente Bernad. This exhibition, curated by Jorge Moreno Andrés, is entitled “Before the threshold”, a title that expresses the strange sensation that occurs when faced with something new and unknown, something that we cannot control or avoid, and that we all must go through. The alteration imposed on our lives unexpectedly is reflected in the streets, transformed into places of solitude and abandonment where life has been paralysed.

Mario Merz / No title, Triplo Igloo, 1984 MAXXI Collection

At the IVAM, the exhibition "What is our home?" brings together works from the IVAM collection and the MAXXI centre in Rome to propose a reflection on the space we inhabit seen from a personal and social perspective. It is about investigating the value that these spaces have as a home or refuge, as well as part of a city or community.

The exhibition, curated by José Miguel G. Cortés, also wants to delve into the feeling of those who feel like foreigners anywhere, because they do not identify with the habits or customs of the society, they do not fit into these social patterns, and home becomes the only shelter space that can adapt to their identity needs.

Martha Rosler, frame from “Backyard Economy I-II”, 1974 © Courtesy of Martha Rosler, 2020

Es Baluard Museu is committed to video creation and performance and hosts the monographic exhibition “Martha Rosler. How do we get there from here?” dedicated to this New York artist who pioneered the use of video as a mechanism for social and political analysis. This exhibition includes various works, from video to photography and several publications, which synthesise her main lines of discourse. Her concern for public policies and the social equality of women has led her to actively participate in numerous social movements in La Havana, New York, Mexico DC or Barcelona, and these experiences are present in one way or another in her work.

With the curatorship of Inma Prieto, a selection has been made within the abundant production of this artist, which presents one of the most coherent careers in towards-the-new-Millenium contemporary art.

Image from file, via meiac.es/turbulence/archive/acceso.html

The MEIAC - Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, host the works of the prestigious international digital art archive "Turbulence", a platform dedicated to network and hybrid art. In view of the inevitable closure of this institution, the MEIAC has offered to host all this valuable content collected since 1996. The uploading of the file also served as an opportunity to restore numerous pieces and convert formats so that files that had become obsolete remain readable by new systems. A huge job of conservation and updating that can be enjoyed online today. The archive is made up of hundreds of digital works from around the world that can now be visited remotely.