Art Critic cares not for Banksy, street art

The video embedded below appears to be companion footage to Exit through the Gift Shop. I pulled the quote from the footage below because I have been thinking about street art’s legitimacy in the art world, specifically the role of a street art critic –

” To me there is nothing interesting about Banksy, no…

I would never have said this 5 years ago, when there wasn’t this big thing about him. When I saw his stuff around, I thought that’s an entertaining bit of rubbish on the wall.

But now I’m supposed to take all this stuff seriously, and I don’t really know what I am supposed to say. It’s quite obvious that it isn’t really anything.

When people queue up to see a Banksy show or they’re paying hundreds and thousands of pounds at Sotheby’s, I don’t feel disparaged, or bewildered or baffled, I mean it’s a sort of social phenomenon. People suddenly get a craze… it’s a combination of accessible and weird and exotic   ”

Matthew Collings, Art Critic

note the vimeo user name

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Documenting Chicago’s Street Art (and gaining recognition!)

Every month, I write a column on Chicago Art Magazine documenting (and sometimes explaining) the best street art in Chicago. Very recently, I had the honor of being named #9 on Abraham Ritchie Picks Chicago’s Best of 2010 <- read it NOW! He says nice things about me!

Abraham Ritchie is the senior editor for Chicago’s Art Slant and is an all around swell guy. I had the pleasure of speaking with him at the closing reception and panel discussion for the Sixty Inches from Center: Contemporary Graffiti exhibit, and foresee working with him in the future on a project that will remain unnamed until I get my nerves, schedule and finances in order (I am the newest freelancer for Highland Park’s Patch as of yesterday, besides Wilmette’s – woot $$$).

I try to feature a new or lesser known artist each month, as well as providing basic information for budding street art fans. Check me out, if you wish…

Top Street Art of November, December 2010

Top Street Art of October

Top Street Art Picks for the month of September

Top Street Art Picks for the month of August

Top Street Art Picks for the month of July


The Case For Video Games As Art Continues

Rapture is an underwater city with art deco de...

Underwater city with art deco designs, in Bioshock. Image via Wikipedia

Tom Bissell, in a Salon interview promoting his new book “Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter“, continues to make the case for video games as art. The whole interview is worth reading, but here are some choice tidbits:

Around 2006, 2007, a handful of games started coming out that, as someone who played games but didn’t think of them as like a viable artistic medium, made me think, “Wow things have gotten extremely compelling formally.” I mostly associated video game storytelling with unforgivable clumsiness, irredeemable incompetence, and suddenly I was finding the aesthetic and formal concerns I’d always associated with fiction: storytelling, form, the medium, character. That kind of shocked me.

Games that changed the paradigm, at least for me, were “Portal,” “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,” and “BioShock.” All took their storytelling seriously in different ways, and brought to the table a relatively unusual level of sophistication when it came to video-game storytelling. They simply didn’t seem unnecessarily dumb in the way a lot of video-game storytelling games feel dumb.

Roger Ebert has famously argued (and recently restated in a blog post) that video games should not be considered art. What do you say to that?

I really admire Roger Ebert a lot, but on this issue he’s just wrong. I think he even kind of knows he’s wrong, and he’s kind of Custer in a battle that he knows he’s outnumbered on, but he’s actually asking the wrong question. The question is not, “Are video games art?” The question is, “Can artists express themselves through the video-game medium?” …

He’s kind of right in the sense that this isn’t going to stand up against impressionist painting, but it’s not supposed to. …

…It’d be like giving sex advice after having watched “Debbie Does Dallas,” but never having fucked anyone.

via Salon “Extra Lives”: Are Video Games the Next Art Form?

Interestingly, perhaps because neither of two are from an arts background, the point of “interactive art” was never mentioned in the interview. Perhaps Roger Ebert is unaware of the “interactive art” movement, and his ignorance of this type of artistic impression (despite beginning in the 20’s, catching steam in the 60’s, and exploding in the late 90’s)  is what keeps Ebert from understanding video games as art (that, and the fact that he doesn’t play any video games).

Interactive art is defined as a form of art that requires the viewers to participate in some way. Without the viewers participation or input,  the art piece would not function, and therefore not be. The art would be reduced to a monitor, sensors, plastic, metal, wood, what have you –  plain ol’ inanimate objects with no artistic merit.  Now consider video games. Without the video game player, directing the characters, unlocking story arcs, making choices, providing input, the video game would cease to be a work of art, and just be code, or plastic and metal – plain ol’ inanimate objects.

We already consider films as art, so why when video games combine the visual medium of film with  interactivity, are they not considered art? Sure, not every game is a work of art, just like how not every movie (Transformers?)  is a work of art. The art community already considers art that isn’t displayed in galleries or museums  ( see the “street art” movement) as “high art”, so why can’t we make the obvious leap to video games?


New street artist emerges in Chicago

Very few street artists do faces or figures, which is a shame considering “faces” get noticed more often than tags. Faces are easier to relate to than a word, no matter how powerful that one word is.  Here enters Snacki:

In February of last year, a new street artist began assailing Chicago’s public space with his scrawlGarbage bins,  the back of signs , and newspaper bins were a favorite for then Snack Attack (now Snacki?).  If you look at Snacki’s work in February, you can see he is figuring out his style and building his confidence.

By the fall of last year, Snacki came into his own and reached that level of cocky required for any good street artist. His pieces are now largersprayed, and in hard to reach places, thereby becoming prominent additions to the urban landscape.

The Snacki faces are distinctive. They come in a variety of colors and are always very tired. The bags under the eyes are large and lopsided, and combined with the words “snack attack”, you have to wonder if these are portrayals of  weary druggies or drunks with the munchies. Or if we are supposed to get philosophical with his work, is “Snack Attack” about today’s cultural gluttony?

via Chicago Art Magazine “Snacki Attacks Chicago”  (by yours truly)

Whenever I take the Brown or Red Lines, I check the status of his faces religiously.  Some of his work is still up, but I don’t want to give away their location and ruin the fun of finding them yourselves.

edit: it has been revealed to me that Snacki has been around much longer than originally thought, perhaps 3 years now, though there is no record of his work on the internet until last year. I personally have never seen his stuff until last year. You can read an “interview” with Snacki, from last spring, here.


Albany Park begins initiative to display artwork in vacant storefronts

FONTANA, CA - OCTOBER 8:  A strip mall storefr...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Following the success of the Pop-Up Art Loop Program and Edgewater Artists in Motion, I decided to stop by the North River Commission (an umbrella group that also includes the Albany Park Chamber of Commerce) here in Albany Park to see if they were engaging in a similar initiative. As luck would have it,  they were, and in need of volunteers.  I naturally offered to help  (public art is one of my favorite things in life),  and I spent a day walking along Montrose, the proposed site of Albany Park’s future art walk, documenting vacant storefronts.

How has Albany Park faired this recession, you might ask? There are approximately 25 vacant storefronts along Montrose (a 25 block strip), and that number does not include the burned building on Montrose and Monticello that photographers love shooting. If the NRC uses all of the vacant storefronts to display art, the Albany Park art walk will be more extensive than Edgewater’s, and would hopefully drive some much needed traffic on that avenue.  On my walk I saw two empty diners with bored employees just standing around, and one store was boxing up their inventory under a “going out of business” sign.

If you’re interested in helping out with this initiative (or are a local artist that would be interested in displaying their artwork), please contact the North River Commission. UNITE Civic Association is also helping with this project, and go here to read about other neighborhoods in Chicago using vacant storefronts to display art.


Victorian ladies did collage art

The ˝Playing With Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage˝ exhibit over at the Art Institute is showing for only a couple more days. This particular exhibit features collages in photo albums created by the wealthiest Victorian women. The art of photography was brand new back then, and only the most well to do families had access to a camera. The fact that these women were able to cut up these photographs spoke of their wealth. The majority of books are too old and fragile to allow you to flip through them, so the exhibit curators scanned the artwork onto a number of moniters for easy access. The Playing With Pictures exhibit is small, but very well put together. collage art victorian

Read the rest of this entry »


Chicagoans create art on iPhones

All this digital art is beginning to get on my nerves. Why do I need a machine to make art? To view art? Everyone is glued to their “magical internet machines”…. am I alone in using art to disconnect from the web? :

Realizing the important doors technology opens for artists, Chicago Art Department program and exhibition coordinator, Mike Norse, led a class of ten local artists who combined talents in digital sketching, animation, photography, sound and video with the aim of a culminating group exhibition titled, iPhone Therefore I Am. Collaborating with national and international iPhone artists from as far away as Russia, Norway, Spain, France, and Germany, the local artists unveil their show and creations in the new year.

via Chicago Artists Create iPhone Masterpieces – Chicagoist.

What about the artists who don’t use an i-phone… or can’t afford one? What happened to all the starving artists? Oh, right. They went into advertising!

Maybe it’s time I organized my own raid on an Apple store….

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