Street art puts a soul on a blank building
Once seen as mere vandalism, graffiti has evolved into street art over the last few decades and gone mainstream. It’s come a long way from block letter names that once dotted highway underpasses in big cities to become a legitimate form of art. Whether taking the form of murals and canvases, or video and digital art, street art has long been egalitarian and accessible to all, extending far beyond traditional exhibition in museums or galleries.
Recognizing the importance of this art form, the Bruce Museum will host the Zoom webinar, “Taking It to the Streets: A Conversation with Contemporary Street Artists,” on July 9 at 7 p.m. as part of its “Bruce Presents” monthly series.
The panel will feature five street artists to offer an inclusive sampling of this genre and its impact, talking about their work and inspiration. The panelists are Holly Danger (experiential designer and video artist), Ana De Orbegoso (multimedia, including public projections), Yedi Fresh (illustration, painting, digital art, mural work), Jahmane (graffiti, large-scale murals, canvas, photography, fashion design) and Epic Uno (graffiti, package design, illustration, corporate identity). It also highlights Tatiana Mori, executive director of the Greenwich Arts Council, which named Uno and Fresh as its first two members of its artists-in-residence program. Greenwich-based artist-curator Ben Quesnel will co-moderate the Zoom event, along with Leonard Jacobs, producer of the Bruce Presents series.
“Coming out of quarantine, we kind of wanted to explore this idea that art does not necessarily appear on the four walls and floor of a museum but that art exists in all kinds of places and kinds of contexts,” Jacobs said. “It is available to be seen by anybody, anywhere and at any time.”
While the panel is not designed to be a political event, politics and the current tumultuous climate is likely to be discussed as artists often are inspired by what is going on around them.
“Bruce Presents offers ‘Taking It to the Streets’ at an inflection point in our nation’s history and discourse,” says Jacobs. “History teaches us that art and artists always lead the way toward confronting injustice and driving systemic change. There is perhaps no better example of this than street art — truly the art of the people.”
Based in Stamford, Danger is most looking forward to connecting with the artists on the panel and sharing her experience as an artist with the audience. “I feel that what I create as a video artist has not typically been defined as ‘street art’ and therefore will provide a unique perspective as to what is possible in expanding the definition,” she said.
In her work she seeks to create moments and experiences through video art, projection and sound installations. “Working with video and projection mapping enables me to transform spaces into anything I can imagine,” she said. “Taking this type of art into public spaces opens up the viewer’s eyes to see the environment in completely new ways. It can catch an audience by surprise and bring creativity to unlikely places and spaces.”
A New Fairfield native, Fresh created a signature style of designing characters early on that spurred his career. He is most looking forward to the dialogue with other artists on the panel. With his art, he said his biggest intention is to inspire and uplift people. “I like to put color therapy in there, I like to make people laugh and kind of rediscover their childhood wonder,” he said. “I love street art. I feel our world is a little whitewashed so it’s nice to put some color back into it. It puts soul on a blank building.”
Growing up in Norwalk and often seeing art at the Bruce and other museums on school field trips, Jahmane said he studied and incorporated many styles of art into his work, from Cubism to Impressionism. He said it is important for art to reflect the times and he has long pushed the envelope, bringing important themes and concepts to the forefront. “I think art is definitely able to magnify the voice of the people but at the same time I feel like we have to be careful about just being reactionary.”
An 80s child, he grew up as the hip-hop culture was taking hold in New York City, which heavily influenced his development as an artist. “Graffiti is one of the most evolutionary art forms. You become a graffiti artist but part of being a graffiti artist is you want to develop styles and change and be different from everybody else,” he said. “You take a little bit from here and there but create your own style.”
Participation in the webinar is $10 for museum members, $15 non-members. To reserve a place, visit www.brucemuseum.org or call 203-869-0376; a link to join the online conversation will be sent to registered attendees one hour prior to the program.