Over the last decade the growth in quality and value of on demand printing has never ceased to amaze me. What only companies could afford 10+ years ago for major events can now be purchased by an independent art gallery at a fraction of the price. For a while now when it came to printing it wasn’t a question of if something could beÂ afford-ablyÂ printed but more who do you trust to print it.
Having worked with companies that either printed overseas and you had long delays, color matching issues or just general customer services issues or ones that printed locally but quality was highly questionable at a 20% markup it was hard to have a good printer for long.
Then there is a company like iCanvasArt.com which is not only a Chicago based company but also has a drive to promote and expand contemporary art awareness. When I heard that they were selling high quality Banksy canvas prints and recently licesed Space Invader (now just Invader) prints I was even more interested.
Founded in 1999 by Leon Oks and Eugene Kharon in Chicago the business has grown and expanded all around the world and the quality hasn’t diminished. I had to check out what they do and personally got a museum streached canvas print of Banksy’s “Hirst spot painting with roller rat”.
First off I can not express how fast the turnaround was having the company print and ship out of Chicago. Comunication and tracking was top shelf and packaging when it arrived was secure and very liberal in its padding.
The canvas was properly streached without being too tight or the more often trait of so loose as to be unimaginable to hang. The entire purchasing process was fast, easy and almost without note which is what you want really in a transaction.
I say almost without note in that there were two comments:
- The Banksy prints obviously are derived from photos taken onsite and have been highly cleaned up in photoshop and I might assume vectored. Which is great when printing large scale images to keep the sharpness of line and richness of colors withoutÂ noiseÂ or artifacts. The slight down side is the image has little gradient. Which with Banksy isn’t that much of an issue but could be in other vectored images where it is more human and less like a stencil. Easy way to solve this is give a cropped zoom in function to show what a few sections of the image would look at printed size. Then the buyer can be informed and aware to make the decision that is right for them.
- The image gets cropped based on the canvas size you pick. Which is honestly both great and horrible. Its is great considering that the image when shipped is properly filling the canvas regardless of the size you pick, it looks great at anyÂ dimension. Horrible in that I hate croping pictures just as I hate Pan & Scan movies and was a tad caught by suprise by this when it arrived. This could be easily fixed by having the thumbnail actually reflect the final cropping that would happen at the selectedÂ dimensionÂ and have a gold highlighted (ideal dimention) canvas size highlighted. So the buyer could know if they want the full image at the correctÂ dimension, the gold one would be the best choice.
Those two comments aside iCanvasArt.com is a welcome addition to my list of online suppliers that can get the job done right the first time at a reasonable price. I am currious what other contempoary artists they can line up knowing how difficult that can be but also how important.
Chicago is one of the few major cities that use taxpayer dollars to destroy art, to the tune of $9 million in 2010.Â Itâ€™s this situation that makes a book like Chicago Street Art a valuable historical document as well as a rare survey of the street artists currently producing work.Â This artwork is literally here today and gone tomorrow.
The book also serves as an opportunity to discover whoâ€™s behind that mysterious piece of art that has suddenly appeared in your neighborhood.Â I learned that it was CYRO who has pasted up an odd creature made of mostly fingers on the back of a local clothes donation box.Â I found out that it was CRO who did the stencil of a cheerleader holding a cross in one handâ€”and a gun in the other.Â Importantly some artists and artwork remain unknown, even within the ultra-reclusive street art community, but they are still included. Like the artist who puts up positive phrases in block letters around town like, â€œTRUE LOVEâ€ and â€œHOPE DIES LASTâ€.
Photos are usually the highlight of street art and graffiti books and Chicago Street Art has excellent ones from Oscar Arriola, Chris Diers, Patrick Hershberger and Thomas Fennell IV.Â Some of these photos were shown in the Chicago Urban Art Societyâ€™s exhibition â€œThe Chicago Street Art Show.â€Â Â Shot on professional cameras and clearly with time to spare, they are better than the photos in another recently published book about the same topic, The History of American Graffiti (HarperDesign, 2011), which had to rely on amateur snapshots.Â The photographers succeed at including the surrounding of the artwork, which is a significant challenge for picturing street art.Â You can tell that Grocer piece is on one of Chicagoâ€™s iconic drawbridges, and a Donâ€™t Fret piece is on a pylon for the El tracks.Â The grit of the street comes through too; these walls are not decontextualized with the work pried from its environment.Â The abandoned buildings are seen, the weeds and tall grass of neglected lots are pictured, the dirty blank expanse of a brick wall is turned into an artistâ€™s canvas.Â These photos and photographers do the art and, importantly for street art, its environment total justice.Â Iâ€™d imagine the artists are pleased.
And all the must-know Chicago street artists are included here: CLS, Donâ€™t Fret, Goons, SWIV, Nice One, SOLVE, MENTAL 312 and many others. Thereâ€™s only a single artist inclusion that I take issue with, the religious nut-ball that posts screeds all over town, listed in the book only as â€œCrazy Talk/Artist Unknown.â€ This is most certainly not art, even if it is on the street.Â In an especially unfortunate move a homophobic piece from this person is included, although itâ€™s tempered by a note someone else has scrawled on it, â€œGod also said love thy neighbor assholes.â€ This piece and the artist should never have been included. While it shows the democratic nature of the street, this is not art.Â Thereâ€™s no indication that it was ever intended to be.
Goons. Photo by Oscar Arriola [not included in book]
The author, designer, editor, and publisher Joseph J. Depre makes a valiant and admirable effort at theorizing street art in his several essays but falls short.Â There are some significant errors (â€œJackson Pollackâ€) along with spelling and grammar issues that diminish the effort, starting at the introduction. The design could also be more uniform, with fonts, font size and margins frequently changing from essay to essay.Â But nonetheless you have to give him props for being a one-man printing company.
Despite some flaws, Chicago Street Art is a must-have for anyone interested in street art, whether they are in Chicago or not.Â It also fills a gap in Chicagoâ€™s reception of the art form, while Los Angeles is having a landmark street art exhibition at their Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicagoâ€™s institutions have remained completely indifferent.Â And at $15, the price of two drinks at the bar, itâ€™s quite affordable.
Chicago Street Art is available for purchase at the Chicago Urban Art Society Chicago Street Art is available for purchase at:Â www.chicagostreetartbook.com/)
I don’t really get this secret “Underbelly Project” exhibition that 103 street artists from around the world have created, and which is garneringÂ much fanfair and publicity at the moment. I mean, yeah, on the one hand certainly I get it, and I like the idea behind it, because it’s pretty romantic and I like romantic stuff. The New York Times published a big article on The Underbelly Project on October 31st, which is where I read about it first, and there’s lots of stuff allÂ over the Internet about the exhibition now (a shall-remain-unnamed but extremely well-known aggregation website posted an article on it too, with lots of pictures, presumably without compensating the photographer forÂ them as the article used the term “kind enough to share” when thanking her for said photographs, those bastards, if I can possibly help it I’m never gonna link to said aggregator website because of the grotesque way in which they feed on the FREElance labors of others, double-bastards – I don’t want to give them even a cent’s worth of eyeballs)…whew, where the heck was I?
Oh yeah, the Underbelly Project, anyway so as The New York Times reports (there was a NYT reporter at the exhibition’s one night only opening/closing), the exhibition takes place in an abandoned New York City subway station whose location is top secret; the exhibition was over a year in the planning/making. Lots of well-known street artists were involved, but have gone anon for their own legal protection. Makes sense. Go read the Times article for an in-depth description of the exhibition project. It’s worth reading about, for sure, since it’s unlikely that you’re going to get to see it unless you literally want to risk your life and your clean police record (assuming that you have one). But what doesn’t make sense to me, what I do not get, is why all this vaunted praise is being heaped on a show that, in truth, most people are going to see in terms of a not-all-that interesting bunch of pictures on the Internet. Through those little sidebar photographic slide shows that you click through and which makes all art look not like what it is, but like a photograph of art. The Underbelly Project, like all street art, is about context – the context in which you, in this moment, are viewing the work of art. So why create a format in which the only context for viewing the art would be a computer screen? Why didn’t those involved simply keep the entire thing a secret, without inviting press and the attendant press coverage?
They New York Times reporter actually asked this question, and the artists’ response was basically “Pride.” That also makes sense, I get that they wanted people to know that these artworks exist, that the process of their making happened. They want it historicized.
But why not also think about the end result – if you’re going to have enough forethought to invite the NYT to your exhibition opening, shouldn’t you also think about how the NYT and other media are going to cover it and, even more importantly, represent the works of art in your exhibition — works of art that cannot publicly be seen in any format by anyone other than how the media are representing it? IE, through photographic slideshows? Sure, most art shows nowadays are consumed through online images, but at least there’s a small group of people who will see the work of art in situ. That fact is still important – or at least it should be.
I’m probably being too viewer-centric about all of this, but that’s the only point of view I have. I bet the artists involved in this show had the time of their lives making it. That’s probably all that really mattered to them in the end–and that, I very much get.
“The” documentary on Street Art that was almost 20 years in the making has finally solidified around one person and is coming out. What began as a overview of the works of people like Space Invader, Shepard Fairey, Thierry Guetta & others has grown to include the famously camera shy Banksy. The film titled “Exit Through the Gift Shop” will premiere in Chicago on April 23rd at the Landmark Century Theater & New York City on April 16th at the Landmark Sunshine Theater.