Wednesday, February 27, 2013

PULSE Art Fair: Art Basel Miami


Mixed Greens Gallery booth with PULSE Director Cornell DeWitt. Photo by Alejandro Fi

On the second day after arriving to Miami we wrote to the PULSE Art Fair to get a preview and compare our findings with the other festivals that we had visited. In Miami during these first few weeks of December, contemporary art is everywhere as are many bleary-eyed curators, artists, and art appreciators.  At PULSE we were met with a receptive and welcoming invitation and we unexpectedly spent a large part of the day reveling in the discoveries and discussions with both gallery owners, artists and festival staff in what amounted to a refreshing look and experience with a festival that has taken its time to bring diversity and unique experiences to the thousands of crowds looking to receive some creative insights and inspirations.

We were taken on a personal tour of the PULSE Art Fair, Miami 2012 with the festival's director Cornell DeWitt.  A youthful and well-informed director, he shared his passion and enthusiasm for the artists and galleries exhibiting this year during the time he spent with us. We asked him about the highlights of PULSE as well as some insights of what makes this art fair one that is not to be overlooked amongst the 27 others that have descended on Miami during these first weeks of December. What stood out was how the diversity and quality, the festival landscape and layout, and programming of Pulse Special Projects and the Pulse Prize has kept this festival one that is well recognized and established.

Every year the PULSE PRIZE is awarded to an artist exhibited in the IMPULSE section of the fair by a selection committee.  The finalists are announced on Thursday afternoon and the winner is announced on Friday. The IMPULSE section features new artists and galleries, and often the PULSE prize winner will garner attention of curators and the galleries showcasing the winner will graduate into the main section of the fair in years to come.


David Ellis,  Mixed media assemblage chandelier, kinetic sound art, Joshua Liner. Gallery photo by Alejandro Fi.

DeWitt: There is definitely a mix of galleries which include fairly well established galleries and young galleries. In the main section we have some galleries that have been established for 20 and some 30 years that continue to showcase incredible work. Our young cutting edge galleries showcase artists that are just getting their start, and then we have much more established galleries.  There is really something for everybody. The key is diversity, and we often place a younger gallery showcasing a newer artist right next to a much more established gallery to highlight the growth of artists.


Dinh Q. Le: "The Virgin Mary of Medellin." 2011. Wooden carts, painted wood mannequin, and fruit. Courtesy of Elizabeth Leach Gallery photo by Alejandro Fi.

Another unique feature of PULSE is the Pulse Projects section of the fair. This year 16 artists and projects are being exhibited both inside and in the outdoor courtyard of the fair.

The special projects are fun for us to do.  We really enjoy being able to work directly with artists.  We really trust them and they are required to show the artist that they propose. The galleries show the artists, once the gallery makes it through the application process its really up to them to curate their booth.  Through the special projects its our opportunity to really work directly with the artists.

We have two ends of the spectrum with the critical and curatorial and more popular independent artists. The gallery committee is from all over, we have one from NY, one from Los Angeles and two from Europe, one from Germany and one from Spain. They are our eyes and ears all over the world. Once all of the galleries have been selected, they are encouraged to submit and propose special projects. They have the opportunity to propose a special project or video program. We select work that fits within the context and different properties available in the festival.  What is great is that we have a lot of outdoor space that can be allocated to this aspect of the festival. This fair offers an opportunity to enjoy the outdoor environment and indoor environment in a layout that is fairly easy to navigate. You can pop outside, get a bite to eat, a drink and come back in refreshed to look at the art. 

The first satellite fairs that opened up in Miami were very young fairs. The collectors wanted something that was more mature, more professional and establish a place where the work could grow. Now we have more then half a dozen ADAA galleries in PULSE. They wanted a place where established galleries and artists could exhibit that was separate from Basel.  We are definitely one of the more established satellite fairs during this art week in Miami.

Some of the artwork that Cornell DeWitt drew our attention to at PULSE included some of the PULSE Projects, and special features such as the artist Maria Lai shown at the Nuova Galleria Morone in the main gallery room.  Her work has used inspiration from her native land to create a new world, an infinity of images and shapes that have made famous far beyond her birthplace and have consolidated her links with her origins. DeWitt said, "Maria Lai is in her 90's and very well known. Joan Jonas meets Louise Bourgeois. They [Nuova Galleria Morone] have a number of works of hers that are just stunning." Maria Lai was born in 1919 in Ulassai and this exhibition the Italian-based gallery showcases the last work that she created before being bedridden in these later years of her life. 


Maria Lai. Courtesy of the Nuova Galleria Morone. Photo by Alejandro Fi.


Maria Lai. Courtesy of the Nuova Galleria Morone. Photo by Alejandro Fi.

Another project that we were pointed to was Jenna Spevack's PULSE Project entitled "Seeding the City."

DeWitt notes, "Jenna's work is about getting into the local community. She was finding ways to redo this project in Miami, and in doing so she found these urban gardens across the city and began working in the poor communities to start growing food. This is an ongoing project of hers."


Jenna Spevack: "Seeding the City." 2012. Mixed media including ink on paper, furniture, microgreens and earth, dimensions variable and site specific. Courtesy of Mixed Greens Gallery. Photo by Alejandro Fi.


Jenna Spevack: "Seeding the City." 2012. Mixed media including ink on paper, furniture, microgreens and earth, dimensions variable and site specific. Courtesy of Mixed Greens Gallery. Detail photo by Alejandro Fi.

We had the opportunity to meet the artist Zackary Drucker while on our tour with Cornell DeWitt. Zackary Drucker tells us:

"This is the most recent work that I was planning last year with Sabrina who I've known since I was 16 years old and who has been a very monumental and influential person in my development. We made this film together, just the two of us with a Bolex camera. Sabrina is in her 70's so we were using the technology of her era. We recorded it and put it together as an experimental auto ethnography work."

Luis De Jesus called Cornell DeWitt while he was traveling in Europe to enthusiastically suggest that this piece be included in the Special Project section of PULSE after seeing it. Luis is in his first year on the PULSE selection committee and his participation has been -- in the words of Cornell -- "a phenomenal addition to the fair." Cornell had seen Zackary's work previously, so when Louis made the suggestion he became very interested.


Zackary Drucker outside of viewing booth of film at PULSE. Zachary Drucker: "At least you know you exist." 2011. 16mm film transferred to digital format, color, sound, 16min. Courtesy of Luis De Jesus Gallery. Photo by Alejandro Fi.

Another artist that has been getting great acclaim and Cornell DeWitt commented on as we passed by was the PULSE Project by Shantell Martin. DeWitt notes, "Shantell Martin created this piece in about two hours.  She is an artist who has been getting a lot of attention."


Shantell Martin: "Continuous Line." 2012. Ink on wall, polished stainless steel, LED's; dimensions variable. Courtesy of Black and White Gallery/Project Space. Photo by Alejandro Fi


Shantell Martin: "Continuous Line." 2012. Courtesy of Black and White Gallery/Project Space. Detail photo by Alejandro Fi.

Dec. 6-9, 2012
The ICE Palace, 1400 North Miami Ave, Miami, FL

Street Art in Abbot Kinney


Photo by Nicolas Luciani

Indeed. Your favorite local neighborhood is receiving a new mural on one of the most recognized establishments along Abbot Kinney. Puerto Rican public muralist and artist Alexis Diaz (aka La Pandilla) has painted a mural on the 35-year-old institution, the Roosterfish bar. An extension of the exhibition held downtown at the GR Works gallery entitled "Back Alley," this mural was facilitated by the Do Art Foundation and Pilar Castillo of SPARC. A young artist, Diaz is making big waves in the urban art community through curating the internationally acclaimed mural festival in San Juan titled Los Muros Hablan in the month of December. His Abbot Kinney mural shows his focus on the fictitious evolution and cross-section of species, in this case a rooster, a fish and a bit of human. His attention to detail is aptly placed along the street, allowing the passersby the experience and access to appreciate the etched fine lines up-close. See the finalized mural in person while visiting the area.

Alexis Diaz:

Muchos artistas diariamente influellen en el Trabajo de uno , no solo artistas plastico, tambien musicos, actores,escritores,etc uno absorve imagenes e ideas de todos lados.
Al igual que muchos te sirven de motivacion mas que influencias!
En mi caso la tecnica fue influenciada por Alberto Durero, y el quien me motivo e influencio a salir a la calle a Pintar fue Keith Haring.

Several artists influence my work on a daily basis, not only plastic artists, but musicians, actors, writers, etc. I absorb images and ideas from everywhere. Different artists will have an effect on me some of them will influence my work, and others will just be pure motivation. In my case, the technique was specifically influenced by Alberto Durero who encouraged me, and the inspiration that influenced me to go out paint on the street was Keith Haring.

alexis diaz

Photo by Nicolas Luciani

Mi experiencia pintando en Venice a sido expectacular una de las mas agradable que e tenido, la gente es muy amigable, el lugar tiene una vibra unica , rodeada de tantos artistas de diferentes generos, con diferentes maneras de pensar , de diferentes lugares del mundo , Cada uno con su historia particular , definitivamente inspira!

My experience painting in Venice beach has been among the most spectacular and joyful that I ever had. People are very friendly and the area has a unique vibe. I was surrounded by so many artists of different genres that have a diverse ways of thinking, and that come from all over the world, each one of them with his own history. To be in such a fertile environment is definitely inspiring!

Mi Trabajo , la idea no es que lo perciban como yo quiera , es para que el espectador y la comidad lo perciban a su manera, cuando escucho a Cada uno creando una historia , o buscandole un significado al mural q todavia esta en proceso , ya tengo una satisfaccion inmediata y se que dio resultado.

My intention is that my work won't be perceived by me, but it is for the viewer and community to  perceive it in their own way. When I listen to people reenact stories about my work, or when I see them looking at an ongoing work for meaning, I have an immediate satisfaction that my work have touch them.

alexis diaz

Photo by Nicolas Luciani

Mi obra se trata de la vida , yo simplemente le doy mi significado particular a Los elementos , y creo mi propia historia basada en las caracteristicas de Los animales o lo q conosco o percibo de Ellos aveses hasta le invento, son un Tipo de naraciones subreales, para que Cada ser humano se refleje a su propia vida, le encuentre su significado particular de acuerdo a lo que le a tocado vivir en su historia. Cada ser humano es un mundo aparte , Cada uno tiene distintos tipos de sentimientos unos mas desarollados q otros con diferentes maneras de interpretar la vida.

My work is about life, I just give my particular meaning to the elements and create my own story based on the characteristics of the animal or of what I perceive or know of them. Sometimes I give them a story, a sort of surreal narration, so that every human can personify themselves into the characters, and find a particular meaning according to roles and what it could have represented in their own life.  Every human being is a world apart, everyone has developed a different set of feelings and with different ways of interpreting this existence.

alexis diaz

Photo by Nicolas Luciani

Pues me motiva mucho mas Pintar en una pared , por que pienso que el Arte debe ser para todos, como para el que vive en la calle como al Abogado mas exitoso, nunca me a encantado la idea de tener una pieza dentro de un lugar enserado donde solo lo puedan apreciar la gente que solamente visite ese lugar especifico. Creo que el Arte debe ser libre , que te encuentre el a ti , q lo pueda apreciar el mundo, que le llegue a todos , me emociona y me llena saber que quisas de alguna manera u otra pueda influenciar o cambiar aunque sea un segundo la persepcion del espectador , solo saber que detuve su rutina diaria por un momento , es super gratificante , salir de la rutina y ponerlo a pensar , ya se que funciono , quisas le alegre su dia o lo moleste, pero lo importante al final es que logro su objetivo , lo puse a pensar , ya hay logro un cambio, y para mi no hay nada mas gratificante q poder regalar un pedaso de mi mente y alma y la gente se sientan conectados o le encuentren relacion con su vida diaria.


Photo by Koury Angelo

I feel more motivated when I paint on a wall. I think that art should be accessible to everyone, from those who live on the streets to the most successful lawyer. I have never been thrilled to the idea of ​​having my work enclosed in a place where only I can appreciate and people who only visit that specific location. I believe that art should be free, that it should have the ability to find you.  Art should be appreciated by the whole world. It excites and is fulfilling to know that art can influence or change the perception of the viewer even if it is for one second. Just knowing that it stopped them in the monotony of their daily routine, is very rewarding. If I manage to step that person out of the routine and make them think, it makes me know that my piece has been successful.  I also hope that I can have a positive influence, although that is not the objective, in the end the goal is to make them question.  There is nothing more rewarding then to share a piece of my life and soul with them in this way.

alexis diaz

Photo by Nicolas Luciani

Finished Mural:
alexis diaz
Photo by Koury Angleo

YouTube Video by LA Street Art Gallery: Interview with Alexis Diaz:

Friday, October 19, 2012

"For Dogs Sake"

In this 'dog eat dog' world the new London Police exhibition entitled "For Dogs Sake" at Corey Helford Gallery, is a uplifting and humorous twist on urban culture, placing our fine four-legged friends in the spotlight.  The London Police is a multi-disciplinary English street art duo whose Culver City debut features a 'DOGumentary' film premiere incorporating songs from their new album 'Dogsongs', a selection of ink paintings on linen, incredible fiberglass sculptures created specifically for this show, and (drumroll...) dog fashion!  The London Police see their art as "a habit journeying through life trying to be positive," companioned by dogs "unconditional love that would be a boon to the spirit of mankind." On view are works modeled during the dog-fashion show which took place during the opening reception. In this exclusive Haute Couture line, you will see one-of-a-kind dog-jackets designed by The London Police and artists such as Shephard Fairey, D*FACE, Logan Hicks, Galo, and more! This show is taking place through to November 3,2012 - not to be missed!
"In this world of ups and downs, happiness and sadness, confusion and crisis, love and fear, we make a celebration of our four-legged friends" - The London Police

- photo by Dave Lewis

- photo by Dave Lewis

- photo by Dave Lewis

- photo by Dave Lewis

- photo by Dave Lewis

- photo by Dave Lewis

Magic Is Real

In the shadows of the Hammer museum's current show, Graphic Design: Now in Production, I spoke with the Los Angeles artist team CYRCLE who recently finalized their mural 'Magic is Real' in Echo Park. The Hammer's major international exhibition explores how "people outside the field are mobilizing the techniques and processes of design to create and publish visual media." I wanted to find out more about CYRCLE's approach to art-making in the scope and discussion of where art and design converge, as their visual content is deeply informed both by typography, brand and urban culture.

We try to create work in two parts. Message and aesthetic. Art and design... Meaning if you don't understand the message at least it will look good ;)  - CYRCLE

CZ: What are your artistic goals?
CYRCLE: To blur the lines between art and design, sculpture and canvas, gallery and experience, and ultimately life and death.

CZ: For you, is there a separation between Art and Design? If so, please explain.
CYRCLE: Art is loose, design is tight. They are symbiotic. There are equal amounts design and art in each other. Design is the curation of negative space. It is the methodical process of deciding what goes where and how... art is why!

2012-10-19-IMG_8755copy.jpg photo by Carlos Gonzalez

CZ: What subjects and messages are you interested in conveying to your audience?
CYRCLE: Positive messages that reinforce what we all already know. Things that are inherently true about life and existence. We all struggle, life is not easy, if you fail, try try again. We do not care to suggest opinions on current affairs or popular culture. That is for Banksy. Exploring timeless subjects is for CYRCLE.

2012-10-19-IMG_1138.jpg photo by Carlos Gonzalez

2012-10-19-IMG_8611.jpg photo by Carlos Gonzalez

The main reason behind the timeless concepts in our work is so that we can connect with any age, color or class.- CYRCLE

CZ: Give examples of how your public work has imparted value in the communities that you've placed it in.
CYRCLE: The best feedback you can get is from the people of the community. If they are not pleased then its back to the drawing board. Sometimes they are unsure until it is complete and then they are like ah ha... It's beautiful. We try to create work in two parts. Message and aesthetic. Art and design... Meaning if you don't understand the message at least it will look good ;)

CZ: How is your studio work informed, compared to the projects you create in the streets?
CYRCLE: To elaborate on the public work, we approach each piece as a site specific creation, taking in the consideration of where it is, what shape it is and what we want to communicate to its surroundings. With the Internet making things very easy to spread world-wide its great to be able to now not only speak to the local population but to the world. Creating more expansive concepts for the walls that hopefully can be felt by anyone who sees them.

CZ: Tell us more about the 'Magic is Real' mural.  What led you to create and select the images?
CYRCLE: In regards to the design... The statement magic is real is a nod to life itself and an explanation between science and god. The snake eating its tail is the ouroboros... an alchemic creature of mythology. It represents self sufficiency and perfection... But flesh is weak, and life is fragile. Hence the sections of anatomy, muscle, organs, bone, and atoms seen throughout the piece. What makes up life is truly magical.

2012-10-19-IMG_7152.jpg - photo by Carlos Gonzalez

CZ: How is your work evolving?  Where do you see it a few years from now?
CYRCLE: Without order nothing can exist. without chaos nothing can evolve. We feel like we are experiencing equal parts chaos and order and working on a system to keep it that way.

2012-10-19-IMG_1875.jpg - photo by Carlos Gonzalez

CYRCLE is an art collective out of Los Angeles. Among a variety of murals and a collaboration with JR in France, they also participated in the Hong Kong group show "Daydreaming With...James Lavelle" and the Arrested Motion group show "City of Fire". They're also gearing up for their second solo show happening in Mid-November.

CYRCLE manifesto:


CardBoard Art

What is Cardboard Art and the Global Cardboard Challenge?  It is a movement to be creative and stretch your imagination around anything and everything that can be made out of cardboard. This Saturday, October 6 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. the  Global Cardboard Challenge will be launched. From Boyle Heights Los Angeles, a 10-year-old Caine first created a cardboard arcade at his father's used Auto-part store, and his story has touched the hearts of millions world-wide.

David Choe, and urban cardboard artists such as Calder & Wildlife and Ramiro Gomez will be exhibiting their cardboard creations alongside local artists Cryptik, Yuki Miyazaki, John Park, Mimi Yoon, Hans Haveron, Griffith One, David Selkirk, Gretchen Shannon, Christina Angelina, Courtney Collins, Sarah Aspinall and many others including a guest appearance by the London Police. This special Cardboard Art exhibition will be hung in a pop-up Gallery on-site hosted by the Do ArT Foundation.  A silent auction for the artwork will be held at the location the day of to raise money toward the Imagination Foundation's project goal, to find, foster and fund kids like Caine, and nurture and promote children's creative thinking. Side Street Projects will be facilitating cardboard crafts for kids of all ages! A guest appearance of Mayor Villaraigosa is set to take place in the afternoon, and a kids 'Hi-Five Cardboard Parade' led by artist group Diatomaceous Love will happen around 3p.m.

Location: Hanger across from: 538 N. Mission Rd, Boyle Heights, CA 90033

Google map and directions


Calder, 'Robot'

David Choe, 'Untitled' with Caine inside


Dave Selkirk, 'Rhino'


Gretchen Shanon, 'PeacePipe'


Griffin ONE, 'Treehouse'


John Park, 'Gorilla Head'


Ramiro Gomez, 'La Michocana' (one of 4 works for sale)


Yuki Miyazaki, in progress -- Kids Cardboard Maze inspired by 'Castle in the Sky' by Hayao Miyazaki


Mimi Yoon, 'ArtHouse'

"When I Leave, They Will Want to Buff my Mural"

As artists are in motion and Urban Art is on-the-global-move, cultural identity is being transported and transferred to foreign streets by visiting artists.  Artistic lines and boundaries are being explored, and the native territories of local artists are perceived by some to be under threat.  On a recent visit to Montreal, a graffiti artist OMEN and friend that attended art school with me met me for coffee. In our discussion he expressed that he was upset (mild interpretation) about international artists descending on his city. He felt that native artists who had put the years and time into the street movement were being overlooked.  As many barriers and boundaries are crossed in public art, there is a question of 'Who has the right to express themselves here?' Take the famous Banksy piece as an example. Did he have the 'right' to make artwork on the walls of the West Bank?


UK artist DFACE also commented about the cultural differences he sees in the Street Art movement:

"As a whole I think there is more of a social or political comment that is being made in Europe or at least in the UK. I'm not saying that artist in the States don't have social or political agendas. I just think that in the UK that is something that is more evident. There are those in the States however who are getting a message across without question." -- interview by Manuel Bello, Fecal Face Dot Com.

Los Angeles-based artist MEARONE recently was making a mural in the UK and faced a lot of scrutiny about his piece.  He recently shared his thoughts and experiences with me that I wanted to share as it informs the subject of cultural boundaries, understanding and acceptance in Street Art:

I came to paint a mural that depicted the elite banker cartel known as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, the ruling class elite few, the Wizards of Oz. They would be playing a board game of monopoly on the backs of the working class. The symbol of the Free Mason Pyramid rises behind this group and behind that is a polluted world of coal burning and nuclear reactors. I started noticing that the people were giving me some strange looks. Suddenly a car pulled up and some dudes got out, some kids from across the street walk up and everybody is asking me, "Why am I painting the sign of the Illuminati in their neighborhood?" & "Do I believe in Satan?"

I was feeling some serious heat and anger.

I said I was creating this piece to inspire critical thought and spark conversation. I heard "f***** American" said, and "f*** the Illuminati!" They said my mural wouldn't last till the morning and I should just quit now. I continued to express my intent but they were not trying to hear me.
I felt that I was all alone, but I continued to paint when another larger group approached with older men & women telling me to cross it out and this is a symbol that has haunted their people down for over a 1000 years. So much passion and they were very versed with the taboo subject of a secret government banking cartel and they didn't quite get me. I explained my mural & how these elite few were living easy lives on the backs of the working class, I wasn't in promotion of these thieves. They said then write something on the wall to convince us that you mean what you say. I walked over and wrote, "The New World Order is the enemy of Humanity!" They started talking and I couldn't understand. A few walked away, a few said OK, and some stayed and talked with me about our money system and how they see us Americans. It wasn't directed to me as much as is was shared. I had no Idea this was going to be such an intense experience from the get go and still running. The next day I painted the bankers in with the playing board and I noticed people were becoming more curious. Some of the people from the day before were saying hello a few said good job. My third day I got the working class holding up the game board painted in and people were smiling and saying how much they were enjoying its evolution. They were getting it! This was empowering and gave me fuel to work out the meticulous details.


This whole adventure was very draining but suddenly my energy was back.  Come the fourth day there was a street fest going on and people were engaging with me with total knowledge of the subject matter in my mural. Older white men to young Muslim children were talking to me, explaining how we Americans spend beyond our means and how we don't know what our military does around the world. Our money is worth nearly 50 percent of their Pound$. For America to fall all the world has to do is nothing and an economic war can be waged and won. A lengthy conversation of post 9/11 America and foreign policy. My mind was blown, this experience transformed my whole understanding of the game. I finished my mural and drank a beer, smoked a joint, and conversed with the people, my dream to paint a mural that would rally people together and inspire conversation of things that matter, was just realized and it was a bit humbling and emotional. I feel as if I can never see the world the same again, I came into London and was treated as a third world citizen and given my first world privileges back only to be confronted by the same culture and people the UK and America are waring against.  I feel very close to all the people I met at the Shoreditch District and Brick Lane, these people shared there lives and thoughts with me unfiltered.

We are all earth people. -- MEARONE, 2012

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

During the end of September I attended the InterZona festival held as a biannual festival between San Diego and Tijuana.  I went specifically to observe a project created by an artist who I have worked with, Alfredo LIBRE, native to TJ but living in Mexico City. This project was a celebration of Urban Art in its highest and most resonating form.  LIBRE organized artists from around the world to come together and discuss how their 'street art' translated across boarders and in environments displaced from their urban roots.  These artist converged to work in an isolated and impoverished community so remote from the city center that a local friend got lost for an hour trying to drive us there (despite innumerable directions from countless people we asked along the way who also didn't recognize the area).   The artistic results were explosions of color and energy that were infused into a neighborhood where chickens, steep dirt roads, abandoned dogs, shoeless children, and re-bar poking out of unfinished foundations became touched with positive affirmation.
I interviewed Shawni D who works in Los Angeles as an advocate and activist for Urban Art after having a conversation with her recently at an art event. You don't need to look across the boarder to see communities in need of creative expression, nor look for examples on how this type of art can garner positive results in neighborhoods across the financial spectrum.  I wanted to illustrate some of the points I found interesting as a comparison. 
Zella: Who approached you to create this program for the Tijuana INTERZONA festival?

Ava Ordorica, (one of the organizers) told me about 2 years ago that she wanted me to organize an event involving graffiti artists from different countries.  This year the project could finally be created, and it was named "Encuentro Internacional de Arte Urbano".  It included a live painting performance during the presentation of a catalog on urban art from Oaxaca, and after that we had a panel discussion with each artist participating to explain the concept of art, graffiti, urban art, in their own words, and approach to art through their life and career development.

Zella: Who were the artists that were included in this project and please briefly explain why you chose them.

The selection was made based on style, country of origin and the way that their work would influence the community that the project was going to be created in. The artists were: colectivo Asaro, colectivo La Piztola and colectivo Arte Jaguar (from Oaxaca, Mexico), Itxaso Larranaga (France), Pablo A (England), Dabs & Myla (Australia), Tyke (LA-Vietnam), Shente (Tijuana, Mex) and me (Libre-Tijuana, Mex) initially.  Then the project grew and other artists started to join such as  Yneez (Czech Repuplic), Ofier (LA-Mexico city), Tfour (Tijuana,Mex), Dual (Tijuana, Mex), Edhr (Tijuana, Mex), Kafy (Tijuana, Mex), 1102 (Tijuana, Mex), El Norteno (Tijuana, Mex) and Pein (Tijuana, Mex).

Zella: Who decided on the idea of where to create these murals and why was that area selected?

The neighborhood is called Granjas Familiares (Family Farms) and it was selected  because it as long been ignored by cultural and government projects, recently there has been an outreach to this neighborhoods (by SEDESOL a government program) so we thought it would be a good idea to bring color -with the mural project- to the area so it would attract more attention to it, because it is never enough in this kind of regions where it's to far from the center of the city that often takes years to bring pavement, plumbing, public lighting, etc.

Zella: How did the community respond and the city of Tijuana respond to this project?

For the community it was an overwhelming project.  The families were very happy with the outcome, and we literally ran out of paint.  We were planning on painting 10 walls and ended up painting 24.  At the end the artists were being asked by neighbors for us to return and paint more walls. Coincidentally, all of us focused on giving messages to the kids and making the murals as accessible and simple as they could be.  For the city of Tijuana this was a great project because of the diversity and scope of the artists involved. Many local artists were very enthusiastic about their presence and went to the conference and followed us during the development of the murals and interaction in the neighborhood.

Zella: How did the foreign artists and artists native to Tijuana interact amongst each other, and how did the community where they were painting respond to both?

There was a very good interaction between the foreign and local artists, especially because the artists from Tijuana knew the work of the international artists from magazines, videos and internet.  For them to meet in person and interact with these artists was a very good experience.  The community was impressed by the murals and to see someone not Mexican painting in their neighborhood was very exciting for them.  Also, the reaction when the kids and teens helped with the murals was great, because after we leave,  they are the ones who live with the paintings.  Since they were involved in the creation of the works, they somehow become also invested in the art.


Zella: How does Mexican culture and the city of Tijuana respond to murals?  How did this project contribute to the reflection of murals in Tijuana?

Muralism in Mexico is a very old tradition, since the Mayans, Aztecs, Toltects, etc., and in Tijuana has been a constantly developing movement over the last 50 years.  Renowned artists have been painting big format murals in cultural centers in Tijuana, such as ave Revolucion, the border crossing between Mexico-USA.  This project was a major contribution because it involved the participation of local artists and famous artists of different nationalities gathered in a city, in a neighborhood just for one cause, to paint the walls, to rehabilitate a surface with their styles.  What made it have more impactl was that this area wasn't in a "pretty neighborhood" and we placed it where we saw the most need.

Zella: Do you think that murals are an important part of community and urban environments? Please explain.

They are a huge part of an artistic manifestation because they take the brown and grey from the streets and walls in a battle against commercial and political propaganda.  They fill areas with color and texture where it used to be deteriorated and neglected.  This is especially true for in the community of Granjas Familiares where the Interzona project was developed.  There it used to be all tagged and grey, with decaying surfaces that looked depressing.

Zella: Describe one outstanding moment from this experience.

At a point in the project a lady in the community said "why are you here? this neighborhood? nobody will see it here" and we responded, "Cause we need to be here maam! This is the area that needs color intervention.".

Zella: What is your involvement with the mural movement and advocacy in LA?

Shawni D.:
My involvement with the mural movement began in June of 2010, when collaborating with Bryson Strauss, Founder of L.A. Art Machine, and iconic L.A. graffiti/muralist Mear One on behalf of The Loft at Liz's and the Miracle Mile Art Walk. It was during this time I learned about the ban placed on murals in 2002. I quickly discovered how confusing and complicated the ordinance as written was, and the fines and legal issues involved affecting both artists and property owners blew my mind! Ironically, hundreds of murals have been painted all over our city since 2002 and to this day continue to be. In addition many artists have been fined, arrested, jailed and property owners have also suffered by having to pay exorbitant fines for allowing murals to be painted without knowing the legalities involved.

Fast forward to 2011. In May two incidents happened both related to murals. In the district I represent a mural that had been commissioned by Julie Newmar, and was painted by many very famous graffiti/spray paint artists was illegally buffed - this story is very well publicized so I won't go into too much detail about it. At the same time there was a motion to be voted on by the MCWCC asking for funding to hire a graffiti removal company to appoint community volunteers to remove anything they considered tagging (crime) or graffiti (art, not a crime) without having to go through any proper channels. As the arts chair, I was very uncomfortable with the way the motion had been written and was also very concerned with the timing because of what had happened to what I like to call the Goo wall (the above mentioned mural is located on the sidewall of the hair salon called Goo on Fairfax.) In all fairness, prior to our meeting, I was able to work with the person who heads the committee that wrote the motion and had the wording changed to protect public urban art to the best of my ability. However, the motion was approved by majority rule (not including my vote) and the funding was granted to remove "tagging" not art. 

About one week later, another spray paint artist who is also very famous that I am publicist for, learned a mural he had been commissioned to paint in 2010 on a Children's Youth Center in DTLA had been buffed over without warning by the new renter. I then contacted Isabel Rojas-Williams who is Executive Director of Mural Conservancy L.A., asking for advice on how to go about rectifying the damage done to both artists and walls, as well as how to work with the graffiti abatement group in order to protect urban art the MCWCC area. Isabel introduced me to Tanner Blackman who I mentioned earlier. At this time, Tanner was in the process of inviting a select group of longtime muralists, graffiti artists, street art curators, and art advocates, as well as area arts reps to work together giving guidance allowing him to re-write the legal language of the ordinance as well as introduce him to stakeholders in areas. This is why he invited me to work with this group, Mid City connects Venice and Downtown L.A.  So, my involvement and advocacy started at the same time.

Zella: In your words, why are murals an important part of our cultural heritage and community?

Shawni D:
As mentioned, I have lived here since 1967 and have many vivid memories of beautiful works of art all over L.A., and parts of Orange County. In the 70's and through the eyes of a young girl, they told stories that I could understand and also provided huge resources of inspiration for me to paint, or draw or do what I could with color; I know if I was affected in this way others must have been too. They told the stories of the original Angeleno's and represented a large portion of society that had been overlooked or shunned because of the color of their skin, or because they didn't speak the language and this was their way of telling the world that they matter, here is our story, we will be heard, this is what we have lived through and where we are today, as well as preserve their culture through art for generations to come. I include east L.A, West Adams district, Santa Ana, downtown Placentia, areas that were considered impoverished and places to stay away from. Yet, the vibrancy was amazing and the sense of community was thriving and very real. At that time "street art" as it is known today didn't exist, there were two visual experiences happening at the same time, the murals and the graff and they both intersected. And it goes without saying a lot of the graff was gang related, but some of it was also there to inspire the community and provide hope - not to mention making political statements in a way people in those communities could understand, it was their language, their alphabet and well respected. It is very sad that most of those masterpieces are gone today. Studies and research has proven that areas that incorporate murals increase property value, actually keep crime away, and prevent tagging, not the opposite as some would like the general public to believe. This is one reason I feel they are vital to economically challenged areas of metropolitan cities as well as suburbs.

Zella: What is happening currently in the political realm with the mural ordinances?

Shawni D.:
This is very exciting news to share! Last Friday, Tanner sent an e-mail (as written) to our group letting us know on October 12th at 3:00pm, there is a Joint Special Planning & Land Use Management and Arts, Parks, & Neighborhood Committee Meeting with the City Council. The joint-committee will discuss policy regarding murals from approximately 3:30 pm on. The Council members are expected to give the departments direction for the mural ordinance before draft language can be released to the public to take it to the next level. The motions to be discussed are as follows:  
Motion #1 (Huizar - LaBonge - Krekorian) relative to declaring a moratorium on the issuance of notices to remove murals that property owners have evidence were completed prior to April 2002; and the creation of a working group to investigate how the City can restore funding for a program to convince building owners to maintain murals located on their properties for a set number of years.
Motion #2 Motion (Rosendahl - Reyes) relative to instructing City Planning, with the assistance of the DCA and the DBS, and in consultation with the City Attorney, to prepare and present an Ordinance to define murals as something other than signs and establish a Citywide program for permitting murals. All are welcome, the public is encouraged to attend, fill out a speaker card and be heard! ROOM 350, CITY HALL - 3:00 PM* 200 NORTH SPRING STREET, LOS ANGELES, CA 90012

Zella:What role does graffiti play in the discussion of urban art and murals?

Shawni D.:
An extremely important and vital role. Today, in most art circles and discussions graffiti is synonymous with both; one cannot be mentioned without the other. The traditional muralists that painted many of the walls throughout Los Angeles and Orange County, including the many long gone commissioned works along the freeway were painted primarily with brush or airbrush. I am honestly not sure how many painted with spray paint, which is kind of a defining line that is considered the tool of most graffiti artists today, both letter writers and those who paint figurative cartoons, portraits, landscapes, etc. or abstract works. Traditional brush paint as well as airbrush are still used as well.

Zella:How does American society differ in terms of its relationship and appreciation of public art as compared to other countries in your opinion?

Shawni D:
Many in our society LOVE public art and are doing what they can to secure its well deserved place in art history forever. However, at the same time it is also a very misunderstood form of art because of the stereotype placed on these visionaries, rebels, introverts, truth tellers.