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SO OBSESSED

Some vibrant nostalgia from the mind of Michelle Guintu. East Bay raised but SF residing, Michelle has developed her aesthetic simply by painting the things she likes. From 90′s R&B superstars, like Missy and Aaliyah, to Joe Montana paintings and McDonald’s installations.

Category Archives: Art

EVERYBODY STREET

New York's legendary street photographers, past and present, share their stories

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Everybody Street

Bruce Davidson’s seedy, soulful Subway. Jamel Shabazz‘s nostalgic portraits of high-top fades, shell toes, and dookie rope chains. Mary Ellen Mark’s teenage runaways. Ricky Powell’s classic, impromptu shots of Chuck D or the Beasties. Too many great photographers to name have found inspiration in the hyperkinetic cluster of urbanized energy that is New York. Images shot on the streets of the big city have shown us some of the ugliest, most serendipitously beautiful moments imaginable, most of them shot purely out of instinct.

Three years in the making, director Cheryl Dunn’s Everybody Street collects interviews, archival footage, and of course, treasure troves of iconic street-level imagery, to paint a broad-based portrait of an art form that evolved along with the city itself, turning the endless possibilities of the street corner into a canvas for something transcendent. Some of these images speak for themselves, even out of context–the grisly aftermath of a streetfight, a junkie shooting up, Brooklyn kids busting fire hydrants open–but hearing the folks who were there to snap them talk about that moment takes on a whole new level of realness. If the trailer is any indication, this one ought to be something special, for shooters and non-shooters alike. Hit the MORE for a few interviews from the film, with Ricky Powell, Mary Ellen Mark, and Bruce Davidson.

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CAR CRASH STUDIES

Photographer Nicolai Howalt takes us inside demolished automobile interiors

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This morning I passed by a woman who had just hit a fire hydrant. There was water spouting 20 feet into the air, into the street, and onto her car. As she sat in her purple PT Cruiser, thinking about how fucked her Tuesday morning was, I wondered if this poor woman was thankful for anything. Or was she merely caught up in the moment? I mean, it could’ve been worse right?

These ruminations about cars, their utility, and potential destructiveness come to mind when considering the work of Nicolai Howalt. The Copenhagen-born artist’s photographs of accidents up-close relate the carnage of a car accident, situating startling imagery into an aesthetic context. In Nicolai’s collection, Car Crash Studies smashed interiors are juxtaposed against abstract images of warped metal and steel, opening up a dialogue about what kind of artistic merit one can pull out of something so crucial. “I wanted to see if cruelty also could have some beauty in it,” remarked Nicolai, in reference to his photographs. Jarring, but resonant, Nicolai’s photos offer a sobering reminder of an everyday reality, tracing a thin line between beauty and devastation.

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Dear Trayvon

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ALL IMPERFECT THINGS

Humanizing "crime" through Pep Bonet's photographic portraits of Brazilian Transexuals

Transsexuals in Brazil by Pep Bonet / NOOR

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Last month, a Texas jury acquitted a man who murdered a sex-withholding prostitute under the state’s law that allows its citizens to exert deadly force in the event of stolen property. And at this point, I’m surprised this stuff even surprises me anymore. The practice of denying criminalized Americans justice or even basic civil rights has become the rule, rather than the exception. Through a handful of current high-profile cases, the nation has divided itself based on their perceptions of those killed; murdered criminals vs. murdered persons who so happen to have been, or are alleged to have been, committing a crime. Our ‘War on Crime’ appears to have very literally manifested itself in the American courtroom where killing someone doesn’t send you to jail if you can prove that that someone was breaking the law.

When it comes to prostitution, things get really messy. The criminal status assigned to sex-workers in the U.S. allows for their grievous mistreatment by civilians and police alike. Reported acts of violence against sex-workers by their Johns are overwhelmingly dismissed by authorities, and violence inflicted by policemen themselves is even more prevalent. To think that this marginalized population is small and limited to street corners in dark downtown districts is a myth, as only an estimated 20% of our country’s sex-workers engage in “street prostitution” while the other 80% work via brothel, escort agency, solo hustle, etc. In fact, you probably know a handful of people who have accepted money in exchange for sex. And yet our collective stigmatization of sex workers directly contributes to their criminalization and thus the vulnerability they face in both their practice and the eyes of the law – a particularly troubling consequence when considering that the lines of ‘prostitution’ are as grey as an overcast sky hovering above 14th and International (See: gold diggers, sugar babies, groupies).

To offer a humanizing look into the faces of sex-work and sex-entertainment, I offer Pep Bonet’s photography of Brazil’s transexual community. Here, an obviously and unfairly marginalized population who are finding sex-work in those margins serves as the central focus of Bonet’s photo series, entitled “All Imperfect Things”. Bonet captures moments on black and white film with an intimacy that frees his subjects from the grandiose judgments that contribute to their personal and institutionalized oppression – replacing the ‘criminal’ with the actual, individual person. You can view the entire collection and more of Bonet’s incredible photography work here, on his personal website.

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“ALL I WANNA DO IS…”

Director Steve Loveridge's biographical documentary explores the life and times of M.I.A.

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MIA

I still don’t think there’s been a record as important as “Paper Planes” since it dropped. I mean duh. But like damn. It’s incomparable. A complete anomaly in the pop landscape that somehow, to take a page out of the book of Yeezus, managed to pop a wheelie on the zeitgeist. In subsequent years, Ms. Maya has been treated to her fair share of criticism, and maybe some of the “she just likes stirring shit up” talk is warranted. Maybe not. The trailer for documentary is riddled with a kind of heavy-handed approach to all the controversy she’s incited, at home and broad. What I do know though is that “Planes”, and M.I.A.–as a symbol of a world in flux, and a mouthpiece for folks whose folks weren’t heard too often in the pop discourse–haven’t really lost much relevance in the near-decade she’s been around.

Director Steve Loveridge’s documentary about M.I.A.’s strange and unlikely story, unfortunately, looks like it’s been shelved for the time being, due to some vaguely articulated, fucked up entertainment industry politics. But, should the doc see the light of day (maybe via Kickstarter?), it promises to offer some insight into the story behind a game-changing career. Yeah, it’s got interviews with luminaries like Spike Jonze, Richard Russell and Yeezy. But the first thirty seconds of this teaser alone should give you something to chew on.

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THE CHILDREN UNDERGROUND

What Romania's lost generation of street kids has to do with reproductive rights

Children Underground

Last week, Texas state senator Wendy Davis filibustered a bill that would have led to the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country. Her passionate stance met overwhelming, chauvinistic opposition by her male Republican peers and galvanized a female American audience concerned about their voice in politics, and access to rights. By talking for thirteen hours straight, Davis managed to block the proposed legislation, succeeding not only in garnering support from the Basedgod, but also in her efforts to protect a woman’s right to choose, as already protected under the U.S. Constitution.

But if you’ve ever so much as wondered what such a restriction on women’s reproductive rights would really look like — separate from infringing on your plans to prolong your college partying years into your 30’s or having to restrict the number of rando-tenderonis you pull — look no further than the eastern European nation of Romania. In 1966, Romanian communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu outlawed both contraception and abortion in an effort to increase the country’s work force. As an unintended consequence, thousands of unwanted children, born to unfit and impoverished parents, were placed in dangerous state orphanages or escaped to live in the streets. By the turn of the century, this population of street youth had reached an estimated 20,000 kids. Director Edet Belzberg’s 2001 documentary Children Underground reveals precisely what that meant for both Romanian society and this chronically neglected demographic.

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INTO THE MOUNTAINS

Sally Landis travels into the High Sierra to bring back these colorful creations

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Thunderbolt Peak Acrylic on Canvas 24″ x 30″ © 2013 Sally Landis

It seems whether it’s miles away or within your own neighborhood, the value of exploration is invaluable. Seems even more valuable when considering the work of Sally Landis, whose lifelong love affair with the Sierra Mountains spawned countless visual creations. Traveling into the High Sierra since she was a child, today Sally often photographs the magnificent landscapes before taking them home to paint. Simplifying her landscapes down to their compositional elements, Sally uses this process to relate her love of pattern and color.

Having graced gallery walls from the Bay Area to Paris and Monaco, Sally’s imagery has most recently found a home at Warehouse 416 as part of June’s East Bay Open Studios initiative. Last week, we had the chance to speak with Sally about growing up in the mountains and what she’s gleaned from a lifetime spent exploring the California wilderness.

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BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN

Life on the road with Elliot Gold, and the outlaw biker gang that blazed a new trail

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They called him Cameraman. Welcomed into The Chosen Few outlaw motorcycle club in 1971, California-born photographer Elliot Gold followed the legendary crew of bikers as a friend and observer.

Born from the mind of founder Lionel Ricks, The Chosen Few originated in Los Angeles in 1959, and established a presence across the country throughout the ’60s and early ’70s. While groups like The Hell’s Angels may have boasted more notoriety, and generated more widepsread controversy, The Chosen Few offered a similar level of grit and rough-hewn charm, but also managed to pose perhaps an even greater challenge to society at large. As the country’s first racially integrated outlaw motorcycle club, the power of The Chosen Few’s legacy is rooted in their ability to band together despite the prevailing prejudices of the day. Uniting under the common bond of brotherhood, The Chosen Few deconstructed social barriers while creating a culture of their own.

Over the course of two years, Elliot Gold travelled with the gang, capturing candid, intimate moments amongst the brothers who formed the collective. Following them on runs, outings, and other social events, Elliot captured an array of iconic images that help to give context in weaving together the narrative of the legendary Chosen Few. Needless to say, he picked up a few stories of his own along the way.

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BASIC SPACE

Three-dimensional creations by Bristol's own George McCallum

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George McCallum

It’s always cool to see artists take on new challenges, and push their work into new territory. When we last checked in with Bristol’s finest, he was still killing it with the illustrations, as usual, channeling a cartoony imagination, a lifelong love of comics, and an appreciation for the gnarlier things in life into vivid, colorful pieces. We were even lucky enough to have George lend his talents to an epic piece from Amanda. But even then, as George McCallum inched closer to art school graduation, you could see his work evolving into new forms–specifically, making its way off the page. Starting with plush toys, matchbooks, and signage, George began to adapt his zany aesthetic to three-dimensional objects, some of them even fully functional.

Since then, George has expanded the scale of his 3-D operation, supplementing work on smaller pieces like masks and apparel with larger, more complex pieces like furniture and housewares. And yet, despite the added level of craftsmanship, the tone of the pieces stays true to George’s sensibilities, from the eye-popping colors to the playful sense of humor. One piece, “Hand of Time” consists of a clock modeled after a wristwatch. The watch’s only hand though, rotates backwards at 2 RPM, poking fun at our obsession with time by being functionally obsolete. Another, “Chair Man Mao”, transforms the legendary dictator into a seat, adding a pair of Nikes to his feet for good measure. With art school in the rearview, and a dope body of work already under his belt, I think it’s safe to say this is just the beginning for Mr. McCallum.

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LOVERS & FRIENDS

The Fairoaks Project paints an unforgettable portrait of San Francisco's storied gay bath house scene

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The Fairoaks Project

Part of me feels like they can tell us, but we’ll never quite understand. Maybe you just had to be there. As much as I’ve been told, and as much as the ’60s and ’70s have served as a boundless reservoir of inspiration for me, there’s still something elusive about it all. The sense of freedom, and exploration, and radical imagination that defined those decades is something our generation, and others, have tried to recapture, but could never really duplicate. There’s something about a photograph though–whether taken for artistic or documentary purposes, or just as a memento of a moment someone wanted to hold onto–that can communicate a feeling instantly, across decades.

I’d imagine Gary Freeman felt that pretty powerfully when his longtime friend Frank Melleno pulled down a dusty cardboard shoebox, and started to thumb through the treasure trove of Polaroids that would become The Fairoaks Project. In 1978, Frank, fresh off an adventure in Alaska, had found a gig as the night manager at The Fairoaks Baths in San Francisco. Owned and operated by a gay commune, The Fairoaks was known in the late ’70s as a hub for sexual liberation and experimentation, but also close-knit community. Unlike most gay bath houses at the time, also, The Fairoaks was situated on the edge of a largely black neighborhood, and welcomed a steady influx of young gay men who reflected back the city’s rich diversity. It was a place to stay, to find support, to find friends and to indulge. Openness, unabashed sexuality, interracial love, friendship, fucking and LSD: it would be hard to imagine another place so broadly embelematic of the progressive ideals that defined San Francisco during the ’70s. Fortunately, Frank found himself at the center of it all, with a Polaroid camera in hand.

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