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Icy and Sot Interview

Icy & Sot Interview: Iran's Street Art Siblings on Censorship, Activism & Advocacy
Icy & Sot's Archive

born in tabriz, iran in 1985 and 1991 respectively, street art siblings ICY and SOT began making work under less than hospitable conditions. initially influenced by the graffiti and stencils in skateboarding films and video games, the pair soon began making their own distinctive mark on the walls of their native city. speed and discretion often go hand in hand with creating unauthorised artworks, but this is especially true in tabriz where an unsympathetic and intolerant legal system often hands out charges much more severe than just ‘vandalism’.

at home with the realities of state wide censorship and more than used to their artworks surviving for less than a few hours, political dissent and social protest is a vein that has run through the duo’s work since the beginning. in 2012, ICY and SOT took a solo exhibition of their work in new york as an opportunity to emigrate, leaving iran and relocating to the thriving brooklyn arts scene. since then, the duo’s work has gone from strength to strength, expanding into an ever more diverse number of mediums while retaining its rousing and defiant spirit of resistance through art.

the issues with which ICY and SOT engage are far reaching, and include poverty, homelessness, women’s rights, gun control, and immigration. their most recent show, ‘human (nature)’, presented at thinkspace gallery in culver city, L.A., grapples with the all encompassing effects of climate change on the earth and human kind, and our collective responsibility to fight for the life of our planet. using sculpture, photography, stencil and more, the pair create gripping images rife with narrative that force the viewer to engage with both the inherent beauty and urgent message of the collection.

designboom: can you give us a bit of background as to how you got started? where did the first impulse to start creating work first come from, and how did you go about learning the craft of stencilling? do you remember the first stencil you made?

ICY & SOT: it all started with our career in skateboarding. we used to make small stencils and stickers and put them up around the city. at the time we didn’t know very much about the street art movement, but through internet (flickr) we got to know other international street artists and we became more interested.

we loved the simplicity and quickness of single layer stencils. since it was all illegal in iran we had to be really quick putting a piece up. we learned so many different ways of stencilling by just experiencing. we don’t specifically remember the first stencils, but the very first ones were stencils of punk bands and skateboarding logos, which we decorated our rooms with when were teenagers.

Neanderthals Made Hand Stencils in Europe

By Deborah Netburn
Feb. 22, 2018
LA Times
<< Photo: A color-enhanced hand stencil from Spain’s Maltravieso cave, likely made by a Neanderthal. Photo courtesy of the University of Southampton.

A red hand stencil. A series of lines that look like a ladder. A collection of red dots.

These images, painted in ocher on the walls of three separate caves in Spain, are the oldest-known examples of cave art ever found. And new research suggests that all three were created not by humans, but by our ancient cousins the Neanderthals.

In a paper published Thursday in Science, an international team of archaeologists shows that each of the three paintings was executed at least 64,000 years ago — more than 20,000 years before the first modern humans arrived in Europe.

“This work confirms that Neanderthals were indeed using cave walls for depicting drawings that had meaning for them,” said Marie Soressi, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands who was not involved in the study. “It also means that our own group, the one we call anatomically modern humans, is maybe not so special.”

For most of the last century, researchers have argued that our Neanderthal cousins were intellectually inferior to their modern human contemporaries — incapable of symbolic thought and possibly devoid of language. This, in turn, was used to explain why the Neanderthals disappeared from Eurasia about 40,000 years ago, not long after modern humans arrived there.

However, archaeological evidence revealed over the last two decades tells a different story. We now know that Neanderthals were sophisticated hunters who knew how to control fire, and that they adorned themselves with jewelry and took care to bury their dead.

fnnch Wants SF to Decriminalize Stickers and Posters

Street Artist 'Sign-Bombs' Downtown Neighborhoods With 450 'Honey Bears'
Mon. January 29, 2018, 4:34pm
by Nathan Falstreau for hoodline

Street art is part of San Francisco's landscape, but one local artist recently installed hundreds of pieces of his work to spark a conversation about using public spaces as a canvas for self-expression.

Over the weekend, fnnch [Stencil Archive album], best known for his depictions of honey bears, ladybugs, seashells, flamingos and turtles, fastened 450 pieces to utility poles between Market and Harrison and the Embarcadero and 5th Street. To comply with city rules for posting signs, he mounted the artwork using zip ties.

The installation, which features an array of honey bears and was billed as "sign bombing," aims to bring attention to what the artist deems "an excessive and absurd amount of [legal] signage." According to fnnch, adhering a "simple sticker" to public property could result in possible felony or misdemeanor charges.

The artist hopes to sway future legislation with the work and has teamed up with Care2 to start a petition urging members of the Board of Supervisors to decriminalize certain types of street art. As of this writing, the petition has garnered 10,816 signatures of support out of a goal of obtaining 11,000.

In particular, fnnch wants the city to decriminalize the application of stickers and wheatpaste—a removable adhesive that's commonly used by street artists.

“What I want to do is show the absurdity of our laws," he said in a statement. "Had these signs been affixed with adhesive to the poles, I could go to jail, but if they are put up with tape or a zip-tie, then it not only becomes legal to hang them up, but illegal for anyone to take them down.”

SF artist Beatriz Vasquez turns Mexican craft into an art form

<<< From the altar "Para Mama Benita con Amor" by Beatriz Vasquez at the SOMArts 2017 Day of the Dead exhibition

November 14, 2017 5:16 pm
for Mission Local (LINK, with photos)

It was on a trip to Mexico after her father’s death that Beatriz Vasquez discovered the centuries-old Mexican craft that has become the vehicle for her art.

Papel picado, which involves cutting designs into layers of thin tissue paper, goes back to pre-Hispanic Mexico and is still used for events like weddings, baptisms and other festivals or ceremonies.

“It’s very disposable, and nobody really sees it as a fine art,” said the 49-year-Vasquez, who has a year-long fellowship with Root Division, where she teaches. And she has a residency at The Growlery, where artists live and work, rent-free, in a restored Victorian-era home.

During her trip to Mexico, Vasquez researched the craft and began to see papel picado as a metaphor for the indigenous women she was interviewing.

“I saw the paper as very fragile, but extremely beautiful and extremely sustainable and extremely versatile,” she said. “Kind of like what we are.”

It was then, Vasquez said, that she thought, “‘I’m gonna take this craft, disposable art form and turn it into fine art.’”

Her pieces are generally large — sometimes seven feet tall — and depict her experiences with politics, self-expression and her Mexican culture. In her work, there are intricate cuts of skeletons, butterflies and pineapples.

The very nature of the art and how a successful piece operates reflects society, she said. “Everything has to connect for it to work,” she said. “If we don’t connect with each other, it doesn’t work.”

One piece, La Sirena Feminista, tackles the topic of machismo in the Latino community. The work, created in 2015, is based on a traditional Mexican card game known as the Lotería. The face of la Sirena is that of Beatriz.

Coming Soon: Shepard Fairey's New LA Show and Hulu Doc

After ‘Hope,’ and Lawsuit, Shepard Fairey Tries Damage Control

LOS ANGELES — By just about any measure, it’s been a long time since the street artist Shepard Fairey managed to capture the optimism of Barack Obama’s candidacy in his “Hope” poster, the stylized portrait in red, white and blue tones that easily ranks as the most famous, also ubiquitous, artwork of 2008.

Mr. Fairey’s oldest daughter, then 2 years old, is now almost a teenager. The “Hope” image became the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit by The Associated Press that was both expensive and embarrassing for the artist. Mr. Fairey, who is 47, has since gone on to create art for activist movements like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March.

And now “Damaged” — his biggest gallery show yet, with about 200 new paintings, prints and illustrations made since 2015 — is set to open on Nov. 11 in a Chinatown warehouse, the same day a documentary on the artist has its premiere on Hulu. The mood of the exhibition: what happens when hope gets trampled but not killed.

Out of Style: Street art event, organizer rebuffed after controversy

Out of Style: Street art event, organizer rebuffed after controversy

Artists from across the globe who arrived in the Bay Area expecting to participate in a three-day street art festival were shocked to learn it had been abruptly cancelled.

The Meeting of Styles Art Festival 2016, which was set to take place at various alleys and streets throughout the Mission District on Sept. 16-18, was unanimously denied the necessary permits by the Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation (ISCOTT) due to growing community concern about the event, and questionable actions involving the event’s organizer, Lisa Jo Brewer.

“This year something happened,” Brewer told El Tecolote via telephone on Sept. 16. “I can’t really put my finger on it, but there’s this small organization in town here in the Mission, and they were dead set against it.”

The small organization Brewer referred to is the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, which fielded a number of complaints from residents and organizations concerning property damage following last year’s Meeting of Styles event.

Ancient Stencils Reproduced for Cave Temples of Dunhuang Exhibit

Reproduction allows for the widespread sharing of treasures without endangering them.
July 5, 2016 5:18 p.m. ET
Los Angeles

Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road
The Getty
Through Sept. 4

On a sunny afternoon, the glare in the Getty Center’s Arrival Plaza is blinding—and stepping into Cave 285 feels like teleporting to heaven. Here, in one of the main features of “Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road,” winged creatures flutter on the vaulted ceiling while, on the walls, Buddhas preach, myths unfold, mortals repent, donors pay homage. Amid scrolling florals and colored flames, a large Buddha sits, his face a featureless mass of clay. This is a full-size copy, created by hand on the basis of detailed scans and myriad photographs of a grotto carved into cliffs that edge the Gobi desert in northwestern China. It is as faithful to the colors, designs and brushstrokes artists used in A.D. 538-39 as it is to the deterioration and damage that nature and man have since wrought.

The fragility of some sites has made copies an increasingly viable way to share treasures more widely without endangering them. The Getty’s exhibition uses them in tandem with more traditional displays to bring out the richness, complexity and conservation challenges of one of the world’s great art treasures. Its curatorial team includes experts from the Getty’s institutes for research and conservation, the Dunhuang Academy and the New York-based Dunhuang Foundation, and while theirs is not the first U.S. show to tackle the subject, it is the most ambitious.

LA, CA: Stencils, Students, and a Rare Bird

 Mural of rare yellow-billed cuckoos is a mix of social commentary and environmental conservation

Louis SahagunContact Reporter (LA Times)
<< Photo by Tani Ikeda

The rare yellow-billed cuckoo is a shy, slender, long-tailed bird that migrates from Central America in spring to breed in streamside forests that once thrived throughout Southern California.

And that got some female high school students and two art instructors at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex’s Academic Learning Community in downtown Los Angeles thinking about developing a mural about federally threatened species and people who come from as far away as Central America in search of a better life.

What they produced over the next year and a half with research, photographs, stencils, spray paint and house paint on a huge wall overlooking the school’s basketball courts is a mix of female empowerment, social commentary and environmental conservation.

A Journey to the Oldest Cave Paintings in the World

A Journey to the Oldest Cave Paintings in the World
The discovery in a remote part of Indonesia has scholars rethinking the origins of art—and of humanity
By Jo Marchant
The Smithsonian Magazine, January 2016

I struggle to keep my footing on a narrow ridge of earth snaking between flooded fields of rice. The stalks, almost ready to harvest, ripple in the breeze, giving the valley the appearance of a shimmering green sea. In the distance, steep limestone hills rise from the ground, perhaps 400 feet tall, the remains of an ancient coral reef. Rivers have eroded the landscape over millions of years, leaving behind a flat plain interrupted by these bizarre towers, called karsts, which are full of holes, channels and interconnecting caves carved by water seeping through the rock.

We’re on the island of Sulawesi, in Indonesia, an hour’s drive north of the bustling port of Makassar. We approach the nearest karst undeterred by a group of large black macaques that screech at us from trees high on the cliff and climb a bamboo ladder through ferns to a cave called Leang Timpuseng. Inside, the usual sounds of everyday life here—cows, roosters, passing motorbikes—are barely audible through the insistent chirping of insects and birds. The cave is cramped and awkward, and rocks crowd into the space, giving the feeling that it might close up at any moment. But its modest appearance can’t diminish my excitement: I know this place is host to something magical, something I’ve traveled nearly 8,000 miles to see.

Scattered on the walls are stencils, human hands outlined against a background of red paint. Though faded, they are stark and evocative, a thrilling message from the distant past. My companion, Maxime Aubert, directs me to a narrow semicircular alcove, like the apse of a cathedral, and I crane my neck to a spot near the ceiling a few feet above my head. Just visible on darkened grayish rock is a seemingly abstract pattern of red lines.

San Francisco hitting up graffiti vandals with costly civil suits

San Francisco hitting up graffiti vandals with costly civil suits

By C.W. Nevius for the SF Chronicle
August 21, 2015 Updated: August 21, 2015 5:16pm

Everyone knows how difficult it is to stop the graffiti tagging epidemic in the city. First, it’s nearly impossible to catch anyone in the act. And if cops do, a criminal case in the courts often results in minor consequences, like a few hours of community service.

A walk down virtually any graffiti-tagged street in the city tells you criminal charges aren’t having much of an effect.

So, San Francisco is changing the game. We’re making it personal.

In an innovative and clever legal maneuver, the city attorney’s office is asking the courts to treat the city like any other property owner and allow it to sue for damages to pay for graffiti cleanup. It makes for some odd phrasing when the complaint says, “Plaintiff is . . . the owner of real personal property in San Francisco, consisting of Muni buses.”

But that’s how San Francisco has filed a civil suit against a woman officials say is an infamous serial tagger. The city alleges that Cozy Terry (her real name according to the complaint) tags as “Coze” and is responsible for 28 separate acts of vandalism on city buses. In all, the 41-page complaint lists 58 cases of tagging and adds up the cost of cleanup and repair. The total should get the attention of graffiti scofflaws.

“It is at least $53,788,” said Jill Cannon, one of the two deputy city attorneys who is making the case. “I don’t know what her assets are, but if we get a judgment we will seek to collect.”


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