Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Michael De Feo: The Flower Graffitist

"I'm continually amazed at how much fun and how many smiles a simple little flower can spread in such a big place." – Michael De Feo

De Feo's s silk-screened flower poster on a city's street
Written by Lucy Coker 

The city’s streets have served as Michael De Feo's gallery for the past 20 years. De Feo is most recognized for his spontaneous scattering of flowers across New York, and any other city he visits. Since his street art days, he has dipped his foot into many gallery spaces, been on the cover of the New York magazine and published a children’s book titled, “Alphabet City – Out On The Streets.”
The Freedom of Graffiti Art
The graffiti artist gained a diploma from the School of Visual Arts in Graphic Design, although, oddly enough, his final portfolio didn’t included any graphic design. It was full of street art and paintings, yet De Feo still received top marks. He first began using the streets for his graffiti art as a way to avoid the high art gallery system. The gallery space confined him but on the streets anything was allowed. Furthermore, sporadically placed buildings and streets, anyone could witness his work even if the didn’t want or mean to see it.
His art embraced and explored the free world of urban and low brow art. Entering into the gallery space through the back door, De Feo side stepped the restraints of conventional fine art allowing more space for his spontaneity and resourceful inspirations.
Flower Power
Around 1992, Michael De Feo used silkscreen drawings from his high school art and began placing them out on the streets of New York. He initially used childlike imagery of moons, minnows, flowers and safety pins, cutting these images out of FedEx cardboard to make spray paint stencils. These images soon led to his single silk-screened flower image and eventually to his later paintings on found blueprint paper.
After finding his flower image, he printed hundreds before deciding to make them street art. He glued them on everything from from newspaper dispensers to city buses. Since the birth of the flower project, it has enjoyed exposure in countless news articles and media outlets including The New York Times, Time Magazine, The London Sunday Times Magazine, and on the cover of New York Magazine's "Reasons to Love New York" issue (three times). His work has also appeared in numerous music videos and film documentaries including Banksy's film, "Exit Through The Gift Shop."

Michael De Feo's cover of the New York Magazine

Alphabet City
Michael De Feo’s children's book “Alphabet City”: Out on the Streets", employs New York City as his canvas. He incorporates his graffiti art into the book by assigning each one to illustrate each letter of the alphabet. The book received rave reviews internationally, “De Feo's art evokes beauty and optimism with a childlike simplicity while paying homage to gritty Manhattan." (Newsweek International)
Michael De Feo’s experimental and free artistic spirit reflects that of many Thumbprint Gallery artists. You can browse and buy a variety of works at Thumbprint Gallery’s online store here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Invader: Mosaic Street Artist

A Space Invader on a Parisian Statue

Written by Hilary Dufour

Across the globe, from Los Angeles to Mombasa, on statues and restaurants, even on the Hollywood sign, mosaic tiles have been carefully arranged and surreptitiously placed on city walls. These cities, of which there are now over 35, have been "invaded." The French street artist, so-called Invader, has arranged tiles to create various characters inspired by the first-generation arcade game Space Invaders. He started with the invasion of Paris in the 90's and has not stopped yet. As the urban artist has said, his space invaders are meant to symbolize "our era and the birth of modern technology, with video games, computers, the Internet, mobile phones, hackers and viruses."
Space Invaders
Invader is notorious for these often inconspicuous street mosaics. Though many people may not know much about the urban artist (his identity has also been purposefully hidden), many of us have seen his space invaders and have been filled with a sense of glee, feeling like we've come across something others have never noticed or given a second look. Sometimes Invader chooses to set his tiles in more visible places than others, while creating a juxtaposition between "legal" art on the walls of museums with illegal art, street art.
Space Invader art project is “more an experiment than a protest” but also that “the act itself is a political message, as 99% of the time I don't have authorization.” The legality of his work was brought into question in an incident last year in which the LAPD caught him with another French national hanging near a historic building with buckets full of grout and tiles. In April, the artist attached his tiles to the Museum of Contemporary Art's Geffen Contemporary and several other buildings in Los Angeles, while at the same time being featured in the museum's exhibition “Art in the Streets.” Invader was also ticketed for trespassing after attaching his mosaics to the Hollywood sign while with his cousin, the notorious Mr.Brainwash

Space Invader invades Randy's Donuts in L.A.

“In Bed with Invader”
It is important to note, a lot of thought goes into the artist's placement of his beloved “Space Invaders.” Since each space invader is different, each is numbered, photographed and indexed. This dedication and execution can be glimpsed in the recently released video “In Bed with Invader,” which can be found online. The artist's detailed process certainly came into play when “invading” the French city of Montpellier. In this case, the location of the characters was such that when placed on a map, they formed the image of a space invader.
Besides engaging with the public by instructing admirers where his art is located, the artist also uses other methods. On the “faq” page of his website, he comes across as an earnest and unpretentious artist who is willing to share information about himself and his process. He shows an interest the act of his street art, and the concepts behind them, more than in the mystification and glorification of the artist. He has further shared his art by putting maps of different cities on his site which lead you to various sites that have been “invaded.” Seeing his art has become a hunt for lost treasure.


In his newer project, “RubikCubism,” Invader has chosen Rubik's cubes to create art that is literally, cubist. According to the artist, “RubikCubism” is a “logical, and interesting, continuation of my work”. He has said that he “uses the Rubik's cube like an artist uses paint. I like the idea that it wasn't intended to be this way, and that ultimately it works really well.” 

Mona Lisa in Invader's RubikCubism style

Invader is an artist who truly thinks outside of the box, or cube, to create art that is clever and engaging. These are characteristics shared by the artists who exhibit at Thumbprint Gallery. Thumbprint displays urban art that is created with an outsider mentality and an artist's eye. 

You can view works by low brow and urban artists at Thumbprint Gallery’s online store here.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Doze Green: B-Boy to Fusionistic Artist

Written by Lucy Coker

Born on the upper west side of Manhattan, Doze Green is one of the pioneers of hip-hop movement in the 70s and 80s. Often compared to celebrated artists such as Basquiat, his urban background and involvement in the Rock Steady Crew, facilitated his unique style which allowed him to transition from graffiti art to the gallery. His works have been published in BlackBook, Anthem, Juxtapoz, Tokion, and Vibe and reviewed on CNN.
Fusion artist and original Rock Steady Crew member Doze Green

The Rock Steady Crew
From a young age, Doze Green was a member of The Rock Steady Crew, the creators of a new style of dance known as breakdancing or B-Boying. The crew first started dancing at art exhibitions and galleries of Soho and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. During this time Doze Green was also attending the High School of Art and Design, where many talented graffiti artists studied.

Green began tagging the hallways of South Bronx projects to working as a graphic designer designing clothing line such as Kikwear and Ecko. However, he soon found himself unfulfilled and ventured back towards his street art roots. Gradually, he received more attention and Green started painting in a studio in Brooklyn. In 1982, he showed his artwork in a group show at the Fun Gallery. At this same time after appearances in major movies such as Flashdance, Style Wars, and Wildstyle, the Rock Steady Crew was launched into action and the limelight.
Energy and Matter
Today, Green has become a leader of the "fusionistic"art movement. This style developed form his roots in graffiti art and is based upon metaphysical and ethereal ideologies. His paintings strive to materialize complex metaphysical concepts, such as the possible “manipulation of energy and matter to create a timeless space. He explores meditations on matter and anti-matter, layers of consciousness, and different possibilities based on cosmology.” Through stream-of-consciousness painting, Doze creates “fractured imagery that implies an ever-changing narrative.” His stereotypical multi-dimensional planes and illusion of time are presented through fragmented, incomplete figures.
There is a strong sense of cubist influences in his work. The compositions are constructed through “ascending and descending planes and repetitive, overlapping, and concentric lines in an otherwise undefined landscape.” Another key influence has been Edo period paintings. Doze Green mixes black gesso with Sumi ink and applies “creatively chaotic, and intuitive brushstrokes,” in an interesting fusion of calligraphy-inspired art and street art techniques. Green’s signature aesthetic results in an advanced approach to organic cubism. 
A section of the Las Vegas mural "Crossroads of Humanity" by Doze Green

Aside from his gallery exhibitions, Green has stayed true to his street art roots and has worked on a number of murals all over the world. Namely, two large-scale public murals which commissioned by "City Center" in Las Vegas, titled “Crossroads of Humanity.” The set of murals cover several walls each measuring 80 feet wide by 20 feet high. 
Many artists at Thumbprint Gallery share Doze Green "fusionistic" style combining graffiti and street art techniques with other mediums, creating distinct contemporary styles. Works by Thumbprint Gallery artists can by viewed and purchased at our online store here.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Birth of Pop Art

Written by Hilary Dufour

Popular culture has inundated the individual with myriad images revolving around notions of fame, fortune, sex appeal and consumerism. The pop art movement has drawn from this truth and created art which responds to and mimics popular culture. From pop culture, comes pop art. In some ways they are one in the same and in other ways they are drastically different.

Edouardo Paolozzi, "I was a Rich Man's Plaything"

"Pop Art and the Cult of Cool"

The history of the pop art movement is both rich and diverse. On the other side of the Atlantic in Great Britain, Pop art was emerging in the 1950s. Members of the Independent Group met to discuss topics of Western culture including the significance or misappropriation of mass culture in fine art, as well as science, technology, and cinema. One member, Edouardo Paolozzi was the first to incorporate the word “pop” into his artwork. In his "I was a Rich Man’s Plaything," from 1947, various popular icons and imagery are collaged to form an exploration and representation of popular culture, while remaining detached or “emotionally distant” from such culture. In the article, "Pop Art and the Cult of ‘Cool’," it is said that Paolozzi’s piece exemplifies pop art’s incorporation of “subjects like sex, romantic love, and patriotism” which “are all treated with exaggerated superficiality, and are thereby deliberately made to seem trite and shallow”. These words, “trite and shallow” are integral to the creation of pop art.

American Pop Art Movement

In the United States, the work of Jasper Johns anticipated the American pop art movement.  Johns’ art incorporated references to “things the mind already knows”, as he put it, which included flags, letters, and numbers. With the use of everyday objects as subject, Johns questions notions of representation and meaning in art.

Referencing and incorporating different aspects of pop culture was essential to the pop art movement. At the heart of the pop movement was the idea that anything from culture could be borrowed and that no object was any more important than another.  Comic books were one source from which artists borrowed. Images by the prominent artist Roy Lichtenstein came from mass-produced comic book images.

Roy Lichtenstein, "Hopeless", 1963

Andy Warhol's Icons

Another famous pop artist, Andy Warhol, replicated a variety of iconic images to create art that spoke to notions of both consumerism and aesthetics.  In the 1960s, he began silk-screening portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe. His Campbell soup can series also examined the prevalence of certain images within pop culture. As aforementioned, there was no hierarchy in what artists could borrow, which Andy Warhol asserted in this series. With his Campbell’s series he sought to blend the boundaries between high art and low or “popular” culture.

Pop art’s blurring of the boundaries between high and low art, and its incorporation of popular culture into art has had an inconceivable impact on the art world. So-called Lowbrow art, which originated in L.A. in the 60s, also seeks to critique popular culture and stand in opposition to fine art. Further connections can be made to urban art and graffiti art which blur the boundaries between fine art and “low” art. Many of the artists displayed at Thumbprint Gallery fall under one of these categories and entice the viewer to look at art with a more inquisitive eye.

You can view and purchase works by Thumbprint Gallery artists at our online store here.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Keith Haring: Street Artist and Social Activist

Written by Hilary Dufour
Much of the late great Keith Haring’s art is characterized by bright, bold primary colors and lines that create frenzied patterns and scenes of humans and creatures.  Themes such as AIDS, drugs abuse, and religion were prevalent throughout his career. His patterns have appeared on shoes, clothing, subway stations, cars, you name it. He also teamed up with Absolut Vodka and Swatch to display his patterns. The Keith Haring art legacy is indeed prominent in the international art world.

Pop artist Keith Haring in 1984
The Independent Artist
Born in Pennsylvania, and interested in pop art and culture at an early age, Haring was an ambitious art-school dropout with a passion for public art. Keith Haring was influenced by the public nature of European artist Christo’s work and the manifesto written by author and artist Robert Henri, The Art Spirit, which asserted the independence of the artist. With these inspirations in mind, he wanted to reach the masses with his message and naturally got involved with graffiti art. In the 1980s, Haring started decorating the walls of New York Subway stations. The unused panels covered in black paper that were usually intended for advertising became public canvases for Haring’s white chalk and dramatic bold lines. He developed a style of “graphic expression based on the primacy of the line.”
The 80s and the Berlin Wall
His talent and penchant for likable and versatile designs helped him gain international recognition for his pop art designs. He participated in a number of group and solo exhibitions in the 1980s that furthered his popularity. He also participated in the famous Whitney Biennial and designed sets for clubs and theaters. Additionally, he created murals worldwide and indeed succeeded in his goal of creating public art. In 1986, on the Western side of the Berlin Wall he created a 300 meter mural that illustrated the division among the political world and the city itself, which had been divided in half. The subject of the mural as described by Haring is “a continuous interlocking chain of human figures, who are connected at their hands and their feet – the chain obviously representing the unity of people as against the idea of the wall.”

Keith Haring painting at mural on the Berlin Wall in 1986
“Pop Shop”
This goal of his to create public art was developed with the opening of his Soho retail store, “Pop Shop,” which held similarities to contemporary pop artist Haruki Murakami’s retail shops and mass-production. Wandering through “Pop Shop,” one would come across a variety of items including buttons, magnets, toys and posters with Keith Haring’s trademark design. The walls were painted by the artist himself, an abstract black and white mural that aided in the creation a retail haven for consumers and art appreciators alike. 
Social Activist  
Aside from his involvement in the commercial and fine art worlds, the artist was active in literacy and public service programs. One such project of his in 1986 was a mural commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. For this mural, Haring worked with 900 children. Following his diagnosis of AIDS in 1988,  he created the Keith Haring Foundation which merged art with AIDS organizations and children’s programs, again furthering the visibility of his art and thus becoming “a universally recognized visual language of the 20th century.”

Many artists at Thumbprint Gallery were similarly inspired by graffiti art and pop art and now display distinct styles within the low brow and urban art scene that aims to connect with the general public. 

Works by Thumbprint Gallery artists can be viewed at our online store here.