Now this is a good one. Located on the side of Numbers Nightclub at 300 Westheimer, this effortlessly cool mural was painted by local RAW Artist Rene Fernandez. Following the repainting of the building's exterior, Fernandez actually approached long-time Numbers Manager Wes Wallace about the project in 2014.
From left to right, the portraits are Trent Renzor of Nine Inch Nails, Al Jourgensen of Ministry, Blondie, Joey Ramone, David Bowie, Ian Curtis of Joy Division, Morrissey, Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Robert Smith of The Cure. Fernandez told the Houston Chronicle that each one took around two hours to complete, and the mural evolved in size and subject matter during its creation. The figures represent the musical history of the venue, which apparently hosted some of the stars during their rise to stardom.
Fernandez himself is a regular at the venue. A self-professed music junkie, he is certainly suited to the task of capturing the club's punk/goth vibe. In his RAW profile, the artist is even quoted as saying "My world, is lots of art, lots of music for fuel". As a self taught artist with no formal art education beyond middle school, Fernandez technical skill is surprisingly advanced. He cites Caravaggio and Salvador Dali as influences, and the presence of both permeates his works through his handling of light and their often-surrealist subject matter respectively.
Fernandez has exhibited in venues all over Houston, most commonly working with oil to create these quirky surrealist compositions with subject matter so bizarre yet so realistically rendered that they still seem to have a balance and serenity that can often be lacking in many surrealist artists' works. Obviously then, his Numbers mural is a little different to his usual work, but this in itself is not out of the norm. During his career, Fernandez has experimented with various media ranging from sculpture to silkscreening, along the way proving himself to be an incredibly versatile artist.
Follow Rene on RAW to keep up with his latest works and exhibitons, and keep an eye out for this incredible mural too!
Oi, you! Have you ever wanted to be part of a worldwide art project, but don't know how to get involved? Well I have the answer, and it's a wEARd one (you'll see why that's funny in a minute).
Ear and There is an anonymous crowdsourced Street Art project that surfaced around a year ago. The basic concept is moulded ears that are surreptitiously placed in public spaces all over the world. The organization currently has over 300 ears in more than 45 countries, from China, to the UK, to Turkey, to.... well, pretty much all over the place! To make things more interesting, they are all placed by Regular Joes like you and I.
But why is this happening? And who is behind it? Unfortunately for us nosy parkers, the initiator of the phenomenon is notoriously secretive about the motive behind this quirky project, instead telling the Creators Project that they want "everyone who experiences the project will do so in their own way."
I suggest however, that the point of this is actually more straightforward than you might think. Without having any expertise in creating art, anyone can say that they contributed to a global art initiative, and there's something inescapably cool about that. Do you need a better reason to get involved? Because I certainly don't!
In fact, I am THRILLED to announce that I will be placing an ear or two right here in Houston, and they will be the FIRST IN TEXAS EVER! If you, like me, would like to get involved and start Ear-ing up your own city, or adding more to H-town if you like, then all you have to do is ask.
Apply through Ear and There's website, and they will send you an epoxy ear (which by the way they call Souvenears, I literally can't deal with these ear puns, it's magical). So come on, get involved and be sure to keep and eye and an EAR out (sorry, I don't think I can stop) for Houston's newest Street Art addition, brought to you by the one and only ArtfulDodgy!
As promised, let's move on with my top ten inner loop Street Art gems!
Collaboration among artists is a given in the realm of Street Art and graffiti, and while driving down Montrose I fell upon an interesting kind-of-sort-of series by local artists Ack! and Weah. I did my research, and although I was able to identify the artists at least (eventually), there is very little else to be found about these two.
What I can tell you is that they are both regulars on the Houston Street Art scene, and that this is not their first collaboration. In fact, they exhibited together in "The Boardroom" - The Art League Houston's first ever graffiti show, which featured their work alongside fellow Street Artist Raiko Nin. This was the first instance of the artists working together, so I can only assume that the exhibition was the catalyst for these murals.
The first pictured mural is on a wall perpendicular to Montrose, so you have to walk or drive around the side of W.K. Hill Awning Co. to see it in all its glory. It is very aptly named "Two Against One" by veteran art blogger Finijo but I can't find any evidence to suggest either of these gorgeous murals were ever formally named. The second faces Montrose, and features Ack!'s familiar cartoon-like characters seemingly fighting off Weah's fire breathing Chinese dragon-like creature - a collision of styles in the most literal sense..
Ack! is all over Houston, and it's not hard to see why. He has (very cleverly) built himself a brand. With his signature faces, vibrant colors, and exceptionally clean lines, you can spot his murals a mile off. Ack! hand-paints the majority of his mural works, proving that it is definitely possible to achieve those crisp cartoon-esque figures without the help of a stencil. In addition to his al fresco works, he has exhibited in numerous locations around the city including Glitter Karaoke, Art League Houston, and the Station Museum. His collaborations include murals with Eyesore and the incredibly awesome Michael Rodriquez (watch out for him in my Artist of the Week this month!).
Much like the great Banksy however, it proved virtually impossible to find out any more about the Ack! as a person, but I guess that's part and parcel of being a Street Artist. Even though the majority of "graffiti" in Houston is legally commissioned nowadays, I doubt that the temptation to be an illusive artist who only works underground, man, will ever cease to exist.
Weah, on the other hand, is a little more open. In an interview with Houston Makerspace, Daniel "Weah" Anguilu opened up about his influences as a painter and his day-to-day life - somewhat unusually for a Street Artist. Like many Street Artists however, he is insistent that his urban works "do not belong to anyone, it is part of the belief that society is in need of therapy". A noble sentiment indeed, and one that resonates with anyone who has a love of urban art.
Weah's works are wildly colorful and have roots in Cubism, Vorticism, and an overarching obsession with geometric patterns. His mural commissions are featured LITERALLY all over the city, including very notable institutions such as Texas Art Asylum, The Station Museum, and The Glassell School of Art. Now that I have begun to write about him, I think this is an artist I will revisit in more depth in the near future, so hold that thought...
Anyway, to wrap it up, here we see two very different styles that have come crashing together on common ground, and this is something that is happening more and more in the Street Art world. Traditionally, graffiti artists' idea of a collaboration was to grudgingly share space on the same railway bridge.. These days, much like the Street Art genre in general, the process is a lot more choreographed (and certainly a lot more above board). If the results of this shift are more incredible collaborative works like these, then I for one have no complaints..
Apologies for my appearance in the below pic - Maybe I was jogging, maybe it was just a Sunday... You'll never know....
Since the United States was declared independent, it has made almost a conscious effort to do things differently from the United Kingdom. Politically, economically, and socially, these are two very different nations with very different ideals. Culture and the arts, although considered of value on both sides of the pond, have long been approached somewhat contrarily by the two countries in terms of funding. Open a performance program at the Apollo theatre in London and you will see a few acknowledgements of sponsors, perhaps an advertisement or two. In contrast, the average performance program here in the US is chock full of sponsorship acknowledgements, advertisements, and thanks to various donors, partners, and contributors. This is a small discrepancy between the two countries perhaps, but it hints at a much larger issue: the difference between publicly funded and philanthropically funded cultural sectors.
First and foremost, it is important to understand that the United States and the United Kingdom are operating in very different contexts. The US has a population of 316.6 million, while the UK is home to just 64.1 million people. The federal budget for fiscal year 2015 in the United States is $3.9 trillion versus a projected £731.4 billion in the UK (less than $1.2 trillion). As an English citizen who has lived in America for nearly four years, I have often been able to observe how different the British and American economic systems are, and how this in turn impacts upon the production, marketing, and perception of the arts. America advocates minimal government expenditure and maximized privatized global capitalism, whereas the UK supports a mixed economy with an emphasis on social and cultural programs. In the UK, governmental spending often equates to around half of the GNP. While Americans argue that a privatized marketplace creates more efficiency within government, the UK insists that such an approach creates a corporate-dominated society. Such a difference in viewpoints has created somewhat of a cultural divide between the two, with each backing their own methods as the most effective. So which is the more effective model? And can lessons be learned by both sides to achieve a more efficient funding strategy in the future?
In order to properly understand the discrepancy between public spending on the arts in the US and the UK, a per capita figure is very telling. In the US, the federal government, states, and localities appropriated a combined $1.14 billion to the arts in FY2013, amounting to a total per capita investment of 6 cents per week. In FY2014, each person in England contributed 14p (22 cents) per week specifically to the arts and culture. This figure highlights the sheer lack of public funding dedicated to the cultural sector in the US. However both countries, despite their differences, have flourishing cultural sectors.
The UK funds the arts through a balance of public investments, earned income, and private sector funding. This balance provides the UK with the strength of the mixed economy that shelters arts organizations, at least partially, from financial crises in any one strand of funding and other harmful effects. England has neither the dependence on public money that is seen in other European countries, nor the dependence on philanthropic and corporate giving that is the primary feature of the US system. Although recent cuts to the arts following the 2008 recession have forced the British government to cut spending on the arts by a vast amount, experts argue that a move towards philanthropy is not in the best interest of the sector:
“Ministers claim that philanthropy is the answer, but it never was. In the US, relying on donors deadens the arts, filling their boards with the conservative-minded, failing to stimulate experiment and imagination”.
Despite this, the coalition government made it clear soon after coming to power in May 2010 that it was pursuing an agenda of encouraging private investment and philanthropy in the arts. This was marked by the launch of an initiative called 'The Big Arts Give', in conjunction with the organization Arts & Business that facilitates funding partnerships between arts organizations and businesses. However, although private investment is encouraged in the UK in the wake of spending cuts across all sectors, the latest government agenda clearly states that “it is not, and should not be, the role of philanthropists to plug the gap left by receding public subsidy of the arts and heritage... It is also unlikely that British philanthropy will ever resemble that in America, for reasons of size and culture". So although philanthropy is on the rise in the UK, it is not anticipated to be a substitute for public funding, but instead a supplementary financial resource.
The primary benefit to the UK system of funding is really for the British citizens as art consumers. Public funding results in more accessible art, with lowers ticket prices and, as is the case for the majority of larger institutions, facilitates free entry to museums. Advocates for the British funding model would argue that privatized investment in the arts results in a corporate-style sector that quickly loses sight of the real purpose behind each organization as financial need becomes the focus of day-to-day operations. A reliance on development is not only time consuming, but can be costly too. Research shows that each year nonprofits spend anywhere between $0.12 and $1.50 per dollar raised on fundraising costs. The real issue with philanthropically funded organizations therefore is with consistency, both in funds donated and fundraising practices. If philanthropic fundraising removes ties to government, it does not eliminate links to the economy as a whole. In times of economic instability, philanthropy decreases just as much, if not more, than government spending. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, charitable giving in the US by the rich dropped by $30 billion during the recession, a decrease in 15.3%.
I don't want you to think that I am biased as a Brit though, the UK model is certainly not infallible. In 2012, after a round of 15% budget cuts (the same decrease in revenue seen in charitable giving here in the US), more than a ninth of UK arts organizations who lost their funding intended to close, and another 22% considered themselves “at risk of failure” simply because they had no plan B when it came to sustainability. Furthermore, those who support the American model would argue that an over-reliance on public money drains the economy. While UK nonprofits are tied inextricably to public spending policy, a privatized nonprofit sector can be more independent, and self-sufficiency promotes sustainability in the long term, regardless of politics. Indeed, a lack of public money is not congruent with a lack of revenue. In fact, philanthropy has, on the whole, been an effective model in the United States. While in the UK donations like Lloyd Dorman’s £10m gift (around $16m) to the National Theatre are the exception rather than the rule, the US consistently sees incredible sums of money being donated to cultural institutions. For example, in 2011 the family that owns Wal-Mart famously donated $800m to the Arkansas Museum of American Art in 2011, and this is not even the largest gift to the arts in US history. J Paul Getty, whose bequest to his California museum in 1982 would be worth $2.5bn in today’s money, still holds this record.
So what incentivizes these gifts? The answer to this is not a straightforward one. There are those that donate for personal reasons, for the love of the organization or even the art form, but the key difference between philanthropy in the US and in the UK lies in tax exempt donations, whereby individuals and corporations are encouraged to donate for tax incentives. In 1917, the US government announced that any donation given to a tax-exempt nonprofit organization qualified as a potential deduction for the tax-paying donor. In spite of the UK’s move to increase philanthropy in its arts funding strategy, it is a significant omission from the UK government's "philanthropy strategy" that it suggests no reforms to the tax or gift-aid systems to encourage contributions.
Even without tax incentives, the UK has definitely begun to embrace philanthropy as a source of revenue, and likewise a move towards the UK model in America has also been noted in recent decades. Over the past twenty-one years, total public funding for the arts by federal, state and local governments increased by 15.6%. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which distributes public money among cultural institutions has markedly increased grant-giving in recent times. This, coupled with the nation’s existing philanthropic philosophy has been extremely beneficial to the US cultural sector. This fact is illustrated perfectly by the NEA, who assert that in 2012 "every dollar that the NEA gave in grants typically generated seven to eight times more money in... earned revenue".
In spite of all this, a synthesis of UK and US models is highly unlikely, at least in the foreseeable future, and it's mainly because of the very different values of the two countries. During World War II, Britain's finance minister recommended to Winston Churchill that they cut arts funding in order to better support the war effort. Churchill's reply was, "Then what are we fighting for?" This remark resonates with the enormous difference in values between the US and the UK. In the UK, funding for the arts is a central platform for every major political party, and funding is often distributed in a decentralized way at a local level by councils making it hard to attack during budget-cut discussions. In the US, funding for the arts is unfortunately not a priority, and the centralized method of distribution makes it an easy target for cuts, while at the same time distancing the funding from the organizations in a huge way.
So while both models have their advantages and disadvantages, the most effective model perhaps would be a combination of the two. If the US could take any lesson from the UK, it would be to increase the value (and therefore the public funding) of the arts sector, and develop arts-funding models directly related to cities, towns, and regional communities. The UK in turn could learn to depend less on public money and develop funding strategies that rely more on earned income and philanthropic giving instigated by the organization’s themselves, further encouraged by tax exemptions. Either way, it's the mark of a civilized society that its citizens all have access to arts, culture and heritage, so let's make it a priority, yeah?!
The first Street Art piece i want to show you is actually one of my favorites, conveniently located at 1435 Westheimer, about thirty seconds from my house in case you're interested. The #biscuitpaintwall was created by the very talented French-born Street Artist Sebastian Boileau of Eyeful Art Murals and Design, more commonly known in the local art world as Mr. D. The piece is painted on the side wall of Biscuit Home, a cute and quirky furniture store. It was commissioned in early 2014 as a way to reflect the store's fun and original vibe, and in this is it certainly successful.
Eyeful Art was established by Mr. D in 2000 following his migration from France, where the Street Art scene is one of the most vibrant in the world. French Street Artists such as the well-known Invader have changed the face of urban art for everyone, giving the genre credibility and the sort of elegance that only the French can achieve. I mean, Invader studied at L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts - the most influential art school in the world which boasts alumni like Degas, Millet, and Delacroix - this is not merely vandals making a mess of their cityscapes, they mean business over there!
I'm getting off topic, but the point is, we are very blessed to have our very own piece of the French Street Art scene here in Houston. Eyeful Art has been growing in success and coverage in the last decade and a half, serving both public and private sectors in its large-scale mission of urban beautification. Mr. D is perhaps best known for his 2014 project, The Biggest Mural in Houston, a fantastic and huge-scale (11,000 square feet!!) modern twist on Michelangelo's most famous work, The Creation of Adam that depicts a God-like figure holding a can of spray-paint - hold that thought though, i'll be talking more about it next week.
Anyway, if you find yourself in Montrose in the near future, I highly recommend checking out the #biscuitpaintwall. A great view, and even better selfies.
Photograph by my lovely and talented other half, Adam Foret
In case it's not obvious, I have a bit of a penchant for urban art. Fortunately, i'm not in bad company in Houston. As little as ten years ago a campaign of public beautification in this city would have been chiefly involved with scrubbing out graffiti, bringing things back to their shiny new state of polished concrete and chrome. My how things have changed.
Now, in 2015, urban art is really coming into its own. Artists like Banksy and Blu have brought this previously disregarded genre into the public psyche, and I for one, am loving it. This was no accident, however. In fact, it's all part of a bigger movement that synthesizes graffiti and outsider art with the more socially acceptable "public art".
Generation "Z", as it is fondly known, is the forever young generation. We refuse to grow up and grow out of our habits, good or bad. A hangover of this perhaps, is the fact that the childish graffiti we once admired or even personally scrawled on walls as teenagers is having the same sort of issue. Unlike our hangovers though, this is actually a pretty fantastic issue to have.
We go to work every day and do laundry and drink coffee like grownups supposedly do, but really we're giant teenagers that have created a veritable renaissance of all things child-like and comforting: comic books, cartoons, wearing stupid t-shirts.. We call ourselves Eleanor or Edward to hide the Ellie and the Ed that just want to wear onesies and watch Spongebob, dammit. In the same vein, graffiti has grown up too, it goes to auction houses and exhibitions, it calls itself Street Art with a capital S and A, but thankfully it has lost none of the mischief and expression that we once knew and loved. Above all, it still belongs to our generation.
In the last fifteen years, Houston has seen a 49% increase in college graduates ages 24-34, with the rate of young educated people moving to the city one of the highest in the entire US. At the end of last year, it was voted one of the top 15 hottest places to live for young people by Business Insider Magazine. One of the primary reasons for this? In my humble opinion, it's the urban art movement and all its connotations of hip, young, easy coolness (is there a word less cool than "cool", sorry) that is attracting a younger crowd at long last.
As an art lover that moved here from New Orleans just a few months ago, I was ready to hate this place for its drabness. So i'll be honest, driving through town and seeing a barrage of urban art that ranges from the gorgeous work of Aerosol Warfare such as the Houston is.... mural featured on my homepage, to the graffitied tattoo studios of Midtown and Montrose, was a tremendous relief. And it's not just the usual inner-loop areas either, Adickes' We Love Houston sign (pictured) is out on the Katy Freeway, for example, and thanks to city planners Johnson's Development Corp. we are starting to see public art infiltrating the suburbs, too.
From April of this year, Johnson's are beginning their integration of art and urban development with the construction of large-scale metal sculptures by Massachusetts-based artist Dale Rogers. Four such works will go up in Fort Bend County, Montgomery County and League City communities. For a city that doesn't give its suburbs a lot of love aesthetically or culturally, this is a huge step in the right direction.
All in all, we need to keep this cycle going. Allow the young some creative freedom and more will come. Above all, don't be afraid to let our childish side show as a city, because acting young will keep us young, right?
Stay tuned for a list of the best ten public artworks in Houston to see this month, coming soon!
<< That's me, looking kind of crazy in front of Tom duBois' Soul Fly at his current exhibition Visions of Enlightenment at the Muir Fine Art Gallery. A cool piece, and a cool guy, just FYU.
I may not be an experienced blogger (yet), but I have the kind of obsession with the visual arts that makes my significant other sidle away from me at museum exhibitions, as I descend into full geek-mode. Seeing my favorite artists at a museum is what i would imagine music fanatics experience seeing their favorite musicians in concert.. lame, maybe, but i've always found having a interest in something gives meaning back to life that apathy all too often sucks out of it.
Anyway, a little about me... I moved to this lovely city of Houston in January 2015. I am originally from England, have travelled all over Europe, and lived in Venice and New Orleans, two of the most art-filled and unique cities in the world. So, I have to say the move to H-Town made me nervous... it has such a bad wrap doesn't it?? I live for all things quirky, beautiful, and original, and never imagined I would find it here in this concrete jungle of skyscrapers and desolate commuters.... Was I wrong? Yes, actually.
Follow my blog and I will show you all the incredible nooks and undiscovered gems of this diamond in the furiously polished not-so-rough as i discover them. Watch this space Y'ALL!
British-born arts blogger living in Houston, Tx. A mixture of Street Art, Fine Art, Installation, and anything weird and wonderful. Follow me if that sounds like your cup of tea.