Streetwise

Slick, a native of Hawaii, painted this mural on the exterior of the Museum of Graffiti in Miami. 

Photo courtesy Museum of Grafitti. 

Its earliest practitioners were considered criminals, but now the work of some graffiti artists hangs in the nation’s most prestigious museums.

After society’s initial outrage over acts of vandalism in the name of creativity, art enthusiasts begrudgingly acknowledged that some wayward, urban painters were genuinely gifted. Over time, graffiti and street art earned a place in prestigious collections, private galleries and museums like the Museum of
Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

While graffiti is often viewed as an American-born genre, Michael Rooks, a curator of modern and contemporary art at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, provides some historical context. “Graffiti and street art have their origins in the history of 20th century art — from Dada wherein text replaced image to inveigh against WWI on the streets of Zürich, to the Mexican muralist movement’s large-scale murals in post-revolution Mexico City, to Les Affichistes artists whose affiches lacérées (layers of torn posters and advertisements) were literally sourced from the streets and walls of post-WWII Paris.” 

The evolution of American street art has been well documented in L.A. and New York, but the acceptance of this form of artistic expression has also occurred in Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco. 

“Bunny Kitty’s Dreamstate Room” is a vibrant, playful work from artist Persue.

Photo courtesy Museum of Graffiti. 

Some street artists are commissioned as muralists, a transition that monetizes and legitimizes their work, before eventually being discovered by curators. Ultimately, gallery representation leads to their art appearing in chic restaurants, hotels and private collections. Artists like Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Shepard Fairey — all once confined to the fringes of the art world — became creative celebrities. In L.A., the exclusive fashion boutique of Elyse Walker features artwork by RETNA, one of the most prominent local street artists, while superchef David Chang hangs the work of David Choe in Majordomo, his popular downtown restaurant. The city’s Mayfair Hotel features the work of a different street artist on every floor — resulting in diverse visual experiences for guests — and is a tribute to the depth of talent in the region.

The historic Mayfair, site of the first post-Academy Awards party in 1929, has been transformed into a trendy setting showcasing street art, curated by artist-in-residence Kelly “RISK” Graval. The Louisiana-born artist became one of L.A.’s most influential graffiti stylists and was among the pioneering artists to transition from the street to the gallery, as well as entering the worlds of fashion design and music video.

RISK’s own work is represented by a Buddha-inspired installation on the second floor and one of his murals will eventually soar above the 15th-floor pool deck. “I selected my “Metallic Tissue” series, which consists of a body of work that I paint on panels built out of repurposed spray cans,” reports RISK, who states, “They’re my imprint on society as an artist, my DNA.” He also installed some of his unique neon work in the lobby, which suits the vintage of the building. Overall, nearly 100 pieces throughout the hotel represent the diversity of L.A.-based graffiti artists and muralists like DEFER, Billy Morrison and Shepard Fairey, whose breakout work was the Barack Obama “Hope” imagery from the 2008 presidential campaign.

“There was a time when graffiti artists were a small underground subculture,” explains RISK, but adds, “The powerfully dynamic art sparked a younger generation and it exploded.” He acknowledges that street art festivals and museum exhibits helped elevate the genre within the polite corridors of the art world, but that true recognition has been stubborn.

Neon work from RISK, the artist-in-residence at The Mayfair Hotel in L.A.      Photo courtesy the Mayfair Hotel. 

This untitled painting of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $110.5 million at auction. Photo courtesy Museum of Graffiti.

“It was time for a new generation to take over. The old guard and practices of art began to change,” insists RISK, who suggests progressive hoteliers are helping idiosyncratic artists to find an audience. “Hotel art was becoming stale, kind of like Muzak in elevators in the ’80s, and needed a new approach,” says the veteran artist. “Boutique hotels like The Mayfair are ahead of the curve and breathe fresh air into an exciting future for art, artists, and art enthusiasts,” says RISK.

 Roger Gastman, an urban anthropologist and historian, is a leading authority on street art who counts The History of American Graffiti and Street World: Urban Art and Culture from Five Continents among his 50 books. Gastman remembers his own discovery of self-expression — through a spray paint can in the early 1990s — as a defining moment in his young life.

Gastman, whose first book, Free Agents: A History of Washington, D.C. Graffiti, documented the local culture he experienced in his youth, reports there is a distinction between graffiti and street art. “Graffiti is very name-based, very ego-driven, while street art is more image-based and involves additional tools and techniques,” says Gastman, but notes that both have their roots in vandalism. “Street art is a safer name and is more digestible to the public, but graffiti and street art are kissing cousins on the same playing field,” he muses.

“So much of this work is fantastic and deserves to be seen in a different light, collected and respected,” says Gastman, who laments, “A majority of galleries and museums still don’t accept this kind of art, look at it seriously or believe it should be shown.” Demographics, however, are driving attitudes, suggests Gastman. “People in their 30s and 40s grew up with graffiti, tattooing and skateboarding — it’s everywhere, in fashion, music and advertising — and it resonates with them.”   

Last year, Gastman spearheaded the New York edition of Beyond the Streets, a massive 100,000-square-foot exhibition of prominent graffiti artists in Brooklyn, following a similar event in L.A. in 2018. “We basically built our own museum and 200,000 people walked through the doors,” he explains, adding, “It showcased graffiti and street artists, giving them respect and presenting their history in the proper light.”

Miami, whose Wynwood Arts District is defined by vibrant, multicultural murals, is a city with a strong tradition of street art, and its Museum of Graffiti pays homage to the approachable medium. Museum co-founder Allison Freidin explains, “Our goal is to celebrate a group of artists previously marginalized because of the stigma associated with graffiti,” and reports the Miami institution is the only one in the world exclusively dedicated to graffiti art. “Previously, there was no place to learn about these artists,” she adds.

Above: The “Wet Paint” exhibit at the Museum of Graffiti in Miami, from artist Persue. Photo courtesy Museum of Graffiti.

At Right: “Party Felix” by Seen, one of many artists showcased at L.A.’s Mayfair Hotel. Photo courtesy the Mayfair Hotel.

Explaining its location in a former shoe warehouse in Wynwood, Freidin reports, “The district’s relevance in the past 10 years is a product of the graffiti art that transformed a sleepy industrial neighborhood into the world-class arts destination it has become,” noting the windowless warehouses made ideal canvases for street artists. The Museum of Graffiti’s own building is entirely wrapped in 14 different murals by acclaimed local and international artists like Shoe, EZO and Abstrk. 

The museum’s interior galleries feature rotating exhibits such as a recent compelling vignette from artist Persue, who famously removed the “Wet Paint” signs that New York City transit workers used to tape to subway cars after painting over graffiti art. Persue sent more than 70 of those very placards to artists around the world to use as canvases, all of which were incorporated into an exhibit whose physical design resembled a New York subway station platform.

Freidin explains that Miami’s graffiti art movement began in the early 1980s when some youth who got into trouble in New York were sent to South Florida to live with grandmothers or aunts. Insisting there is no way to repress the energies of an artist, Freidin reports, “The art erupted like a vengeance.”

The museum co-founder applauds the success of local graffiti artists like José Parlá, whose work moved from the streets of Miami to a mural inside Manhattan’s One World Trade Center, as well as multiple museum exhibitions and commissions in Tokyo, London and Havana. “He was immensely talented and continued to put in the work despite the stigma associated with graffiti art as vandalism,” says Freidin, who adds, “He’s probably one of the biggest names in contemporary art in the world.”

It was not easy for some museum curators to persuade their boards of directors that people previously labeled as vandals should be showcased in world-class fine arts facilities, but Freidin maintains society has evolved. She offers the former criminalization of marijuana as an analogy, citing its progression from disdain to broad acceptance. “It takes forward-thinking arts enthusiasts to take a risk,” and reports major corporations are hiring these artists as creative directors. “They recognize the power of this art,” says Freidin. 

Robert Michael Provenzano, professionally known as CES, is a leading graffiti stylist whose signature aesthetic is now influencing the generation of artists currently emerging from the streets. His art, which began almost 40 years ago in his native Bronx, repeatedly got him into trouble as a young man, but after being flown to Munich to demonstrate his craft at a museum he realized there was a market for his skills. “My friends and I used to have to steal supplies, but now I’m a sponsored artist by a paint company in Barcelona,” says CES of how attitudes toward graffiti art have changed.

CES has since earned commissions from Nike and Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, in addition to collaborating on a mural adjacent to Miami’s Museum of Graffiti, where he was recently headlined. He finds it ironic that the artistic expression that was so strongly discouraged when he was a teenager is now a source of pride for his family. “I had no idea that if I stuck with it all those years, the whole world was gonna dig it,” reports CES.

The High Museum’s Michael Rooks notes, “The migration of some graf artists into the mainstream via museum collections and exhibitions underscores a familiarity with the language of the street that is widely recognized among urban audiences, as well as the influential role it has on global visual culture today.”  He adds, “A fulcrum point in the migration from the street to the museum has to do with an artist’s knowledge and understanding of this legacy and ability to speak with urgency and artistry to contemporaneity.” 

The ultimate measure of acceptance of art is the monetary value it commands in the marketplace. In 2017, an untitled work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, who began his career spray-painting walls in Lower Manhattan, sold for $110.5 million to a Japanese billionaire at auction, eclipsing his own personal record of $57.3 million.

Whether working in busy urban studios or quiet countryside spaces, there’s no denying that makers and creators remain an integral part of Ireland’s culture and workforce. From painted canvas and chiseled stone to woven tapestries and hand-sewn clothing, the art of the handmade item is alive and well.

In fact, General Paints Group is telling the story of what it means to craft and create in Ireland in the only way it knows how: through color.

The company’s new Curator collection features 144 unique paint colors developed and sourced from artists who focus their creative endeavors in Ireland. The palette presents everything from neutral hues that speak to the quiet woodlands of West Cork to bolder shades that evoke the country’s strength and spunk.

“From the very beginning, we wanted to make a collection that was authentic, special and genuine,” says Rachel O’Connor, expert director for General Paints Group and one of the developers of the Curator brand. “[The artists] all had colors that really meant something to them and inspired their work. And for a lot of their work, their muse was Ireland and our lovely landscape.”

O’Connor, who is also heading up Curator’s U.S. presence, says that develop-ing and sourcing the palette was a nearly five-year journey. After extensive searching, the team worked with 29 Irish designers and artisans to discover the history and heritage behind the colors that inspired them. Although the concept of the palette changed along the way, O’Connor says the goal of capturing “the passion they bring into their work” remained a driving force

 

O’Connor, who is part of the third generation of General Paints Group’s 65-year history, also points to her company’s own entrepreneurial spirit as part of the collection’s inspiration.

“We’ve always had an admiration for artists and craftspeople. Many are solo entrepreneurs who are doing what they love. We worked with a broad range of artists — potters, millers, sculptors — and although they’re all different, they had one thing in common, and that was color,” she says.

 

Ronnie Graham.

O’Connor speaks fondly of the stories within the pigment and describes some of the bolder colors in the palette. There’s Ancient Black, inspired from the creations of sculptor Ronnie Graham. O’Connor describes the lore of this deep, moody color as “haunting and mystical.”

“[Ronnie] works with what’s called buried oak — it’s oak that’s been buried in a bog for thousands and thousands of years. During the preservation process it turns a beautiful charcoal color,” O’Connor says. “Ronnie believes it emits a mystical power — and he tries to capture that in his sculptures. Interestingly, it’s been one of the most popular colors in our market.”

The Curator collection was intentionally designed to easily discover and combine complementary shades. Here, Ancient Black is paired with Kerr’s Pink and Rose Mantel.

Carol Cronin.

O’Connor also suggests the colors can be used seasonally — such as on flower boxes and planters, furniture or even doors; she describes charming Irish neighborhoods with bright pink, turquoise and other colors adorning the front doors of homes. “But we don’t like to be too prescriptive. There’s no such thing as a wrong color combination,” she adds.

Even the palette’s more traditional hues have a story that is anything but. Horseshoe, for example, is a stone-gray shade, aptly named for Horseshoe Mountain in County Sligo, Ireland, that inspires pottery artist John Ryan.

O’Connor’s personal favorite paint is also bright and bold: Running Tides, a bril-liant aquamarine unique to the seascape paintings of Irish artist Carol Cronin, who has captured the Atlantic Ocean on canvas for decades. (“You might think you could get bored of painting waves, but [her works] are stunning,” O’Connor says.) These brighter, livelier shades off er the “pop of color” that O’Connor sees throughout the commercial interior design market. 

“People are starting to be less afraid of taking risks with pops of color. We’re seeing a lot of restaurants, hotels and public spaces take bolder risks. We think it’s a great trend,” she says.

 

The collection boasts shades like Pulled Rhubarb, Tailored Tweed and Dried Kelp (painted on chairs left to right) that ad richness and depth to ordinary spaces.

John Ryan.

“[Ryan] is immersed in the landscape surrounding his workshop, and it inspires these stunning creations,” O’Connor says of the potter’s handmade ceramics. “The color really shines through in his work.”

The collection made its U.S. debut ear-lier this spring in Connecticut and arrives on the West Coast in the fall, including southern California, Portland, Oregon; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Seattle.

 

 

Ultimately, the collection aims to not only honor these artists, but to inspire others to use color to express creativity and passion, says O’Connor. And in a way, that allows the consumer to play curator and tell their own story.

“The collection [is a] showcase of Irish craft and talent, but it goes beyond that,” O’Connor explains. “I think home is deeply personal to people. You want it to reflect your identity and personal style. When you bring a color into your home, you’re looking for more than just paint. In our collection, every color has a meaning and personality. [It’s] allowing the customers to be their own curator.”

The collection is currently sold at Ring’s End as well as McDermott Paint & Wallpaper in Connecticut, and is also available for purchase at curator.com.

All photos and featured photo courtesy of General Paints Group / Curator.

This post originally appeared in the Fall ’19 edition of The High End.

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The color green symbolizes life, renewal, harmony and growth and is set to steal the limelight for the year ahead. With people getting busier and the increase of screen time for work, this calming color is a gentle nudge to unwind and rejuvenate.

Reminiscent of nature and the outdoors, using green in the home also serves as a reminder to be more eco-friendly and sustainable where possible.

Rebecca Snowden, Interior Style Advisor at Furniture Choice Ltd., shares 4 ways to bring this color into the home.

Use green as a feature wall color 

Serene and soothing, green makes for a great feature wall color. From darker shades like emerald green to brighter hues like apple green, the color offers many psychological benefits. These include helping to induce relaxation and serenity, as well as giving off feelings of optimism and growth. 

Because of its benefits, this color and its many shades can be applied to many different rooms.

For example, home offices can benefit from a green feature wall as it helps soothe tired eyes. Similarly, sage green is a relaxing color that’s perfect for a bedroom feature wall, as it creates a calm and airy atmosphere that’s lighthearted and uplifting. 

Some other accessories and textures to consider are jute, leafy plants and candles for relaxation. And where there are windows, choose sheer white curtains to allow sunlight in while maintaining some level of privacy. “The natural light will also cast a lovely glow on the sage green wall and give the color a little pop,” Snowden says.

 

 

Pastels are the perfect lighter alternative

On the pastel front, neo mint is set to be very fashionable in 2020. “It’s young, fresh, energetic – great for pairing with an equally sunny color like coral,” says Snowden. “Brighten up a small space or designate separate functional areas by way of color blocked walls.”

Balance the boldness of neo mint walls with simple, neutral furniture like a white bed. Select furniture with slim legs and clean silhouettes to achieve a clean look. Alternatively, layer on rugs and cushions within the same palette for a maximalist approach.

Statements pieces are key

Make a statement for the new year and invest in larger green pieces, such as an elegant green velvet sofa. The sumptuous material enhances the richness of an emerald green and adds depth to a space. To those anxious to make such a bold choice, Snowden notes that “a green velvet sofa is easier to pull off than you might think. It is incredibly chic and luxurious yet laid back enough to suit most interiors.” 

Style with brass finished planters or side tables for a lavish look, or matching dark wood furniture for something classic and cosy. “Bold yet versatile, a green velvet sofa is easy to dress for the seasons and set to become a talking point of the home,” she says.

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Live green plants are the best accessories for decorating the home in shades of green. Some help clean the air and release more oxygen for easier breathing while others bear fruit for eating. Mix and match plants of different green shades for depth and interest in the home. 

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No matter the lifestyle, wellness and the pursuit to live better has been a rising trend in today’s world. In 2018, Pinterest reported that searches for “self care” were up 140 percent year-over-year, with no mention of stopping. Recently surveyed by national paint brand Sherwin-Williams, homeowners and professional interior designers have also noticed this uptick in wellness and how it affects modern home design and décor. Looking to make your spaces “healthier”? Check out these recent trends to see how you can incorporate wellness into your home styling.

Self-Caring for Your Space

People are taking self-care beyond their body and into interiors. According to the survey, nearly 42 percent of designers say they have been asked to incorporate self-care into their designs. Twenty-nine percent of homeowners also take self-care into consideration when decorating their home. 

The most popular way to bring wellness into a space also happens to be one of the easiest — natural light. Eighty-seven percent of designers use natural light to effortlessly reflect wellness.

 

Photo by Daria Shevtsova

Breathe It In

Improving indoor air quality is key for homeowners and designers looking to make changes. Over 54 percent of homeowners cite air quality as away they bring wellness into their homes, and 58 percent of designers use it as a tool to incorporate wellness. 

Limiting volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that are released through building materials is one of the best ways to improve air quality. This is done by using lower-VOC paints and other home improvement products that are sustainably sourced and have a low-carbon footprint.

Photo by Anamul Rezwan.

Color

When it comes to color, designers and homeowners do not see eye to eye on their top color choice that represents or stimulates wellness. Nearly 41 percent of designers say that green associates the most with wellness, whereas 34 percent of homeowners believe this color to be blue. Another popular color is white/gray, which 11 percent of designers and 18 percent of homeowners associate with the trend.

The color least likely to be associated with wellness? Red. Not a single designer and only 1 percent of homeowners reported that they associate this hue with wellness.

 

Photo by Pixabay.

Total Zen

In regard to specific spaces that are designed to promote wellness, homeowners different on their choice of which space was the best to achieve “total zen.” The top choices included a gym/fitness room (41 percent), a reading room (41 percent), and a greenhouse (38 percent). These choices differed from designers, who say that the most popular wellness rooms they’ve been asked to design in the past year include a reading room, a sauna/spa, a gym/fitness room, or a meditation room. 

No matter the space, these insights into the wellness trends of today may better help you to find the wellness you crave from the comfort of your own home.

 

Photo by KatjaFiona.

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