Keith Haring the artist–anarchist, culture thief, populist, provocateur, successful entrepreneur, and accused sell-out–a renaissance man for the 80’s–slumps on the NYC subway with his spontaneous subway chalk art behind between graffiti and commercial advertising.
A startling example of adaptive re-use Berlin’s Teufelsberg (or Devil’s Mountain) provides Berlin with the best in all-season sports activity. Recognized among the premier spots for freeride mountain biking in Germany, these popular slopes rising from the forest of Grünewald also provide the very best snow sports, para-gliding and longboarding in Berlin, a modest claim at 377 feet above sea level. Still, as the highest point in the Berlin area it affords spectacular 360 degree visibility of city and surrounding countryside.
Pictured here is not a new anti-graffiti effort by San Francisco’s Public Works Department. As if the neighborhood hasn’t become white enough, Absolut Vodka has come to town with its artistic promotion of inebriation “Open Canvas” whitewashing San Francisco’s Divisadero Corridor between Hayes and Grove to create a blank canvas for the work of selected artists while providing the Vodka an advertisement in the form of a news event.
Before last summer we had visited East and West Berlin in 1985 and looked forward to seeing the changes that occurred in the 23 years since the Fall of the Wall on November 9, 1989. Our cultural subconscious held a cache of images of horrid truths and heartless propaganda: juddering film clips of goose-stepping Nazis and skeletal prisoners, Walter Cronkite’s TV voice over of the Wall’s construction, and AP photos of East Berlin escapees in mid-air jumping to freedom or death from walls and walled buildings. The images form a deep, muddy cold-war pool from which the vitality of modern Berlin emerges, staggering out of the emotional depth and intellectual complexity.
The marks of last centuries’ history, written with bullets, bombs and barbed wire, still remain visible in places but disappear quickly with the massive new architectural construction of the last two decades. This March protests arose over the demolishing of a long and fantastically graffitied vestige of the Berlin Wall, called the East Side Gallery (listed below), to make way for luxury condos–this in a city only 3/4 occupied. Formerly a symbol of oppression, the Wall has been claimed as a battle trophy by artists and activists who have repossessed the emotional weight of the Wall’s history as a symbol of self expression and threatened freedom. Among the works at the East Side Gallery Dmitri Vrubel’s street art perversely commemorates Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev’s historic kiss, passionately celebrating the 30th anniversary of Soviet control of East Germany, “My God. Help Me Survive This Deadly Love”.
At San Francisco’s Vinyl Coffee and Wine Bar at Fell and Divisidero big bucks are paid for the Banksy-like work of Eddie Colla top and X’s “Thank you, Andy” at right. The art successfully gives Vinyl some insider street cred in a traffic-challenged location.
Last summer’s trip to Berlin, City of Graffiti, has us thinking about the lively yet criminal place of graffiti in the community. The Berkeley Arts Museum visits the subject in Barry McGee’s exhibit of constructions, sketches and graffiti art closing December 9th, 2012. The museum building itself is not to be missed, as it too is subject to closure as an art museum in 2015 as a result of ever-stiffening seismic requirements anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Big One. Meanwhile, the building’s impending loss as a dramatic and now-unrepeatable gallery space is a tragic and crushing blow.