Unlike the stuffier Armory Show, the Fountain Art Fair is known for showing avant-garde work by emerging artists. Street artists dominated the show this year, filling the Fountain’s new venue– the cavernous Armory building– with giant murals, a graffiti-covered van, prints and posters representing their work on the streets.
With street art thoroughly in the mainstream, artists are finding new ways to create salable objects from an art form that is by nature transitory. I had the chance to speak to several street artists at Fountain and gained insight into their work.
Mobile street art
Several Montreal-based street artists affiliated with the Station 16 print shop were live painting at Fountain. I spoke with Fred Caron of the En Masse collective drawing project, which holds live drawing events with both local and Montreal artists. Caron and others were turning a van into a black-and-white mobile mural at the Fountain show.
Caron explained that each artist has his own vision, and they do not plan as a group what the artwork will look like. He finds inspiration from the local sites and enjoys the collaborative process.
Live mural painting
Nearby at Fountain, another Montreal artist, Adam (What Is Adam) was working on a group street mural. Adam also has several prints for sale at the Station 16 booth, including a pop art-inspired take on the classic Canadian syrup cans (scroll down for image).
At the Armory entrance, American artist Ian Ross spent Friday afternoon and part of the evening painting a large abstract mural.
Ross has collaborated with En Masse before and is an efficient worker. He had finished the mural by the time I left the fair on Friday!
The final work was a city scape surrounded by whimsical lines. I didn’t have the chance to speak with the artist about it since he had stepped away when I left the show. Like many works of street art, its exact meaning will remain a mystery.
Artist LNY weaves current political themes into his art, which can be seen at New Jersey’s Solo(s) Project House or on the streets of New York City. His recent work explores the symbolism of eagles, which represent male dominance and are the official symbols of the United States, Egypt, Mexico and Colombian guerrilla groups (the latter is shown above).
Taking inspiration from the Egyptian revolution, LNY created a large, mounted wheat-pasting showing a young man in eagle headdress with arrows in his chest, clutching a mobile phone– an object that came to symbolize this Facebook-driven revolution.
Due to the nature of his work, LNY is camera shy and will not provide his name; however, you can visit the LNY website to learn more about his art.
Despite the popularity of street art, which has become so mainstream it was recently the focus of a Simpsons episode, artists working in the medium still face a challenge: how to turn a temporary, public work of art into an object that can be sold.
Montreal street artist What Is Adam, who was live painting at the Fountain Art Fair, created a wall of paper bags printed with images of maple syrup cans– a clear tribute to Andy Warhol’s pop art.
Prints by street artists cover the walls of the Station 16 booth; these are not simply photos of street art but works created by street artists specifically for the poster format.
Brooklyn’s Mighty Tanaka gallery represents innovative artists, including those known for their work on the New York City streets. At their Fountain booth, artist Toofly plays with the idea of street art as a commodity with his work “Getting Over.” For $500, you can buy this miniature subway car covered with his graffiti. It’s the perfect gift for art lovers who get nostalgic fort the mass-tagging of MTA vehicles in the 1980s but can’t fit an actual train in their living room.