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.
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.
“Berlin-prettier than ever!” beckons the 1947 prop art poster for Soviet East Berlin’s 5-year plan for the rebuilding of social housing and infrastructure following the devastation of the Allies’ bombardment and the Soviet invasion.
Distance provides perspective. Unpacking our mental suitcase from a recent summer holiday in graffitti-bedighted East Berlin, we edit snapshots, positioning them for inevitable comparisons to our own living situation, in our own neighborhood in the Western Addition considering topics of street art, gentrification, bicycles, social housing, memorials and population relocation.
The changes in Berlin have been cataclysmic. A city of 4.5 million in 1939, the population now stands at 3.5 million, 25% un-occupied, uncrowded and affordable. For those with connections to Eastern European immigrants, the absence of a vibrant Jewish culture in Berlin is a palpable loss. The World War and Cold War past is still present in the empty lots, the bullet-pocked plaster, the missing windows, and graffitied squats standing side by side with chic window displays, hot clubs, cool condos and high art.