GalleriesRe:PublicStreet

Last Night at Wynwood Walls: Fairey, Stelios Faitakis, Los Gêmeos, Swoon & Sissy Bounce

by Hrag Vartanian on December 4, 2009

Big Freedia and his booty bouncers send the audience into a frenzy.

New Orleans' Big Freedia and his booty bouncers send the audience into a feeding frenzy.

There is no way to prepare for the massive amounts of art that makes its way to Miami for the fairs. While the large fairs are the focal point of the week, there are also dozens of smaller venues and gatherings.

A collaboration by Deitch Projects and Goldman Properties, Wynwood Walls came onto my radar after a tip that a tranny rapper from New Orleans was performing that night — I couldn’t resist checking it out.

Swoon and Aiko (center) shake their groove thangs to the queerest NOLA music ever, Sissy Bounce (click to enlarge)

Swoon and Aiko (center) shake their groove thangs to the queerest NOLA music ever, Sissy Bounce (click to enlarge)

After a quick cab ride from South Beach, I stepped out to discover massive wall murals created by artists associated with Deitch Projects (Shepard Fairey, Swoon, Los Gêmeos … ). They were brash and graphic but more about that in a moment.

The main focus for my attention was Big Freedia, who is part of New Orleans’ Sissy Bounce music scene. What is Sissy Bounce? Imagine queercore rap mixed with hip hop and you can picture what I mean.

While the music was energetic and contagious, all eyes — including mine — were affixed to the curvaceous women who danced with the singer, their bountiful booties were a miracle to behold.

I looked around at the crowd to discover what I would expect to see at any street art event: culture punks, hipsters, new media types, and the people who love them. To my left was Jeffrey Deitch (pic), to my right was Swoon, Gaia, Aiko and a slew of other artists. I spotted Martha Cooper, who had fallen asleep in a chair by the entrance gate, but was nowhere to be seen after that point.

My first response to Big Freedia’s performance was negative. I thought it felt exploitative, but slowly my hesitation melted away and I started to read it as a queer restaging of the absurdity of the posturing characteristic of heterosexual male hip hop artists. Big Freedia didn’t come across as aggressive or egotistic but a little coy (she didn’t make a lot of eye contact with the crowd) and infused with a cosmopolitan sound. Highly recommended.

Deitch Murals

Worshipping at the temple of Fairey (click to enlarge)

Worshiping at the temple of Fairey (click to enlarge)

The murals themselves were an impressive feat. Dietch has chosen a large compound in the center of the Wynwood district, which is adjacent to a popular neighborhood restaurant, Joe’s Italian.

Fairey’s wall was the most impressive visually. He’s obviously learned an effective monumental language but it did feel a little canned. The torn transitions between images is an old artistic technique that deadens the overall effect when it is overused — which it was.

Stelios Faitakis' contribution to Wynwood Walls

Stelios Faitakis' contribution to Wynwood Walls was a showstopper (click to enlarge)

The biggest surprise was the mural by Stelios Faitakis. The Athens-based artist mines the language of Byzantine painting and uses it to render contemporary-ish scenes that look more metaphoric than narrative. The central action of this work is a siege at some city gates but the surrounding actions were less clear.

A detail of the wall by Os Gêmeos on NW 2 Ave (click to enlarge)

A detail of the wall by Os Gêmeos on NW 2 Ave (click to enlarge)

The mural by the Brazilian twins, Os Gêmeos, was on one of the most public walls on the compound (it appeared on the street). Filled with their characteristic figures and surrealist imagery, I thought the work showed more signs of Asian pop culture influence than I ever remember seeing in their work. Something about the work didn’t come together and I felt interested in elements of the composition but not the mural as a whole — it felt too sweet and sugary.

A word probably by Jim Drain and Ara Peterson at one of the warehouse space at Wynwood Walls

CORRECTED: A work by Ben Jones at one of Wynwood Walls' warehouse spaces.

Other murals were by Futura (which resembles a bad 1950s abstract painting), Aiko (more of the same), Kenny Scharf (rather clever but it looked unfinished), Nunca (quite nice) and others.

A work by Swoon in one of Wynwood Walls' main warehouse gallery

A work by Swoon in one of Wynwood Walls' main warehouse gallery

In the large warehouse spaces there was other art work by the same artists. A large piece by Swoon and another by Ben Jones (there were no labels by the works) stood out.

I have to admit that Wynwood Walls was a lucky find.

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  • http://www.domybookstore.com Russell

    “A word probably by Jim Drain and Ara Peterson at one of Wynwood Walls’ warehouse spaces.” — should be credited to Ben Jones … thanks for the update.

  • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

    Thanks for letting me know…I wish there were wall tags.

  • http://www.edelaville.com Elena De La Ville

    These are great pics, Hrag!… I did not get to see these events, to busy being somewhere else, then…. I also loved the socks you wore to the Art Bloggers panel, wish I had a pic, though.. YEAH !!! SOCKS

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      Thanks for noticing…socks are important to me :) One of the small luxuries in life I enjoy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rustylazer Rusty Lazer

    Hi, I’m Rusty Lazer, the DJ for Big Freedia at that Wynwood Show. Thanks for writing about us, it’s nice to know that people who were there were moved. I think your reaction to Freedia is a common one, but those of us from New Orleans know her to be part of a larger movement of gay/trans rappers that call themselves Sissies (thus informally giving birth to their own sub genre of “Bounce” music called (affectionately) “Sissy Bounce”).

    They’re queer artists working in an environment that not only supports them but has driven them to the top of New Orleans’ rap scene. Shows by Big Freedia, Katey Red, Sissy Nobby and Vockah Redu are the best attended rap shows (by gays and straights) in the city and their songs routinely break out at number one on the major local rap stations.

    It’s so much fun to bring this stuff to the outside world and Deitch’s generosity meant a lot to us…as does your commentary…
    Thanks so much,
    Rusty

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      So glad to contribute in any way I can but you guys deserve major props, since you guys are awesome.

  • Bia Garcia

    Hi.
    About the brazilian twins’ work at the Wynwood walls, this “something” that doesn’t come together is maybe because it’s a team work. Not only osgemeos, but Nina Pandolfo and Finok had worked on it. The sweetness lovely part is Pandolfo’s contribution :)

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      So, it was a collaboration with others?

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