Sometimes, you need to take fate into your own hands and cut out the middlemen. That’s the case with Freedom Print Lab, which is run by a few Filipino streetwear heads who were finished waiting for other people to get anything done. “We got tired of relying on outside printing suppliers and their schedules,” says co-owner Zei Tacasa. “So we were basically just like, fuck this, and started our own thing.” Now they run a busy silkscreen shop supplying a host of local brands.
Akomplice clothing released a new collection this week called “Peace Vs. Piece,” which tackles the daunting issue of gun violence in the US. The lookbook, shot in a California cemetery, features a young model named Duke Abraham, signifying that, “The youth can be the victim or the perpetrator, and are often those most affected.”
Twenty-two stories tall. Eighty gallons of house paint. One hundred cans of spray paint. One artist, no assistants. Twenty-four days. That’s quite a feat alone, but throw in an earthquake and now you’ve really got yourself a story. “Every day felt like a near death experience,” Archie Oclos laughs, recalling his time painting the country’s tallest mural last month. “But when the earthquake hit, I was on the scaffolding 12 stories up. The gondola was swinging and banging me against the wall. But once it was over I just kept painting, I had to finish it!”
Air Jordan 1s. The OGs! Today head honcho Kayo Cosio unboxes a pristine pair for our inaugural ‘Opening Act’ series. The ‘NYC to Paris’ Jordan Brand and Nike SB collabo bring together basketball and skateboarding culture in an ode to their shared histories. These scrape-off, high-top sneakers feature a thin outer layer of smooth paint designed to wear away, revealing another colorway beneath.
As high-speed internet gallops across the world, the moving image is changing the way we consume media, including music. In the Philippines, the popularity of rap has skyrocketed along with the rise of Youtube, like so many other regions. Viewers are drawn not only to fire lyrics and hard beats but also waves of fashion and intense visuals. Bawal Clan has been earning their place as a crew within the scene here for over a year now and their videos have been central to their climb. Miguel Aragon is the man behind many of them, including the “4 Door Honda” visuals, their first single off the new album Nightmare On 66.
When looking at photos of Dezio’s work closely cropped, they resemble small paintings on canvas with thick brushstrokes layered on top of each other. Wide, colorful ones in the background and skinny ones on top, their textures gleaming. But really, they’re large murals painted with spray paint on walls. It’s an explicit goal of his, taking the fluid motions of raw strokes and scaling them up in what are normally very flat works that miss texture. “In my graffiti, I started to do a lot more brush strokes you can tell like those big brush strokes and like trying to in a way put back the creation and the movement,” the Shanghai-based artist says while in Hong Kong as part of the HKWalls street art festival.
Kill Choy is an American living in Mexico creating woodblock carvings and street art, situated in a very localized scene in Mexico City. Given this context, you might not guess that she’s actually Filipina. Until recently anyway. A lot of her new works delve deeply into Philippines history and mythology, unfolding in epic battle scenes and tales of lore.
One piece tells the story of Mount Mayon and another the battle of Battle of Mactan. “I’ve become very familiar with Mexican culture and art since moving here five years ago, but realized I don’t have that familiarity with the Philippines because I was born in the US,” she says over Skype, a batok-style tattoo snaking out from under her shirt collar. “So as I made this series revolving around Filipino art, I was teaching myself my ancestors’ history.”
The art of the mural often resides in compromise. Giant public paintings that thousands of people need to see and live with every day already require a sensitivity that gallery art is free from. Throw in government bureaucracy and conservative landlords and an artist’s options dwindle even further. But it’s a challenge that the Low Bros relish. This German street art super duo are well versed in these challenges and what they’ve learned along the way has even influenced their personal works.
Recently the brothers came to our side of town for the HKwalls festival and immediately ran into hurdles. Their final piece, a tranquil swimming pool with 64-bit objects, early 90s computer app windows, and wild pixelation was not their original plan but one that took some rushed and nervous negotiation. When they landed, they found out that the wall they originally planned to paint had been canceled and they would need to come up with a whole new sketch at the last minute which would then need approval. Something as simple as wet floor signs became hurdles, with the owner, whose building housed a public pool, complaining that they sent a negative message. But after some negotiation, Low Bros settled on smiley face signs and got the green light in time to finish the mural on schedule. Turns out that they have now started incorporating the smiley faces into more recent works too. “Shout out to the owner for collaborating!” laughs Flo, one of the two Low Bros. “It’s like a little acid rave object.”
Only novices leave a game of cards up to chance, and Secret Fresh has a decade of experience behind them already. Their most recent group show “Balasa” was a who’s who of street artists, all playing off a “deck of cards” theme. Using the idea of suicide kings and jokers as a template, over a dozen artists reinterpreted them in a variety of styles.
Some were quite literal, with twin kings of their own design, one upside down, and one upright. Others were more abstract, just shapes and haunted dreamscapes. It was a quick and fun collection of pieces that were mainly bold and immediate but often filled with a satisfying level of depth.
I only had a couple of hours to spend at Art Fair PH this year. It definitely wasn’t enough time to take in everything but I’m still glad I was able to go and have a good experience from it.
Here are my favorites from this year’s exhibits, dividing them into several categories that specifically speak to me.