Taking It to the Street
Florida-based duo pushes the boundaries of what people accept as art
Once defined by spray-painted tags on the side of subway cars and brick buildings, street art has transformed to include virtually any visual art that’s developed in a public place.
Worldwide, street artists like Banksy, Blek le Rat Blu and Alec Monopoly combine old-school graffiti with sculpture, stencils, woodblocking, sticker art, street installation and other techniques to vocalize dark humor, political and social commentary and satirical statements.
“At its core, street art is raw, uncensored expression delivered directly to the public,” said Steve Williams, owner of Florida Mining Gallery.
“We live in a branded world where large moneyed entities deliver messaging through consistent visual imagery,” Williams said. “These individual visual [street] artists essentially are doing the same thing, though with an intent to deliver a personal, political and/or philosophical statement.”
The gallery will host “POST,” an exhibition featuring street artist Swoon and the art collaborative MILAGROS (previously shown at the gallery in the summer of 2012).
Sometimes referred to as “post-graffiti” or “neo-graffiti,” street art is a global craft that can be found from Johannesburg, South Africa, and Auckland, New Zealand, to Helsinki, Finland, and Warsaw, Poland. It’s also gaining popularity in Northeast Florida.
MILAGROS, a Florida-based collective founded in 2008 by Felici Asteinza and Joey Fillastre, was recently awarded its first public art project in Downtown Jacksonville as a part of a larger urban renewal initiative by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville’s Art in Public Places.
The permanent mural, which will begin production in early April, has yet to be assigned a subject matter. The mural will display at the entrance of the Spark District, spanning the riverfront north to Duval Street, between Liberty and Hogan streets.
Both 26 years old and native Floridians, Asteinza and Fillastre met while attending Florida State University. In Tallahassee, the duo started painting together and working with various other collaborators. In 2010, they moved to Gainesville and co-founded the Church of Holy Colors, a gallery space on Main Street, with fellow visual artist Evan Galbicka.
“It is Spanish for 'miracles,' ” Asteinza and Fillastre explain of the name MILAGROS during a collaborative email interview. “When we make art, we are creating a transformative experience for people that is usually unexpected or a kind of surprise. In this way, the name has always felt right.”
Self-professed “road dogs,” MILAGROS is currently dividing time between Tampa and Jacksonville.
“We work on projects all over the country,” the twosome said. “We have a school bus that is converted into an RV that we’ll be traveling in after May. In the present, we are working with our friends Jourdan Joly and Phillip Fillastre at Harbinger to make work for our show.”
When asked if they’re romantically involved, MILAGROS answers, “We don’t believe in traditional gender roles or reinforcing societal binaries.”
MILAGROS will be joined at Florida Mining Gallery’s “POST” exhibit by Swoon, a highly regarded international street artist known for community activist-based works.
“We’ve been following Callie’s work for a few years now,” MILAGROS said. “We were fortunate enough to see her speak at FSU, and her projects have been an inspiration ever since. There are few contemporary artists that we admire, and Swoon is one of them. Being able to do a show with her is a dream come true.”
Swoon, whose real name is Caledonia Dance Curry, was born in Connecticut and raised in Daytona Beach. She moved to New York City at 19 to study painting at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute. In 1999, Swoon began creating street art, specializing in life-size wheatpaste (a liquid adhesive made from vegetable starch and water) prints and paper cutouts of figures.
Folio Weekly was unable to reach Swoon for an interview due to her current project in Haiti. Press material for the upcoming exhibit describes her work as “inspired by both art historical and folk sources, ranging from German Expressionist wood block prints to Indonesian shadow puppets.”
One of Swoon’s pieces slated for show at Florida Mining Gallery is “Alden,” a 6-foot-tall depiction of the artist’s grandfather, who's expected to be in attendance at the April 4 opening.
For the upcoming show, MILAGROS, who’s exhibited at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans and the Freedom Tower in Miami and was featured at South by Southwest and Art Basel 2012, will present site-specific installation pieces, mostly made from materials mined and repurposed from Harbinger recycling bins.
“Having access to art is extremely important, but not everyone is willing to go to galleries or museums to see it,” MILAGROS said. “Making art available for every person to see is radical and pushes the boundaries of what people accept as art.
“Making art available to the masses without monetary incentive and with high-risk is brave, not to mention generous. Street art has the power to make people very proud of their communities when executed positively.”