Global Track is our bi-weekly street art column by Rhiannon Platt.
International arts organization Urban Nation has created an environment that fosters creativity in new contemporary art through their residency program, workshops, events, and, most recently, a pop-up exhibition in Berlin. The show, titled "LAX/TXL" (from Los Angeles' and Berlin's airport codes), creates an exchange between two cities internationally recognized for their representation of emerging artists.
Partnering with Andrew Hosner of LA's Thinkspace Gallery, the exhibition features gallery pieces by over 60 artists and large installations as a part of "Project M." "Project M," which occurs four times a year, invites international artists to transform the windows of a building in Berlin while it is undergoing change. For the site-specific works, Urban Nation and Thinkspace have paired familiar names in street art with those not traditionally known as muralists.
We spoke to Urban Nation's director Yasha Young about her curatorial vision for "LAX/TXL," which opened March 17 and runs until July 12.
Image via Urban Nation / Nosego, photo by Henrik Haven
We try to bring people together and give them the opportunity to go far beyond their networks.
Tell me about the exhibition space for "LAX/TXL." Is it a traditional gallery space or something that has been repurposed?
It’s actually a very beautiful space. It is a massive office that we donate and give to people when they have great ideas, like when I curated "Project M."
Why was it important to partner with Los Angeles-based Thinkspace Gallery for a show in Berlin?
We have always been partners. I have been in the gallery world and partnered with groups in LA, Tokyo, and New York for the last 15 years of my career. I live in New York, London, and Berlin part-time. The project that I’m doing now gives me the opportunity to invite people from all over the world, galleries that I have been working with and admire, to come and actually use the space here. They don’t have to worry about the money to rent a space. It is all part of the big Urban Nation idea.
Could you explain the philosophy behind Urban Nation?
With Urban Nation, the idea is to build a platform, a house, for all people that have been active in the urban contemporary/new contemporary art scene. We try to bring people together and give them the opportunity to go far beyond their networks through "Project M," to open the city up to people who don’t have the resources, especially artists who want to connect with artists in other countries. We are trying to help broaden the networks for gallerists, artists, and curators alike.
How do the artists participating in "LAX/TXL" fit in with Berlin’s current art scene?
Berlin’s art scene is very diverse. I think that about 60 percent of the artists actively living and working here are from other countries. It’s just a natural progression to include their work where their home base is, which is in Berlin. We wanted to give them the opportunity to show and connect with other artists.
The Berlin scene is quite open-minded and interested in connecting with other movements, from low-brow to new contemporary. Urban Nation and new contemporary encompass all of these different genres. To have that here right where you can see it, not only from magazines, but also in person, makes a big difference.
Image via Urban Nation / Alexis Diaz (La Pandilla)
The Berlin scene is quite open-minded and interested in connecting with other movements, from low-brow to new contemporary.
Are there artists in particular you were excited to bring overseas?
All artists that are participating in the show, whether it was "Project M" or "LAX/TXL," have something phenomenal that I have admired for a long time, but there are also some newcomers. I really loved seeing David Cooley’s work in person because the beauty of the 3D doesn’t come across unless you actually get to be in front of it. It is beautiful to have Alexis Diaz (La Pandilla) here in Berlin and see his large-scale work for the window installation and also his small scale pieces for "LAX/TXL." The work by Kikyz1313 is so beautiful in person; to see the fine lines is simply amazing.
The list of exhibiting artists is quite lengthy. What were you searching for in terms of curatorial aesthetics?
For "Project M," I have a very clear curatorial vision. The pop-up space shows sometimes tie in with "Project M." For example, the ones I curated were purely based on artists from Brooklyn. Andrew [Hosner of Thinkspace] decided to do a cross-view of all the very established urban contemporary and new contemporary artists.
For the window installations, you have paired some familiar street art names with artists not traditionally known for their mural work. Why was this important?
I think it is quite difficult today to actually establish a difference. There are a lot of graffiti artists who are now progressing into the gallery environment. The same should be said for the gallery or studio artists. If they feel they want to be out on the street, then why not include them?
From a technical point of view, it’s not very different in terms of the craftsmanship. If somebody knows what they’re doing, the message will translate whether they are doing it on a canvas inside their studio or whether they do it out on the streets.
Image via Urban Nation / Kikyz1313
Image via Urban Nation / Fernando Chamarelli
Image via Urban Nation / Andrew Schoultz
Image via Urban Nation / Dabs & Myla