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James Bullough Bio

James Bullough is an American born artist who grew up in Washington DC and now lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

As a kid growing up in the exurb of Washington DC, Bullough was fascinated with the innovative graffiti art that he used to see around the DC subway. He began developing an interest in making his own art inspired by the edgy urban art, which came innately to him. He started studying the mastery of the Old Masters and illustrating extraordinary oil paintings of urban contemporary art.

His work is about creating captivating contrasts and juxtapositions, which he achieves by integrating the momentum of one image and the technical of the other. In most of his works, Bullough leans heavily towards photorealism combined with 3D effects, producing paintings that strike a balance between realistic figurations and stylized intervention. He works with oil, latex, acrylic, spray paint among other materials.

Bullough’s transition has been like any other artist; from doing small pieces on walls of train tracks around his hometown to massive murals on the sides of tower blocks. He moved from the United States to Germany in 2010, after quitting his job as a middle-school teacher in Baltimore, the US. With the desire to focus on his artwork full-time, he’s never regretted the decision, acknowledging it’s the best decision he ever made in his life. It was best for the world; perhaps we couldn’t be seeing his stunning pieces of art that exist today.

While in Berlin, he found himself concentrating his efforts to the spray can as opposed to his initial paintbrush. His seamless transformation from painting photorealistic oil murals using a paintbrush to creating photorealistic spray-paint murals has attracted the attention of many art fanatics. In his first three years in Berlin, he worked with another American born and Berlin based artist Addison Karl under the name JBAK.

james bullough artwork of a woman in blue shirt

The pair gained popularity for their various works and wide-ranging murals across Germany and the US. One of their major artistic accomplishments in Berlin is his ‘Totem’ mural, done at Landsberger Alle 228B in 2014. This epic mural bursts with color and imagination, featuring three individuals all standing on each other’s backs – forming the totem. It looks more of an acrobatic art to a Layman’s eye and stands as tall as 11 stories. The duo had to employ a crane when they painted the mural and the job took over a month to complete.

Today, Bullough works as an independent artist, balancing his time between mural painting and studio work. A quick look at his work will show you he prefers to paint people in his trademark colourful style. He especially decorates women onto dull walls, crushing the blankness with the magnificence of beauty of the smooth delicate skin of women and long flowing hair. His Desi mural in Brooklyn, NYC is a perfect example.

James Bullough artwork of person jumping in the air

VantagePoint Radio

Bullough also has eyes for other ventures apart from art. In 2014, he introduced a new project to the world as co-creator and host of VantagePoint Radio. The interview show focuses on urban art and the graffiti/mural artists who occupy the genre. Each episode features an established artist or a group of artists in the contemporary art scene and Bullough sheds light on their lives and works.

Exhibitions

Since his departure from the US, James Bullough has returned to his mother country for several exhibitions. His last visit to Los Angeles in May 2016 saw him exhibit a series of works called ‘Breaking Point’ at the Thinkspace Gallery, which was nothing less than jaw-dropping.

Thinkspace Gallery – Breaking Point

In this series, Bullough captures fractured moments of existence; disruption and personal break through the expressive body motion, asking his models to channel individual memory and to remember encounters of “breaking” at the time of their capture.

Working with dancers from Berlin, he starts with the body movement, captured in an expanse of negative space, then disguises it further, grafting, striating, and dividing its surfaces and planes. The models remain mysterious and faceless all through, an exclusion planned to reaffirm the typical universality of the emotive physical motion.

This masterpiece shows how his style has evolved significantly over the years. Previous works featured graphic inclusions and interruptions, with areas of the subject clearly removed. His recent works are more dynamic as he shifts and activates the interrupted segments of the figures rather than delete them. Areas of the body are superimposed, shaking with transitional movement as opposed to being static.

Generally, Bullough has attended many exhibitions in Germany and the United States. He was also invited, among other international artists, to exhibit his works at the Stolenspace Gallery in London, the UK in December 2015.

His illustration of photorealistic imagery challenges the viewer’s perception of reality by shifting and breaking up the bodies he paints. Bullough is simply proving that tower blocks and city walls shouldn’t be a dull opaque white, but instead a playground for creativity.

jay shells street art rap quotes

How One Man’s Love of Hip-Hop is Subverting the Law

Geography has always played an important part in hip-hop and rap culture. Where you’re from is important. It could connect you with like-minded people. It could get you killed. Dropping lyrics about where you’re from is a way of saying who you are, where you started, and how far you’ve come. NYC-based artist Jason Shelowitz, a.k.a. Jay Shells, understands the important of place in hip-hop, so he’s taken the lyrics to where they started.

Taking the form of red street signs, Jay Shells’ “Rap Quotes” puts shout-outs about specific places exactly where they came from. One sign in Stapleton House Village, for example, has lyrics by RZA: “Grew up in Stapleton House Village, where blood flood the waters in the streets like oil spillage.” Up on Broadway and Myrtle, a sign quotes Mos Def. A street post near Carnegie Hall sports lyrics by Busta Rhymes. Slowly but surely, Jay Shells’ signs are popping up all over NYC.

Since the signs themselves mimic official street signs, the very medium of “Rap Quotes” delves into the rebellious and anti-authority sentiments found in much of the hip-hop Jay Shells quotes. The project is less about praising these areas and more giving a visual history to a largely auditory medium. Cam’ron’s lyrics about 145th and Broadway speak directly about the violence he experienced in that area.

With over 60 of these signs now gracing street poles in New York City, Jay Shells crossed to the West Coast to give L.A. a similar treatment. Over 45 signs have been put up in L.A., celebrating the city’s rich hip-hop culture. “Where you at? Western & Imperial, It’s the pure West Coast coming out your stereo” reads one sign that quotes WC. Another quotes Gangsta Rap pioneer Ice Cube: “I never forgot Van Ness & Imperial, look at my life Ice Cube is a miracle.”

Since the East-West Coast is rivalry largely over, Shells had no problem finding some help for “Rap Quotes,” from helping put up the signs, comb rap lyrics for the perfect quotes, and snap some photos so the signs are immortalized in proper place before the signs are taken down by fans, detractors, or the authorities.

Since posting street signs without a permit is illegal pretty much everywhere, Jay Shells is used to seeing his work taken down. But these days, the authorities are the last people to take them down, because fans and detractors usually get to them first. In Harlem, for example, Jay Shells and his colleagues watched from across the street as a freshly installed sign quoting Sadat X was removed. Jay Shells seems unfazed by the entire removal process “He removed the sign and threw it in the trash,” he said in a recent interview, “You can’t please em all.” But despite his laissez-faire attitude about the signs getting removed, he does try and preserve the sentiment on his Twitter (@TheRapQuotes) and by taking the signs off the streets and into galleries.

The most recent gallery to showcase Jay Shells “Rap Quotes,” along with some of his other art projects, is Gallery 1988. Jay Shells hopes to expand the project outwards to other American cities and galleries, taking his subversive work, quite literally, to the streets across America.

1 allen mural in new york city

That’s Right, this is Legal Graff in NYC

New York, while not as aggressive as L.A. in its anti-graffiti laws, has made it purposefully difficult for people to make street art and have it stay. NYC has set up an anti-graffiti taskforce whose sole job is to go around the Five Boroughs and paint over street art. Sure, some of that may need to be removed, either because it’s unwelcome or offensive, but many of NYC’s greatest street artists have their great work eradicated before people can really appreciate it.

1 allen mural in new york city
That’s why this street mural is such a curiosity. To the average person with little to no knowledge of the New York graffiti scene, this mural on Allen and Division Streets in Chinatown is just another instance of tagging. Another place where people with spray cans have vandalized a piece of property with territorial markings. But for someone who knows the New York street art scene, this is a pretty cool collaborative effort, and perhaps the beginning of something new.

First, you may notice some pretty famous names on here: Remo, SP, Joz, Easy, Mey, Cinik, Sev, Giz, 17, Chino, Veefer, and Trap are all represented in the tags. These aren’t just some guys with spray paint, these are respected artists. And the end result looks like normal graffiti, the usual tagging people sometimes simply tolerate in their neighbourhoods, but speaks to the history and importance of street art in a city’s aesthetic and visual history.

The other important part of this piece is it’s legal status, in other words, the fact that it isn’t vandalism next of the chopping block for buffing out. Nope, this is fully legal street art, created in partnership with the City of New York. The graffiti collective Animal previously managed to get a mural done in Chinatown, but it took three years of paperwork and the help of a community affairs officer in the 5th precinct to get it done. Here, we expect the same process happened, but this is less overtly a pice of mural art and more a collection of names. Either way, things seem to be changing in NYC for graffiti artists. They are certainly changing elsewhere in the country.

mural in la
Take, for example, Saber and Zeser’s L.A. mural. For a town with actual legislation against murals, their legal mural for a downtown artstore is an accomplishment simply by its existence. But it’s materials is even more interesting: it uses materials that are used to buff and eradicate mural art. Rollers, fire extinguishers, and other items used that are either directly used or simulate the poor quality paint used to erase graffiti are all used. The result is a stunning visual piece that speaks to the importance of mural art while using the very procedures that keep it somewhat concealed or censored. Even its height, only using the top half of the building, speak to the NYC taskforce’s limited resources in removing higher street art.

Both of these murals stand as testaments to the importance of street art and its gradual reclamation of acceptance and recognition. Both of these cities at one time were almost defined by their graffiti and street art, for better or worse, and both cities have actively attempted to erase that part of their visual history and aesthetic. But with these two murals, that aspect of history is both reclaimed and deemed by the higher authorities as appropriate and necessary. That counts as a win for both.

LA City

LA’s Ban On Murals

Once deemed the Mural Capital of the World, LA became a ghost town for muralists. Started in 2003, the ban was directed at advertisers and simply took many artists with it. At the time, LA was concerned about corporate messages being hidden in the many public art displays around town, a guerrilla marketing tactic that made it hard to differentiate someone pushing a product and someone trying to create art. A blanket ban on murals ended the all public art displays, corporate and otherwise, but the city has been persuaded after a long decade that public art can be allowed back. LA’s own Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, a non-profit dedicated to preserving and documenting murals, drafted the legislation as a combined effort between the city and hundreds of local muralists and artists. Even though the ban has been repealed, it hasn’t come without restrictions.

Murals are still banned from public buildings, being restricted to privately owned buildings exclusively, and those murals can happen only after the artist pays $60 and fills out the appropriate application form. To prevent advertisers taking advantage of the changes, murals must stay up for 2 years. Unless, of course, the city itself decides otherwise. Artists are still being met with restrictions and red tape at every turn and even if they do manage to get everything in order, there is still a strong chance the city will paint over the mural if certain protocols aren’t met. The city, despite lifting the ban, doesn’t seem to eager to let local artists do good work on private property.

Even the public is on the fence about whether the ban is a good thing or not. A large mural downtown, for example, only barely managed to get made and had to justify itself against a petition with 12,000 signatures and an intervention by the Mayor’s office. Neighbourhoods have to also “opt-in” to the repeal, limiting the space where artists can work even further. Just where, what, and exactly how these murals are being made seems to be at the forefront of many people’s minds.

Of course, the ban was unevenly enforced during its 11-year reign. Celebrities like James Franco managed to get murals up when they wanted, while others were forced to take them down. Now, artists have a bit more freedom and are less likely to face any legal ramifications for their art, but the regulation still makes public art a public concern.

LA’s ban and subsequent repeal brings along a large number of questions about public art, corporate advertising, and how a city and its citizens regard murals and the people who make them. Many citizens worry about graffiti and vandalism, or murals they think are inappropriate or being made in their neighbourhood in a city where shock still seems to reign supreme. The efforts by the city are an example of listening to artists and concerned citizens, even if the result is difficult and cumbersome. Muralists still seem to be the villain, or at least a barely tolerated presence in the city that once claimed to be the Mural Capital.