Posted on

Reflections on the multifaceted ‘flower guy’ Michael De Feo

Michael De Feo Flower Guy Goncourt Belleville Oberkampf graffiti - street art paris Brightening up everyone’s lives with flowers at rue Robert Houdin in Paris’ 11th arrondissement.

Words by Jess Zimmerman:

Michael de Feo feels just as much at home getting in trouble with the cops in Amsterdam as he does dishing out the art world jargon. This multifaceted artist —part street, part gallery—manages to walk a fine line between the hoity toity art world and the comparatively unaffected urban scene.

De Feo comes to Paris with a mission he’s repeated literally countless times before: he’s here to paint flowers. This should come as little surprise for an artist working under the moniker “Flower Guy”, and he’s been at it for a mind boggling twenty-two years.

Does this warrant our respect or should we question his mental health? The real question is whether the sight of his now iconic imagery makes him want to hurl his daisies? Fat chance. This New Yorker is staying true to the perennial that brought him fame.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy photo reportage - street art paris De Feo roller paints a new flower at rue Robert Houdin in Paris’ 11th Arrondissement.

With slight modifications that clearly bring this flower-zealot some reprieve in an endless cycle of archetypal reproduction, De Feo creates his blooms with a seemingly obsessive compulsive adherence to detail, precision, and repetition. It’s definitely neurotic, but undeniably prolific and eye catching at the same time.

He may have gained his cred and paid his dues as a characteristically poor art-student scavenging blueprint paper from dumpsters on 17th and Broadway, but this artist has found a comfortable new niche — one that’s peculiarly divided between the gallery and the street, and which brought to light more than one paradox in a whirlwind trip spent putting up work in Paris.

De Feo’s art practice ranges from the illegal to the commercial, making him both a bad boy and a gallerist’s wet dream. It’s no new trend that the fine art world likes to keep a pulse on what’s ‘hot and trendy’, and New York city can indeed boast the first move on bringing graffiti and street art into the gallery world back in the 70’s. But has De Feo lost sight of the rebellious nature and guerrilla mystique that so formed the heart and character of the original movement?

He’s definitely straddling a fine line, flip flopping between two distinct personas. In his own words, he retains an innate penchant for “rattling the status quo, doing something that perhaps shouldn’t be done or isn’t expected, or that somehow is violating something”, but his squeaky clean white converse may reveal otherwise.

It’s one thing to talk the talk, but another to walk the walk, and while De Feo gets up like all the beloved outlaws, writers, and artists out there, his change of clothes, finicky preferences in terms of paint, and distinct ease in the public spotlight, may or may not put him in quite a different camp.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy Belleville - street art parisThe Flower Guy ensures he gets the perfect shade at rue Robert Houdin.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy Canal Saint Martin Belleville graffiti - street art parisMichael De Feo blends his flower with the wall’s pre-existing artwork at Rue Juliette-Dodu, in Paris’ 10th Arrondissement.

Michael De Feo artwork for sale at Rush Arts Gallery New York - street art paris ‘Bloemen (A bedtime story)’, 2014, 53.5 x 40 inches – acrylic, urethane, spray paint and maps on canvas. New indoors work by Michael De Feo exhibited as part of his recent show at Rush Arts Gallery, New York, ‘Pocket Full of Posies’‘.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy Rush Arts Gallery New York flower paintings - street art paris Michael De Feo poses in front of work from his most recent show, ‘Pocket Full of Posies’ at Rush Arts Gallery.

All judgement aside (find me an artist without his quirks, or for that matter, that maintains a firm black and white stance on commercialisation) De Feo embodies a divide much talked about in the street art world these days. Does graffiti become commodity in the gallery? And does this rob it of something? How does a predominantly illegal movement change when it gains social acceptance and is deemed culturally enriching?

Its a mucky grey area with no clear answers, and many distinct opinions. But at the end of the day, De Feo, as both celebrated gallery king, and floral replicator extraordinaire, hasn’t totally lost the plot in terms of his fundamental motivation:

“The intrinsic value isn’t about what happens when you encounter the piece, but what happens afterwards. It opens your eyes, makes you notice your surroundings. When you’re on the usual commute maybe you won’t be so tunnel visioned anymore. Maybe you aren’t looking at street art, you’re looking at anything else in your immediate environment, but regardless things become a lot more engaging”.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy pasted artwork Philadelphia - street art paris Philadelphia.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy mural painting street art - street art paris Painted onto shutters. 

Michael De Feo Flower Guy wheatpasted street art in New York - street art paris Michael De Feo, paste-up, New York.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy wheatpasted street art in New York - street art paris New York. 

San Pedro, Belize - Michael De Feo Flower Guy - street art paris The Flower Guy gets up in San Pedro, Belize.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy wheatpasted New York street art - street art paris Paste-up in San Francisco

Children Museum of the Arts in New York City Michael De Feo Flower Guy - street art paris Children Museum of the Arts in New York City.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy street art in Buenos Aires - street art paris Michael De Feo pastes-up in Buenos Aires. 

Michael De Feo Flower Guy pasted street art in New York - street art parisPaper flower juxtaposed with actual flowers, New York.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy mural painting in Greenwich Connecticut - street art paris Mural painting in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy The London Police street art in Spring Street in New York City - street art paris 11 Spring Street in New York City.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy Saint Remy-de-Provence - street art paris Saint Remy-de-Provence. 

Michael De Feo Flower Guy New York - street art paris New York.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy canals of Venice - street art paris Michael De Feo gets up on the canals of Venice.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy - street art paris - Homage to Caillbotte’s rainy day in Paris is in Tarascon-de-Provence Homage to Caillbotte’s rainy day in Paris is in Tarascon-de-Provence.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy - street art paris Freehand painted flower.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy stickers - street art paris Stuck on flowers: Michael De Feo holds up an iconic flower sticker. Photo by Joe Russo.

Michael De Feo Flower Guy wheatpasted street art in Turks and Caicos - street art parisA flower pasted in its natural habitat in Turks and Caicos.

 

———-

Listen to Underground Paris interview Michael De Feo on Radio Marais, here.

———-

MDF’s website, here.

MDF’s Instagram, here.

 

Posted on

Street art at Rue Denoyez in Belleville

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithRue Denoyey, Belleville, in the 20th arrondissement.

The Belleville neighbourhood is our favourite street art and graffiti destination in Paris and Rue Denoyez is the main attraction. Since the 1980’s musicians and artists have cohabited with the working class and immigrant communities, Rue Denoyey’s walls have been coated with art, some great, some not so great. The neighbours may have a thing or two to say about this, but their voices are mainly drowned out by the music. One of the best bands to have started out in Belleville is Les Rita Mitsouko.

Diamant, above, makes diamonds by painting onto glass, explaining that he also creates poster and collage work on the streets: “I do not want to be imprisoned by my diamonds. I want to be free to do what I want. I keep the diamond as a signature”. His work is featured on Rue Denoyez, which is a ‘free zone’ and as such, the spiritual centre of Paris’ street art and graffiti scene. The Frichez-Nous La Paix gallery – a project space for displaying work by graffiti and street artists from France and abroad – opened in 2002 to accommodate artists from squats in the area. The gallery is available to the community for free, and exhibition artists must pay a small stipend to cover the charges. Opposite the space is a  large wall for anyone to use express themselves through art, without prior consent.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

The blue painted woman in the bottom-left hand corner is by Alice Pasquini, a.k.a. AliCè. Born in Rome, Pasquini is a professional illustrator. Annoyed by female stereotypes proposed by artists who represent women as sexual objects or cartoon heroines, AliCè is interested in true depictions of femininity. She has painted lots with French street artist, C215, and is prolific in the streets of the Paris suburb, Vitry-sur-Seine.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

The Sheepest spreads its anti-consumerist message from up high. The artist, comes from outside Grenoble, where once upon a time the authorities ordered all graffiti be removed except sheep. Left alone, they generally last on the wall for around a year before being sheared off by the elements.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

These water-drop shaped portraits nicknamed Dropman (sic [surely Dropmen?!]) are by Ema aka Florence Blanchard. Painter Ema was raised in Montpelier and spent ten years living in Brooklyn. She now lives and works in Paris. You may like to check out her show, Ephemera, on at the moment at Galerie Rue de Beauce.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

The building block is by Teurk (Valentin Bechade), a painter, sculptor, designer and performer, from the second generation of graffiti artists in Paris, which became active through the 90s.  In 1995, he travelled to Beirut where he made ​​a series of photos showing the scars of the city archived in its architecture. Concrete is of special interest to Teurk, hence his crude trademark.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

1984 is one of Paris’ most famous graffiti crews. This piece of work has actually been created onto hardboard and stuck to the wall, rather than painted on. The roller is a much-used tool among graffiti and street artists, as well as the more commonly known spray can.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithPortrait of a child with Tin Tin’s dog, Snowy by Swiss artist Bustart

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

Peek at the top-left hand corner, where there is one of Space Invader’s prolific mosaics. Known as “Invader” to his friends and work colleagues, he was born in 1969, and started out in his ‘career’ in 1998. His works can be seen in cities across the world, an “Invasion” which he documents, with books and maps of where to find each invader. The locations for the mosaics are chosen according to criteria including aesthetic, strategic or conceptual advantage. An Invader campaign in Montpelier was orchestrated so that, when placed on a map, the locations of all the mosaics formed an image of a giant space invader character. The mosaics are half built in advance and when Invader arrives in a city he obtains a map and spends at least a week to install them, before cataloguing, photographing and mapping the locations of each piece. Invader is one of the artists that features in Bansky-directed 2010 film, “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” He is the cousin of the main character, Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

The work on the left is by French artist L’Atlas, who is interested in the subject “displacement.” He is a distinguished calligrapher and practices calligraphic abstraction, whereby every letter is considered as a shape and every shape as a letter. The piece on the right is by an Italian woman street artist, Nemo.

Posted on

Entretien avec le collectif de graffiti OnOff

Interview street art graffiti paris LIMO-ONOFFCREW-2

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff

Parlez-nous de vos parcours artistiques.

Le OnOff crew est un groupe de personnes, des amis qui ont évolué dans différents domaines créatifs: design, architecture, design graphique, photographie, dessin – nous travaillons tous dans ce genre de secteurs en tant que designers. Notre temps à l’université à étudier l’art nous a donné des références, des pratiques, des cultures, et il a également ouvert notre esprit dans notre art du graffiti.

Nous sommes une équipe depuis trois ans, basée à Paris. Chaque membre vient d’une ville et d’un département différents en France.  Se réunir à Paris a permis à notre attention et motivation de se développer. Nous avons créé le groupe à Reims où la scène graffiti n’était pas très grande mais nous avons eu quelques bonnes réunions. La province nous a offert de grands espaces vides contrairement à Paris. Ce que nous apprécions le plus à Paris, cependant, c’est la multitude de styles, de gens, de groupes, de réunions, d’événements. Il y a une grande émulsion à Paris, et ça bouge tout le temps. De nouvelles oeuvres apparaissent tous les jours. C’est une mine d’or pour les yeux.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

Avez-vous des endroits préférés pour faire des œuvres d’art en plein air?

Il y a quelques mois, nous étions en train de peindre sur ce mur célèbre rue des Pyrénées. Pendant trois ou quatre ans, chaque groupe parisien a réalisé sa propre oeuvre sur ce mur. Chaque week-end, c’était un moment spécial avec de nouvelles rencontres, de nouvelles connexions, des festivals, de la photo. Pour nous, c’était le meilleur endroit à Paris, non seulement pour les artistes de graffiti, mais pour les familles et les personnes avec des enfants qui peuvent apprécier, venir et profiter des couleurs dans la rue. Maintenant, il est mort. RIP ce mur.

Nous ne pensons pas qu’il y ait un «meilleur endroit» pour le street art à Paris parce que chaque personne peut rendre un endroit unique et spécial, comme il le souhaite – tout Paris est une carte de street art.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

Préférez-vous peindre certains endroits à d’autres?

Vers la fin de la semaine, nous pensons où peindre. La plupart du temps, nous allons vers des murs où nous pouvons peindre librement. Nous aimons faire des réunions avec d’autres groupes. Là où nous étions à Reims nous aimions trouver des lieux vides, avec de la texture, de l’architecture, des ambiances spéciales, des usines, des maisons abandonnées. Nous préférons ce contexte aux murs dans la rue. Cela nous fait peindre plus expressivement et sensiblement parce que nous établissons un lien entre l’espace et notre peinture.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

Quelles autres surfaces aimez-vous peindre et laquelle a été la plus insolite ?

Nous aimons vraiment les murs grands et hauts d’extérieur. Parfois, nous travaillons sur d’autres supports pour donner à notre production de nouvelles directions : papier, carton, toile, autocollants, emballage, les toilettes de bar, les gens. Nous faisons quelques productions inhabituelles comme des chaussures, des bateaux, des vêtements, des planches de skate. Il n’y a pas de surface parfaite comme chaque surface est un nouveau défi et il rend nos expériences plus riches et spéciales.

Le collectif comprend des graphistes, des éditeurs vidéo, des illustrateurs. Comment ces techniques alimentent le travail que vous mettez en place à l’extérieur ?

Nous essayons d’influencer notre street art avec ces techniques. Par exemple, nous aimons mettre des références de design dans notre peinture. Nous aimons créer des liens entre des anciennes références et la pratique contemporaine et le rendu visuel. Parfois, nous travaillons sur l’infographie, le pliage, pour préparer une intervention. Nous pensons également que nous pouvons trouver des références et des idées dans tous les domaines (cinéma, théâtre, produits, publicité, optique) pour rendre nos peintures plus spécifiques et proches de nos méthodes de travail et de vie.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

Votre récente exposition à la galerie La Friche dans le quartier de Paris, Belleville, présente une installation inhabituelle et complexe. Pouvez-vous nous en dire un peu plus sur cette exposition.

Ça fait un moment que nous questionnions le concept de volume dans nos oeuvres 2D. L’idée à ce moment était d’introduire de la profondeur dans le mur en faisant l’expérience avec l’effet 3D de lunettes bicolores, bleu et rouge, comme un graffiti optique. Lorsque Photo Graff Collectif (PGC) & la Galerie Frichez-Nous la Paix nous ont demandé d’intervenir dans leur espace, nous nous sommes dit que ça pourrait être une bonne occasion d’aller plus loin dans notre réflexion au sujet du volume 3D. Nous avons donc commencé à réfléchir à une installation unique qui correspondrait seulement à cet espace pour l’exposition. Cet espace devait être la représentation de l’ambiance de nos murs en trois dimensions. De cette manière, les spectateurs étaient totalement immergés au cœur de notre monde, un monde surréaliste et très coloré, dont nous avons surligné les traits afin qu’il ait plus d’impact.

Notre expérience du design de produit à l’école nous a aidé à rendre l’idée principale de volume plus concrète, avec l’aide de nos amis du Club 300. Nous travaillons cinq jours et cinq nuits dans une vraie ambiance d’atelier. L’ensemble de l’installation était composée de cônes verts et colorés, des lapins blancs, des petites maisons et ce personnage noir. L’homme noir de OnOff nommé “Colonel Pröls” a atterri sur ce monde par hasard (comme spectateur), et il est entouré d’un monde à l’activité étrange, le nom “Enter the Wall” était donc une évidence pour nous.

Quel est selon vous l’importance du street art ?

Pour nous, le street art (ou l’activisme de rue) est un mode de vie. Nos yeux et notre cerveau sont toujours à l’affut d’espace, d’idées, de logotype, de publicité, d’interaction entre les personnes et les zones de rue. Notre pratique nous donne l’occasion de nous exprimer avec une grande liberté. Le street art est aussi un moyen qui nous aide à attirer l’attention des gens dans leur vie quotidienne, peu importe la façon dont nous le faisons: graffiti, autocollants, dessin, installation, affiches.

Avez-vous des plans pour 2012?

Le plaisir, rire, des idées, de nouveaux concepts, de la peinture, voyager avec mes potes: Limo, Jok, Olson, Kanos.

—-

OnOff remercie spécialement le Club 300, Rachel, Louise, Simon, Lucie, Juliette, Arnaud, Jeremy, Margaux, Neoar et PGC et la galerie Frichez Nous La Paix.

Posted on

Interview with graffiti collective OnOff

Interview street art graffiti paris LIMO-ONOFFCREW-2

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff

Tell us about your artistic backgrounds.

The OnOff Crew is a group of people, friends that have evolved in different creative areas: design, architecture, graphic design, photography, drawing – we are all working in these kinds of sectors as designers. Our time at university studying art gave us references, practices, cultures, and it also opened our mind in our graffiti art.

We’ve been a crew for three years, based in Paris. Each member comes from a different city and department in France.  Paris reunification has enabled our focus and motivation to grow. We created the crew in Reims where the graffiti scene was not very big but we had some great meetings. The province offered us great blank spaces unlike Paris. What we value most in Paris, however, is the multitudes of styles, people, crews, meetings, events. There is a large emulsion in Paris, and it moves all the time. New pieces appear every day. This is a gold mine for the eyes.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

Do you have favourite spots for making artwork outdoors?

A couple of months ago we were painting on that wall of fame on Rue des Pyrénées. During three or four years, every Parisian crew has made their own piece there. Every weekend it was a special moment with new meetings, new connections, festivals, photography. For us, it was the best place in Paris, not only for graffiti artists, but for families and people with kids to appreciate, to come and enjoy colours in the street. Now it’s dead. RIP that wall.

We don’t think there is a ‘best place’ for street art in Paris because each person can make a place as a unique and special as he likes for himself – all of Paris is a street art map.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

Do you prefer to paint certain places over others?

On the end of the week we are thinking where to paint. Mostly we go to walls that are free to paint. We like to make meetings with others crews. Where we were in Reims we liked to find some empty places, with texture, architecture, special ambiances, factories, abandoned houses. We prefer this context to walls in the street. It makes us paint more expressively and sensitively because we make some link between the space and our paint.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

What other surfaces do you like painting on and what has been the most unusual?

We really like big and high walls outside. Sometimes we work on other surfaces to give to our production new directions: paper, cardboard, canvas, stickers, packaging, bar toilets, people. We make some unusual productions like shoes, boats, clothes, skateboards. There is not a perfect surface as every surface is a new challenge and it makes our experiences more rich and special.

The collective includes graphic designers, video editors, illustrators. How do these techniques feed the work you put up outdoors?

We try to influence our street art by these techniques. For example, we like to put design references in our painting. We enjoy creating links between old references and contemporary practice and visual render. Sometimes we work on infography, folding, to prepare an intervention. We also think we can find reference and ideas in every domain (cinema, theatre, products, publicity, optics) to make our paintings more specific and closed to our ways of work and lives.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

Your recent exhibition at Le Friche gallery in the Paris neighbourhood, Belleville, included an unusual and intricate installation. Can you tell us a little bit about the show.

It’s been a while that we have been questioning the concept of volume in our 2D pieces. The idea at this moment was to introduce depth in the wall by experimenting with the 3D effect of bi-coloured blue and red glasses as an optic graffiti. When Photo Graff Collectif (PGC) & Frichez-Nous la Paix gallery asked us to intervene in their space, we found that it could be a good occasion to push our 3D volume reflexion further. So we be began to think of a unique installation that would fit only in this space for the exhibition. This space had to be the representation of our walls atmosphere in three dimensions. By this way, the spectators were totally emerged in the heart of our world, a surreal and highly coloured world, which was given highlights to have more impact.

Our product design experience at school helped us to make the main idea in volume more concrete, in association with our friends Club 300. We work five days and five nights in a real workshop atmosphere. The whole installation was composed by green and coloured cones, white rabbits, little houses and that black character. The OnOff Black man named “Colonel Prols” landed it this world by chance (as the spectator), and he is surrounded by a world of strange activity, so the name “Enter the Wall” was an evidence for us.

What is the importance of street art do you think?

For us, street art (or street activism) is a way of life. Our eyes and brain are always careful to space, ideas, logotype, advertising, interaction between people and street areas. Our practice gives us the occasion to express ourselves with a huge liberty. Street art is also a medium that helps us to catch people’s attention in their everyday life, no matter the way we do it : graffiti, stickers, drawing, installation, posters.

Do you have any plans for 2012?

Pleasure, laughing, ideas, new concepts, painting, travelling with my homies: Limo, Jok, Olson,  Kanos.

——

OnOff give a special thanks to Club 300, Rachel, Louise, Simon, Lucie, Juliette, Arnaud, Jeremy, Margaux, Neoar, and PGC and Frichez Nous La Paix Gallery.