Clandestine Culture street art invades Miami

A rogue flag made its way to the top of a light pole this weekend, towering over the eastbound lanes of the highly trafficked Julia Tuttle Causeway (I-195).

An anonymous Miami-based street artist, dubbed “Clandestine Culture,” covertly installed the 10 ft. x 16 ft. flag featuring a police officer in riot gear to send this message to Miami: “Clandestine Culture is everyday, average people trying to make it through the day, sometimes feeling angry at the world, and feeling alone. My message lets them know that we are all one society, and we are all in it together.”

The artist, like most of his contemporaries, does his work in secret, hitting the streets with his face and head completely covered. He remains anonymous because he believes the work and the message are more important than the artist and the law is not too far away from him.

“I’m also not that great looking,” he admits.

In true Bansky fashion, Clandestine Culture directs attention to what ails society with gritty images and words in unpredicted places. He first wrote the phrase six years ago on a garbage container in a commercial district near his Miami home. It was an impulse, he says, “I didn’t know why I did it. I just did it and it worked.”

The artist says he was not happy with his life and the way society was treating him, so he released his frustration with the use of an oil stick bar (oil paint solidified by wax) to write the words, “I’m Clandestine Culture. Welcome to my world.”

Later, he implemented the use of images. His first was of a fictitious girl screaming at police officers, protesting for her rights.

“I would go out at night and paste this image in as many places as possible: abandoned buildings, bridges, garbage containers (my favorite places). This is where ‘Clandestine Culture’ was born.”

Now, he uses images of real people to express himself, “with their permission,” he adds.

“I’ve found out that there are more people that feel like me who can identify with my works. I receive messages every day from people around the world in places like Pakistan, China, Russia, Mexico, India and Japan. This has helped me a lot.”

In May 2012, Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art in Wynwood displayed four pieces of Clandestine Culture’s work. This was the first time the street artist’s work appeared in a gallery setting. The pieces sold in less than 10 days.

In his first solo exhibition at Shienbaum’s gallery in October 2012, Clandestine Culture exposed the plight of the homeless with a soft sculpture of a destitute man sleeping on the sidewalk, all of his possessions next to him in a shopping cart. This piece was accompanied by the work of other local street artists who recreated a wall covered by graffiti — complete with real grass, a concrete sidewalk, a chain link fence, and barbed wire inside the gallery.

“As for how he raised the flag on the light pole, I don’t know,” said Shienbaum, his art dealer. “Street artists like Clandestine Culture are very meticulous about where they place their work and how they do it. I know he doesn’t rush into things. After all, he only gets one shot to do it.”

To Shienbaum’s knowledge, Clandestine Culture is the first street artist to place a piece like the rogue flag in Miami.

“The only street artist that I can think of that would do something like this is Banksy in the UK,” said Shienbaum.