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Street artist helps chronicle fall of communism

Ganzeer lends hand to Czech Museum's replica Berlin Wall

street artist Ganzeer (right) works out air bubbles from beneath a painting Saturday as he helps museum education intern Madison Bemus apply her elephant painting to a replica of the Berlin Wall during a workshop at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
street artist Ganzeer (right) works out air bubbles from beneath a painting Saturday as he helps museum education intern Madison Bemus apply her elephant painting to a replica of the Berlin Wall during a workshop at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — When internationally known artist Ganzeer heard rumblings of discontent before the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, he was one of the naysayers who didn’t believe protesting would work.

On the first day of what would become the Egyptian Revolution, which called for the removal of then-president Hosni Mubarak, Ganzeer found himself in Tahrir Square in Cairo with protesters. In an impromptu move, he began spray painting their chants into tangible designs on the streets. As the revolution progressed, he planned and produced street art pieces.

A week after the revolution started, Ganzeer received a call from a client asking about how the designs for a furniture store were going. Ganzeer said he was surprised at how oblivious it seemed compared with what was going on outside. Since then, he said he’s stopped focusing on the money when producing his art, and more on the message.

“It became clear what was important and what wasn’t important,” he said.

Ganzeer was born in Cairo and is planning a move from Denver to Houston. Last week, he was visiting Cedar Rapids as part of the “Revolution Starts in the Streets” art installation and exhibit at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Place SW.

The exhibit takes a look the fall of communism in 1989 Europe and how public art played a role during this time.

At a workshop Saturday led by Ganzeer, participants put their designs on a replica Berlin Wall being displayed outside the Czech Museum.

While his workshops here focused on protest and street art, Ganzeer also has worked in a variety of mediums throughout his career, including murals, canvas paintings, art installations, videos and comics.

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“I use pretty much anything I can get my hands on,” he said in an interview, adding he likes to experiment with unfamiliar mediums to see how they work.

Ganzeer has been creating since he was making crayon drawings as a kid, but it wasn’t until he was in business school that he began making pieces for the public by producing illustrations for a magazine.

Ganzeer later received a call from the Town house Gallery, one of the major art galleries in Egypt, asking him if he wanted to have an exhibition. Since then, his work has been viewed in over 40 exhibitions around the world, according to his website.

He’s also coined the term “Concept Pop,” which he said formed as a reaction to being fed up with the standard work that museums were consistently showcasing. He began to use the visual, engaging elements of pop art into the topics and issues people around the world were facing. This is one of the concepts Ganzeer said he wanted to bring to the Czech Museum workshops.

“I wanted to help (the students) tap into the burning issues they have and express and tackle them in their art,” he said.

Other artists coming to the Czech Museum as part of this exhibit include Iowa City artist Thomas Agran, Los Angeles artist Rose Couch and Czech artist Jan Kalab. More details on these visits will be announced at ncsml.org.

To conclude the “Revolution Starts in the Streets” exhibit, the Berlin Wall replica will be demolished Nov. 9 — the 30th anniversary of the day in 1989 the wall fell.

• Comments: kayli.reese@thegazette.com

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