The neighborhood of Park Slope in Brooklyn is better known for beautiful Brownstones, impossible parking, towering maples, social liberals and baby strollers than graffiti or street art. There is one commercial strip down the upper middle of this town-y enclave, with delis and bagel shops and The New York Times on Sunday – and aside from the occasional mural or stickered paper-box, not a whole lot of Street Art action.
On a recent sunny Saturday on 5th ave and Union Street, you may have seen a window display that made you think of street art. In fact, you can see it from the street, and local artist Ryan Seslow is a huge fan of the New York Street Art scene.
Brooklyn Street Art: Tell us about yourself.
Ryan Seslow: My name is Ryan Seslow. I’m a multidisciplinary artist living and working in New York. I am also a professor of fine arts teaching studio courses between 4 colleges here in NY and I’m always involved in several different projects at once, it seems, either as an artist, curator, or both.
I feel like I’m 3 or 4 different kinds of artists all trapped into one body. I have more energy than I usually know what to do with, so I love to exercise that on artistic potential and experimentation. Making art from a very young age, my real love for art came from the inspiration I found in 1980’s graffiti, public art, and cartoons. Martha Cooper’s “Subway Art” was, and still is, one of my all-time favorite books.
I was a teenager when the b-boy movement got a hold of me. My entire family is from various parts of Brooklyn, so weekends and summers were spent combing the streets looking for inspiration, while trying to mimic the works I saw.
Brooklyn Street Art: Can you talk about “Programmed” and what it’s about?
Ryan Seslow: I was recruited to do a satellite installation for “Programmed“, a show about rethinking the relationship with these electronic objects in our lives that we no longer use. The concept of the show was to synthesize the use of obsolete electronics into your work. It touches areas of recycling and the ephemeral existence of many things in today’s world.
I had already been doing this in another commercial window space for a few years, so the fit was nice and exciting. The owner also had this great public window space that he wanted to use to showcase my installation-based works, rather than just filling the space with redundant advertising so we collaborated ideas on the use of the space.
In both projects I wanted to inspire and reach the general public of Park Slope with colorful installations that would show a variety of traditional art techniques as well as more non-traditional works. The context of the commercial window space was perfect to contradict what is essentially public work.
Brooklyn Street Art: Can you talk about some of the materials you used and their significance.
Ryan Seslow: The materials are intuitive manifestations and representations of what can be used to make ART. I’m all about the allowance of communication and self-expression. The curators did ask me to emphasize the use of obsolete electronics. The Mac Support Store (the installation site) is also a hub for the recycling of used computer parts.
The store had this enormous mountain of stuff to choose from and I was drawn to the keyboards right away because keyboards are objects of serious potential; amazing tools and an intermediary means of infinite communication. Each keyboard has the potential of writing the next great literary novel or the next great resolution to help the world. The keyboards connect both the familiar and unfamiliar imagery in the installation, maybe helping the viewers create narratives between the pop icons and the technology.
Brooklyn Street Art: How long did it take you to prepare for this, and do the installation?
Ryan Seslow: This installation was built in less than two hours – It is an art practice in itself.
My installations are all intuitive and immediate. I have been working pretty large for about 10 years now so the energy that goes with setting up an installation is always thrilling and I like the challenge of working with the space. Each piece is created individually, so they must hold up that way first, but the installations are 100% modular. Every piece must ultimately fit and work together as a whole by means of form, color and content.
Brooklyn Street Art: Do you think of this as street art?
Ryan Seslow: I do think of this installation as street art. I have been a lover and a participant in the medium of street art for a long time. I may be a lot more careful about when and where I put my work up than I was 10 years ago; that knowledge comes from past experiences. Art forms should be embraced as ongoing expanding things, by seeing the potential of why and how they can fit the foundation of where they began. This exercise itself forms ideas and allows for expansion.
The work is right on the street, the viewers are those walking by on the side walk, or driving by in their cars. It has been framed in glass and protected to a degree. I find this interesting as well. I anticipate more museums and galleries doing this in the future as the context of public art develops and artists continue to push its limits.
Brooklyn Street Art: Do you have any favorite Street Artists whose work you follow?
Ryan Seslow: I love and follow several street artists on a daily basis. I’m a big fan of the BSA site as well as the Wooster Collective. Some of my favorite artists are John Fekner, Michael DeFeo, Gaia , Jeff Soto, Abe Lincoln Jr., Miss Van, Faile, Bast, Robert Williams, Lady Pink , Fafi, Gary Baseman, Tim Biscup, Barry McGee, Swoon, and so many more, too many to name!
Brooklyn Street Art: How does Jackie Kennedy figure into the piece?
Ryan Seslow: Funny, Jackie O and JFK have always left this long-lasting impression on me. When the John F. Kennedy assassination was brought up to me in the 5th or 6th grade, in a history class, it never left me. I recall being really freaked out by the way I was interpreting the whole event. As time went on, by the time we got into high school, we were shown the actual assassination film itself (you know the one). At least once a year, I seek to find old and grainy images of the couple. I think they represent some form of the ephemeral with in me. They remind me that our stay here on this planet is not forever, it activates this crazy gratitude to and for all things.
60 second silent collage of the Kennedys.
Brooklyn Street Art: Do you ever hang out and spy on people who have stopped to look at your installation?
Ryan Seslow: Nah, not too much spying, but I do get people who approach me and ask some interesting questions from time to time. Kids seem to be big fans on a regular basis! I have gotten several independent commissions this way, just by creating live art that invites the public to participate by simply talking to me. I am always left with a memory of the experience.
Brooklyn Street Art: You’ve done drawing, painting, stenciling, collage, even sculpture – is there something you haven’t tried but would like to?
Ryan Seslow: That is a great question. I love making art. I’m pretty much obsessed with the process of generating things. I love learning new skills, not so much to isolate the skill itself, but more to integrate it into what I am already doing. I like to test the potentials of things. I would love to do more with the synthesis of street art, public sculpture, experimental film and collaborations.
Actually, this is what I mean; I want to collaborate more with other artists. There is so much to learn when you work with other people, which is one of the main reasons I became an art professor.
Brooklyn Street Art: What’s the next project you’ll be working on?
Ryan Seslow: Got several things going on right now. I’m teaching 8 courses this semester, so teaching is a bit more demanding than usual. I’m also curating a special video art/experimental documentary program for The Streaming Festival in the Netherlands , working on an installation series for public art in Jericho Plaza in Long Island, a group video art stills project in Denmark, participating in MagMart in Naples, and I’m part of a top secret underground stencil project.
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See a year-long window project Ryan did HERE
All images of Ryan Seslow’s work courtesy the artist.
“Programmed”: a group installation art exhibition, is curated by Michele Jaslow & Spring Hofeldt. Park Slope, Brooklyn. The show is open until March 13, 2010.
The Mac Support Store is located at 168 7th Street in Brooklyn. The store is open Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The store is closed on Sundays.
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