Looking at 5Pointz Now, Extolling a Graffiti Holy Place

While famed LA/Chicago/Detroit graffiti artists Revok and Pose are in town getting up on the Houston Street wall this week and many members of the MSK crew were in Bushwick doing tributes to Nekst over the weekend, New Yorkers have had the opportunity to talk with a lot of visiting friends who are in town in advance of the Revok/Pose dual show at Jonathan Levine this Saturday. As graffiti culture continues to assert its place in modern art history even while expanding and redefining itself on the street and in homes, galleries, and museums along a storied continuum, we are reminded again about the foundational role that graffiti has played in our aesthetic, helping to define urban culture and at least partially fueling the evolution of what we call a Street Art scene today.

MERES. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As with most subcultures in a capitalist society, there are a fair amount of commercial influences swimming around and through the graffiti world too, the products and motifs employed to sell them somehow simplifying graffitis complex nature and diluting its emotional resonance for many. This is the water we’re all swimming in, however, and you could drown trying to fight it. Despite commercial pressures and their mutations, it is evident that the graffiti style is alive and well and building upon itself in new ways. For some, graffiti is analogous to the early punk scene for some others it could be inextricably tied to hip hop. But as it continues to morph into multiple subgenres it still seems perfectly clear that it is born from a scream, a helluva celebratory and defiant yell ; very individual, often powerful, it is tied to an agonizing drive to be heard and to be seen, to capture by hand something that is channeling by its own volition through your mind and from your gut. Probably. That incisive wisdom from BSA and $2.50 will get you a ride on the subway.

Zimer (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA will never be versed enough to speak authoritatively about graffiti culture, nor do we pretend to – it is so vast and storied and sort of outside our wheelhouse. But seeing all this graff action this week brings our minds to a place like 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens. Begun as Phun Factory and eventually changing its name, this 200,000 sf factory building cannot be overestimated in its impact visually over two decades as well as for the community service it has provided for many artists, young and older, to practice, experiment, and even hit a level of mastery of their craft.  We won’t call it a Mecca, as we’ve been schooled that some of our brothers and sisters think that’s disrespectful – So we’ll just call it a Holy Place for many here and around the world. An ever evolving canvas viewable from the street and passing trains, many a tourist has made the pilgrimage to check it out; a touchstone for the true New York, and perhaps one that is disappearing.

Sen2 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As the fevered pitch of cries from fans and community for the preservation of 5 Pointz runs up against the dual realities of a crumbling infrastructure and an increasingly  desirable location for real estate development, we all reluctantly cede that the writing is probably on the wall (pardon the pun). Absent a deep-pocketed philanthropist who wants to preserve it (Jay-Z?) or a groundswell of citizenry demanding public seizing of private property (torches and pitchforks anyone?), you have to know that this can’t last forever despite what many see as its importance and relevance to this culture, history, and this time. But really, just take a look around this spot. If you are here now, or are planning to come soon, you know that 5Pointz has the power of a beacon for many; a living thriving vessel for the creative spirit to be expressed in myriad ways, many personal. All hail 5Pointz and those who have made it successful all these years.

Here is a small collection of more recent images of 5Pointz.

Shiro (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mr. Blob (photo © Jaime Rojo)

See TF (photo © Jaime Rojo)

ZMOGK . Shiro on top. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Never (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Toofly (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Bishop203 . Bisco203 . Leais203 Detail (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Yok . Sheryo (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Onur . Semor . Wes21 . KKade (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Onur . Semor . Wes21 . KKade Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Pablo Mustafa (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monsieur Plume . Raid Crew (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Spidertag (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Kram (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Spud (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Help (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Grafik (photo © Jaime Rojo)

el Seed . Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Color at 5Pointz (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Much respect to Meres and to all the writers on this epic wall and whole compound. (photo © Jaime Rojo)



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