The “Aqueduct Murals” Are Off and Running!

“He’s pissed off. He’s like… he has an attitude. He’s ornery. In my work I’m always looking to relate my own feelings to the images that I see and try to express them through painting.”


Chris Stain and Katherine Huala at work on their first collaborative piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Chris Stain is looking at a black and white photo of a victorious and defiant jockey covered in mud – a guy named Webber who raced “Broiler” at Aqueduct – and talks about why he is immortalizing the fella in paint for this thoroughbred race track that turns 120 years old next year.

“So when I saw him I was like, ‘Yeah I feel like that sometimes, most of the time, ninety-five percent of the time.’ ”

Any seasoned wagerer knows it is a bit of a gamble to work with graffiti and Street Artists – untamed and unbridled as they can be – but Street Artist Joe Iurato has corralled a small herd and coaxed them inside off the streets for this one race. The Aqueduct Murals are out of the gate and if last nights marathon of painting was any indication, the odds are good they will all hit the finish line by Saturday.


Chris Stain found this vintage photograph as an inspiration for his collaborative piece with Katherine Huala.  Jockey Weber finished second place on his horse “Broiler”, and it looks like it was a rainy and muddy day at the track here in 1941 in Jamaica, Queens. Original photographer unnamed. (This photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Equestrian racing, jockey related – the only criteria they gave us was they wanted to see something that was more in the spirit of the place,” says Joe as he looks around the mainly beige walls of the facility in Queens that is filling with aerosol fumes as the clock nears midnight. He still has to get up on a cherry picker and get working on his collaborative mural with Logan Hicks, but as the organizer, Joe discovers he needs to make sure all the other artists are getting taken care of first – its all part of the care and feeding of Street Artists.

Tomorrow night the opening bell on the reception rings at 6 pm at Aqueduct with a DJ and a print release with all the artists in attendance and Ellis G doing some live chalk drawings, but for right now Joe is looking at some peeling paint and figuring out how to seal it.

“They gave us a photo bucket that was full of about 300 pictures from the past 60 years,” he says of the racetrack reference material that roughly half of the artists are using in their murals. “We were able to use any of those and a lot of them were just brilliant.”

The international and locally-based artists all are taking different approaches – and the distances they have traveled vary from South Africa, Australia, Sweden, Italy, Texas, California, New Jersey….and even hometown Queens and Brooklyn guys like Stain, Skewville, and Hicks. In the middle of the progress last night BSA got some shots as some of the pieces were galloping along – some are on the backstretch while a few just started out of the gate.

Participating artists for The Aqueduct Murals include : Logan Hicks, David Flores, Chris Stain collaborating with Katherine Huala, Rubin, Faith 47, Skewville, JMR, LNY, Ian Kuali’i, Shai Dahan, Zed1, Joe Iurato, ThenOne, and Reka.


Chris Stain and Katherine Huala. Chris working on their piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Reka. Detail of his piece in progress. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I’m trying to experiment a little at the moment and in terms of colors I’m just doing strictly gray scale,” says Melbourne Street Artist REKA, who is normally known for his use of vibrant oranges and reds in his tightly fluid character-based street work.  “Also this is something a bit more messy, a bit more dynamic anyway – I’m allowing more room for error and be more playful.”

“I want to show the movement in the racing – sections of the horse and the jockey – to show more of the human element and the connection between the rider and the horse. I don’t paint realistically – so that is my representation of the horse.”


Reka at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Zed1 at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Italian Street Artist Zed1 stays monochromatic in his palette also but his metaphor is entirely different. “I prefer you see when you finish because it is a surprise !” he says while revealing to us in a conspiratorial tone what the humorous scene will eventually depict. Don’t worry folks, it’s all clean and respectful.


Zed1. Process shot. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Rubin at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: This doesn’t look like a horse.
Rubin: No. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a horse just because it is a race track.

The least representational of the murals draws a clearer connection to its location and proximity to the city with more abstract depictions of the roaring crowd and the city skyline.  Roaring twenties of last century meld well with the spattered street inflections of early teens 21st century here.

“I kind of flipped those Art Deco inspired lines from being horizontal to vertical and so it is my way of paying tribute to New York,” says the Greenpoint, Brooklyn based Swedish artist who says he never tires of going on the roof to look at Manhattan across the East River.


Rubin at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


David Flores and assistant at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

LA’s David Flores used to go to the races at Santa Anita when he was a kid. “but nothing major, we didn’t bet or anything like that,” he says as he steps back to compare his rendering to the piece on the wall. The composition combines the jockey image from a photo from the track with a new mask and a horse and hand from two other sources. “I kind of married them together,” he says of the scene. “I had to make it the way I wanted with a lot of diamonds and stars and stripes – you know how they wear their gear so it’s all colorful.”

Normally more abstract, this wall by Flores is literal in its depiction, but with an illustrators eye. Has he worked with animals in his work much? “I have worked with animals a couple of times but nothing of this scale – or horse racing and I’m super excited because I’m a fan of the sport. I’m stoked on it now.”


David Flores. Sketch for his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


LNY. Detail of his piece in progress. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

New Jersey Street Artist LNY took something with history and shot with the older film based technology and manipulated it with a current digital and returned to the hand rendered painting form to create it on a wall.

“Yeah, especially this,” he says as he rolls a thin screen of crimson over his composition, ” – doing washes is a super traditional technique”

The subject matter for LNY speaks to the regimented hierchy of class that permeates the traditions of racing. “Its always been about social status and that became really apparent when I came here,” he says as he describes his choice of outfielders he researched as subjects.

“The outfielders are the guys that go out there and if a horse goes crazy – they are kind of the cops of the field – so basically they are staff,” he says of the well-dressed horsemen in the original image he started with. “I just got some really nifty iPad apps that cost nothing but they let you transform images so I’ve been having a lot of fun with those and I’m basing my mural on that.”


LNY at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


LNY created this digital collage mock up which  served as template for his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Shai Dahan at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: I guess it is not that far a stretch for you to paint a couple of horses!
Shai Dahan: “No! I’ve been painting nothing but horses for the last three years”

The LA-New York- now Sweden based artist has been painting his interpretation of Swedish Dalecarlian horses which are traditionally red, so he is making sure to include on in his Aqueduct piece.

Brooklyn Street Art: Had you seen races before?
Shai Dahan: No, this was my very first time
Brooklyn Street Art: What was your impression?
Shai Dahan: It’s very cool.  To actually see them race – just to see the quickness and the power and the movement of it is really fascinating and inspiring. I wanted to create some kind of forceful movement to get people out to the racetrack. The graffiti background is to represent the feel of New York, and all the bright colors.


Sahi Dahan at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


ThenOne working on the background color for his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

New Jersey’s ThenOne says has been a graffiti artist for 16 years and he likes his lines to be crisp and  tight. Using his favorite red and black palette he brings perhaps the most historical equine references to the new collection at the race track and skillfully alludes to the practices from the modern graffiti scene he came up from.

ThenOne’s black Arabian horses are silhouetted in a decorative arrangement that recalls his Persian ancestry as depicted in pottery and ceramics and textiles while also recalling the early cave paintings that many art historians trace as ancestors to the Street Art/graffiti practices of today.

As long as the stylized stallions are as close to his original sketch as possible, he’ll be happy. “My style graffiti-wise is I like to be as clean as possible,” ThenOne says, “So the graphic and the clean work perfectly for me.”


ThenOne. Sketch for his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Joe Iurato at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Organizer and artist Joe Iurato is up on his lift, masking out his collaborative piece with Logan Hicks. In between his other responsibilities, he’s planning to paint too.


Skewville at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Street Art wordsmith Squewville grew up in Queens so his trip here was one of the shorter ones. The text based entreaty he is taping out here will say “Update Your Status”  – in one short phrase bringing the track into the “social” sphere. The well known slogan for people using sites like Facebook also doubles as a reference to the incoming status of races as the bets and odds are displayed across screens and horses cross the finish line.


Skewville at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Logan Hicks working on his stencils for his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Brooklyn based Logan Hicks is prepping for his seven layer stencil that will depict a crush of horses in the thick of the race (not seen here). First he is applying a patterned background to his collaborative piece with organizer and Street Artist Joe Iurato.


Logan Hicks at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Originally from Hawaii, artist Ian Kuali’i is laying in the abstractly energetic background for his sliced paper piece that will float over it.

“I’m going to paste up a cutout. It’s about three quarters of the way done, “ he says as he describes a finished piece that will incorporate collage of actual vintage Aqueduct posters from the past and themes relating to horse husbandry and the thrill of the race.


Ian Kuali’i at work on his piece. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Tomorrow, Saturday the 23rd  a reception will be held for the artists at the Aqueduct Racetrack to celebrate “Aqueduct Murals”. The event is free and open to the public. Click HERE for all the details.


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