Inviting Neighbors to Paint Your Walls, Paweł Althamer at New Museum

One of the electrifying aspects of Street Art for many people is the prospect that public space can actually be a place to create within. There is something about the hand-rendered painting or tag that stops people, fascinates them; these neighbors who otherwise are inured to the commercial images and messages that have all but taken over public space.

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Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” The New Museum, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

While the Bowery and Lower East Side neighborhoods were once a playground for experimental art and culture in general and they were once a test lab for graffiti, Street Art, and conceptual public art in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, one gets the feeling that hyper-gentrification has begun its final march toward complete eradication. Soon the visual signs of the counter culture that thrived here will exist only in coffee table books and on t-shirts.

Ah New York, ever rich with irony. The New Museum, an institution with roots in the downtown scene of those earlier days and which gives opportunity to under-recognized artists in their seven year old modern flagship, is now offering you a chance to deface their walls. Well, specific walls anyway, and there is an admission fee.

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Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” The New Museum, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Part of a multi-floor exhibition of work by Polish sculptor Paweł Althamer entitled “The Neighbors” the  space takes nearly the entire floor and is created specifically for you to paint, draw, scribble, scribe. At any given moment you may find a gangley group of students, grey haired hippies, chino clad money managers, or stilletto-stepping society mavens all planted on the floor or perched upon ladders pushing paint brushes glommed with brightly hued goo across a heavily layered mass of collective creativity.

Given permission to create, even the most reserved visitors are likely to furtively glance around for an instrument, and many do, gamely painting alongside their neighbors, or smacking up a fresh wheatpaste. We looked around for some recognizable graffiti or street art tags, but didn’t see one pop out – maybe indoor walls under bright fluorescent light like this aren’t the right unbridled environment they’re looking for. Maybe it was the ever-present seemingly serious guard at the door way.

The Bowery still has soup kitchens and homeless folks and stubborn remnants of a vibrant free-wheeling street art scene are still on display on certain blocks. And here in their midst, one of their newest neighbors has a new show called “The Neighbors”, and the free-wheeling spirit of creativity and discovery is alive inside it too. As ever, New York will decide which neighbors stay, and which ones go. Care to wager?

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Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” The New Museum, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” The New Museum, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” The New Museum, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” The New Museum, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” The New Museum, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” The New Museum, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” The New Museum, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” The New Museum, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” The New Museum, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

Paweł Althamer. “The Neighbors” at The New Museum in NYC is currently on view. Click HERE for details.

 

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