A serious bomber and a bit of a barbed bard from Brooklyn has his first virtual contemporary art show with the Museum of Graffiti in Miami. You couldn’t write a sentence like that a decade ago.
Straddling his own chaotic line between graffiti and Street Art for a decade and a half now, this smart aleck at times is layering the abstract and hand-styling the letters like a pro sign maker. Profane and smashed imagery, nearly profound snatches of two-edged prose, and a penchant for truth-telling that gets him in trouble are all hallmarks of Cash4’s game, but this selection of new pieces is timely and searingly on-point.
While New York has always been a melting pot of cultures and languages and people from all over the world, it’s also a fundamental responsibility to also keep our eyes and ears on the folks who are “born and bred” here as they say.
They hold a deeper sense of the DNA of an ever-evolving city and its history, its true nature; the lowdown of what it means to be from this place.
We’ve been hit hard. Some much more than others.
The economics and their implications of this Covid-19 disaster are devastating to many of us, but the mourning and human loss compounds our sense of sadness, even while we are resolute to overcome. If we are all metal in that melting pot of New York that explains how we create a powerfully strong alloy of humanity. We know how to triumph together in times of need and we are unbeatable and loyal allies, despite our sometimes aggressive side.
Artist Oliver Rios was raised in El Barrio of New York from Puerto Rican parents and grew up as an artist drinking in the color, sounds, smells, and style of late 70s Hip Hop culture. Shaped and formed by the beauty and the devastation that life can bring to us, he has channeled his spirit into memorial wall painting, illustration, photography, advertising, digital design.
Profoundly moved by the events that Covid-19 has spun into existence here, Rios is sharing with us a dense and meaningful piece of art that speaks to his history, his heroes, his fears, and his passion for this city and the people in it. Using a subway map for canvas, he depicts first responders – in this case people he knows personally or admires sincerely.
“The image of the nurse is my wife Carol Rios,” he tells us. “She is a Nurse Practitioner at the John Therur Cancer Center in Hackensack, NJ. The police officer is PO Ramon Suarez who perished in 9/11 and who was also my first daughters’ grandfather. The image of the fireman is inspired by a retired fireman and childhood friend from East Harlem who helped at Ground Zero in the days after 9/11. His name is Dennis Mendez. The subway train is an homage to the Late Great Dondi White.”
We asked him more about the creation of and motivations behind “Native New Yorker 2020”:
Brooklyn Street Art: As a Native New Yorker you’ve probably seen and experienced this city being hit hard by different crises while living here: Financial crisis, economic downturns, 9/11 etc…This pandemic is possible New York’s biggest crisis during our lifetimes. What do you think makes New Yorkers get up and fight every day? Oliver Rios: In order to survive you have to be “NY Tough”, to quote Governor Andrew Cuomo! It’s a different kind of toughness that not many people understand. To live in NYC you have to understand and go through the city’s everyday grind! Understanding the everyday hustle, the history, the diverse cultures, the crime, the rats, the pigeons, the parades, the clubs, the bars, the historical sites, the crowded subways, the cabs… everything. Once you live in NYC and understand that lifestyle – to overcome anything is possible.
Going out to party in the greatest city in the world also helps ease the daily stress. We as New Yorkers protect and love the city and that’s why we get up every day and fight!!
BSA: Your work on the poster sends a message of unity and perseverance while at the same time it honors those who are at the forefront of the pandemic. Can you tell us what was your inspiration to create this artwork? OR: This project was really about painting a piece on a subway map. As I tuned into Instagram and join DJ DNice’s “Club Quarantine”, I heard him play “Native New Yorker” by Odyssey , a favorite song of mine. I immediately started with the “Native New Yorker” theme and decided to give it a 2020 version. I wanted to really honor my wife Carol Rios who’s a Nurse Practitioner at the John Theur Cancer Center in Hackensack NJ, my Brother-in-Law who’s a Fireman/Veteran in Belleville, NJ, all the first responders and essential workers dedicating their lives to help fight this pandemic.
I started with my wife who is on the top of the poster and it evolved from there.
BSA: You mentioned that your wife is a nurse. How has it been for the family to see her every day going to work knowing the risks and dangers she will confront at the hospital? OR: It’s an uncomfortable feeling every day, knowing that your loved ones are heading out the door to face danger every day. I try to keep the kids busy with school work and video games as we wait for her to get home to have dinner, watch our favorite TV shows, or play board games. We appreciate all she does and her patients do as well.
BSA:By including some members of your family and friends in your artwork you are honoring them and their work, preserving and commemorating their memory, and at the same time you are persisting with your creativity. How does an artist find the motivation to create works like these in such challenging times? OR: For me, it’s never easy… the inspiration is around me every day in my studio; I have a framed photo taken by Martha Cooper of a memorial mural dedicated to my good friend Juan Anthony “TEE” Castro that I painted during 1993 in El Barrio (East Harlem). On the frame, I have prayer cards of family and friends who have passed away during the years. Next to it I have a photo of my brother who was murdered by gun violence in 1981. My oldest daughter’s grandfather PO Ramon Suarez is there too; He perished saving lives during the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers. The UPS worker is the guy I see driving up and down the street delivering packages. Fireman Dennis Mendez is a childhood friend from East Harlem who helped dig out debris at ground zero days after 9/11. The Subway train is an homage to the Late Great Dondi White.
I find that as artists we have to remind ourselves how we are all connected. This is my way to thank and connect to my Native New Yorkers. God Bless!
Such a New York sentiment and at the heart of it we believe in our fellow New Yorkers and people in general to pull through this series of cavalcading catastrophes that are befalling us as many of our would-be leaders stand by and watch.
“Times are tough..” – It’s also a new piece this week on BSA Images of the Week from Captain Eyeliner. Let’s look for common ground, fundamental fairness and a common dream – without being tricked into fighting each other.
Meanwhile here’s some of the genius and humorous works this week on New York streets (and one from Tel Aviv), as we nurse our wounds and mourn our dead, and praise our nurses – and so many others. Hang tough people!
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Adam Fujita, Almost Over Keep Smiling, Billy Barnacles, Captain Eyeliner, CRKSNK, Lunge Box, Maya Hayuk, Merk, No Sleep, Praxis, Quasar, Sac Six, Tag, and You Go Girl!
You’re forgiven if you didn’t realize that – it’s not so easy right now to tell what day it is; when it is the week or the weekend as we have been endlessly in quarantine, so many of us.
Many of us are without jobs, without school, without those events that provide punctuation, making life into one long run-on sentence. But it is easy to tell who has been getting up on the street, if you are able to venture outside to go to the store and see new Street Art popping off the wall as you scurry back to your hovel.
Here we have some of the new faces from Damon NYC, who’s suddenly peeking out of doorways on the street. Frustrated, consterned, befuddled? Yeah, Damon gets that.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. AKUT: “Isolated”
BSA Special Feature: AKUT (plus 37) “ISOLATED”
A thrilling and educational flight through the private studio spaces of artists at home in isolation – what’s not to like? Guess which of your favorite artists studios are included?
“I worked on this film the past three weeks together with 37 artists from all over the globe,” says Street Artist AKUT. The call for response during his own family’s isolation resulted in an astounding 37 artists answering from all over the world.
AKUT, otherwise known as the urban contemporary artist and photographer Falk Lehmann – and founder of the legendary German graffiti collective Ma’Claim and half of the artistic duo Herakut – was suffering from isolation. Usually he’s out with the rest of the big name Street Artists going to exhibitions, festivals, working on commission.
Suddenly in March, stop us if you’ve heard this story, it all went “THUD”.
A social animal, AKUT says he loves the time home with his wife and three kids, but he felt locked out and detached from the adventures of painting that he had become so energized by.
“Those nice little (business) trips to locations at the end of the world, not for money, but for the place you would otherwise never have the chance to travel to, sound really awesome, don’t they?” he asks. “Even if the lift turns out to be a soul catcher, if the material arrives three days later and there was no giant tree in front of the wall on the photos you received beforehand and planed your project with. You start to appreciate the freedom to travel, to go far away from your daily duties at home… You meet colleagues and role models, old and new friends, who you share unforgettable experiences with.”
ISOLATED (part I), an infinite loop to despair
Here’s the idea with the 37 artists who joined in – please take a time laps shot through your studio, that is not longer than 4 seconds – but still challenging, because they had to move really slow and avoid vivid movements. Some artists took recording after recording and it still wasn’t optimal. However, in the end and after some long hours of editing and learnings the finished short film came out as a proof for the principle of mentalism. Sliding through the contrasting and inspiring studios as lively spaces in constant use by the respective artists felt refreshing and very comforting. It symbolizes the connection of all individuals being part of an universal infinite, living mind, in which you don’t necessarily need to check in physically. It’s always out there.
WE ARE ONE INFINITE, LIVING MIND (ISOLATED part II)
WE ARE ONE INFINITE, LIVING MIND (ISOLATED part II)
Something resembling the truth, as painter Jasper Johns may say, is what we hear and see from the storm of disinformation we’re now in. Somewhere we know there is a dissembling of the economic and social order, the wolves are in the cupboard even while we are in the hospital bed, or morgue.
But the red white and blue still flies high, doesn’t it?
As he celebrates his 90th birthday Mr. Johns is
perhaps best known for his interpretations of the American flag that began in
our last true decade of rebellion against the “system”. By choosing an
emotionally charged and historically impactful image to alter he knew he would
trigger intense emotions of derision, as well as devotion.
One of his flag duos that currently is at the Broad Museum
features a reimagining of coloration that has inspired the
graffti/street/installation artist who goes by the street name HOT TEA. This
month in the middle of a Minnesotan field the artist reprised one of his first
loved pieces by Johns, “Flags”, which the 30-something Eric Rieger says he
first experienced at 18. Using two of his typical art materials, yarn and spray
paint, here in the fields of a troubled country in a deeply troubled time, it
makes again invites response, critique.
He says he enjoyed the optical illusion of certain colors in
the original, but his perspective has changed as he has gotten older.
“ ‘Flags’ to me now represents a much more conceptual experience.
I see this painting and think of everything that isn’t there but what the
facade of the American flags is hiding,” he says. “This painting is an
optical illusion and to me speaks to how something so obvious can be hiding in
plain site. There is so much evil in this world it can make your head
spin just thinking about it. Sometimes I wish my perspective could go
back to that of childhood – but it’s the knowledge we gain that shapes us into
the person we are today. One can only hope that our knowledge will be
used for good and not to bring harm onto others.”
In Xi’an, a modern metropolis of 7 million and home to the
massive installations of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang (the first
Emperor of China), the weight of history often meets with the shallow vanities
of today. Street Artist 0907 continues to examine the riddles of development
and the implied values of a consumer culture here by looking at the banal lawn.
Consider the green grass lawn, that earthen
symbol of suburban wealth and mastery of the elements as it is beamed across
the decades and cultures. A lush and tightly trimmed lawn contains ironies of
development and progress; defined
geometries of fulsome
mono-plantings, it status symbol measured by the centimeter or meter, sprayed
with chemicals, cut and trimmed into patterns and reliefs. In cities on printed
on fences it is also a visual metaphor to block the disruptive chaos of a lot that
is under construction.
“With the acceleration of gentrification, people print out
such a symbol of happy life on the construction fence,” says 0907, “which
serves as a fig leaf of the on-going city construction – presented in a rather
stark and crude manner.”
As is his style, in a subtle act of culture jamming, he here converts the lawn into a sport field –with a subtle addition of an athlete – hoping to further disturb the cognitive dissonance.
“The imagery of neatly mowed lawns is always a symbol for
highly organized urban civilization,” he tells us.
“With my painting I present the picture of a goalkeeper in a
soccer game on the imagery of the fake lawn, creating a dual visual
misplacement. Thus a brand new absurd urban spectacle emerges. … the message
that this image sends is more than firm: to catch the ball that the city kicks
The United Nations has 17 Sustainable Development Goals
If you pick one of those goals and create a piece of art
about it you may win 10,000 pounds – which is roughly the same amount of weight
the average apartment dweller has gained in Brooklyn since the beginning of
This art-centered program named TOward TOmorrow 2030 has its sights set on 2030 and is working hard to get us close to achieving those 17 goals in a program they started last year with many mural artists.
BSA supports artists and we support this project because we know some of the folks behind it.
Submissions close 5th June 2020 so check out the rules from the coffee company that is sponsoring this competition HERE. Also look them up on #TOwardTomorrow
The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the United Nations by 2030
That’s the message from Berlin based street artist Johannes Mundinger in his latest mural of melting slabs and abstraction and murky text. He tells us that he is thinking about the disparity of responses his government has toward immigrants when flying them in to harvest asparagus versus saving them from living in refugee camps in Lesbos.
“While borders are closed due to the lock down the German government invited around 40.000 foreign workers to fly in and harvest German asparagus,” he says. “This decision was taken within days.”
Meanwhile, he tells, “it took almost two months to discuss inviting 50 children from the refugee camp Moria on the Greek Island.”
He says his new 700 x 1200 cm acrylic mural at Urban Spree made him open up artistically, made him feel free after so long in quarantine. That city is trying to open up, as it were, to greater social and economic opportunity’s and to move beyond Covid. Only time will tell us all, and places like this are leading the way. This is good, we agree.
Mundinger just wants to make sure that we leave no one
We praise the work and the love that mothers around the world are giving today and every day, with gratitude and recognition for their shaping of our global society. Salute to all the mothers! Without them, it goes without saying, we’d be nowhere.
So here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Cake$, DG, Diez, GCG, HOACS, PREZ, Roachi, and Tag.
“Today people all over the world are wearing the keffiyeh to offer support to Palestinians in their struggle for freedom,” says Street Artists Cake$, who sends us this new piece he did near the separation wall. He says he considers the wall to be a symbol of oppression – but worries more now that Coronovirus has hit the region as well – so he depicts Jesus with a face covering. “Because of the pandemic, this stencil is also a caution sign for locals that you need to cover your face to protect yourself and others. A new study and computer model provide fresh evidence for a simple solution to help us emerge from this nightmarish lockdown. The formula? Always social distance in public and, most importantly, wear a mask, scarf or bandana.”
Dark humor is precisely what we need at this moment. 20,000 people in New York City have died. Bodies are stacking up in refrigerated trucks and unmarked common graves in New York while the obtuse Trump is trying to tell us its safe to “reopen” states.
Right. You first.
Meanwhile Italian artist Elfo is taking inspiration from the classic horror zombie film, “Day of the Dead” with this new text intervention scrawled across a wall.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. Kraftwerk: Pop Art, Remembering Florian Schneider
BSA Special Feature: Kraftwerk: Pop Art, Remembering Florian Schneider
predicted what music would sound like and what the world would look like, fifty
years before it happened. Merging man, machine and avant garde theatric
sensibilities, these where the young artists were at the forefront of imagining
and creating the future while residing inside a completely different one and
enduring the overconfident and snide dismissals – later to be followed by the
time, with critical embrace by the recognized academic and institutional
authorities who were finally catching on decades later, the group itself was
transformed in the eyes of global culture as a work of art.
Oh, the influence they have had; Karl Bartos, Wolfgang Flür, Ralph Hütter and Florian Schneider. Countless musicians in many genres point to their ground breaking sound for inspiration on thousands of pieces.
Somewhere between the Black Forest and Cologne, the spirit of Kraftwerk swells and speeds and glides and calculates the upcoming curve up above on the Autobahn, this modern classicism sweeping minds and imaginations.
Our thoughts today to the family and friends of Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider, who passed away recently at 73. May all our young men and women who are creating today reach this age, and may they inspire us to imagine a future one.