“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.”
Brooklyn’s already percolating artists neighborhood called Bushwick continues to thrive despite the circling of real estate agents, lifestyle brands and celebrity chefs. Born in the mid-late 2000s as it’s older sister Williamsburg to the West began to professionalize, this noisily industrial and dirty artists haven got a reprieve from gentrifying forces when the deep recession slowed the rise of rents for artist spaces, which remained still relatively cheap by Manhattan’s standards. Today the area boasts a diverse influx of artists, students, cultural workers, and entrepreneurs who are experimenting and collaborating on projects and shows.
That radical economic downturn probably also nurtured the nascent Street Art scene here, which was one of the early outliers of a cultural influx as artists and explorers began to skateboard to the local delis and stare at laptops for hours in the one or two cafes that offered Wi-Fi. Outcroppings of this new art movement combined with old-school graffiti to pop up on selected concrete and corrugated walls, signposts, and deteriorated blocks where the authorities were disinterested and the neighbors only partially curious in their activities.
It’s an age-old New York story by now; a neglected or winding down post industrial neighborhood reacts to the incoming and odd-looking artists with a sort of bemused affection, happy that at least the block is getting some attention for a change. Puzzlement eventually leads to familiarity and then buying you a sandwich – and then asking you to paint a mural inside his foyer. While national and international Street Artists were already making Bushwick a stopping point thanks to some of the earliest galleries like Ad Hoc and Factory Fresh, the scene recently got newly shot in the arm by a local resident who is facilitating much desired legal wall space to a crowd of artists who otherwise would be hunting and hitting up less-than-legal spots. Not to worry, there are plenty of aerosol renegades and ruffians scaling walls at night too; this is New York after all, yo.
But for now the Bushwick Collective, as it is newly christened by wall-man Joe Ficalora, has infused an adrenaline rush of creativity inside and outside the area that is roughly bordered by Flushing Avenue, Starr Street, Knickerbocker Avenue and Cypress Avenue. The Collective has guidelines on content (nudity, politics, profanity) so the works are not completely unfettered in the true spirit of Street Art/graffiti, but most artists are happy for the luxury of time to complete their work and not look over their shoulder. With a selection of murals that are densely gathered and easy to walk through, the new collection has attracted attention from media folks (and tour guides) on the main island brave enough to venture into the gritty wilds of Brooklyn for a Street Art safari.
As Bushwick hosts its 7th annual open studios cultural event this weekend, intrepid pedestrians who march through opening parties, rooftop DJ jams, dance performances, live bands, transcendent costumery, sidewalk barbecues, open fire hydrants and more than 600 open artist studios will also be buffeted by a visual feast on the streets themselves. As long as the L Train is running (fingers crossed) you can just get off at the Morgan stop. From there it should be pretty easy for any curious art-in-the-street fan to be regaled with big and small works of graffiti, Street Art, tags, wheat-pastes, stencils, rollers, murals, and ad hoc installations all day and night.
A shout out to Arts In Bushwick, an all volunteer organization that has steadily grown and fostered an open sense of community inclusiveness each year for Bushwick Open Studios and to the many volunteers who have contributed greatly to the success of many of the cultural workers here. Without an open studios event many of these shy and quirky artists and performers would simply have stayed unknown and unknowable.
So far Bushwick still has the unbridled imperfect D.I.Y. enthusiasm of an experiment where anything can happen, but grey ladies with kooky bright colored spectacles have already begun to flip it over to inspect it with one hand while pinching their nose with the other, so savor this authentic moment. Ethereal by nature, you know the Street Art scene is never guaranteed to you tomorrow – neither is the mythical artists bohemian hamlet of New York’s yesteryear. For now we’re hopping on our bikes to catch a golden age of Bushwick before it’s repackaged and sold back to us at a price we can’t afford.
The first series of images are walls from the Bushwick Collective, followed by a series of walls that you may also see in the neighborhood.
The audacity of the organically grown Street Art and graffiti wall, covered with styles and sentiments that are anybody’s guess, people painting whatever the heck they want. It may not be easy to digest, but maybe you’ll find part of it to be inspiring, or challenging, or eye opening. Or all three.
“One person did drive by and yell out the window, ‘This is awful!’ ” says artist Don Pablo Pedro as he lets out a belly laugh. “So that was fun, that was a good one. Other than that I’ve enjoyed it a lot.” He’s talking about the new wall still in progress in Bushwick Brooklyn that is taking shape without input from anyone but the artists. “Yeah there are no real rules, we’re just going out there and having fun. Not trying to do anything that is too important or anything,” says Pablo as he talks about his blue Jesus character with the chastity belt.
Usually this sort of work appears on abandoned lots where only few eyes will see it, not on this corner in the still industrial, intensely trafficked, sooty smelly occasionally ear-splittingly loud part of Bushwick. Here you are greeted by very aggressive truck drivers caterwauling by on 18 wheels like bats out of hell. If you are not alert you can be mowed down or choked by the gritty air along with growing numbers of desparados who have settled here in recent years as artists, students, and low-wage workers continue to migrate in search of affordable space to live and work.
Many of the artists painting on this wall come from different directions and backgrounds – graffiti, street art, fine art, painting, woodworking, screen-printing, sculpture – and many have worked collaboratively before. Smells is the curator, if for no other reason than there had to be some sense of order, and according to Don Pablo it won’t be finished until its completely covered. So far the collection includes work from Smells, Cash4, Droid, UFO, Gentu, Keely, Sadue, Don Pablo Pedro, Tony Bones…. “I think it’s still going to go on, it’s kind of a ‘progress wall,’ ” says Pedro.
“Now the wall has turned into sort of a more grimey wall, which I love about it. It’s my friends building and he kind of loves that too. It mirrors more of him actually.”
Does he find that passersby have a negative reaction to some of the content of his piece – the nudity, genitalia, the multiple additional boobs? “You know, I was hoping so! I have seen a number of people look at it and laugh, like some of the worker guys in the neighborhood.”
And for this neighborhood, if you call it that, community standards divine that this explosion of tags and characters is cool, not that some of these artists give a rats butt. “The neighbors are really nice. They know most of the artists – the people next door have the art materials place and they’re really nice too.”
For Don Pablo Pedro, it’s the genuine artistic freedom he is attracted to and as part of his own practice he finds that he’s still learning about doing collaborative work with others and how to work with rough walls – since his typical practice is on canvas and is done solo and in a studio.
“This is also kind of new for me because I’m working with other people’s art pieces around mine and also the little nuances in the wall; like when I was doing the Jesus figure there were these little weird nail things that were on either side of the door so I used them. Also there were like some little nipple things so I used them. And I think Smells liked using the thing for the vagina so it could sort of spray out. Smells piece is really good. I love that one, it’s really good,” he says enthusiastically.
There would be no above ground scene in New York without the abiding underground scene. Furtive, secretive, accessible by invitation or last minute word of mouth, art parties and performance have always supplied a forum for expression, inspiration, and a release of raw energy. Without idealizing too much, these are frequently places where the petri dishes for future movements are mixed, or at least experimented with. Not exactly galleries or performance venues, these spaces converted for one-night-only can be a great place to party, see something new, and let your mind loose with friends.
Artist and party planner Andrew H. Shirley threw a sort of impromptu bash a week ago to celebrate the occasion of February 29th, and he invited some artists/graff heads to hit up the space like Smells, Cash4, UFO, Gen2, R2, and Fade. The abandoned warehouse feeling was juxtaposed by some rather ornate furniture, and eventually everything got tagged – since the scheduled installations included a surprise visit from Net, Krt and Serch. “Kind of a random perfect line up,” reports Shirley of the artists, “It ended up being really proper.”
Once the visual aesthetics were laid the performances were clear to go for the small enthusiastic collection of fans that braved the cold night and they were rewarded with an eclectic mix of energetic shows by Beef, Jogyo, Fake Hooker, Japanther, and Ninjasonik. Shirley was really happy with the turnout – “A great crowd of heads braved the sh*ttiest night of the winter to be part of the Leap Year Party,” he says.
BSA: What was the party all about? Andrew H. Shirley: I’ve had a telepathic calling to throwing a leap year party for a few years, and one day while hanging with Robbie from Fake Hooker, we talked about leap year, and how we couldn’t remember anything fun ever happening on that day .I took it upon myself to try and make a holiday out of this. Evolving out of the ideas we came up with, Beef and Fake Hooker planned a tour which began at Death by Audio in brooklyn and ended on leap year at the El Dorado.
BSA:Who did you hook up the venue and the painting part of the show? Andrew H. Shirley: Party professional SPAM was stoked that February had an extra day to party this year and pointed our idea in the direction of the El Dorado space. The el dorado is an amazing space; it’s totally reminiscent of the type of space you’d find in the Lower East Side, like the Lounge on 11th and Avenue A circa 1995. It’s totally grilled out in scrawls and tags, really grimey, old New York. It’s a free for all. The dude who runs El Dorado is actually not into graffiti at all – he hates it. Because the place was pretty grilled, I asked if I could have some heads come and do some walls and he was cool with it.
In addition to the artists and performers, shout outs go to Laura Kaplan for Japanther’s costumes and Devi Mambouka for Jogyo’s makeup and costumes. The Superior Bugout did promotion and thanks to photographer Tod Seelie for sharing his images.
The Superior Bugout is very stoked to present a really tight line up of amazing musicians / artists for this night, wednesday 10pm at the el dorado in brooklyn (976 grand st). come out and celebrate the new party holiday LEAP YEAR 2012!!!
and DJ DIRTYFINGER
with art walls by SMELLS / CASH4 / FADE AA / R2 / GEN 2 / UFO 907
“F*ck Art”, an undulating and adventurous group show by New York Street Artists opens its arms and legs to you at the Museum of Sex (MoSex) tomorrow and whether it’s the human powered penetrating bicycle or the glass bead encrusted dildo, it endeavors to satisfy.
Co-curated by Emilie Baltz (Creative Director) and Mark Snyder (Director of Exhibitions), the show selects 20 current Street Artists who have pushed notions of propriety into provocation on the street and it invites them to let it loose behind closed doors. Not that Miss Van needs anyone’s permission; her sensual role-playing painted ladies have been playfully preening on graff-piled walls and blue-boarded construction sites for much of the 2000s. Similarly the powerfully stenciled sirens by Street Artist AIKO have been bending over in high heels on walls all over the world with just a hint of the geishas from her native Japan for over a decade.
The “Fuck Bike #001”, a pedal operated plunging machine by William Thomas Porter and Andrew H. Shirley, has at its conceptual base an ode to the lengths a guy will go to reach his natural objective. The two artist met at a Black Label Bike Club event called “Ridin’ Dirty” in 2010 and later schemed together to make an entry for a bike-themed group show in Bushwick, Brooklyn that featured many Street Artists like DarkClouds, Ellis G., UFO, Noah Sparkes and Mikey 907. “I approached Tom with the idea of creating a kinetic bike sculpture which you could f*ck someone with,” remembers Mr. Shirley, “Tom is a very gifted artist and bike engineer, it took a few days for him to build our design.”
Visitors to the show are invited to mount the bike and take it for a spin. “This bike is more sculpture oriented, but still functions sexually. It’s also totally interactive,” explains Mr. Shirley, who has displayed the bike in cities in Europe and America, most recently at Art Basel in Miami in December. So the bike has gotten around and Shirley happily recounts stories of intimate encounters it has had with both genders. (See the very Not-Safe-For-Work film of the bike in action below.)
The street has certainly seen an increase of fairly graphic sex related Street Art in the last decade or so as people have become more comfortable with such themes and much of this show can often be seen throughout the city without the price of admission. Gay couple Bryan Raughton and Nathan Vincent have been putting large and small scaled paste-ups of sexually themed imagery as a Street Art duo called RTTP for about two years on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Short for “Reply To This Post”, the line-drawn torsos and spread eagles are all part of their collaborative Street Art project that explores the desires of men seeking men on Craigslist.
Describing the work, Vincent says it’s a process of lifting the mystery off of a just-below-the-radar Internet dating game – and pasting it on a lightpole. “Users post an ad with an image, title, and a short description of what they are looking for tonight. The photograph they post of themselves is drawn and titled with the ad’s title.” By putting these erotically based desires on the streets, Vincent thinks “they magnify those desires that often seem to live at the edges.” Says Raughton of the project, “We see it as an interesting way to take people private desires to the public street.”
In discussing the origins and underpinnings of a show like this, the co-curators reveal a more academic and sociological grounding than the prurient and salacious sauciness one might infer by a display of so much “F*ck Art”. We asked Baltz to give us a sense of the context for a Street Art driven sex show.
Brooklyn Street Art:What is your favorite part of curating a show like this? Emilie Baltz: Seeing the different interpretations and energy that each artist brings to their work is always the most interesting part of curating – with this topic, especially, it’s the fact that they are all pushing the limits of their medium by creating such provocative statements.
Brooklyn Street Art:While these pieces are behind closed doors available to a certain audience, Street Artists typically put their work out in the public. Do you think the work should change depending on the audience? Emilie Baltz: We don’t think it’s about changing the work, it’s about how the work changes the environment it lives in. Street art has a long history of revealing different perspectives on its surrounding environment and by placing this work in a museum it creates a certain energy and visual provocation that changes the relationship we traditionally have to the museum-going experience.
Brooklyn Street Art:Do you think there has been an increase in sex-related street art in recent years, and if so, why? Emilie Baltz: There definitely is an increase in sex-related conversations in recent years. It’s not that there is more content suddenly, it’s just that culture is actually ready to start talking about it now, rather than ignore it.
Brooklyn Street Art:We have noticed that themes of sex and sexuality are often quickly destroyed on the street, while other pieces remain for months. Is this a form of selective censorship by the public? Emilie Baltz: Street art is a dialogue. Its creation is about expression and commentary, and therefore can become a barometer of cultural consciousness (or unconsciousness). The intimate and emotional nature of sexual content can obviously elicit strong feelings in viewers, and, given that street art is an environmental medium, either you have to live with it or get rid of it. Sex walks a fine line between acceptance and rejection. Public response to this kind of art is potentially a mirror into how our society relates to the topic.
Brooklyn Street Art:What surprised you the most about putting this show together? Emilie Baltz: The enthusiasm from the public. People are genuinely excited to talk about sex in public space and it’s an incredible honor to be able to help facilitate that discussion.
A Street Art Occupation at the Museum of Sex in New York City, opens February 8 and will run through June 10, 2012.
Emilie Baltz, Co-Curator, Creative Director, F*CK ART
Mark Snyder, Co-Curator F*CK ART, Director of Exhibitions, Museum of Sex
Meghan Coleman and Alex Emmart of Might Tanaka Gallery in Brooklyn served as Chief Advisors.
PANTHEON: A history of art from the streets of New York City is a labor of love.
This Saturday the PANTHEON mounts a show seen from the street, bringing visual story from the last 40 years of graffiti and Street Art alive in a space that once housed a city library across from the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street. Like the real shows we follow on the public thoroughfare, this one is also open 24 hours a day.
An ambitious project spearheaded by Daniel Feral and Joyce Manalo, PANTHEON is truly grassroots, an academic and historic presentation by people who love it and study it and create it. Funded by modest personal contributions to their Kickstarter campaign, the show’s mission is to foster future understanding of how graffiti and Street Art has claimed a place as catalyst in the culture through it’s own wild and wooly evolution on the margins and in the mainstream. A small selection of some of the players on this now global scene, the resulting exhibit aims to be an un-hyped insight into the experience by people who are more concerned with the art than who collects it.
As their media partner, BSA got a behind the scenes peek at many of the pieces that will be shown and here is a photo essay by our own Jaime Rojo. These rich and storied detail shots will hopefully incite your imagination and peak your interest to check out the street show in person.
A history of art from the streets of New York City
Windows exhibition runs April 2-17, 2011
On view 24 hours a day
chashama at the Donnell
20 West 53rd Street, b/w 5th & 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10019 (across from MoMA)
PRESS EVENT – RSVP ONLY*
Saturday, April 2, 4-5 PM
PRIVATE RECEPTION – RSVP ONLY*
Saturday, April 2, 6-8 PM
* To attend either event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-269-9494. Location details will be announced at the latest by Saturday morning.
Abe Lincoln, Jr., John Ahearn and Rigorberto Torres, Adam VOID, Cassius Fouler, Cake, Darkclouds, Droid, El Celso, Ellis Gallagher, Faro, John Fekner and Don Leicht, Freedom, Gen2, Goya, Groser, Richard Hambleton, infinity, KET, LSD-Om, Matt Siren, NohJColey, OverUnder, Oze 108, Quel Beast, Royce Bannon, Sadue, Jordan Seiler, Stikman, Toofly, UFO, and Vudu.