Hammering the display walls, sanding off the plaster bumps, the whirring and popping of construction drills: Two assistants are helping 1970s NYC subway writer Lee Quinones lay out a #2 train-car-length canvas on the floor while you are distracted by the Empire State building puncturing the Manhattan cityscape across the East River, a sweeping vista through the glass walls of this new high-rise in Williamsburg.
Nearby Cornbread’s notebook hangs next to his signature, a potent visual reverberation across five decades from graffiti’s Philly roots.
Elsewhere there are the sounds of woodsaws and metal clanging accompany the one-line drawings of freight-writer buZ blurr as historian Bill Daniel is completing his comprehensive mini-exhibition within this massive exhibition. With trains and photos and modern relics of American rail lore on display, this crucial antecedent of modern-day aerosol “writing” emerges and blows its chimes as well. This is a particular slice of the graffiti story that Mr. Daniel may describe, as he does in The Secret History of Hobo Graffiti, as “the dogged pursuit of the impossibly convoluted story of the heretofore untold history of the century-old folkloric practice of hobo and railworker graffiti.”
It’s an apt descriptor for Beyond The Streets as well. This multi-artist graffiti/Street Art-influenced exhibition directed by the discerning shepherd and seer Roger Gastman that is now mounting over two floors and 100,000 square feet in North Brooklyn tackles an endlessly convoluted evolutionary path. He says the size and composition of the exhibition has slightly changed since its first mounting last year in Los Angeles, and he is acutely aware that its location is in the city that claims a huge part of the graffiti genesis story, carrying perhaps a steep level of expectations.
Not that he has reason to worry: there are more hits here than a blowout at Yankee Stadium.
Like the blast of colors and pieces at a sunny Saturday afternoon Meeting of Styles jam, this show of many writers, photographers, documenters, collectors, painters, vandals, and attitudes won’t disappoint. You can see and construct your own version of a celebratory story that illustrates and reveals surprising ways that the street subculture has left its mark indelibly on the mainstream, yet often stayed separate.
From the Beastie Boys wigs worn in the “Sabotage” music video to the camera Joe Conzo used to shoot the Cold Crush Brothers, to the MDF and cardboard pay phone by pop sculptor Bill Barminski, and Dash Snow’s hi-low societal slumming photographs depicting sex, drugs, rhyming and stealing, visitors easily will have a flood of images and histories to author their own convoluted version of the graffiti and Street Art tale.
Gastman’s Massive Graffiti and Street Art Show Arrives at Epicenter.
“I’m really excited to bring this show to New York,” says curator, graffiti historian and urban anthropologist Roger Gastman, “because the city plays such a pivotal role in the origin and evolution of the culture. The iconic images of covered subway cars made graffiti famous worldwide.”
He’s talking of course about “Beyond The Streets” the hybrid exhibition that he mounted in LA last year featuring the work of 150 who have proved to be pivotal to the evolution of a fifty year global people’s art movement that includes graffiti, street art, and urban contemporary art. Filling over 100,000 square feet of new space in Brooklyn, this two-floor cross-section survey will feature artworks by many of the same vandals, graffiti writers, Street Artists, and art activists who hit NYC streets, created dialogue with passersby, and were sometimes chased by the authorities. To see them showcased here is to recognize that there is not just one route to take – in fact there are many.
“We have an incredible roster of artists for New York,” Gastman tells us, “and a brand new space in Williamsburg that has a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline as our backdrop.” Notably the lineup includes artists whose work BSA has documented on the streets in this very same neighborhood over the past two decades, including Shepard Fairey, Faile, Swoon, Bast, Invader, Aiko, and others. Ironically the appearance of free-range Street Art in the neighborhood has been seriously diminished since that time.
The exhibition is one more verification that a significant portion of the scene is being widely recognized for its cultural contribution and value in the contemporary art canon – a significantly fluid scene fueled by discontent and a desire to short-circuit the established routes to audience appreciation. Like large survey shows elsewhere, the takeaway is the significant impact street culture and its tangential subcultures continues to have on the culture at large.
Gastman says the New York version of “Beyond The Streets” will take an
additional interest at the role of music and art activism on the street, along
with immersive installations, a tattoo parlor, a special Beastie Boys
installation with artifacts and ephemera, a new 30th Anniversary
Shepard Fairey project “Facing The Giant: 3 Decades of Dissent,” and large
scale works by Gorilla Girls, Futura, Cleon Peterson, and Takashi
More news coming on programming and events, but the important opening date to know right now is June 21st.
“All in all, it will make for a really special show this Summer,” says Gastman.
BEYOND THE STREETS TEAM
Curator: Roger Gastman
Co-Curators: Sacha Jenkins SHR, Evan Pricco, David CHINO Villorente
A-ONE, AIKO, Al Diaz, Alexis Ross, Alicia McCarthy, André Saraiva, Barry McGee, BAST, Beastie Boys, Bert Krak, Bill Barminski, Bill Daniel, BLADE, Broken Fingaz, Buddy Esquire, buZ blurr, Carlos Mare, Carl Weston, Cey Adams, C.R. Stecyk III, Charlie Ahearn, Chaz Bojórquez, Claudia Gold, Cleon Peterson, COCO 144, Conor Harrington, Corita Kent, Craig Costello, CRASH, DABSMYLA, Dan Witz, Dash Snow, DAZE, DEFER, Dennis Hopper, Dondi White, Doze Green, EARSNOT, Estevan Oriol, Fab 5 Freddy, FAILE, Faith XLVII, Felipe Pantone, FREEDOM, FUTURA 2000, Gajin Fujita, Glen E. Friedman, Gordon Matta-Clark, Guerrilla Girls, HAZE, Henry Chalfant, Herb Migdoll, Husk Mit Navn, INVADER, Jane Dickson, Jason REVOK, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jenny Holzer, Jim Prigoff, John Ahearn, John Fekner, John Tsombikos, Joe Conzo, José Parlá, KATS, KC Ortiz, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Kilroy Was Here, LADY PINK, LAZAR, LEE Quiñones, Lisa Kahane, MADSAKI, Maripol, Mark Gonzales, Mark Mothersbaugh, Martha Cooper, Matt Weber, Maya Hayuk, Michael Lawrence, MIKE 171, MISS 17, Mister CARTOON, Nina Chanel Abney, NOC 167, Pat Riot, Patrick Martinez, Paul Insect, POSE, PRAY, Rammellzee, Randall Harrington, RETNA, Richard Colman, Richard Hambleton, RIME, RISK, Ron English, Ruby Neri, SABER, Sam Friedman, SANESMITH, Sayre Gomez, Shepard Fairey, SJK 171, SLICK, SNAKE 1, SNIPE1, STAY HIGH 149, Stephen Powers, SWOON, Takashi Murakami, TAKI 183, TATS CRU, TENGAone, Tim Conlon, Timothy Curtis, Todd James, Trash Records, UGA, VHILS, and ZESER
The show is developed in partnership with Adidas and Perrier. Additional support provided by Modernica, Montana Colors, NPR, NTWRK, Twenty Five Kent and WNYC.
So here is our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Ad Tumulum Arts, Al Diaz, Anthony Lister, Claw Money, Duke A. Barnstable, Grimm The Street Kat, Invader, Jeffrey Beebe, JR, Kobra, Raf Urban, and Tomokazu Matsuyama.
The winds of change are blowing, but few can discern the direction they’ll go in the upcoming elections as the city is going full tilt into fall and a twisted neoliberalism grinds us to into a frenzy of automated stock trading and market swings that make you nauseous, ever higher rents and food costs, forever-stalled wages, food banks that serve 1.5 million hungry New Yorkers annually and yet a brisk business at Tiffany’s…
— and there are delays on the 1,2,3,4,5,6,N,R,Q,M,L,G,E,F,J,W, and Z subway lines. Every day.
There is word that attendance at the upcoming Village Halloween Parade may be down this year because it’s a daily freakshow at the White House so the novelty is worn thin. Zombie here. Zombie there. Zombie everywhere.
So here is our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Al Diaz, BB Bastidas, Bob Floss, Captain Eyeliner, Danielle Mastrion, Groose Ling, Invader, Just Paint, Kenor, Lil’ Kool, Michel Velt, Pop Artoons, Sara Erenthal, Sean9Lugo, Subway Doodle, The Postman Art and Vanessa Powers.
A steel-wheeled graffiti train with Roger Gastman at the controls roars into LA’s Chinatown for a two-month stay at this station, a 40,000 square foot warehouse that houses “Beyond the Streets.” Originating at the streets and train yards of the 1960s and 70s, this express survey carries with it 100 or so artists and writers from across the last five decades as practitioners of graffiti, Street Art, and mural painting. Somehow, everyone gets represented.
Opening night featured many of the names associated with its earliest beginnings of the New York /Philadelphia graffiti scene like Cornbread, Taki183, Futura, Lady Pink, filmmaker Charlie Ahearn, among many others, including photographer Martha Cooper, who in addition to being an artist in the show, shares these photos with BSA readers. She also extensively shares her photos for the accompanying show catalog, providing documentation from the scene that exist nowhere else.
A diverse and almost overwhelming series of displays present the works in a way that can only hint at the thousands of artists who built this story, necessarily viewed through a wide lens: sculpture, photography, installations, and multi-media all join the canvasses and ephemera and Gastman’s collection of vintage paint cans. Smartly planned for the selfie generation, large pieces are presented almost as backdrop ready to be Instagrammed; a direction coming from the “Photos Encouraged” sign that is next to the wall covered with Retna’s original alphabet near the entrance.
Somewhat of a rejoinder to Art in the Streets, the eponymous graffiti and Street Art exhibition in 2011 at LA MoCA, Beyond the Streets takes a focused look at the multitudinous peoples’ art movement from the perspective of one of that first shows’ original curators, Roger Gastman. When arranging the two month exhibition that closes July 6th, Gastman says that his focus was to celebrate those with street cred, in terms of individual practice, and to combine that requirement with a respectable semblance of a studio practice.
Ultimately he looked for artists who have used their particular approach to expand the definition of art in the streets in some way. That definition by now has become quite wide and it’s also a tall order for any curator to find the common themes here and present them in a cohesive manner.
Beyond The Streets, compiled by Roger Gastman.
Both the accompanying catalog and exhibition take a welcome stance toward educating the audience in many ways, helping the viewer to decode this freewheeling graffiti and mark-making history with basic vocabulary terms, historical events, pop culture inflexion points and examination of tools of the trade all adding context. Catalog essays and interviews are incisive and enlightening, including wit, sarcasm and even the occasional admonishment – notably in the essay by author, filmmaker, and curator Sacha Jenkins, who has been documenting the graffiti scene for a least a couple of decades.
Studying the move of some artists from street practice to commercial gallery that began in earnest with early NYC train writers transitioning to canvasses in the early 1980s, Jenkins upbraids a disgruntled faction among old-school graffiti writers who he characterizes as perhaps intransigent in their stylistic evolution and unwilling to adapt with the game. Later in his essay he lambasts the overtly pleasant and narcissistic cultural newcomers who he sees as milk-toasting the scene with their adoration of pretty murals and shallow sentiments, obtusely ushering in gentrification and “leading up to hearing about how my mother’s building is going to get bulldozed for a hip residential building that has a hot tub in every apartment.” He also may be the only writer here so openly addressing race and class distinctions present during the evolution of the scene and now.
The selection of artists and writers in the book and exhibition, many of them friends and colleagues with whom Gastman has worked with in the past, offers a rewarding and accessible panoply of styles and views. With some study the visitor understands connections in a widely dispersed multi-player subculture that coalesced and continuously changed its shape and character. But even if they don’t, they still get an amazing amount of eye candy.
The catalog offers extensive sections like those devoted to The History of Spraypaint and Graffiti in Galleries, and offers petite exegesis on influencing factors and benchmarks that shaped the art form’s route like Mobile DJs, The ’77 NYC Blackout, the European graffiti scene and graffiti’s role in gang culture, hip-hop and hardcore music. The compilation aids and supports the fullness of a story that frankly requires many voices to tell it. Gastman even gives forum and exhibition space to activist and defiant guerilla gardener Ron Finley and the holistic urban horticultural oases that he creates in South Central LA, calling it his form of graffiti in empty lots of the city.
Martha Cooper with Taki 183. Beyond The Streets. (photo courtesy of Martha Cooper)
With insightful interviews of artists in the exhibition from talented writers like Caleb Neelon, Caroline Ryder, John Lewis, Alec Banks, Evan Pricco, John Albert, Shelly Leopold, and Gastman himself, there are enough colorful anecdotes and decisive signposts en route to help tell the stories of the artists and their individual approaches to the street.
“The artists do not share a singular style, since they are primarily united by a common element of their personal biographies – the fact that they once made their art in the streets,” says self-described novice to the Street Art / graffiti world, Adam Lerner, the Director and Chief Animator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. “There are, however some threads that run through the works.”
Beyond the Streets will help visitors find some of those threads for themselves and undoubtedly they will forge their own interpretation of art in the streets.
The response to our pieces on BSA and Huffpost yesterday has been sort of overwhelming – with people writing to us and commenting and sharing the article in large numbers on social media. Last nights pre-opening party at the museum was also enthusiastic, and although we don’t do the name-dropping thing much, we were gobsmacked to see members of his family at the dinner as well as many of the “Downtown” crowd from that era who were charming and celebratory as we listened to Director Arnold Lehman and the two curators describe the show and the process of putting it together.
Happy New Year to All! Thank you for inspiring us to do our best and to those of you who continue to support our personal art project / cultural examination, we extend our gratitude more than ever.
Begun as an enthusiastic discovery of what was happening in a few neighborhoods in New York, we continued to expand our view into more cities around the world last year and into the history and future of the scene. We also aimed to provide you with a critical platform for examination of the street art/ graffiti / public art/ contemporary art continuum with interviews with artists, curators, collectors, organizers, observers and thinkers in the street, studio, gallery, and museum – trouble makers and taste makers alike.
In the end, it’s your observations and the conversations on the street that are most important. As we begin the year with over 300K fans, friends, and followers on social media platforms and 225 articles on the Huffington Post (thanks HuffPost team!), we feel like we get a valuable good survey of current opinions heading our way daily.
With in-depth interviews, investigative articles, opinion infused examinations, plain celebratory reverie, occasionally silly non-sequitors, and public appearances where we get to meet you, we get a good analytical look at an ever-evolving movement, glittery polish and warts and all.
As the new year begins we take a look back at the top stories chosen by BSA Readers in the last 12 months. Among them are two takeover pop-up shows in soon-to-be demolished buildings, a story about commercial abuse of artist copyrights and the effort to fight back, a street art community’s response to the sudden death of an activist street artist, a Street Art tourist trip, and a few inspirational women, men, and Mexican muralists. Even though we published at least once a day for the last 365 days, these are the most popular pieces, as chosen by you, Dear BSA Reader.
“When this precinct was built it was a very bad, very poor neighborhood. When the cops came in there was a lot of brutality and there was a lot of corruption,” says curator Robert Aloia of this building architected for the NYPD in 1863 and closed down fifty years later. A quick search on the web shows a history of thuggery born of Dickens. Records at the time of closure indicated there were 9,500 arrests annually and this tiny slice of Manhattan alone had 37 brothels.
So why not have a graffiti show here before tearing it down, right?.
Brooklyn Street Art:So you literally could hit every wall here and it wouldn’t matter because it is coming down at the end of the month? Robert Aloia: Yeah the inside walls. The outside walls they don’t want us to touch.
In a twist of events pulled from a satire, one of the artists on display this weekend was arrested this month in Brooklyn and spent the night in jail before seeing a judge. The following day he came to this precinct and hit up some walls with impunity.
“It’s just amazing that these artists can put their time, their money, and their talent into something that is just coming down,” says Aloia while touring us through rooms and stairways during one of the four visits we made for these exclusive first images, “ and it is only going to be seen for a certain amount of time.”
Hellbent has his own room. So does Rambo. Cash4 and Matt Siren are sharing one together, as are Sheryo and the Yok. Elle spent an entire night in hers watching her black wax sculpture melting away with the candles she planted in it. An unconfirmed story says it is a sculpture cast of the elusive Judith Supine.
“She painted it black, melted it and filmed it,” says Aloia.
Brooklyn Street Art:Have you thought of the irony behind the fact that this is a former police precinct and many of the artists would have been running away from this place instead of trying to get into it?
Robert Aloia: That is true, I didn’t think of that aspect of it really, but the gallery area was the actual holding cell.
Brooklyn Street Art: So how did you draw these people together?
Robert Aloia: Every show I’ve done I start with my friends, and then it’s friends of friends, and that’s it. It’s just about one degree of separation.
In the last three years the New York native has curated a number of shows heavily weighted with graffiti artists and Street Artists, primarily on Manhattan’s Lower East Side at bars, event spaces, and venues with downtown history like Fuse, White Box, and La Mama.
A bartender and DJ who has mixed with a lot of New York nightlife and street life without becoming hardened, Aloia and co-curators like Erik Foss and Ricky Powell have been doing sometimes star-studded yet unassuming one-off shows the past few years with Street Art names like Bast, Supine, and Aiko and some of the newer kids like N’DA and Icy & Sot.
“I am from New York and I always knew a lot of graffiti artists, that’s how I ended up getting into it. I was just lucky enough to have access to some venues to do stuff.”
Brooklyn born, Aloia’s been on the LES since the 80s, which explains his devotion to the memory of “outlaw parties” where people would set up an illegal bar and a pumping sound system in improvised celebrations at unsanctioned locations. Outlaw parties and pop-up speakeasies still exist of course, but more often they are in Brooklyn now as Manhattan is shoving artists out by the truckload.
For “21st Precinct” he’s called in nearly 50 artists from as far away as Japan, Australia, California, and nearby New Jersey. The mix of artists is eclectic and sometimes quite powerful like the tribute to SAMO (Basquiat) in the gallery by his co-conspirator Al Diaz, and the dark room built by Swedish photographer Jesper Haynes which features images from the downtown New York in the Reagan era.
“I definitely always have a mix with fine art, photography, installation, but you know I always have old-school graffiti artists and street artists,” he says as he looks over the four floors of thickly gritty splendor by renowned and unknown.
For those lucky enough to see the show in this venue this weekend or next, “21st Precinct” is a quintessential New York minute, a steamy grimy melting pot of authentic attitude that begs to differ and perhaps stick a finger in your chest just before the wrecking ball hits. Thank Aloia while you’re there. Not surprisingly, the new building that replaces this one will be for…..wait for it…. luxury residences.
OUTLAW ARTS Presents: “The 21st Precinct”
Curated by Robert Aloia & VNA Mag
The show will be in the old 21st Precinct located on 327 East 22nd Street. More information HERE.
Adam Dare, Al Diaz, Amanda Marie, ASVP, Bad Pedestrian, Ben Angotti , Bill Claps, Bishop203, Bunny M., Cash4, Chris RWK, Chris Soria, Coby Kennedy, Curtis Kulig, D. Gaja, Danielle Mastrion, Dasic, Dizmology, Duel, ELLE, Erasmo, Esteban del Valle, Faust, Ghost, GIZ, Hellbent, Hue, Icy & Sot, Iena Cruz, Jesper Haynes, Justin Carty, Ket, Lexi Bella, Li-Hall, Lorenzo Masnah, Matt Siren, Mr. Toll, N. Carlos Jay, Nepo, Nick Tengri, Pesu, Phil, Pixote, RAE, Rambo, Ricardo Cabret, SAE, Savior Elmundo, Shery-o & The Yok, Shiro, Tone Tank, URNY, Vexta, X-O.