All posts tagged: Bedstuy Art Residence

“Tracing the Scars”, Know Hope: A Studio Visit At The BedStuy Art Residency

“Tracing the Scars”, Know Hope: A Studio Visit At The BedStuy Art Residency

You can see the rupture, the built-up cells of swollen tissue around it, the soreness festering, never quite healing.

Know Hope. Bedstuy Art Residency. Brooklyn, NY. July 27, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Know Hope is in BedStuy studying the internal topography of external scars, and gathering materials to map it in an atlas.

The relationship between physical scars and geopolitical ones are obvious once he lays out the similarities for you.

Know Hope. Bedstuy Art Residency. Brooklyn, NY. July 27, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“What I will be doing is eventually finding scars that resemble the shapes of borders and creating a re-imagined map of The Israeli/Palestinian region and it includes its participants – the only criterion is that they need to be people who are living in the region.”

An Israeli Street Artist with an appreciable international collectors record for his illustrative metaphors of brokenness and healing, the artist is embarking on perhaps his most significant new body of work – and not surprisingly it is about the body, and the body politic that is intimately familiar with pain.

Know Hope. Bedstuy Art Residency. Brooklyn, NY. July 27, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“It’s a project called “A Human Atlas” which focuses on the analogy between human scars and national borders,” he says as he illustrates on a tilted wooden desktop and signals toward the small works pinned to the wall. “So I have been collecting and documenting testimonials about scars and people sharing the stories behind them; with different anecdotes and personal reflections on them.”

Know Hope. Bedstuy Art Residency. Brooklyn, NY. July 27, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Here in Brooklyn, one is far away from the Israeli/Palestinian rupture, yet often cheek-to-jowl with it. One owns the deli on the corner, the hat store across the street is owned by the other. In a city where 800 languages are spoken, the strife between just two factions is mollified inside a world collection of cultures and the daily roar of all these voices.

The sensitivity necessary to become an artist can be both a blessing and a curse, and often you can see it personified. A man of letters, his work on brick street walls and billboards has often been literary, if necessary, reflexively cryptic – coming from a part of the world so gripped by a continuous war that the air itself can feel thick with hostility. Intentionally or not, the wounds and the scars are always on display.

Know Hope. Bedstuy Art Residency. Brooklyn, NY. July 27, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With the air conditioner rumbling as a low thunder around your conversation in this BedStuy brownstone, he tells you how the project is materializing as he studies the scars of others, perhaps comparing them to his own.

“I’ve been documenting and photographing the scars of people and collecting the stories. I still haven’t gotten around to figuring out how the artworks will actually be…” There are raised reliefs and pencil sketches floating beneath the text on the wall here at the BedStuy Residency. There are the tight and precise monochromatic illustrations using his now-familiar nomenclature of severed limbs, bodies contorted in a singular dance, white flags and doves and non-sequitorial glimpses of prose.

Know Hope. Bedstuy Art Residency. Brooklyn, NY. July 27, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I made a conscious decision not to decide on what I wanted the project to be. I just started by meeting people, which is still going on,” he says as he describes the organic process that he is taking, letting the end game reveal itself to him.

“With time I realize that it needs to be a book,” he says. “The information that is usually written in an atlas will be comprised of the stories that they share. And there will be maps and different mediums.”

It occurs to you that just as Street Art is an external expression that reflects the psychological, emotional state of the society back to itself, the mapping of cities is a tour of our common internalities. Know Hope appears to be looking for a physical way to trace the ruptures in his region with a desire that in the process, he can bring common healing. But first, he is studying the topography of the region and the nature of the wounds.

Know Hope. Bedstuy Art Residency. Brooklyn, NY. July 27, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Before you told me about this project, minutes ago, I was talking to you about how you have arranged the furniture and your art materials in this residency space and how this place was conceivably tracing a map inside your head and consciously or not you have arranged things because they matched the map. You were saying that you moved the table in a certain direction and distance because it “felt better”. You can’t quantify it. So when I think about the scars in the maps – scars or something that we want to be healed and maybe the process of tracing them – it’s like you are saying if that person could walk along that fissure, that wound, that rupture it might help heal, I don’t know.

Know Hope: Yeah and I think that there is something about wanting to take these separate scars and separate individual experiences and mend them together to create something collectively.

Know Hope. Bedstuy Art Residency. Brooklyn, NY. July 27, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: To have the common shared experience…

Know Hope: The idea is – the spark that is the initial metaphor – is that scars and borders share a lot of similar traits, common traits. They are both a product of circumstance – something happens to you or to a body or to the land. A war and a wound happe either by design or accident or an act of violence or through surgery.

At this moment it all comes together, this falling apart. You can see how Know Hope knows, and how the Atlas will become an important reference for our time.

“We kind of develop this long-term relationship with the scar or the wound that ends up becoming the scar.”

Know Hope. Bedstuy Art Residency. Brooklyn, NY. July 27, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Know Hope. Bedstuy Art Residency. Brooklyn, NY. July 27, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Know Hope. Bedstuy Art Residency. Brooklyn, NY. July 27, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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Niels Shoe Meulman: Thank You For Shopping Here

Niels Shoe Meulman: Thank You For Shopping Here

Graffitti. Calligraphy.

Both celebrate the power and expressive ability of the letterform and yet each appear as entirely separate pursuits. Uniting them requires understanding both very well, contemplating their friction, their possibilities, and a lot of negotiation.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Since 2007 Niels “Shoe” Meulman has been investigating, experimenting with, enraptured by this pursuit. From thousands of hand sketches in his black book to the full-body immersion techniques of creating across large walls and floors, using paint and brush by the gallon in premeditated/subconscious all-inclusive gestural choreographies. Shoe knows how to stay in the moment.

It’s this elevating together of disciplines that reveals their contrasts; awakening the inner conflicts and core strengths, parading them on view.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He discovered the perfect transmutation here in Brooklyn. It was that night of art-making with Haze that was a turning point..

“We both decided to go to the art store and get a whole lot of tools and stuff and just started working to see what would come out,” he says as he glances out the 1st floor brownstone window at the pile of recycled cardboard in the tiny courtyard. 26 years as a writer from Amsterdam who had met his New York graffiti heroes like Dondi, Rammellzee, and Haring, Shoe had pursued a career in advertising, and was still in love with fonts and their power to communicate.

“Without a commission, without a brief,” he remembers. “And like that – my old passion, calligraphy, mixing with graffiti, just came out!”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Shoe says he created “calligraffiti” and he ran with it: developing a body of work around it, writing a book about it (Calligraffiti), collaborating with a growing number of artists who also had an affinity for the penmanship of an artful communication modality that spans centuries.

He has developed brushes, tools, techniques, opened a gallery in a garage (Unruly), covered surfaces from cars to museum walls, finished three more books (Painter, Abstract Vandalism and Shoe is my Middle name). It was as if he had finally decided at 40 that it was okay to be an artist, and he left advertising to dedicate himself fully to his craft.

“Because my dad is also an artist- maybe I was finding the right moment to be an artist,” he says as he shows you a stack of many papers from the art supply store, and he contemplates why he had hesitated for years. It’s not that he was concerned about competing with his father, but the stakes were high. Speaking of his father, he says, “I think he was thinking ‘if you’re going to be an artist you better be a successful one’ – because being a struggling artist – that’s the worst!”

Additionally, he thought that before he could call himself an artist, he should have something substantial to show. “It also felt like there was something more profound to it,” he says. “I always thought that to be an artist you have to have life experience and have some knowledge and purpose to bring to the table, you know?”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Whether wide tip, wide brush, or wide cap, the bending letters are cryptic and stern in their old-worldliness. Fluid and stilted, wild and ornate, gilded, in black, in iridescence, in silver and gold. The additional layers of ink burst violently with destructive force in the swipe, the slash, the bash. The splatters are sometimes built up like an aura that glows around the cavorting dark letters – as if bruised and pummeled, their damaged and moistened epidermis now sweating black blood, infusing the air with a miasma of industrial soot.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With broad interests that delve into abstract, into wordplay, even poetry, this moment is the clarity in early morning fog on a quiet street in old BedStuy, now rumbling with the sweet sickness of gentrification. The residency that brings him here is so named to recall history and to look forward, offering a respite for many a visiting Street Artist.

“I didn’t really have a plan when I came here but, like many times, I come up with something on the plane like the day before – and of course it’s brewing in my head.”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He points to a couple of handled black plastic shopping bags that he has tacked to the wall. With a capacity to recognize and understand his own emotions and the emotions of an era, he has connected to the pleasantry printed on them “Thank You for Shopping With Us!”. It’s not just the sentiment that captures the late 1970s design hand, for him, it’s the upbeat openness and lyrical bending of the letters and lines that attract him.

The letters are sweet like cherry lip-gloss on a rollerskater in hot pants in Central Park. Suddenly you are flipping through the pages of Eros, Fact, or Avant Garde, a relief of melodic line and sexual liberty.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Thank you for shopping!” he exclaims like a fan. “That’s so New York for me; that’s exactly graffiti – that 70s Herb Lubalin look,” he says of a time when magazines were so head-over-heels in love with new type treatments that they might feature a 2-page spread of it entirely just for you to salivate over.

“It’s free,” he says, perhaps reflective of the liberal sway of social mores and the swinging romance that advertising had with the Baby Boomer’s ‘me’ generation of the seventies. It’s a phrase rooted in consumerism, cities were in the last throes of an ample middleclass America who had cash and credit to shop with.  That fact contrasted with the suffering of a bankrupt NYC – a spirit that inspired train writers as well, even if used as critique.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I think the whole graffiti scene that started here had something to do with this sort of lettering,” he says. “It came from that freedom that you could see in advertising. The type design was so good.”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

For now, this month-long residency is a reprieve for Shoe, a time to examine and relax into the spring that gradually warms New York and brings rose blooms to the bush in the small front yard of this residential street. His new sketches from his black book contain pithy barbs, hidden meanings, pop-culture references, and life truisms drawn in what he might refer to as a monk-like manner.

“I’m not religious. I don’t follow any religion and I don’t meditate but I like this idea of knowledge and introspection,” he says. “This is where Chinese calligraphy comes in and you are reminded of the medieval monks and all kinds of calligraphers”.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A congenial host, Shoe shows us walls full of new pieces, individual words or phrases on a large variety of papers, textures, and stocks. He describes his inks with as much enthusiasm as his personal relationships, which are sometimes as tumultuous as the intense splashes of midnight here. You can see there is definitely work being done.

“That knowledge comes from that kind of introspection. The influence of Japanese and Chinese calligraphy comes in because at that time if you were by yourself writing…. Those monks either wanted to be enlightened or were enlightened in some way; it’s a search,” he says.

“This is where I am.”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

To learn more about the BedStuy Art Residency, please go HERE.

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Date Farmer Carlos Ramirez Never Gives Up

Date Farmer Carlos Ramirez Never Gives Up

“There are a lot of royalty here with all these crowns,” we observe scanning over the fresh works taped and stuck to the walls in the front room of this Brooklyn brownstone at the Bedstuy Art Residency.

“Yes I’m always championing the underdog,” says Carlos Ramirez. “I’m kind of rooting for them.”

Half of the artist duo The Date Farmers with Armando Lerma and formerly an actual date farmer in the Coachella Valley in Indio, California, he knows what it is like to be an underdog.

The symbols of power are around the room on these medium sized canvasses and small objects newly painted and collaged with hand-rendered figures and re-purposed logos. The 2-D crown sits jauntily atop the head of a man at a kitchen table that is scattered sparsely with a baloney sandwich, a can of Campbell’s soup, a box of Minute Rice. Probably not a king, Carlos wants this guy to feel empowered.

Carlos Ramirez. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“This is called ‘Cold Ass Soup’, he explains. “That has to do with latchkey kids who sit at home because you see them everywhere and my attention has always been drawn to that. Because what do these kids do, you know?” His familiarity with the term latchkey, which means a child who is often left at home with little parental supervision, relates strongly into his own experiences as a youth.

A Mexican-American, or Chicano, kid in the 1970s and 80s, the artist says he remembers what he did when he was left alone while his mom worked as a migrant agricultural employee picking produce in the fields. He entertained himself with daydreams and games, sometimes played with other kids, and he drew. Discovering this innate attraction and possible talent, drawing would become an increased focus for him over time, eventually opening doors – even though friends and family didn’t necessarily think much of it then, or even now.

Carlos Ramirez. Work in progress. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I think it was a combination of two things. When I used to go to the fields with my mom and I had to wait in the car like eight hours there were these old books like drawing books with an Indian chief on the cover or something and sometimes she was gone and I would be drawing for hours,” he says.

“She would come and check on me and she would say “oh that looks good” and she would encourage it. I think she was encouraging it so that I would sit my ass there — and then she realized that I guess I had talent or something and I just never stopped.”

Neither did the hard times. Remembrances and stories include drug and alcohol abuse, violence in the home and community, serious health issues and suffering, and long periods of time with very little money, sometimes very little food. With and without specifics, Carlos describes a lot of the situations that he and his family went through as “crazy shit,” possibly because it was confusing and hard to understand for a child, or because it is too painful to recollect the details today.

Carlos Ramirez. Detail. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo) Refugees adrift, at the foot of the cross. “Life” is now “Lie”.

But the image of Jesus was always there on the walls, or at least the cross was – which is why that influence of Christianity is frequently mixing with Mexican pop culture, Low Rider aesthetics, street culture, Disney, clowns, devils, and the language of commercial advertising in his visual metaphors. Throughout are signifiers of power, influence, and the randomness of modern life that leaves many of us feeling uprooted and listing.

Would he say that he is into religion? “Yeah I believe it. I’m not too into it but I know that there is a greater power,” he says. Later on the topic of the image of Jesus at home and in the church, he says, “I’m not really religious but he kind of represents hope. I would see people kneel, you know. I didn’t know what hope was. Like troubled minds and troubled hearts and all that stuff – it wasn’t till I got older”.

Carlos Ramirez. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The concepts of good and evil and an interest in spiritual or mystic topics all appear periodically in the conversation, like the cell phone videos of UFOs in the sky over his home in recent years, or his necklace orbs that represent the distance of the earth from the sun, and a recent mind-body-spirit experience he had in Brooklyn with his mate Jeannette at a “sound bath” with Sound Practitioner Franck Raharinosy who guided visitors using music and hand-rendered auditory journeys performed while they lay quietly on mats.

“He started playing all these different instruments but when your eyes are closed you start to see all these patterns. I don’t even know what he used but it’s different frequencies, and I swear to you I started seeing patterns and I thought ‘Is that normal?’ I have never seen these – we saw colors, patterns …” he recalls.

Carlos Ramirez. Detail. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Talk turns to how the Date Farmers began as an official art duo when gallery owner and alt-art visionary Marsea Goldberg gave them the name. The two had had a little luck in their hometown selling work but tripped two hours to Los Angeles to basically walk their artworks around to galleries in their hands. He says that they’ve been working closely with Marsea since the mid 2000s but their personal and professional relationship dates back to those first days in the late 90s when she encouraged them to challenge themselves and to continue making more art.

“I named them, gave them their first show, wrote texts and books about them and I love them,” she tells us at a Brendan Fagen gallery opening this week in New York. Both the Farmers and Fagan (the artist formerly known as Judith Supine) are two of Goldberg’s genius picks whom she shepherded with her New Image Art gallery in LA while they were early in their careers along with other near-iconic or now-iconic names in Street Art/graffiti/Urban Contemporary art like Bäst, Ed Templeton, Barry McGee, Shepard Fairey, Chris Johanson, Anthony Lister, Neck Face, Cleon Peterson, and Retna.

“This is a weird-ass black cat,” Carlos says of the midnight colored feline looking at you from his current canvas-in-process.

What is the black cat doing? “He is selling fireworks,” he says, referring to the logo he lifted from the oldest maker of fire crackers, sparklers, and bottle rockets in the US. “I kind of just took the words out,” he says, “It’s not done.”

Carlos Ramirez. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: So you like to strip away the words?

Carlos: Yeah it’s kind of like composing with images. It’s a weird process, like random – like a scan.

“Where do these images come from – like this guy with the horns?” we ask him. “Do Mexican wrestlers and demonic influences influence you?”

“They’re kind of bad kids you know,” he says gesturing to an old beer can with a densely drawn face glued onto it. “When kids drink they start doing evil shit and so this is kind of more symbolic to kind of say ‘oh here’s a fucked up kid’ – so I put like little horns on him. Obviously he’s wearing Mickey Mouse ears and smoking – stupid kid.”

Carlos Ramirez. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

And the kid next to the fireworks black cat? Is he bad too? “Yeah you know fireworks … this is like – well, it’s a bad person and he needs to repent.”

The figures are dark, heavy, labored, square shouldered and square jawed. Backgrounds are Mexican candy-colored pinks, yellows. The color contrast is emblematic of the lives of people he’s known in Mexico and those who have moved to the US; an insistence on optimism and humor in the face of institutionalized racism, social inequality, police abuse, and economic injustice. Again and again he describes the ebullient sense of humor seen across the culture as a pragmatic tool for psychological and spiritual survival.

Carlos Ramirez. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Clearly, he is a survivor himself, one whose mother worked for/with the American labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez in the late 1960s and 1970s, fighting for the rights of grape harvesters, among others. Even during some of the darkest days, including those when Chavez stayed in their home as part of an elaborate house-hopping scheme to escape being killed, Carlos recognized that his mother and his culture knew how to find ways to persevere and to be optimistic in a way that stems from Mexican roots and history.

“When I went out to places like Chiapas I noticed all these colors and it kind of represents their humor and how they can laugh at so much. And it’s not that they’re being cold – it’s just survival. They have seen so much that they are like ‘let’s use bright colors’ so they can keep their sense of humor – it’s some weird shit but I love it, man.”

Carlos Ramirez. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We ask why the figures are always dark, dense, strong, and inflexible-looking. His answer makes you realize how hard one has to become to survive sometimes.

“When I grew up if you were kind of like bummed out or sad they would look at you and say ‘Cut that shit out,” like “Knock that shit off.”

“And if I went to my mom and said my leg hurt she would fucking hit you with a belt on the other leg,” he says only half-joking, “to make it hurt more – then you could realize that your other leg didn’t really hurt”

Carlos Ramirez. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo) “I just take it from life and the shit I hear. Like the first day I got here there was this guy out of the street on the phone and he was saying ‘shit don’t cry don’t cry shit man.’ They’re kind of like human artifacts.”

Looking at the eye-popping bright colors that wash across his canvasses, he observes, “A lot of us go through this thing where we have learned not to be sensitive to things around with us, just do what you gotta do. It’s survival and suffering and the colors are just to get past it – to laugh at it.”

“I grew up with my mother where we would eat beans for like a month and we got through it and we still had happy times. And I’m not kidding, a lot of my family, when they got here, they would eat the armadillos in the street! They’d actually eat that shit and they were laughing – and who knows what else.”

Carlos Ramirez. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Are the difficult memories something that a person can move on from? “I don’t know maybe I’m still kind of healing from that shit because we went through some hard times and maybe that’s why these (figures) are kind of dark. I mean they are always dark but I see what you see. But I don’t know – it’s like something still needs to be said.

An activist at heart perhaps as a result of having people like his mom as a role model, Carlos looks at current political and social events and searches for ways to help the community. We talk about the DACA immigration program in the US that allows children brought to the country by parents who were not citizens to stay, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Since Trump took office, the DACA program has been under attack.

Carlos Ramirez. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Yeah I find it so hard to ignore that shit because I feel that sense of urgency because you’ve got to say something. Like I don’t know if I say it enough.”

His advice to DACA kids sounds like the champion of the underdog that he says he is, giving advice that in some way applies to himself as well; from a perspective of a lifelong and wizened fighter.

“I think I would want to say to them that there wouldn’t be a DACA movement if they hadn’t done what they have done. So never give up, you know? You know everything, unfortunately, is gradual sometimes and its in small battles – but it’s a big war. It’s kind of like racism – like I think there are some other people we need to deal with their attitudes and find out why they need that shit.”

“But I think, ‘Never give up. Ever, ever, ever, ever.’ “

Carlos Ramirez. Bedstuy Art Residency. Februray 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


 

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