A splendid selection this week of very entertaining pieces across the city. As we enter December, you can see that graffiti and street artists are going full-steam ahead into the new year – with personal, political, philosophical, and even romantic sentiments.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: Faile, SRKSHNK, Modomatic, Sara Lynne-Leo, Molly Crabaple, Cope, Riisa Boogie, Ollin, Short, Rezones, Asker Uno, Danielle BKNYC, McManiphes, Kojo Hilton, Rad Bio, Duster, My Name is Annie, and The Jolly.
However, there do appear to be more sharks around this summer – and not just your cousin Melvin and his buddies at the pool hall. Ah, New York, your grizzled, gritty exterior hides such a fascinating crushed-velvet heart beating inside…
We’re mainly happy that it’s not a thousand degrees on the streets this weekend, a welcome relief to the heatwave. Ice cream, anyone?
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: Faile, Stikman, Sticker Maul, Degrupo, Homesick, Cone, and Ked.
These are topics/themes that street artists are addressing this week in New York – pretty much wherever you go. It looks like an uptick in activism, often with a sense of humor. Can we make a song with these words? Somebody please tie these topics together and make a tidy summary. Thank you.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: Raddington Falls, Hek Tad, Degrupo, CP Won, Albertus Joeph, Madame Restell, Mike King, Jason Ackerman, Trippin Ape Tribe, Eternal Possessions, and Lask Art.
One street art text piece we caught yesterday just as the abortion decision was being announced is appropriately in Spanish. Que voy hacer con llorar? or “What good does crying do?”.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: Captain Eyeliner, JJ Veronis, Modomatic, Voxx Romana, Hijack, Fear Arte, IMK, 3784, Jaw1, Smoe, JC3, Mayd1, Spot KMS Crew, Heavylox, and Bongggblue.
The curator/owner of this wall, Jessica Goldman, posted recently on social media that the famed graff/street art/mural wall is “on pause.” The street has its own ideas of course and the wall has been very active for the last weeks in an organic manner. As usual, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Steering away from potentially inflammatory political content or street beef of the past on this high-profile wall with a New York street art/graffiti history, the current occupants of the Houston Bowery Wall are more focused on allegory, and community. Featuring a fleet of volunteers and a mural full of history and aspiration, Raul Ayala thinks of this wall as a teachable moment. The artist employed many of the 21 days that this mural took to complete to do just that: teach.
With ten talented young artists/activists from the locally-based Groundswell NYC community organization, Ayala planned and painted various phases of the mural together while under the gaze of curious New Yorkers who paraded by hour after hour while the artists painted. Included in that team were Gabriela Balderas, Charlize Beltre, Brandon Bendter, Junior Steven Clavijo, Jennifer Contreras, Maria Belen Flores, Hafsa Habib, Cipta Hussain, Karina Linares and Gabriel Pala.
Ayala describes the piece as “opening a portal,” and you quickly realize that it is a portal of the mind to imagination and inspiration. “For me, building imagination and sharing knowledge alongside a younger generation of artists is a great manifestation of the fruits of this shift,” he says. “With this mural, we are also bringing inter-generational participation into a future that honors our past while actively creating a different path of existence.”
BSA talked to Raul about the mural and his experience painting it. Below is the interview:
BSA: At both ends of the mural you have depicted two masked characters. One on the left is wearing what seems to be an Aztec mask with the skyline of Manhattan in the background as he pulls down a monument. The one on the right is a black man at the moment when he is either about to put an African mask on or at the moment when he’s taking it off. Could you please describe the significance of both characters and how they relate to each other in the mural?
RA: Masks have always been a part of culture and are the recipients of many powerful archetypes; they are a space of connection to different realms of existence. In recent times, due to the pandemic, the mask has become necessary protective gear and is part of the current cultural landscape. With the masks depicted in the mural, I wanted to drive the conversation towards a more ample understanding of the mask as it relates to specific cultural heritages. Black, brown and indigenous solidarity is a constant effort in my practice. I strive to practice solidarity in the themes I paint and also in the way a lot of my murals are made. I think of mural-making as a learning space, where I get to have conversations with my peers and my students. African and Indigenous (Wirarika/Huichol) inspired masks have a lot in common, as one of the proposals for the idea of “opening portals” that is the overarching theme of the mural.
also a symbolic connection. In the Andes, where I come from, the Jaguar is a
very powerful spirit animal related to water. The Black Panther as a representation
of Black Power has a lot of cultural relevance as well and I wanted to hint to
those connections. Many passersby have referenced one of the masked people as
Chadwick Boseman. Even though it was not necessarily my intention, I love that people
-especially younger generations- read that on the mural.
BSA: There’s a skeleton with his arm around a skull character in a suit holding what seems to be a scepter. What are these two doing in the mural and who are they?
RA: The whole mural is an allegory of our current times. For me, part of the work that needs to happen is to address systemic oppression and white supremacy as prevalent forces that are endangering our relationships to each other, to our ancestry, and to the natural world. The two characters represent these forces. There are also a lot of symbols relating to these structural powers: There is a big fish eating small fish and an Icarus falling, both as cautionary tales of a late capitalist society and its extractive, individualistic strategies.
BSA: Can you talk about the women that are making a quilt? Who are they? What do they represent? Why are they making a quilt?
RA: Textile arts at large, including practices like Quilting Bees have been spaces not only of resistance and resilience but also spaces to pass on knowledge between generations. I wanted to depict a pluricultural, multigenerational circle of women. I believe these are great examples of the kind of relationships that will sustain and create health in these times. Additionally, the designs are another type of “portal.” They are traditional symbols in different cultures; the women in the back are creating a “tree of life,” a traditional African American quilting design. The women at the fore are holding a Chakana, which is a very important symbol of the Andean cosmogony.
The central character is dressed in a Whipala, an emblem that represents indigenous peoples from the Andes. The animals that are coming out of the designs (with the exception of the hummingbird, which is a migratory bird) were part of the ecosystem of that very location before colonization. I took the information from the Welikia Project, a map that overlays the city with the ecosystem of Mahannata before 1609. I would also like to acknowledge that my partner Fernanda Espinosa, an oral historian and cultural organizer has been a great help in imagining this side of the piece, and with who I often collaborate.
BSA: The flowers on the mural are very similar to the Moon flowers one sees in NYC in full bloom at night during the summer. Are these Moon Flowers?
RA: It is great to hear all the different readings the public has. In the end, it is about what people take and interpret themselves, I love that the flowers can also be Moon Flowers. I wanted to bring the idea of passing on traditional knowledge through generations. The plant depicted is Guanto, a plant that has been used as medicine in the Americas for millennia.
BSA: The female character holding a seed or a seedling. Can you talk about her and the seed she is holding?
RA: This is another allegorical character that is both using plants as medicine and holding the seed as a symbol. For me, it talks about the idea of the future. The title of the piece is “To Open A Portal,” this seed may be seen as a sort of key to that portal; a key that requires sustained care so the fruits of the labor can be enjoyed in a possible future.
In Kichwa, one of the indigenous languages of the Andes, we can say that we are living through a Warmi (female) Pacha (time/space) Kuti (shift). These seeds also represent that Warmi Pachakuti. In a way, this speculative approach to the future that has a strong female character at the center is an homage to Octavia Butler’s oeuvre. The figure above is also a historical character, Harriet Tubman. These are proposals to enter a new monumental landscape, not necessarily to depict one main person, but the sets of relationships and changes they have created through their actions.
was your experience painting in such a prominent spot with so much noise and
RA: I really enjoy working in public space! The conversations that I witnessed and that the mural and activity sparked were very interesting. A lot of people told me that they see themselves in the characters and that was one of the biggest compliments I have received. There were also some people triggered by what was perceived as an attack on “white culture.” For me to question white supremacy and celebrate protests in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, allow us to place this shift in the context of History. When monuments are brought down, a sort of portal to a different reality is being created. I see this seemingly aggressive act also as an opportunity to manifest different futures: when a symbol that stands for the values of civilization is put into question, domination and power imbalances are being contested too. This portal allows us to walk through the pain and find futures where we consider the way in which we are not only connected but also dependent on each other.
BSA: Your assistants were also your students. Where do you teach?
RA: While I am a visual artist, teaching has always been an important part of my practice and one that I center often. I started first teaching art in a project I started in detention centers in Quito many years ago. Since then, I have taught with multiple projects and organizations. With Groundswell, I have had the pleasure to teach for about 7 years. This project was in collaboration with them and it really was the only way it made sense for me to do this wall. I have been witnessing the growth of these young artists for some time now and I feel very proud of them and what we have done together. My responsibility as an artist is also to educate the younger generations of artists of color.
Gorgeous, tremulous days and nights in New York as we march with determination into fall – Tomokazu Matsuyama and his 12 assistants finished his epic contribution to the Houston Wall, a huge crowd overflowed the Bronx Museum to celebrate the photographer/filmmaker Henry Chalfant and his pivotal work that brought fame to graffiti writers, and Kehinde Wiley stunned Times Square with a new monument entitled “Rumors of War”, which the artist says “attempts to use the language of equestrian portraiture to both embrace and subsume the fetishization of state violence.”
Its an exciting time for art in the public sphere right now in NYC as Roger Gastman and his huge team are seriously preparing 100,000 sf of space in Williamsburg to completely blow away graffiti and Street Art fans alike this week with Beyond The Streets. Meanwhile the city is pumping full of at least 50 sanctioned and unsanctioned World Pride murals, Garrison Buxton pulled off the 9th Welling Court grassroots mural festival in Queens, Joe Ficalora brought Rick Ross and a host of Street Artists to Bushwick for a block party, MadC was in town hanging with Crash, Joe Caslin and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh were putting up new pieces with L.I.S.A. Project yesterday, Queen Andrea finished her commercial Houston Wall gig, and a lot of ad hoc illegal and legal graffiti and Street Art is in full effect in all five boroughs. When it comes to art in the streets, New York says ‘Bring it!’
yeliner, Jason Naylor, John Ahearn, JPO, MadC, MeresOne, Misshab, Outer Source, Queen Andrea, Ramiro Davaro-Comas, SacSix, Sonni, Tonk Hawaii and The Drif.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. Tats Cru on the Houston Wall in NYC 2. Broken Fingaz Crew In Mexico: “Si Desaparezco Rompe El Cochinito” 3. Lee Quinones, Brooklyn Studio Visit. December 2018 4. Lili Brik // 12 + 1 Project // Contorno Urbano Foundation. Barcelona
BSA Special Feature: Tats Cru on the Houston Wall in NYC
New York graffiti heroes the Tats Crew have endured – and withstood – and prevailed – during the onslaught of Street Art during the 2000s and 2010s. Writers of an important narrative of city life as it continues to evolve, the Bronx trio of Bio, Nicer and BG 183 continue to keep it real – and have been going hard with style this week on the famed Houston/Bowery Wall this week. We are honored to catch them at work, especially when Martha is in the mix and it feels like family, like community – with friends and writers stopping by to catch a tag or tell a story. This little bit of homemade footage is just a taste of how its done…big game writing with New York at the center.
Broken Fingaz Crew In Mexico: “Si Desaparezco Rompe El Cochinito”
Israeli Street Artists / graffiti writers Broken Fingaz Crew are rocking their Dad Hats and 90s skater style in this new vid of a spraycation in Mexico. Slow pans of local faces with character give a real flavor for the location, and the BFC are maturely observant of their host culture, incorporating a street portrait among the motifs that reference Mexico – aside from the shout out to their hometown of Haifa. Later on AB&B with their lady friends they practice still lifes and figurative painting by the pool.
Lee Quinones, Brooklyn Studio Visit. December 2018
Of course we felt lucky as hell to spend time with Lee Quinones in studio to talk about where he’s at right now and his preparation for a solo show. This small collection of footage featuring his wit and wisdom proved to be a jewel in this new year so far. See the full interview here:
There’s street cred, and then there’s social media credit. These are 15 of the latter, compiled by BSA by our own rigorous methodology.
Bears lead the pack! A monkey is here as well. Skulls and Biggie Smalls make it in again. Text wisdom also wins along with representations of the natural world like Pejac’s tree and Naomi Rag’s flower. And a rep for Game of Thrones and the horrors of Hitchcock as well – you knew popular culture would represent.
These are the top murals from 2018 via tabulations of our website, Instagram, Twitter, and two Facebook pages. In a thoroughly unscientific survey that calculates “likes” and “clicks” and “re-Tweets” and “impressions”, and every year we cannot predict which one’s are going to be popular, but sometimes you can guess. We don’t publish a lot of murals of cats, but if we did, they would probably win. Just guessing.
This year we’re drawn to the two written word pieces, likely because they are erudite and witty to some extent – and because it is good to see how smart BSA readers are. Brilliant, we say!
Welcome to your favorite murals of the year:
15 – Banksy.
A tribute. A plea. A denunciation. A well used example of the artist’s platform to bring awareness of the plight of artists who dare to set themselves free with their art. Depicted here is Ms. Zehra Doğan, an editor and journalist from Turkey. She is presently serving time in jail for painting Turkish flags on a painting showing destroyed buildings and posting the painting on Social Media. Marking the time with tick
Brazilian artist Kobra gave himself a residency in NYC this year with the goal of painting as many murals as time and available walls would permit him. He succeeded by painting 18 walls throughout NYC – mostly the top level easy to identify icons found on t-shirts, posters and postcards for decades here. One of his portraits of Amy Winehouse proved to be hugely popular.
Anxiety rings true when the giveaways to business interests for nearly four decades under both dominant parties have gradually placed folks like these in this neighborhood constantly in fear of missing the rent, the grocery bill, the car payment, the cost of providing for their kids. Disordered is right.
The KAOS Factory, colloquially named because the German graffiti artist by the same name has slowly taken it over with his work during the last few years, by default converting the former steam factory into his de facto “residency”.
Not specifically a Street Artist, Naomi Rag crochets her favorite things and puts them up mainly on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This simple rose on a school yard fence steadily garnered attention throughout the year – and reminded us of this song from the 1960s.
“There is a rose in Spanish Harlem
A red rose up in Spanish Harlem
It is a special one, it’s never seen the sun
It only comes out when the moon is on the run
And all the stars are gleaming
It’s growing in the street right up through the concrete
But soft and sweet and dreaming…”
New York is a constant source of inspiration for countless artists of all disciplines who have made a home and hopefully a career in this dynamic city of endless serendipity and challenge. GlossBlack hit the mark with this tough and tumble tribute to the city.
Bordalo II has evolved a spectacular practice of creating street works from our refuse that shock and thrill many a passersby with his ingenuity and evocative image making – while raising our collective consciousness about our responsibility to the earth.
With a commercial eye toward the natural world and larger societal issues BKFoxx chooses subjects for their emotional impact and their ability to translates easily for an image-savvy audience whose endless hours of personal screen entertainment has produced an expectation for a big budget Hollywood and consumer culture slickness with high-production values.
Inspiration to create flows from many rivers and tributaries. Many times that inspiration comes from a fellow artist as is the case here. Art is for everyone, and the street is more than ever a perfect place to see it.
The Spaniard Pejac came for a few weeks to New York this spring and left this piece in Bushwick. The wall is a brick façade typical of many Brooklyn neighborhoods, but this one appears to have grown a tree this week. Perhaps he chose to paint this tree because the promise of spring had inspired him, or because this neighborhood remains industrial and could benefit from some more of nature’s influence. For us it’s all about context so it is good to see that a tree grows in Brooklyn.
Just in under the wire and straight to number 1, this cleverly turned phrase and hooded ideogram is an ironic amalgam of Banksy and Warhol that hit the nerve of readers who are becoming acutely aware of us all slipping into a surveillance society. Also, it’s funny.
We only published this mural in December but the number of hits and comments across social media indicated that it resonates strongly across a wide demographic. Photographer, videographer, former gallery owner and infrequent Street Artist Adrian Wilson clearly is not shooting for anonymity.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. Borondo – Mites Terram Possident
2. OS Gemeos: Artists in Residence
3. JR x Time: Guns in America Video
4. PORK Extinguisher on the Houston/Bowery Wall
BSA Special Feature: Borondo – Mites Terram Possident
In the rumbling terrain of our minds and emotions the topography is marked by our experiences; cutting ravines that fill with water and craters to get stuck inside and caves to repair to and trees to scale and balance in and feel the breeze. So mark making in the physical world strikes us an opportunity to make new paths, new memories, new associations.
In this weeks first film we see Italian Street Artist and fine artist Borondo offering children the opportunity to carve into a building façade with forged metal tools here in the city of Malegno in the Province of Brecscia as part of his larger mural that references our pre-linguistic forms of communicating and story telling with images and symbols.
“I like that my murals have many interpretations, many layers of stratification,” says the artist and indeed this is one of the qualities that leads you to visit and revisit, to decode and to discover his work. He may be a mastermind creating many meanings for you to find, or he may be a providing a platform for discussion and interpretation, or he may be democratically inviting others to participate in this most public of art, this collective history. Seeing how the piece is embraced and surrounded here in the valley by these mountains, it returns us to the contemplation of our internal topography, while we contemplate the collaborative one.
OS Gemeos: Artists in Residence
Can you imagine such big artists as OS GEMEOS as artists in residence? At the Mattress Factory for the next year you can see the results and here the São Paulo brothers discuss their childhood, their processes of creation, their dream world, and their new installation called “Lyrical”.
JR x Time: Guns in America Video
Many have seen the mural on the Bowery Wall this week in New York and the 3 page fold-out on the cover of TIME, but not everyone is fully aware that the project is not in fact static – it is continuous movement. JR and his team captured hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of video for this project and composited small videos together as one large live piece, which is currently on display at PACE gallery in Manhattan.
Read our coverage of the project and interview with the artiste here:
Tristan Eaton completed his turn at the famed Houston/Bowery Wall in Manhattan back in July…he wanted an Intermission from the noise, the bad news, the stress, the BS and the haters, he says.
So he regaled us and the city with a burst of color and old Hollywood nostalgia. We wrote about the mural HERE and now Zane from Chop ’em Down Films just sent us his video of his capture of the artist and mural. Since we are all mid-summer here in NYC we’d like to take Tristan’s intermission further and give it some love once more…