All posts tagged: Iz the Wiz

REVOK AND POSE and the Transformation of The Houston Wall

It took 80 hours and 7 humid sticky days and nights to complete, longer than it took God to make Heaven and Earth, according to scriptures. But the powerful transformation of the famed Houston Street Wall that took place last week had as profound an effect on many New York fans of Street Art and Graffiti as the melting of the North and South poles. And that was probably intentional.

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

The resulting flash flooding of emotions and summer storms washed over LA’s Revok and Chicago’s Pose as they joined each other with other MSK brothers to create a feast of popping color, styles, texture, tribute, and pure character – each climbing and gripping tightly to one another on a 90 degree diagonal grid that pushed it all together in one riotous composition.

Ultimately, the visually cacophonic mural, born amidst endless honking, screeching, sirens and a parade of curious passersby who pummeled the painters with a fusillade of questions and requests, is a joyous compilation for many, a perplexing mix of influences for others. With layers of tributes to fallen graffiti writers, shout-outs to friends and family, and heartfelt thanks to the host city that sparked a global graffiti scene decades earlier (including this very spot), the visiting thirty something graffiti brothers couldn’t quite quantify the depth of feeling they were experiencing as they slowly smashed a big wall in the heart of Manhattan.

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

For New York fans of a wall made famous by a long list of Street Artists including Haring, Scharf, Fairey, Faile, and others, most on the street hadn’t heard the names of these new guys but, like true New Yorkers, welcomed them nonetheless, usually emphatically. If there were worries about a strict adherence to rules of graffiti culture or whether the work borrows some conventions from pop, advertising, graphic design, or even Street Art, not many appeared to care about those distinctions. If anything, this wall is the apt expression of today’s’ blurred lines, where a throwie, a Lichtenstein, a sharply abstract pattern, and a hungry gorilla salivating over a police cruiser can all coexist harmoniously.

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

In fact it appears that Revok and Pose are metaphorically and technically casting aside once and for all the artificial divisions on the streets when it comes to styles and methods. Whether its the joint gallery shows, collaborative outdoor art festivals, or institutional venues like the sweeping “Art in the Streets” exhibit at MoCA  a couple of years ago, it looks like graffiti and Street Art have been put into a room and encouraged to work out their differences. Now of course they’re copying off each others exam paper in the back row of class, but at least they’re not fighting so much. Okay, true,  that announcement is still premature, but you can see the horizon ahead. Naturally in a city like New York that often typifies global diversity and routinely gives wide latitude for freedom of expression, the creative spirit as expressed with such technical skill and this kind of whole-hearted passion is invariably afforded a welcome. At least for a minute.

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

But that didn’t mean that Pose wasn’t feeling the pressure of doing this wall well, a pressure level that he estimated at ten times more than he would feel on a typical wall, even though both guys have been graff writers for more than two decades. “We’ve all painted a million walls. This is something that is sort of a landmark and for our culture it means a lot,” he said of the involvement of contemporary graffiti artists right here, right now. “The history is very daunting because you want to honor it, you want to pay tribute, but you also want to push the boundaries by really doing your best. It’s a really insane kind of platform.”

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

For Revok, the LA based writer who also is spending a lot of time in Detroit these days, the opportunity brings him back to a holy place he revered growing up, and he’s not going to miss it or take it for granted. Speaking about the profound impact that New York’s’ subway artists of the 1970s and 1980s had on the imaginations of countless youth in cities around the world, Revok envisions a booming audio tower emanating concentric circles in waves traveling to all who would hear.

“I imagine it as this kind of ring that just exploded and a ripple was sent out everywhere as far as it could go – and I’m one of those receivers, I’m one of those people who felt that,” he says as he describes weaving references into the mural by including names like Dondi and Iz The Wiz and even the letter “T” from the Beat Street movie poster. “You know all of those names in there – not all of them, but a lot of them – they were New Yorkers, they were a part of that movement at that time, they were people that created this world, this idea, this language that I’ve connected to and that is so dear and important and powerful to me. And now they’re not here, they are gone.”

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

“But what they created and what they gave to the world will live on forever. And coming here to New York, it’s a culmination – this wall right here, there is a tremendous amount of history right here, everybody that’s done it is important in their own right. For us to be fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to do this as outsiders I feel there is a responsibility to acknowledge the people and the culture that created me and my friends and now as it is coming back home, I’m paying tribute to New York graffiti, I’m paying tribute just to the general movement as a whole,” says Revok.

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Of the many references are three call outs to their recently and painfully departed MSK brother Nekst, who a handful of crew members had joined together to eulogize on smaller walls in Brooklyn the previous weekend. Among the other names included are Ayer, Vizie, Cheech Wizard, Omenz, Sace, Case 2, Semz, Tie One, Rammellzee, and “All You See is Crime in the City” – a phrase associated with a famous  train car work by Skeme from the 1980s documentary “Style Wars”. The guys even did shout outs to their kids.

Aside from the art category labels and the odes to community, both Revok and Pose are doubled up on this wall because of their common regard for sampling – that is, the combining of a variety of disparate elements and re-contextualizing them. As a basis for their fine art show that just opened at Jonathan Levine Gallery while they were in the city, the two have found that they both have a fairly active studio practice that they can collaborate on also.

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Both say they sample from their environment, but how they go about it is unique to each. “I sample from all the years of being on the street and climbing around. After a while you start really having an appreciation for the environment,” Revok says as he describes his affinity for textures, details, and the underlying history of the built environment.

For Pose, it may be more of an atmospheric and emotional sampling where he takes “everything from everywhere. There are no rules. It’s like “Oh that sign is gold with a white outline and that is really impressive, like that is fucking beautiful – so I should do my name that way because I’ll catch as much attention as that sign does. It’s really those rudimentary kinds of things that I feel validated by and that are where I go with my art, it’s just that basic. That’s what was powerful for me – just taking from things around you and using them to express yourself, to create a dialogue, to create a narrative.”

Revok and Pose invited Rime as a guest artists, shown here at work. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

A closer examination of how some of the more commercial elements in the mural were achieved by Pose shows how he used a cut and paste process in the re-purposing of old signage. Drawing from a stash of “pounce patterns” that were given to him by a buddy while he was a professional sign painter in Chicago for a decade, Pose says his method of choice is pretty randomized, and he is sometimes as surprised as anyone about what he’ll pull out. “I’ve got all these old pieces of signage rolls from this guy – these are already a slice of history. My wife hates it; my whole garage is filled with his old pounce and all this stuff. And we started bringing them to walls – almost like rolling the dice and finding this kind of completely unforeseen elements to the wall.”

With all these plans and all these cans, the guys made sure that this transformation was a collaborative effort and they had some solid support help from other MSK members, the occasional volunteer, and the well known RIME, who Revok reflexively calls, “The best graffiti writer in the world.”

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

As each guy reflects on the team, the same topic of the importance of collaboration arises – a sort of progressive vision where crew members alternately work as assistants on each others projects. “We’re all really close and we play a significant role in one another’s lives and what we paint – it’s really natural for us to collaborate. I think that one of our strengths is how we feed off one another and how we motivate, influence and learn from one another. In the actual act of painting often times we work together with one kind of common goal,” explains Revok.

“We will all work together and it is all kind of a community effort to make things happen. It’s much more fun that way. I’ve been painting graffiti for 23 years now. After a certain point, just like going and painting your name all the time – it gets redundant, it gets boring. You know, you want to have fun, you want to experiment, you want to do different things. My friends and I over the last 10 years or so have really had a lot of fun experimenting and painting on a collaborative level, which is probably not that common for traditional graffiti guys. It’s a lot of fun.”

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Pose agrees that collaboration was crucial in creating the new piece on the Houston Street Wall, and for him the goals were pretty clear from the beginning. “All I care about is reaching people,” he says earnestly at 4 a.m. on the fourth consecutive overnight session while sanitation trucks gather garbage from the curb. “I believe in the power of art, especially artwork that is on the street,” says the more philosophical of the duo.

“What I care about is the therapy, the unexplainable, and the powerful, and everybody in my crew, and everybody on this wall will say – ‘Graffiti saved my life’. It’s so cliché but it’s profound and it’s true. Because it is something that is really universal and it crosses so many socio-economic divides and racial divides.”

Pose pauses a beat, “Guess what, the rest of the world would be a lot better fucking place if people caught on that we are all connected.”

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. BSA is in the house. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

The talented crew. From left to right Pose with his assistant Mike,  Revok with his assistant Travis. Props to Travis and Mike for unflinchingly supporting the artists. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Revok and Pose. Houston/Bowery Wall. June 2013, NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

You can check out the Revok and Pose transformation for free all summer in NYC at the corner of Houston and Bowery.

Special thanks to Travis and Mike, Meghan Coleman, Martha Cooper, Jonathan Levine, Alix Frey, Maléna Seldin, Roger Gastman, and all the great New Yorkers we met on the streets last week.

Check out the REVOK and POSE exhibition “Uphill Both Ways” at the Jonathan Levine Gallery.


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This posting also appears on The Huffington Post


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Red Hot and Street: “Art in the Streets” Brings Fire to MOCA

brooklyn-street-art-banksy-jaime-rojo-moca-art-in-the-streets-huffpost-04-11-web-15Banksy’s Reliquary (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Yes, Banksy is here. The giant “Art in the Streets” show opening this weekend at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles gives a patch of real estate to the international man of mystery who has contributed greatly to the worldwide profile of this soon to be, maybe already, mainstream phenomenon known as street art. A smattering of his pranksterism is an absolute must for any show staking claim to the mantle of comprehensive survey and an excellent way to garner attention. But “Streets” gets it’s momentum by presenting a multi-torch colorful and explosive people’s history that began way before Banksy was born and likely will continue for a while after.


Os Gemeos Untitled. Detail  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

To continue reading about this exhibition go to The Huffington Post ARTS by clicking on the link after the image below.


Direct link to article on HuffPost Arts

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Phun Phactory 10 Years Later, a Reunion on The Street

Last weekend the Phun Phactory returned to New York’s streets for an aerosol infused celebration of Old Tymers – and a promise for the future.


The original graff spot of the same name was founded in 1993 by Pat DiLillo and the pioneering aerosol artist Michael “Iz The Wiz” Martin, who recently passed away. Created as a safe place to promote legal aerosol art in New York City, the Phun Phactory allowed many a newcomer to practice and perfect their skills in a supportive environment, frequently working side by side with veterans. The Queens factory building in Long Island City across from MoMA/PS1 became a free public outdoor art exhibit and is considered a landmark. The original site, now known as 5 Pointz, passed from their hands by the end of the decade.


Saturday a large corrugated metal wall, 3 sides of a block in an industrial site in North Brooklyn, feted newbies and old skoolers to “Old Tymer’s Day”, a gathering of aerosol artists who began riding trains and spraying tags during a time in the city’s recent history when the hand-lettered graffiti style defined the urban environment and spawned an international youth culture infatuated with all things New York City.Brooklyn-Street-Art-WEB-Phun_Factory-June-2010-copyright-Steven-P_Harrington-L1090275

Because of we’re kind of ignorant about graffiti at BSA, rather than concentrate on too many individual pieces and artists, we wandered the scene meeting people and listening to the DJ beats, soaking in the sun, and feeling a little bit of the magic.  It was a hot and humid day and most people moved slowly to endure the heat, enjoying  hanging out, trading stories, talking about technique, walking over to the barbecue, and taking a seat behind the wheel of a classic convertible.  The vibe was nice and the feeling of community and creativity was in the air.


Jeremy Vega, the Director of the Phun Phactory, says that very soon a new Phun Phactory will headquarter itself in Williamsburg and will make available more than 500,000 square feet of public space for artists of all mediums to showcase their artwork legally.  Judging from the number of young people we saw hanging out Saturday, the new generation will be in attendance.





This crew of stylish people spontaneously jumped together for a photo as soon as they saw the tripod. In front of this piece by CANO were Boltism, KCONE, Atom, CANO, Vic, and Chino.



Sitting on a loading dock, these two stayed cool and did tags in a black book.  They said their names are Mary Kate and Ashley.


The barbecue was open and working, and one guy was making mixed fruity drinks in a blender! Sharp knife too.


Had a really nice conversation with this guy, who was waiting for his 18 year old son to bring by his paint so he could start his piece.  His name is Zord AKA ZD, G+F, TDT, Tns, R+W, MPC.  He  said he was the king of the BMT, J and M lines circa 1985-1990. We discussed his Kiss action figure collection that got thrown away, Satanism, addiction, opinions on the differences between graffiti and street art, film school, and peace and love.


This was an impromptu (and shaded) area for blackbooks, which people brought to be signed and traded back and forth discussing.




Nothing like a robot dance and some heavy metal air guitar for fun on a Saturday.


(all images © Steven P. Harrington)

The Phun Phactory

Phun Phactory on Facebook

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Phun Factory Returns – This Time in Billyburg

Saturday is Ol Tymers Day – but not at Yankee Stadium.

The Phun Phactory to Convert Williamsburg Industrial Zone into the World’s Largest Outdoor Mural Art Gallery.

The graffiti art pioneers, those who painted in the train yards in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s will come together to kick-off the new Phun Phactory and commemorate the life of legendary artist Iz The Wiz.This event is being curated by artists 2ILL and Blade and will feature more than 50 celebrated old school writers all painting on location.

The Phun Phactory Aerosol Art Corp. will re-launch this summer, converting the Williamsburg, Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone into a neighborhood of mural art. The Phun Phactory was founded in 1993 by founders Pat DiLillo and the late and pioneering aerosol artist Michael “Iz The Wiz” Martin. The original project occupied an industrial zone in Long Island City, directly across from the MoMA/PS1 museum and provided more than 200,000 sq. ft. of public space to showcase works of aerosol artists from around the globe. The new Phun Phactory will headquarter in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and will make available more than 500,000 sq. ft. of public space for artists of ALL mural mediums to showcase their artwork.

On June 19th 2010, The Phun Phactory will kick-off commemorating the anniversary of co- founder “IZ THE WIZ” with Ole Tymers Day. This event will take place on Wythe Ave. & N. 15th St. and will begin at 10AM. Ole Tymers Day will bring together the most celebrated aerosol

artists of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, those that were painting in the train yards before their art

made it to the galleries. BLADE and 2IL, names recognized around the globe as pioneers in graffiti art will curate this event. On this day, The Phun Phactory will also feature dozens of mural artists from all parts of the world. This project has received unprecedented support from artists, city officials and business partners who will be present for the event.

The Phun Phactory Kick- Off Event

Date: Saturday, June 19th 2010

Loc: N. 15th St, & Wythe Ave Brooklyn

Time: 10 am- 8pm

Saturday, June 19th
rain date: Sat., June 26
10 am
Wythe ave & N. 15th st

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NohJColey’s Plush Life: Intricate Wordplay and Carefully Rendered Humanity

NohJColey’s Plush Life: Intricate Wordplay and Carefully Rendered Humanity

A talented Street Artist Schools BSA about his work.

“Good readers make good writers”.

Truey trueness truthfully told by my true-friend Jodi. Which is why one summer I read a stack of Jimmy Peabody’s Mad magazines that he kept hidden under his bed, along with a few dog-eared copies of Penthouse and Playboy.  See what all that reading did for me?  I write on a blog for 17 readers and my mom.  Once somebody taps into the creative spirit, there are no limits to where it will take them.

Three of his biggest influences; Dali, Basquiat, and Time (photo Steven P. Harrington)

Three of his biggest influences hover over NohJColey while he works; Dali, Basquiat, and Time (photo Steven P. Harrington)

You can take that advice any way you want, but thinking about the path that NohJColey has taken, it’s ringing true.

NohJColey wants to be a great something. He just winces at every label you offer up, but don’t be put off by it.  We’ll be very bold and say “Artist”.  He’s been a graffiti artist, a street artist, and a fine artist. To become a great artist, he practices self-education and discipline. With an agile mind and inquisitive nature, he does a great deal of due-diligence; history, background, planning, experimentation and practicing of technique. Then he starts the piece, frequently a personal story or a social commentary of some kind.


A recent Ebay shopping trip netted a selection of vintage artist technique books. (photo Steven P. Harrington)

In fact, so much goes on inside NohJ’s head in the preparation of his work that a viewer may never completely appreciate the final product. That’s okay, he may not intend it to be understood either.  He doesn’t lose too much sleep over it, either way.  He stays up all night working at a kitchen table with a picture of Salvador Dali and one of Jean-Michel Basquiat on the wall staring down on him, but be assured that he’s not worrying.  He’s just working.

Kutztown's Favorite by Nohj Coley (photo Nohj Coley)

“Kutztown’s Favorite” by Nohj Coley (photo Nohj Coley)

“Kutztown’s Favorite” was the first image BSA posted on the “Images of the Week” feature. Not that big a deal for you, I’m sure. If it was a big deal for you, I would worry. But when I consider  that image I think about why BSA loves street art; at it’s best it is a celebration of the creative spirit, wherever you can access it. It seems unlimited.

In this case it was a tribute to Keith Haring, an artist who was doing what could later be classified “Street Art” in NYC in the ’80s.  The creative spirit that Haring had tapped into 25 years earlier was like a radio frequency or satellite transmission from the creative gods – Haring tapped into it and ran with it, not consulting with experts, anointed, self-proclaimed or otherwise.  To see that somebody was doing a street tribute in a distinctly different style all these years later was very notable.

You don’t have to totally understand NohJ’s work to appreciate it, and that’s a good thing because it may take some studying at Noh J High School to get it.  Some times you have to go slow for certain students, so BSA recently took some summer remedial classes with Professor Coley in the studio.  August was dragging on outside the window and other kids were playing on the jungle gym, but in school, between the endless chain of cigarettes and the loud air conditioner and the louder Thelonius Munk and Charlie Parker, we think it was completely Edutaining.

NohJColey in his home studio.

NohJColey in his home studio. (photo Steven P. Harrington)

Buddies called him “Stiffy” when he was out doing teen rollerblader tricks because NohJ didn’t do diamondz. For that matter he wasn’t even smooth.  But he defends his skills as an aggressive rollerblader, “I was a pretty good skater, though. Learning how to fall, that’s the key to skating. But I didn’t have the moves. It’s hard to worry about style when you don’t want to die!  I would get hurt sometimes badly.  Those days are over”.  Lesson learned.

He used to be a graff writer too, hanging out with the 333 Crew, and his tag was Motive for a while. In the mid-1990s he raced from high school in the afternoon to hang out at the Phun Factory, an aerosol Mecca in Queens for graffiti writers run by a guy named Pat DiLillo, who had worked out a deal with the landlord to let graffiti artists go wild on the walls and practice and teach without fear of breaking the law. Pat had been a professional graffiti buffer until he fell in love with talented work and became a huge proponent, clearing the way for what eventually became 5 Pointz, directed by Meres.

Pat even got NohJ into a show at P.S.1 in 1999 with people whose skills he admired – “It was Iz the Wiz, I’m pretty sure it was Elite, Slam4, Spec, and me. The real piecers were of course IZ, Bisc, and Elite.  I was Motive 333 – I didn’t actually go to the show. We were sitting across the street ”

"Egalitarian Quench", Oil pastel, stencil, painters tape and acrylic paint on paper pasted on discarded lumber. by NohJColey (photo Steven P. Harrington)

“Egalitarian Quench”, Oil pastel, stencil, painters tape and acrylic paint on paper pasted on discarded lumber, by NohJColey (photo Steven P. Harrington)

He’s not thinking that he has the graff thing licked, but he’s moving on to other things these days.  Some people are calling it street art.  His linotype prints are usually portraits of people he has known or studied about and his text stickers have puzzling word combinations and phrases.

Brooklyn Street Art: So what’s important to you?
NohJColey: Accomplishing stuff. Not being swayed by others’ opinions. Being original. Being true to myself. Family is important, learning is important. Everything is kind of important. Fashion isn’t important

Brooklyn Street Art: Politics?
NohJColey: Of course, that has to be important.

Brooklyn Street Art: Music?
NohJColey: Yeah of course, that is really important.

Brooklyn Street Art: Basquiat?
NohJColey: Yeah he was important to me at some time but not really anymore.

Brooklyn Street Art: Why was he important before?
NohJColey: Probably just because of his lifestyle.  He kind of lived precariously. The way he spoke to people.

Basquiat at 19 years (a still from the movie “Downtown 81”)

The choices of words for NohJ’s stickers are directly influenced by another artist of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s who transferred his graff writing directly into his fine arts canvasses, Jean-Michel Basquiat.  Writing on the street as SAMO, Basquiat created stuff that looked like pointed non-sequitors, or abbreviated observations that confused and attracted fans.

“I think he always will be important to me just because of the things he wrote like ‘Plush Safe He Think’, or ‘Jimmy Best on his back to the suckerpunch of the world’ (some sources report it was actually Jimmy Best/ On his back/ To the suckerpunch/ Of his childhood files) – stuff like that is the reason I do stickers because it’s a way of basically saying your piece and not having to listen to what anyone else’s input is on the subject. You can basically tell everyone without actually having to tell people individually.  Like stopping people and saying ‘You’re a closet racist’.”


NohJ’s sticker text is strongly influenced by the writing style of Brooklyn-born Basquiat. This is a recently released image of Jean-Michel Basquiat by photographer Lee Jaffe.

What? Okay, now I think I get it. These cryptic stickers are a sublimation of true feelings and opinions that NohJ understands, but the reader may not.

Brooklyn Street Art: So it’s a direct-indirect way of addressing issues?
NohJColey: Yep.  Even though it’s bad because it isn’t as personal as I would like it to be, but…

The image came from a sketch of his nephew (photo Jaime Rojo)

The image came from a sketch of his nephew (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So, about that text that you put on stickers, can you describe a little bit about how you arrive at the choices?
NohJColey: Like I did a sticker that said, “Adolescent Racists Present Parental Perspectives” – Basically it refers to young kids that I see around who are racist because of their parents. It’s not something natural. It has nothing to do with the kid’s choice but if you go into their household he’s going to hear certain terms and attitudes. People just get labels.  Like somebody talking about Mexicans, and a Mexican woman who has seven children, and then they talk about whether the health care system should support them; and it’s like, you don’t even know this person, you know?  This person actually owns a restaurant and they came here with nothing in their pockets. And her husband actually went to a prestigious college and had a high GPA.  And people are judging a book by its cover.

On the wall, one of NohJ's earlier fine art pieces, "Children of the Wrong" (photo Steven P. Harrington)

On the wall, one of NohJ’s earlier fine art pieces, “Children of the Wrong”  (photo Steven P. Harrington)

NohJ talks about another sticker, “ ‘Observe Hands’ is different – it’s about reading someone’s mind. Like looking at someone’s hands in conversation. And noticing their reactions like picking their nail could be an indication that someone is nervous. Or like someone rubbing their leg, could mean they are bored, or not interested in what they are doing right now.”

The individual pieces that NohJColey creates on large linoleum blocks are surrealist applications of recognizable components into realist line-drawn portraiture.  The components can be literal or metaphorical, and always autobiographical. The piece is usually has a murky title that perplexes in the same way as the sticker text. When the linoleum piece isn’t enough, NohJ combines painstaking lace-like geometric cutouts arranged on top of or beside them.

The original plate of Sace (photo Steven P. Harrington)

The original plate of Sace (photo Steven P. Harrington)

Brooklyn Street Art: So can you talk about the series that you’ve begun, that started with an image of Dash Snow?
NohJColey: Yeah it’s the “Sprayed in Stone” series. I’m basically just trying to solidify these graffiti writers names a bit more.  After someone passes everyone mourns because this person’s gone, and everyone forgets about it. Like maybe a few times a year someone might look at their photograph but it’s not the same as actually seeing this person like proportionally. Like you can walk up to this piece, the Dash Snow piece, and it’s pretty much the same size (as he was). I never met him but I’m guess that he was that size.  It’s kind of a little larger because I wanted him to be more prominent. That’s kind of what it’s about. You never really know what a graffiti artist looks like so that is another reason why I wanted to do a portrait of him.  A person passes away and you are not given another chance to see them at the same size that they were.

NohJ Coley Detail

A detail of NohJ Coley  shows limbs made of a paint roller, markers, ladders, cans, etc. (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: And yet you render the figure with non-human limbs and other elements, so you are not really bringing back a true replica of the person.  Where did those come from?
NohJColey: The spray can of course was a tool he would use, and the markers as well.  The fire-extinguisher shirt – you know like a like a lot of graffiti writers use fire extinguishers to do enormous tags on sides of buildings.  I guess they are just things he would use as a graffiti artist. Like the spray can coming from his neck.

Brooklyn Street Art: Yeah it’s surrealistic. And this is the first of the series of three?
NohJColey: It’ll be three. The problem with this series is that I’m not able to take photographs of the artist, which to me really hinders the work – because it would be a way better piece.  I don’t even like to work from someone else’s eye but they passed on so I’ve gotta use what there is.

Brooklyn Street Art: Right, you didn’t actually have a picture of Dash Snow?
NohJColey: No I didn’t. I used someone’s picture.

NohJ created an amalgam of images first before drawing the Tie One image on the linoleum block. (photo Steven P. Harrington)

NohJ created an amalgam of images first before drawing the Tie One image on the linoleum block. (photo Steven P. Harrington)

Brooklyn Street Art: And who’s next in line in the series?
NohJColey: It’s Jonathan See Lim AKA Tie One

NohJ Coley Detail

NohJ Coley Detail

Brooklyn Street Art: So tell me about Tie One.
NohJColey: Yeah he was from San Francisco. He was shot in the Tenderloin by William Porter. And he was basically climbing up on the roof. He went there to do a graffiti spot on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s kind of also like – I don’t really want to shed too much light on a graffiti artist faults in life. Whether he was vandalizing, even though that’s what graffiti is…I know that. It’s more about the strides in this persons’ life that he took. Like Tie was 18 when he passed away. And Iz The Wiz, who is the third person in the series, he was like the king of the trains, you know.

The ink is still wet on this just finished 3rd installment in the "Sprayed In Stone" series, Iz the Wiz, by NohJColey

The ink is still wet on this just finished 3rd installment in the “Sprayed In Stone” series, Iz the Wiz, by NohJColey

Brooklyn Street Art: Did you ever hang out with Iz the Wiz?
NohJColey: No I never got a chance to meet him but I remember Pat DeLilo telling me a bunch of stories about him.  Iz was always sick even in those days when I was hanging out there. Wow, ten years.  That’s why I’m glad I did that show with him when I was young.

The original study for

The original study for “Nothing=Obtained” by NohJColey

Brooklyn Street Art: What about the final work of “Nothing=Obtained” – how did you get that? Can you talk about your process? How did you get that multi-armed creature?
NohJColey: Basically I just had my ex-girlfriend pose. This one I just saw before I did it. I already knew what I was going to do.  It was just basically figuring a way in which to place each arm so it sort of made sense.


NohJColey (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Does the placement of the arms indicate something about her personality?
NohJColey: Well when she walks in a room you pretty much feel her presence.  She’s kind of like pulling her head back like she’s stressed out. The mouth is like she’s in awe, her eyes are open because she’s just noticing a bunch of opportunities and then like her grabbing herself because of stress. And this one is her bracing herself.

Brooklyn Street Art: And the words “Nothing = Obtained”?
NohJColey: She never accomplishes the goal, you know? She never gets to the end result. Everything is always left open. There is no conclusion. Like nothing is ever obtained. Like she says she’s trying to change that but it’s not really evident to me.  But whatever.

(Nohj Coley) (photo Jaime Rojo)

(photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: You did another piece last year that was about a cousin of yours?
NohJColey: “Uncondition(al) Solace”?
Brooklyn Street Art: Huh?
NohJColey: Like I try to separate letters sometimes, so you can use the letters different ways.

Brooklyn Street Art: Okay so tell me the story behind that one. You told me about her going into a hospital room to see your aunt.
NohJColey: That piece is about a cousin of mine – I went to see her mother, my aunt, because she had a stroke. And like the right side of her body is paralyzed. To see a person go from walking through a doorway to rolling through a doorway on a stretcher is bad. She doesn’t really react to anything except to her daughter, my cousin. And the piece is her holding up a banner that says “Solace” because I feel like once she walked into the room, my aunt lit up. My cousin is the only one that puts a smile on her face. So that is why I made the piece so that my aunt can look at her daughter whenever she’s awake.

Brooklyn Street Art: You are making your stuff on paper and wheat paste, which means it disappears in about five rainstorms. Then it’s gone, but you put a lot of work into it.
NohJColey: Yeah it’s ephemeral. That’s a good thing about it. It has a life of it’s own and you can’t control it. That’s another reason I like it. You can’t control it. You put it out there and it’s free, you don’t have a leash on it, like a pet.

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