Street art in the last five years has been lit on fire with politically themed illustrations, installations, slogans, opinions, and insights that implore passersby to take action and to be engaged in the direction that society is leading.
The once-consolidated TV-print media system has had many challengers in social media and websites, though those now too are being censored, demonetized, and throttled by the corporations and certain state actors who have infiltrated and hampered the free-flow of opinions and political discourse under various “honorable” guises.
Because major political machines and the corporate media don’t typically use the streets as a communication platform in US cities, aside from the occasional poster campaign for a candidate, the rather unfiltered collection of views and voices come through.
The inheritor of the historically revered “soapbox”, a physical and metaphorical location in a public square where people put forward their opinions, beliefs, philosophies, and ideologies in an impassioned voice, street art currently thrills, perplexes, informs, and annoys. It reaches the tech-savvy and the greater majority of our neighbors who are not on social media.
Given that these opinions could be easily buffed or blighted by any passerby yet are permitted to stay, there is an argument that art on the street is the present Vox Populi, a truer representation of the voice of the people.
In the city that knew him first, Donald Trump is given special scrutiny and particular invective for his actions, inactions, behaviors in the role he has occupied as president of the country since 2016. His official opponent in the race is a career politician, an historically right-wing version of a left-wing party, is somehow positioned as a better alternative for an electorate who is desperate for something, anything better than what they have.
By night’s end (or week end, or year end) we will know who is the winner of today’s election; Trump or Anti-Trump. No matter who prevails, street art will undoubtedly weigh in with its opinion.
Anarchists and lawlessness on the streets of New York? Where are you looking exactly? This is a narrative that charlatans like to slander our fair city with, where we spent 8 hours hanging out on blankets on the grass yesterday in Prospect Park, performing anarchist acts like eating sandwiches, reading books, taking naps, going for walks with thousands of our neighbors. So far this is one of the most beautiful Labor Day Weekends we’ve seen in ages and there was no army present.
Every time the fearmonger’s from outside of NYC try to scare people into voting for something, you have to be amused by their ignorance and obvious disinformation – and wonder if it isn’t a generalized fear of black and brown people that drives their critiques. Maybe they are fearful that New Yorkers are the most ethnically diverse population in the country and we are always getting along just fine with each other, even liking and loving each other on a daily basis and we have been doing so for years. Gorgeous and expansively green Prospect Park in the middle of Brooklyn is a fine example of it this weekend – you’ll see people of many backgrounds hanging out happily and civilly, barbecuing meats and vegetables, playing volleyball with the youth group, tossing the frisbee with their girlfriend, sitting on blankets and playing board games with their kids and neighbors, helping babies take their first steps, helping grandpa into a folding chair.
We didn’t see one fight or argument Saturday, and the park was completely teeming with people, and we saw maybe one or two police officers throughout all day – because apparently tens of thousands of us co-New Yorkers know how to enjoy a sunny day in the park with each other and without invoking chaos. On blankets, in lawn chairs, on picnic tables – there we all were; Indians, Africans, Mexicans, Germans, Italians, Jews, Conservatives, Liberals, Koreans, Chinese, Europeans, Buddists, LGBTQI, singles, couples, families, church groups – too many to list here. You could see all kinds of different foods if you walked around and heard music being played – some of it live and spontaneous, like the Dixieland jazz band, the violin quartet, the guy on the flute. We love New York and we love New Yorkers more than ever before.
So, no, Mike Huckleberry or the Foxes or the Divider in Chief, we don’t fall for it because we know the great people of our city. Scare people in the middle of the country with stories about lawlessness in our city, but you don’t fool us for a second. For the record, 93% of the Black Lives Matter marches across the country this year have been peaceful. We’re all capable of having the hard conversations, despite what you and your networks want people to believe – New York has been proving that for years. Sorry, society is moving on – or in many cases already has moved on – from the cultural hegemony phase. It ain’t perfect, but Jesus sometimes it can feel like it.
And now some street art images recently shot – our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Almost Over Keep Smiling, Antennae, Damon NYC, JKos Art, Little Ricky, Raw, Stikman, and Urban Russian Doll NYC.
Little Ricky thinks Anna Wintour is someone important whom people consider significant or iconic in popular culture, which is already a humorous supposition. In his multiple street iterations of the fashion editor, he has dressed her as a sheep in Chanel, as a sheep in boxing gloves with Andy Warhol (replacing Basquiat), as an American Express fashion gladiator in stickers and wheat pastes on the Streets of New York.
Each tiny episode of his ongoing SHEEP series may bring a perplexed smile to the average person who is looking at them while waiting for the traffic lights to change. In the case of the Wintour character preaching and prognosticating and posing, an insider joke that appeals to the fashion gatekeepers in this city, of which many have self-appointed. The question you may ask is, who’s the sheep, who’s the shepard.
A Street Art icon/brand in the making, Little Ricky’s talisman-woman of a candy pink sheep character inhabits the new strata of 20-teens Street Art that reflects the ease of social media commentary here grafted onto actual walls, the fascination we have with visually sampling pop cultural references, and the time-honored practice of lampooning with absurdity. A California-based Gen X Street Artist with uncommon discipline and work ethos in his practice, Little Ricky has been studying, developing, archiving, formulating his campaigns in the Street and gallery for the better part of a decade now.
in New York to sample the late-summer fragrance potpurri of pot, urine, and Italian
sausages on the streets of Lower Manhattan, BSA had an opportunity to chat with
Little Ricky one night when we were gallery hopping with a buddy. He talked about new art on lightposts and
guard-rails, the nature of his one-off comical creations, and his deep desire to
launch a Keith Haring show here next year using his ewe-inspired interpretations
of Harings work and life.
Brooklyn Street Art:We’ve seen many Anna Wintour pieces recently by you on the street. How does the muse find you? Little Ricky: I never imagined that I’d be spending a year working with Anna as my muse. It’ll be weird once the year comes to an end. But I know that SHEEP will continue to surprise me and Anna will most likely keep popping up in my work. The connection will always be there.
She can find me on IG. But, since she doesn’t have a personal IG account, I hashtag her name #ANNAWINTOUR and I tag @voguemagazine. Maybe one of her PA’s will get the word out to her. A few months ago, I even sent her a large pink manilla envelope with a SHEEP zine/bio and stickers too. Whether she ever received it is another story. I don’t expect to hear from her, but I have a feeling that our paths may cross at some point. Either way, our stars are crossed, at least in my head.
Brooklyn Street Art:People are sheep, aren’t they? Little Ricky: I’d like to think that we’re all sheep but without the negative connotations. Sure we can all follow along with the masses, or maybe not fit in, but at some point we all crave to be ourselves as we are. At the heart and soul of SHEEP is that we’re ALL different. When Alexander McQueen referred to himself as a ‘pink sheep’ I understood that he was making a comment not only on his sexuality, but more importantly on the idea that he was different from even the black sheep. Reading that sentence in his biography altered the course of my life and is what inspired SHEEP.
After 51 years of life and almost 7 years of working on the series, I’ve learned this. (See if you can follow along or if it makes some sense) Being born is what we ALL have in common. Yet at that moment no one ever has or ever will be identical. In one moment we’re connected and different at the same time. We then spend a lifetime searching for meaning/purpose. The secret- to learn, embrace, and honor all those many little things about ourselves that make us…ME! When we do so, we go back to that moment of connection. So yea we’re all sheep finding our way back to an essence of being.
Brooklyn Street Art:Can you talk about your feelings toward Keith Haring and the impression he and his work made on you? Little Ricky: I feel a deep connection to Keith. It goes beyond being inspired by him. I feel him alongside me like he’s guiding me along. I first came across his work in the late ’80s. The simplicity of his images struck some magic in my soul. They still do. They felt familiar. Until now, I didn’t realize that Keith’s passing in February of 1990 coincided with my coming out the month before. Weird! Maybe he passed the torch along. My first boyfriend who I met in January of 1990 even drove Keith around SF the year before. I wasn’t into the art scene in any way, but I started taking art classes while at UC Berkeley. I imitated his lines and figures, but there was no ‘me’ in what I was creating.
With SHEEP, almost 30 years later, I can see his influence in my work, always will. But now I know, that I’m creating a world of my own with a little touch of his magic. It’s been an effortless process. For that, I give some credit to Keith. When the idea for SHEEP came to mind in 2013, I didn’t know what I’d be creating. I purchased a toy sheep and started doodling. After a while, a shape took form and it looked familiar like I had seen it before.
Thinking about this now, I realize that it was like finding my own Haring ‘baby.’ I wasn’t looking for it, but when I saw it, I knew it was the beginning of everything. P.S. Last year in May, I did a 31-day study I called SHEEPDOG. Each day, I painted an image combining Keith’s dog and my SHEEP. I was surprised that I hadn’t thought of it earlier. It was magical seeing it evolve.
Brooklyn Street Art:Recently Dusty Rebel has been traveling around the world speaking with and filming Street Artists from the GLBTQ community. Why is it important to know if a graffiti writer or Street Artist is GLBTQ? Little Ricky: As I get older, labels have become less important. I jokingly tell my sister that I’m the ‘+’ in the GLBTQ+ If I’m to label myself, it’s definitely queer over gay. I like qweirdo even better! When I started the series, I assumed the street art community was a bunch of heterosexual males. Other than the names Bansky and Shepard Fairey, I knew nothing about it. Knowing that the SHEEP were queer, I felt some hesitation about how the community would embrace them.
Unknowingly, I’d even censor myself so that they weren’t too ‘gay.’ That all changed after the Orlando shootings when I was reminded of the importance of living out loud and proud. But once I started meeting the artists, I came to find out that no one cared about how I identified or if the sheep were gay or not. All that mattered was that I was getting up and they loved what I was doing. Meeting all these artists, queer or not, has been one of the greatest parts of working on SHEEP. So, it’s not so much about knowing who’s queer or not, because in the end, we’re all doing the same thing. But thanks to Dusty, there’s a new found community.
Once I started, other than HomoRiot, I wasn’t aware of anyone else. It took me a few years before we eventually met up. Now, I have a new community of peeps that I get to call friends. I’m excited to meet many more along the way. I feel grateful to Dusty and all his work. He’s shedding light on an untold story and the many artists who often go unrecognized. It’s like the M&M commercial- we do exist!
Brooklyn Street Art:Which city is more fun for Street Art right now? Little Ricky: As much as I love my beloved city of LA, I feel like I’m living ‘in’ art when I’m in NYC. Art’s everywhere! Aside from SHEEP, walking is a great passion and there’s no better city than NY to combine my two loves. When I was there recently, I put in 20 miles in one day. The opportunity to paste-up SHEEP is everywhere and anywhere. LA’s different that way. Even though I do walk a lot and I paste-up wherever I go, it’s not the same. It’s very random. Plus you’re not going to see my work whiledrivingaroundd. SHEEP is definitely for the pedestrian and NY is the perfect place. Initially, I thought my little SHEEP would get lost in it all, but came to find out that New Yorkers do pay attention while walking.
When it comes to the queer art community, street or not, I often wondered if my work didn’t fit in because it wasn’t erotic or specifically depicting a ‘queer’ image/message. But I now know, that regardless, they’re queer and they’re pink! It’s in the heart and soul of the each SHEEP. Whether this is conveyed when coming across my work is not as important as the feeling you have when seeing them. Feel the JOY!
Brooklyn Street Art:In what way is your work political? Is it commentary? Critique? Little Ricky: This was a tough question. I don’t see it as being overtly political or even commentary. There are some pieces that may be so, but overall they’re expressions of joy. I keep it simple. If you smile or laugh out loud when finding my pieces on the street, I know I’ve done my job. I often laugh out loud when creating them. There’s such silliness. For example, the idea of Anna Wintour as a pink sheep in roller skates makes me laugh. When I began the series, they started off as ‘gay’ sheep and now they’re more a symbol about a feeling.
I’ve always felt different, it goes beyond my sexuality. As I age, I feel more and more different. And the more different I feel, the more connected I am. So the SHEEP being out and about, regardless of the character or message, are a symbol of that feeling that we all feel. Being different, feeling different is a beautiful thing!
Surreally yours! The art on the streets this week appears to reflect the times. It’s going to take all this creativity and force to turn the tides!
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring 1Up, AJ LaVilla, Android Oi, Cern, Dark Clouds, Dirty Cobain, Early Riser, Invader, Jason Naylor, Little Ricky, Lubaina Himid, Lucas Blalock, Oscar Lett, Robson, SacSix, Subway Doodle, Zimer .
Dog days of summer
be damned, the Street Art in all of its fabulous illegal varieties, the true Vox
Populi (and self-advertisment) persists and insists through the streets this
On the topic of illegal, we’ll state it again for the many persons who have an incorrect impression – Street Art, by definition, is illegal. If it is not illegal, please do not call it Street Art. That work you are looking at is probably a mural. Unfortunately we’ve seen some recent flagrant misuses of the term by some folks who probably should know better.
Good to see “Hysterical Men” here in New York, after
admiring the campaign from Philly. The artwork reminds us of Robbie Conal as
well, who is reliably skewering public officials with his wilting depictions of
them on posters on the street. This week we also were reminded of Chicago’s Dont
Fret when we saw the work of Matt Starr, with his textual witticisms. Don’t get
us wrong, its not a criticism to have similar work – it’s just an observation.
Finally, considering the treatment of immigrants, the mounting
fascism, racism, misogyny, and rageful ignorance being modelled and engendered
from the highest offices in the land, we’re shocked that, with a few notable
exceptions, Street Artists are not taking those messages to the streets. So
much for its reputation for being activist. Not so much.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring Benjamin’s Brother, Bones, Cammix Vx, Captain Eyeliner, Diva Dolga, Domingo Zapata, Dr. Nothing, Hysterical Men, Invisible Essence, Little Ricky, Matt Siren, Matt Starr, Mattew Wythe, Mr. Djoul, Obey, Praxis, Raddington Falls, Rammellzee, Sara Lynne Leo, Sinclair, Sunflower Soulz, The Postman Art, and You Go Girl!
Jeez, that only took 50 years. “Stonewall Riot Apology: Police Actions Were ‘Wrong,’ Commissioner Admits”, cooed the New York Times this week. Of course the NYT headline at the time focused on how the helmeted, armed police were affected, rather than the couple of hundred citizens who they harrassed, intimidated and beat up for being many shades of LGBTQ – “Four Policeman Hurt in Village Raid”. Thankfully Macy’s and HSBC bank and all the corporations ran to the rescue of those folks in 1969 and throughout the 1970s and 1980s, 90s, right?
Aside from the multiple lessons we all continue to learn in the fights for people’s equality across society and in our institutions, one lesson comes through loudly and clearly: real, meaningful change almost never comes from the top down. Social, political, and economic justice comes from the grassroots, rank-and-file, everyday people fighting day after day, year after year.
That’s why we keep our eyes on graffiti, Street Art and all manner of expression on the street – its proven to be a reliable source for the vox populi.
So here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring CANO, Carl Paoli, Dain, David Puck, El Ergo, FKDL, Infynite, Isabelle Ewing, Justin T. Russo, Little Ricky, Meres One, Ramiro Davaro-Comas, Sara Lynne Leo, Screwtape, SeeTF, Skewville, Solus, and Stray Ones.
Have you noticed the number of faces and eyes that are pasted, painted, drawn on the Streets right now? Maybe they are an indicator that many more of us are truly paying attention and that we see how close the danger is, even if we don’t know exactly what to do.
The first step of course, is to pay attention. Turning off the corporate controlled media helps.
What do you see?
So here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring Arkane, CP Won, Dylan Egon, Eyebrows, Greta Thunberg, Himbad, Hiss, Little Rickey, LMNOPI, Lungebox, SacSix, Sara Lynne Leo, Soten, The Postman Art, and Who is Dirk.
We made it! But it was a rough few days just finished with storms and rain and snow and high winds and flooding and downed trees around New York and its environs. Similarly, as one surveys the chaos reigning in Washington, one must not be blinded by the sound and fury and has to measure what foundations are being broken and what soil is being eroded during this deliberate and man-made storm. Also Tax Payers, You’ve Been Scammed.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Below Key, Bond TruLuv, Bunny M, Combo, Crash, Eleonora Arosio, Faith XVVII, Free the Bunny, Imraan Christian, Jaeraymie, Lamkat, Little Ricky, Manyoly, Olek, Ollio, PAM, Paper Skaters, RAD, SK, Specter, and UFO907.
Welcome to Images of the Week! Great stuff this week from Portugal, Spain and good old NYC to flip your Aunt Betty’s wig.
The big news this week of course was that the 5 Points graffiti compound case was awarded to the 21 plaintiffs. But its not just local: it may have national implications when building owners will be insisting on contracts with anyone who paints their property. It may also confuse and scare off many opportunities for artists, where building owners will simply say no to the proposal.
The settlement, which we covered in Tell It to The Judge ; Graffiti Artists Win in 5 Pointz Case, has infuriated many and thrilled others expressing their opinion on social media. One of our 5 Ptz postings on Facebook this week garnered 1,300 comments, a nest of misunderstanding mediated by the occasional level head, offset by congratulations and victory laps. Naturally, folks from other parts of the country insulted us New Yorkers. Welcome to the world of graffiti and Street Art!
The Black Panther movie has many New Yorkers enthralled as it premiered on Tuesday night at the Museum of Modern Art. Theaters drew entire families and school groups many standing in line in costume as they waited to see powerful and positive black super-heroes and heroines. The Times Magazine says it is a defining moment for black America.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Atomik, Bigod, City Kitty, Daniel Eime, Desla, Exit.Enter.K, Fatal Fake, Free the Nipple, Gane, Gebraël, Kram, Little Ricky, Obey, Texas, We’kup, and Zest B.
Got anything lined up for Valentines Day? No pressure bro. Just be yourself sis! All that baloney about wine and dine and flowers – oh HELL NO! We’re all on a budget up in here! In fact we did some research for you and here’s 8 Cheap Valentine’s Day Dates in NYC thanks to writer Melanie Gardiner.
And for the rest of you non-attached and gorgeous BSA Readers may we recommend the delightful new cinematic pleasure from Urban Spree and the Berlin Kidz called “F**k the System” now available for the price of a movie house soda on Vimeo. Each time you think they won’t do it, they totally do it. Including riding bikes on top of the train. That part is NOT recommended.
In other news, the people in Washington are playing with fire and it looks like a large percent of them probably want to burn the whole government down. A second shutdown in one month? We have pyromaniacs bent on destroying basic stuff that the people built and need. Now that the taxes for the rich have been lowered so that social programs will go on a feeding tube, how many minutes will it take before they say, “we simply can’t afford to pay for Medicare and Social Security’? Tick Tick Tick.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Avocado, Baston, City Kitty, Dede, Duke A. Barnstable, Irak, James Goldcrown, Joe Iurato, Little Ricky, Nora Breen Project, Pear, Smiler, Tez, The Joe Miller, Token 3784.