All posts tagged: NohJ Coley

“Suicidal Tendencies” by NohJColey, Interactive Sculpture With You as Saviour

Street Artist NohJColey continues to stretch his character studies and symbol-heavy storylines and build them into ever more interactive street sculpture. Not content with laborious hand cut and colored wheat-pasted flat pieces, his stuff on the street for almost a year has more dimension and engagement. Naturally, people interact with it and pretty quickly pieces are missing. Maybe it’s curiosity or maybe a Lower East Side messenger needed something to lock his bike to, but here are a couple of images of the piece as it first appeared in Manhattan, where the central form  can be adjusted to simulate the figurative and literal falling that can happen in a life.


“Suicidal Tendancies”, by NohJ Coley

Like the protagonist in Don DeLillos Falling Man, Coley’s character could be a metaphor for so many in New York who are losing jobs, wages, and a frayed social net that once prevented them from hitting the pavement.  While DeLilos book begins at the Twin Towers during a “time and space of falling ash and near night,” and the vision of office workers jumping out of the buildings, the simulation NohJColey creates here pertains to the plight of  bankers, latinos and those affected by mental illness. With American society as a burning building, this piece is entitled “Suicidal Tendencies” and the passerby can actually participate by preventing one man from jumping to his death, see another jumping in front of a train, and witness the anguished expression of the third at the base who has sadly succeeded in his pursuit.

Below are images taken yesterday of the installation, with parts already missing. While the complete story is not told with what remains, somehow they are still interactive.

brooklyn-street-art-nohjcoley-jaime-rojo-04-11-web-4NohJColey (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Coley spoke to Brooklyn Street Art about the stories behind the three chapter piece:

“I’m currently working on a series of interactive sculptures that are focused on recognizing mental illness.
Suicidal Tendencies, which is the first of the three is of course concentrated on suicide. The main figure is a stock broker who is unable to continue existing after the stock market has crashed. So, with his office windows ajar he jumps out. He is partially in purgatory and partially in what we know as existence.

When interacting with Suicidal Tendencies the main objective is to prevent two of the three subjects from committing the act of suicide. When in front of the main figure the viewer is meant to pull the subject up, averting the subject from committing the act of suicide. The succeeding figure is a Hispanic activist that turns to suicide after becoming exhausted with the notion of Hispanics being treated unjustly in the US. So, after another unsuccessful demonstration he comes to the conclusion that he wants to jump in front of a moving train. The main objective with the activist is to prevent the smaller figure from jumping in front of the moving train. The tertiary figure is a young college student that is too far gone to be redeemed.”


NohJColey (photo © Jaime Rojo)


NohJColey (photo © Jaime Rojo)


NohJColey (photo © Jaime Rojo)


A local resident approached while we were shooting the installation to remark that the entire piece was there the day before, and he disapproved of whoever had removed part of it because he really liked it.   NohJColey (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Fun Friday 02.25.11


BREAKING: Nick Walker New Work in Brooklyn This Morning!

The BK’s British Brotha Debuts a New Character

brooklyn-street-art-nick-walker-jaime-rojo-02-11Nick Walker (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

While Nick Walker is in town hitting up all kinds of fancy, he spent a little time with BSA to make this new stencil in The People’s Republic of Brooklyn, above. Coming from the printers to check on the progress of the new release tomorrow (see below), Nick and his merry cluster of “assistants” rolled through the BK to poke his head into a couple of windows. Full process pics and the installation come up Sunday on BSA’s Images of the Week.


Nick Walker (Photo © Jaime Rojo)


Nick Walker will be releasing a print in collaboration with Opera Gallery, 115 Spring Street, New York, this Saturday, February 26th, 2011 at 3pm EST. A lottery has been set up making 50 prints available for collectors in the UK. In order to apply for a print please email with New York TMA lottery in the subject box.

Nick Walker’s “Morning After New York” print release at Opera Gallery Tomorrow at 3:00 p.m.

The print will be a signed limited edition of 150 with 18 hand-finished Artists proofs.

Royce Bannon Catches Unusual Suspects at 17 Frost Tomorrow


Check out Abe Lincoln Jr. Celso, Chris RWK, Darkclouds, Infinity, Keely, Matt Siren, Moody, Nose Go, and Sno Monster, all curated by monster man Royce Bannon at this eclectic show in Brooklyn Saturday night. Read more and see images from the show HERE:

Please Support the Pantheon Show Across from the MoMA in April


This spring at the former Donnell New York Public Library across the street from MoMA Joyce Manalo and Daniel Feral will bring you PANTHEON: A History of Art From the Streets of NYC. This artist’s initiative is a 40 year history of New York Street Art told by the people who actually did the work. Run with volunteers, this show promises an erudite assessing of this moment in the timeline, and a look at how we got this far – and daily demonstrations in the windows. With your pledge to their Kickstarter campaign they will be able to afford to print catalogues and mount the show. Please throw them a buck! Click Here to see their KickStarter.


Daniel already has been mocking up the catalog, which will contain extensive interviews, writing, and photographs! Your support will get it printed! Click on the link below to go to their KickStarter and pledge your donation to help them see this project through.

Featured Writers

  • Alex Emmart
  • Ali Ha
  • Adam VOID
Featured Interviewers

  • Monica Campana
  • Jennifer Diamond
  • Becki Fuller
  • Katherine Lorimer
Featured Photographers

  • Jake Dobkin
  • Sam Horine
  • Alan Ket
  • Luna Park & Becki Fuller

Brick Lane Art: The Other Side


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Images of the Week 01.23.11

Tonight it will be 7 degrees farenheit in Brooklyn, and the wind will blow down the East River to the Verrazano, around Coney Island and the Rockaways in a bashing fashion. New York City in January can be an inhospitable and unfriendly city, especially if you are a new arrival. “Where are all the people?” New Yorkers, all clad in blacks and grays pile out from the subway tunnels in droves and scurry fast down the sidewalk, like ants whose mound has been disturbed. The puffy fashions often mute gender, causing a great many otherwise fashionable or sexy dudes and dudettes to look like large tubers. Outside is a place to pass through as you stomp toward your dwelling without looking around or upward. Exhausted by layers of fabrics and zippers and buttons and laces and pulling on, over, and off – dropping bags and backpacks, the peeling off wet socks and salty boots are the final salvo before collapse. Depressed yet?

The flip side of this is that a lot of Street Artists are working in their kitchen/toolshed/studio right now and really putting a lot of effort into it – some are even stockpiling like squirrels for spring.  If it is sunny for a minute in the afternoon, and you can peer over your scarf on the icy snow piled sidewalks of Brooklyn for a second you’ll see there is some new Street Art here and there. There is  one reason to go outside and it’s encouraging to see that some street artists that call New York their home have been getting up despite the elements. It’s not really surprising to find that Street Artists are a scrappy lot; it kind of goes with the territory. Nonetheless it can bring a smile to your frozen face. Happy Winter.

And now our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring AVOne, AWR, BAST, DAIN, General Howe, Jim Darling, Katsu, Nasa, Nohj Coley, Rae, Skewville, Sofia Maldonado, Surge, and the Witness


Rae (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Nohj Coley’s first interactive piece on the streets (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-nohj-coley-jaime-rojo-01-11-12“Mucho Gusto!” Nohj Coley First interactive piece on the streets (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-nohj-coley-jaime-rojo-01-11-14Nohj Coley detail (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-nohj-coley-jaime-rojo-01-11-15Wanna see a movie? Nohj Coley detail (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-dain-jaime-rojo-01-11-8A big new Dain about town looking quite continental. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-dain-jaime-rojo-01-11-10Double the pleasure with Dain (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-dain-jaime-rojo-01-11-11Dain (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-avone-jaime-rojo-01-11AVOne (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-katsu-jaime-rojo-01-11Katsu (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-bast-1-jaime-rojo-01-11“Oh, fine thanks, except that I had to kill my boss.” Bast  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-bast-jaime-rojo-01-11Bast (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-skewville-jaime-rojo-01-11Skewville shows you to your entrance (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-general-howe-jaime-rojo-01-11General Howe commentarty on past and present events in our still young Nation (photo © Jaime Rojo)

On to warmer climates…. and here are some more images from the glut of new work in Miami that we’ve been showing you this month.

brooklyn-street-art-sofia-maldonado-primary-flight-miami-2010-jaime-rojo-01-11Sofia Maldonado. Primary Flight Miami 2010  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-jim-darling-primary-flight-2010-jaime-rojo-01-11-3Jim Darling created this expansive sculpture made entirely from found objects. We learned that the owner of the lot was at first pretty disturbed by the accumulation of junk until the piece began to take shape. Now of course they love it and the streets are a little cleaner too. Primary Flight Miami 2010  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-jim-darling-primary-flight-2010-jaime-rojo-01-11-4Jim Darling. Detail Primary Flight Miami 2010  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-The-Witnes-AWR-NASA-primary-flight-2010-jaime-rojo-01-11The Witness AWR NASA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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NohJ Coley: Noise in Your Head

NohJ Coley: Noise in Your Head

Storied Portraits In a Texan Music Warehouse

Brooklyn-Street-Art-NohJ-Coley-Texas-BOY-Detail-Fall2010Street Artist NohJColey travelled to Texas for a few weeks to visit friends and put up these new portraits in the studios of a de facto music factory. The former meat packing plant is abuzz with activity day and night with up-and-coming entrepreneurs of all stripes pounding out the beats, doing fashion shoots, making videos, mixing music, and a little bit of partying to ease the stress of all that work. NohJ slept on couches for a few weeks and hung out with many unknowns on the hip-hop tip, and a few bigger names too. He also spent long stretches of time killing large walls in these artists studios with his very distinctive illustration style of portraiture. Not surprisingly, the theme of music runs through them.


“The first piece I did was done in the place I was sleeping in. It wasn’t about the owner but it was a reflection of him in a way because he literally ran around with his head cut off and he didn’t know what was going on half the time. He was mostly crying about his girlfriend or surfing the net looking at new videos.  Supposedly he was a DJ. He had gigs, but no turntables. He was scratcher and mixer,” explains NohJ about this mural going up a staircase.

If you know anything about NohJ, it’s that he is always thinking and observing people. Each piece has a story that is rooted in his imagination as much as his observation of the human condition. His characters are illustrative of greater truths and of their personal idiosyncracies. You can imagine him becoming a literary or screen writer because he knows his subjects inside and out. Psychology, sociology, and popular culture all come to fore, placed with symbolism and gesture into the portrait and into a moment. If NohJ inhabits each fictional character he creates just for a moment, he stays with them for hours, gently observing their motivations and making judgments about their judgment, blending in some social critique.


No. 1

Brooklyn Street Art: What about this dude?

NohJ: These are piano keys, I don’t know if I ever said that.

Brooklyn Street Art: No, I didn’t see that

NohJ: Yeah, they’re supposed to be exiting his chest

Brooklyn Street Art: So does it seem like musical notes coming out of his chest?

NohJ: No, just keys

Brooklyn Street Art: So they’re musical tools with which to create the sound but they don’t necessarily have a sound?

NohJ: I’d say they represent the sound just because those are the keys, you know?

Brooklyn Street Art: Biomorphic, undulating

NohJ: Definitely, contorted, yeah

Brooklyn Street Art: What about these gray lines that go around?

NohJ: That’s the chords

Brooklyn Street Art: He looks kind of constricted by them, his lower torso

NohJ: He’s can’t go anywhere because the line is wrapped. He wants to DJ but he can’t get the turntable, it keeps rocking back and forth. He can’t really see it. The right eye is covered because, you know how there are constantly music videos going – he’s constantly seeing the music video in something. He sees clothes, a phone, somebody’s chain, sneakers. He sees it in a video and thinks he’s gotta buy it.

Brooklyn Street Art: So he’s imprisoned by his consumerist tendencies?

NohJ: Yeah

Brooklyn Street Art: or just his impulses

NohJ: Probably his tendencies though because he’s like being brainwashed.

Brooklyn Street Art: It becomes a tendency after a while

NohJ: He’s like “Oh, it’s a whole lifestyle”, you know

Brooklyn Street Art: “this stuff represents ‘me’”. He doesn’t look like he’s very old.

NohJ: I don’t know – mid twenties, early thirties

Brooklyn Street Art: So what was the reaction of the person who hangs out in this space?

NohJ: He liked it. He didn’t know what it was about. It was about him though.


No. 2

NohJ: This one is about noise levels.

Brooklyn Street Art: She’s plugging her ears too.

NohJ: Even though the sound is coming out of her nose. That’s why I used the pattern- It’s octagons and triangles. I usually use triangles to represent strife, the points!

Brooklyn Street Art: So if we see shapes that are in your work that are circles or are circular, what are those going to represent?

NohJ: I rarely use circles but it probably would mean that you are going through a transition. It might be rough but it’s going to get better.  It all depends though cause it all has to do with the number.

Brooklyn Street Art: What’s her name?

NohJ: She doesn’t have a name but this is in a guys studio and when he has the speakers on, this piece makes so much sense to you.  Because it’s like all this noise coming from the right side of the house and you are just looking at this woman and she is looking at you and she’s like, “Yeah it’s noisy right?”


Brooklyn Street Art: This pattern also makes me think of some folk art or maybe Native American art.

NohJ: I kind of figured you’d…. I mean, why?

Brooklyn Street Art: Because of the diamond motif repeated. I mean it’s a quadrilateral but it’s squashed. There’s no Native American influence here.

NohJ: Maybe, but if so it subconsciously got in there.

Brooklyn Street Art: I think her name is Consuelo. That’s what I’ve decided. But you don’t have a name for her.

NohJ: She’s trying to distance herself from the rest of her body because this over here is her back and the speakers are inbetween, you know?

Brooklyn Street Art: Man! She is really trying to get away!

NohJ: She’s pulling herself apart.

While a portrait may be a symbol of a greater truth, he isn’t going to stand on a soapbox. But if you really want to know and you are listening, he’ll tell you. If not, he won’t worry very much. Amalgams of people he’s met and the person he is, the pieces and their stories have their own logic – part reality and science fiction. Mixing fantasy with reality, sometimes it’s not clear where one ends and the other starts;Just when you think you got the scenario and you think it’s all symbolism and representation, you’ll learn that a character actually does have a piece of jewelry protruding from their head, or a cassette tape flowing out of his mouth and it is not a metaphor after all.


No. 3

Brooklyn Street Art: Tell me about this boy

NohJ: He’s just like a teenager that listens to all this new music that we’ve been talking about. – Like poor quality stuff.

Brooklyn Street Art: He doesn’t think it’s poor quality though.

NohJ: Exactly, that’s the problem. That’s why there are all these tapes flying at him and he’s just covering his ears. He doesn’t want to hear the titles of the good stuff you know? – Whether it’s like Led Zepplin or the Beatles or I don’t know.

Brooklyn Street Art: What does he want  to listen to?

NohJ: I don’t know, like Justin Bieber, Souljah Boy, stuff like that.

Brooklyn Street Art: Is this other guy lecturing him?

NohJ: Yeah, definitely. He’s like an older musician, dressed in 70s fashion.

Brooklyn Street Art: He looks like he was on the set of “Sanford and Son”

NohJ: Yeah, definitely. The large oversized collar, open.

Brooklyn Street Art: That looks like a VCR tape


NohJ: It’s a cassette tape.

Brooklyn Street Art: So what do you think this guy has on these cassette tapes?

NohJ: Like Hendrix, the O’Jays

Brooklyn Street Art: Oh yeah, like “Love Train”.

NohJ: …Sonny Rollins… I mean he’s really just telling him about quality stuff, and really where most of the new stuff derives from.

Brooklyn Street Art: This kid looks a little bit mad

NohJ: Yeah he’s super angry, he doesn’t like this

Brooklyn Street Art: But he can’t talk back, that’s why his mouth is closed

NohJ: I think he’s really scared though because he’s like “how are cassette tapes coming out of someone’s mouth?”

Brooklyn Street Art: I love that kid.

Images courtesy and © of NohJColey

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New NohJ Coley Piece Killed in It’s Infancy

Rapid Death of a Baby Farmer



A shocking true story from two centuries past provides the latest muse for Street Artist NohJ Coley, whose wheat-pasted intercedence on the behalf of infant victims lasts only one moon before it was washed away.

Amelia Dyer put a thinly veiled ad for “adoption” in the Thames Valley paper telling unwed mothers in the 1890’s that they could safely bring their illegitimate baby to her farm and know that the child would be raised and their reputations could stay intact.  In fact, once back in her house, Mrs. Dyer tied a string around the neck of the  child and choked it; a fate that awaited her in the Summer of  ’96 when she was convicted of killing 6 such infants. It is believed that she actually murdered 50.

The blurry photo above is all that remains of the linotype cutout NohJ Coley affixed to a wall recently behind barbed wire.  A fleeting Blair Witch of a moment, intended by a passing street art photographer to mark the spot for a shot in the sunshine at dawn.  But when he returned at sunrise the piece was washed and scraped off, the damaged evidence floating in a puddle at the base of the wall, much like the babies Amelia Dyer placed in paper sacks and dumped into the Thames River.


While the brand new street art piece may have been in an approved location, the subject matter was not quite palatable. Says Coley, “My theory as to why the piece was removed is the subject matter. I don’t think the owner of the property could sit well with a women screaming while pulling out her hair and two infants pulling rope out of the back of her throat. If the images on the wall were less harsh and more alluring I believe that the work would still be on the wall today.”


To complete this sordid snuffing story, we offer you these exclusive in-studio photos  of the piece in studio during the preparation. The artist intended the piece to be a damning indictment, and a figurative repayment by the tender sucklings who were snuffed.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-WEB-NohJ-Coley_Aug2010-Infanticide_detail1Says Coley, “Basically I am allowing these infants that were brutally murdered to have some sort of revenge for their untimely deaths.” Ironically the piece was rubbed out before it could run.



  1. Dr. John Brendon Curgenven, op. cit., p.3.
  2. James Greewood, The Seven Curses of London, Chapter III.
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NohJColey New Piece Ponders Career Choices

Street artist NohJColey took the mission of the programs at Free Arts NYC to heart and head when creating his piece for the Street Art New York Silent Auction Benefit.

This mixed-media piece focuses on a youth contemplating what path he will take in more grown-up pursuits. With typical NohJColey erudition, this portrait is revealing of an inner dialogue.

NJC’s attention to detail and his uncommon handling of technique and medium truly makes his statement purely his.  You don’t need us to tell you that this talent is one to watch. But what’s up with that eyeball? Jus’ kidding.


See more of NOHJ’s work HERE

See more pieces from the auction at

Learn more about the Street Art New York Silent Auction Benefit

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Year In Images 2009 from Jaime Rojo

Street Art photographer Jaime Rojo captured a few thousand images in 2009 to help document the wildly growing Street Art scene in New York.

A veteran of 10 years shooting the streets of New York, Rojo has amassed a collection of images that capture the scene with the appreciation of an artist. To celebrate the creative spirit that is alive and well on the streets of New York, this slide video gives a taste of what happened in ‘09, without pretending to present the whole scene or all the artists, known and anonymous, who add to the ongoing conversation.

Included in this collection of images (in no particular order) are pieces by Skewville, Specter, The Dude Company, Judith Supine, C215, WK Interact, Anthony Lister, Miss Bugs, Bast, Chris from Robots Will Kill (RWK), Os Gemeos, Cake, Celso, Imminent Disaster, Mark Cavalho, NohJ Coley, Elbow Toe, Feral, Poster Boy, Bishop203, Jon Burgerman, Royce Bannon, Damon Ginandes, Conor Harrington, Gaia, JC2, Logan Hicks, Chris Stain, Armsrock, Veng from Robots Will Kill (RWK), Noah Sparkes, Robots Will Kill, Heracut, Billy Mode, Revs, Skullphone, Spazmat, Mint and Serf, Roa, Aakash Nihilani, Broken Crow, Peru Ana Ana Peru, & Cern

All images © Jaime Rojo

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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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Images of the Week 08.16.09

Images of the Week 08.16.09

Our weekly interview with the street

El Coucho
El Coucho has a certain savoir-faire, don de gente (El Coucho) (photo Jaime Rojo)

PeruAna AnaPeru
Clayton and Maybelle still remember their first blind date. (PeruAna AnaPeru) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Bovines on Lockdown! (Gaia) (photo Jaime Rojo)

El Coucho
Pugilistic Showiness (El Coucho) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Red Nose tries his luck with Hamlet
Red Nose tries his luck with Hamlet (photo Jaime Rojo)

Red Nose doing time
I’m gonna break my rusty cage and run … (Red Nose) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Chris RWK
Hey cutie. (Chris RWK) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Half Obey
Half O’ Bey (Shepard Fairey) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Skewville Obey
What’re you sayin’ zactly?  (Skewville, Shepard Fairey) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Sometimes when I’m trying to get my point across I just get all tied up in knots. Know M Sayin? (NohJColey) (photo Jaime Rojo)

The Younity Collective Mural Bedford and South 5 Williamsburg
The Younity Collective Mural in Williamsburg (photo Jaime Rojo)

The Younity Collective. AM
The Younity Collective, AM (photo Jaime Rojo)

The Younity Collective. AIKO

The Younity Collective, AIKO (photo Jaime Rojo)

The Younity Collective. AM, JEN ONE, EROTICA
The Younity Collective AM, JEN ONE, EROTICA  (photo Jaime Rojo)

The Younity Collective EMA

The Younity Collective, EMA (photo Jaime Rojo)

The Younity Collective SHIRO
The Younity Collective, Shiro (photo Jaime Rojo)

The Younity Collective SOFIA
The Younity Collective, SOFIA (photo Jaime Rojo)

The Younity Collective SOFIA
The Younity Collective, SOFIA (photo Jaime Rojo)

The Younity Collective TOO FLY
The Younity Collective, TOO FLY (photo Jaime Rojo)

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Don’t Call it a Comeback

Thursday night it was a true gathering of the tribes –

Old Skool, Art Skool, Graff Crews, Street Art, Hipsters, Hip-Hop, Electro, Blue-haired, Blue themes, Critics, Kids, Collabo’s, Lolitas, Lotharios, Murals, Markers, Canvasses, Cans, Wheatpaste, Stickers, Sculpture, and Script. This might just be what community looks like. Every where you turned, the senses were flooded, and cellphones and electronic gadgetry were revealed for what they lack in the competition for connectedness and D.I.Y. inspiration.

Surpassing many of the street art group shows of the past few years, this one was obviously very organic and full of love, rather than hype.

When Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force finally picked up their mikes and Martha Cooper broke off from signing books with Henry Chalfant to expertly weave with her camera, the crowds’ momentum was already in full swing. No one can doubt that this scene, whatever label you care to give it, is on fire right now and the creative spirit is at work in the belly of the people.

Good luck tracking it’s trajectories.

Thanks to the Combine and the talented Jazz Beaulieu for the images below:

[svgallery name=”Work To Do Jazz Belieu”]

Other shots from the show……

Royce Bannon

Super K8


Luna Park

Becki Fuller

“Work To Do” is at 112 Greene Street in Soho, NYC, and runs through April 16.

More info – Endless Love Crew

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Week in Images 03.16.09

The Streets are coming alive again after a long bitter winter.  Also here are some sneak peeks at the “Work to Do” show opening on Thursday.


"Are you sure it isn't time for a 'colourful metaphor'?", asked Spock Monroe (MBW) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Foreshadowing of Souplines (Exyzt)(photo Jaime Rojo)

Foreshadowing of soup lines (Exyzt)(photo Jaime Rojo)

You fly the dirigible, I'll look out for the authorities.(Hotel Venado, Nick Walker) (photo Jaime Rojo)

You fly the dirigible, I'll keep an eye out for the authorities (Venado, Nick Walker) (photo Jaime Rojo)

NohJ works in Color at "Work to Do" (NohJ Coley) (photo Jaime Rojo)

NohJ works in Color at "Work to Do" (NohJ Coley) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Which way? (Chris from Robots Will Kill)(photo Jaime Rojo)

Time's Up! - from "Work to Do" (Chris from Robots Will Kill) (photo Jaime Rojo)

C.Damage gets Up at "Work to Do" (photo Jaime Rojo)

C.Damage gets Up at "Work to Do" (C.Damage) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Deeks and Celso and Infinity from (photo Jaime Rojo)

Deeks and Celso and Infinity from "Work to Do" (photo Jaime Rojo)

Picasso What? from "Work to Do" (photo Jaime Rojo)

Picasso What? installation from "Work to Do" (photo Jaime Rojo)

Royce Seems to be Fine from "Work to Do"(Royce Bannon)(photo Jaime Rojo)

Royce Seems to be handling it well, don't you agree? From "Work to Do" (Royce Bannon) (photo Jaime Rojo)

(Veng from Robots Will Kill) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Wait, I'm still thinking. From "Work to Do" (Veng from Robots Will Kill) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Stikman at "Work to Do" (photo Jaime Rojo)

Stikman at "Work to Do" (photo Jaime Rojo)

I know what YOU are thinking. You men are all the same.(Za) (photo Jaime Rojo)

I know what YOU are thinking. You men are all the same.(Za) (photo Jaime Rojo)

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