All posts tagged: painting

A Graffiti Painted Cityscape: Laura Shechter Documents Street Art on Canvas

A Graffiti Painted Cityscape: Laura Shechter Documents Street Art on Canvas

If there is someone who knows Brooklyn Street Art and graffiti, it is Laura Shechter.

Dart, Cash4, Cost, Sace, City Kitty, Chris Stain, she knows them all.

And yet she doesn’t know them at all.

When you live in a city and see graffiti or Street Art the creators of the scene cannot hope to define everyone’s experience of their work. In fact, it is an entirely unique trip for each person.

Laura Shechter (photo © Jaime Rojo)

If Laura Shechter happened to capture a graffiti tag or throwie or Street Art wheat-paste or stencil or sticker in one of her careful and precise photo-based cityscapes, she probably didn’t see it as you did, because she may not see her city in the same way you do. Ms. Shechter has spent hours with these pieces; recreating, rendering, and documenting by hand and brush the coded chaos and conversation on city walls. For this painter it is about supporting the craft of the artists of this time much in the same way that she used her earlier still life painting to support the craft of hand painted china from the 19th century.

Others may see these graffiti works as indicators of blight, as eyesores, or signs of the decline of a block or neighborhood. For the majority it may be a visual noise that doesn’t register, let alone merit contemplation or documentation. Laura Shechter is placing this graffiti and Street Art front and center on her canvas, and the rougher the better.

Laura Shechter (photo © Jaime Rojo)

She doesn’t always call it tagging; sometimes she calls it signing or a signature. The graffiti practice of “going over” someone else’s work as a sign of dismissal is called “over writing” in Schecter’s descriptions. She also sees graffiti as “beautification of urban blight.”

Separating the layers of paint and planes with her mind’s eye and layering opaque with transparent, she is perhaps more aware of the strata of pigment, hue, shade, tone, and technical history of a graffitied wall than she is of the vernacular and terminology of day-to-day graffiti and Street Art culture.

Laura Shechter (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Shechter discovered many of these scenes on walks or trespassing adventures with her artist husband Ben and she felt a connection to them, these aerosol tableaus, wanting to save them for posterity.

“I’m good at rendering because I have been a student of 10,000 years of art history,” she says. “I’m involved with technique, observing, and perception. I also understand what is underneath. When I’m rendering the graffiti I am also rendering the graffiti that is underneath it. I’m also sensitive to plane changes so I understand graffiti when it is fading out and when it is sharp.”

She talks about her attraction to this kind of work and perhaps her feeling that she has a connection to the people who practice it. “I was raised in Brownsville, Brooklyn and I am of the ghetto,” says the unpretentious artist who has spoken of a home life in the 1940s and 1950s that was characterized by poverty and very challenging circumstances.

Laura Shechter (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“My work is rarely about the murals that are painted by those who went to art school. I was also a caseworker for the city and I walked most of the ghetto neighborhoods of NY. I am a really aware how ugly it was,” she says.

Today she’s concerned about what gentrification has done to similar neighborhoods and families. “I don’t know if there are any poor people left in Williamsburg. When you are going on a main shopping street on a Saturday, there’s almost nobody older than 30 years old. It almost becomes artificial and I would never want to live there. It would be an unpleasant place because it has become plastic,” she says.

Laura Shechter (photo © Jaime Rojo)

To the painters’ eye these raucous graffiti walls are colors, textures, planes, gestures; gyrations and rhythms of the vibrating city, our history of cacophony distilled, the forceful and waning multi-accented assertions of the vox populi captured here on a wall. One can imagine that Shechter can hear very clearly some of those voices splashed and layered here.

A contemporary realist, Shechter studied at Brooklyn College with noted abstract painter and a father of minimalism, Ad Reinhardt, in the mid 1960s. She says she  absorbed some of his minimalist techniques even with her still lifes in oil, watercolor, pencil, silverpoint, and lithographic prints. Here work developed into a career with gallery representation and a steadily growing collectors base over the next 35 years or so.

Laura Shechter (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Sometime in the late 1990s she says there was a crises in her work and she began thinking that she had explored still life painting and drawing completely, with no where left to go. In the early 2000s she grew interested in photo-based cityscapes through looking at and watching the art practice of her husband, who worked with his own photography as inspiration for his paintings.

In a speech given about her work last October at Mendez Soho in New York she spoke of her departure from still life painting and learning to paint cityscapes, sky, water – and how difficult it was to learn again. “It had to do with humility. The humility came from the idea of ‘how to deal with something that you are extremely competent in and then go back and become incompetent?’ ” She painted densely packed scenes of multileveled high-rises, seeing her city in a new way in terms of plains and horizontal lines and complexity.

Laura Shechter (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Then one of her cityscapes that she captured while looking off the Williamsburg Bridge happened to contain graffiti “only by chance”. It was exhibited at the National Academy later and the curator of that show introduced Shechter to the graffiti haven in Queens called “5 Pointz” and she did a painting of the massive complex crushed in pieces, thowies, tags.

“Basically doing that painting changed the whole direction that my work was taking,” she says. A few years later in 2015 her body of graffiti cityscapes won her the NYFA Artist’s Fellowship from the Academy.

A photo to use as a painting study from Hackney, London. May 2017. (photo © Laura Shechter)

In 2016 her husband Ben passed away after nearly five decades together and their warm Park Slope Brownstone brims with the intermingling of the two artists styles and interests. She says it has been difficult to adjust to the loss, but she has been busying herself with projects. To seek new inspiration from the streets abroad she travelled to London this spring to see the vibrant graffiti, Street Art, and mural scene there and to shoot photos for reference in her next body of paintings.

Siting the many legal walls that she discovered, the bright poppy colors that are popular today, and a perceived lack of direct relationship to the struggles of low-income people, her Brooklyn pride may overshadow her appreciation of what she captured in another city.

A photo to use as a painting study from Shoreditch, London. May 2017. (photo © Laura Shechter)

“Although London Street art is powerful, it lacks the finesse and craft of New York graffiti and it did not evolve naturally from the poorer neighborhoods,” she tells us. “Early New York graffiti writers had a limited palette of aerosol colors that tended to be intense.”

A photo to use as a painting study from Brick Lane, London. May 2017. (photo © Laura Shechter)

“They used natural arm movements that produced a more sensuous line and incorporated effects that result from the aerosol can; fuzzy edges, drips that add interest to the surface. London aerosol artists tend to fill in areas and their colors are the new tints and a heavy use of silver. Although there is some oversigning, they lack the beauty of layering of tags in New York graffiti, ” she says.

A photo to use as a painting study from Hackney, London. May 2017. (photo © Laura Shechter)

A teacher and lecturer at Parsons and the National Academy of Art, Schecter’s works are today included in several museum collections including Art Institute of Chicago, San Francisco Museum of Fine Art, and her hometown Brooklyn Museum where she prizes the feminist perspective which the institution champions, recalling her involvement since the 1970s as a member of both Women in the Arts and the Woman’s Caucus for Art. With such a rewarded career of professional accomplishment it is all the more interesting that the artist holds a certain reverence for the aesthetics of graffiti and Street Art.

But she is from Brooklyn after all.

Brooklyn Street Art: As an admirer of aesthetics, where do you find beauty in public spaces?
Laura Schecter: I enjoy walking the streets or riding a train and encountering sudden beauty when it is unexpected. Buildings used to be dirty brown, grey. I like simple doorways with 100 signatures…Especially graffiti on old brick and weathered wood, and the graffiti trucks are ever evolving and pure works of art.

I liked walking with Ben for miles and miles. Some photos he had to take because he was taller. I was always surprised how different our photos could be of the same spot. Sometimes I used his. I’ve been making home videos – one I made for him about him and his songs last summer and a personal one called “Brownsville Childhood.” That’s what you do when someone dies, you get projects.

Laura Shechter (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: As a contemporary realist, what are you observing in the cityscape that others may be missing?
Laura Schecter: I was painting the still life and felt that I had nothing more to say about it. My husband Ben Shechter used photos and other sources in his own art work. I borrowed one of his photos that he shot from the “F” train looking into the Gowanus Canal. It was like jumping into the abyss.

It presented a new problem where I had to teach myself new skills and develop a point of view. That process took about six years. I exhibited a painting of Williamsburg with graffiti at the National Academy of Art and when I became friends with the curator Marshal Price, he told me about this place called 5 Pointz in Long Island City. The rest is history – I always tell him that this series of paintings is his fault.

Laura Shechter (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: What lead you in 2002 to begin painting and drawing photo-based cityscapes?
Laura Schecter: I have strong feelings about landscape space. A space that is created by having parallel horizontal bands. I have an innate sense of rhythm and patterns. I never have trouble with tedium, bring on all of those boring windows and bricks! I can now paint at ground level as I hone my vision.

I have overcome some of the drawbacks of photorealists (whose work can be mechanical) with my knowledge of 10,000 years of art and I can paint views that a painter on site misses, from being on moving trains and trespassing on roofs.

Laura Shechter (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So you actually follow the Street Art scene?
Laura Schecter: Because I am constantly walking the 5 boroughs, I may revisit the same site once a year and see how it develops. I also visit centers of street mural art. And of course I read BSA every 2 weeks. This past May I spent an intense 6 days photographing graffiti in many sites and talking occasionally to young street Artists

Brooklyn Street Art: How would you describe how you approach graffiti and Street Art as an artist, as a person? When capturing graffiti and Street Art, is it about form and color and texture – or is it about culture and people and the visual conversation on the street?

Laura Schecter: I am most interested in graffiti walls that are well developed over time with over writing. In the beginning signing might have been random but later each tag was placed with intention, improving the general composition of the site.

What I like about earlyish graffiti was the limited color. Less is more. The graffiti writers maximized with these limited colors. I have gone to newer sites – one in south Bronx and the other in northern Queens where younger street artists are using pastel colors – For me it’s a little less than gritty.

Laura Shechter (photo © Jaime Rojo)


This article is also published The Huffington Post

 

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El Sol 25 and Hannah Höch – “Persons of Interest”

El Sol 25 and Hannah Höch – “Persons of Interest”

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BSA is in Berlin this month to present a new show of 12 important Brooklyn Street Artists at the Urban Nation haus as part of Project M/7. PERSONS OF INTEREST brings to our sister city a diverse collection of artists who use many mediums and styles in the street art scene of Brooklyn. By way of tribute to the special relationship that artist communities in both cities have shared for decades, each artist has chosen to create a portrait of a Germany-based cultural influencer from the past or present, highlighting someone who has played a role in inspiring the artist in a meaningful way.
 
Today we talk to El Sol 25 and ask him why he chose his person of interest, Hannah Höch.

A collage artist who often creates paintings of his original cut compositions and wheat-pastes them onto walls, El Sol 25 has been entertaining and perplexing passersby on the street with his theater of the absurd for the last half decade in New York.  Considered part of the new breed of Street Artists who are breaking conventions, for this show El Sol 25 looks back to a Berlin rebel and one of the most important collage artists of the 20th Century, Hannah Höch, for inspiration and as tribute.

Indeed there are many similarities in the works of both; a true fragmentation of elements that reflects a chaotic aspect of current society, an embracing of diversity and abstraction, the questioning of gender constructions, even the inclusion of elements that may have shown in Höch’s fictional “ethnographic museum”.  Where Höch was a singular woman in a Dada movement dominated by men, the former graff writer El Sol 25 has steadily constructed his unusual oeuvre in a sometimes sea of Street Art sameness.

El Sol 25 is creating a portrait of Höch for PERSONS OF INTEREST because she proved to be a leader and because he admires her different standards of composition and beauty. “She’s one of my all time favorites and also a native German so I really wanted to pay my respect by painting her portrait,” he says. “She was a key innovator in the original Dada movement and her collages are the strongest I’ve ever seen.”

Then he adds, “She is my hero for many reasons.”

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A piece by El Sol 25 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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El Sol 25 in Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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YO Banksy! A Year Since “Better Out Than In”

YO Banksy! A Year Since “Better Out Than In”

As we hear of the sudden appearance of a new Banksy in southeast England we recall that it was exactly a year ago today that the international Street Art man of mystery grabbed New York by the mobiles and invited everyone to a month-long exhibition of painting, sculpture, installation, performance and real life detective games on our own streets.

To commemorate Banksy’s very successful offering to the city and the excitement that ensued with its inhabitants we decided to put together a series of messages left out for him on walls, doors, trucks and fences. Not all the messages are demonstrations of love (indeed some are hostile) but all them are an indication of his clever ability to move people with wit and indicate a certain feeling of familiarity that people have with the anonymous Street Artist.

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COST played on his own famous wheatpastes from an earlier era (“Cost Fucked Madonna”) and updated it for a new time and gender. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We’ve all recovered quite well of course from the month-long treasure hunt, and for many it was enough of a jarring public works project/ anthropological experiment / hype campaign to merit a year of examination and reflection. And now, the commemorations: This fall we know of at least one book (Banksy in New York) and one documentary (Banksy Does New York) that will mark the anniversary of the “Better Out Than In” residency and many New Yorkers will remember their own keen behaviors on social media and crowded sidewalks chasing after the near-daily revelations – and a few may possibly experience joy or a twinge of awkward discomfort in retrospect.

We think the biggest takeaway for us was that whether it was man or marketing team, Banksy helped New Yorkers to re-examine nearly everything in the man-made environment and to consider that it may actually be a piece of art.

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COST. Redacted (photo © Jaime Rojo)

For the guys and gals who make up the graffiti/ Street Art scene in New York of course, not everyone was gob-smacked by this peer, this charming and wisecracking Brit who monopolized the mindshare of fans of art in the streets. Almost from Day 1 the buffs, the side busting, the cross-outs, and the free-flowing entreaties addressing our visiting jester were alternately ringing of respect, bemusement, longing after, semi-passive xenophobia, or full-on red-faced insults.  And of course there were those just along for the coat-tail ride.

It’s all really just part of the ongoing conversation that always exists on the street, and while you may not have caught all the action last October a look at these images will inform you that Banksy’s impact was felt by many.

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Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Alex Gardega (detail) (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Hot Tea (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Artist Unknown. This piece predates his “Residency” but we decided to include it as a tribute to him. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Artist Unknown. This piece is predates his “Residency” but we decided to include it for the same reasons expressed above. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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#Anonymous (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Franksy (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Franksy (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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MORIK Starts the 2014 Urban Forms Festival in Łódź, Poland

MORIK Starts the 2014 Urban Forms Festival in Łódź, Poland

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Urban Forms in Łódź, Poland marks year 5 and their 31st wall for the city with Russia’s Morik and iterative laying that mimics the digital art made by plan and happenstance during the day of a designer. A Street Artist with roots in graffiti, Morik hails from Siberia and has an illustration style encompassing this moments fascination with photo realism and clever hi-def effects – but brought to you by the hand and brush.

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MORIK at work on his inaugural mural for Urban Forms 2014. Lodz, Poland. (photo © Urban Forms/Michał Bieżyński)

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MORIK at work on his inaugural mural for Urban Forms 2014. Lodz, Poland. (photo © Urban Forms/Michał Bieżyński)

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MORIK at work on his inaugural mural for Urban Forms 2014. Lodz, Poland. (photo © Urban Forms/Michał Bieżyński)

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MORIK. Detail. Urban Forms 2014. Lodz, Poland. (photo © Urban Forms/Michał Bieżyński)

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MORIK. Inaugural mural for Urban Forms 2014. Lodz, Poland. (photo © Urban Forms/Michał Bieżyński)

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MORIK. Inaugural mural for Urban Forms 2014. Lodz, Poland. (photo © Urban Forms/Michał Bieżyński)

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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El Sol 25, an Original Mix Master and Street Collagist

El Sol 25, an Original Mix Master and Street Collagist

Like spinning multiple vinyl platters at 78, 45, and 33 RPMs on old beige school library record players, this is a low-fi mixmaster whose visual style stands singularly, compelling and jarring. You have just bumped into a new El Sol 25 on the street.

Digging through the reference bin of your art history and popular culture signatures, you may want to decode where this compositional collision evolves from. Picking the pieces apart there appears to be little in common with the classical, the folk, the agrarian, the Egyptian tunics, the Greek marble, Sioux head dresses, sports trading cards, Depression Era glass, gilt frames and 50s TV depictions of svelte domesticity.

Perhaps it is the painted technique that lifts them to a common vernacular, creating an amber nostalgia for a time that never existed in the collaged paintings from Street Artist El Sol 25. Like crocuses and tulips they have recently appeared plastered around Brooklyn in a new spring campaign and while you never know when he’s coming, you sure know when he’s arrived.

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El Sol 25. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

After wading through stacks of books and magazines, cutting and pasting limbs and feathers and tobacco leaves and intersex torsos together, he then paints enlarged versions of them by hand on butcher paper. He’s said that they speak to him, and so do the walls and doorways where they are pasted, and we have no reason to doubt it.

While we draw up short of saying we are fans to maintain an air of professionalism, he did rather tip the scale this time when we discovered that he painted a tribute to BSA on a popular spot in BK, and we’re sort of embarrassed — but of course we’ve already taken multiple selfies in front of it so clearly not that embarrassed. So there’s that. Even so, if the work had not been so consistently risk-taking and experimental and authentic in a pool of copycats, El Sol 25’s work would not have caught our eye and kept it.

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El Sol 25 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He once told us in an interview that his inspiration comes from a multitude of sources, “I get my inspiration from everything from walking to work or bad music or bad films or great films or good days or bad days. I get my inspiration from everything. I’m dependent on my work spiritually so I really like the idea of incorporating anything and everything into it. I take inspiration not just from what I’ve put on a pedestal – I enjoy everything.”

So for the gluttonous visual omnivores that are continuously pawing through images on your phone looking for a new sugar rush, this is your man. Because these are one-of-a-kind, labor intensive paintings on paper that decay in the wind and rain, catch them while you can. His pieces don’t usually get tagged over but the shelf life is probably a year at most.

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El Sol 25 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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El Sol 25 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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El Sol 25 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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El Sol 25 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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El Sol 25. His tribute to BSA. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

 

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Alice Pasquini on the Streets of Madrid

Alice Pasquini on the Streets of Madrid

As December rolls into a slow coast toward the New Year, street artist Alice Pasquini met some new fans in the small and quiet neighborhoods and in one commercial district of this Spanish city last week. No festivals, no curated installations, no gallery openings – just the opportunity to bring to life a wall that you previously walked by without notice.

“I was just in Madrid these past few days to visit with old friends and paint,” she says. Somehow she managed to not be distracted the 6,000 Santa Claus runners in the street Saturday.

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A couple of local dogs keep an eye out for disturbances in this run-down lot where Alice painted one of her girls. Alice Pasquini in Madrid (photo © Alice Pasquini)

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Confidants. Alice Pasquini in Madrid (photo © Alice Pasquini)

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A local business owner talks with Alice while she finishes her new portrait. Alice Pasquini in Madrid (photo © Alice Pasquini) Brooklyn-Street-Art-copyright-AlicePasquini_Madrid3

Her girl on a skateboard is easily integrated with the existing aerosol missive above it. Alice Pasquini in Madrid (photo © Alice Pasquini) Brooklyn-Street-Art-copyright-AlicePasquini_Madrid7

This panel creates a frame for a multilayered stencil. Alice Pasquini in Madrid (photo © Alice Pasquini)

 

 

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Canemorto Stares Madly at London and Bristol

Canemorto have just galloped around Bristol and London for a few weeks and have left a number of these somberly bewildered guys in their wake. You remember in our last visit with the trio whose name means “dead dog” the stretched out horizontal is a particular favorite, and it it occurs to you that they may have something of a predilection for Picasso-esque portraits as they return to these sort of deranged dudes again and again.

(photo © Canemorto)

These gesticulating and grimacing sitters seem to have a lot on their mind, and who can blame them given the downward chugging economy, tiny apartments, longer working hours, government austerity and what not. Even so, these perplexed posers are not troublesome, rather than troubled. Either way, the energy of the lines and the clattering of the strokes as they bang into one another keeps these new pieces by Canemorto stealing the scene.

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(photo © Canemorto)

(photo © Canemorto)

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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QRST on the Streets; Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Goat Man Cometh

Street Artist QRST is back on Brooklyn streets with more modernly magnetic and captivatingly surreal work than before, and just as mired in the muck of human dynamics as ever. 

Emblematic of the new street art storytelling practice we have been highlighting for a few years now, these uniquely old-fangled pieces are one-off bits of mastery that can take days, sometimes weeks, to sketch, draw, and paint before they are wheat-pasted onto street walls for a certainly uncertain future. In fact, when reached for comment on these new street pieces, the artist tells us that we missed one entirely because it was torn down the very night that it went up. Thankfully, the artist could provide a couple of studio images of the short-fated painting.

Aside from compelling imagery, saturated hues and a greater modeling of dimension, texture, and material in the new work, the near crushing weight of these paper-thin pieces comes from the personal stories that motivate them. Unsurprisingly, much of the work of an artist is autobiographical – in fact one could argue that all art is, whether it is fiction writing, stand up comedy, painting, or architecture.

QRST “Flotsam and Jetsam A” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We spoke with QRST about the works and find that some of the personalities and issues he is addressing are so contemporary and specific that they amount to a call-out of a few people publicly. While the artist can be sharply descriptive of the individuals and relationships at play at the center of these stories, he’s trying to take a more universalist approach to the themes, for now.  And you wouldn’t want to pry, would you?

“I wasn’t really planning on divulging exactly why they are what they are, as the ideas in the paintings aren’t really flattering,” says the artist, as he recounts relationships falling apart, friendships going up in smoke, and people “standing in piles of wreckage, surrounded by and covered in symbols for the less laudable traits that people tend to present in these sorts of situations.”

QRST “Flotsam and Jetsam A”. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As diplomatic as he aims for in his recounting of their creation, these symbols wield their own power, and his work continues to reference the historical, modern, and personal interpretation of their meanings for his integrative interactions of peculiarity.  “The crocodiles are there for their tears,” he explains as the litany begins it’s roll, “They’re also monsters climbing through wreckage – they live in the murk and strike when you aren’t ready,” he continues, “they’re cold blooded and concerned only with their own affairs (which seem to be eating and lurking in the mire).”

QRST “Flotsam and Jetsam A”. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As he describes the work you can feel the turbulent emotions washing over the newly dried paintings, now carefully cut out and wheat-pasted on public walls for the average passerby to gaze upon. “Similarly the praying mantis is a dangerous eating machine that even kills and eats its mate.  Both are cold, unfeeling, and impossible to reason with. They take. The buffalo are stubborn – in many situations a water buffalo is a symbol of loyalty, which sickens into stubbornness, stubbornness beyond reason,” he says as he winds out the list of animal players, “The buffalo is accompanied by the birds; one cawing, nagging, incessant, the other aloof.”

While you may know your local Street Artist, the majority prefer to stay anonymous and the nature of the act of hitting and running means that you won’t get an explanatory placard nearby and the meaning of the work is not always evident on its face, even when it is in yours.  While some of the new crop is moving to refract their work through a cubist prism today on the street, another few are becoming more hand hewn and focused, precise in their sentiment and personal.

As graffiti and public murals and advertising and Street Art have continued their dance together over the last few decades, the street has been a stage for public airing of the political and the personal. Where a relatively new artist like QRST is concerned, his intentions will always be up to your interpretation and can be as general as you like, even while he is feeling fairly specific. “The meaning I’m hanging on them is esoteric and personal to me in such a way that others are going to take what they need from it. This might be something completely different, which I like quite a bit.”

The companion piece of the piece above was taken down from the street, still wet and under the cover of the night before we got to it. The artist sent us two detailed images of it, shown below while still in production at his studio.

QRST “Flotsam and Jetsam B” Detail. (photo © QRST)

QRST “Flotsam and Jetsam B” (photo © QRST)

The Goat Man Cometh

A third piece from QRST arrived recently as well, an image of a ram and man merged, sitting in a yoga stance upon the opened blossom of what may be a large lotus flower. He says it’s difficult to talk about mainly because,  “I don’t think I’ve totally figured out what it’s about.” The comment reveals another part of the QRST process, which he sometimes has described as being subconscious, the discovery of its meaning coming after its completion. But this much he knows, “It comes partly from an urban legend from around where I grew up, that probably exists in a number of places, about a Goat Man that haunts a giant train bridge,” he says as he recalls the story. “In the mis-spent portion of my youth a few of my friends and I spent a fair amount of time thinking about the Goat Man. We left him cigarettes under his bridge,” he says with a sort of revelatory glee.

QRST. Untitled. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He muses about the possible meanings – an imperfect patron, a flawed protector, even a deity. “I’m starting to feel like I’m talking about God here, but I assure you I’m not.” Finally, he settles on his own interpretation of the figure and lets you figure of the rest of the symbols. “The Goat Man was our patron of ‘getting away with shit we shouldn’t have been doing’.”  The glass case of cardinals, the lantern, the three arms, or why he is riding a lotus? It’s up to you.

“I think there’s also a joke in there someplace, but it’s probably only funny to me.”

QRST. Untitled. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

QRST. Untitled. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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This article is also published on Huffington Post Arts & Culture

 

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How & Nosm Studio Confessions

How & Nosm Studio Confessions

It is an age of self-discovery, and the twins continue to be surprised by what they find as they attack huge walls with zeal and precision in New York, LA, Miami, Stavanger, Prague, Las Vegas, Rochester, Philadelphia, Rio – all in the last 12 months. Now while they prepare for their new pop-up show, “Late Confessions”, to open in Manhattan in a couple of weeks, the combined subconscious of How & Nosm is at work, and on display are the personal storylines they will reveal if you are paying close attention.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It’s a crisp sunny Saturday in Queens and we’re in the studio of a secured elevator building with cameras and clean floors and air thick with aerosol. Davide (or is it Raoul?) is on his knees with a tub of pink plastering goo, applying and smoothing and sanding this large oddly-shaped structure. When it is painted it will debut in the newly renovated Chelsea space whose walls were destroyed during the flooding of falls’ super storm “Sandy”. The gallery space of Jonathan Levine wasn’t large enough for the scale the brothers have grown accustomed to working with, so this more cavernous temporary location will take on a feeling of being part exhibition, part theme park.

How & Nosm. At work on a sculpture. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The impermanent sculpture of pressed cardboard is rocking between his knees as he straddles the beast and chides his dog Niko for jumping up on it. Rather than a sculpture, you may think it’s a prop for a high school play at this phase, but soon it will become a shiny black beacon of psychological/historical symbolism culled from the collection of objects they gather in travel. Born from the imagination of the brothers and affixed with bird decoys, clock faces, large plastic blossoms, and a rotary dial telephone, these rolling clean lines and saw-toothed edges of these sculptures will glisten under a heavy coating of midnight lacquer soon.

How & Nosm. Detail from a sculpture. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Like so much of the work HowNosm choose for their sweeping street murals, these new pieces may be read as undercover confessions of artists on display, but you’ll need to figure that out on your own.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As you walk through the high-ceilinged studio, the excited twins talk continuously in their deep baritones at the same time at you around you and in German to each other. The barrage of stories are spilling out and trampling and crashing like cars off rails; An energetic parlay of authoritative statements and direct questions about work, walls, gallerists, graffers, cops, trains, toys, techniques. All topics are welcomed and examined, sometimes intensely. Sincere spikes of laughter and sharp swoops of fury act in concert: clarifying, praising, and dissing as they swirl in a rolling volley of goodness, pleasantly spliced with a caustic grit.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Looking at the precise lines and vibrant patterns at play in their work today, there is a certain cheerfulness and high regard for design in the compositions and sense of balance. Both of them site influences as wide as early graffiti, later wild style, cubism, and the abstractionists in their work. Fans are attracted to the confident and attractive illustrative depictions of scenes and characters, appreciating the ever strengthening free-hand command of the aerosol can and stencil techniques that HowNosm have demonstrated in their machine-like march through the streets of world over the last decade plus.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Though they estimate they have visited over 70 countries, they still love New York and both call Brooklyn their home right now.  And while the work they do hits a pleasure center for many viewers, time with both reveals that the stories within can be anything but cheerful. Raoul characterizes their work as dark and negative, born from their shared past, the adversity of their childhood.

“Negative sounds… I don’t know if that’s the right word for it,” says Davide, “but it’s not the bright side of life.”

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

And so goes the duality you’ll find everywhere – a study of opposites intertwined. One paints a skull in the half circle, the other paints it’s reflection alive with flesh. You’ll see this split throughout, unified.

“We came from one sperm. We split in half,” says Raoul. “Life, death, good, bad. We’re one, you know. We used to do pieces by ourselves with graff – you know I would do “How” and he would do “Nosm” – then with the background we would connect.  Now we would just do pieces with our name “HowNosm” together as one word. I never do a How anymore, really.”

Their early roots in graffiti are always there, even as they became labeled as Street Artists, and more recently, contemporary artists. But it’s a continuum and the line may undulate but it never leaves the surface.  Davide describes their auto-reflexive manner of moving from one icon or scenario to another seamlessly across a wall and he likens it to a graffiti technique of painting one continuous stream of aerosol to form a letter or word.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“It’s like a ‘one-liner’,” he says, referring to the graffiti writer parlance for completing a piece with one long line of spray. “That’s kind of far from what we are doing right now but it is all kind of one piece. The line stops but it kind of continues somewhere. We are refining and refining, and it takes time to develop.”

Blurring your eyes and following the visual stories, it may appear that a spiral motion reoccurs throughout the red, black, and white paintings of HowNosm. Frequently the pattern draws the viewers eye into the center and then swirls it back out to connect to another small tightening of action. While we talk about it Raoul traces in the air with his index finger a series of interconnected spiral systems, little tornadoes of interrelated activity.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This technique of creating inter-connected storylines is a way of intentional communication and storytelling, and how they describe events and relationships. It is an approach that feels sort of automatic to the brothers. “Our pieces make you think. You look and look and you find more images and you try to understand the whole concept,” says Davide. “I think you can spend quite some time just looking at one piece. You start somewhere and you can develop a story around it but you go somewhere else in the piece and you may do the opposite.”

Would you care to make a comparison to those other well known Street Art twins, Os Gemeos? They are used to it, but aside from being brothers of roughly the same age who began in graffiti and work on the streets with cans, they don’t find many similarities.

“Our stuff is more depressing,” says Raoul, “and way more critical. We talk about the negative aspects and experiences in life.” How much is autobiographical? As it turns out, it is so autobiographical that both brothers refer to their painting historically as a therapy, a cathartic savior that kept them out of jail and even away from drugs growing up.

“We kind of had a very disturbed childhood,” explains Raoul, “Welfare too, so…. I smile a lot and shit but in my paintings I think it is more important to express myself with what most people want to suppress and not show, you know? There’s a lot of love stuff, too. Like heartbroken stuff, financial situations – about myself or other people.”

How & Nosm. The sun goes through a hand cut stencil. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Davide agrees and expands the critical thinking they display in these open diaries to include larger themes they address; deceptively rotten people, corporate capitalism, familial dissension, hypocrisy in society, corruption in government.  It’s all related, and it is all right here in black and white. And red.

“Ours are continuing lines,” Davide says as he traces the canvas with his fingers, “Like this knife here is going to turn into a diamond.”

Niko provides security and inspiration at the studio. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

How & Nosm. Detail of a completed sculpture. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

How & Nosm. Detail of a completed sculpture. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

How & Nosm (photo © Jaime Rojo)

How & Nosm’s pop-up exhibition “Late Confessions” with the Jonathan Levine Gallery opens on February 1st.  at 557 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011. Click here for more details.

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MART in Argentina: “buena onda” in the Streets

MART in Argentina: “buena onda” in the Streets

“Graffiti Saved My Life”

Today Brooklyn Street Art has the pleasure to welcome Rosanna Bach as a guest collaborator. A photographer, writer, and Street Art and graffiti fan, Rosanna is exploring her new home of Buenos Aires and documenting whatever attracts her eye. Today she shares with BSA readers images from local Street Artist MART as well as an interview she had with him in his studio. Our great thanks to Rosanna and MART for this great opportunity to learn about his history as a graffiti writer and how it turned into a career as a painter.

MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

Mart was kind enough to invite me up to his apartment/studio in the barrio of Palermo where he grew up. Palermo is also the barrio where has left his mark, a trail of colorfully spirited murals. Beginning as a graffiti writer, Mart says he has been painting since age eleven. In our interview he shares his artistic and personal evolution over the past fourteen years painting in the street. He also shows us the drawings he’s preparing for an upcoming exhibit.

As I was admiring a compilation of photographs and drawings sporadically hung above the staircase of the entrance, Mart comments to me, “I like photography more than painting.”

Rosanna Bach: Why?
MART:
I find meaning in things that I’m not familiar with. I’m familiar with painting. I know how to do draw, although I don’t draw hyperrealism for example but I know how I could do it. But photography is incredible.

Rosanna Bach: For me it’s the opposite.
MART: Because you’re a photographer.

Rosanna Bach: But anyone can take a photo.
MART: Anyone can paint. Do you understand why I like it? Because it’s not mine.  I feel like painting is my world and photography is another, like dance. I love dance. I’d much rather go to a dance recital than an exhibit. Exhibits don’t captivate me in the way that other art forms do; it’s like “Hmmm.. yes, yes, alright got it.” I’m very quickly able to read the person.

Rosanna Bach: You are interested because you want to learn about other worlds?
MART: But it’s not because I like it that I feel the need to do it myself. You respect what you do otherwise it’s like a lack of respect. I prefer seeing other “worlds” because they move me.

Rosanna Bach: So did you start out painting alone or was it something you did with your friends?
MART: I was very young – already in primary school when I started writing “Martin” all over the walls. My sister had a boyfriend (Dano) who was older then me and he exposed me to hip-hop style graffiti. He taught me how to do it – I thought it was so great. So I started writing “Mart”, Mart, Mart, Mart, Mart, Mart…. all over the streets until I got bored of writing my name, until it made no sense anymore.

Rosanna Bach: How long did it take you to tire of that?
MART: A considerable amount of time but I learned a lot of things. I learned how to paint.

 

MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

Rosanna Bach: And your style? I’m sure it’s evolved a lot over the years.
MART: I started with graffiti but simultaneously started drawing and that’s what led me to this.

Rosanna Bach: And the figures you draw? I find them to have a lot of hope and a little magic…
MART: I think that’s how I live, in a world of magic all the time. I feel like a very fortunate person, and I’m grateful for that. I don’t take it for granted. I’m lucky that I’m well, I’m happy, my family is well..

Rosanna Bach: This is a mentality that many of us are lacking.
MART: That is the exact reason why I paint in the street; For others, not for myself .  Of course it is for me a little as well because I obviously enjoy doing it but mostly it is for others. That’s why I paint what I paint, things with “buena onda” (good vibes). To paint for myself in a frame would be strange. It’s for everyone, that’s what I find interesting about painting in the streets. And I’m not talking about graffiti because it’s made for a closed community. Like, “Dude you have a great outline” — wonderful. It’s for a micro-world and it can only be appreciated by a select few… “my name” is all about my name my name my name.

 

MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

Rosanna Bach: But you once started like that as well.
MART: And I’m thankful for that because it’s what made me understand in time that I was painting in the streets for a reason and thanks to graffiti I learned to paint large and I learned quickly.

Rosanna Bach: So your figures are your interpretation of your life. Do you take ideas from your dreams sometimes?
MART: I love dreaming I dream a lot. But they’re not interpretations of my dreams. Or perhaps they are — But I don’t believe so.

Rosanna Bach: You could say that they’re your alter-egos?
MART: Its my feelings, my interior. So, yes.

MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

Rosanna Bach: When did the transition occur when painting became your profession?
MART: There were two elements that paralleled with each other. One of them was a big job for the Cartoon Network that I got asked to do when I was 18 — an ad campaign with graffiti. And the other was that my friends went to prison. We’d always lived in this barrio, and when I was younger my friends and I were delinquents. So I realized that painting was a way to distance my self from that. With painting I can earn a living and not do bad by anyone. So I chose to paint. It wasn’t only an evolution of me as much as it was as a person, an adult, as a man. I chose that path. I chose the good path.

Rosanna Bach: That’s interesting because usually people relate graffiti to delinquency and vice.
MART: For me graffiti saved my life. I have my house and thanks to graffiti.

Rosanna Bach: Are your parents creative at all?
MART: No. But they’ve always been fully supportive. They’re like my angels. They used to drop me off to paint all over the place. They love me very much.

Rosanna Bach: Do you travel a lot?
MART: When I can and I want to I do. I like traveling. But how can I explain it? I like being patient and I like living peacefully. I don’t feel a burning need to travel, I do it when I want to in the time I want to. I want to live for many years and feel like I’m going to live for many years. That’s also why I don’t send photos of my work all over the place — I don’t like excess. Fame isn’t my prime objective. If people know my work it’s because I wanted them to see it in the street and that they understand what it’s about and what I’m about.

Rosanna Bach: I find that mentality to be quite true to a lot of graffiti artists around here, it comes from quite a pure place.
MART: I don’t know, but I paint for my city.

Rosanna Bach: Do you think you could paint for another city one day?
MART: Maybe. I don’t know, perhaps Berlin. I’m going there for three months this summer

Rosanna Bach: In the graffiti community here, most of them are your friends. So your friends are quite a big part of your working life. Have you ever wondered what it would be like without them?
MART: Good question. I’ve never thought about it. It would be very different. Firstly if I hadn’t met Dano I never would’ve started painting in the first place. I wouldn’t exist. And if my friends left I think I’d go and find them.

Rosanna Bach: If you weren’t painting have you ever thought of what else you would do?
MART: I have but it’s not worth wasting my time to be honest. I paint, that’s what I’m already doing. That’s what I do.

 

MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

MART. POETA (photo © Rosanna Bach)

MART (photo © Rosanna Bach

Please visit MART at the site below to learn more about his art.

http://flavors.me/airesmart

To view more beautiful photography from Rosanna visit her Tumblr page below:

http://rosannabach.tumblr.com/

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Street Art, Bomb Scares, and Times of Anxiety

Last Friday morning all was going normally on the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn as the  cool, crisp breeze of a sunny May day made New York as it often is: Glorious. Up and down the sidewalk smartly dressed professionals hurriedly carried coffees and pushed baby carriages as meandering tourists stared quizzically at clean cut NYU students in their search for the fabled hipster scene that their travel guides had told them would be here.

Suddenly police activity seemed to hasten on the streets and police patrol cars were rushing to sidewalks and scattering flustered pedestrians. Within a matter of minutes Bedford Avenue was cordoned off with “CRIME SCENE” yellow tape from North 4th to North 7th streets and officers in various uniforms descended upon the neighborhood with fire trucks wailing and helicopters thundering.

Quickly word spread that there was a bomb scare. Possibly in a tree.

photo © Jaime Rojo

“Scare” is a relative word for New Yorkers, as police gently prodded curious rubberneckers to stand back and swept sleepy cafes clear of reticent morning journal doodlers. An impressive armamentarium of tools and gadgets were pulled from trucks and trunks and assembled in a somewhat semi-circular arrangement near a shady tree that bended gently back and forth with the breeze.

These officers’ firm and calm demeanor gave a sunny day a relaxed atmosphere, but the tension was still thick – a potential bomb was in the midst and protection was top priority. The offending piece in question hung from a thin metal arm duct-taped to the tree’s limb; the container was a simple deli grocery bag with the ubiquitous pledge of fealty to the city, “I Love NY” screen-printed on the front. The little bag swung gently as wires poked out from it’s handled top.

photo © Jaime Rojo

photo © Jaime Rojo

To photographers who document Street Art every day in this city, continuously scanning the urban environment for any manner of creative expression, this object might have caught an eye and been captured with a camera. But frankly, the competition for attention is fierce.

Williamsburg nearly birthed the Street Art scene here in the early 00s when artists called it home and every discipline of fine art transmuted itself into installation. A new sort of direct engagement with the public sphere took root and it continues to grow in cities around the world. No longer simply stencils, wheat-pasted paper or stickers on a news kiosk, in Brooklyn you are now likely to see more three dimensional pieces like a DarkClouds board bolted to a sign post, a steel REVS sculpture welded to a fence, a tiny match-stick Stikman embedded in the pavement, or a pink and purple camouflaged crocheted piece by OLEK covering an entire bicycle.  For years local artist Leviticus has been reassembling discarded furniture, musical instruments and found objects and placing them on these sidewalks on Bedford Avenue to the indifference of the rivers of people walking by.

And let’s not forget so-called “conceptual” work, ever able to confound.

photo © Jaime Rojo

In the case of this piece, this non-bomb in a tree, the materials were very familiar to the public: A vellum plastic box, an “I Love New York” shopping plastic bag, duct tape, some wires. The materials? Non-threatening. Their arrangement and location: potentially threatening.

According to news reports, the artist Takeshi Miyakawa was arrested long after the scare was called off as he was discovered installing a second piece not far up the street. It appears he had planned an illuminated string of bags to pay a tribute of some sort to the city.

photo © Jaime Rojo

According to the New York Times and The Huffington Post, Mr. Miyakawa, 50 years old, was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, two counts of placing a false bomb or hazardous substance in the first degree, two counts of placing a false bomb or hazardous substance in the second degree, two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and two counts of second-degree criminal nuisance. He was also placed under psychological evaluation.

Few will rightly question the actions of the bomb squad to prevent a catastrophic event from taking place, and most would openly express thanks for their work that can put them at great risk. But art like this, and any sanctioned public art that goes through a more vetted process, does raise questions about its intersection with the law and ethics. In a time when almost anything is considered as possible art, it also could be considered a possible bomb.

Should an artist be held accountable for every possible interpretation of the work, despite its original intention?  Can other evidence be considered before assigning guilt? Does an artist, particularly those who install work without permission, bear responsibility to consider it’s effect on public safety? During a time in our history that is permeated with vacillating levels of fear and anxiety, should we attempt to agree on some guidelines?

Online images of Miyakawa’s studio and coworkers and their methodical design plans for this installation make you think he’s probably not a criminal, just a kooky artist with a questionable judgement. Welcome to New York; that sort of thing is the norm where academic and creative investigation often pushes into unusual territory we haven’t been in before. It even appears his intentions were to cheer the public – an expression of love for his city.  But one does wonder what affect a renewed surveillance of trees and signposts and street furniture might bring to a Street Art scene that doesn’t look like it has tired of exploring itself.

Takeshi Miyakawa “I Love New York” This is how the installation was left after it was dismantled by the police. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Below are some examples of work on the street that are more than your run-of-the-can aerosol art.

In later winter this year artist Jean Seestadt created a series of installations in bus shelters and subway cars entitled “If You See Somethin;”. Her idea was to highlight the issue of objects that we encounter on our daily routine and as we use the public transportation system. Jean Seestadt. “If You See Somethin'” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Jean Seestadt. “If You See Somethin'” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Click here to read our full interview with Ms. Seestadt and to see more images of her installation.

An unknown artist installed a series of metal and glass “eye” sculptures in Williamsburg in 2007 and 2008. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Here is a pair of BZBD shoes with LED lights in the soles for an installation a couple of weeks ago in Brooklyn. (photo © BZBD)

A shack installation in Brooklyn by an unknown artist. Or maybe it was a fort? (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Street Artist XAM creates and places bird feeders and dwellings all over the city. Some are fitted with solar panels and an LED light. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Read our interview with XAM here.

RAE commonly uses discarded household items and vintage appliances to create his sculptures before bolting them to streets signs. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

OLEK has become well known for crocheting entire coverings for bicycles, strollers, sculpture, and even the Wall Street Bull. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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