All posts tagged: Steve P Harrington

“Adios Amigos” – CBGB Memorial with NANTU in a Famous Back Alley

“Adios Amigos” – CBGB Memorial with NANTU in a Famous Back Alley

This summer curator and producer Keith Schweitzer invited Ecuadorian artist Raul Ayala AKA NANTU to paint the floor of the alley behind the old CBGB. The piece itself is integral to the history of the revered club known as an original incubator for the punk/New Wave scene in New York and the US. Inspired by the death of Joey Ramone, the mural took on added significance as an ode to the Antagonist Art Movement and even more emotional weight when the completion of the mural itself was interrupted by death.

In a conversation with Keith and Nantu we learned about the artist’s inspiration for the project and how he collaborates with artists who he respects. The time-honored tradition of the community mural and memorial wall is reinterpreted here with new actors and we’re pleased to present Keith’s interview here today for BSA readers.


Raul Ayala AKA NANTU. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Keith Schweitzer: Let’s talk about the new mural behind CBGB’s former location. Please describe the mural and the ideas behind it. How did it begin and develop?
Nantu: After being invited to do the mural by you with the Fourth Arts Block, the idea was further developed in conversations with James Rubio from the Antagonist Art Movement. We wanted to celebrate the history of the alley, and what it meant to the punk scene back in the 70s and 80s. At the beginning the conversations were all about having the artwork reference specific people, places and events from the neighborhood.

We were going back and forth between being very literal vs metaphorical and then Arturo Vega, Ramones legend and mentor for the Antagonists, turns to us and hands us this poem written by Dee Dee Ramone and it just all came together. Bang, we knew what we would be painting… a visual interpretation of Dee Dee’s poem, something he wrote shortly after Joey Ramone’s death imagining Joey’s spirit being lifted through blue skies.

After sketching the final concept we began to color block to the dimensions of the alley. Around halfway through was when Arturo passed away. This was a very sad moment for all, and particularly for the Antagonists as Arturo was a friend and member of the Antagonist Art Movement. The project changed immediately for me and I was determined to create something memorable, a worthy tribute. I spent about one month painting the line work and color gradients by brush. The mural is complete in it’s current iteration, but I will be doing additive work on it during the next six months or so. The title is “Adios Amigos” and it’s a little more than 1,000 square feet.


Raul Ayala AKA NANTU. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Keith Schweitzer: This was your first mural in NYC since moving here from Ecuador. What were you working on before moving to New York?
Nantu: In the years just before I moved here I had been doing a lot of projects that combine art, community and education to make a final collaborative artwork.

I did a three year series of interventions where I kept infiltrating the Ecuadorian prison system and made art on walls working with incarcerated people. It was completely illicit and unsanctioned, but it was very constructive and a lot of people in prison really got into it. We wore masks to hide our identities and also to remove the individual from what was a group effort. Pretty soon the prisoners’ friends and families began to participate and the project grew, even incorporating video-performances and text message exchanges.

This experience helped me to define myself as an artist who wanted to work with communities. The fact that it was an illegal art practice that brought an entire community together, in a way that the official ways could not, really changed my perspective as an artist.

Recently, in April of 2012, I went to Puebla, Mexico, to a neighborhood called Xanenetla. This was a really dangerous and dilapidated town but soon all the houses were painted with murals and that definitely changed the dynamic of the place. The project was called “Puebla: Ciudad Mural.” There I worked with some really great artists and friends, like Liqen from Galicia and Alexis Duque from Colombia.

Liqen and I did another mural together in Tonsupa, Equador, that I really enjoyed doing, called “Oceangirl”.


Raul Ayala AKA NANTU. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Keith Schweitzer: Is there a difference between Nantu and Raul Ayala? How do you approach your street work vs your studio work?
Nantu: Nantu means “moon” in Shuar, an ancient rainforest language from Ecuador. I was working outdoors mostly at night, and I felt the name gave me some protection, a sort of cloak, while I was painting walls. I never sign my street work as Nantu, it’s more of a mental and verbal thing, so you may have seen my work without knowing who did it. Outdoors I used to work quickly, with a limited tool set, but indoors in my studio I had all of the tools and time that I could want.

My last name is Ayala, which is similar to Ayauma, a sacred Ecuadorian clown dancer with two faces. I have an Ayauma mask that we made during our prison workshops that I still use. For a long time, I saw myself as having two faces or personalities, Nantu Ayauma who worked outside without permission and Raul Ayala who created works to show in galleries. Now the two faces are looking in the same direction and doing the same thing. I’m showing in galleries and doing outdoor work with permission and in communities. It’s a great question that you’ve asked, because I am still trying to answer this very question for myself.


Raul Ayala AKA NANTU. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Keith Schweitzer: Has New York had an effect on your work? What’s next for Raul?
Nantu: When I first got to New York i had a chance to work with Daze, helping him with an exhibit in the Bronx called “This Side of Paradise.” He is someone that I had always known about and it was an amazing experience to actually work with him.

My first contact with NYC was the Antagonist Art Movement. I was in Ecuador, with no thoughts of coming to NYC, and then a friend came by with a box of dolls that were mailed to us from NYC. The dolls were sent by the Antagonists with an invitation to work on them and we did so, even producing more dolls before sending them back to NYC. They really liked what we did and we began to talk about doing a project together. Then I traveled to NYC and my girlfriend and I decided to stay here and that is when the collaboration with the Antagonists really took off. The Antagonists have been really supportive, helping me find work and projects. In late October they are taking a trip to Ecuador, we’re doing a street art festival, producing fanzines and some murals with local artists, musicians and sign painters.

At the moment I have a drawing in an exhibition called “For Which It Stands” at The Lodge Gallery in NYC and I am beginning a new mural near my house in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. I am doing a fellowship with The Laundromat Project, the “Creative Change Professional Development” Program. I am learning a lot and meeting great liked-minded artists that work with minorities doing socially engaged art. I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.


Raul Ayala AKA NANTU. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Raul Ayala AKA NANTU. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Raul Ayala AKA NANTU. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Raul Ayala AKA NANTU. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Raul Ayala AKA NANTU. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Raul Ayala AKA NANTU. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

For more information about Fourth Arts Block please click HERE.



Please note: All content including images and text are ©, 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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Images of the Week 03.17.13

We just took a tray of green jello shots out of the freezer and you can kiss anybody you want because today we’re all Irish, even Shakisha. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you, unless you are one of the thousands of gay or lesbians dis-invited as usual from marching down 5th Avenue yesterday in the parade.

Here’s our weekly interview of the street, this week featuring Alice Pasquini, Amanda Marie, Foxx Face, Futura, HRH Queen Elizabeth, JR, Lädy Millard, Nick Walker, OCMC (Oh Captain My Captain), PM AM, Raemann, Shie Moreno, and WK Interact.

Top image > Alice Pasquini (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Alice Pasquini. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Alice Pasquini (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Amanda Marie (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Amanda Marie. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Her Royal Highness is hawking this royal brand of air, harvested from the finest sources near Sandringham House and the wooded areas around York Cottage, no doubt. Raemann (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Nick Walker (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Graff master Furtura is getting up in a new Street Art way with Oh Captain My Captain AKA OCMC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Foxx Face (photo © Jaime Rojo)

WK Interact (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Shie Moreno (photo © Jaime Rojo)

PM AM (photo © Jaime Rojo)

PM AM (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Lädy Millard (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Artist Unknown. This updated poster featuring the ubiquitous Kate Moss reminds us of some of the work of the great Conceptual American artist the late David Wojnarowicz.

JR (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Untitled. Seagram Building. Manhattan, March 2013. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Please note: All content including images and text are ©, 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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Print Is Dead, Long Live the Print Journal! Elisa Carmichael’s Passion


Detail of a photograph by Boogie on the cover of The Art Street Journal

Print publishing has been a heavyweight boxer on the mat with both shoulders pinned down for the last 7, 8, 9, 10 years.  The multitude of problems that plague the publishing industry these days are rapid-fire punches: The down-shift economy, ad dollars swinging for  social media, the high cost of print, and changing consumer behavior all sing the coda of the paper page. A recent survey published in Oriella Digital Journalism found that more than half of journalists surveyed think that their printed journals will eventually be knocked out cold by online.

Given this current climate, how can you dream of publishing a new free art magazine? Even the most entrepreneurial art fans would be discouraged, but Seth and Elisa Carmichael are no strangers to obstacles and their project, The Art Street Journal, is now in it’s second successful year.


Their L.A. gallery ‘Carmichael Gallery for Contemporary Art’ had already been in business for about a year when they were hit by personal trouble.  The new bride Elisa, a British citizen and an Australian resident, had to leave the continental USA to tend to some very important and grievous family affairs back home. Compounding her hardship, Elisa discovered her return to The United States was barred due to visa technicalities. A prolonged calvary of Kafkaesque events ensued before she was able to re-unite with her young husband in California. It was during this time they began planning a newspaper about the thing they both love most: art.

Elisa and Seth are avid supporters of contemporary, street and urban art and believe that art must play a significant place in human development. Elisa’s new idea of editing and publishing a journal would focus on celebrating and supporting the arts and the community involved in its creation.


Detail of a piece by Sixeart on the cover of The Art Street Journal

We wanted to know what motivates Elisa to continue with her almost quixotic path to publishing and distributing a free print journal when many well-established and respected journals are folding by the dozen.

Brooklyn Street Art: Why are you and Seth publishing a printed journal when most publications in print are struggling to survive? What keeps you motivated to continue to publish it?

Elisa Carmichael: We have always wanted to have a magazine – it’s something we’d talked about doing for a long time. We enjoy blogs and considered starting one of our own, but decided in the end that we’d rather do something a bit different.

We have a shared love of books and magazines that goes back long before we met and believe that nothing can replace the magic of print. The Art Street Journal (TASJ) has given us a unique opportunity to support the artists and events that interest us in a medium we want to help keep alive.

We’ve received so many kind notes and words of encouragement from readers all over the world in the past year. It means so much to us that people enjoy TASJ. Connecting to a broad network of international art lovers has been a key motivator in keeping us going.

Aside from the enjoyment we derive from putting each issue together, our motivation comes from the positive response and rapid growth of our readership. It has been really interesting to monitor: Even though TASJ is a free publication, we really weren’t sure anyone would be interested in it. We have some great supporters out there – galleries, museums, clothing stores, cafes, specialty bookstores and individuals doing drop-offs at various locations in their cities around the world.


Detail of a piece by Nina Pandolfo on the cover of The Art Street Journal

Brooklyn Street Art: The journal’s main focus is in Street and Urban art. What drove you to this art genre in the first place?
Elisa Carmichael:
TASJ certainly supports street and urban art, but its focus is really contemporary art as a whole. You will see many artists featured on our pages who have a street background because we love the energy inherent in Street Art. It’s an art form we are both very passionate about and believe has an important place in art history.

That said, TASJ is not a Street/Urban art magazine. Our aim is to curate content that combines the best art from the underground, emerging, and mainstream established worlds. The journal has an aesthetic through-line that links the artists we cover, regardless of their background, and I think that comes across when turning its pages. We also try to keep the editorial diverse and internationally focused, as well as give time to people and events that haven’t had too much coverage from other media outlets.


Detail of a piece by Street Artist Mark Jenkins on the cover of The Art Street Journal

Brooklyn Street Art: What’s your ultimate goal with TASJ?
Elisa Carmichael:
There’s a place for all sorts of publications in the marketplace, but for us, the number one goal is to get the message out about the art we love to as many people as possible. We don’t believe that every nice independent art magazine needs to cost $20; there should be something out there that everyone can have access to. TASJ will always remain free.

We have a lot of different plans and goals —TASJ has quickly become a far bigger project than we originally envisioned and at this point it is really our second business. At the same time, we’re trying to let it develop organically and improve it a bit each time we bring an issue out. In one year our 4 page black and white newspaper is a full color magazine-style periodical.

Another goal we have is to show our art world associates that it’s possible for gallerists to want to support other galleries and artists, even when there is no personal or financial relationship. There is far too much cattiness and rivalry in the art world as it is without our contributing to it. We know how hard it is to stay alive and make things happen in this business and we respect the people out there who are doing just that. We like the fact that we’ve been able to build a little platform from which to celebrate those people and not ask for anything in return.


Detail of a piece by Faile on the cover of The Art Street Journal

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