All posts tagged: The Gothamist

REVS is the Iron Man in New York Graffiti

REVS is the Iron Man in New York Graffiti

How often do you find a new tag from an 80s graffiti writer? How often is it made of iron?

REVS is back.

Or maybe he never left. It is impossible to tell when the tag is a welded sculpture on a large rusted I-beam, or soldered on an oxidized chain link fence that rattles back and forth in the wind as city traffic rumbles by. Since this elusive graffiti artist doesn’t do too much talking to the public about his work the small cold piece before you could potentially be years or even decades old by the time you discover it.


REVS (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In 2010 we wrote about REVS for the Huffington Post in 10 Best Street Art Moments of the Decade;

“Fiercely reclusive Street Artist REVS surprises everyone following his arrest in 2000 by abandoning his practice of creating monumental roller tags on walls and instead makes dozens of metal sculptures. He installs them, mostly legally, around New York, including many in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, known for being an epicenter of Street Art growth in the early 2000s. REVS and his buddy COST are pointed to as inspiration by many of a new generation of Street Artists.”

In 2014 we keep finding more of these sculptures, most of which look like they must have required permission, and we thought you’d like to see a few of them.  Some say REVS, often written cleverly, other times cryptically, and variously under one of his other nom de plumes like Shiesta, Toots REVS or the more declarative Fuckin REVS.


REVS (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Finding these metal REVS can be a little like discovering the Holy Grail for graffiti and Street Art photographers not just because they are hard to locate, but because of the stories people tell about the sheer number of times you saw his name rolled out in New York in the 1990s. Then there are the multiples and replications of photocopies he pasted around town with his running mate Cost that included a real phone number you could call – an unheard of use of interactive elements long before the word “interactive” became associated with clicking a button or swiping a screen.

And what about the hundreds of real-life diary pages he painted in train tunnels then, each one a recounting of his life experiences, some posing existential questions. You can still see some of these mini-diatribes when the train stops mid-tunnel, scrawled in black aerosol across a primed white rectangle on a concrete wall two inches from your face as you glance out the window.

“REVS holds a special place in NYC graffiti lore for two reasons. For one there’s his creative output, which is hard to beat: from writing on trains to painting highly visible rollers to wheatpasting the city in a first-of-its-kind campaign to almost completing an ambitious project to paint diary entries between every single stop in the NYC subway system to taking it to the next level and sculpting his name out of steel,” says one of the most intrepid of today’s graffiti photographers, Luna Park, who has published around 200 REVS photos on her Flickr page in the last decade.


REVS (photo © Jaime Rojo)

She continues, “Combine that output with a devil-may-care reticence and a complete disdain for the mechanisms of the art market and you’ve got the makings of a legend.”

That last part is notable in this time where a growing number of artists appear to be using the street to advance their fine art or commercial careers. REVS has done very little to capitalize on his work on the street publicly and is quoted in interviews as having a deep aversion to commercializing his work. Nonetheless, as the marketing mavens like to say, Brand REVS continues to strengthen and photographers are not the only people hunting for stuff by the man of steel.

“Given the propensity for REVS sculptural work to be stolen – and unfortunately there has been a lot of that recently – for his most loyal fans, locations of REVS pieces are closely guarded secrets,” says Ms. Park.


REVS (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ironic then, that for some urban art fans this work is far more important than that of, say, the British Street Artist Banksy, who alerts the world using the Internet and social media as soon as a new piece is up, sometimes with hints about location.

“He’s the greatest living graffiti artist,” Jake Dobkin of The Gothamist was recently quoted saying, “You know how some people feel about Springsteen or Bob Dylan? That’s who Revs is for New York graffiti enthusiasts.”

Our beat is Street Art, so we’ll trust Jake about this, but as a stylistic and creative lynchpin between graffiti and what would eventually be widely called Street Art, no one is questioning REVS steely staying power.


REVS (photo © Jaime Rojo)


REVS (photo © Jaime Rojo)


REVS (photo © Jaime Rojo)


This article was also published on The Huffington Post



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New Interview and Signing With Swoon: Her Book With Jeffrey Deitch

“Never wait, and never let the bastards get you down”

Swoon’s got a book, as you know – and she’s going to be signing it Saturday in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn_Street_Art_Swoon_Book_Cover May 20109780810984851

Jake Dobkin at the Gothamist just published a delicious interview with the paper-slicing queen on the street. They talk about “Swimming Cities”, the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, MOCA, Jeffrey Deitch, and her trip to Zambia.

Rushing past (image courtesy Jake Dobkin at The Gothamist)
Rushing past (image courtesy Jake Dobkin at The Gothamist)

From the interview:

Looking through the pictures, we were struck by how much artistic ground you’ve covered in just ten or eleven years. What do you see as the essential themes that bring all of your work together?
Workaholism. Um, just kidding. Themes? How about the hands on creation of our world—that’s tops. And the creation of moments of pause, human connection, empathy, surprise, wonder and ridiculousness. Bringing what you make to people in places where they are not expecting it. The belief that loving attention can and will be transformative. Democratized public spaces. The tying together of classical mediums and modern contexts. An obsession with looking deeply into the faces of other human beings. Also, never wait, and never let the bastards get you down. Are those themes? They should be.

Read the complete interview with Jake here:

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Street Art Conversations on Gentification, Mayor Mike, and PIGS

In 2005 a 175-block area of North Brooklyn (mainly the neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg), was rezoned for architects and developers who had watched the influx of artists in the previous 15 years turn the area into a hotbed for creativity and exploration of new art, music, and performance.

Miss Bugs on the site (photo Jaime Rojo)
Miss Bugs on the site of a new building going up in Williamsburg. (photo Jaime Rojo)

It’s a well-worn story of course. The surge in popularity that follows when artists bring new cultural life to a dying industrial part of town is the double edged sword for a neighborhood, and not everyone is going to be happy with the cause or the effect.  Today, nearly five years into an unprecedented building boom of glass and steel rectangular residential buildings marketed to professional consumers and their Boomer parents, the hard-hitting recession has killed some construction projects, stalled many, and slowed others.  Condos are even turning into affordable rentals! Egad.

A Mike Marcus troop keep watch over the new arrivals. (photo Jaime Rojo)
A Mike Marcus troop keeps watch over the new arrivals. (photo Jaime Rojo)

Street artists probably know their days in Williamsburg are numbered because soon the same people who were attracted to the neighborhood for it’s quirkiness and free spirit of creativity will effectively squelch it – but as long as there are construction sites, there is still scaffolding to adorn.  In fact, one developer went as far as hiring artists a couple of years ago to hit up his scaffolding with work that resembles a street art aesthetic, as written in the Gothamist by Jake Dobkin.

A huge postering campaign
A huge campaign of thousands of posters on construction site scaffolding for a clothing company was hacked this spring when street art collective Faile placed animal kingdom heads over Lou Reed’s (photo Jaime Rojo)

The real competition for space are the advertisers who plaster multiples of posters for cell-phones and hair gel in block-long mass-appeal campaigns, far dwarfing the amount of space any street artist could hope to cover with their home-made wheat-pasted piece.  Aside from construction sites of course,  as long as there are still abandoned and moribund buildings that have yet to be demolished, a canvas on the street beckons.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-PIGs Political Interactive Gaming Systems sept09-DSC01773
The title of PIGS’ program

A brief street installation on one of these construction sites this past weekend by an artists/activist group attempted to open the conversation about gentrification to the young pretty passersby who have been attracted to the cache of a hip neighborhood with close proximity to the island of Gotham (and NYU).  In a dramatically metaphorical way, Political Interactive Gaming Systems (PIGS) points to the wooden walls that guard the open construction sites and contends that they are purely a way of hiding the wounds of a freshly lacerated and bleeding part of the city, rather than a public safety precaution.

People putting words in the mayor’s mouth.

Part of the Conflux Festival, the art and technology festival for the creative exploration of urban public space, PIGS put up a large magnetic board on one of these blue-walled construction sites with the words of a speech from the mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg.  Much like the refrigerator game it resembles, the words were yours to rearrange. With the goal of raising awareness about gentrification, luxury condos, and displacement of the poor, Josh and Jessica Public happily participated.

OMG!  I, like, could like say SO MUCH right now but I'm like rully rully busy?
OMG! This is like so great!  I, like, could like say SO MUCH right now but I’m like rully rully busy texting?

Or as they say, “PIGS invites you to play a game: Can you get Mike to express how you feel about your changing city? Rearrange the words, and feel the pleasure of getting a politician to actually represent you.”

It’s hard to measure success on a street installation like this because anybody who walks by may or may not know what in the Sam Hill you are talking about. According to somebody from PIGS who spoke with anonymity, “We observed that many players focused their arrangements around the words  ‘defeated’ and ‘enterprise,’ while the word ‘liberty’ was almost never used.  We also observed that when passersby saw something written that they didn’t like or agree with, they took the liberty of rearranging the text to reflect their sentiment – which to us, is what politics should be: the work of reciprocal exchange where the rights and sentiments of each person are present in an equal discussion.”

“Believe in Yourself”
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