Welcome to BSA Images of the Week. Our hearts and minds are heavy and quiet this weekend as we contemplate the two decades and lost lives and liberties since September 11, 2001.
It’s impossible to know what the world would have looked like had those fateful events not taken place twenty years ago, and only a handful would have predicted that it would have been used as a springboard for more wars that cost more lives. As the country pulls out of Afghanistan so badly and obviously, a real examination of the soul is taking place. There is no real purpose served by trying to extricate the pain of loss locally from those sufferred globally as a result of the events of September 11th, except for us New Yorkers to reflect on how our city is forever changed. Thankfully, New Yorkers prove time and again that we are also forever determined to overcome and to come together.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring BAT, Below Key, BK Foxx, Chris RWK, Chupa, De Grupo, Early Riser NYC, Fumero, Futura, Hand Up, Manik, Modomatic, Naito Oru, Pope, Rezo, and Toofly.
James Prigoff signed all of his emails with one word in Spanish: “Paz.” (peace)
It was deliberate, intentional, and with that one word, he created a tag for himself that spoke to his commitment to peace on the street and across the world. Looking over his decades of dedication to exploring and documenting, one sees a sincere commitment to understanding and identifying with other cultures and embracing others as brothers and sisters.
Known foremost in the graffiti world for being the co-author of Spray Can Art with Henry Chalfant in 1987, he captured 100,000 photographs worldwide over five decades. His professional sense of curiosity and self-education drove him to persevere in his documentation of the graffiti scenes of the Western US but eventually spread worldwide.
Today we recognize the personal sacrifice and pride that went into that publication or his subsequent publications and honor the dedication. With his efforts and others like him, the graffiti/street art/mural art cultures received much greater recognition and validation. Serious discussion of the contributions of these practices can be directly attributed to the massive platform his work provided the scene.
Along with Subway Art by Chalfant and Martha Cooper, Spraycan Art is annually sighted as a powerful inspiration to thousands of artists worldwide who needed that encouragement to express themselves as artists. That alone is a reason to celebrate his life and be thankful for his work and deep dedication to the culture.
It was in the early 1970s “I became fascinated with the political nature of the art in the streets,” Jim wrote in perhaps his last personally written essay and publication here on BSA Writer’s Desk just last month. The inaugural opinion/editorial of the monthly series provided him the opportunity to talk about his life, formal and street education, his observations of artists and movements in culture and politics during the last 7 of his 9-plus decades. A civil libertarian and champion of the rights for the equality of people across the spectrum, he was happy to make “good trouble” even suing the federal government over an unconstitutional surveillance program in the mid-twenty-teens.
An avid observer and analyst, we prized Jim as a friend and confidante because he knew how to connect the dots between larger socio-political movements and to put the art and artists within context. Astutely diplomatic and wise, he advised us on navigation and perspective in this vast creative world of graffiti, street art, and mural – lessons we will not forget. He also shared his theory about photographers being led by “the Graffiti Gods” with a smile and a glint in his eye.
His empathy was never far from any topic, despite his strident views and opinions. Even during this last year of Covid he wrote to check on us;
“Not an easy time to be shut down in NYC. Hope you are doing OK.”
Only two weeks ago Jim wrote to us with his concern that Gen Z was not getting vaccinated at the rate of the rest of the population and he wondered aloud if street artists were helping to reach out to them on the street.
Less able to travel as freely in recent years, he attended big exhibition openings near his home of Sacramento and Miami and New York – usually with one of his gentle and patient children pushing his wheelchair. Each time he was enthusiastic and opinionated and, well, joyful. Last summer, during Black Lives Matter protests across the country, he was thoroughly following events and their effects on art on the street. He was also eager to share what he found with the world.
He shot photos from the open window of a car driving through Oakland, eager to share what he found – which we published. Jim often commented on our daily postings to us in emails – and we are proud that he shared his writing and photos on several occasions with BSA readers. Always more interested in people than profit, Jim understood our platform and mission better than many.
Our hearts are sorrowful to bid goodbye to Jim Prigoff now, but we are comforted to believe that he is joining his dear Arline, with whom he spent 72 years as husband and wife. An absolute pillar in graffiti, street art, and mural history, documentation, and archiving – Jim was a scholar, an ardent peace activist, an author, lecturer, community activist, a fervent supporter of so many, and a kind person. Our deep condolences to his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, his graffiti/street art family, and his colleagues. We are grateful to have called him a friend.
Jim’s last published essay was on Brooklyn Street Art as the inaugural essay for BSA Writer’s Bench in March, 2021:
Selected quotes from hundreds of social media commenters across Facebook and Instagram
“Jim’s good work is done, may he rest in peace.” Henry Chalfant
“Jim was so good to us. He allowed us access to hundreds of rare East Bay photos and couldn’t have been any more generous. Jim loved the East Bay and knew most of the writers by name. His only hope was that his photos would be seen and we intend to make that happen. Rest in peace to a great human being and true graffiti devotee. You will be missed. Much love, Will & Jake” from East Bay Archive
“The coverage Henry and Jim gave to Goldie in Spraycan Art provided a massive worldwide boost to his career and encouraged him to think globally.” Martin Jones
“Pictures that meant so much to so many. Those pictures was part of so many people’s phase of growing up and becoming those who they are today. People such like myself. Thank you Jim.” Tatu Moisio
“Spraycan Art was, is and will remain alongside Subway Art as the Bibles for anyone interested in graffiti. I’m from North-East Scotland, and it certainly had a huge influence in my life.
Not to mention being one of the most stolen books OF ALL TIME!
RIP Jim, and thank you.” Eddie Grady
“A worldwide generation were introduced to a new breed of heroes who became a catalyst to our lives, and for those whose work was featured by Henry, Jim and Martha, their lives were forever changed. Take a moment to imagine a world where your work never existed… … that truly provides an awe-inspiring perspective. A life lived with huge contribution. Rest In Peace Jim!” Gordon Barrett
“We went on a 6 hour tour around Chicago together. Fascinating conversation about art and life, thru the years. Very enriching conversation for a youth of 17. A Gentleman and a Scholar truly. Risen In Perfection.” Tyr Dem
“It’s so Strange. I was just going through Spraycan Art this morning.” Lars Skouboe
“I am saddened by the news of the passing of a champion of graffiti culture.” Gonzo 247
“Spraycan Art introduced us to other graffiti legends in across the country and internationally.” Carlos Tiangco
“This guy gave us kids access to a culture that shaped us, our futures and our world. Thanks James / Jim Prigoff. 1927-2021.” Sunk One
The graffiti community lost an advocate and documentarian yesterday. Thanks for all your years of dedication to documenting us all Jim. He was one of a kind. I’m glad to have known him. Rest well.” Alan Ket
“Rest in Peace James Prigoff — Spraycan Art was the first book I ever looked thru as a teen to learn about graffiti. It is where I saw Lady Pink for the very first time!” Toofly
“This was our culture. What we offered the world. The birth of a culture. A culture that became a world wide phenomenon. Last night one of our documentarian passed. RIP James Prigoff. A great guy who shared with the world through his photos this culture we created. Yo James..
“AND WE DONT STOP!” TKid
“My Heart is still breaking from the passing of our friend and historian, author and photographer Jim Prigoff whom I was in constant communication with until 3 days ago.” Portia Gail McHenry-Ogburn
“This book changed the course of my life forever… as well as tens of thousands of youths across the world throughout the 80’s – 90’s. Thank you #JimPrigoff for your passion and dedication. #JimPrigoffForever.” Revok
“Saddened to hear of Jim’s passing, my condolences to his family and friends.” John “Crash” Matos
“Wow. This is sad… he would stay at my dads house and do you Friday night slideshow sessions with popcorn when he would come to town.
Jim will would always remind me how lucky we are and to never throw food away. This has stuck with me to this day.” Carlos Rolon
“So sad to hear about the passing of one of the greatest – graffiti and street art photographer, author and peace activist Jim Prigoff.
I met him in Los Angeles where he took me on a tour to photograph graffiti. We shared a panel in the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). He supported me so much with my books, contributed an amazing photo of female graffiti artist Reminisce to my Graffiti Woman book and even wrote a foreword for my last book Street Messages.
Through him I ate the American version of coleslaw for the very first time.
He was an amazing and inspirational person. He influenced the whole world with his book Spraycan Art (together with Henry Chalfant), that sparked a main flame for the widespread graffiti fire.
Thanks so much for all the time you shared with me, my thoughts are with your family and friends. May you rest peacefully.
“I have so many photos and emails from Jim from over the years. This man was a force and driver in the culture. If he was a kid when writing started he would have been a writer for sure. It’s nice to read all the stories about the him. This photo of me holding his book is from the beginning of 2020 when he had a showing in San Francisco. I told him i couldn’t believe after all these years i didn’t have a signed copy from him. He hooked it up in classic Jim style. I salute you to a full impactful life and thank you for helping a lot of writers careers one way or another. Rest in power” Apexer
“Yea man heavy hearts right now. That book man was the west coast bible!” Aaron De La Cruz
“Our dearest Jim.
When we last saw you two weeks ago you said the single most amazing technological advancement (in your opinion) was the ability for photographs to be shared via email. You said that you imagined that it was even more impressive to you than the automobile had been to your parents. Despite your awe of the invention of digital photography and email, you took on this miracle as you did all things you were passionate about, with gusto.
How lucky are we that you lived you in the era of the modern day camera. You took an art form that was inherently temporary (graffiti) and made it permanent. You took an art form that was the voice of an entire generation, who could not find a platform to be heard, and shared their voice with the world. You knew that “Art is power” and you never failed to use your privilege in this world to ensure that that power could be amplified for change.
You are a legend, who left the world a better place not only through your photographs but also simply through your presence on this planet.
To us however, you will always be our Grandpa Jim and our very small world will forever be just a bit sadder everyday now that you are no longer an email away.
“Anxiety is normal in an unjust society” says the new piece by Disordered in Welling Court, Queens, a working class neighborhood of New York where the latest Ad Hoc mural party was held a couple of weekends ago under the direction of Garrison Buxton. He started this festival with his former partner Alison Buxton nine years ago to create community here with a number of artists from across the graffiti/Street Art spectrum, and it has always been a great day to see families and kids interacting with artists on the street.
Anxiety rings true when the giveaways to business interests for nearly four decades under both dominant parties have gradually placed folks like these in this neighborhood constantly in fear of missing the rent, the grocery bill, the car payment, the cost of providing for their kids.
Some companies adore this dynamic exactly the way it is because when you are always feeling anxiety about losing your job and worried about paying the bills you won’t speak up to notify anyone when your boss is dumping poison in the river or placing his hand upon your seat. Imagine working so hard and getting paid so little that you are still relying on public assistance, as Walmart is known for now. Anxiety is normal for many today, and it is reflected in the art on the streets as well.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Cern, Caleb Neelon, Col Wallnuts, Damien Mitchell, Daze, Disordered, FKDL, Hellbent, JCBK, Joe Iurato, John Fekner, Lena McCarthy, LMNOPI, Maria Wore, Michel Velt, Never, NYC Hooker, Praxis, Queen Andrea, Robots Will Kill, Rubin415, Seeone, and Toofly.
New York’s jewel of free theater in Central Park is actually trending on Twitter, believe it or not. The production of Julius Ceasar features a Trumpian-looking lead character and it has inflamed people who haven’t heard of Shakespeare – which means a large swath of pretty/handsome bobble heads on US TV. The cautionary story actually has referenced modern leaders in productions historically in theaters in recent years and as a rule. There is even a story about Orsen Wells directing a version with actors in Nazi uniforms in the 20s or 30s.
And in other polarized news, the planned protest (and performance piece) in front of the Houston-Bowery wall is still scheduled for this afternoon. Artists and organizers have been reaching out to tell us about the protest along with possible other demonstrations which have been kick-started by the controversial choice of artist David Choe by Goldman Arts to paint the wall. Rape, Rape Culture, the normalization of sexual abuse, predatory behavior and attitudes toward women, and related issues will be in the discussion due to Choe’s own involvement in a possible rape scenario by his own account and his subsequent muddy explanations about it. Choe’s public apology yesterday via Instagram may have altered the calculus slightly but the bigger issues still prevail and many opinions on social media still question Goldman’s silence on the topic. Meanwhile, the wall has pretty much been dissed completely.
Finally, the drama of the Welling Court mural festival, which we actually do not know any drama about and which brought all sorts of community murals to this Queens working class neighborhood for the 8th year last weekend. We got out there to shoot a number of the walls without the crowds for you this week, and here’s a selection below.
So here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring A Visual Bliss, ASVP, Below Key, Cey Adams, Crash, Daze, Dek 2 DX, Dennis McNett, Dirt Cobain, Eelco Virus, Eyez, EZO, Ghost Beard, I am Eelco, John Fekner, Jonny Bluze, LMNOPI, NYC Hooker, Patch Whisky, Queen Andrea, Ramiro Davaro-Comas, Rob Sharp, Sean 9 Lugo, and Toofly.
When the revered graffiti holy place named 5Pointz in Queens, New York was buffed and slated officially for demolition last fall the collective response of the graffiti / Street Art fan base and community was horror and lament. Nonetheless, community persists, and art in the streets is stronger than ever in many cities, including right here in Queens which has played host to an ever growing grassroots exhibition on the walls for five years called Welling Court.
Imagined and produced by two advocates of creativity in the public sphere and run on a shoe-string budget, Welling Court is a series of 100+ walls throughout this largely working class neighborhood that feels like it perhaps has been overlooked by the rest of the city. With a mix of some of New York’s newest immigrants and families, the modest residential/light manufacturing neighborhood has had a eye-jolting injection of spirit and free art every summer since 2009.
We look forward to this annual event for a number of reasons, among them: the unpretentious spirit of community creativity at work as tens of artist straddle ladders and stepstools side by side painting walls, the friendly inquisitive neighbors who hang out and discuss the art and prepare a variety of foods to share on folding tables in the middle of the street, and the unbridled enthusiasm of the kids who race through the neighborhood on foot, bicycle, scooter, even grocery cart.
Unsponsored by brands and run by community elbow grease, Welling Court brings lots of Street Art / graffiti / public art enthusiasts and almost no police presence or crime for that matter. Breaking their own record this June at 127 painted walls, organizers Garrison and Alison Buxton help hook up the opportunity and artists are happy to take advantage of it. Here is just a relatively small selection of images taken by photographer Jaime Rojo at Welling Court 2014.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening :
1. TOOFLY in Miami 2. 8 Artists, One Day in La Perla
3. UNO in Bolonga, Italy 4. Phlegm / Run / Christiaan Nagel in London
5. Surplus Candy
BSA Special Feature: TOOFLY in Miami
“There is a different dynamic that takes place when women get together and paint or build or create something,” explains Queens born Toofly as she scales the ladder in Miami during Art Basel this year. The short by Alexandra Henry gives voice to the artist, designer and organizer as she describes coming up in the 1990s wall painting surrounded primarily by dudes. Now as she moves to a different stage and embraces her Ecuadorean roots, Toofly is joined by a new generation of women who are laying claim to the street and adding their voices to the conversation.
8 Artists, One Day in La Perla
An overcast day in Old San Juan is still better than a sunny one inside an office cubicle, ya herd? Here’s a gently rolling survey of a community called La Perla, who in one day received new gifts bestowed from Alexis Diaz, Faith47, Axel Void, Filio, Inti, Conor Harrington, Poteleche, and Franco Jaz. Captured by Tost Fims, it is free of so many of the video making conventions of Street Art film-making that it may be pulling the genre in a new direction.
UNO in Bolonga, Italy
UNO and Matteo Talone take wheatpasting to a new very long expanse in Bologna, hand coloring meters and meters of pop inspired black and white image/text patterning for the Cheap Festival.
Phlegm / Run / Christiaan Nagel in London
A teaser for a series of films (Last Breath) that will be made documenting the beautification of soon-to-be demolished buildings in London. Touring the remains of structural decrepitude is not new, but doing so artfully like this is.
A new video from Nick Heller features a tour from the recent abandoned house takeover on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The outdoor gallery is the one we visit most and NYC is always front and center in our heart even as we branched out to about 100 other cities and towns last year. Outdoor Gallery – New York City is also the name of the brand new book by photographer and writer Yoav Litvin, who has spent the last couple of years shooting New York streets and meeting many of the artists who make the painting and wheat pasting that characterizes the class of 2014.
Outdoor Gallery – New York City by Yoav Litvin. Art by Chris Stain.
Published by Ginko Press, the large 235 page hardcover features nearly 50 street artists / graffiti artists whose work you see here regularly (with the exception of two or three) along with comments and observations from the artists about their practice, their experiences, and the current Street Art scene primarily in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
When Yoav told us of his hope to publish a book last year we offered whatever advice we could – but primarily we advised him to stick to his vision and not to let anyone discourage him. A true fan of the scene, he has worked tirelessly to do just that and now he can share with you a personal survey and record of many of the artists who are getting up today in New York.
Outdoor Gallery. New York City by Yoav Litvin. Art by Joe Iurato.
“Outdoor Gallery – New York City grew organically to embody my process of exploration and discovery on the streets of New York City. It is a creation that was born out of love for New York City streets and their people, and focuses on artists as leaders with a unique and necessary role in a society that aspires for freedom and change,” says Litvin in his introduction, and throughout the book you can sense the respect he has for the art and the dedication he has put into this project.
Careful to let the artists speak for themselves, he presents their work without commentary and with ample space given for expression. Using primarily his own photos, it is carefully edited and presented as an uncluttered and measured overview of each artists work.
Outdoor Gallery – New York City by Yoav Litvin. Art by Jilly Ballistic.
For us it is a proud moment to see someone’s dream realized after so much effort and dogged determination – especially in a scene whose challenges we are well familiar with. No one knows how hard it is to make something happen unless they do it themselves. So congratulations to Yoav for sticking to his vision and having the fortitude to finish this and thanks to him on the behalf of the artists whom he is helping to receive recognition for their work as well.
To that end, you are invited to the big launch party this Saturday at 17 Frost in Williamsburg. We’ll be there and we hope you can make it out for a great New York Street Art family reunion. You can’t miss the entrance, it’s been newly smashed by El Sol 25, Bishop 203, Royce and some other people we can’t remember right now but who will remind us as soon as this goes up ; ) .
Outdoor Gallery – New York City by Yoav Litvin. Art by Gilf!
You can find out more about it on the Facebook Event Page, but we understand there will be a newly debuted video from Dega Films, a special tribute to Army of One, and a full show of new works from many of the artists in the book, including;
Adam Dare, Alice Mizrachi, Army of One / JC2, Astrodub, ASVP, Billy Mode, Bisho203, Bunny M, Cern, Chris RWK, Chris Stain, Cope2, Dain, Dirty Bandits, El Sol 25, Elle Deadsex, Enzo and Nio, Free5, Fumero, Gaia, Gilf!, Hellbent, Icy and Sot, Indie 184, Jilly Ballistic, Joe Iurato, Kram, Lillian Lorraine, LNY (Lunar New Year), Miyok, ND’A, OCMC, OverUnder, Phetus88, QRST, Russell King, Shin Shin, Shiro, Sofia Maldonaldo, The Yok, Toofly, and Veng RWK.
Outdoor Gallery – New York City by Yoav Litvin. Art by Icy & Sot.
Outdoor Gallery – New York City by Yoav Litvin. Art by Hellbent.
Outdoor Gallery – New York City by Yoav Litvin. Art by QRST.
Outdoor Gallery – New York City by Yoav Litvin. Front and back cover art by Bishop203, LNY, Alice Mizrachi, QRST, Gilf!, Cern and Icy & Sot.
Below is a look at behind-the-scenes of the making of the mural for the cover of the book.
While famed LA/Chicago/Detroit graffiti artists Revok and Pose are in town getting up on the Houston Street wall this week and many members of the MSK crew were in Bushwick doing tributes to Nekst over the weekend, New Yorkers have had the opportunity to talk with a lot of visiting friends who are in town in advance of the Revok/Pose dual show at Jonathan Levine this Saturday. As graffiti culture continues to assert its place in modern art history even while expanding and redefining itself on the street and in homes, galleries, and museums along a storied continuum, we are reminded again about the foundational role that graffiti has played in our aesthetic, helping to define urban culture and at least partially fueling the evolution of what we call a Street Art scene today.
As with most subcultures in a capitalist society, there are a fair amount of commercial influences swimming around and through the graffiti world too, the products and motifs employed to sell them somehow simplifying graffitis complex nature and diluting its emotional resonance for many. This is the water we’re all swimming in, however, and you could drown trying to fight it. Despite commercial pressures and their mutations, it is evident that the graffiti style is alive and well and building upon itself in new ways. For some, graffiti is analogous to the early punk scene for some others it could be inextricably tied to hip hop. But as it continues to morph into multiple subgenres it still seems perfectly clear that it is born from a scream, a helluva celebratory and defiant yell ; very individual, often powerful, it is tied to an agonizing drive to be heard and to be seen, to capture by hand something that is channeling by its own volition through your mind and from your gut. Probably. That incisive wisdom from BSA and $2.50 will get you a ride on the subway.
BSA will never be versed enough to speak authoritatively about graffiti culture, nor do we pretend to – it is so vast and storied and sort of outside our wheelhouse. But seeing all this graff action this week brings our minds to a place like 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens. Begun as Phun Factory and eventually changing its name, this 200,000 sf factory building cannot be overestimated in its impact visually over two decades as well as for the community service it has provided for many artists, young and older, to practice, experiment, and even hit a level of mastery of their craft. We won’t call it a Mecca, as we’ve been schooled that some of our brothers and sisters think that’s disrespectful – So we’ll just call it a Holy Place for many here and around the world. An ever evolving canvas viewable from the street and passing trains, many a tourist has made the pilgrimage to check it out; a touchstone for the true New York, and perhaps one that is disappearing.
As the fevered pitch of cries from fans and community for the preservation of 5 Pointz runs up against the dual realities of a crumbling infrastructure and an increasingly desirable location for real estate development, we all reluctantly cede that the writing is probably on the wall (pardon the pun). Absent a deep-pocketed philanthropist who wants to preserve it (Jay-Z?) or a groundswell of citizenry demanding public seizing of private property (torches and pitchforks anyone?), you have to know that this can’t last forever despite what many see as its importance and relevance to this culture, history, and this time. But really, just take a look around this spot. If you are here now, or are planning to come soon, you know that 5Pointz has the power of a beacon for many; a living thriving vessel for the creative spirit to be expressed in myriad ways, many personal. All hail 5Pointz and those who have made it successful all these years.
Here is a small collection of more recent images of 5Pointz.
Garrison and Alison Buxton have spent countless hours, elbow grease and their own money to make this huge non-commercial Welling Court Mural Project happen 4 years in a row – giving free walls to a few hundred artist during that time.
Cost to us: Zilch, Zero, Nada
Cultural workers extraordinaire with a Rolodex list as long as the banquet table at an Italian wedding, these two have given more Street Artists artists more free opportunities than a block full of GO-GO bars. Wait, that didn’t sound right. But you get our point.
If not, here’s the point: Go pledge 10 bucks or a hundred bucks to their fundraiser for all the fun and true community spirit they have brought people for the last four years.
After you pledge some money to their Indiegogo come back here and enjoy brand new images of the 4th Annual Welling Court installation. It may be the last time. And then all we will have left are logo-smothered festivals sponsored by cool “urban” lifestyle brands, real estate agents, energy drinks, and/or the Chamber of Commerce and The Daughters of the Revolution. Jeez that’ll be fun, won’t it?
Brooklyn’s already percolating artists neighborhood called Bushwick continues to thrive despite the circling of real estate agents, lifestyle brands and celebrity chefs. Born in the mid-late 2000s as it’s older sister Williamsburg to the West began to professionalize, this noisily industrial and dirty artists haven got a reprieve from gentrifying forces when the deep recession slowed the rise of rents for artist spaces, which remained still relatively cheap by Manhattan’s standards. Today the area boasts a diverse influx of artists, students, cultural workers, and entrepreneurs who are experimenting and collaborating on projects and shows.
That radical economic downturn probably also nurtured the nascent Street Art scene here, which was one of the early outliers of a cultural influx as artists and explorers began to skateboard to the local delis and stare at laptops for hours in the one or two cafes that offered Wi-Fi. Outcroppings of this new art movement combined with old-school graffiti to pop up on selected concrete and corrugated walls, signposts, and deteriorated blocks where the authorities were disinterested and the neighbors only partially curious in their activities.
It’s an age-old New York story by now; a neglected or winding down post industrial neighborhood reacts to the incoming and odd-looking artists with a sort of bemused affection, happy that at least the block is getting some attention for a change. Puzzlement eventually leads to familiarity and then buying you a sandwich – and then asking you to paint a mural inside his foyer. While national and international Street Artists were already making Bushwick a stopping point thanks to some of the earliest galleries like Ad Hoc and Factory Fresh, the scene recently got newly shot in the arm by a local resident who is facilitating much desired legal wall space to a crowd of artists who otherwise would be hunting and hitting up less-than-legal spots. Not to worry, there are plenty of aerosol renegades and ruffians scaling walls at night too; this is New York after all, yo.
But for now the Bushwick Collective, as it is newly christened by wall-man Joe Ficalora, has infused an adrenaline rush of creativity inside and outside the area that is roughly bordered by Flushing Avenue, Starr Street, Knickerbocker Avenue and Cypress Avenue. The Collective has guidelines on content (nudity, politics, profanity) so the works are not completely unfettered in the true spirit of Street Art/graffiti, but most artists are happy for the luxury of time to complete their work and not look over their shoulder. With a selection of murals that are densely gathered and easy to walk through, the new collection has attracted attention from media folks (and tour guides) on the main island brave enough to venture into the gritty wilds of Brooklyn for a Street Art safari.
As Bushwick hosts its 7th annual open studios cultural event this weekend, intrepid pedestrians who march through opening parties, rooftop DJ jams, dance performances, live bands, transcendent costumery, sidewalk barbecues, open fire hydrants and more than 600 open artist studios will also be buffeted by a visual feast on the streets themselves. As long as the L Train is running (fingers crossed) you can just get off at the Morgan stop. From there it should be pretty easy for any curious art-in-the-street fan to be regaled with big and small works of graffiti, Street Art, tags, wheat-pastes, stencils, rollers, murals, and ad hoc installations all day and night.
A shout out to Arts In Bushwick, an all volunteer organization that has steadily grown and fostered an open sense of community inclusiveness each year for Bushwick Open Studios and to the many volunteers who have contributed greatly to the success of many of the cultural workers here. Without an open studios event many of these shy and quirky artists and performers would simply have stayed unknown and unknowable.
So far Bushwick still has the unbridled imperfect D.I.Y. enthusiasm of an experiment where anything can happen, but grey ladies with kooky bright colored spectacles have already begun to flip it over to inspect it with one hand while pinching their nose with the other, so savor this authentic moment. Ethereal by nature, you know the Street Art scene is never guaranteed to you tomorrow – neither is the mythical artists bohemian hamlet of New York’s yesteryear. For now we’re hopping on our bikes to catch a golden age of Bushwick before it’s repackaged and sold back to us at a price we can’t afford.
The first series of images are walls from the Bushwick Collective, followed by a series of walls that you may also see in the neighborhood.
Here’s our weekly interview of the street, this week featuring Andreco, Athens, Col Wallnuts, CrispyT, eL Seed, En Masse, Faile, Faust, Greg LaMarche, Henry Darger, James Rubio, JJ Veronis, Jon Hall, Katsu, Mr. Toll Phetus88, Rae BK, Reme821, Sure, and Toofly.
New Wall Celebrates Audrey Hepburn for her May 4 birthday in the Brussells district she was born in. Liz Taylor is her special guest.
There are many references to pop culture, movies, fashion, and celebrity that have appeared in Street Art in the last decade or so, thanks to our full immersion in the National Entertainment State. We always say that the street reflects us back to ourselves, and apparently we are fixated on poised prettitude, at least in some cities. From Street Artists like DAIN to Judith Supine to Faile to The Dude Company, Tian, Aiko, TooFly and myriad anonymous stencillists, you are bound to see depictions of glamorous women and in a variety of archetypes popping up on walls and doorways no matter the year.
Parisian Street Artist FKDL reliably returns to his wheelhouse of the 1950s and 60s when he looks for images of idealized females. Even his silhouettes of graceful and lithe dancing figures will remind you of the 2-D animations of opening credits of Hollywood movies from the golden age, the hip early years of television, beatniks in tight turtleneck sweaters reading poems, and swinging chicks on the cover art from long-playing jazz albums. As a “fill” to his forms, he often pastes in an actual collage of vintage commercial illustrations that he cut from magazines and dress making pattern envelopes. Clearly his is a romance with an image of female beauty from an earlier time and he reliably visits it again and again in his work on the streets of Europe and New York.
So it is no surprise that last week when FKDL was in the Ixelles district in Brussels he found a lone façade wall on an empty lot that faces the street and was compelled to paint a tribute to the cinema icon Audrey Hepburn, born there 84 years ago this Saturday. “Breakfast at Ixelles” refers to the location and her most famous movie, set in New York, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While doing the wall he decided to also pay tribute to another screen grand dame Elizabeth Taylor. The 30 foot wall uses his distinctive collage style and the paint colors are associated with the flag of Belgium.