The new exhibition “Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures” is on view at the URBAN NATION Museum – a six-decade retrospective of Martha Cooper’s photographic work. Through photographs and personal objects, artifacts and ephemera, the exhibition traces Cooper’s life, from her first camera in 1946 to her current reputation as a world-famous photographer.
The most extensive career survey ever exhibited, “Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures” is curated by Steven P. Harrington & Jaime Rojo (BrooklynStreetArt). For over a year Harrington and Rojo poured over thousands of photographs and hundreds of artifacts, memorabilia, and archives, working closely with Martha to ensure an accurate and complete presentation of Cooper’s career and to make certain the exhibition will appeal to a wide audience as well as her ardent fans equally. In an interview the two acclaimed curators talk about the challenges of planning a new exhibition and their relationship with Martha Cooper, giving a rare insight into the work of a curator and providing an inside look at selected highlights of the exhibition.
Steve and Jaime, you have been working as curators, writers and bloggers for many years. Please take us back to the beginning of your careers. How did you meet and when did you decide to work together as a team?
We met in the 1980s when we both came to New York as university students and we have been actively involved in a wide range of projects in the arts separately and together for the last three decades. From “Low” to “High” art, we’ve always relied on the intelligence of the street-based subcultures to tell us the future, and we’ve each found that a fully immersive approach is the best way to understand everything from aesthetics to the humanities to music to movements in media and popular culture. We also discovered that as a team we are both determined to do it 100%.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s we became captivated by the new wave of art on the streets in neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where a booming artist community was reimagining and remixing cultures in the wake of radical economic shifts that were forcing the young creative communities off the island of Manhattan. Primarily art school students of one kind or another, these artists were using the platform of the New York streets to bypass a rigid gallery system and other “gatekeepers”– and they were of course influenced by the collective legacy of graffiti, pop culture, decades of being drenched in advertising, and the dawning of the Internet age. Not content to simply imitate graffiti culture, they were reinterpreting, reinterpolating, when translating concepts, techniques and history learned in formal education.
In short, it was the dawn of street art as we knew it and we were lucky to be living as artists/curators at one physical epicenter of it. Our neighborhood and social and professional circles included loosely organized groups of artists and collectives who created art parties and mounted interactive events in empty factory lofts or on rooftops or in basement speakeasies; art shows, theatrical events, djs, projections, video, performance, fashion, new music and a new merging of technology. We too were throwing loft parties and staging art events and performances, sometimes for hundreds of people, and it all seemed perfectly normal that art was spilling out into the streets as well.
These were all influencing factors that led us to self-publish our first street art book in 2006 with Steve’s words and with Jaime’s photographs of works by artists in our neighborhood. It was called Williamsburg Street Art: Unrestricted and it featured artists like Swoon, Faile, Banksy, Bäst, Shepard Fairy, Dan Witz, and DAIN – all of whom went on to show with major galleries and some who have had huge exhibitions in museums worldwide with great commercial and critical success. When we secured a proper publishing arrangement for our second book Brooklyn Street Art (Penguin/Random House) we started a small website to support it in March of 2008 under the same name. That first month we had 54 hits on the site. Later we would pass 100,000 per month.
We’re featuring a great interview today from Martha Cooper – whose career retrospective we curated this year at Urban Nation in Berlin. We particularly love the title. Because its true.
“In a photography career that spans six decades, Martha Cooper has broken boundaries and defined genres. She became the first female staff photographer at the New York Post in 1977 and shot seminal images of graffiti and the burgeoning hip hop scene during its infancy.
Curated by Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo, founders of BrooklynStreetArt.com, the show includes images from Cooper’s many books, which feature such as bodies of work as her photographs of women’s breakdancing competitions (We B*Girls); of traditional Japanese tattooist Horibun I at work (Tokyo Tattoo 1970), and the streets of gritty 1970s-era New York City (New York State of Mind).”
“But it was graffiti that inspired Cooper’s best-known work, immortalized in the 1984 book Subway Art, which she published with fellow photographer Henry Chalfant. Cooper was drawn to the tracks by the desire to save for posterity these fleeting artistic creations, which were unlike anything she had ever seen.”
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING THE INTERVIEW AND ARTICLE WRITTEN BY Sarah Cascone for ArtNet.
The Egyptians did it. The Greeks
did it. The Romans did it. Your favorite dive bar has it. The punk club CBGBs was
famous for it, so is Urban Spree in Berlin. It’s worldwide, ancient and
contemporary. Crude, rude, vulgar, vapid, poetic, gestural, artistic,
We’re talking of course of the
practice of writing graffiti in the bathroom. Few know that the museum Urban
Nation actively encourages the furtive aesthetic expressions of visitors. Here
is a survey of the ephemeral graffiti actions caught in progress.
Ahhhhh the sun! The sea! The cigarette butt stuck to my leg from last night.
Also, did I wear ONLY this swimsuit and shoes, or did I originally go out with more clothes?
Anyway this is Miami and the annual mural-street art-graffiti-gallery show-art fair-melee is afoot. Wherever you go in Wynwood you are bound to find Instagrammable moments and pretty things pontificating about this or that, but if you want to see good stuff we’re suggesting this year that downtown is the next Wynwood, beginning with the historic Walgreens Building on 200 East Flager Street. Its second iteration, the Juxtapoz Clubhouse feels more like an organically spawned environment; cognizant of the many tributaries from where this art scene evolved, with room for free thought, experimentation, and growth.
Take a trip to another part of Miami this year and see JUX’s many assorted exhibitions and exhibitionists. Here’s a few of the hits we hope you hit.
Juxtapoz Clubhouse Miami 2017
Juxtapoz Magazine is taking over a 3-story department store with art installations, activations, murals, and site-specific projects, featuring works by Conor Harrington, Jean Jullien, Faith XLVII with Inka Kendzia, Ron English, Laurence Vallières, Serge Lowrider, Low Bros, Zane Meyer, Jillian Evelyn, Alex Yanes.
Juxtapoz will also be releasing their new Quarterly edition at the Clubhouse along with editions of Shepard Fairey’s “The Damage Times” newspaper, created in conjunction with his Damaged solo show.
Juxtapoz will also once again team up with Mana Contemporary on a special mural by Conor Harrington and a-soon-to-be revealed skate park project – remember the massive skate park with Mana and Andrew Schoultz in the Wynwood neighborhood.
Historic Walgreens Building
200 East Flager Street
December 7 – 10, 2017
Opening Reception: December 6, 4 – 9 pm
Jonathan LeVine Gallery is pleased to present a group exhibition at the Juxtapoz Clubhouse featuring the following artists:
Adam Wallacavage, David Choong Lee, Handiendan, Jeremy Fish, Jim Salvati, Jim Woodring, João Ruas, Josh Tiessen, Julia Ibbini, Kevin Cyr, Kip Omolade, Prefab77, Radosław Liweń and Ronald Gonzalez.
OLEK “Playpen” With Corey Helford Gallery
Los Angeles-based Corey Helford Gallery is showing new stuff by OLEK as part of the Juxtapoz Clubhouse. Olek says “Playpen” is a witty and flirtatious series featuring three new sculptures and an impressive 20-foot installation of an 8-legged “Spider Woman,” adorned with motifs like eyes, lips, hearts and flowers.
Look out for sculptures that represent various fantasy objects — a “Cat Snail” playset, a classical-shaped “Woman Bust” and a potted “Cock Plant” — all of which come to life under the glow of black light. Initially inspired by her own play experience as a young girl, OLEK uses this series to explore concepts of womanhood, sexuality, and feminist ideals.
A collection of works by San Francisco based First Amendment gallery artists will be on the third floor, including:
Francesco Lo Castro
Thinkspace is 2 for 2 here at the Clubhouse during Art Basel week in Miami with James Bullough and Jaune on site leaving their unmistakable marks.
ATHEN B. GALLERY
A collection of works and installations by Athen B. artists will include
Nicomi Nix Turner
Superchief will feature works by Parker Day, Don Pablo Pedro, UFO 907, Yu Maeda, and Reginald Pean and will be screening Wastedland 2 on Thursday December 7th at 7pm. See our interview with the director here.
GOOD MOTHER GALLERY
Good Mother will feature Egle Zvirblyte & Jose Mendez
Berlin Begins Building a Haus for Street/Urban Art
Urban Nation “Museum For Urban Contemporary Art” Set to Open Mid 2017
“You can try and tame the wild but what good would it do? Isn’t the wild what makes us into warriors, kings and queens, discoverers and inventors? – The wild is all we need to know to make life worth living but we should never ever try to comprehend or change it…that is what art means to me,” says Yasha Young as she pulls back the curtains on the plans for the construction of the brand new Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin this afternoon.
With a wall full of photographs by the renowned Martha Cooper behind her and before a roomful of press people and artists, the manager and future director of the museum gave this sweeping overview of the philosophical approach that has breathed life into a project that is her brainchild. Along with Markus Terboven from the Gewobag foundation, Thomas Willemeit, Managing Director at architect GRAFT, Tim Renner, the Undersecretary of State for Cultural Affairs, and Hendrick Jellema from the non-profit Berliner Leben, Ms. Young laid out the plans for the dynamically designed interior of this Wilhelminian-era building at Bülowstrasse 7.
The nascent museum and the Urban Nation project has already shown serious signs indicating it’s future significance over the past three years with the famed curated “Project M” series of urban/street/graffiti artists in the main street-level windows – as well as the UN’s partnering with urban/Street Art festivals and community-driven initiatives in Europe, the US, Russia, and Asia.
In fact the lead-up to today’s announcement, a real art world first, has included three years of on the street programming and in temporary exhibition spaces that has featured 320 large scale and smaller works by 219 artists established, well known and emerging on the global street art and contemporary urban art scene.
Screenshot of new Martha Cooper Library at Urban Nation from video below.
In addition to featuring a brand new library named after Martha Cooper and featuring part of her collection of books, magazines, sketchbooks, photography and ephermera, and a winding, floating catwalkway through shifting perspectives that is inspired by Escher’s stairs, and education/lecture spaces, the new museum will feature a high tech façade that will continually change with installations, artists, and themes.
Screenshot of architectural rendering for new Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art from video below.
Architects and designers at GRAFT, which has built a reputation for experimentation and design innovation in exhibitions as well as architecture, are said to have continually looked for ways to establish a continuum between the street and the museum. In a recent conversation with Denis Leo Hegic, an architect on the project, we learned that the concrete of the street will quite literally lead into the museum main floor. Take a look at the video tour of the space here.
More to come on this story as construction begins along with curation of the inaugural exhibit!
New Video Takes You Flying Through Berlin’s new Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art.
BSA galavanted through the streets last year and here we re-paste our recent newsletter to BSA readers. Sign up for it if you like. Here’s the original.
Happy New Year from BSA!
From Berlin to Norway to Rochester and Mexico, Faile to Swoon to Ron English to Dan Witz and Gilf!, BSA was in museums, galleries, artists studios, at festivals, on panel discussions, on stages, on TV, radio, in theaters, and of course in the street.
Here are some highlights of the some of the amazing things BSA did with you in 2015. We sincerely thank you for your support and send love to you and yours in the new year!
In ’15 BSA Created “Persons of Interest” with UN in Berlin
Brought 12 Brooklyn Street Artists to Berlin with “Persons of Interest” show for Urban Nation Museum (UN)/ProjectM7
BSA Presented “On the Radar” in Coney Island
With Jeffrey Dietch’s Coney Art Walls program at Coney Island Museum for Coney Art Walls, we presented 12 artist to watch who are on our radar.
BSA Presented Faile at the Brooklyn Museum
A beautiful experience to be a part of the FAILE exhibition from its earliest planning stages to its full summer run at Brooklyn Museum, the cherry on top was to host an in-depth presentation and conversation with Faile’s Patrick Miller and Patrick McNeil and BKM curator Sharon Matt Atkins in front of an enthusiastic Brooklyn audience.
Aside from The Pope landing in New York at the exact time people were traveling to the show and some microphone difficulties at the beginning of the show, it was a complete and total thrill for us. See the full video on LiveStream here.
BSA Joined Swoon to Inaugurate Her New Heliotrope Foundation
The tenacious and visionary Street Artist grounded her dreams in a formal foundation in 2015, allowing her to pursue even greater reach in her growing projects in New Orleans, Haiti, and Braddock, PA. We were honored to interview her and to help celebrate the official beginning of The Heliotrope Foundation with the help of special guest and board member Kaseem Dean aka Swizz Beatz.
Callie Curry (aka Swoon), Kasseem Dean (aka Swizz Beatz), Jaime Rojo, Steven P. Harrington inaugurate The Heliotrope Foundation
BSA Hosted Martha Cooper, Bortusk Leer, and Herman De Hoop at Nuart Plus
For presentations from each of the guests and panel discussion on the intersection of “Play” and public space at NUART 2015 in Stavanger, Norway.
Banksy Does New York Took Us to Theaters Around the World Good News: The movie got on NetFlix, iTunes, in festivals, and in theaters in cities around the globe Bad News: People think we have a museum
We Flew Over World’s Largest Mural
Flew by helicopter above the world’s largest mural by Ella and Pitr in Stavanger, Norway with two of our most admired photographers; Martha Cooper and Ian Cox. Thanks Nuart!
We presented BSA Film Friday Live at MAG Gallery
Under the direction of Jonathan Binstock at University of Rochester Museum the MAG Gallery hosted us during the Wall\Therapy festival.
This is the grassroots sort of festival that rings true to us these days and the down-to-earth volunteers and organizers of this event, along with those of our associates at Urban Nation (UN), made this a highlight of the summer.
BSA in Berlin Radio Interview with Vantage Point
We talked about Jay-Z, Bowie, Bushwick, the democratization of Street Art, cultural imperialism, the UN and what it is like to bust out a blog seven days a week and still keep your mind and heart open to discovery. Listen to it here on Vantage Point and Soundcloud:
▪ BSA completed its fifth year in partnership with The Huffington Post in June 2015 (225+ articles) and was translated in Spanish on El Huffington Post, in French on Le Huffington Post, in Italian on L’Huffington Post, in Korean on Huff Post Korea, in Portuguese on Brasil Post, and in Greek for Huffington Post Greece. ▪ BSA posted every single day and did 23 interviews and studio visits and published articles about street art in 103 cities ▪ BSA was reference or appeared in the media in The New York Times, The Today Show, Le Monde, Agence France Press, German Rbb Tv, Borås Tidning, El Diario, El Heraldo, ArtNet News, Juxtapoz, VNA, Hi-Fructose, and others. ▪ BSA’s Director of Photography Jaime Rojo took more than 10,000 images and we picked 143 as BSA 2015 Images of the Year.
Special thank you to photographer Martha Cooper and Nuart Festival director Martyn Reed for the banner image from this years festival.
Urban Nation (UN) and Iceland Airwaves Festival Create Mural Program
Sound and vision are inextricably bound in the modern music canon, with inspired visuals leading our auditory imaginations at least since Toulouse-Lautrec’s depictions of Moulin Rouge orchestral and singing talents. Later illustrators were important for ushering us into the jazz era with snappy collage and geometrics for album covers and the birth of rock and roll expanded and shaped popular album-oriented daydreams. With every subsequent genre and subgenre of music from pop to rap to metal to disco and EDM, static and video artists continue to visually augment, interpret, define, and expand upon the music that we listen to.
This autumn in Iceland an equally inspired program pairing of 10 Street Artists with 10 musicians for the Airwaves music festival brought Reykjavik new murals from a mix of local and international artists. Since Iceland is the new Brooklyn, you’ll like to see how Berlin’s Urban Nation (UN) is precisely on top of something hot and icy with these eye-popping murals inspired by pace-setting modern sounds.
“I love music,” says UN Director Yasha Young as she describes the process that she and Iceland Airwaves’ Grímur Atlason and Henny Frímannsdottír went through to select music for their 1st edition of Wall Poetry. “We started to play our favorite bands from the lineup to each other, researched their album art, read their lyrics in great depth and watched all the video footage we could find,” she explains. “After that we decided who we thought would be interesting to approach for such a creative adventure. I know the artists I work with very well so it was more about listening to them and defining in more detail what the their individual ideas were for this project. The main goal for me was to pair them with the right collaborative partner musically and visually.”
“With paintings in and around Reykjavik the artists had time to complete their walls in time for the 10 day music festival in November, drawing the attention of fans and locals who were interested in the artwork that is impacting their daily experience of the city. The musicians were asked to provide the street artists with a song, lyrics or poetry especially chosen or written for this project,” says curator Frímannsdottír on the site. “The visual artists were provided a city wall as surface for the large scale work.”
Artist and musician collaborations for Wall Poetry include:
We spoke to Yasha Young about the first year of Wall Poetry and the challenges of mounting a project like this:
Brooklyn Street Art:How important is the visual aspect of music to you? Many people may not always make that connection. Yasha Young: To me it is so very important. I am a visual person to begin with but I think that it is vital as an individual who works with and for artists to work across genres and with as many different creative aspects as possible to be able to create one lasting and meaningful overall experience.
I remember buying LP’s for their cover art and the stickers and zines that came with them. I remember Buzzocks’s and The Ramones buttons and the silk printed posters by the Sex Pistols that came with the LP if memory serves me correctly. I think about The Rolling Stones “Some Girls” sliding cover and the art for Pink Floyds ‘The Wall’ and the “Led Zeppelin III” album with its rotating cover art that you could interact with.
And of course music videos became huge productions; actually they are little films that often connect with you on an even deeper level and enhance your experience of the music. Videos were launch pads for creative careers and massive innovations; for example Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’, ‘Cry’ by Godley and Crème, Gorillaz’ ‘Clint Eastwood’, Radiohead’s ‘No Surprises’, and my all-time favorite song and visuals combination was Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit’. Of course as we speak I’m thinking also about Iceland’s Björk and her video for ‘ Human Behaviour” and John Grant and Tate Shots collaboration… I could go on and on.
(Young, continued) In my career I’ve had the great pleasure to be part of making album art happen for bands, such as KORN’s ‘Untitled’ for example. I worked with many bands on that creative level and it only deepened my connection and convictions when it came to art and music. Today we have a one-click behavior for experiencing streaming music that almost reminds me a little of when video killed the radio star. There is an essential part of the experience that is fading and we feed it with the “instant buy”.
I believe that we are losing more than ‘just’ the record store and the poster art or album cover. We are losing an essential and lasting connection that came with the purchase of the record or CD but was established long before; the multi-faceted creation of the entire visual aspect. You became part of a creative baseline and connected to the music through the visual work. Reading the lyrics as audio poetry on the back sleeve or the LP or interacting with the music and the art made it a much more lasting and impressive experience in my view. This is just the surface of what I think and would like to explore even further and on a deeper level next year when we return for the 2nd edition of Wall Poetry.
Brooklyn Street Art:What inspired you to start the project? Yasha Young: I am always inspired by new opportunities to bring together different artistic genres and unusual or challenging – but always exciting – new venues. I had been visiting Iceland Airwaves for many years and finally decided last year to find walls and spaces and to connect with the Iceland Airwaves crew.
My idea was to visually prolong the reach of the music and bring it onto the walls through well-conceptualized and executed art pieces. In a way I wanted to re-connect two entities that have always been vital and necessary for each other in a public space, with music and art spilling out of the concert venues onto the streets and into the lives of people.
It was almost like we were going to extend the music, with the core idea being “We paint the music you love to hear”. Once that was established as the core of the project I very quickly had an idea of which visual artists would be not only be a great fit for the city and the project but also who would be able to work in rather unusual and unknown conditions – namely, the Icelandic weather, and I say this with great fondness for those wild and unpredictable skies.
Brooklyn Street Art:How did you choose the lyrics? Was it a difficult process? Yasha Young: Actually I only picked the bands and visual artists. It was more about creating and encouraging the connection between both of these groups to get their beautiful creative minds talking together. Once connected they picked songs and talked about their choices in depth. I was a bystander, a very curious fly on the wall and following the process was simply amazing. To read the exchanges and feel the moment the spark ignited – that moment to me is, and will always be, what marks true curatorial success and is key to all collaborative creative projects.
Brooklyn Street Art:Were there any challenges along the way? Specifically regarding logistics.. Yasha Young: ( laughs ) Yes! Many many many – but less in the actual execution of the vision and more in the daily production. For example the wind picks up and the mechanical lifts start swaying in the wind like a leaf. It was “Safety first” of course so we had to stop working immediately. Often the rain can be surprising and torrential and water runs down the walls like little waterfalls washing all the hard work from the night before off the wall again. But these artists are professionals and in my job the goal is to work as innovatively as possible – always finding or inventing new methods and finding other options.
It’s part of the journey and it can actually be fun. For my stubborn mind the only factor that will always be in way is time – we have not found a way to stop it or make more of it.
Lithuania’s Ernest Zacharevic transformed the shadow of an earlier building into a personal photo book.
“It’s inspired by the song ‘I Miss You’ by Dikta,” says Ernest. “The image has the same sadness and nostalgia in the photographs that I felt in the piano track song. The work is my imagining of all the past scenarios that could have happened in this old heritage house, physically and emotionally being taken down and rebuilt.
It’s more about memory because after I spoke to a lot of locals they were very nostalgic about how Reykjavik used to be, not so keen on how modernized it has become.”
As with most artistic endeavors there are sacrifices to be made here as well, but the outgoing inquisitive nature of Rochester people are buoying the spirits as community members continue to visit the murals-in-progress and engage with artists and the various volunteers who keep the show going.
Li-hill kept working into the night, as did Onur and Wes21 on their mural. Li thinks he can complete it within the day – he’s a fast and expressive worker so we’re guessing he’s right. Onur and Wes21’s dynamic image will be strangely realistic, dare we say surrealistic, depicting a scene of nature’s retaliation against our domination – and their pace is perhaps more steady and deliberate.
Another outer-worldly battle is taking place between monsters and robots in the blockbuster piece by Rochester-based artists Joe Guy Allard and Matthew Robers, while also-local Brittany Williams is knocking out her first-ever mural, a portrayal of a woman blossoming in heart and mind on the streets of Rochacha.
Regardless of how late they stay working, nobody really wants to skip dinner at The Yards, the collaborative arts space where most artists check in as a home base and where they actually get to hang out instead of being spread out. Friday night the party starts a little earlier so hopefully they’ll be able to break from the painting and come out to the BSA Film Friday at 5 pm on University of Rochester campus with us.
By then we’ll probably see Vexta’s vibrant, colorful textures have and blinkering diamond field fully anchor her masked woman, but no one is yet predicting what the Brazilian Eder Muniz will do on his arrival – but most predict is will be colorful, surreal, and fantastic.
In Rochester the weather has been warm but workable, as evidenced by the progress that all the artists have been making. You don’t have a long summer in this city of Kodak so we happily have images to share from a dedicated crew of photographers who are catching all the action while the sun is still blasting and slowly baking the artists.
You’ll see that the Jeff Soto and Maxx242 is nearing completion, Daze is already making plans for a production wall with FUA crew around the corner and Andreas Englund has a number of inquiries from local passersby while he’s painting his first mural here. We’re thinking it will be something rather superhuman.
Rochester’s Wall\Therapy mural festival began in earnest this weekend with a fine art show at 1975 Gallery and arriving artists beginning to prime their walls and sketch the outlines of the works they’ll be giving to this city in the northwestern part of New York state.
It’s 4th year as Wall\Therapy, this grassroots funded initiative has the unique role of being an art festival that also raises awareness of a medical aid program: assisting people in developing countries to have access to hi-tech diagnostic imaging and doctors. By raising funds to set up teleradiology services within these communities and working with a network of volunteer radiologists around the world, people can get x-rayed where no previous opportunity existed.
Begun by Brooklyn native Dr. Ian Wilson, he and associated organizations make a connection between philanthropy for the arts and medical care – with the help of an ardent local core of volunteers who hold fundraisers throughout the year and do community outreach to organize and make this event happen.
This year partnering with Berlin’s Urban Nation (UN) Director Yasha Young, Wall\Therapy is beginning a cultural exchange program by hosting a selection of international artists specifically selected by her to participate.
When some of the artists were with us in Berlin for the BSA show “Persons of Interest” at Urban Nation, they also managed to hit up a few walls in the city. Not only did they plaster these in broad daylight, neither DAIN nor El Sol 25 even looked over their shoulder; folks welcome the new art work – often posing for selfies in front of it.
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 NohJColey and ask him why he chose his person of interest, Katharina Oguntoye.
For his portrait at Urban Nation the Brooklyn native NohJColey chose Katharina Oguntoye, the Afro-German feminist writer, historian, activist, and poet raised in Nigeria and Heidelberg, Germany. Her study of German culture and her status within it led to her co-editing of the 1986 book Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out (Farbe Bekennen)and to the founding of Joliba, a nonprofit intercultural association in 1997. The organization provides support to a varied intercultural community and hosts educational and cultural events like dinners, seminars, kids events, reading groups, and public art events.
“I have chosen to create a piece that focuses on Katharina Oguntoye because of her contribution to the woman’s equality movement in Germany, “ says NohJ. “She has overcome countless obstacles in her lifetime and has changed so many lives for the better because of her relentless efforts.”
Street Artist NohJColey tells stories with his figures in the public sphere, examining their interrelationships and their place within an urban environment that is often hostile, fraught with anxiety and hypocrisy, yet tempered with humanity. Using various art making disciplines he constructs the stage; hand-carved linotypes, paper cuts, mobile sculpture, painting. A shrewd observer and communicator, his sometimes surreal narratives can be complex, often involving critique of classism, consumerism, racism, addiction, and a broken justice system – each from the perspective of characters who are affected by or perpetuating them.