Born in 1986 in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Raquel Echanique is making her mark in NYC – both on the streets and in galleries.  I recently had the opportunity to speak to the talented young artist whose solo exhibit, Chain Reaction, opens tomorrow evening at 7pm at Spinelli Galleries in Chelsea.

Raquel Echanique street art NYC Speaking with Raquel Echanique

When did you first paint on a public surface? And what inspired you to do so?

The first time I ever painted in an open space was for the Welling Court Mural Project in Astoria, Queens in 2013. It was by chance! My boyfriend – at the time – had been assigned a wall. But because he had to DJ that day, he offered it to me.

What was the experience like?

I loved it! It was surprisingly easy. It actually felt easier than painting on canvas or paper.

Your works on canvas and paper have made their way into galleries worldwide. When was your artwork first exhibited?

I was 17 when my work was first shown in a museum back in Ecuador.

Wow! You were quite young. How were you “discovered?”

When I was 15, I participated in a live painting competition. I won first prize.

Raquel Echanique paints welling court Speaking with Raquel Echanique

How does your family feel about what your work as an artist.

They have never supported it. My mom encourages me, instead, to pursue steady, permanent work.

What percentage of your day is devoted to your art? Do you have a “day job?”

During the day I work at the Whitney Museum. When I’m not working, I’m doing my own art. Art occupies my mind all day!

What are some of your other interests?

I write poetry and I’ve won awards for my poetry back in South America.

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

I love them both. But I think of graffiti as a superior art form – in terms of the skills that it demands.

How you feel about the role of the Internet in this scene?

I think it’s fantastic. We can see what other artists are doing and other artists and the general public can see what we are doing.

Did you study art formally?

For brief periods of time! Twice in Ecuador and once in Argentina.

Raquel Echanique for centre fuge public art project Speaking with Raquel Echanique

What inspires you these days?

Everything I see inspires me!

Have any particular cultures influenced your aesthetic?

Certainly South American culture and its tradition of portraiture.

Do you work with a sketch in your hand or do you let it flow?

When I work in my studio, it is without a sketch. When I’m on the streets, I have with me a sketch with a concept.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

I love it!

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

It’s been getting stronger, especially since I moved to NYC.

Fumero and Raquel Echniqye street art Bushwick Collective NYC Speaking with Raquel Echanique

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

To put something really good – aesthetically pleasing – out there.

What about society’s view of the artist? How do you feel the artist is perceived?

The artist is – paradoxically — both respected and degraded.

How do you feel about the photographers and bloggers in this scene?

They are important, as they offer an alternative, more authentic, voice than the mainstream media.

What’s ahead?

My solo show, Chain Reaction, curated by Frankie Velez opens on Thursday, the 31st, at Spinelli Galleries in Chelsea.  On Saturday I am participating in the exhibit, Justice, at Succulent Studios in Greenpoint.  Next week I will be painting in the TAG Public Arts Project.  And — looking ahead — on Friday, October 3, I will be participating in Street Murals: An Exhibition, curated by Kevin Michael.

It all sounds great! Good luck!

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky. Photo 1, by Lenny Collado; photo 2, Welling Court, 2014 by Lois Stavsky; photo 3, Centre-fuge Public Art Project and photo 4, collab with Fumero by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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This is the 13th in an occasional series of posts featuring images of girls — and women — who grace our public spaces:

Swoon in Bushwick

swoon bushwick close up. Girls on Walls, Part XIII: Swoon, Bàlu, Jana & Js, Damien Mitchell, William Power & Joseph Meloy, Danielle Mastrion & Lexi Bella and Zeso

Bàlu in Inwood

Balu art girl Girls on Walls, Part XIII: Swoon, Bàlu, Jana & Js, Damien Mitchell, William Power & Joseph Meloy, Danielle Mastrion & Lexi Bella and Zeso

Jana and Js at the Bushwick Collective

Jana and Jes street art Bushwick Collective  Girls on Walls, Part XIII: Swoon, Bàlu, Jana & Js, Damien Mitchell, William Power & Joseph Meloy, Danielle Mastrion & Lexi Bella and Zeso

Damien Mitchell at the Bushwick Collective

damien mitchell nina simone street art Bushwick 2 Girls on Walls, Part XIII: Swoon, Bàlu, Jana & Js, Damien Mitchell, William Power & Joseph Meloy, Danielle Mastrion & Lexi Bella and Zeso

William Power and Joseph Meloy in the Bronx

William Powers and Joseph Meloy street art Bronx NYC Girls on Walls, Part XIII: Swoon, Bàlu, Jana & Js, Damien Mitchell, William Power & Joseph Meloy, Danielle Mastrion & Lexi Bella and Zeso

Danielle Mastrion and Lexi Bella at Welling Court

Danielle Mastrion and Lexi Bella street art Welling Court NYC 2 Girls on Walls, Part XIII: Swoon, Bàlu, Jana & Js, Damien Mitchell, William Power & Joseph Meloy, Danielle Mastrion & Lexi Bella and Zeso

Zeso in Garden City

Zeso street art Garden City New York1 Girls on Walls, Part XIII: Swoon, Bàlu, Jana & Js, Damien Mitchell, William Power & Joseph Meloy, Danielle Mastrion & Lexi Bella and Zeso

Photos of Swoon, Jana & Js, Danielle Mastrion & Lexi Bella by Dani Reyes Mozeson; of Bàlu, Damien Mitchell, William Power & Joseph Meloy by Lois Stavsky; of Zeso courtesy of the artist 

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Representing a range of artistic expressions from the comical to the spiritual,  Exit Room’s current exhibit COROGRAFIA features works by members of Puerto Rico’s celebrated EL CORO graffiti crew. Here’s a sampling of what can be seen through today:

Son

Son graffiti crew el coro exit room nyc COROGRAFIA Continues through Today at Exit Room in Bushwick with Son, Esco, Spear, Acty2 and Nepo

 Esco

Esco close up exit room COROGRAFIA Continues through Today at Exit Room in Bushwick with Son, Esco, Spear, Acty2 and Nepo

Spear

Spear el coro graffiti crew COROGRAFIA Continues through Today at Exit Room in Bushwick with Son, Esco, Spear, Acty2 and Nepo

Acty2

acty2 art on canvas COROGRAFIA Continues through Today at Exit Room in Bushwick with Son, Esco, Spear, Acty2 and Nepo

Nepo

Nepo El Coro graffiti crew COROGRAFIA Continues through Today at Exit Room in Bushwick with Son, Esco, Spear, Acty2 and Nepo

Located at 270 Meserole Street, right off the Montrose Ave. stop on the L train, the gallery space is open today, Sunday, from 5-8pm. Tentative plans for a closing party for August 2 are underway. Keep posted to Exit Room’s Facebook page for further details.

Photos of artwork by Lois Stavsky

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Zeso graffiti Long Islands Oil City Skate Park Transformed into Graffiti Wonderland with: Zeso, Shiro, Yes1, Soir 2, Skize, Hoacs, Just, Zimer and more

Earlier this year, over a dozen first-rate graffiti writers refashioned Long Island’s Oil City Skate Park. Under the curatorial direction of Zeso and his partner, Nino, the Oil City Skate Park Jam transformed the huge indoor venue into a graffiti wonderland. Here are a few more images that I captured while visiting last Sunday:

Shiro and Yes1

Shiro and yes one graffiti Long Islands Oil City Skate Park Transformed into Graffiti Wonderland with: Zeso, Shiro, Yes1, Soir 2, Skize, Hoacs, Just, Zimer and more

Zeso and Soir 2

Zeso and soir graffiti Long Islands Oil City Skate Park Transformed into Graffiti Wonderland with: Zeso, Shiro, Yes1, Soir 2, Skize, Hoacs, Just, Zimer and more

Skize

skize graffiti Long Islands Oil City Skate Park Transformed into Graffiti Wonderland with: Zeso, Shiro, Yes1, Soir 2, Skize, Hoacs, Just, Zimer and more

Hoacs

Hoacs grafffiti Long Islands Oil City Skate Park Transformed into Graffiti Wonderland with: Zeso, Shiro, Yes1, Soir 2, Skize, Hoacs, Just, Zimer and more

Just

Just One graffiti Long Islands Oil City Skate Park Transformed into Graffiti Wonderland with: Zeso, Shiro, Yes1, Soir 2, Skize, Hoacs, Just, Zimer and more

Zimer

Zimer graffiti Long Islands Oil City Skate Park Transformed into Graffiti Wonderland with: Zeso, Shiro, Yes1, Soir 2, Skize, Hoacs, Just, Zimer and more

Zeso

Zeso graffiti characters Oceanside Long Islands Oil City Skate Park Transformed into Graffiti Wonderland with: Zeso, Shiro, Yes1, Soir 2, Skize, Hoacs, Just, Zimer and more

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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The legendary Bronx-based graffiti artist John Matos aka Crash has been busy these days — with work on the streets, on exhibit and on Ferrari cars.  Here’s a sampling:

At work on the Lower East Side last month for the Lisa Project

crash paints in NYC The Legendary John Matos aka Crash    on the Streets, on Exhibit and on Ferrari Cars

Recently-completed mural up in the Bronx for TAG Public Arts Project

crash graffiti Bronx The Legendary John Matos aka Crash    on the Streets, on Exhibit and on Ferrari Cars

At opening of Broken English at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery

Crash at opening The Legendary John Matos aka Crash    on the Streets, on Exhibit and on Ferrari Cars

With spray paint on canvas in Broken English at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery, Wrapped in My Own Existence

Wrapped in my own existence The Legendary John Matos aka Crash    on the Streets, on Exhibit and on Ferrari Cars

On exhibit in City as Canvas at the Museum of the City of New York, acrylic on canvas, 1986

Crash city as canvas The Legendary John Matos aka Crash    on the Streets, on Exhibit and on Ferrari Cars

For the Crash Ferrari Art Project, a collaborative venture with Joe “MAC” of Martino Auto Concepts and the Dorian Grey Gallery, on exhibit beginning today, July 24, through July 28 at Art Southampton

Matos art on Ferrari The Legendary John Matos aka Crash    on the Streets, on Exhibit and on Ferrari Cars

Matos paints auto The Legendary John Matos aka Crash    on the Streets, on Exhibit and on Ferrari Cars

Matos and Martino Auto concepts The Legendary John Matos aka Crash    on the Streets, on Exhibit and on Ferrari Cars

Photos: 1, 3 and 5 by Dani Reyes Mozeson; photo 2 by Lois Stavsky; photo 4 courtesy of the artist and photos 6-8, courtesy Bettina Cataldi

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A multi-media artist who translates energy into mesmerizing artworks, Brooklyn-based Michael Alan is also the founder and director of Living Installations, where human beings are transformed into living art images. Michael Alan’s art has been featured in nine New York solo shows, over 200 group shows and in over 200 living installations. We were delighted to interview this gifted, prolific and passionate artist.

Michael Alan subway art Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

How did you first get into art? What inspired you?

I’ve been into art for as long as I can remember. My first inspirations were the Muppets and baseball. As a kid, I would draw cartoons.

Could you tell us something about the subject of your artwork these days? And the process?

My subjects are often people I observe while sitting here in McCarren Park.  I try to read their energy. I start by drawing a particular person’s body with a pen. And then when I’m back home, I often add watercolor or markers as I interpret the energy that I’ve felt.

What about your Living Installations? What was the initial idea behind them?

I wanted to create a space where people could come together in a positive way.  I wanted people to feel that they could accomplish whatever they set out to do. And I also wanted them to know that they don’t have to follow any pre-determined path.

Michael Alan public art installation Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

How has your family responded to your passions?

They’re proud of me. My mom actually participated in some of my performances.

What percentage of your waking hours is devoted to your art these days?

Including music, about 95%.

Can you tell us something about the role of music in your life?

When I’m working at home, I listen to music. And I always have music playing during my living installations. Music and art become one.

Michael Alan mixed media art Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

Have you collaborated with any other visual artists?

I’ve collaborated with my cousin Moody and with a few fine artists including Alex Katz.

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in the art scene?

If it weren’t for the Internet, I don’t know if I’d have a career.

Do you have a formal arts education? And was it worthwhile?

I have a BFA from the School of Visual Arts. As an art student, I received lots of positive feedback and, yes, that did make a difference.

Micahel Alan Mixed media art Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

What’s the riskiest thing you’ve ever done? And Why?

After damaging my spine at the Dumbo Arts Center, I continued moving and dancing.  Why? Because I was ignorant.  Also – setting my hat on fire while performing in Spain was quite risky.

Were you ever arrested?

A few times. Once the cops assumed that I was going to use a mask I had made for an installation to rob someone. And assorted materials – like photocopies of living installation projects – that the cops have found in my car have also led to arrests.

What inspires you these days?

Different people I meet and the energy they give off. Things that happen and how they make me feel – like my grief over the death of my dear friend DG.

Michael alan fine art Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

Are there any particular cultures you feel influenced your aesthetic?

I’ve been influenced by indigenous cultures, punk, new wave, African art, growing up in NYC and everything I’ve seen at the Museum of Natural History.

Do you work with a sketch in your hand or do you let it flow?

I work from line drawings.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Making art — in general — satisfies me. And if a drawing doesn’t work for me, I will somehow reuse it.

Michael Alan Mixed media art Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

How has your work evolved in the past few years? 

It is more mature, smoother and freer. I’m always learning in art, just as I’m learning in life. Art is life.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

To touch as many people as possible and to set people free.

What’s ahead?

I can’t even think about it. If I could, I’d be scared. But I know that I will keep going. More art and more struggle. And currently I’m at work on “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” a Living Installation for children.

Have you any message to others?

Whatever you do, push yourself and work hard at it. Working hard and creating art have kept me sane.

Interview conducted by City-as-School intern Travis Hicks with Lois Stavsky; images courtesy of the artist.

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Keo xmen graffiti NYC Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

On exhibit through this week at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village is Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip-Hop. Among its many highlights are: memorabilia featuring personal narratives and archives of hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa;  hip-hop party flyers and clothing designed by the late Buddy Esquire; original cells from the animated sequences of Charlie Ahearn’s film Wild Style and prints of Joe Conzo’s photographs of the early days of hip hop.

Here is a sampling of what greeted us when we visited this past Tuesday:

On the exterior of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise

Afrika Bambaataa Born in the Bronx NYC Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

U.K.- based Paul Insect‘s portrait of Afrika Bambaataa

Paul Insect street art NYC Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

And inside the gallery — noted DJ, producer and poet Rich Medina going though the bins of duplicates from Afrika Bambaataa‘s record collection

Rich Medina DJ Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

 Close-up from installation of Buddy Esquire‘s clothing and flyer designs

Buddy Esquire installation Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

Afrika Bambaataa fashioned from Bambaataa’s records by Paul Insect and Bäst

Bast recycled records Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

Selections from Joe Conzo’s’s seminal Born in the Bronx

Joe Conzo Photos Born in the Bronx Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

Joe Conzo and Charlie Ahearn

Joe Conzo Charlie Ahearn Born in the Bronx Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

The pioneering MC and hip-hop historian Grandmaster Caz

Grandmaster Caz Born in the Bronx Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

And legendary b-boy Crazy Legs

Crazy Legs Spinning Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

With Charlie Ahearn

Charlie ahearn and crazy legs Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

Exhibited by Boo-Hooray and curated by Johan Kugelberg, Born in the Bronx is an extraordinary tribute to hip-hop’s early days and its everlasting influence. And if you can get over there tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon — between 1-3pm — you will be treated to a Born In The Bronx Hot Platter Lunch DJ Session with DJ Jazzy Jay and DJ Rockin Rob. The gallery is located at 620 Greenwich Street at the corner of Leroy Street in the Village.

Photos 1-4, 7, 8 & 10 by Lois Stavsky;  5, 6 & 9 by Dani Reyes Mozeson; photo 1 features mural by Keo X-men

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Speaking with Tone MST

July 18, 2014

Characterized by bold strokes and a vigorous flow, Tone MST‘s graffiti surfaces mostly in Brooklyn.  Lenny Collado aka BK Lenny had the opportunity to interview him earlier this year:

Tone graffiti mural NYC Speaking with Tone MST

When and where did you start getting up?

I was in the sixth grade back in 1992. I was making my own markers at the time and practicing on 200-page packs of paper that I used to rack from the corner store. I had to make my own markers because I was dead broke.

How did you make your markers?

I took men’s Brute deodorants, popped off the balls and emptied the containers. I then filled the containers with ink.  I cut up my school’s black board erasers to serve as felt tips.  It was markers until ’94. That’s when I started street and train bombing.

Did you have any preferred surfaces back then?

I liked the train ads in the subway stations, because I would write on them smoothly with my home-made markers.

Tone graffiti art Speaking with Tone MST

Any major influence at the time?

My major influence at the time was Ski MST. He was rolling with writers and he got me acquainted. I was a loner for the most part. He got me to rack paint, and we would vibe off each other for style. We would rack cans on Steinway Street and go to the freight yards to empty out the cans.

Any particularly memorable events?

There was nine of us — Ski MST, Dope, Neke, Cloke, Vare, Pane and a couple of others. We all set out to do a lay-up in the tunnel between 36th street and Queens Plaza and video tape it. One of us hid the paint and a video camera in a sandbox where the tunnel workers kept their supplies. We scoped out the station for a while before setting out on the mission.

How did you guys get into the tunnel?

Some of us through the hatches on the streets above and some through the station.  We started catching wreck on the two trains that had parked between the stations. As everybody’s painting them, Pane, Cloke and me went to the other car and started on some bubble letters. Just as we started, one of the train’s lights turned on and began to move into the station. I saw too that the police had made their way down towards us.

Tone graffiti with character NYC Speaking with Tone MST

So what did you do?

We bounced. When I got out of that station, I must have run about a mile before my lungs gave in from the burn. It was a thrill like no other, and I enjoyed it. I loved bombin’!

Were you in any crews at the time?

I only push MST.

What was the attitude of your parents and your friends towards what you were doing?

My mother hated it, so I lied to her. I built a compartment in my closet to keep supplies. She would find my cans and throw them out. My friends would always point out how dirty I was.

Tone tag1 Speaking with Tone MST

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

It’s a thin line. Both project the same language and image, but they take different avenues. It’s like a GPS. All get to the same point, but through different avenues. The concept of graffiti needs to be explained to people who don’t understand it. Street art is a different entity. I like when the two are combined, like what Shepard Fairy and Cope do when they collaborate. I will say that street art is an extension of graffiti. It originated from graff.

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries?

I think it’s dope! It’s progress — a positive thing. My gallery, though, is the streets. But if a gallery asks, “Hey, Tone, can you put a show together?” I’m flattered and take it as a step forward.

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

Both! When I started bombing early on, I would do so alone with my Walkman on. I would listen to WKCR with Bobbito Garcia and Stretch and Tag. At one point, I was a vandal. They called me a vandal. But I didn’t get up as much as I wanted to. I didn’t do it to get status. I didn’t go all city, but I love what I did. It was who I was.

tonegraffiti Brooklyn NYC Speaking with Tone MST

Did you have a formal arts education?

I never pursued art school.

What is the source of your inspiration?

I’m inspired by Hip-Hop – rhyming and making beats.

Any particular artists who inspired you?

My influences are Hush, Gaze, Sub 5 and Emit of Sports Crew, MQ and Frantic and Free5. Giz from Queens also made impact on me. And there was Teck BS, Smith & Pink, Ve, Slash and Web13.

ToneMST graffiti Speaking with Tone MST

Do you work with a sketch in hand or do you do free hand?

It’s fifty, fifty. It depends on the situation.

What are your thoughts on the Internet in all of this?

The Internet is a tool, a means to communicate. Someone in Australia can get a look at what you’re doing here in NYC. But I think that graffiti has also been exploited because of it. It wasn’t meant for the masses, and the Internet made it accessible to everyone.

How has your work evolved throughout the years?

I’ve improved and honed my techniques. My pieces have gotten better.

TONE MST graffiti Greenpoint NYC Speaking with Tone MST

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

I’ll say there’s always space for improvement.

Interview conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky. Photos 1 (collab w/KA), 3, and 4 (combo) courtesy of the artist;  2 (collab w/UR New York), 5 & 6 by Lois Stavsky; 7  (collab w/Shiro and Yes One) by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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gallery nine5 will host a block party this evening — from 6-8pm — to celebrate the transformation of its gallery walls into a vibrant, magical public sphere. Here are a few recently captured images:

Vor138‘s completed piece with TATS CRU on the left and Bisco Smith to the right

Tats Cru andVor138 and Bisco Smith graffiti and street art gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

Vor138

Vor 138 graffiti gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

Shiro at work

Shiro paints gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

And her completed piece

Shiro graffiti characters Gallery Nine5 gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

Ket – who has been transforming his original piece with political references and names of victims of violence and war; it’s certain to look different this evening from the close-up captured here!

Ket political graffiti gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

And the always-wonderful Rubin415 at work on Monday

Rubin415 paints abstract graffiiti gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

gallery nine5 is located at 24 Spring Street, and if you can’t make it this evening, you can check out the site-specific exhibit through July 30.

group Ink gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

Photos: 1-4 by Dani Reyes Mozeson; 5-6 by Lois Stavsky

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BUffMonster Leanna Valente on Graffiti, Photography, “Instant Art Exposure” & more with: Buff Monster, Veng RWK, Hoacs, QA and Rubin &  Joe Iurato

With cameras in hand, Leanna Valente has spent the past 15 months photographing graffiti writers and street artists in progress.  She now has over 400 photos signed by the artists.  I recently had the opportunity to speak to Leanna about her brilliant Instant Art Exposure project and more:

Have you any early memories of graffiti or street art?

I remember first seeing graffiti as a young child. It was right down the block — under viaducts and bridges — from where I grew up in Buffalo. I loved it at first sight!

Have you, yourself, done any graffiti?

When I was about six, I attempted some bubble letters. And I still give it a try while doodling on a napkin!

What about other art forms? 

I’ve been doing art – of one kind or another — for as long as I can remember.

Veng street art NYC Leanna Valente on Graffiti, Photography, “Instant Art Exposure” & more with: Buff Monster, Veng RWK, Hoacs, QA and Rubin &  Joe Iurato

Any particular styles or genres?

Mainly mixed-media works of acrylic, spray paint, fabric and photography.

Have you shown your work in galleries or formal settings?

I started showing in galleries in 2003 while living in Atlanta. I also showed in Miami, in Southern California, in Buffalo and at alternative spaces in Brooklyn in 2010.

Have you studied art in a formal setting?

I’m basically self-taught. I’ve studied art informally at FIT here in NYC and at the Atlanta College of Art/SCAD when I was living in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hoacs graffiti NYC Leanna Valente on Graffiti, Photography, “Instant Art Exposure” & more with: Buff Monster, Veng RWK, Hoacs, QA and Rubin &  Joe Iurato

Can you tell us something about your photography projects?

My series Extreme Fashion Window Design in NYC focuses on extreme fashion window designs in Manhattan portraying the glamour and grit of the city.  Another series Trashion focuses on the exclusive branding found in our city’s trash. And my Instant Art Exposure project documents NYC’s street art and graffiti scene.

You are obviously quite passionate about street art and graffiti. 

Yes, I have been addicted to it for as long as I can remember, and I officially started documenting it in 2007. I love its unique beauty and grand size. It’s gutsy and challenging.  Just seeing it gives me an adrenalin rush!

I can relate to that! When did you begin this NYC project?

I became avidly serious about it about 14 months ago at Welling Court while watching Kingbee paint. He was the first to sign a photo.

Queen Andrea graffiti NYC Leanna Valente on Graffiti, Photography, “Instant Art Exposure” & more with: Buff Monster, Veng RWK, Hoacs, QA and Rubin &  Joe Iurato

And we all love your shots that the artists sign. It’s a brilliant concept. I wish I had thought of it myself! Did anything in particular inspire it?

Through documenting street art, graffiti and art/fashion mixes for my blog, I became even more interested in documenting the artists “in process.”  It became my way of paying respect to them and the hard work they put into each piece on the walls.  I felt that it was a unique and personal addition to the black book. And when artists began to respond enthusiastically, I continued.

Where is the project headed?

Well, people keep on asking me what I’m doing with it. Originally I was just doing it for myself. It was meant as a personal diary of photos to hang on my wall. But artists I’ve photographed and other people in the scene have suggested that I follow up on publishing a book and launching an exhibit that feature the works. And so in addition to what I do with my standard photography equipment, my primary focus now is on this project. Talks are now in the works for a series of books, gallery shows and select prints. I will never sell the originals, but I will choose, with the assistance of the artists, a select number to make into prints.

That sounds great! Who are some of the artists have you photographed?

They range from such legends as Blek le Rat, Lady Pink, Charlie Ahearn, Lee Quinones, Crash, Futura and Kenny Scharf to contemporary masters such as Shepard Fairey, Logan Hicks, Sp.One, Wane, Chris Stain, Billy Mode, Stik, Stinkfish, RWK and Icy and Sot. And I can’t imagine ever stopping!

Joe Iurato and Rubin street art Leanna Valente on Graffiti, Photography, “Instant Art Exposure” & more with: Buff Monster, Veng RWK, Hoacs, QA and Rubin &  Joe Iurato

Note: You can follow Leanna on Instagram at @leannav & #instantartexposure, in addition to her blog and her soon-to-be-launched website www.instantartexposure.com.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky.

Leanna’s photos: 1. Buff Monster 2. Veng RWK 3. Hoacs 4. Queen Andrea 5. Rubin & Joe Iurato

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