Books

 The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak, a graduate student in Museum Studies at New York University. 

Currently on view at the Museum of the City of New York through September 1, 2014 is the exhibit City as Canvas. To accompany the splendid exhibition featuring pivotal selections from Martin Wong’s exceptional graffiti art collection, the museum released a book by the same name. Edited by exhibit curator Sean Corcoran and cultural critic Carlo McCormick, it features hundreds of images, along with essays from experts in the field and artists’ recollections.

City As Canvas Cover  City as Canvas, New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection    A Look at the Companion Publication to the MCNY Exhibit

City as Canvas – New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection, the companion publication to the exhibitis a fascinating window not only into the graffiti that surfaced in the 80s, but also into the life of artist, collector, curator, and visionary Martin Wong.  A San Francisco native of Chinese origin, Wong moved to New York City’s Lower East Side in the 1980s.  Immediately inspired by the surge of graffiti, he at once sensed the creative value of the then teenage-run art movement. Wong’s collection documents the roots of the graffiti movement in NYC and the evolution of writing styles through the 1990s.

Graffiti Kids photograph Jon Naar 1973 MCNY  City as Canvas, New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection    A Look at the Companion Publication to the MCNY Exhibit

In his introductory essay, Sean Corcoran, Curator of Prints and Photography at the MCNY, explains how Wong championed young graffiti artists by befriending them, collecting their works and ultimately opening a museum dedicated to the art form (Museum of American Graffiti).  Essentially, Wong acquired artists’ black books and requested canvas reproductions of their street pieces – such as Lee Quiñones‘s iconic Howard the Duck, originally painted on a Lower East Side handball court wall. He also secured — what he considered to be — significant canvas pieces, such as Lady Pink’s Maniac Depression.  These reproductions form the bulk of the Martin Wong collection and are presented in the second section of the book, alongside biographies of twenty plus instrumental graffiti artists.

Lee Quinines Howard the Duck city as canvas  City as Canvas, New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection    A Look at the Companion Publication to the MCNY Exhibit

As does the exhibition, City as Canvas spotlights the young graffiti artists’ black books. Perhaps the collection’s most prized pieces, these books illustrate the process through which the young writers honed their skills and shared their styles. The publication features full-size pages of sketches and tags by artists such as Zephyr, Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring. True to the original sketches, the pages contain minimal color enhancement and retain their ancient paper background shade and old coffee stains .

Zyphyr black book city as convas  City as Canvas, New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection    A Look at the Companion Publication to the MCNY Exhibit

Finally, artists such as Lee Quiñones, Daze and Sharp share recollections of their first encounters with Wong. These unique testimonies illuminate Wong’s passionate personality and demonstrate his impact on legendary graffiti writers.   Quiñones remembers his friend telling him: “Just when it all seems done, this is when I am going to buy,” a sign of his “wholly commit[ment] to supporting our work in a difficult time.”

martin wong by peter bellamy 1985 mcny  City as Canvas, New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection    A Look at the Companion Publication to the MCNY Exhibit

Overall, City as Canvas provides an impeccable overview of the Martin Wong Collection treasured in the Museum of the City of New York.  The publication’s splendid aesthetics and stimulating essays serve as a vital introduction to graffiti art, as well as an indispensible document for aficionados of the iconic movement.

All images from City as Canvas, New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection © 2013 Museum of the City of New York, Inc. 1. Book cover featuring Lady Pink mural; 2. John Naar, Graffiti Kids, 1973; 3. Lee Quiñones, Howard the Duck; 4. Zephyr, black book; 5. Peter Bellamy, Martin Wong, 1985

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The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak, a graduate student in Museum Studies at New York University.

Outdoor Gallery NYC Icy and Sot street art On Yoav Litvins OUTDOOR GALLERY    New York City

As street art continues to gain legitimacy as a contemporary art movement throughout the world, New York City remains its cradle of birth and continues to attract artists from around the globe.  Gingko Press’s recently published Outdoor Gallery — New York City by author and photographer Yoav Litvin bears witness to the unmediated and diverse creative expression of New York City’s street art.  Thought provoking, comprehensive and aesthetically pleasing,  Outdoor Gallery presents hundreds of street art photographs, accompanied by interviews, featuring more than forty artists.

Outdoor Gallery NYC cover On Yoav Litvins OUTDOOR GALLERY    New York City

For two years Yoav immersed himself in the world of street artists, learning their visual language, engaging in their community and observing their habitus. Outdoor Gallery justly frames street art as a platform for disrupting society’s notion of the use of public space.  As the author states, street art is “a creative and non-violent form of rebellion.”

Outdoor Gallery NYC Toofly street art On Yoav Litvins OUTDOOR GALLERY    New York City

The author provides us with a rare opportunity to view the artists’ actual process.  Yoav photographs artist Adam Dare’s steps as he installs his signature bunny paste-up on scaffolding in the dark of the night.  Jilly Ballistic, known for subway site-specific images, also agrees to guide us through a 9-step process of pasting an image of a city officer in the Astor Place metro station.

Jilly Ballistic On Yoav Litvins OUTDOOR GALLERY    New York City

Although most of the photographs are taken soon after the images have surfaced, Yoav eloquently emphasizes the ephemeral nature of the art form in his opening commentary and throughout the interviews he conducted.  He also reminds us that street art is continuously at the mercy of many factors, such as neighborhood gentrification, weather conditions, vandalism and police intervention.   Photography serves as an ally in keeping the art works alive after they have faded or disappeared.

Outdoor Gallery NYC Hellbent street art On Yoav Litvins OUTDOOR GALLERY    New York City

The book’s narrative also acknowledges and insists on the diversity of mediums, surfaces and messages embedded in the art pieces.  The interviews inform us of the range of intention behind the pieces.  For some artists, such as gilf!, Enzo & Nio, and Icy & Sot, political commentary is the rationale behind their work.  Alice Mizrachi, on the other hand, uses her large-scale murals to encourage community engagement. Finally, street art serves as a creative outlet and as a form of self-expression. Shiro describes her signature character as her “alternative self, reflecting [her] experiences and emotions as [she] goes through life.”

Outdoor Gallery NYC Never street art On Yoav Litvins OUTDOOR GALLERY    New York City

This book provides remarkable insight into the motivations and the creative process of dozens of street artists whose works have surfaced in NYC. More than shedding light on the extraordinary talent of these artists, Outdoor Gallery inspires readers to discover for themselves the treasure trove of outdoor art New York City has to offer.

Outdoor Gallery — New York City can be ordered online at Amazon and is available from retailers worldwide including Low Brow Artique and Zakka in Brooklyn and Strand Books, the MoMA and Guggenheim Museum shops in Manhattan.

Images © Yoav Litvin 1. Icy & Sot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 2. Toofly in Bushwick, Brooklyn and in Astoria, Queens; 3. Jilly Ballistic process in underground metro; 4. Hellbent in Astoria, Queens & 5. Never Satisfied in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

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Speaking with 0H10M1ke

February 27, 2014

You may have seen 0H10M1ke on the streets of NYC or at a public event where he creates instant matchbook portraits of strangers he meets. We discovered him at work on his serially numbered one-minute portraits at the opening of LA2’s solo exhibit at the Leila Heller Gallery this past December.  We recently had the opportunity to find out more about him.

OHIO MIKE draws at Leila Heller Gallery1  Speaking with 0H10M1ke

When did you begin drawing? Is this something recent?

I never had a formal art education, but I’ve been drawing all my life. I started way back as a kid in Ohio. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t doodling or sketching on some surface.

When did you first come to NYC? And what was your initial experience like?

I moved here in 2002, and I became involved with a cult. I gave two years of my life to it, and by the time I left it, I couldn’t even draw a circle. I knew then that I had to reinvent myself.

How did you go about doing that?

The year of my 30th birthday – in 2006 – I did 1,000 drawings.  I started my matchbox series of portraits, and my work was featured in a show in Williamsburg. I completed portrait 10,000 on June, 2011 at Governor’s Island.

Ohio Mike at Leila Heller Gallery NYC  Speaking with 0H10M1ke

Have you continued to exhibit your work?

Yes, I’ve exhibited in a range of places from Berlin, Germany to Governor’s Island here in New York City.

What inspired you to create your artwork in public settings – where you interact almost entirely with strangers?

My inspiration came from seeing UFO’s work on NYC streets.  I love the way his iconic character surfaces unexpectedly.

These days, about what percentage of your time is devoted to art?

About 50%. I am a social worker by profession.

OHIO Mike Sketch  Speaking with 0H10M1ke

 

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

I began with one-line drawings and I have moved to color, digital and live drawings that I incorporate into performances.

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

My family loves me, but I don’t think they get it.

Any other interests?

Music. All kinds of music. I draw to music. It’s all about art and music. I create live drawings to the music of Comadante Zero, a Brooklyn-based electro funk music/art collective.

Ohio Mike Brooklyn Rooftop art NYC  Speaking with 0H10M1ke

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in all this?

I’m over it. We’ve been oversaturated.

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

I learned from Robert Henri how important it is to be a creator. According to Henri, the artist “enlightens and opens ways for better understanding.”

What about you? What’s ahead for you?

My goal is to create 100,000 matchbox portraits and tour with my band as its resident artist.

Ohio Mike Rooftop graffiti NYC  Speaking with 0H10M1ke

Editor’s note: 0H10M1ke will be drawing live with Comandante Zero at The Rubin Museum April 4 at 7 PM.

Photo 1 and 2: 0H10M1ke at the Leila Heller by Dani Reyes Mozeson; photo 3: 0H10M1ke sketch, courtesy of the artist; photos 4 and 5: PhotosL1ght Graff1t1 projected onto Brooklyn rooftop by Oz Skinner

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A stand-out among the street art books published this year is the brilliantly conceived and curated It’s a Stick-Up, designed by Oliver Walker aka Ollystudio with text by Margherita Dessanay. Published by Laurence King, it is devoted solely to the art of the wheat paste, featuring 20 real — easily removable — paste-ups by 20 international artists. Among those featured are two of our favorite Brooklyn-based artists: Dain and Cake.

Dain

Dain wheatpaste New York 2012 ITS A STICK UP Features Paste ups by Brooklyn based Artists Dain, Cake and 18 Other Global Masters of the Craft

Dain Eyes For You New York 2012 ITS A STICK UP Features Paste ups by Brooklyn based Artists Dain, Cake and 18 Other Global Masters of the Craft

Cake

Cake street art Its a Stick Up ITS A STICK UP Features Paste ups by Brooklyn based Artists Dain, Cake and 18 Other Global Masters of the Craft

Cake wheatpaste Its a Stick Up ITS A STICK UP Features Paste ups by Brooklyn based Artists Dain, Cake and 18 Other Global Masters of the Craft

 Book cover featuring Paul Insect 

Its a Stick Up COVER  ITS A STICK UP Features Paste ups by Brooklyn based Artists Dain, Cake and 18 Other Global Masters of the Craft

All images courtesy of Laurence King Publishing 

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DELUSIONAL cover Delusional: The Story of the Jonathan LeVine Gallery

Just how likely is it for a punk kid from a Trenton, NJ working-class background to emerge as a preeminent art dealer in Manhattan’s hottest gallery district?  When Jonathan LeVine spoke of establishing a gallery that would support artists who had been shunned by the mainstream art world, his friend and renowned critic, Carlo McCormick, deemed him “delusional.” But with passion and perseverance, Jonathan LeVine has triumphed, and among the many first-rate artists his gallery features are some of  street art’s finest including Shepard Fairey, Doze Green, Invader, Blek le Rat, WK and Blu. Caleb Neelon’s excellent book, Delusional: The Story of the Jonathan LeVine Gallery, offers an intimate look into the man behind the vision. Interviews with LeVine, along with observations from a range of folks, reveal a deeply humane individual with a fervent mission.

Adrift as a youngster, Jonathan LeVine was reborn in 1985, when, at age 16, he discovered the punk rock scene. The “misfits” this scene attracted were nothing like his high school peers who tormented him for being “different.” Soon LeVine began producing  fanzines and booking and promoting shows — the beginning of a life-long calling of nurturing artists he loved and sharing their work with others.

Delusional the story of the Jonathan LeVine Gallery Delusional: The Story of the Jonathan LeVine Gallery

After graduating from Montclair State College with a BA in art, LeVine spent time on both the West and East coasts, where he met fellow artists and art enthusiasts who now count among his closest friends.  As early as 1996, he organized a solo exhibition of Ron English’s work at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ, before moving on to curating CBGB’s gallery. The following year, he reached out to Shepard Fairey, offering him his first solo show in NYC.

In 2001, LeVine opened his own gallery Tin Pan Alley in New Hope, PA and a year later moved it to Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood. But the art market started booming and NYC was calling, so in 2005, LeVine made the move to NYC’s Chelsea, his current home.

Featured in Delusional are dozens of splendid images culled from exhibits that have graced the walls of the Jonathan LeVine Gallery. Interspersed, too, are comments – often insightful and revelatory — from a range of artists who have found a home with Jonathan in Chelsea.

Delusional images Delusional: The Story of the Jonathan LeVine Gallery

Available at most bookstores and online book sellers, Delusional: The Story of the Jonathan LeVine Gallery is currently on the display table at St. Mark’s Bookshop at 31 Third Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets in Manhattan.  You can also pick up an autographed copy at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery at 529 West 20th Street. Enjoy!

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