Graffiti

The finale of the Fabergé Big Egg Hunt began this past weekend and continues through Friday. Among the 260 egg sculptures on view at 30 Rockefeller Plaza are quite a few by artists with roots in the streets. Here’s a small sampling:

Vexta

Vexta street art egg The Big Egg Hunt Finale at Rockefeller Center through Friday with Vexta, Enx, Dain, Seen, Indie 184, Retna, Pure Evil, ASVP & more

Enx

enx street art egg The Big Egg Hunt Finale at Rockefeller Center through Friday with Vexta, Enx, Dain, Seen, Indie 184, Retna, Pure Evil, ASVP & more

Dain

dain street art egg The Big Egg Hunt Finale at Rockefeller Center through Friday with Vexta, Enx, Dain, Seen, Indie 184, Retna, Pure Evil, ASVP & more

Seen

seen egg street art nyc The Big Egg Hunt Finale at Rockefeller Center through Friday with Vexta, Enx, Dain, Seen, Indie 184, Retna, Pure Evil, ASVP & more

Indie 184

Indie 184 street art egg The Big Egg Hunt Finale at Rockefeller Center through Friday with Vexta, Enx, Dain, Seen, Indie 184, Retna, Pure Evil, ASVP & more

Retna

Retna street art egg The Big Egg Hunt Finale at Rockefeller Center through Friday with Vexta, Enx, Dain, Seen, Indie 184, Retna, Pure Evil, ASVP & more

Pure Evil

Pure Evil street art egg hunt The Big Egg Hunt Finale at Rockefeller Center through Friday with Vexta, Enx, Dain, Seen, Indie 184, Retna, Pure Evil, ASVP & more

ASVP

ASVP egg The Big Egg Hunt Finale at Rockefeller Center through Friday with Vexta, Enx, Dain, Seen, Indie 184, Retna, Pure Evil, ASVP & more

Friday marks the final day of the auction with all proceeds going to Studio in a School and to Elephant Family.

Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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This is the second in a three-part series featuring first-rate graffiti walls that have recently surfaced in the vicinity of the Morgan stop on the L train:

Vor 138 at work

Vor138 graffiti bushwick 2 Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

Asend

Asend graffiti bushwick NYC Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

 Logek

Logek graffiti bushwick Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

Doves

Doves graffiti Bushwick2 Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

 Greg Lamarche aka SP.One

SP.one graffiti Bushwick NYC Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

Yes1 at work

Yes 1 graffiti Bushwick Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

Photos of Deves and SP.One by Rachel Fawn Alban; Vor 138, Logek and Yes1 by Dani Reyes Mozeson and Asend by Lois Stavsky

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A native of Barranquilla, Colombia, MICO is an undisputed pioneer of subway art. One of the first writers to get his name up in the early 70’s, MICO also used the trains that rolled through NYC to deliver powerful socio-political messages.

Keith Baugh Subway Outlaws MICO graffiti Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

When and where did you first get up?

It was back in 1970 inside Erasmus High School in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. I used a pen at the time and thought it was so cool!

What inspired you back then?

Our main inspiration was the idea of writin’ our names everywhere and becoming known or famous. Also, I had no other creative outlets for self-expression. My high school didn’t offer me any art classes, and that frustrated me. I also, began meeting other writers like Undertaker Ash, WG, King of Kools, Dino Nod, Half, DECO, and along with my new found Colombian friends, we decided to start competing with those other writers that were already hittin’ the neighborhood walls.

Mico tag LL train NYC Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

Mico Hang Nixon graffiti on train Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

Any early memories that stand out?

My first MICO hit on a street wall with spray paint. I remember finding a can of silver paint in my building’s basement. And I used it to hit the base of a store window at the corner of Beverly Road and Flatbush Avenue.

What about your name? How did you come up with MICO?

Back in Colombia, there was a kid in my class who looked like a monkey. In Colombia, it is quite customary to be called a nickname, so we called him MICO, which means monkey in Colombia.  That guy actually did look like a monkey. Obviously, he didn’t like the idea of being called a monkey. My best friend and I decided to write MICO all over the school walls with white chalk — to drive this guy crazy. Once in NYC, and in need of a name to hit, I thought that if I wrote MICO all over NYC, and that guy from Colombia ever visited and saw “MICO” on NYC walls, he would probably get a heart of attack.

Mico graffiti Bogota Colombia Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

When did you begin hitting the trains? And why?

Early 1972. Remember — my friends at Erasmus Hall H.S. and I wanted to be famous. Once we started hittin’ the streets, my main writin’ partner MANI said, “If we hit our names in big letters with spray paint on the subways, our names will get around even more, and we will be even more famous.” The rest is history. Now the friendly competition we had engaged in with the other writers in East Flatbush became an all-city friendly competition with writers from the Bronx, Manhattan and the rest of Brooklyn. This friendly competition, however, began at the same time that a guerilla war against the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority started — with life and death consequences.

You became known for your social and political messages – like “Hang Nixon,” and “Free Puerto Rico.” Can you tell us something about that?

From a young age, I always had a strong sense of social awareness and was sensitive to injustice the world over. I was always a newspaper reader. Once I started hittin’ the trains, I realized that I could use them as a vehicle to communicate socio-political stuff throughout NYC. And I did!

Mico with youngsters in Bogota Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

Were you ever arrested?

Yes. Back in the winter of 1972, Slim 1, a young Chinese writer, and I were bombing a newly-found RR underground train yard at City Hall. Apparently, they already had a video surveillance camera down there, and they sent down a uniformed cop to chase us out.  We ran into the tunnel and made our way to Canal Street. But when we got there, Detective Steve Schwartz, the notorious detective of the MTA’s anti-graffiti force, was waiting for us.

Any other arrests come to mind?

In ’75 – after I’d stopped getting up on trains — I got arrested, along with another UGA member, for painting clandestine murals throughout NYC for a rally that was to take place outside the UN on November 1, 1975 in support of five Puerto Rican nationalists.  The following morning, William Kunstler, the most famous radical lawyer at the time, showed up in the courtroom and had a private conference with the judge at the bench. We were immediately set free.

Mico spray paint Inwood NYC Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

What is the riskiest thing you ever did back then?

Probably having to climb down from the elevated tracks of the 4 train to the street in the cold winter while the cops were chasing me and others.

Were you involved with any crews?

In 1970, I co-founded with MANI, SALVAJES, the first all-Latino writin’ group in Brooklyn. It consisted of three Colombians and one writer from Spain. I also became the first writer from Brooklyn voted into UGA.

Mico with writers in Inwood NYC Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

How did your family feel about what you were doing?

My mother did not approve at all. I was made homeless by a decision she made when I was 16. That is one of the reasons I spent so much time on the trains.

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

It’s bittersweet as it takes it out of its original vandalism context and brings it into the world of commerce. And instead of your work being in a public space for everyone to enjoy or hate, it now belongs to some collector who hides the work in his or her collection.

Mico graffiti 5Pointz NYC Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

Have you exhibited your work in galleries?

Yes. My painting “MICOflag” was the first painting sold in the Razor Gallery in 1973. In fact, it was the first time in history that a spray paint masterpiece on canvas was purchased in an art gallery setting. I’ve also shown in other galleries and in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. In 2006 I was one of five US artists invited to participate in the 9th Havana Art Biennial.

In retrospect, have you any thoughts regarding the original school of writers?

We were the ones who sailed through unchartered waters. We risked our lives to the 600 volts of juice on the third real. Part of our experience was to discover the various layups and train yards for the next generation of writers. It was interesting that every single one of us in the Original School — who took what were doing seriously — always had a sense of originality. We tried to outdo ourselves with the next masterpiece, and we also had a sense of respect and tolerance for the work done by other writers.

lava Clyde Bama Mico NYC Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

What about the evolution of graffiti? What do you think about what’s happening these days?

I’m impressed!  Its technicality amazes me.

What about your art? How has it evolved through the years?

It’s evolved from letters to figures to abstract social realism, a style I began to develop in the mid 80’s.

Mico Puzzle Signature Collective Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

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

It all comes from my head. I never use in-hand-sketches. I do sketch on paper…but usually it becomes a work of art in itself

What inspires you these days?

Societal issues that arise in everyday life. Justice and injustice.

Are there any specific cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Indigenous and urban.

MIC0 abstract Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

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

His or her role is to express and convey ideas that need to be out there.  The artist is a recorder of historical events who gives these events an artistic twist.

What are some of your other interests?

My main focus these days is on my family, social and political realities and preserving nature.

If you were getting messages onto trains these days, what would your message be?

Why is there ALWAYS money for war, but not for education?

Why does the 1% continue to make life miserable for the other 99% – even if it means criminal behavior – AND get away with it?

What’s ahead?

More art.

Interview by Lois Stavsky with Richard Alicea; first image © Keith Baugh; all photos by MICO or Reserved Rights; photos 3 & 4 in Bogota, Colombia; all others in NYC

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Currently on exhibit at Chelsea’s ArtNowNY is “Push It,” an exuberant show featuring works by over 20 female artists working in a remarkable range of expressive modes.  Fresh new talents are showcased alongside legendary artists — many with roots in graffiti and street art. Here’s a sampling of works by six artists who consistently share their visions with us in public spaces:

Swoon

swoon art now Push It at Chelseas ArtNowNY through April 26    with Swoon, Elle, Lady Pink, Lady Aiko, Alice Mizrachi, Vexta, Maya Hayuk and more

Elle

elle canvas street art now Push It at Chelseas ArtNowNY through April 26    with Swoon, Elle, Lady Pink, Lady Aiko, Alice Mizrachi, Vexta, Maya Hayuk and more

Lady Pink

Lady Pink ArtNow Push It at Chelseas ArtNowNY through April 26    with Swoon, Elle, Lady Pink, Lady Aiko, Alice Mizrachi, Vexta, Maya Hayuk and more

Lady Aiko

Aiko canvas artnow nyc Push It at Chelseas ArtNowNY through April 26    with Swoon, Elle, Lady Pink, Lady Aiko, Alice Mizrachi, Vexta, Maya Hayuk and more

Alice Mizrachi

alice mizrachi art now nyc copy Push It at Chelseas ArtNowNY through April 26    with Swoon, Elle, Lady Pink, Lady Aiko, Alice Mizrachi, Vexta, Maya Hayuk and more

Vexta, close-up

vexta close up art now nyc Push It at Chelseas ArtNowNY through April 26    with Swoon, Elle, Lady Pink, Lady Aiko, Alice Mizrachi, Vexta, Maya Hayuk and more

Maya Hayuk

maya hayuk art now nyc2 Push It at Chelseas ArtNowNY through April 26    with Swoon, Elle, Lady Pink, Lady Aiko, Alice Mizrachi, Vexta, Maya Hayuk and more

Curated by Melissa McCaig-Welles, the exhibit continues through April 26 at ArtNowNY, 548 West 28th Street in Chelsea’s gallery district.

Images of artwork by Dani Reyes Mozeson, Lois Stavsky and City-as-School intern Dea Sumrall

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busy in bushwick Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

With the wicked wintry weather finally behind us, the Bushwick streets — in the vicinity of the L train’s Morgan station — have once again become a fresh canvas for both local and national writers. This is Part I of a three part series of what’s been happening:

Dero

Dero graffiti bushwick nyc Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Ribs GAK

ribs graffiti bushwick nyc Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Deem

Deem graffiti Bushwick Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Slom

Slom graffiti bushwick Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Bio of Tats Cru

Bio tats cru graffiti Bushwick1 Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Sebs

Sebs graffiti Bushwick NYC Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson and Lois Stavsky

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meres 5pointz white wash canvas W H I T E W A S H: A Requiem to 5Pointz at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery with Meres, Cortes, Zimad, See TF, Shiro and more through June 8

On November 19, 2013, 5 Pointz, the world’s aerosol art Mecca, was whitewashed overnight.  Its heartless destruction profoundly saddened not only the artists who called it home and those who traveled there from across the globe, but all of us who loved the creativity and camaraderie that 5Pointz represented. Currently on exhibit at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery, just a short walk from the site of the “art murder,” is W H I T E W A S H.  Curated by Marie Cecile-Flageul, it features the works of nine aerosol artists and two photographers.  Here’s a small sampling of what is on exhibit:

Another by Meres One

Meres graffiti whitewash 5Pointz W H I T E W A S H: A Requiem to 5Pointz at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery with Meres, Cortes, Zimad, See TF, Shiro and more through June 8

Christian Cortes

chris cortes whitewash 5Pointz graffiti W H I T E W A S H: A Requiem to 5Pointz at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery with Meres, Cortes, Zimad, See TF, Shiro and more through June 8

Zimad

Zimad painting 5pointz whitewash W H I T E W A S H: A Requiem to 5Pointz at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery with Meres, Cortes, Zimad, See TF, Shiro and more through June 8

See TF, close-up 

See tf close up whitewash 5pointz W H I T E W A S H: A Requiem to 5Pointz at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery with Meres, Cortes, Zimad, See TF, Shiro and more through June 8

Shiro

shiro 5pointz whitewash W H I T E W A S H: A Requiem to 5Pointz at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery with Meres, Cortes, Zimad, See TF, Shiro and more through June 8

Also on exhibit in W H I T E W A S H are works by AuksHans Von Rittern, Jerms, Just One, Orestes Gonzalez, Poem and Topaz.   The exhibition continues through June 8 at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery. Located at 2137 45th Road in Long Island City, the gallery is open Friday – Sunday 12-6pm and by appointment, 917 767 1734.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky and City-as-School intern, Dea Sumrall

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Belin and King Bee street art in Bronx Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

We’ve been huge fans of the Spanish artist Belin since we came upon his collaborative venture with Kingbee up in the Bronx awhile back. More recently, Belin was back in NYC painting in midtown Manhattan. That’s where we caught up with him.

When and where did you start getting up?

I started bombing the southern part of Linares, a small town in Andalusia, Spain in 1995. I was 15 at the time. I first went by the name Slam.

Who or what inspired you at the time?

I was always drawing. But then I discovered a black and white magazine produced at the time called Explicit Graff. It changed my whole mentality. I just wanted to get up in my city!

Belin street art in NYC Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

What was your first graffiti crew?

My first crew was LR—Linares Rompe. There were about three or four of us.

Do you have any particularly memorable graffiti memories from back then?

Yes. I remember getting a call from Lechu, a graffiti writer from Ubeda, Spain. Someone had told him I did graffiti. We talked, and he then rode on his motorcycle to Linares to paint with me. That was the first of many trips that he took! There was also Frejo, who tagged “Rasta.” He was from my same hood. He introduced me to rap and basketball. That was around 1997.

Belin street art Luisiana Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

What did your family and friends think about what you were doing?

My family thought nothing of it. And the preppie kids I hung out with in my neighborhood took no interest in what I was doing. My friend was Frejo.

How much time of your time is devoted to art these days?

I work on my art all the time. If I’m not doing it, I’m thinking about it.

Belin Mücke32 street art Germany Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

What are your thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

Graffiti is freehand spray-painted letters. It is a form of street art, but street art is not graffiti. Street artists, like Banksy, often have a political or social agenda. Graffiti is primarily one’s name.

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

It works for me. It’s art either way. The artist needs to eat, too. Gallerists make money for the artists, as well as for themselves. They know how to talk and sell art. And it’s a lot about knowing how to talk. Unfortunately there are weak artists who sell because someone knows how to talk them up, while others, who are quite good, can’t even get into galleries.

Belin street art mural close up NYC Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

What inspires you these days?

The urban environment inspires me. New York inspires me.  There is a lot of energy here. And people are always awake.

How do you feel about collaborations?

It depends. I like to work with other writers on murals. But when I’m in the studio, I like to work alone.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

No. Everything influences me. I watch documentaries.  I listen to music. I read the news. I observe people on the streets. It all comes together in my work. My daily life is my inspiration.

Belin street art Boton Rouge Louisiana EEUU Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

Do you have a formal arts education?

No. I failed school. I liked painting and hanging with my friends more. And I was quite athletic. I played a lot of basketball and even got my black belt in karate. I think that’s why I enjoy graffiti so much. It’s about physical movement and creation and beauty. It’s like dancing.

Do you work with a sketch in hand?

I never used to. My work was mostly freestyle. But these days, I like to plan my work in advance.

Belin street art Mexico Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

And you generally satisfied with your work?

Yes!

Have you any thoughts on the role of the Internet in all this?

I feel good about it. It helps my art reach people and it’s a great resource.

How do you feel about the bloggers and photographers of this whole movement?

They are important. They help the artists get places.

Interview conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky. Photo credits 1.  Lois Stavsky;  2. & 5.  Dani Reyes Mozeson; all others courtesy of the artist

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This is the fourth in an occasional series featuring images of New York City’s doors that sport everything from tags and stickers to sophisticated images.

Ewok in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

ewok street art on door NYC NYC’s Expressive Doors, Part IV:  Ewok, Mor, David Shillinglaw, Jordan Betten, Stikki Peaches, Alice Mizrachi, Jerkface, LMNOP and Ludo

Mor in Downtown Manhattan

Mor stencil art NYC 2 NYC’s Expressive Doors, Part IV:  Ewok, Mor, David Shillinglaw, Jordan Betten, Stikki Peaches, Alice Mizrachi, Jerkface, LMNOP and Ludo

Long-running David Shillinglaw in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

David Shillinglaw street art NYC NYC’s Expressive Doors, Part IV:  Ewok, Mor, David Shillinglaw, Jordan Betten, Stikki Peaches, Alice Mizrachi, Jerkface, LMNOP and Ludo

Stikki Peaches in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

stikki peaches street art nyc NYC’s Expressive Doors, Part IV:  Ewok, Mor, David Shillinglaw, Jordan Betten, Stikki Peaches, Alice Mizrachi, Jerkface, LMNOP and Ludo

Jordan Betten in Chelsea

Jordan Betten street art NYC NYC’s Expressive Doors, Part IV:  Ewok, Mor, David Shillinglaw, Jordan Betten, Stikki Peaches, Alice Mizrachi, Jerkface, LMNOP and Ludo

Alice Mizrachi aka AM in abandoned East Village building

alice door NYC’s Expressive Doors, Part IV:  Ewok, Mor, David Shillinglaw, Jordan Betten, Stikki Peaches, Alice Mizrachi, Jerkface, LMNOP and Ludo

Jerkface in Little Italy

jerk face NoLita NYC’s Expressive Doors, Part IV:  Ewok, Mor, David Shillinglaw, Jordan Betten, Stikki Peaches, Alice Mizrachi, Jerkface, LMNOP and Ludo

LMNOP in Bushwick, Brooklyn

LMNBOP street art Bushwick NYC’s Expressive Doors, Part IV:  Ewok, Mor, David Shillinglaw, Jordan Betten, Stikki Peaches, Alice Mizrachi, Jerkface, LMNOP and Ludo

Ludo in Little Italy

Ludo on door NYC’s Expressive Doors, Part IV:  Ewok, Mor, David Shillinglaw, Jordan Betten, Stikki Peaches, Alice Mizrachi, Jerkface, LMNOP and Ludo

Photos of  Mor, Jordan Betten, Alice Mizrachi, Jerkface and Ludo by Dani Reyes Mozeson; of Stikki Peaches by Emily Robertson; of Ewok, David Shillinglaw and LMNOP by Lois Stavsky

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This is the fourth in a series of occasional posts showcasing sticker art that surfaces on an array of NYC public surfaces:

Screwtape’s homage to Army of One

screw tape sticker art NYC NYC Sticker Art — Part IV: Screwtape, Skullphone, Kosby, Fling, RAE, Faust, RealAbstract, CB23, Zato and Sticker Nerds 3 Call for Stickers

Skullphone goes small

skull phone sticker NYC Sticker Art — Part IV: Screwtape, Skullphone, Kosby, Fling, RAE, Faust, RealAbstract, CB23, Zato and Sticker Nerds 3 Call for Stickers

One of Kosby‘s many musings

Kosby NYC Sticker Art — Part IV: Screwtape, Skullphone, Kosby, Fling, RAE, Faust, RealAbstract, CB23, Zato and Sticker Nerds 3 Call for Stickers

Fling’s curious creature

Fling street art stciker character NYC NYC Sticker Art — Part IV: Screwtape, Skullphone, Kosby, Fling, RAE, Faust, RealAbstract, CB23, Zato and Sticker Nerds 3 Call for Stickers

RAE’s lovable, zany character

RAE street art sticker NYC NYC Sticker Art — Part IV: Screwtape, Skullphone, Kosby, Fling, RAE, Faust, RealAbstract, CB23, Zato and Sticker Nerds 3 Call for Stickers

Faust‘s calligraphic handstyle

faust NYC Sticker Art — Part IV: Screwtape, Skullphone, Kosby, Fling, RAE, Faust, RealAbstract, CB23, Zato and Sticker Nerds 3 Call for Stickers

Milwaukee-based RealAbstract‘s magnetic sticker

real abstract street art sticker NYC NYC Sticker Art — Part IV: Screwtape, Skullphone, Kosby, Fling, RAE, Faust, RealAbstract, CB23, Zato and Sticker Nerds 3 Call for Stickers

CB 23′s now-iconic character in the rain

CB 23 NYC Sticker Art — Part IV: Screwtape, Skullphone, Kosby, Fling, RAE, Faust, RealAbstract, CB23, Zato and Sticker Nerds 3 Call for Stickers

Zato’s much-loved fellow

Zato street art sticker NYC NYC Sticker Art — Part IV: Screwtape, Skullphone, Kosby, Fling, RAE, Faust, RealAbstract, CB23, Zato and Sticker Nerds 3 Call for Stickers

And for those stickerheads who’d like to participate in the upcoming Sticker Nerds 3, organized by the inimitable Skam Sticker, the deadline to get your slaps in is this Friday, March, 14th.  Send them to Sticker Nerds 3, Post Office Box 13492, Portland, Oregon 97213.

sticker nerds 3 NYC Sticker Art — Part IV: Screwtape, Skullphone, Kosby, Fling, RAE, Faust, RealAbstract, CB23, Zato and Sticker Nerds 3 Call for Stickers

Photos of NYC sticker art by Lenny Collado, Dani Reyes Mozeson and Lois Stavsky

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Born in Canada, Lady K-Fever is a NYC-based interdisciplinary artist, art educator and curator. A recipient of numerous grants, she currently works with the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Bronx River Arts Center and the Laundromat Project.

Lady K Fever graffiti NYC Speaking with Lady K Fever

When and where did you start getting up?

I started bombing in Vancouver, Canada in the early 90’s. I got all over the city. No block was safe.

What inspired you back then?

In 1992, I found The Faith of Graffiti at a thrift shop and bought a bootleg copy of Wild Style. I immediately fell in love with graffiti.  I was also into skateboarding at the time, and I was a member of the Riot Grrlzs: The Vancouver Chapter.  We were invited to create an installation for an exhibition “Artropolis 1993.” We collaborated to create a graffiti-inspired tag wall about human rights.

What spurred your interest and engagement in social issues?

I was inspired by activism of the Black Panthers and counter culture of the 1960’s & 70’s.

What about graffiti crews? Did you belong to any?

My first crew was the one I created with some of my friends in Vancouver, the ILC crew: The Independent Ladies Crew. I have since put down with lots of other crews: CAC, TLV (the Latin Vandals), IBM, and WOTS.  Right now I am down with KD-TDS-INDS.

Lady K Fever and Cern Speaking with Lady K Fever

Any early graffiti memories?

I’ll always remember the first three-color piece/bomb I did on my own.  It was all about timing.  It was in 1996 in downtown Vancouver, and I had hidden behind a car. I started to paint in the shadow of the car and hide when traffic was coming by. It was a thrill, and I wanted to do more.

When did you first get up in NYC?

My first time painting here was in 2001 at The Phun Phactory before it became 5Pointz. While there, I met so many people and artists who have helped me along my path. I am so grateful that there was a place like that – a place for the global graffiti movement to connect and blossom in New York City.

Have you ever been arrested?

Pleading the 5th and the 4th. 

Have you exhibited your works?

I began exhibiting my work in galleries in 1993 in Vancouver.  In NYC, I have exhibited at  the Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, Longwood Art Gallery, The Corridor Gallery, Andrew Freedman Home and MoMA.

HOWIEGARCIA LADYKFEVER Kathleena 12 op 640x356 Speaking with Lady K Fever

What percentage of your time is devoted to your artwork?

100 percent. All day. Every day. It’s my life. Life is my art. My art is the facilitation of my experiences as a creative human on this planet. I am inspired and find inspiration all day long.

Have you made money from your work?

I sell pieces, do commissions, apply for grants and residencies, teach and consult with museums and arts organizations, speak at schools and conduct workshops. Hustle is hustle.

Any thoughts about the so-called graffiti/street art divide?

The boundaries continue to blur.  I thought we all fought hard for graffiti to be considered “art”. A writer is a writer; an artist is an artist. Both are valid and beautiful and all artists have the right to decide how they want to be identified. What I do not like is the dogma and the prejudices that arise. If graffiti and street art are ultimately forms of freedom of expression, then what really is going on?

Do you prefer working alone or working with others?

Both. I like working alone, and I like the interaction that happens when artists work together. I go through phases.

Lady Fever students Speaking with Lady K Fever

Do you have a formal arts education?

Yes and no. I studied fine art in high school and in college, but I formally went on to major in Theatre.  I worked as a studio assistant with a Canadian pottery artist and as a scenic painter on film/TV sets to gain art trade skills.

What is the riskiest thing you’ve done?

I have done a lot of risky things. On my last day in Toronto, I did a bridge piece along a highway in downtown Toronto.  I wrote the name Lady K Fever in huge letters on the whole bridge.  As I was finishing, I saw a set of police lights flash across the highway. I ran and hid all the way home. That was my exit from Toronto.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

I’m influenced by all cultures. I go through inspirational phases. I love texture and color. I like to work with Indian, African and Mexican fabrics and designs.  Music is also an influence – its sounds, beats and lyrics.

Are you generally satisfied with a finished piece?

Yes and no.  Sometimes, I just have to walk away and move on to the next.

Fever graffiti South Bronx Husky Speaking with Lady K Fever

How has your work evolved throughout the years?

I continue to refine my style and explore concepts.

How would you describe the role of the artist in society?

The artist’s role is to tell stories through personal and collective reflections and responses and to raise questions. The artist is a messenger of universal truth who challenges others to see and acknowledge what they might not want to

Interview with Lady K-Fever conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky; photo credits 1. Lenny Collado; 2. Tara Murray; 3 – 5. courtesy of the artist

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