Graffiti

The first day of spring 2015 brought wintry snow to NYC. Here are a few images I captured while in Greenpoint for the day:

 Phetus

phetus greenpoint Back to Greenpoint on a Snowy First Day of Spring with Phetus, Matthew Denton Burrows, Cern, Faring Purth, Shiro, Yes One, Tone. Miro & more

Matthew Denton Burrows

matthew denton burrows street art nyc Back to Greenpoint on a Snowy First Day of Spring with Phetus, Matthew Denton Burrows, Cern, Faring Purth, Shiro, Yes One, Tone. Miro & more

Cern

Cern street art greenpoint Brooklyn NYC Back to Greenpoint on a Snowy First Day of Spring with Phetus, Matthew Denton Burrows, Cern, Faring Purth, Shiro, Yes One, Tone. Miro & more

Tone

tone greenpoint Back to Greenpoint on a Snowy First Day of Spring with Phetus, Matthew Denton Burrows, Cern, Faring Purth, Shiro, Yes One, Tone. Miro & more

 Faring Purth

Farin Purth greenpoint NYC Back to Greenpoint on a Snowy First Day of Spring with Phetus, Matthew Denton Burrows, Cern, Faring Purth, Shiro, Yes One, Tone. Miro & more

ShiroYes One and Tone MST

shiro yes1 tone graffiti greenpoint nyc Back to Greenpoint on a Snowy First Day of Spring with Phetus, Matthew Denton Burrows, Cern, Faring Purth, Shiro, Yes One, Tone. Miro & more

To be identified

greenpoint graffiti nyc Back to Greenpoint on a Snowy First Day of Spring with Phetus, Matthew Denton Burrows, Cern, Faring Purth, Shiro, Yes One, Tone. Miro & more

 Miro RIS (& Shiro, top right)

Miro graffiti Greenpoint nyc Back to Greenpoint on a Snowy First Day of Spring with Phetus, Matthew Denton Burrows, Cern, Faring Purth, Shiro, Yes One, Tone. Miro & more 

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Home to three distinct galleries – Artemisia GalleryAzart Gallery and MZ Urban Art – Chelsea 27 is currently presenting Spring Group Show featuring works by an eclectic range of emerging and established international artists. While visiting the gallery yesterday, we had the opportunity to speak to Marina Hadley, owner of MZ Urban Art.

pez azart <em>Spring Group Show</em> at Chelsea 27: El Pez, Kokian, Sliks, Sen2, Esther Barend, Kurar, Joyce DiBona and more

Can you tell us something about Chelsea 27?  This current exhibit features artworks presented by three distinct galleries, yet the pieces seem to seamlessly work together. 

We are three friends. I had previously worked with Latifa Metheny, the owner of Azart Gallery, at 547 West 27th Street, and I met Christine Jeanquier, who runs Artemisia Gallery, through a mutual friend.  We respect each other’s visions and choices.

kokian artwork artemisia <em>Spring Group Show</em> at Chelsea 27: El Pez, Kokian, Sliks, Sen2, Esther Barend, Kurar, Joyce DiBona and more

You seem to all share a somewhat similar vision. 

Yes, we are interested in showcasing emerging and contemporary artists — who are working in a range of media and styles – from across the globe. We are interested, too, in discovering new talents. Latifa Metheny particularly focuses on the culture of street art and Christine Jeanquier on French artists.

sliks abstract art chelsea27 <em>Spring Group Show</em> at Chelsea 27: El Pez, Kokian, Sliks, Sen2, Esther Barend, Kurar, Joyce DiBona and more

 Why did you choose this particular location?

It is on the ground level of an ideal space in the heart of the Chelsea art district. It was a step I was ready to take, as it is the perfect location for attracting serious collectors.

sen2 azart galllery <em>Spring Group Show</em> at Chelsea 27: El Pez, Kokian, Sliks, Sen2, Esther Barend, Kurar, Joyce DiBona and more

Yes, it does seem perfect! What advice would you offer an emerging artist who would like to see his work featured in a Chelsea gallery?

Before approaching a gallery, get to know its owner and the work that it features. That is how you will know if the gallery is likely to be receptive to your work. Be sure to have a professional-looking website with each image labeled with its size and medium. When visiting a gallery, bring business cards and a cover letter that look professional. Check out — as often as possible — what other artists are doing. Work hard and be persistent! And be sure to have a body of work and a recognizable style before approaching a gallery owner.

Esther Barand <em>Spring Group Show</em> at Chelsea 27: El Pez, Kokian, Sliks, Sen2, Esther Barend, Kurar, Joyce DiBona and more

That certainly sounds like great advice! Is there anything in particular that you, yourself, look for in an artist?

Yes, I look for someone who has a statement to make and is willing to take risks to make it. I develop a personal relationship with each artist whose works I exhibit.

kurar stencil artist artemisa <em>Spring Group Show</em> at Chelsea 27: El Pez, Kokian, Sliks, Sen2, Esther Barend, Kurar, Joyce DiBona and more

So much is happening in the contemporary art scene. How do you keep up with it all?

I follow social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. I regularly read the New York Times, the London Times and the LA Times. I read essential blogs and I talk to people.

Joyce DiBona MZ Urban Art <em>Spring Group Show</em> at Chelsea 27: El Pez, Kokian, Sliks, Sen2, Esther Barend, Kurar, Joyce DiBona and more

We’re looking forward to upcoming exhibits and events, and we are delighted that Chelsea 27 is showcasing so many artists who are active on our streets.

Note:  The exhibit continues through Saturday, March 21.

 Artworks

1. El Pez 

2. Kokian

3. Sliks

4. Sen2

5. Esther Barend, close-up

6. Kurar

7. Joyce DiBona

Interview by Lois Stavsky with City-as-School intern Zachariah Messaoud

Photo credits: 1, 2, 5 & 6 City-as-School intern Zachariah Messaoud; 3 & 7 Lois Stavsky and 4 Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Betso Mickey Splash PIQ <em>Twisted Mouse</em> at Grand Centrals PIQ Pays Homage to Mickey Mouse: Betso, Eric Orr, Sienide, Miss Zukie, Chris RWK and more

An extraordinary range of artworks in various media celebrating the iconic Mickey Mouse is currently on exhibit at PIQ at 8 Grand Central Terminal in the Shuttle Passage. Among the artists featured in Twisted Mouse are many who also grace the streets of our cities. I recently had the opportunity to speak to its curator, Sabina Nowik.

Can you tell us something about this exhibit? What is happening here?

It is a celebration of Mickey Mouse with dozens of works ranging from the quirky to the gruesome.

Eric orr Mickey Mouse PIQ <em>Twisted Mouse</em> at Grand Centrals PIQ Pays Homage to Mickey Mouse: Betso, Eric Orr, Sienide, Miss Zukie, Chris RWK and more

Why Mickey Mouse? What is his significance to you?

Having lived and worked in Orlando, Florida, I’ve always had a special relationship with Disney’s characters. Mickey Mouse represents youth and fun!

sienide artwork Mickey Mouse PIQ <em>Twisted Mouse</em> at Grand Centrals PIQ Pays Homage to Mickey Mouse: Betso, Eric Orr, Sienide, Miss Zukie, Chris RWK and more

How did you bring such an extraordinary array of artists together? How did you find them all?

I knew some of the artists from the previous exhibit here at PIQ; some I discovered via word-of-mouth. And I did considerable online research.

Miss Zukie Mickey PIQ <em>Twisted Mouse</em> at Grand Centrals PIQ Pays Homage to Mickey Mouse: Betso, Eric Orr, Sienide, Miss Zukie, Chris RWK and more

What was the experience like? Was it different from what you had expected?

It was very pleasant, as I had expected it to be. But the installation itself — incorporating everything from soft vinyl to triptych art — came together far more seamlessly than I had anticipated.

chris rwk art piq <em>Twisted Mouse</em> at Grand Centrals PIQ Pays Homage to Mickey Mouse: Betso, Eric Orr, Sienide, Miss Zukie, Chris RWK and more

Note: Twisted Mouse continues through March, with many artworks to remain on exhibit through April. Hours: Monday-Thursday: 8-10 | Friday 8-11 | Saturday: 8-10 | Sunday 9-9.

Artworks

1. Betso, Mickey Splash

2. Eric Orr, Max with Mickey Ears

3. Sienide, Wickey Mouse

4. Miss Zukie, Stuffed Mouse

5. Chris RWK, Tourist Trap

Photo credits: 1 Sara C. Mozeson; 2 – 4 Lois Stavsky and 5 courtesy of the artist

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Andre downtown Manhattan NYC street art Curious Characters on NYC Streets, Part VI: André, Bradley Theodore, Kashink, Dasic & Spok Briller, RRobots, See One, Rob Plater, Nepo & Son

This is the sixth in a series of occasional posts featuring the range of curious characters that have made their way onto NYC open spaces:

French artist André in Downtown Manhattan

andre. street art nyc Curious Characters on NYC Streets, Part VI: André, Bradley Theodore, Kashink, Dasic & Spok Briller, RRobots, See One, Rob Plater, Nepo & Son

Bradley Theodore in SoHo

Bradley theodore street art nyc Curious Characters on NYC Streets, Part VI: André, Bradley Theodore, Kashink, Dasic & Spok Briller, RRobots, See One, Rob Plater, Nepo & Son

French artist Kashink in Bushwick 

Kashink street art nyc Curious Characters on NYC Streets, Part VI: André, Bradley Theodore, Kashink, Dasic & Spok Briller, RRobots, See One, Rob Plater, Nepo & Son

Dasic and Spanish artist Spok Briller at the Bushwick Collective

Dasic spok brillor street art Curious Characters on NYC Streets, Part VI: André, Bradley Theodore, Kashink, Dasic & Spok Briller, RRobots, See One, Rob Plater, Nepo & Son

 Nick Kuszyk aka RRobots in Williamsburg

RRobot street art nyc Curious Characters on NYC Streets, Part VI: André, Bradley Theodore, Kashink, Dasic & Spok Briller, RRobots, See One, Rob Plater, Nepo & Son

See One at the Bushwick Collective

see one street art NYC Curious Characters on NYC Streets, Part VI: André, Bradley Theodore, Kashink, Dasic & Spok Briller, RRobots, See One, Rob Plater, Nepo & Son

Robert Plater for JMZ Walls

Robert plater Curious Characters on NYC Streets, Part VI: André, Bradley Theodore, Kashink, Dasic & Spok Briller, RRobots, See One, Rob Plater, Nepo & Son

Puerto Rican artists Nepo and Son in Bushwick for this past summer’s Juicy Art Fest

Nepo son street art Curious Characters on NYC Streets, Part VI: André, Bradley Theodore, Kashink, Dasic & Spok Briller, RRobots, See One, Rob Plater, Nepo & Son

Photos: 1, 2, 5-7 & 9  Lois Stavsky; 3 Dani Reyes Mozeson; 4 & 8 Tara Murray

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jared Levy Cern Updating Philosophies Speaking with Brooklyn Based Director and Cinematographer Jared Levy

Brooklyn-based director and cinematographer Jared Levy has traveled the world pursuing his distinct docu-journalism.  Among his projects is Graffiti Fine Art, an award-winning documentation of artists who participated in the 1st International Graffiti Biennial in São Paulo, Brazil. More recently, NYC’s Cern was the subject of a short film called Updating Philosophies. Eager to find out more, I met up with him last week in Williamsburg.

Your award-winning film Graffiti Fine Art is a wondrous ode to graffiti. What drew you to graffiti? Any early memories?

I grew up in a small town on Long Island, where there was no graffiti. And I was indifferent to it on my trips into the city. It was when I visited São Paulo in 2009 that I first discovered it on another level and appreciated it.

Ces graffiti fine art Speaking with Brooklyn Based Director and Cinematographer Jared Levy

What brought you to São Paulo?

I had recently graduated from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, and I was interested in developing a portfolio. After spending two weeks on vacation in Brazil during Carnaval, I was eager to return to the country. I arrived without any preconceived notion about what topics I would cover. At the time I felt like it was better to explore what was there than to conjure up ideas about a place I didn’t know. It didn’t take long for São Paulo’s graffiti to grab my attention. The city is completely covered in paint.

How were you able to meet and connect to so many street artists in a relatively short period of time?

Lots of serendipity!  I was at a bar in São Paulo when I mentioned to one of the few English-speakers there, Nathalie Stahelin, that I was interested in the art I’d seen on the walls of the city. She introduced me to Melton Magidson, the former owner of Magidson Fine Art on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Melton then introduced me to Ethos, who became the subject of my first graf video. Up until that point it had been three relatively frustrating months of dead ends. These encounters, which all happened within a crazy two-day span, dramatically changed my entire situation in Brazil.

Suiko graffiti fine art Speaking with Brooklyn Based Director and Cinematographer Jared Levy

How did you then go on to film Graffiti Fine Art?

Through the Ethos video, I started meeting more writers by offering to take photos of them painting. It was a great way to meet people, exchange art and become friends. Eventually I met Binho. His friendship, along with a few other artists, really helped set the stage for my time in São Paulo. Graffiti Fine Art developed when Binho invited me to film an event he was curating — the 1st International Graffiti Biennial featuring works by 65 street artists from 13 countries at the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture in São Paulo.

What was the experience like?

For eight days the museum stayed open 24/7. Most artists came to work on their murals after hours. I never wanted to miss a mural so during those eight days and nights, I took naps on a bench in a janitor’s closet when I wasn’t filming. I never left the grounds of the museum. It was a blast hanging out and meeting artists from all over the world. A priceless experience. 

jaz graffiti fine art Speaking with Brooklyn Based Director and Cinematographer Jared Levy

Belin Graffiti fine art Speaking with Brooklyn Based Director and Cinematographer Jared Levy

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

On one level it thrills me, as it gives these artists the respect and recognition they deserve. But it’s no longer graffiti. The definition of that is pretty cut and dry – letters in the public domain. But at the time this was a new question for me to explore, being relatively new to the scene. For the artists however, this conversation was old news. I think that actually helped the film in that it brought fresh eyes to the topic. I hope it made the film more accessible for people not familiar with graffiti/street art. But to answer your question, it’s a game of semantics and I’m just glad these incredibly talented artists are reaching new audiences.

In addition to being visually mesmerizing, your film touches on so many key issues about the movement that speak to us. Were you satisfied with your final work?

Yes, absolutely. I learned a lot through every part of the process. It’s interesting, four years removed from it and my relationship to the film is still evolving. My thoughts on the piece both technically and conceptually continue to change as I improve as a filmmaker. But, honestly, I just grow fonder of it really, as it reminds me of a specific time in my life. A really fun and exciting time.

Cern graffiti fine art Speaking with Brooklyn Based Director and Cinematographer Jared Levy

What – would you say – were your greatest challenges in working on this project in São Paulo?

Certainly language.  Even after I learned basic Portuguese, idioms and slang terms – specific to the city —  confounded me. And São Paulo’s infrastructure is particularly challenging. Filming all of the São Paulo exterior timelapses was a 3-4 week battle, but now that it’s over, I definitely cherish the unique relationship I feel I have with the city itself. Also, it is always delicate filming and representing process. Building trust and creating authentic capture is a challenge I continually face. Even more so in this case when you’re a foreigner asking for an artist’s trust. I respect the artists greatly for opening up to me.

Your company Navigate recently produced a short film which you directed called, Updating Philosophies, featuring NYC artist Cern.  Can you tell us something about that process?

Justin Hamilton, the film’s cinematographer/co-owner of Navigate, and I filmed Cern for seven days – at work on a mural, on a truck and with his balloon structures. Each day we got up before sunrise to assure the best light. The final video is about 5 minutes. Its focus is on the creative process. 

cern with balloons updating philosophies Speaking with Brooklyn Based Director and Cinematographer Jared Levy

cern paints updating philosophies Speaking with Brooklyn Based Director and Cinematographer Jared Levy

Why did you decide to make Cern the subject of a video?

I originally met Cern, who is a New Yorker, in São Paulo for Graffiti Fine Art. So it’s come full circle in a way. Once I moved back to NYC in 2011, I developed a personal relationship with him. I’ve always found him to be thoughtful, kind and talented. I knew a short film taking a deeper look at his ideas would yield great results. He’s a smart, philosophical dude. It’s also my first crack at a graffiti/street art related piece since Graffiti Fine Art. My relationship with Cern felt like a great opportunity to dive back into the genre with a — hopefully — sharper cinematic eye.

What’s ahead?

I’m interested in pursuing and telling different types of stories that connect us all. I find process to be far more interesting than the end result. Through process you can learn so much about the creator — where often the connection to the audience exists. Telling these types of thoughtful and authentic stories is what we hope to continue at Navigate.

Interview by Lois Stavsky; all images courtesy of Jared Levy and Julian Walter

Photos: 1. On the set of Updating Philosophies with Cern; 2  Ces, close-up from Graffiti Fine Art still; 3. Suiko, close-up from Graffiti Fine Art still; 4. Jaz, close-up from Graffiti Fine Art still; 5. Shockclose-up from Graffiti Fine Art still; 6. Cern, still from Graffiti Fine Art; 7-8. On the set of Updating Philosophies with Cern

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Featured in this past Monday’s New York Times, Nic 707’s ingenious Instaphame Phantom Art project continues to transform NYC subway cars into instant galleries. These are some images I captured on a recent ride from Yankee Stadium to Coney Island:

The legendary TAKI 183

taki183 subway art From Yankee Stadium to Coney Island with TAKI 183, Kingbee, Snake 1, Praxis, Nic 707, Sketch, T Kid & Brian M Convery

Kingbee

kingbee subway art From Yankee Stadium to Coney Island with TAKI 183, Kingbee, Snake 1, Praxis, Nic 707, Sketch, T Kid & Brian M Convery

Veteran graffiti writer Snake 1

snake subway art From Yankee Stadium to Coney Island with TAKI 183, Kingbee, Snake 1, Praxis, Nic 707, Sketch, T Kid & Brian M Convery

Praxis 

Praxis stencil art From Yankee Stadium to Coney Island with TAKI 183, Kingbee, Snake 1, Praxis, Nic 707, Sketch, T Kid & Brian M Convery

Nic 707

nic 707 kilroy From Yankee Stadium to Coney Island with TAKI 183, Kingbee, Snake 1, Praxis, Nic 707, Sketch, T Kid & Brian M Convery

Sketch

Sketch subway art From Yankee Stadium to Coney Island with TAKI 183, Kingbee, Snake 1, Praxis, Nic 707, Sketch, T Kid & Brian M Convery

Graffiti legend T-Kid

T Kid tag From Yankee Stadium to Coney Island with TAKI 183, Kingbee, Snake 1, Praxis, Nic 707, Sketch, T Kid & Brian M Convery

Brian M Convery

Brian Convery subway art From Yankee Stadium to Coney Island with TAKI 183, Kingbee, Snake 1, Praxis, Nic 707, Sketch, T Kid & Brian M Convery

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Speaking with Scratch

March 5, 2015

An impassioned graffiti artist, Stockholm native Scratch is the only female to have painted at the legendary Graffiti Hall of Fame for four consecutive years.  Last year, together with her writing partner, Lady K Fever, she founded The Bronx Graffiti Art Gallery an outdoor public art space featuring several internationally acclaimed graffiti artists. Scratch‘s public works can be seen in the Bronx, East Harlem and in Upper Manhattan.

scratch 720 nyc Speaking with Scratch

When and where did you first get up?

I was 14 when I first painted in my native city of Stockholm.  But I was a toy back then!

What were the circumstances?

The Swedish town I was living in at the time had become concerned about its “graffiti problem.” And so the government decided to establish a “graffiti school,” where we would be taught to paint in legal venues. I just wanted a space and free paint.

What was that experience like?

There were no formal classes, so we were free to learn from each other. And of course just about everyone who attended improved their skills and continued to painting illegally! I was the only girl who showed up.

Were there any artists who inspired you back then?

Yes! There was Brain – who taught at the  “graffiti school.” He was a major inspiration. And others who inspired me were Circle, Ward, Ziggy & Dizzy and Zappo.

scratch graffiti graffiti universe Bronx NYC Speaking with Scratch

Did you do anything risky back then?  

One Christmas morning – when all the shutters were down – I went out and bombed just about every store on my town’s main street.

That does sound risky! Why were you willing to take that kind of risk?

I was only 14; I didn’t really think about the consequences of my actions.

You moved to NYC in 1998 to work as a graphic designer. When did you begin painting graffiti here? And what got you back into it?

I hadn’t painted for many years. And then one day, as I was riding the 7 train into Flushing, I passed 5Pointz.  I couldn’t believe my eyes! A few days later, I went back to check it out, and that was it! I was hooked again. That was back in 2008.

What was it like for you at 5Pointz?

It was great. Meres is an amazing teacher, and just about all the writers I met there were kind and helpful.

scratch tats cru train small Speaking with Scratch

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

Graffiti and street art are very different. There may be some crossover, but they will remain distinct art forms. Graffiti is still identified with vandalism, and street artists get far more respect and recognition than do graffiti writers. But graffiti – to me – is stronger. It is more honest and direct.

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti into galleries? Have you shown your work in galleries?

Graffiti wasn’t intended to be painted on a canvas. Sometimes it works; other times it doesn’t. But I have no problem with it. Yes, I’ve shown in a number of galleries.

What about the corporate world? Any thoughts about that?

I’m used to it. My background is in advertising.

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

I often work alone, but I’ve collaborated with Lady K Fever, and I assisted Kingbee and Vase at the Graffiti Hall of Fame.  I like both! I look forward to collaborating more with other artists.

scratch graffiti train Speaking with Scratch

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

I feel positive about it. I get to see artworks I would never, otherwise, get to see

Do you have a formal arts education?

No, my background is in advertising and marketing. I studied at Pace University.

What inspires you these days?

Fantasy. I’m a huge fan of Lord of the Rings.

Are there any particular cultures you feel influenced your aesthetic?

I’d have to say the early graffiti writers in Sweden. But there they are referred to as graffiti painters – not writers!

scratch graffiti hall of fame Speaking with Scratch

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

Yes. I always have some kind of sketch with me when I paint.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

No! I always want to change it.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

It’s gotten better. It’s more detailed.

Pop up show Speaking with Scratch

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

To share his or her story with others.

What’s ahead for you?

More walls and huge productions. And also more opportunities to show my work.

Note: You can meet Scratch, along with other members of the The Bronx Graffiti Art Gallery, tomorrow from 6 – 8pm at the spray can art show at Scrap Yard at 300 West Broadway between Grand and Canal Streets.

Interview by Lois Stavsky; photos 1, 3 & 4 courtesy of Scratch 2. Lois Stavsky, and 5, Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Even the pavement speaks here in NYC — with everything from intriguing images to poetic prose to political messages. Here’s a sampling:

Hunt Rodriguez in Bushwick

hunt rodriguez pavement art NYC NYC Pavement Art    from the Poetic to the Political: Hunt Rodriguez, stikman, Chris and Veng RWK, Anthony Lister and more

stikman in Chelsea

stikman street art on pavement chelsea NYC NYC Pavement Art    from the Poetic to the Political: Hunt Rodriguez, stikman, Chris and Veng RWK, Anthony Lister and more

A political statement in Williamsburg

save syria now NYC Pavement Art    from the Poetic to the Political: Hunt Rodriguez, stikman, Chris and Veng RWK, Anthony Lister and more

Chris and Veng RWK in the East Village

Chris and Veng RWK pavement street art NYC Pavement Art    from the Poetic to the Political: Hunt Rodriguez, stikman, Chris and Veng RWK, Anthony Lister and more

An excerpt from The Bell Jar, the only novel penned by the acclaimed American poet and writer Sylvia Plath

sylvia plath poem on pavement NYC Pavement Art    from the Poetic to the Political: Hunt Rodriguez, stikman, Chris and Veng RWK, Anthony Lister and more

Anthony Lister in Bushwick

Anthony lister pavement street art nyc  NYC Pavement Art    from the Poetic to the Political: Hunt Rodriguez, stikman, Chris and Veng RWK, Anthony Lister and more

Unidentified stencil art on Chelsea sidewalk

stencil pavement street art NYC NYC Pavement Art    from the Poetic to the Political: Hunt Rodriguez, stikman, Chris and Veng RWK, Anthony Lister and more

A reference to Gaza on the Upper West Side

political art on nyc pavement street art NYC Pavement Art    from the Poetic to the Political: Hunt Rodriguez, stikman, Chris and Veng RWK, Anthony Lister and more

And a political statement in Bushwick

NYC political street art pavement NYC Pavement Art    from the Poetic to the Political: Hunt Rodriguez, stikman, Chris and Veng RWK, Anthony Lister and more

Photos — 1, 2, 6-9 by Lois Stavsky; 3 – 5 by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Speaking with Rocko

February 26, 2015

Rocko street art NYC Speaking with Rocko

Fusing ancient Arabic scripts with modern Western strokes, Moroccan native Rocko has fashioned a distinct aesthetic that has been increasingly making its way onto NYC walls. We were delighted to have the chance to meet up with him this past weekend.

When did you first get up?

Back in Morocco in 1997. I was the first one to bomb in Meknès.  It was something that I had always wanted to do. I was a b-boy, and graffiti was always an essential aspect of that culture. I’d also painted for the pioneering hip-hop crew, Dogs, known these days as H-Kayne.

What about here in NYC?

Here in NYC I only work on legal spaces. There’s too much at risk here!

zimer rocko with passerby 720 Speaking with Rocko

What was your first piece here?

Three years ago I did my first piece for the Pita Palace on Montrose and Bushwick.

What was the experience like?

I loved it. I particularly love the interaction with the passersby as I’m painting.

What kinds of surfaces do you prefer?

As I generally paint with brushes, I need smooth surfaces. I also look for spots with no trees of cars blocking the view.

How have folks responded to your particular aesthetic – a fusion of Arabic calligraphy and graffiti?

The response was been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. I am constantly asked to design tattoos featuring my particular calligraffiti.

rocko street dodworth Speaking with Rocko

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

They love it. Everyone is supportive.

What percentage of your day is devoted to your art?

About 40%.

What is your main source of income?

I work as a director of a senior center in Bushwick.

What are some of your other interests?

Cycling. I race for the Brooklyn Arches.

rocko calligraffiti on canvas Speaking with Rocko

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

I feel that it’s reached a turning point in recent weeks. I expect there will be less of a division from now on.

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries? Have you shown your work in galleries?

I’m fine with it. It’s just a different context. Yes, I’ve shown my work in a number of spaces in Brooklyn.

What about the corporate world? Any thoughts about that?

I don’t mess with it!

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

I often work alone, but I’ve collaborated with a number of artists including Zimer, Eelco and N Carlos J.

eelco and Rocko and Vera Times street art dodworth NYC Speaking with Rocko

Is there anyone in particular you would like to collaborate with?

I love what Sek3 is doing. I would like to collaborate with him.

When I first saw your work, I confused you with Retna. Does that happen often?

Yes! But I’ve been doing it for 34 years. It’s my culture!

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

I think it’s very important. It introduces us to so much.

Do you have a formal arts education?

No, I never went to art school. I’m self-taught. I began doing Arabic calligraphy when I was four years old with a wooden pencil!

rocko and n carlos j street art bushwick nyc Speaking with Rocko

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

Just me in my studio. But working on public walls is more fun!

What inspires you these days?

Everything I see around me!

Are there any particular cultures you feel influenced your aesthetic?

Arabic.

Rocko and Eelco street art nyc Speaking with Rocko

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

Never!  I freestyle.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

It’s gotten better. Sharing my work in public spaces pushes me to work harder at my craft.

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

The artist has a huge responsibility to his or her community – to enhance it in a respectful manner.

Rocko calligraffiti Brooklyn NYC copy Speaking with Rocko

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

They are very important!

What do you see as the future of street art?

It will just keep on growing and evolving.

And what about you? What’s ahead?

More walls, more collabs and more exhibits. I will also continue to curate the Dodworth Mural Project that I launched last year.

That sounds wonderful! We are looking forward! 

Interview by Lois Stavsky with Houda Lazrak; first photo courtesy of the artist; all others by Lois Stavsky; photo 2 is a collaborative with Zimer; 5 with Eelco and Vera Times; 6 with N Carlos J and 7 with Eelco

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centre fuge street art nyc Centre fuge Public Art Project Cycle 16 to Continue in the East Village with: Moody Mutz, Joshua David McKenney, Marthalicia, Michael DeNicola, Lexi Bella, Foxx Faces, BK, Raquel Echanique and more

The Centre-fuge Public Art Project continues its mission to transform the Department of Transportation trailer on First Street and First Avenue into a vibrant open-air gallery. These past few wintry weeks, its 16th cycle has brought an infectious energy to an otherwise cold and stark site. Here are a few close-ups:

Moody at work in mid-December — at the beginning of the current cycle

Moody paints centre fuge public art project nyc1 Centre fuge Public Art Project Cycle 16 to Continue in the East Village with: Moody Mutz, Joshua David McKenney, Marthalicia, Michael DeNicola, Lexi Bella, Foxx Faces, BK, Raquel Echanique and more

Joshua David McKenney at work

joshua david centre fuge street art nyc Centre fuge Public Art Project Cycle 16 to Continue in the East Village with: Moody Mutz, Joshua David McKenney, Marthalicia, Michael DeNicola, Lexi Bella, Foxx Faces, BK, Raquel Echanique and more

And to the right of Pidgin Doll – Marthalicia MatarritaMichael DeNicola, Basil and Lexi Bella

Centre fuge public art projectSest2 and more.nyc  Centre fuge Public Art Project Cycle 16 to Continue in the East Village with: Moody Mutz, Joshua David McKenney, Marthalicia, Michael DeNicola, Lexi Bella, Foxx Faces, BK, Raquel Echanique and more

Foxx FacesRaquel Echanique and Marthalicia Matarrita

Centre fuge public art project cycle 16 NYC 2 Centre fuge Public Art Project Cycle 16 to Continue in the East Village with: Moody Mutz, Joshua David McKenney, Marthalicia, Michael DeNicola, Lexi Bella, Foxx Faces, BK, Raquel Echanique and more

Vernon O’Meally, Lelex and Fade, AA Mobb

centre fuge Vernon OMeally Lelex AA Mobb street art Centre fuge Public Art Project Cycle 16 to Continue in the East Village with: Moody Mutz, Joshua David McKenney, Marthalicia, Michael DeNicola, Lexi Bella, Foxx Faces, BK, Raquel Echanique and more

ArbiterMiss Zukie, Foxx Faces, BK and Sest2

zuki BKfoxx BK Sest centre fuge Centre fuge Public Art Project Cycle 16 to Continue in the East Village with: Moody Mutz, Joshua David McKenney, Marthalicia, Michael DeNicola, Lexi Bella, Foxx Faces, BK, Raquel Echanique and more

Pebbles Russell, who co-founded the Centre-fuge Public Art Project in 2012, reports that Cycle 16 will remain in effect for a few more weeks. If you would like to participate in future cycles of this project, send a sketch, along with reference images to other works, to centrefuge@gmail.com.

Final photo by Lois Stavsky; all others by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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