Interviews

Subway Entrance Queen Andrea Mural Art Beautifies the 191st Street Subway Tunnel and Entrance with: Queen Andrea, Jessie and Katey, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2

The once drab and dull 900-foot long tunnel connecting Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue at the 191st Street subway station is now a wondrous canvas featuring bright and bold graffiti and fine art.  While visiting it last week, we had the opportunity to speak to Jessie and Katey, the Baltimore-based duo, who — along with NYC-based artists, Queen Andrea, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2 — were selected to paint murals along the tunnel.

Jessie and Katey artists Mural Art Beautifies the 191st Street Subway Tunnel and Entrance with: Queen Andrea, Jessie and Katey, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2

We love the way you are beautifying this Upper Manhattan tunnel. How did you two first meet? And how did you two — Baltimore-based artists —  become involved in this NYC project?

We met when we were both students at MICA: Maryland Institute College of Art. And about four years ago, we started painting together. We’ve both lived in New York, and when we heard about the Department of Transportation‘s open call for artists who specialize in painting large scale murals, we applied.

Jessie katey abstract art DOT Mural Art Beautifies the 191st Street Subway Tunnel and Entrance with: Queen Andrea, Jessie and Katey, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2

Jessie and katey abstract art mural with passerby DOT Mural Art Beautifies the 191st Street Subway Tunnel and Entrance with: Queen Andrea, Jessie and Katey, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2

What aspect of the project most appealed to you?

We loved the idea of returning to NYC to paint such a huge, awesome space.

Queen Andrea Live Your Dreans DOT NYC Mural Art Beautifies the 191st Street Subway Tunnel and Entrance with: Queen Andrea, Jessie and Katey, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2

R Robot tunnel DOT NYC Mural Art Beautifies the 191st Street Subway Tunnel and Entrance with: Queen Andrea, Jessie and Katey, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2

What was it like working with the other muralists on this project? 

It was great, and getting to know them all was wonderful.

Cekis art DOT with skateboard Mural Art Beautifies the 191st Street Subway Tunnel and Entrance with: Queen Andrea, Jessie and Katey, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2

Cekis art mural DOT Mural Art Beautifies the 191st Street Subway Tunnel and Entrance with: Queen Andrea, Jessie and Katey, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2

What about the Department of Transportation? What was it like working for the DOT?

It was the bomb! They even supported us with potties!

Cope2 graffiti Art Is Life Mural Art Beautifies the 191st Street Subway Tunnel and Entrance with: Queen Andrea, Jessie and Katey, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2

cope2 graffiti tunnel DOT Mural Art Beautifies the 191st Street Subway Tunnel and Entrance with: Queen Andrea, Jessie and Katey, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2

Were there any particular challenges?

At one point the walls cried, and we had to repaint some spots. But — overall — the entire experience was awesome.

 Photos of images:

1. Queen Andrea, Lois Stavsky

2. Jessie and Katey, Lois Stavsky; 3. Dani Reyes Mozeson 4. City-As-School intern Diana Davidova 

5. Queen AndreaDani Reyes Mozeson

6. RRobots, Dani Reyes Mozeson

7. & 8. CekisDani Reyes Mozeson

9. Cope2, Tara Murray; 10. Dani Reyes Mozeson

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INTI santiago chile street art <em>Outdoor Gallery NYC</em> Author Yoav Litvin on the Streets of South America with: Inti, Gonzalo Sánchez <em>Painters</em>, Stinkfish & the APC Crew, Entes & Pésimo, Decertor, Marcelo Ment, Tarm1, Nove and Apitatan

Outdoor Gallery NYC author Yoav Litvin recently returned from a five-month trip abroad, where he explored the street art in several key South American cities and towns. I had a chance to catch up with him last week:

Those of us following you on Instagram got a mere glimpse into your incredible adventures on the streets of South America. You visited Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Brazil. What spurred your interest in that region?

I was curious. I had seen amazing works from South America online, and while I exploring the streets of NYC, I had met a number of South American artists.

Gonzalo Sánchez Painters vaparaiso <em>Outdoor Gallery NYC</em> Author Yoav Litvin on the Streets of South America with: Inti, Gonzalo Sánchez <em>Painters</em>, Stinkfish & the APC Crew, Entes & Pésimo, Decertor, Marcelo Ment, Tarm1, Nove and Apitatan

In what ways did your findings meet your expectations?

I expected to be blown away and inspired. And I was — beyond any expectations.

Stinkfish and APC crew street art bogota <em>Outdoor Gallery NYC</em> Author Yoav Litvin on the Streets of South America with: Inti, Gonzalo Sánchez <em>Painters</em>, Stinkfish & the APC Crew, Entes & Pésimo, Decertor, Marcelo Ment, Tarm1, Nove and Apitatan

What were some of the highlights of your trip?

There were so many!  Among them were: walking around the streets of Lima with Entes; coming unexpectedly upon an art festival in La Paz, Bolivia and being in São Paulo during its 3rd annual Graffiti Fine Art Biennial.

Entes y Pesimo Lima street art <em>Outdoor Gallery NYC</em> Author Yoav Litvin on the Streets of South America with: Inti, Gonzalo Sánchez <em>Painters</em>, Stinkfish & the APC Crew, Entes & Pésimo, Decertor, Marcelo Ment, Tarm1, Nove and Apitatan

Decertor street art Lima Peru <em>Outdoor Gallery NYC</em> Author Yoav Litvin on the Streets of South America with: Inti, Gonzalo Sánchez <em>Painters</em>, Stinkfish & the APC Crew, Entes & Pésimo, Decertor, Marcelo Ment, Tarm1, Nove and Apitatan

Do any particular impressions stand out? 

The juxtaposition between Peru’s rich culture and history and its current street art particularly struck me. And navigating Bogota was what NYC was like for me in the early 80′s. I always had to keep my eyes open!

Marcelo Mente street art Rio de Janeiro <em>Outdoor Gallery NYC</em> Author Yoav Litvin on the Streets of South America with: Inti, Gonzalo Sánchez <em>Painters</em>, Stinkfish & the APC Crew, Entes & Pésimo, Decertor, Marcelo Ment, Tarm1, Nove and Apitatan

Tarm1 street art rio de janeiro <em>Outdoor Gallery NYC</em> Author Yoav Litvin on the Streets of South America with: Inti, Gonzalo Sánchez <em>Painters</em>, Stinkfish & the APC Crew, Entes & Pésimo, Decertor, Marcelo Ment, Tarm1, Nove and Apitatan

What about some of the challenges along the way?

The biggest challenge — I would say — was the language. And living in the Vidigal favela in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro certainly was an experience.

Nove graffiti sao paulo brazil <em>Outdoor Gallery NYC</em> Author Yoav Litvin on the Streets of South America with: Inti, Gonzalo Sánchez <em>Painters</em>, Stinkfish & the APC Crew, Entes & Pésimo, Decertor, Marcelo Ment, Tarm1, Nove and Apitatan

Where do you think the street art scene in South America is going? Do you think it will continue to remain so authentic?

It is difficult to generalize as each city and town is unique. But I suspect that it will continue to thrive.

Apitatan street art quito ecuador <em>Outdoor Gallery NYC</em> Author Yoav Litvin on the Streets of South America with: Inti, Gonzalo Sánchez <em>Painters</em>, Stinkfish & the APC Crew, Entes & Pésimo, Decertor, Marcelo Ment, Tarm1, Nove and Apitatan

What’s next for you? 

This Wednesday evening, May 27, I will be speaking about my personal style as a street art and graffiti documentarian, along with the role — as I see it — of the street art photographer.  After sharing some of my experiences in photographing NYC street art and graffiti and publishing Outdoor Gallery NYC, I will speak about my recent trip abroad and present many images of street art that I photographed in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Brazil. The event will take place 7:00 - 9:00pm at Nowhere Studios, 582 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn.

EVENT FLYER <em>Outdoor Gallery NYC</em> Author Yoav Litvin on the Streets of South America with: Inti, Gonzalo Sánchez <em>Painters</em>, Stinkfish & the APC Crew, Entes & Pésimo, Decertor, Marcelo Ment, Tarm1, Nove and Apitatan

Note: All photographs © Yoav Litvin, 2015

1. Inti, Santiago, Chile 

2. Gonzalo Sánchez “Painters”, Valparaíso, Chile

3. Stinkfish and the APC Crew, Bogota, Colombia

4. Entes & Pésimo & 5. Decertor, Lima, Peru

6. Marcelo Ment & 7. Tarm1, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

8. Nove, São Paulo, Brazil 

9. Apitatan, Quito, Ecuador

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NDA Iena Cruz paint Henley SoHo NYC  <em>The Secret Garden Series</em> Launches at the Henley Vaporium Backyard Garden in Soho with NDA and Iena Cruz

We stopped by the Henley Vaporium earlier this week to watch two of our favorite artists — NDA and Iena Cruz — as they were collaboratively painting a huge wall in the splendid backyard garden at 23 Cleveland Place. We also had the opportunity to speak to Kimyon Huggins, the curator of the newly launched Secret Garden Series.

Kimyon Huggins NDA Cruz HenleyVape  <em>The Secret Garden Series</em> Launches at the Henley Vaporium Backyard Garden in Soho with NDA and Iena Cruz

This looks fabulous! Just what is the Secret Garden Series?

Beginning this month and continuing through late fall, several leading street artists and muralists will spend one week each month collaboratively painting the back wall of the garden at 23 Cleveland Place.  During that week, visitors to the Henley Vaporium will be able to watch the artists in action. And at the end of the week, a reception will be held to unveil the final work and to celebrate the artists.

NDA paints street art mural HenleyVape NYC  <em>The Secret Garden Series</em> Launches at the Henley Vaporium Backyard Garden in Soho with NDA and Iena Cruz

Your first public reception takes place this Saturday, May 16. What can visitors expect?  

They can expect, of course, to meet and socialize with the artists and view the completed murals. They can also expect music by such DJs as DJ Jaclyn, KC and the Real Christiano?, along with food and drink. And they will find themselves among a great community of artists, art lovers, patrons and tourists from throughout the globe.

Cruz paints Henley SoHo NYC  <em>The Secret Garden Series</em> Launches at the Henley Vaporium Backyard Garden in Soho with NDA and Iena Cruz

How did you discover this particular venue? It is lovely.

The owners are friends and I like their anti-establishment vibe. The Henley Vaporium is part retail store, part education center and part social hub. Featuring a huge lounge, performance space and outdoor garden, it is ideal. Each month smaller works of art by each of the artists will be displayed inside the Henley Vaporium. Along with limited edition photographs of the completed murals, they will be made available for purchase online, with 10% of the proceeds going to public arts advocate StreetArtNYC and vape industry advocate SFATA (Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association).

NDA Cruz street art mural the Henley NYC  <em>The Secret Garden Series</em> Launches at the Henley Vaporium Backyard Garden in Soho with NDA and Iena Cruz

Which artists can we expect to see in the months ahead?

Other artists already lined up include GILF and Ivan Orama in June and Elle and Vexta in July.

It sounds great! We are looking forward to it all.

Note: The Henley Vaporium is located between Spring and Kenmare Streets and is easily accessible by public transportation.

Secret garden series  <em>The Secret Garden Series</em> Launches at the Henley Vaporium Backyard Garden in Soho with NDA and Iena Cruz

Interview and photos 2, 4 and 5 by Lois Stavsky; photos 1 and 3 by City-as-School intern Diana Davidova

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Contreras art Speaking with Miami Based Peruvian Artist Diana Contreras aka Didi

Fusing her passion for street art with her mastery of classical painting, Miami-based Peruvian artist Diana Contreras aka Didi fashions whimsical portraits depicting her distinct notion of femininity. In NYC this weekend for the Fridge Art Fair, she will also be sharing her talents with us at JMZ Walls in Bushwick and at the 12C Outdoor Gallery in the East Village. I met Didi earlier this year in Miami.

When did you first paint in a public space? And where was it?

I first painted outdoors four years ago in Miami. I came late to the scene!

What made you decide to take your vision to the streets?

I love the idea of creating art for “the people” and sharing my vision with them.  It’s so much fun!  And it is also a great way for me to showcase my art.

Diana Contreras Cleo Overtown Speaking with Miami Based Peruvian Artist Diana Contreras aka Didi

You often paint beautiful images of lovely, sensual women. Why is that?

They’re fun; I can use any colors I want and I can add endless accessories. And I know women! I paint what I know!

Is there a message you want to convey?

I want folks who see my art to feel positive about themselves. If there is a central message, it is: Enjoy your life! And I also want girls to know that they have the power to follow their dreams and create themselves.

Diana Contreras fine art Speaking with Miami Based Peruvian Artist Diana Contreras aka Didi

Are there any particular street artists who have inspired you?

I’ve been inspired by so many who have painted in Wynwood. Among them are: Miss Van, Fafi and Entes & Pessimo.

What is it like to be a female artist in Miami’s street art scene? 

The street art scene has actually been very supportive. It was the guys, in fact, who encouraged me to get up! It isn’t difficult for us to get walls, and folks are interested in hearing our stories.

Diana Contreras Miami mural Speaking with Miami Based Peruvian Artist Diana Contreras aka Didi

You are a full-time elementary school art teacher, as well as a studio painter and muralist.  How do you manage to balance it all?

It’s difficult. I often feel that I am living two separate lives. I somehow manage because I love what I do so much. Both my lives give me tremendous gratification.

What’s ahead?

I’m headed to NYC for the Fridge Art Fair and while in NYC, I will be painting for JMZ Walls in Bushwick and for the 12C Outdoor Gallery in the East Village. I’m also excited to be participating in Boundless Brooklyn‘s upcoming group show of female artists curated by Claw Money. And I’m looking forward to a summer of traveling and painting!

Diana contreras mural detail Speaking with Miami Based Peruvian Artist Diana Contreras aka Didi

It all sounds great!  And I’m so glad you are on your way to NYC!

Photos of Diana’s images: 1, 2, 4 and 5 courtesy of the artist; 3 Lois Stavsky

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T Kid graffiti august martin high school The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

This past weekend over 100 artists — including such graffiti legends as T-Kid 170, Cey Adams, Cycle, Claw Money and Part One – transformed the blank white walls of August Martin High School into a dazzling, brilliant canvas. Curatated by Meres One with Marie Cecile Flaegul, the freshly-painted artworks represent a multitude of cultures, sensibilities and styles. While visiting yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to August Martin student, Justin Price.

This is all so amazing! Your school is an absolute wonderland! What inspired this magical change?

The walls in our school were recently painted white. They looked dull and unwelcoming. We wanted to bring color and life to our surroundings, so that we would look forward to coming to school. And we wanted to look at art that we could relate to and that reflected our culture.

Will Kasso grafffiti August Martin High School The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

Whose concept was this?

August Martin’s Future Project Dream Team surveyed 500 students to find out what change they most wanted in our school. The students’ consensus was that they wanted to change the appearance of the school’s interior.

cey adams graffiti august martin high school The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

Once you knew what you wanted to do, what were some of the challenges you faced? 

We had to come up with a proposal and a budget. That took us at least a month. Then we had to identify artists who could work with us. That was our biggest challenge until we were introduced to Meres and Marie of 5Pointz.

Zeso graffiti The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

How have things been working out since you met them?

Once we met up with Meres and Marie, everything went smoothly. Meres is an amazing artist and knows so many other amazing artists. And I just can’t say enough about Marie! She is so conscientious and caring.

Miss Zukie character art august martin high school The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

Most of the students haven’t yet seen the murals. But what kind of response have you gotten from those who have seem them?

They love them. They can’t wait to pose for photos in front of them!

Steve Lew art Gillian Smith The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

Part One graffiti august martin high school The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

And how have the teachers responded to this project? 

Their response has been positive. They know that if the students are happy and motivated, their jobs are easier.

meres graffiti art august martin high school The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

Reme graffiti art August martin high school The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

And what about your principal, Ms. Smith?

She’s been 100% behind it. She’s worked hard to make sure that it happens and she has been here with us all weekend.

Remiks graffiti See tf Portrait August Martin High School The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

Why do you suppose there are so many underachievers among the students here?

Many of the students here lack the support systems they need, and they feel easily discouraged.  So many are talented and really love discovering new things.

Cycle close up graffiti art August Martin High School The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

I don’t doubt it!  What are your thoughts about this project and its possible impact?

I love it! It makes me so happy! And I think it will have a great impact on the other students.

sembakkus graffiti art august martin high school The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

Why is the project called Operation Skittles? I’ve been wondering about that!

Actually, there are two reasons!  Skittles are colorful and this project brings color to our school. And Skittles are the favorite snack of  Syreeta Gates, the Future Project Dream director here at August Martin.

BK Foxx art mural august martin high school edited 1 The 5Pointz Family Returns to Queens    Transforming the Interior of August Martin High School: Meres One, TK 170, Will Kasso, Cey Adams, Zeso, Kid Lew, Part One, Miss Zukie, Reme 821, See TF, Cycle and more

Now that makes sense! How lucky you students at August Martin are to have realized Operation Skittles!

Note: Keep posted to the Street Art NYC Facebook page for more images and for news about an event at August Martin open to the public in early June.

Photos and interview by Lois Stavsky

1. T-Kid 170

2. Will Kasso

3. Cey Adams

4. Zeso and Awez

5, Miss Zukie

6. Kid Lew with August Martin principal Gillian Smith standing to his left

7. Part One

8. Meres One

9. Reme 821

10. Remiks and See TF

11. Cycle

12. Sjembakkus – in from Amsterdam

13. BK Foxx

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Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter, Roberto Clemente and Satchel Paige are among the legendary baseball players whose faces now grace a range of storefronts on and off River Avenue from 158th Street to 162nd Street. A partnership between the 161st Street Business Improvement District and 501 See Streets, this particular project is one of several initiated by 501 See Streets founder and director, Noah Sheroff. I recently met up with Noah to find out more about him and his Paint New York project.

danielle mariano street art Bronx NYC Noah Sheroff on <em>501 See Streets</em>: Revitalizing and Beautifying Communities through Public Art with Danielle Mastrion, Lexi Bella and Andre Trenier

You are on a mission to bring public art to neighborhoods in NYC and beyond. What spurred your interest in street art?

I grew up in a neighborhood that was largely void of art. When I first visited 5Pointz in 2011, I was struck by the beauty and energy of it all. The following year I went on a tour of the Bushwick Collective, and soon after that, I discovered the Welling Court Mural Project in Astoria, Queens.  By then I was hooked!  I knew that I wanted to bring art murals to communities that wouldn’t otherwise have them. 

Danielle Mastrion shutter Noah Sheroff on <em>501 See Streets</em>: Revitalizing and Beautifying Communities through Public Art with Danielle Mastrion, Lexi Bella and Andre Trenier

We are familiar with the murals you facilitated that have transformed the blocks around Yankee Stadium.  Have you engaged other neighborhoods?

Yes. Danielle Mastrion painted a mural on Flatbush Avenue and Avenue H in Brooklyn; Miss Zukie collaborated with John Paul O’Grodnick on Benson Street.across from the Lewis & Clark School, and Marthalicia painted on Jerome Avenue and East 198th Street.

Lexi Bella Derek jeter street art Bronx NYC Noah Sheroff on <em>501 See Streets</em>: Revitalizing and Beautifying Communities through Public Art with Danielle Mastrion, Lexi Bella and Andre Trenier

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered?

It’s been a daunting learning experience!  The community members are often apprehensive. Artists tend to question my motives. And the funders are hesitant to fund “a new kid on the block.” 

Andre Trenier roberto Clemente street art Bronx Noah Sheroff on <em>501 See Streets</em>: Revitalizing and Beautifying Communities through Public Art with Danielle Mastrion, Lexi Bella and Andre Trenier

What seems to be the main concern of the community?

They are concerned about the content – about offending the sensibilities of the folks who live in the neighborhood.  That is one of the reasons artists are often asked to submit a sketch first. 

Lexi Bella 501 See Streets street art Bronx NYC Noah Sheroff on <em>501 See Streets</em>: Revitalizing and Beautifying Communities through Public Art with Danielle Mastrion, Lexi Bella and Andre Trenier

You are in the process of forging alliances with several Business Improvement Districts. Are they generally receptive?

Yes, the BIDs are generally receptive. They see the art as a way to highlight their businesses, bring commerce to their neighborhoods and attract tourists. I am also forging partnerships with civics and other neighborhood organizations.

Andre Trenier Satchel Paige Bronx NYC Noah Sheroff on <em>501 See Streets</em>: Revitalizing and Beautifying Communities through Public Art with Danielle Mastrion, Lexi Bella and Andre Trenier

What’s ahead?

I’m interested in expanding Paint New York into more neighborhoods and working with a range of community groups. And at this point, fundraising is essential to cover expenses and to pay the artists for their talents and time.

Good luck! And we are looking forward to 501 See Streets bringing more art to our streets!

Note:  Find out how you can help support Noah’s project here

Interview by Lois StavskyImages 1 & 2 Danielle Mastrion; 3 & 5 Lexi Bella; 4 & 6 Andre Trenier; photo credits 1 & 2 Lois Stavsky; 3-6 City-As-School intern Diana Davidova

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Reclaimed, Meres One‘s solo exhibit at Bushwick’s Low Brow Artique, brilliantly celebrates Meres‘s wonderful talents and his love of graffiti. I spoke to Meres soon after visiting the exhibit:

meres graffiti art Meres One on <em>Reclaimed</em>: His Solo Exhibit at Low Brow Artique

Can you tell us something about the title of the exhibit, Reclaimed? What does it mean?

After many months of coping with the loss of 5Pointz, Reclaimed is my way of revisiting and reclaiming my early days as a graffiti artist.

Meres graffiti colors Meres One on <em>Reclaimed</em>: His Solo Exhibit at Low Brow Artique

When did you first come up with the concept with the exhibit?  And can you tell us something about the process of preparing for it? 

I came up with the general idea in January, and when I showed some of the pieces I was working on to Bishop, he offered me a solo show at Low Brow Artique. In preparation, I revisited hundreds of photos of walls that I had painted at 5Pointz. My next step was to reinterpret them — selecting fragments from them and honoring my appreciation of hand-style.

Meres graffiti character Meres One on <em>Reclaimed</em>: His Solo Exhibit at Low Brow Artique

What about the centerpiece? It is so impressive! Its texture is just beautiful. It looks as though it was painted on reclaimed wood.

Yes, I painted it on a piece of wood that was reclaimed from the Coney Island boardwalk. I love that it has taken on a new life in this exhibit.

Meres Reclaimed found wood Meres One on <em>Reclaimed</em>: His Solo Exhibit at Low Brow Artique

How has the response been to the exhibit?

It’s been great! The opening was wonderful, and only two pieces remain. The others were sold shortly after the exhibit opened. I am currently preparing for a Part II, where I will take my work on this same concept to another — more abstract — level while working on a range of different surfaces.

Meres graffiti art at lowbrow artique Meres One on <em>Reclaimed</em>: His Solo Exhibit at Low Brow Artique

Note: Reclaimed remains on view at Low Brow Artique through Saturday May 9.  Now open seven days a week, Low Brow Artique is situated at 143 Central Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Interview and photos by Lois Stavsky 

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In this third in our series of interviews with artists born abroad who have made NYC home, we feature Pesu. Inspired by hip-hop, Pesu began his art career back in Japan in 1996 as a graffiti writer. Here in NYC he is best-known for his live painting in various venues and the many Art Battle competitions he has won. His works on canvas in a multiplicity of styles — from stencil art to abstract art — increasingly attract collectors, as well.

Pesu stencil art einstein PESU: From Fuji, Shizuoka to Manhattan’s East Village

When did you first visit NY? And what brought you here?

In 2001 I left Japan for Sacramento, California on a student visa. But life there was too slow for me. So in 2004, I decided to check out New York City.

What was your impression of it at the time?

I was thoroughly overwhelmed. I remember walking on 5th Avenue and crying – tears of joy! This city has everything: so much energy, art, graffiti, mix of people and amazing architecture. And there is always something happening here.

Pesu black book graffiti PESU: From Fuji, Shizuoka to Manhattan’s East Village

What is the image of NYC in your native country?

Back in Japan we think of NYC as the number one city in the world. It is the place of opportunity.

Do you think this is accurate? Why or why not?

Yes! I agree! Everything is possible here in NYC.

Pesu art face  PESU: From Fuji, Shizuoka to Manhattan’s East Village

When did you decide to move here? And why?

I decided to move here the following year – in 2005. Why? Because I loved it!

How did your family feel about your move?

They were great. Everyone was very supportive. And they were always worried about me when I was doing graffiti back in Japan.

Pesu blackbook graffiti PESU: From Fuji, Shizuoka to Manhattan’s East Village

What were some of the challenges you faced when you first moved here?

I had to find a way to earn money. And I had to worry about having a visa. I also wasn’t used to living in such a competitive city.

You now have a great space in the East Village. Where did you live when you first moved here? And why did you choose that particular neighborhood?

When I first moved here, I lived in Bed-Stuy.  I found the apartment through a broker. I chose Bed-Stuy because I love Biggie so much.

Pesu abstract PESU: From Fuji, Shizuoka to Manhattan’s East Village

Have you encountered any prejudice here?

Yes. I’ve encountered some. Folks here are not all that accustomed to seeing Asians in the hip-hop scene.

How has your artwork evolved or changed since you came here?

I tend to use brighter, more vivid colors. My art is more alive here in NYC! And it’s become more professional.

Pesu and shiro graffiti art PESU: From Fuji, Shizuoka to Manhattan’s East Village

How receptive have New Yorkers been to your artwork? To you?

They seem somewhat surprised by what I do, as they are not used to seeing Asians in this scene!

What would you like to accomplish here?

As an artist, I want to make people happy. And on a more personal level, I would like to bring my parents to America.

Pesu fine art PESU: From Fuji, Shizuoka to Manhattan’s East Village

What do you miss most about your native country?

My parents and the food I ate back in Japan.

Interview by Lois Stavsky with City-as-School intern Zachariah Messaoud; photos 1-4, 6 (collab with Shiro) & 7 by Lois Stavsky; 5 by Zachariah Messaoud; images  2 & 4 are from Pesu’s blackbooks from the late 90′s.

Note: Several of Pesu’s works will be on exhibit in Brooklyn is the Future opening Friday at the Vazquez at 93 Forrest Street in Bushwick.

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Fusing elements of graffiti, painting, drawing and graphic design, N Carlos J creates masterful, atmospheric works both on and off the streets. He is particularly interested in the unconscious as it reflects our inmost emotions. We recently met up with the Brooklyn-based artist and had the opportunity to speak to him.

N Carlos J Untitled enamel and acrylic on canvas Speaking with Brooklyn Based Artist N Carlos J

You have quite a presence in Bushwick and beyond these days — painting murals, organizing projects and now curating. Can you tell us something about your background?

I attended Art & Design in the 80’s, and I was around graff heads all the time back then. Like just about everyone else there, I got up when I could.

Do any early graffiti-related memories stand out?

The first time I tried to spray my name, I ended up covering my entire hand with Krylon paint. It was impossible for me to wash it off, and I knew I had better before my mother would see it.

I suppose your mom wasn’t too happy about what you were doing!

She wasn’t. She thought I was crazy!

N Carlos J mural Brooklyn Speaking with Brooklyn Based Artist N Carlos J

Did you continue to study art in a formal setting?

Yes. I attended F.I.T., where I earned a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts.  But soon after, I took a 15-year break from art.

Why was that?

I was married, and I felt pressured to earn money.

But these days you are back into it.

Yes, 100% of my time now is devoted to art.  When I’m not doing my own art, I am organizing projects, working on commissions or teaching art. And I am busy now curating an exhibit to open next Friday.

N Carlos J panel  Speaking with Brooklyn Based Artist N Carlos J

Now that art is playing such a central role in your life, do you feel that your formal art education was worthwhile?

Absolutely. It taught me discipline, and it helped me master technique and color theory.

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

I feel that they must coexist. It is a conversation that we must have.

What do you see as the future of street art?

Street artists are going to continue to treat themselves more like businessmen.

N carlos J Bushwick progress Speaking with Brooklyn Based Artist N Carlos J

N Carlos J at work Speaking with Brooklyn Based Artist N Carlos J

Yes, I can see that happening. But that’s a whole other conversation! How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries?

I love it!

Have you shown in galleries?

I’ve participated in many group shows and I’m working on two solo exhibitions for fall, 2015.

What about the corporate world’s engagement with graffiti and street art? How do you feel about that?

If it pays well enough, I have no problem with it.

N Carlos J street art NYC Speaking with Brooklyn Based Artist N Carlos J

What about the role of the Internet in this scene?

It is a blessing and a curse.  It gives us exposure, and that is, of course, a good thing. But it makes it too easy for others to steal styles and ideas from us.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

Painting outside on a summer day with hip-hop music blasting.

What inspires you these days?

Listening to music by Kendrick Lamar or CyHi the Prynce inspires me. And reading excerpts from books like A Tale of Two Cities or The House of Rothschild gets me in the right space.

N carlos J shutter street art NYC Speaking with Brooklyn Based Artist N Carlos J

Are there any particular cultures that you feel have influenced your aesthetic?

American pop culture, but Renaissance and post-impressionist painting have also influenced me.

What about artists? Who are some of your favorite artists?

Among those I particularly love are: Borondo, Connor Harrington and Alexis Diaz

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

Sometimes I work with a sketch, and sometimes I don’t.

N Carlos J street art Bushwick NYC Speaking with Brooklyn Based Artist N Carlos J

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

No! I am a perfectionist.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

I tend to more freely fuse figurative and expressionistic elements.

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

The artist is the keeper of the flame. We are what moves this planet.

Brooklyn is the future exhibit Speaking with Brooklyn Based Artist N Carlos J

What’s ahead?

I’m currently curating, Brooklyn is the Future, a huge, two-weekend long exhibit and charity event to open next Friday, April 17, at the Vazquez at 93 Forrest Street in Bushwick.  Among the three dozen participating artists are: Damien Mitchell, Eelco, Ghost, Li-Hill, Mr. Prvrt, Rocko and Rubin. The artists are asked to envision the future of Brooklyn metaphorically or literally.  I am also curating a show called Good Times Bushwick for Bushwick Open Studios opening on Friday, June 5 at Express Yourself Barista. It will include a gallery show, outdoor murals, along with a day party and a barbecue.

Wow! It sounds great! Good luck with it all!

Interview by Lois Stavsky with Houda Lazrak

Photos: 1 and 3 (close-up of panel for Brooklyn is the Future) courtesy of the artist; 2, 7 & 8 Lois Stavsky; 4 & 5 Dani Reyes Mozeson and 6 Tara Murray

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Argentine artist Magdalena Marcenaro aka Magda Love shares with us some of her early experiences and impressions of NYC in this second in our series of interviews with artists born abroad who have made NYC home.

Magda Love street art Brooklyn NYC Magda Love: From Buenos Aires to Brooklyn

When did you first visit New York City?

I first came here in 2000 with a bag and $300. My uncle had paid for my ticket.

What was your initial impression of this city?

I wasn’t impressed! I was raised in Buenos Aires, a similarly large city. And large cities don’t move me that much. I’m far more impressed by nature.  And I always thought of Europe as far cooler than the United States, as Europeans seem to value culture more than Americans do. London seemed like the ideal place to live because I was into fashion at the time.

Magda Love street art NYC close up Magda Love: From Buenos Aires to Brooklyn

Why, then, did you decide to stay in NYC?

Just about everyone was telling me that NYC is the place to be, and then four months later, I was married.

How did your family feel about your move?

My mother was very supportive. She raised me to be independent. She, herself, is very adventurous.

Magda Love art exhibit Magda Love: From Buenos Aires to Brooklyn

What were some of the challenges you faced when you first came here –before you were married?

My biggest challenge was finding a place to live.  When I first arrived, I called a friend I’d met in Argentina and I spent my first two weeks in her place on Roosevelt Island. There was a huge snowstorm at the time. I can’t forget that! I had never seen snow in Buenos Aires. I then worked in a hostel on 106th Street and Central Park West in exchange for a place to sleep. After that, I just crashed in lots of different spaces, wherever anyone had a spare bed.

That must have been difficult.

Yes, I remember spending an entire night on a computer in Times Square checking for possible rentals.  For a while I ended up renting a room in Alphabet City. It was in the Projects on Avenue D. I didn’t even know what the Projects were. And there I was — walking around in a fur coat! And as my Spanish is so different from that of the people living in the Projects, I could barely communicate with anyone. And, of course, dealing with paper work that any newcomer to the US has to deal with is always a challenge.

magda love art at welling court Magda Love: From Buenos Aires to Brooklyn

How did you meet your basic expenses early on?

I first worked in a coffee shop, and then I worked as a bartender. I also sold some clothes I’d made to Patricia Field. Back in Buenos Aires, I designed fashion.

Have you encountered any prejudice here?

Not here in NYC. Living in this city is like living in a bubble. But when I’m with my son  – who is biracial – outside of NYC, I do feel prejudice.

Magda Love Cobble Hill street art NYC Magda Love: From Buenos Aires to Brooklyn

How has your artwork evolved or changed since you moved here?

It changes all the time. I feel that I’ve grown tremendously. Being around so many talented artists – especially those who paint on the streets  – exposed me to so much. It has helped me develop different techniques.

Have New Yorkers been receptive to your artwork?

Yes. I’ve been fortunate.

Magda love close up collate at Nu Hotel NYC Magda Love: From Buenos Aires to Brooklyn

What would you like to accomplish here?

I’m eager to paint a huge wall. I want to collaborate with some of my favorite artists. And I’d love to have a solo show. Actually, my goal is to conquer the world!

What do you miss most about your native country?

I miss seeing my brother’s kids grow up and I miss the countryside.

Magda sneaker art Magda Love: From Buenos Aires to Brooklyn

Do you see yourself living here on a permanent basis or returning to your country?

I’m here to stay!

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky and City-as-School intern Zachariah Messaoud; photo credits: 1, 2, 5 & 7 Zachariah Messaoud; 3 Dani Reyes Mozeson; 4 Tara Murray & 6 Lois Stavsky

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