Interviews

With her deep passion for street art and remarkable knowledge of the Israeli street art scene, Dina Segev is the quintessential street art tour guide. Whether conducting workshops for school-age children, or lecturing adults about graffiti and street art or simply guiding groups of visitors through the streets of Tel Aviv, her enthusiasm is contagious. While in Tel Aviv earlier this year, I had the opportunity to observe Dina as she conducted a tour for school-age children and, then, speak to her.

When did you first become interested in street art?

As an artist, I’d always been interested in art, and I had been giving private lessons to students in my studio for over 20 years. But I wasn’t aware — for quite awhile — what was happening on the streets. One day, a friend gave me a tour of Florentin, along with a spray can, as a birthday present. I instantly fell in love with what I saw. That was back in 2013. I loved it so much, in fact, that I wanted to take my friends on a tour. And so I took 16 friends on a street art tour of Florentin. It was so interesting that my husband asked me to do it for his company’s clients. And soon afterwards, I took my mother – along with her grandchildren – on a steet art tour for her 75th birthday. Two years later, I closed my studio. Now the streets are my studio.

Among those artists whose works you’ve encountered on the streets, do any stand out?

There are many. Among the first generation artists who come to mind are: Klone, Know Hope, Zero Cents, Adi Sened, Latzi, Foma and Ame 72. Second generation artists include: DedeNitzan Mintz, Dioz, Signor GiUntay, Pesh, Minks, Imaginary DuckB.T.W BinskyLord of Lords and ARC D.L.P.  Among the more recent ones are: Solomon Souza, MR, FrenemyMonkey Rmg, Didi, TAG, Murielle, The MisSK and Damian Tab. And Mati Ale who has brought amazing street art projects to Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station.

And you, yourself, began painting in the streets? When did you start and why?

I began about a year and a half ago. Why? Because I love the idea of connecting with others — even if I never meet them face to face — through my words on the walls.  It is one heart touching another. And — as a result — the anonymous city becomes less anonymous and, maybe, even a bit intimate!

What about the folks — from school children to retirees — who have participated in your tours and workshops? How have they responded to the street art you introduce them to?

They’ve been really appreciative and express great interest in what they see in the streets. Many begin to look at the streets as they never had before.

And what about the artists, themselves? How have they responded to what you are doing?

I’ve developed friendships with many of the artists, and they’ve been supportive of what I do. The artists are not comfortable, though, with those tour guides who lack the knowledge that a street art tour guide should have.

How has the street art scene in Tel Aviv changed since you first started observing it?

While some artists are no longer as active as they used to be, there are many new ones using the streets as their canvas, including more women. There is definitely more of a balance between males and females.

Can you tell us something more about what you offer?

I offer tours for all occasions and all ages. In addition to street art tours in Tel Aviv, Netanya and Jerusalem, I conduct tours of the graffiti exhibitions inside Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station. I also present graffiti workshops and conduct lectures on the topic in a range of settings.

How can folks join your tours or participate in your workshops?

If you live abroad, you can contact me by email: Disegev@gmail.com. I can also be reached at this phone number: 052-3869500. And if you read and understand Hebrew, you can contact me via my website.

What’s ahead for you? Any long-term plans or goals?

More tours, more workshops and more lectures. And I’d like to travel to share my knowledge of Tel Aviv street art with others in cities throughout the globe. That is my ultimate goal! I’d, also, like to publish a children’s book about graffiti and maybe one for adults, too!

It all sounds great! Good luck!

Photo credits: 1 (with artwork by MR), 4 & 5 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3, 6 & 7 courtesy Dina Segev; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Recently released by Schiffer is Tokyo Graffiti, a delightfully intriguing and wonderfully informative survey of  Tokyo’s current street art and graffiti scene documented by London-born photographer David Sharabani aka Lord K2. After reading the book, I posed a few questions to Lord K2:

You’ve documented urban art in several cities and have previously published a book on Santiago’s rich street art scene.  What drew you to Tokyo?

Tokyo’s street art scene has never been documented and published before in a book of this format, and its urban art is relatively overlooked by locals and tourists alike. The walls and streets are so pristine and well-organized — many with an abundance of logos and commercials – that you may get the impression that street art is not needed. But when well-placed and in the right context, it enhances Tokyo’s well-planned and maintained architectural surroundings.

Also, I saw this book as a challenge. I was in Tokyo photographing the Sumo wrestling culture. The majority of my time was spent handling bureaucratic paperwork, and out of frustration and impatience, I decided to hit the streets. Initially, I wasn’t entirely sure there would be enough art out there to justify a book. But the more I dug in, the more hidden gems I discovered. Since Tokyo’s graffiti is not so apparent, I thought it would be a good idea to compile a book of some of the most significant pieces in one format to be viewed easily.

How does Tokyo’s street art and graffiti scene differ from other cities you’ve visited?

Regarding graffiti and art that is often regarded as vandalism, it’s not in the nature of Japanese to vandalize, rebel or speak up. Their economy functions well; there is virtually no street crime, and the education system is excellent. It seems that there is not too much to protest about. Also, conformism is an integral part of the Japanese way. Going against the flow of polite dignified behavior is considered a far more extreme form of misconduct than it is in most other countries.

Another distinct difference between Tokyo and many other cities is that in Tokyo it is a nightmare-of-a-process to obtain permissions, limiting the quantity of “decorative art,” even though the quality is generally high.

There are, though, a fair amount of stickers mounted in the highly populated central neighborhoods of Harajuku, Shibuya and Shinjuku, since these are quick and easy to put up with a minimal chance of being caught. Many of these stickers have been put up by foreigners.

What were some of the challenges you’ve faced in documenting it?

A big challenge was getting the artists to talk. They were happy to be interviewed, but cautious as to what they would reveal. It was hard to extract any juicy or emotive information. Fortunately, I was introduced to Little Pink Pills, who was already well-informed on the scene. She ended up writing the book’s text that accompanies my photos.

The other challenge was sourcing the graffiti. Even though artists would pinpoint locations, this didn’t suffice. I had to scout the streets for hours on end on my bicycle. I was inevitably much fitter for it.

Do any particular images or styles stand out to you? Any that are distinctly Japanese?

The mural that stands out most to me is one that was painted by German artist Case Maclaim. It’s a gigantic mural on the back of a building in Tennozu Isle painted for Pow! Wow! Japan depicting Sumo video game fighter E .Honda. It’s striking to see it in the distant urban scape.

Half the street art in Tokyo is painted by Westerners. They often incorporate images from popular Japanese culture such as Samurai, Geishas, Sumo, as well as comics that portray social issues. Japanese artists do not have a collective style of painting, as each individual/crew has its own distinctive style. Many of them incorporate less commercial elements of Japanese culture. For example, Usugrow blends Japanese calligraphy with pointillism and Los Angeles Cholo culture. Shizentomotel paints Namahage, a traditional Japanese folklore demon. Dragon‘s style is a fusion of graffiti, manga and ukiyo-e. Tamura Yoshiyasu, a manga artist, painter and illustrator, mixes modern manga with traditional Japanese art.

I’m so glad that you and Little Pink Pills made this book happen! Congratulations!

Photos 1 Book cover 2 Fin DAC 3 Unidentified 4 Kami and Sasu aka Hitotzuki 5 Assorted stickers 6 Little Pink Pills 7 Case Maclaim  & 8 Makoto; interview by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Best-known for his interactive performance art and visual art that have been featured in a range of galleries, art fairs and museums, Miami-based artist David Rohn has recently taken his vision to the streets. In his new series, Street Peeps, he focuses on raising awareness of the issue of homelessness. While in Miami, I had the opportunity to speak to him:

When did you begin this project– with its focus on wheatpasting images of  yourself in various disguises representing street peeps?

I started three months ago.

Had you ever gotten up on the streets before you began working on this project?

Back in the 90’s, I did a series of boys’ heads based on an image that I had seen. I got them up in Miami – mostly on lampposts – Downtown and on the beach. One even made it into the bathroom of the Perez Art Musem, back when it was the Miami Art Museum. I painted the heads in different colors mixing guache paint with wallpaper paste.

What inspired you to do so back then?

I’d seen graffiti and wheatpastes up in NY, and I wanted to be out there.

What spurred you to hit the streets this time around? 

Between 2008 and 2014, I was represented by a gallery in Miami. After that ended, I wanted a way to share my vision — and concerns — with others. Things had tapered off. Getting up in the public sphere seemed like the most sensible way to accomplish this.

And why this particular project?

I feel very strongly about homelessness. I’ve seen it explode in recent years. It is appalling! And the income disparity is continually increasing. I’ve been interested in these two issues for awhile.

Each of your portraits is another rendition of you as someone who is homeless!

Yes! I’ve been doing portraits of myself since 2008 as part of my performance art.

Who exactly are these characters you are portraying?

They are inspired by homeless folks and street people I see when I’m out on the streets. The ones who are the casualties of gentrification. This city is changing so rapidly.

And what about the characters with the masks? Who are they?

They represents the power structure. The eilite – those who control our economic assets. The developers who can easily evolve into a monsters.

What about your relationship with the homeless?

For awhile, I was bringing them sleeping bags and cots. But these days, I bring loaves of day-old bread and bottles of water. And socks – white socks and gray socks. They choose which ones they want. These items are what they seem to need and want the most.

And how has this project – getting your portraits out there in public space — impacted you?

It’s been very liberating! It’s fun! And I like the idea of short circuiting the gallery system.

What’s ahead?

Creating and getting up more images suggestive of the homelessness crisis.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky with photos by Lois Stavsky.

Special thanks to Andrew Ringler for introducing me to David.

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With a BFA in Photography and Sculpture from the Massachusetts College of Art, multidisciplinary artist Alessandra Mondolfi describes herself as a “Jill of all Trades.”  A recipient of multiple grants and awards, including a Fulbright Grant to Barcelona, Spain, she has exhibited throughout the globe with works ranging from altered photographs to elaborate large scale multimedia installations. These days, Alessandra Mondolfi  perceives herself  primarily as an artist/activist, whose political artworks surface on the streets of Miami and beyond. I recently had the opportunity to speak to her.

When did you begin to direct your creative talents to the political sphere?

It happened right after the 2017 Women’s March. That was a huge turning point. I took to the streets then using art props as tools of protest. I haven’t stopped, and I’m not stopping. I’m a proud member of the middle-age resistance.

What prompted you to do so? To become so active?

The 2016 Presidential election. It’s a gut reaction to our current state of affairs. These times call for drastic action. Having come of age in Venezuela, I saw first-hand attacks on democracy and on people’s basic values as Chavez ran on a populist front — socialist, but populist. No one took him seriously. They thought of him as a joke. They didn’t think he could win. And when he did, he  destroyed his country. The similarities between him and Trump are staggering. My strongest weapon against this kind of  fascism is my creativity.

How has your in involvement in this movement impacted you?

It’s been therapeutic. Creating art is a way for us to release our anxieties and give us a sense of purpose, especially in times like these.

And what about others? How has your work impacted others? What kinds of responses has it elicited?

The props that I’ve used at various protests have been shown around the world in a range of media — in print, online and on television. I feel as though I am creating the visual message of the resistance for the media to transmit. Much of what I’ve created has gone viral.  Getty and AP images have surfaced in newspapers throughout the world, including Turkey, Bulgaria and India.

What’s ahead?

I’m now working on new props for the March 24th, March for Our Lives in Parkland. These will be followed by wheatpastes that I will post wherever I can.

I’m so glad you’re doing this! Thank you!

Photos: 1 & 3 Lois Stavsky; 2, 4 & 5 courtesy the artist; Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky

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Maya Gelfman & Roie Avidan have been working in public spaces, museums and galleries for more than a decade. Maya’s works have been featured in international art books in Germany and France, and in 2015 Paper Magazine named Maya among the top ten street artists in Israel. Roie has produced documentaries and music videos and published photographs in dozens of newspapers and magazines, print and online. Their collaborative worldwide public-art project Mind the Heart! is entering its tenth year. This past fall, their project brought them to New York City, where I had a chance to meet up with the inspiring, talented couple.

Can you tell us a bit about your backgrounds?

Maya: I’ve always been doing art. I graduated from the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in 2006. My main mediums are installation, painting and street art.

Roie: I am self-taught. I’ve been engaged with visual art for the past 14 years, and nine years ago, I began doing art on the streets. Our work is collaborative, as I generally choose the materials, the concept and the location.

What about your current project Mind the Heart!? What is its mission?

Its principal aim is to promote mindfulness – to ourselves, to our surroundings and to the moment. Many of us – especially those of us who live in the same place for a long time — no longer see the beauty and tend to ignore the ugliness. Too often we become disconnected from one another and miss out on the present.

A little red heart has been surfacing in cities you’ve visited. What does it represent?

This tangled red heart – crooked and messy with dripping ends — is the core of our project. We began by using it on the streets of Tel Aviv to mark the beauty in decay and neglect, the order in chaos, the magic in the ordinary, the soul in things. We’ve since handed out thousands of red yarn hearts along with a simple mission: to go and put it out there, to mark your own spots of significance and share them with the world.

Why did you both choose to use the streets as your principal gallery?

We had both shown in galleries, and we wanted to exhibit in a different way. In 2009, we printed hundreds of posters and placed them on the streets. Within 12 hours, everything was gone. We immediately fell in love with the connection we made with those who viewed our art. We love that street art is completely free.

You are now visiting cities throughout the US. Which cities have you previously visited to share your artwork and to engage people in your project?

We’ve visited various cities throughout Israel. Among the 40 cities we’ve collaborated in are: Florence, London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Bangkok. We were also invited to orphanages in Kenya and Uganda.

What is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done in the course of executing your project? And why were you willing to take that risk?

Standing on a wobbly 15 foot ladder at a hotel in Florence. The ladder could have fallen at any moment. There was no sense of security. Why did we do it? We just didn’t think about it. It was something that we had to do…something that we needed to do at this time and place.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic, particularly this project?

The culture of the American Beat Generation; the notion of “the open road,” and its sense of freedom; Japanese motifs; texts inspired by Taoism; major Russian literature; rock & roll; Kurt Cobain and Leonard Cohen.

What inspires you these days?

Anything and everything!

Have you ever been arrested for your public work?

When we are caught in the act, it becomes a conversation.

What is the attitude of your families and friends towards what you are doing?

They are supportive.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

100%

In addition to your tangled red heart, what other media do you use in Mind the Heart!

We use yarn, shoe-box lids, duct-tape and foam.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished product?

The vast majority of the time.

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

To evoke an emotion…to make someone feel something…to invite people to reflect…to make them mindful.

And how can folks become involved in your project?

They can contact us with ideas for places, people, collaborations, events, murals, and any creative or serendipitous idea they may have.

Locations of  featured images:

1 Bushwick, Brooklyn

2 East Village, Manhattan

3 & 4 Decatur, Georgia

5 Tel Aviv, Israel

6 Jekyll Island, Georgia

7 Easton, Pennsylvania 

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky.

Photo credits: 1 Lois Stavsky; 2-7 courtesy Maya Gelfman & Roie Avidan.

Note: You can follow the Mind the Heart! project here and on its Instagram account here; you can, also, support the project here.

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The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak

A fantastic topography of fabulously executed artworks by street artists from around the world has found its way onto the rooftop of Mexico City’s Antique Toy Museum, or MUJAM. I stumbled upon this hidden space while visiting the city’s Colonia Doctores neighborhood. Soon afterwards, I had the chance to speak with the man behind the project, Roberto Shimizu, Creative Director of MUJAM.

How and when did you first become interested in street art?

It all started when I was ten years old. My father took my family on a trip to New York City.  And every time we were in NYC, we went to bookstores. My brother and I had an unlimited budget for books. It was the only place my father would let us spend money as children. The first book I ever bought was Subway Art by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant. I was just looking for graphic stuff, but it ended up changing my life. I still have it on my desk at the museum today.

How did you become involved in the scene here in Mexico City?

I went to Japan for one and a half years after receiving my degree in Architecture in Mexico City. I moved to Tokyo to work at a high-end architecture firm, but I quickly realized that I didn’t identify with Japanese culture. I came back to Mexico City, and my father asked me to assist him with his business. He had a 5000 square foot warehouse in the Doctores neighborhood with bare walls. He gave me full access to, and it became my playground! I started by doing open calls for street artists through Facebook. I also reached out to music and theatre groups. Many noted Mexican street artists – such as Saner — first started painting here.  Other renowned artists who’ve painted here include: Ripo from Barcelona; Jaz from Argentina; Jeremy Fish from San Francisco; Pixel Pancho from Italy and Roa from Belgium. In 2007, it was dubbed the 5 Pointz of Mexico City.

And can you tell us a bit about what has happened since – in the past decade?

Once the warehouse took off, I realized I wanted to do something bigger. I invited Roa to paint an official mural on the wall of MUJAM. And in 2010, I organized the first big mural show in Mexico City with eight artists painting in different neighborhoods. That we sought permission from building owners, used cranes, and officially invited artists was very new at the time.

What triggered the start of the rooftop project Azotea Mujam. It is fascinating!

The warehouse was prime real estate, and so we had to rent it out. I couldn’t convince the new renters to keep the existing murals. Those walls were part of Mexico City’s street art history, but they wouldn’t hear it. We had to whitewash all the murals. But my intention was, and still is, to keep working with emerging artists. My father had founded MUJAM in 2006 as a showcase for his personal collection of antique toys. Today the museum houses over 40,000 pieces. Above the museum was an empty rooftop, so I decided to start Azotea Mujam and invite artists to paint up there.

Who was the first person to paint there?

Scarlett Bailey was the first artist to paint on the MUJAM rooftop in 2015. A talented Mexican illustrator living in New York City, she was a cartoonist for The New Yorker for many years. On the rooftop she painted icons of New York City’s fashion and media worlds with the Mexico City ‘hood’ as a backdrop. It was the sole work up on the roof for four months.

It seems like the entire rooftop has been painted since! How did it become so popular?

It was through word of mouth! Once the word spread, it became popular pretty quickly. I was fascinated by how much attention it received. I’ve had to whitewash some artworks to make room for others. Azotea Mujam is often the start of a collaboration between the artist and other painting projects, as well — including more prominent wall spaces in Mexico City that I organize.

How do artists react to this very unique context of a toy museum?

They love it! I think artists have a particular fascination with toys. Many famous musicians have also visited, and often when they enter the museum, they become like children. Perhaps, as artists, they are always playing.

How do you select the artists that paint on the rooftop?

I receive emails daily. I ask the artists for their portfolios. Some of them don’t have any, and that’s fine too. Like I said, I am interested in offering opportunities to emerging artists, and I’ve had very nice surprises. I am not focused on getting big names. That was never the intention of the project. What is most important to me is the relationship I develop with the artists and how they can go further from here. Regardless of how big the city projects that I organize are, Azotea Mujam is what’s most rewarding to me.

Do you encourage the artists to focus on toys in terms of the content of their artwork?

I always suggest that the artists spend a couple of days in the museum, sketching the toys they like, as that is the main theme of the rooftop. Sometimes I ask for sketches, sometimes not; it depends on the artist.

There’s a surprising variety of surfaces available for artists to paint on. Did you purposely bring in these different elements?

Yes, I added those myself to the rooftop, so there would be different options of textures and surfaces for artists to experiment on.

What’s your main goal with Azotea Mujam

To create the new generation of Mexican street artists, of both men and women. I see the rooftop as a place where seeds are planted for the future.

The space and the building itself are very interesting. Can you tell us more about its history? How it was acquired? And what have you and your family done with it since acquiring it?

MUJAM’s building was one of the most important buildings for Japanese migrants back in the mid 1900s. Many of them arrived to Mexico City with just a suitcase in hand. My father and grandfather built this building for that Japanese community to have a starting point. After that, my grandfather had the idea of importing Japanese toys; that became his business.  And it, eventually, became the building housing my father’s toy collection.

When I was up on the roof, one of the neighbors was doing laundry. So the roof is still used for practical purposes! How do these folks respond to artists painting here and sharing their work with visitors?

They love it! It was somewhat abandoned before. The artists gave it a new life. I receive many requests to host commercial events there: photo shoots, video shoots, branding events, launches… Perrier even offered to rent out the space. I always turn them down out of respect for our neighbors. I’ve only lent it to very small organizations who are themselves just starting off. I want to keep it pure.

Who are some of the other artists who have painted on the rooftop?

Poni, Paola Delfin, Atentamente una Fresa, Birdy Kids, Alaniz, Los Dos, Alegria del Prado, Gangsby, Daniel Buchsbaum, Spencer Keeton Cunningham, Nabs D, Mr. Lemonade

Have you anyone special on your wish list to paint here? 

I would love to collaborate with Os Gemeos. I like their social and political works.

The rooftop is not open to the public. How do you get people to visit it?

I don’t really try to. I want to keep it like a speakeasy. People will find it if they come into the museum and mention they like street art. We will guide them upstairs and open the door to the rooftop. Just like we did for you!

Can you tell us a bit about this neighborhood – Colonia Doctores?

Back in the 30’s and 40’s – when my grandparents moved here – it was the city’s most flourishing, residential area. With buildings designed by a French urban planner, all of the streets were named for doctors. I consider it the city’s most important district  because the government’s offices are located here. Anyone who wants to register their newborns or report a death must visit Doctores. It is home to: the biggest morgue of the city, the biggest police precinct and the first public hospital, along with the first running water. The first residential zone created by the government, there are three metro lines cutting across it. In the 1980s-90s, people started leaving. But they are coming back now! Doctores is projected to grow in the next ten years, as it is right next to the Roma neighborhood, which is now booming. The cycle of the district is very interesting.

Images

1 Alegria del Prado

2 Senkoe

Scarlett Bailey

Los Dos & Azer

Los Dos

6 Paola Delfin

7 Vale Stencil

Photos and interview by Houda Lazrak

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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When Don Rimx began painting his portrait of Nuyorican poet Jesús “Tato” Laviera last month, I had the opportunity to speak to the poet’s sister, Ruth Sanchez Laviera. “Don Rimx represents my spirit and my brother’s spirit,” she said. “As soon as I met him, I knew he was the one to paint a mural honoring my brother.” And last Saturday, Oct. 28th, after the mural was officially unveiled at Taino Towers and 123rd Street was renamed for Jesús “Tato” Laviera, I posed a few questions to Rimx:

Your mural depicting Jesús “Tato” Laviera is wonderful. When were you first offered the opportunity to paint his portrait?

I was contacted about a year ago.

Can you tell us a bit about your process? What steps did you take to make this happen?

I began by reading or watching every interview I could find that had been conducted with Jesús “Tato” Laviera. I spent time at Hunter College’s Centro: The Center for Puerto Rican Studies reading Jesús “Tato” Laviera‘s poetry and whatever literature and criticism I could find by him and about him. I came to understand and appreciate just how important a voice he was in the Nuyorican movement. I even had the opportunity to  live in the same apartment in Taino Towers that Jesús “Tato” Laviera lived in and to speak to many folks who knew him.

How about the painting itself? How long did it take you?

I worked 12 hours a day for five days.

And the mural unveiling, along with the renaming of this corner? What was the experience like for you?

It was wonderful! I feel so blessed to have experienced it all. Among the speakers were City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Maria Cruz, executive director of Taino Towers. There was also a poetry reading, along with reminiscences by family and friends.

Congratulations!  We are so happy that this opportunity came your way. It’s great to have your vision and talents shared with us — once again — here in NYC.

Photos: 1 & 2 Lois Stavsky; 3 & 4 courtesy of the artist; featured in the third photo are: Ruth Sanchez Laviera to the left of  Don Rimx and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to his right

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Conceived by Dusty Rebel, Street Cuts is an ingenious street art-based digital sticker app featuring images by some of our favorite street artists. Eager to find out more about it, I posed a few questions to Dusty:

I just downloaded your newly released Street Cuts app. It’s wonderfully engaging!  Can you tell us something about the concept behind it?

I’ve always loved stickers and their role within the street art community…the way they are collected, traded, and often well-placed on the street — especially on other images like ads. It seemed only natural to bring street art to digital stickers, especially with iMessage, which allows you to drop stickers into your conversations or onto your photos. It felt like a fun way to explore “digital vandalism.” Also, I liked the idea of building a collective of street artists who weren’t being asked to simply “work for exposure,” but would be paid for their work. This Street Cuts app makes that possible.

What about its name — Street Cuts?

When we started developing packs — like Hiss’s and City Kitty’s — made from my photos of their work on the street, we began calling them Street Cuts. We soon realized it would be a cool name for the app, itself.

Who are some of the artists involved in Street Cuts?

It is a growing collective with more artists to come. But for the past few months I’ve been working closely with HISS, Abe Lincoln, Jr., City Kitty, KNOR, Belowkey and the Primate, as they developed digital sticker packs.

How can artists become involved in your project? I’m sure there are many who would like to be included?

While our collective is by invitation-only, I’m open to artists pitching their ideas for a pack to me. They can email me at dusty@streetcuts.co 

How can we find out more about it?

You can come and celebrate the launch of Street Cuts this coming Monday, October 23, from 6-10pm at Arlene’s Grocery, 95 Stanton Street on the Lower East Side. The launch party will include a scavenger hunt, give-aways, and original work by the app’s featured artists, who will also be in attendance. Be sure to download the Street Cuts app first and follow us on Instagram for Scavenger Hunt details.

It sounds great! Congratulations!

All images/photos courtesy Dusty Rebel; the second image features Abe Lincoln, Jr., HISS & KNOR; the third KNOR; the fourth the Primate and the fifth City Kitty; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; the app​ ​is produced​ ​by​ ​​Itsy​ ​Bitsy​ ​Media​​ ​and​ ​developed​ ​by​ ​​Tanooki​ ​Labs​.

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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A veteran French graffiti writer, designer and illustrator, Jaek el Diablo shared his talents with us in Jersey City earlier this year, painting several walls in coordination with Green Villain, along with independent commissions.  At the time, street and travel photographer Karin du Maire had the opportunity to interview him:

When did you begin doing graffiti?

It’s been about 25 years now since I first started doing graffiti. I began in the early 90’s.

What inspired you at the time?

I was into the skateboard culture back then, and I met many other skaters who were tagging the streets. They exposed me to graffiti, street art, comics and pop culture, in general.

What, would you say, has had the largest impact upon your particular style — both as a graffiti artist and a designer?

Comics! I was always drawing, and the comics I was reading inspired my characters. I think that was the beginning of my story!

How would you define your style? What differentiates it from others?

If I had to define my style, I would describe it as cartoon. I was influenced early on by the Kermits, Disney, Hanna–Barbera… In my work, I try not to reproduce the same thing that I see. I put my own stamp on it! It’s kind of like sampling in hip-hop – a remix of sorts! I see my work as a tribute to some of my favorite characters. It’s always a tribute.

Can you tell us a bit about the difference between French graffiti and the graffiti you’ve seen here while painting in NYC or Jersey City?

I think that back in Europe, we’ve had other influences — such as Mode 2 and the cartoon styles that inspired him. And we have the German graffiti writers whose letters are always evolving. Here in NYC, the writers are very academic; they are Old School academic. Not all  — there is Rime MSK and a few guys who are next level. But most NY writers maintain the classic graffiti style. To me, the two books, Spraycan Art and Subway Art, are the Bible, the base. I love being here and discovering the origin of my religion!

What about the future of graffiti? Where do you see it going?

I see more and more big murals, especially tribute murals, and more illustrators doing street art. I see lots and lots of styles, but there will always be a return to the roots of it all – which is graffiti. I see it  going in a variety of directions. But, I think, in the future there is no museum. It is only in the streets!

Many walls in NYC are now curated. How do you feel about this trend?

On a positive note, the walls are better and better, because the artists are carefully selected. But it’s also a negative thing. Graffiti was meant to be open to all. If you had a can, the wall was free! But, yes, these curated walls help break down the negative stereotypes of graffiti. And that is good for my art! So maybe that is the future!

Photos by Karin du Maire; interview conducted by Karin du Maire  and edited by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Last week, Texas-based John Bramblitt, a professional artist who lost his vision in 2001, visited Bushwick, where he collaborated on a huge mural with Rubin 415 for JMZ Walls. While he was here, travel and street photographer Karin du Maire had the opportunity to interview him and capture him, along with Rubin 415, in action.

Can you tell us, John, a bit about how you got into art?

I think I could draw before I could walk! Art was always a big part of my life. And growing up, I was sick a lot. I had kidney problems. I had severe epilepsy that kept getting worse. All the way through high school, I was literally out of school half the time with something. And art made a bad day better, and it was a great way to celebrate a good day…and so I did art every day and I took every art class I could.

You are now creating art as a blind artist. When did you lose your eyesight?

I lost my eyesight in college, and I thought I lost art, as well. But I learned how to use my hands to do everything that a person’s eyes do. And so now I draw with lines I can touch and feel. When I was sighted, I used to feel excited if a drawing or painting that I did looked like someone. But now it’s more important that it feels like someone… that it is that person. And that’s where the colors and emotions come in.

You just painted your first mural. What was the experience like? How does it differ from working in your studio?

It’s been a great experience! As far as I know, I am the first blind painter to do a mural. It’s my first mural, and it’s been incredible. I’m a studio artist; I work with museums quite a bit. I do commissions all the time. But what I do is paint! Yet, this is so much different. You’re on a wall that’s so much bigger. I’m not going to roll it up and send it away when it’s done. It lives there on that wall.

Does anything in particular about the experience stand out?

One of the things that made this so special is that I love to meet other artists and be around people who are just as obsessed with art as I am. In this project I’ve been able to work with Tony — Rubin 415 – and the whole crew here has been so energetic. For me it’s a dream come true to be able to work with artists who are passionate about what they do. It’s been amazing!

And what about the community? Lots of people have been passing by. How have they reacted?

That’s been my favorite part of this entire experience. I’ve painted live before, but this is a completely different experience. During the whole time I was putting this up, people were coming over. This is where they live, and I feel as though I am painting it in their home! The feedback has been so positive! People seem grateful that you are making their community more beautiful and bringing energy to it. They come over and hug us! Today a little boy stopped by and added a bit to the mural – and so we have one more street artist in the making!

Now that you’ve painted your first mural, can you tell us a bit about what your plans are for the future? Do you plan to paint more murals?

I do. I expect to be painting a mural in Dallas to help a non-profit. And I will be working more with museums. October is National Disability Awareness Month, and I will be traveling all over the country. And I would definitely love to do more mural work. The impact it has on the community is incredible. You just can’t beat it!

Photos by Karin du Maire; interview conducted by Karin du Maire and edited by Lois Stavsky

Support for this inspiring project has been provided by See Now.

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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