Interviews

AEON paints in chicago street art Lorenzo Masnah aka AEON on APCs First U.S. Exhibit, Romance, Recycled Art & more

I caught up with Bogota native Lorenzo Masnah – aka AEON and Third World Pirate – last week in his Bushwick studio as he was readying to head to Chicago’s Galerie F to join Stinkfish, Zas and Buytronick in preparation for APC’s first exhibit in the U.S.

You are leaving in a few hours for Chicago. What’s happening there?

I will be working with Stinkfish, Zas and Buytronick to produce a series of collaborative works. Each of us has a distinct graphic language and they all will come together on an array of surfaces – from found objects to huge outdoor murals — for this exhibit at Galerie F.  Drawings, paintings, zines, shirts and all kinds of APC paraphernalia will be on sale at the gallery. The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, January 30.

animal tricks gallery 8 APC Lorenzo Masnah aka AEON on APCs First U.S. Exhibit, Romance, Recycled Art & more

Can you tell us something about APC? What does it mean? When did you guys all meet?

The crew originated almost ten years ago back in Bogota with a few artists who participated together in festivals.  These days we have over 50 members representing APC throughout the entire world. The acronym has many different meanings. Its principal one is Animal Power Cult, as animals play an essential role in our individual and common aesthetic.

Aeon Zas Rimx Arepa street art graffiti nyc Lorenzo Masnah aka AEON on APCs First U.S. Exhibit, Romance, Recycled Art & more

What about you? You seem to have three distinct identities. I primarily associate you with Third World Pirate as I remember watching you paint your iconic pirate almost ten years ago in Bogota. But there everyone seems to refer to you as AEON. And, here in NYC, I’ve come to think of you as Lorenzo Masnah.

I’ve been obsessed with pirates and drawing them in endless variations since I was a child growing up in Bogota. That explains Third World Pirate!  He is the one character who always travels with me. AEON is my acronym for Al Estilo Orto Nombre (Another Name for Style) – as I began getting up back in 2002 in Bogota with distinct one-line drawings. And I adopted the name Lorenzo Masnah when I had my solo show at Fuse Gallery in 2013.

Aeon dancers Lorenzo Masnah aka AEON on APCs First U.S. Exhibit, Romance, Recycled Art & more

Among the highlights of your solo show at Fuse Gallery were your refashioned images of beautiful Mexican women. That is another theme that resurfaces in your work. Can you tell us something about that? You seem to be quite obsessed with Mexican ladies!

Yes, for years I’ve been collecting Mexican erotic magazines dated from the early 1950s. This past year, in fact, while visiting Mexico, I discovered in a used book store in Puebla a huge stack of 45 records with covers fashioned from these vintage magazine pictures. I bought them all! And I am now working with them, recreating them with images that transcend that specific era.

Why do you suppose these images so engage you?

I love their pure innocence, their nostalgic beauty! And they represent so much of what we are missing in our era of Internet dating, where romance has lost its essence.  And I’ve also always loved working with recycled materials. It is my way of preserving the past, as I create a visual encyclopedia of aesthetics and issues that speak to me – and, hopefully, to others.

stinkfish street art chicago APC crew Lorenzo Masnah aka AEON on APCs First U.S. Exhibit, Romance, Recycled Art & more

Zas Painting in chicago Lorenzo Masnah aka AEON on APCs First U.S. Exhibit, Romance, Recycled Art & more

What’s ahead?

After Chicago, we plan to travel out West and then return to NYC for APC’s first East Coast exhibit.

It all sounds great! We look forward to seeing you guys in NYC.

Note: Animal Tricks opens this Friday, January 30, at 6 pm at Galerie F. Located at 2381 N Milwaukee Ave  in Chicago IL. The gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 AM to 6 PM.

APC in chiacago Lorenzo Masnah aka AEON on APCs First U.S. Exhibit, Romance, Recycled Art & more

Interview by Lois Stavsky. Photos: 1. AEON paints in Chicago, courtesy Galerie F; 2. flyer for exhibit, collaborative by featured APC artists; 3. APC in NYC with AEON, Zas, Rimx  and Arepa photographed by Tara Murray; 4. AEON on canvas photographed by Lois Stavsky; 5 – 7.  APC in Chicago courtesy Galerie F.  

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A specialized new online gallery certain to appeal to us street art aficionados, Cluster Wall launches tomorrow evening with an exhibit and party at 17 Frost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We recently had the opportunity to speak to Cluster Wall’s founder, Evan Tobias. 

Chris RWK Cluster Wall <em> Cluster Wall </em> to Launch Tomorrow with Exhibit and Party at 17 Frost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

What is Cluster Wall? Why that name?

It is a term I respond to! As an art-lover and collector, I tend to cluster art of all colors and styles in our Brooklyn apartment. The results are vibrant, bold and kinetic, like New York City, itself!

What is your mission in launching Cluster Wall?

My mission is to provide art lovers with the opportunity to purchase first-rate, hand-embellished affordable art. There will not be any ink jet prints. All of the artworks will be signed and numbered, and editions will be limited. Prints will be released in a series of 100 or fewer. And, in addition, a small number of original works will also be made available.

Evan Tobas at Cluster Wall <em> Cluster Wall </em> to Launch Tomorrow with Exhibit and Party at 17 Frost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

What work experiences do you bring with you to your current position?

I was the founder and editor of Block Magazine, and founder of the Full Circle Bar in Williamsburg.

Most of the artists — whose works you will be exhibiting and selling — are active on the streets. Why the focus on street art?

I’m a big fan of street art. I’ve been living in Williamsburg since 2001, and I’ve seen how street art has enhanced my neighborhood. It has made it a better place to live. But Cluster Wall is not limited to street artists. I will be releasing artworks by other contemporary urban artists, as well.

the drif <em> Cluster Wall </em> to Launch Tomorrow with Exhibit and Party at 17 Frost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

How did you decide which artists to work with?

I started off by contacting artists I know, and then I was connected to some others. I was specifically looking for artwork that I love that would also work well as prints.

Can you tell us something about this weekend’s exhibit? What can we expect to see?

We will be featuring prints and original artworks by Chris RWK, Joe Iurato, Rubin, ASVP, Elle, The Drif, London Kaye, Solus, Opie and ORYX, along with collaborative works by John Paul O’Grodnick and Jilly Ballistic, who will also be painting live.

Jilly ballistic and j p o <em> Cluster Wall </em> to Launch Tomorrow with Exhibit and Party at 17 Frost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

What is Cluster Wall bringing to the art scene?

It provides art lovers with the opportunity to collect outstanding, innovative artwork at modest prices.

That all sounds great! Good luck!

Joe Iurato cluster wall <em> Cluster Wall </em> to Launch Tomorrow with Exhibit and Party at 17 Frost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Note: The launch begins at 7pm tomorrow — Saturday — at 17 Frost Street and will feature, along with dozens of artworks, music by DJ Nigel Rubirosa and refreshments provided by Lion Beer and Sea Grape Wines.

Interview conducted by City-as-School intern Zachariah Messaoud.

Photos

1. Chris RWK  

2. Cluster Wall founder Evan Tobias, seated in front of artwork by London Kaye 

3. The Drif

4. John Paul O’Grodnick and Jilly Ballistic

5.  Joe Iurato

All photos courtesy Cluster Wall, except for pic of Evan by Lois Stavsky

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Art Is Trash The Future Is Now Continues through January 20 at 60 Orchard with Art is Trash, Jaime Martinez, Iena Cruz, Kimyon Huggins, NDA and more

Featuring a diverse range of artists – many active in the streets – the Future Is Now continues through the 20th at 60 Orchard Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. While visiting the exhibit soon after it had opened, I had the chance to speak to Kimyon Huggins, who along with Kennedy Yanko, curated it.

Joseph conrad ferm art 60 Orchard Street The Future Is Now Continues through January 20 at 60 Orchard with Art is Trash, Jaime Martinez, Iena Cruz, Kimyon Huggins, NDA and more

ross broder art 60 Orchard The Future Is Now Continues through January 20 at 60 Orchard with Art is Trash, Jaime Martinez, Iena Cruz, Kimyon Huggins, NDA and more

This show is wildly eclectic – featuring a broad range of visions and styles. Can you tell us something about this exhibit’s title? Its mission? What does it all mean?

The Future Is Now references a new form of Dadaism, where artworks of varied styles from artists of different backgrounds come together in a cohesive fashion.

Jamie Martinez aka Triangulism The Future Is Now Continues through January 20 at 60 Orchard with Art is Trash, Jaime Martinez, Iena Cruz, Kimyon Huggins, NDA and more

Is there any common theme to these dozens of artworks?

It’s all an ode to the 80’s – to punk rock and its DIY sensibility.

Iena Cruz art 60 Orchard The Future Is Now Continues through January 20 at 60 Orchard with Art is Trash, Jaime Martinez, Iena Cruz, Kimyon Huggins, NDA and more

How did you choose these particular artists? There is quite a range here, with many active on the streets.

They are all people that Kennedy Yanko and I know – urban artists whose artworks represent the theme of the exhibit.

kimyon huggins art 60 orchard The Future Is Now Continues through January 20 at 60 Orchard with Art is Trash, Jaime Martinez, Iena Cruz, Kimyon Huggins, NDA and more

And what about this space, 60 Orchard?

It couldn’t be more perfect. A space like this on the Lower East Side is where “the future is now.”

NDA art at 60 Orchard The Future Is Now Continues through January 20 at 60 Orchard with Art is Trash, Jaime Martinez, Iena Cruz, Kimyon Huggins, NDA and more

The Future Is Now remains on view through January 20 at 60 Orchard Street between Hester and Grand on the Lower East Side.

Photos

1. Francisco de Paja aka Art is Trash

2. Joseph Conrad-Ferm

3. Ross Brodar

4. Jaime Martinez

5. Iena Cruz

6. Kimyon Huggins

7. NDA

Photos 1, 4 and 5 by Tara Murray; 2, 3, 6 & 7 by Lois Stavsky

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noxer kaput giz martinez gallery edited 1 Martinez Gallery Brings Free Radicals to ALL CITY    An Uptown Space Where Graffiti and Medicine <em> Coalesce </em>

While visiting the Free Radicals graffiti exhibit at ALL CITY this past Friday, I had the opportunity to speak to noted Martinez Gallery director Hugo Martinez who — together with Dr. Juan Tapia – envisioned and helped realize this wonderful space that serves as a graffiti art gallery, arts center and pediatric clinic.

What an amazing venture this is! A pediatric clinic, a dynamic art gallery and lounge all sharing the same space. Whose concept was this?

It was Einstein’s. “After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity and form,” he once stated. There is a natural synthesis between art and medicine, and a health clinic is an ideal setting to realize it.

noxer martinez gallery Martinez Gallery Brings Free Radicals to ALL CITY    An Uptown Space Where Graffiti and Medicine <em> Coalesce </em>

What made this extraordinary space possible?

2.5 million dollars and seven years.

Who were the main forces behind it?

I work with Dr. Juan Tapia, a pediatrician and former graffiti artist known as C.A.T. 87.  We were inspired to observe and measure evidence-based results of fusing two seemingly antithetical concepts.

navy8 and False graffiti Martinez Gallery Martinez Gallery Brings Free Radicals to ALL CITY    An Uptown Space Where Graffiti and Medicine <em> Coalesce </em>

How did you two come to collaborate?

I met Juan over 40 years ago when I was a student at City College and he was a Warlord for the neighborhood division of the Young Savage Nomads gang.  In 1972, we co-founded the United Graffiti Artists (UGA) as an alternative community to the established art world. Juan then went on to earn his GED and attend college and medical school. We have since collaborated on many community-based art and health projects. And in 2008, we established the ALL CITY Foundation.

Can you tell us something about the ALL CITY Foundation?

It is a community-based health and arts collaborative that has brought together a network of medical practitioners, artists and designers to create and run coordinated health and art programs for youth in New York City.

Navy 8 Martinez Gallery Martinez Gallery Brings Free Radicals to ALL CITY    An Uptown Space Where Graffiti and Medicine <em> Coalesce </em>

Your current exhibit, Free Radicals, is a remarkable representation of various works in different media by a range of prolific artists.

Yes. All of the artists in this exhibit have established all-city reputations, most in NYC and a few in other large cities.

Why did you choose this particular space on the corner of 135th Street and Broadway? It is quite impressive.

It is close to City College, where UGA was first established. And the lay-out of the building, the former Claremont Theater – a 22,500-square-foot landmark that was the first theater to show photoplays — is perfectly designed for our purposes.

Soviet close up Martinez Gallery Martinez Gallery Brings Free Radicals to ALL CITY    An Uptown Space Where Graffiti and Medicine <em> Coalesce </em>

from the outside martinez Martinez Gallery Brings Free Radicals to ALL CITY    An Uptown Space Where Graffiti and Medicine <em> Coalesce </em>

What’s ahead?

A range of programs, activities and revolving art exhibits.

Note: Free Radicals continues through March 31 at 3332 Broadway at 135th Street in Harlem. All artworks are for sale. You can follow the Martinez Gallery online at martinezgallery.com and on Instagram at instagram.com/martinezgallery. You can also visit the space with NY1 and check out this recent story in the New York Times.

Photos

1. Kaput, Noxer and Giz

2Noxer

3. False and Navy8

4. Navy8

5. Soviet, close-up

6. Various artists, as seen from the outside looking inside

Interview and photos by Lois Stavsky

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Nemo graffiti Italian Artist Nemo Tibi Amat on Carrots, Burqas, NYC and more

Back in September, a huge orange carrot surfaced on the streets of Williamsburg. We soon discovered it was the work of the Italian artist Nemo Tibi Amat, whose distinctly curious aesthetic was on view at Exit Room NYC at the time. Eager to find out more about it all, we posed some questions to her.

Why a carrot? What does the carrot represent?

Because it makes me smile, and it makes other people smile. I think of it as a kind of Carrot Therapy. Also, the carrot fits wonderfully into our urban architecture. It can be vertical or horizontal; it can be whole or chopped. There will always be a place for it.

When was your carrot first born?

Everything was born some years ago. At the beginning, I used to paint a fat radish instead of the letter O when I wrote my name. Then when I began doing rollers, I replaced the letters with the carrot.  Even a child who can’t read can recognize a carrot.

Nemo street art nyc Italian Artist Nemo Tibi Amat on Carrots, Burqas, NYC and more

What about the carrot on a cross that I saw over at Exit Room? What does that represent?

It’s the sacrifice.  Anyone who aims to change the world by fighting against the system — with his or her own powers — is a Jesus on Earth. He wasn’t the only one crossed, as so many were, are and continue to be in many other ways. He’s just the most famous, because apparently his father was a god! The real crucified carrots that I use represent the inevitable decay of the body. After death, there is no resurrection.

And your burqa? It’s such an intriguing, powerful image. What does it represent?

Since I began painting — back in 1995 — I’ve had to deal with hiding and covering myself. I’m fascinated by the relationship between one’s interior self and the exterior world. And I love playing with the concept of protecting your body by hiding it. Covering your face can be a choice, but sometimes it is a necessity — a rule that others impose on you. Through my burqas, masks and balaclavas, I also tell stories that range from personal experiences I’ve had with real people to secret urban legends. If you scratch away the plasticine on my scratch card artworks, you can win my face.

Nemo artwork Italian Artist Nemo Tibi Amat on Carrots, Burqas, NYC and more

Nemo installation Italian Artist Nemo Tibi Amat on Carrots, Burqas, NYC and more

What about your characters? Can you tell us something about them?

The characters themselves tell me how to draw them. You would have to ask them.

What is like being a female in a male-dominated world?

I don’t think about it. If you know who you are and where you are, you can manage just about everything going on around you. Most of the time, I paint on my own, and most of my friends are guys. I think I’m lucky, as I feel free from those mental prisons that a lot of girls feel enclosed in.  I don’t, though, support the feminist way of thinking as it only increases the separation between us.

Nemo in burqa Italian Artist Nemo Tibi Amat on Carrots, Burqas, NYC and more

What is your impression of NYC?

Everything is really messed up, and I do love it.

Interview by Lois Stavsky with assistance by Daniela Croci aka Zoe;  Photos 1, 2, and 5 courtesy of the artist; 3 and 4 by Lois Stavsky

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Currently based in Bogota, Colombia, the Australian artist CRISP continues to bring his vision to a range of spaces throughout the globe. We met up with him on his recent visit to NYC.

crisp political street art Speaking with Bogota Based Australian Artist CRISP in NYC

When did you first start painting on public surfaces? And where?

I’m a late bloomer, as back in Australia and during my time in the UK, I was mostly into sculpting and drawing.  But when I moved to Bogota, I became very interested in getting my art out in the street. That was over five years ago now, and I never looked back.

Were there any particular folks who inspired you?

Definitely the Canadian graffiti writer Opek — who was living in Bogota at the time — as he encouraged me to get my art up in the street. Dj Lu / Juegasiempre was an important influence, great support and my favorite stencil artist. Also the local work of Toxicómano , Guache, Kochino, Senil, Vogel, Praxis and others certainly inspired me.

Do you have any preferred surfaces?

The great thing about the urban space is that it’s filled with different textures and surfaces. In terms of my stencils, though, I generally like flat concrete ones, as they’re easier to work with and brighten up an otherwise dull, grey corner of the city.

crisp street art bogota Speaking with Bogota Based Australian Artist CRISP in NYC

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

To me they are one and the same. I try not to get into the politics. Live and let live I say. It’s all expression, creativity and passion.

Have you any thoughts about the corporate world’s engagement with graffiti and street art?

I’ve never liked how corporations have always been able to impose their images on our urban environment while graffiti and street art are almost always deemed illegal. Public spaces are for everybody, not just for companies that want to make sales and money. I feel uneasy how private corporations now use urban art to sell their brand, but I also understand that artists need to earn a living!

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

It’s changed everything.  So much more artwork is accessible to so many.  It’s not just the people in a particular neighborhood or city who can enjoy the pieces now. It also helps bring awareness to a wider audience of street artists from countries that are less visited or unknown. Bogota has one of the most prolific and best urban art scenes in the world, but not many people know about it or visit.

crisp mask Williamsburg NYC street art Speaking with Bogota Based Australian Artist CRISP in NYC

Do you have a formal arts education?

Not in the formal institutionalized sense, but both my parents are artists, and I grew up around art all my life. My dad is a sculptor, and my mom is a traditional painter. They taught me a lot from a very young age.

How do they feel about what you are doing these days?

They love it. I’ve even turned my mom on to street art! When she came to Bogota, she painted some walls with me!

What’s the riskiest thing you’ve done?

Well, I did get stabbed in the hand during a robbery this year while photographing street art in a dodgy neighborhood in Bogota. I was stupidly doing the wrong thing in the wrong place, and I learnt the hard way! I had to paint with my left hand for a few months while my right hand healed.

Crisp street art stencil portraits Speaking with Bogota Based Australian Artist CRISP in NYC

What inspires you these days to keep getting your art up in public spaces?

I love the idea of sharing my work with a wider audience without the limitations galleries and internal private spaces impose. And I love it when folks discover my work by chance and enjoy it! I want to be a part of a city’s visual landscape – the one I live in and the ones I visit.

What’s your ideal working environment?

Working in areas of cities where my street art will impact passersby by adding something to their commute, walk or day. Every city and street has its own unique aesthetic and feel.

Has your aesthetic been influenced by any particular cultures?

I’m especially influenced by Asian cultures and by different tribal aesthetics from around the world. Also popular culture, current world events and the environment influence my work. My work is a mix of socio-political and solely visual expression.

Crisp street art shutter NYC Speaking with Bogota Based Australian Artist CRISP in NYC

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

I work on larger surfaces, and I’m experimenting more with different materials and subject matters. I’m doing more complex stencils and experimenting with mixing free style with stencils. Also, I’ve started doing more sculptural works in the street through my masks.

Would you rather work alone, or do you prefer to collaborate with others?

Both. It’s always fun to collaborate with other artists, as it can add something new to all our pieces. Among the artists I’ve collaborated with are: Ronzo, Pez, DjLu, Dast, Tarboxx2, Miko and Kochino.

Where else – besides Bogota and NYC – have you gotten up?

I’ve gotten up in London, Mexico City, Miami, Atlanta, Sydney, Alaska, Canada and the Dominican Republic. May favorite place by far, though, is Bogota, Colombia!

crisp political stencil street art Speaking with Bogota Based Australian Artist CRISP in NYC

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

To visually reflect a particular perspective of the history and culture of the times and place. The artist highlights a people’s social and political values in a way that’s aesthetically expressive and open to different interpretations.

What about the photographers and bloggers? How do you feel about them?

Urban art is continuously evolving, changing and disappearing. It’s important that it’s documented as eventually it won’t exist. And as I mentioned before, it helps people discover and learn about scenes and artists they wouldn’t generally access.

What’s ahead?

I want to keep painting and creating as much as possible. I want my work to keep evolving. I love combining my love of travel with street art, so I will keep mixing that up! My family and my art are the most important things in my life!

Interview by Lois Stavsky; photos 1, 2, 4 & 6 courtesy of the artist; photos 3 and 5 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn by Lois Stavsky 

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I am Michael Alan Michael Alan on His Recently Released Book, Artistic Freedom and more

Earlier this fall, the wonderfully talented multi-media artist Michael Alan released a book of selected drawings and writings. With the limited edition just about sold out, Michael offers some insights into it all.

Why did you decide to publish this book?

I am tired of artistic control. The government. The police.  Most outlets for publication.  I am also tired of solo shows in New York. Super stress to basically make some dumb money and hear people talk about beer. So came the idea of the book. My work is too intricate for the web. It needs to be in your hand. People need to slow down. That’s what books do. They slow you down. I also wanted my friends and fans who can’t — or don’t want to —  buy a painting to be able to own a handmade affordable piece. The book is a work of art.  And I’ve been sick. In case something happens to me, I don’t want anyone rewriting my mind.

Michael Alan art1 Michael Alan on His Recently Released Book, Artistic Freedom and more

How did you decide what to include? 

Kristen Collins chose the works. She is a lovely, brilliant artist who made this possible. She is passion.

Michael alan artworks book Michael Alan on His Recently Released Book, Artistic Freedom and more

What are your personal favorites and why?

They are all my favorites. My work is about change. Energy. Life. These differ every day. That’s why I work in multiple styles.

michael alan alien Michael Alan on His Recently Released Book, Artistic Freedom and more

How have folks responded to the book?

The response has been great. It’s attracted a range of fans – from as far as Australia. We had only gotten the word out on Facebook and Instagram, and we are almost sold out. This will be the first blog to cover it.

Michael Alan art Michael Alan on His Recently Released Book, Artistic Freedom and more

If you are interested in owning a signed copy of the book, you can contact the artist at artisticrevolution@gmail.com.

All images © Michael Alan 

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Hottea Yarn Bombing street art Hottea on His Recent NYC Installation, Gentrification and UUGGHH

Last month, Minneapolis-based artist Eric Rieger aka Hottea came to NYC with a message. Here’s what he has to say about his installation on the iconic, recently-purchased building on Bowery and Spring Street:

Can you tell us something about this specific site?  What is its significance to you?

This building used to be the old Germania Bank and was built in 1898-99.  Today it is no longer a bank, but a residence.  For such a big building you would think that there is more than one tenant.  Not the case.  There is only one family living there, and that is the family of Jay Maisel.  Unfortunately, this is not for much longer.  He reportedly sold the property for 50 million dollars.  That is quite the profit considering he bought it for around 100k.  Over the years that Jay and his family lived there, they refused to clean its exterior walls.  The outcome was a collage of graffiti, wheatepastes and stickers. This building is significant to me because it made me think of a different way of installing my work.

HotTea spring street Hottea on His Recent NYC Installation, Gentrification and UUGGHH

Why did you choose to install the word “UUGGHH?”

I wanted this piece to be about the recent purchase of the building and the decision to turn it into a condo development/private gallery space.  I have seen gentrification taking place all over the world, and NYC is no stranger to it.  There are so many iconic buildings that are lost due to the desire for “New.”

Hottea street art installation NYC Hottea on His Recent NYC Installation, Gentrification and UUGGHH

What about the process of the installation?  How did you go about it?  How long did it take?

The process was done in three parts.  I did a lot of organizing in my hometown of Minneapolis, such as ordering lumber, reserving a moving truck, etc.  The second part was gathering all the materials once in NYC and building the lettering.  This proved to be much more complicated than I was expecting.  Many of the supplies were hauled via the subway and once on site, there was little room to work.  We used an abandoned lot, but got kicked out so we just worked in front of where I was staying.  Not much room at all.  The third and final part was hauling the letters on site and installing. The whole process from beginning to end took about two weeks.

Hottea street art bowery and spring Hottea on His Recent NYC Installation, Gentrification and UUGGHH

What kinds of responses has your installation received?

A lot of people were curious when I was installing.  They were curious as to what it meant and who it was for.  I think a lot of people assume that if you are wearing a reflective vest and working during the day, that you must be doing something for a brand or for the city.  This installation was done to remember what NYC once used to be.  I was never able to experience it first-hand, but through images and video I was able to sense the energy and spirit behind the work being done. The reactions have been like mine.  UUGGHH, not another building lost to gentrification.  

And for a wonderful documentation of it all, check out this video.

All photos courtesy Hottea

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The x spot East Harlem graffiti The X Spot Arrives in East Harlem with Custom Graffiti Art and more by Topaz, Jerms, Treat Street...

Topaz – one of the most active members of the hip-hop and 5Pointz communities – began customizing T-shirts when he was in junior high school. His most recent venture is the X-Spot, a unique space at 2 East 116th Street in East Harlem. We recently visited him and had the opportunity to speak to both Topaz and Jay, the manager of Production X.

topaz graffiti The X Spot Arrives in East Harlem with Custom Graffiti Art and more by Topaz, Jerms, Treat Street...

How did you guys come up with the idea to open such a space?

We grew up together in Rego Park, Queens, and we’ve been working together for years. We’ve actually had two stores before – one in Paterson, New Jersey and the other in South Carolina. We wanted to do something different from what we’d done in the past.

Jerms graffiti map The X Spot Arrives in East Harlem with Custom Graffiti Art and more by Topaz, Jerms, Treat Street...

In what ways is this venture different?

Our emphasis here is on providing services and maintaining a gallery.  It is production-based. Although we sell graffiti art on canvases, select magazines — like the latest issue of Flashbacks — and CD’s, our space here is not primarily a store or shop.

Jerms Topaz and Blone graffiti on canvas The X Spot Arrives in East Harlem with Custom Graffiti Art and more by Topaz, Jerms, Treat Street...

What are some of the services that you provide?

We provide clients with all forms of graphic design — customized murals, logos, portraits, canvases, T-shirts and more.

Jay ProductionX with street treat graffiti The X Spot Arrives in East Harlem with Custom Graffiti Art and more by Topaz, Jerms, Treat Street...

It sounds – and looks – great! Whom do you see as your principal clientele?

At this point, it is largely the hip-hop community – rappers and entertainers. But, ideally, the general public, especially as graffiti continues to gain respect and recognition as an art form.

Treat Street graffiti on canvas The X Spot Arrives in East Harlem with Custom Graffiti Art and more by Topaz, Jerms, Treat Street...

This is such a great location! It’s right off 5th Avenue in East Harlem and down the block from the 2 and 5 subway lines. How did you guys come up with such a great locale?

A lucky set of circumstances – as Jay’s cousin had previously worked at this location.

Poet Pace Jerms Sav Ice graffiti on canvas gallery The X Spot Arrives in East Harlem with Custom Graffiti Art and more by Topaz, Jerms, Treat Street...

The artwork on display here is primarily by you, TopazJerms and Treat Street NY. Are you open to other artists participating in your projects?

Absolutely.  Talented and committed artists can stop by our space or drop us an email at ProductionX@aol.com or LordRoccolypse@aol.com.

Photo credits: 1. and 2. Topaz by City-as-School intern Tyler Dean Flores; 3. Jerms by Lois Stavsky; 4. Jerms, Topaz & Blone by Lois Stavsky; 5. Treat Street with Jay (X-Productions) by Lois Stavsky; 6. Treat Street, as commissioned by Derek Jeter’s nephew, by Lois Stavsky and 7. PoetPaceJermsSav, Ice and more by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Matthew denton burrows art Speaking with Matthew Denton Burrows

A wonderfully talented fine artist and illustrator, Matthew Denton Burrows began sharing his distinct vision with us on public spaces in January 2013. We recently had the opportunity to interview Matthew whose first solo exhibit opens tomorrow at 8pm at Greenpoint Gallery.

We first discovered you over at East First Street when you were painting for the Centre-fuge Public Art Project. Can you tell us something about that? How did it come about?

When I was in grad school at SVA, I was the only one in my program who was into street art. I loved the concept of sharing one’s art in a public space. And one of my professors who knew about Centre-fuge suggested I contact the folks running it. And so I applied, and in February 2013, I painted my first public piece on a huge trailer off First Street.

What was that experience like?

It was nerve-wracking! I generally work with pen and ink and colored pencils on paper in my studio. It was a new experience, and strangers were observing me at work over the course of five days. But I was instantly hooked!  The interaction with the community was addictive!

Matthew Denton Burrows art for Centre fuge in NYC Speaking with Matthew Denton Burrows

We’ve since seen your artwork elsewhere.

Yes, I’ve painted in Bushwick, at the Northside Festival in Williamsburg and in Miami.

Your artworks on paper are quite different from what we’ve seen on the streets. They’re intricately detailed and extraordinarily complex, both visually and conceptually. When did you first begin drawing?

I’ve always been drawing!  When I was in elementary school, I used to get into trouble for drawing so many people with guns!

You work just about full-time as an artist these days. At what point did you decide that you wanted art as a profession? And are you happy with that decision?

At the end of my sophomore year at Lehigh University, I decided to major in art.  And, yes, I’m definitely happy with that decision. I love what I do, and I’ve sold a substantial amount of work.

Matthew denton burrows paints street art miami1 Speaking with Matthew Denton Burrows

You’ve had a formal art education. Can you tell us something about it? And was it worthwhile?

I received a BFA from Lehigh University, where I had the school’s first-ever solo art show just a year into my degree. Back in New York City, I earned an MFA in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts.  My formal education is worthwhile only because I was first self-taught.

How do your parents feel about what you are doing these days?

They’re very supportive. My mom is an artist and she loves street art!

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

All of it! When I’m not creating my own art, I work as project manager and assistant curator of the Centre-fuge Public Art Project. And I am also the CEO and co-founder of the recently launched company, Dripped on Productions.

matthew denton burrows art Speaking with Matthew Denton Burrows

Has your aesthetic been influenced by any particular cultures?

A multitude of cultures, particularly marginal ones.

What inspires you these days – both in the studio and on the streets?

I’m always inspired by the energy of my native city, NYC! But current events, my experiences, my travels, and alternative cultures also fuel my creativity. And I’m an avid reader. When I read that Rio had won the bid for the Olympics, and the World Cup, for example, I did extensive research that evolved into a body of artwork.

What are some of the particular issues that concern you?

I’m especially interested in matters related to the environment, social inequality and the impact of technology.

Matthew denton burrows street art Bushwick Speaking with Matthew Denton Burrows

How, then, do you feel about the increased link between art, particularly street art, and corporate or for-profit enterprises?

I think the link, which seems to be growing stronger, is a positive thing. I think it will help enhance the movement in terms of fans, but there is always a danger when a pure artistic expression — such as street art — binds with the corporate world. The corporate world has the ability to suck the creative purity out of things. But artists need to be paid like anyone else, and if an artist can find a link where they still feel integrity and creative freedom, I would support it.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

I feel that I’m influenced more and more by street art.

Have you ever collaborated with another artist?

No! But I’d really like to.

matthew burrows with camera Speaking with Matthew Denton Burrows

Do you work with a sketch in hand?

No. I have a general idea of what I want to do and my work evolves organically.

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

To expose others to a more interesting world. To remind people that something exists beyond their everyday lives.

What’s ahead?

My first solo exhibit, Are You Aware of The Ongoing Experiment will be held tomorrow, Friday, November 7, at Greenpoint Gallery from 8 -12 pm. I am headed to Art Basel next month. And in January I am participating in a group show in Aspen, Colorado.

Interview by Lois Stavsky with City As School intern Tyler Dean Flores; photos: 1 and 4, courtesy of the artist; 2, Tara Murray; 3, 5, and 6, Lois Stavsky

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