Interviews

For the past several wintry months, fiber artist Naomi RAG has been beautifying East Harlem with her splendid yarn bombing. Yesterday, I spoke briefly to Naomi.

Naomi Rag yarn bombing NYC Fiber Artist Naomi RAG Yarnbombs East Harlem

 When did you first begin to grace public streets with your talents?

The first time I yarnbombed was four years ago back in Cambridge, England.

 What inspired you to do so at the time?

Via social media, I had heard about International Yarnbombing Day, and I loved the idea of bringing color and beauty to our urban landscape.

Naomi RAG yarn bomb east harlem street art nyc Fiber Artist Naomi RAG Yarnbombs East Harlem

naomi RAG street art yarn bomb east harlem New Years Eve Pointsettia nyc Fiber Artist Naomi RAG Yarnbombs East Harlem

Where else have you yarnbombed?

Liverpool’s Crosby District — where I was staying for a bit — and here in East Harlem, where I’ve lived for the past year.

 What is your impression of your new neighborhood?

I just love it! I especially love its diversity. It is quite similar to the London Borough of Hackney.

Naomi RAG east harlem tree yarn bombing Fiber Artist Naomi RAG Yarnbombs East Harlem

Naomi RAG east harlem installation nyc street art  Fiber Artist Naomi RAG Yarnbombs East Harlem

How have folks here responded to your pieces here in East Harlem?

All the feedback has been positive. And it’s the positive reactions that motivate me to keep at it.

What’s ahead?

My goal is to create one new piece a month to share here in the public sphere.

That sounds great!  We are looking forward! 

Photos 1-3, Lois Stavsky; 4 & 5, Dani Reyes Mozeson

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EKG closing party EKG♥NYC Closing Event Tonight at Skewville in Long Island City

Since the February 13th opening of EKG♥NYC, NYC-based writer EKG has been busy at work on his installation for the closing reception. We stopped by earlier this week and had the opportunity to ask the artist a few questions:

Your orange pulse has become an integral part of our city’s visual landscape. What does it represent?

It’s chemical communication...an expression of connectedness and collaboration. It’s a sign of energy vibrating on everything everywhere. I see it as the heartbeat of our city.

EKG Smells artwork EKG♥NYC Closing Event Tonight at Skewville in Long Island City

Why orange?

I like its intensity and the way it integrates into the cityscape.

This installation is astounding! The walls are covered with cryptic orange diagrams. A cloudy haze emanating from a heavy metal concert fog machine fills the air, and your iconic symbol is everywhere — on and amidst milk crates, ladders, spray cans, cages and more. What is going on here?

It’s an abstract sillouette of New York’s cityscape. All of the elements represent the connections among all things. The smoke and the electronic music heighten the intensity of it all.

EKG Installation EKG♥NYC Closing Event Tonight at Skewville in Long Island City

Your official opening was on February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day. Can you tell us something about that? And how did that go?

It was originally intended as an All Hallows’ Valentine’ Eve celebration of misfit love, mutant science and aesthetic rebellion. The turnout was great and the entire experience was awesome!

EKG painting EKG♥NYC Closing Event Tonight at Skewville in Long Island City

I love your shop here. Your symbol is everywhere from t-shirts and zines to prints and paintings — and everything is so affordable!

Yes. It’s a homage to Keith Haring’s legendary pop shop, but as if it was created by Tim Burton, Marilyn Manson, Walter White and Stephen Hawking!

What can folks expect tonight?

I’ve continued to build up my installation, and the closing ceremony will once again feature the Doomdronecore performance by the avant-garde electronic artist, Jefferson Wells.

musician EKG♥NYC Closing Event Tonight at Skewville in Long Island City

Good luck! It is certain to be amazing!

Note: Tonight’s closing event begins at 6 pm at 35-18 37th Street in Long Island City.

Photos: First image features photo by Katherine Lorimer aka Luna Park; 2-5 by Lois Stavsky; image 2 is a collaboration with Smells.

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Speaking with Rocko

February 26, 2015

Rocko street art NYC Speaking with Rocko

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

When did you first get up?

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

What about here in NYC?

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

zimer rocko with passerby 720 Speaking with Rocko

What was your first piece here?

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

What was the experience like?

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

What kinds of surfaces do you prefer?

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

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

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

rocko street dodworth Speaking with Rocko

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

They love it. Everyone is supportive.

What percentage of your day is devoted to your art?

About 40%.

What is your main source of income?

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

What are some of your other interests?

Cycling. I race for the Brooklyn Arches.

rocko calligraffiti on canvas Speaking with Rocko

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

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

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

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

What about the corporate world? Any thoughts about that?

I don’t mess with it!

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a formal arts education?

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

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

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

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

What inspires you these days?

Everything I see around me!

Are there any particular cultures you feel influenced your aesthetic?

Arabic.

Rocko and Eelco street art nyc Speaking with Rocko

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

Never!  I freestyle.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

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

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

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

Rocko calligraffiti Brooklyn NYC copy Speaking with Rocko

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

They are very important!

What do you see as the future of street art?

It will just keep on growing and evolving.

And what about you? What’s ahead?

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

That sounds wonderful! We are looking forward! 

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

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A new series of painting and drawings by the wonderfully talented multi-media artist Michael Alan will be on view at the Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert Gallery for two days later this month.  The second day of the exhibit, February 25, will feature a Living Installation. Curious about it all, I posed a few questions to Michael.

Michael Alan artwork Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert to Present Michael Alans <em>Immortal Equations</em>: An Exhibit, Living Installation & Theatrical Happening

Can you tell us something about the title Immortal Equations? What does it mean?

For me, great artwork conveys a taste of planning mixed with spontaneity. The great masters made sure your eyes moved all around the picture plane. They sure didn’t want their heads cut off. When I work, whether on a flat surface or on people, I think in terms of something that will live past NOW and, also, has an algorithmic pop to it – whether through color and line or just balance.

The Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert Gallery describes Immortal Equations as a Living Installation, a solo exhibition and a theatrical happening. What can attendees expect to happen? 

I’ve been going through myriads of health issues, so I just wanted to do a 2-day special show. On Feb 24th, day one, there will be an exhibit of some new works. I will be there. It’s a basic opening, but my crowd varies from high-end collectors to my boys I grew up with. It’s a real NY show! And I’m planning to return for a month-long exhibit somewhat later on.

cloud city11 Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert to Present Michael Alans <em>Immortal Equations</em>: An Exhibit, Living Installation & Theatrical Happening

What about the second day?

On the 25th starting at 6pm, the drawings come to life. I will do my staple event, a Living Installation, with nine others, and six hours of live music by me and Tim “Love” Lee. There will also be six hours of non-stop live-action over-the-top recreation of the human body. 

What would you like your participants to walk away with? What is the mission of this event?

Creative inspiration, happiness, and many thoughts. We live to shut off, especially in a time of high technology. I try to slow time down and let people watch a Human Fish Tank. It’s for the people. I do this for community and for people to come and participate: to make drawings, write and be turned into living paintings.

Michael Alan Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert to Present Michael Alans <em>Immortal Equations</em>: An Exhibit, Living Installation & Theatrical Happening

Can you tell us something about this specific venue? The curator?  Who else – besides – you will be featured?

The venue is Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert Gallery at 33 Orchard Street off Hester on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Mitra Khorasheh is curating the show. The performers and participants include: David Modelo, Stacey Dawn, Selina Lee, Genevieve Sophie Snow, Kimtacular, Wren, Laura WeylAlyssa D’Anna and photographer Kristen Collins, along with live music by me and Tim “Love” Lee.

How can folks gain admission?

The first night’s exhibit is free and open to the public.  The second night – the Living Installation – is by admission only. For tickets, please visit www.michaelalanart.com under Installation.

Michael Alan Living Installation Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert to Present Michael Alans <em>Immortal Equations</em>: An Exhibit, Living Installation & Theatrical Happening

 Interview by Lois Stavsky; photos 1-3 courtesy of the artist; final photo by Kristen Collins

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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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