Interviews

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

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

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

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

What was your impression of it at the time?

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

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

What is the image of NYC in your native country?

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

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

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

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

When did you decide to move here? And why?

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

How did your family feel about your move?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you encountered any prejudice here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you like to accomplish here?

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

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

What do you miss most about your native country?

My parents and the food I ate back in Japan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do any early graffiti-related memories stand out?

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

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

She wasn’t. She thought I was crazy!

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

Did you continue to study art in a formal setting?

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

Why was that?

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

But these days you are back into it.

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

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

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

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

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

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

What do you see as the future of street art?

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

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

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

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

I love it!

Have you shown in galleries?

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

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

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

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

What about the role of the Internet in this scene?

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

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

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

What inspires you these days?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

No! I am a perfectionist.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

I tend to more freely fuse figurative and expressionistic elements.

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

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

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

What’s ahead?

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

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

Interview by Lois Stavsky with Houda Lazrak

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

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

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

When did you first visit New York City?

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

What was your initial impression of this city?

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

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

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

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

How did your family feel about your move?

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

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

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

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

That must have been difficult.

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

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

How did you meet your basic expenses early on?

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

Have you encountered any prejudice here?

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

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

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

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

Have New Yorkers been receptive to your artwork?

Yes. I’ve been fortunate.

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

What would you like to accomplish here?

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

What do you miss most about your native country?

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

Magda sneaker art Magda Love: From Buenos Aires to Brooklyn

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

I’m here to stay!

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

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RAE This May Come as a Shock RAE on the Loss and Retrieval of his Trunk in <em>Trunk Work</em>

On exhibit through April 19 at 34 1/2 Bayard Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown, RAE’s brilliantly idiocyncratic Trunk Work celebrates the retrieval and contents of RAE‘s trunk from his former Brooklyn studio, while chronicling the events related to its loss and rescue. Graphically and conceptually engaging, Trunk Work wittily defines the mood and culture of the Brooklyn environs that housed RAE‘s trunk, as it showcases a range of RAE’s rescued and new works.

For four years, you couldn’t gain access to your trunk. What exactly was inside it?

Various artworks, notebooks, sketches, implements and a range of personal items.

rae close up RAE on the Loss and Retrieval of his Trunk in <em>Trunk Work</em>

How did you lose access to it?

I had been maintaining a studio in a Flatlands, Brooklyn apartment building. But as a result of tenant complaints, I was forcibly removed. Barred from entering the building, I had no way to retrieve my trunk.

rae neighbor note RAE on the Loss and Retrieval of his Trunk in <em>Trunk Work</em>

rae audio system RAE on the Loss and Retrieval of his Trunk in <em>Trunk Work</em>

What kinds of complaints might these tenants have had?

They didn’t like my taste in music; they complained that it was too loud. And the noise from my art practice bothered some. Finally, when a microwave I was using to melt some materials exploded, the landlord decided that he’d had enough of me.

RAE found objects RAE on the Loss and Retrieval of his Trunk in <em>Trunk Work</em>

How did you finally retrieve your trunk?

This past August, cracks were discovered in the building’s facade and the entire building was evacuated. Amidst the chaos of it all, I was able to retrieve my trunk from what was once my studio.

We’re so glad you did! What a story! And what an amazing recreation of it all!

In true RAE fashion, Trunk Work is far more than an art exhibit; it is a totally immersive experience. Set in a Chinatown basement at 94 1/2 Bayard Street, right off Mulberry, it continues through April 19, Thursday-Sunday (except for Easter) from 1-6pm.

Photos 1-3 and 5 by Lois Stavsky; 4 by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Speaking with Mor

March 26, 2015

For the past several years, Mor‘s exquisitely-fashioned stencils have been surfacing on the streets of NYC and beyond. I had the opportunity to speak to Mor earlier this week at Con Artist, where she was preparing for tomorrow’s opening at City Bird Gallery.

Mor with stencil con artist Speaking with Mor

When did you first get up on the streets? What was your medium at the time?

I started almost five years ago with hand-made stickers. And the following year, I pasted up my first one-layer stencil – a face looking upward — in Williamsburg.

What inspired you to work with stencils?

When I was in middle school, I was living in Bushwick — in its early stages of gentrification. I remember passing Swoon’s work on my way to school. Its beauty astounded me. She is my greatest inspiration. And C215’s amazing work – that surfaced in Brooklyn back then — also moved me to experiment with stencils.

What about the streets? What was the appeal of the streets to you?

I love the notion of creating something beautiful and just giving it to others.

mor stencil art Lower East Side NYC Speaking with Mor

Were you ever arrested back then?

I was once caught tagging with a black marker, and I ended up spending the night in jail. It is a risk that all street artists take.

How did your family feel about what you were doing?

They were positive, encouraging me to do what makes me happy

Do you have a formal arts education?

I am, for the most part, self-taught.  But my art teachers always encouraged me.

Mor street art nyc Speaking with Mor

Any thoughts on the graffiti street art divide?

There definitely is a divide, and there will always be some kind of beef between graffiti writers and street artists. It’s not cool when a street artist goes over graffiti. Nor is it cool when a writer tags over street art.  But I think the media – particularly the Internet – is partly responsible for the beef.

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

It has definitely changed the playing field!  It’s great that it gives permanence to a transient art form. But — on the negative side — it boosts a type of showmanship, while giving exposure to mediocre artwork.

What inspires you these days?

Much of my inspiration comes from my dreams. I’m also into mysticism.

Mor stencil street art in Bushwick NYC Speaking with Mor

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Tribal ones have the most influence.

Have you collaborated with other artists? 

I haven’t in the past, but I will be painting with Ian Bertram at City Bird in preparation for our joint exhibit.

How do you feel about the movement of street art and graffiti into galleries? 

As my father is an artist, I grew up around galleries. I do think, though, that there is something sterile about galleries as compared to public spaces.  Showing in a gallery is very different from getting up on the streets.  And I don’t feel that the art world understands art — not just street art, any art!

Mor stencil art Centre fuge East Village NYC Speaking with Mor

How has your work evolved in the past few years? 

The streets have energized me to keep pushing myself. I feel that I’ve grown so much in just finding my process.

Have you any preferred surfaces when you are out on the streets?

I love brick walls — the way art ages on brick walls. And I like smooth doors because they’re easy to use.

How would you describe your ideal working space?

At the moment I have my ideal working space — here at Con Artist.  I love my Con Artist family. But I can imagine some day sharing a huge space with the extraordinarily talented Ian Bertram, a constant source of inspiration!

Ian Bertram art Speaking with Mor

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

As much time as I possibly can — when I’m not dealing with family responsibilities or bartending, my main source of income.

Any thoughts about the marketing of graffiti by the corporate world?

We all know that the corporate world is filled with scoundrels and pirates, but we also know that as artists, we need its financial support.

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

It is the artist’s role to channel deeply seated emotions and creativity in a positive way. It is an essential role.

Mor stencil art skate boards Speaking with Mor

What do you see as the future of street art?

I have no idea where it’s going. There’s been too much hype around street art.  But graffiti will always sustain. Someone will always be writing his or her name on a wall.

What’s ahead for you?

I just want to continue to channel my creativity into living a productive life as an artist, while engaging and, hopefully, enriching others.  Tomorrow night I will be showing my newest pieces, alongside Ian Bertram, at City Bird Gallery.

Ian Bertram and Mor City Bird Gallery Speaking with Mor

 Congratulations! That sounds great!

Photos: 1 and 7 City-as-School intern Zachariah Messaoud; 2, 4 and 5 Lois Stavsky; 3  Sara C. Mozeson & 6 Ian Bertram

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Living and working as a full-time artist in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Milan native Federico Massa aka Iena Cruz first visited NYC in 2008. He has since moved here, enhancing NYC and beyond with his strikingly stylish aesthetic. This post is the first in a new series of interviews with artists born abroad who have decided to make NYC home.

iena cruz painting miami auction Federico Massa aka Iena Cruz: From Milan, Italy to Williamsburg, Bklyn

When did you first visit NYC?

It was the summer of 2008. I stayed here for a month.  At the time, I didn’t know anyone in NYC.

What brought you here? Why NYC?

I was on vacation, and I was interested in exploring other cities. I had begun to feel that Milan is too small for me.  NYC seemed like a logical place to visit.

Iena Cruz in studio Federico Massa aka Iena Cruz: From Milan, Italy to Williamsburg, Bklyn

What was your first impression of NYC?

I fell in love with it at once.  I didn’t understand it, but I loved it. I felt inspired by the chance to be connected to so many different cultures. I thought everything about NYC is great!

What was your image of NYC back in Milan?

It was out of focus. The only image I had of it came from what I saw in movies and music videos. I really had no idea what to expect.

Iena Cruz street art williamsburg NYC Federico Massa aka Iena Cruz: From Milan, Italy to Williamsburg, Bklyn

When did you decide to return here? 

I knew soon after my first visit that I needed to come back.

How did your family feel about you leaving Milan for NYC?

They were supportive. They know how difficult life is for an artist in Milan. Back home no artist is taken seriously until after he is past 50.

iena cruz puerto rico street art Federico Massa aka Iena Cruz: From Milan, Italy to Williamsburg, Bklyn

What were some of the challenges you faced once you decided to make NYC home?

I had to learn a new language. I had to find work to meet basic living expenses. I constantly had to concern myself with visa requirements and paper work. And in order to do all this, I had to put aside my painting. There was a general sense of instability.

Your current living situation is ideal – as your home is also your studio. How did you get so lucky?

I discovered this place on craigslist. When I contacted the owner, he asked me to show him a sample of my artwork! As soon as he saw it, he took me on as a tenant. At the time there were two other artists living here, both Mexican.

Iena Cruz bushwick street art Federico Massa aka Iena Cruz: From Milan, Italy to Williamsburg, Bklyn

What was that like – sharing the space with these other artists?

It was wonderful at the time! And they’ve had a tremendous influence on my aesthetic. Through them, I discovered Mexican culture, and I’ve since adapted elements of it into my artworks.

Now that the space is all yours, how do you meet all your expenses?

Largely through a variety of commissioned projects. I also sell artworks and do set design.

iena cruz street art NYC Federico Massa aka Iena Cruz: From Milan, Italy to Williamsburg, Bklyn

Do any particular projects stand out?

The huge mural I did for the Williamsburg Cinemas on the corner of Grand and Driggs was an experience! It was unlike anything I had done before – both aesthetically and in terms of the people with whom I interacted while painting it.  And last month, I had the opportunity to participate in FAAM, Fine Art Auction Miami in Wynwood.

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

My current works feature and fuse elements of Italy, Mexico and NYC.  And as I’m inspired to push myself here, my art is certain to continue to evolve and develop.

Cruz close up street art Williamsburg nyc Federico Massa aka Iena Cruz: From Milan, Italy to Williamsburg, Bklyn

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

It’s been so positive. My sense is that folks here admire my work, and they’ve been so welcoming.

What’s ahead?

Now that I have my green card, I just want to keep painting murals and exhibiting my artwork.

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

Photos: 1. In Miami for the FAAM MAJOR STREET ART AUCTION and 4. In Puerto Rico, courtesy of the artist; 2. In the artist’s studio, Lois Stavsky; and 3, 5-7, In NYC, Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Royce Bannon Kerren Hasson Fishing Buddies art Royce Bannon on Living the After Life at 17 Frost

On exhibit through tomorrow — Saturday — evening at 17 Frost is Royce Bannon‘s Living the After Life.  Fashioned on a range of found surfaces — some collaboratively — all of the images intrigue. Curious as to what is going on, I posed some questions to Royce.

What does this all mean? What is going on here?

These works represent my ideal vision of the afterlife — doing the things that I enjoy doing — when I am living as a ghost. It is a celebration of life after death.

Royce Bannon KA art 17 Frost Royce Bannon on Living the After Life at 17 Frost

Royce Bannon Afterlife Royce Bannon on Living the After Life at 17 Frost

 What, do you suppose, was the impetus behind this theme? Why the focus on life after death?

My mother recently died. For quite awhile I’d been preparing myself for her death and thinking about the afterlife. Death is not the end.

Royce Bannon Only Positive Thoughts Royce Bannon on Living the After Life at 17 Frost

How have folks responded to this body of work? 

The response has been positive. There’s been considerable interest in the works.

Royce Bannon Observer Obscuraart Frost Royce Bannon on Living the After Life at 17 Frost

How can folks to be sure see the exhibit before it closes?

Everyone is invited to the closing party to be held tomorrow evening — Saturday, March 21 — at 17 Frost Street from 7-11pm.

living the after life party invite Royce Bannon on Living the After Life at 17 Frost

Note: Tomorrow evening’s closing party will feature a new collabo with EKG and a live drum machine performance by Jefferson Wells.

Images

1. Fishing buddies, Collab with Keren Hasson, Acrylic on wood

2. The swing is always broken in limbo, Collab with KA, Acrylic and spray paint on metal.

3. Remember that day, pt 2, Acrylic on wood

4. Only positive thoughts, Acrylic on metal

5. So far, Collab with Observer Obscura, Mixed media on wood

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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

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

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

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

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

You seem to all share a somewhat similar vision. 

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

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

 Why did you choose this particular location?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note:  The exhibit continues through Saturday, March 21.

 Artworks

1. El Pez 

2. Kokian

3. Sliks

4. Sen2

5. Esther Barend, close-up

6. Kurar

7. Joyce DiBona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Mickey Mouse? What is his significance to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artworks

1. Betso, Mickey Splash

2. Eric Orr, Max with Mickey Ears

3. Sienide, Wickey Mouse

4. Miss Zukie, Stuffed Mouse

5. Chris RWK, Tourist Trap

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

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Damien Mitchell street art Bushwick NYC1 Damien Mitchell on Graffiti, Street Art, Prague, NYC, His Upcoming Exhibit at Low Brow Artique and more

Australian native Damien Mitchell has been gracing NYC walls with his wonderful talents since moving here two years ago. We visited him at his studio while he was readying for his solo exhibit — Tools of the Trade — opening tomorrow Friday, the 13th, at Low Brow Artique.

Damien Mitchell Inwood street art Damien Mitchell on Graffiti, Street Art, Prague, NYC, His Upcoming Exhibit at Low Brow Artique and more

When and where did you first share your artwork on a public space?

My first experience with graffiti was at age 8. I wrote ‘fuk’ on the underside of our family’s coffee table. I then blamed it on my two-year old niece, Alice.

What or who inspired you to do so?

I can’t remember — though it must have been important, as I still do it now and then. Alice is getting really sick of my shit.

Do you have a formal art education? 

No.

Damien Mitchell street art nyc Damien Mitchell on Graffiti, Street Art, Prague, NYC, His Upcoming Exhibit at Low Brow Artique and more

How do you feel about the movement of works by street artists and graffiti writers into galleries? Have you exhibited your work in a gallery setting? If so, where and when?

It is what it is. When you take a work off a truck or wall and stick it in a gallery, it no longer moves like it does outside. It can’t sneak up on you or take you by surprise. That said, I am showing paintings at Low Brow Artique tomorrow, Friday the 13th, from 6-9pm.

When did you come to NYC? What brought you here?

I first arrived five years ago to visit my wife’s family. I was only here for a few weeks,  but I got a few walls up including one at 5Pointz – R.I.P.  We moved over here for a longer term on Independence Day two years ago.

What are some of the specific challenges of working/living here in NYC as an artist?

Like anywhere, when you give your work away for free on walls — often times against the will of the building owner — things can get a little weird. Luckily, there are lots of walls to go around, and sometimes they even pay you for it.

Damien Mitchell paints NYC1 Damien Mitchell on Graffiti, Street Art, Prague, NYC, His Upcoming Exhibit at Low Brow Artique and more

 Where else have you painted? Have you a favorite city?

When I was 18, I moved to Prague in the Czech Republic. I lived there for eight years painting everything I could. Say what you will about the hangover from the Soviet era but it sure left a lot of bare concrete walls. Also, I once painted my butthole blue just to see if it would change the color of my poop. It didn’t.

Any thoughts about the street art/graffiti divide?

Personally, I wear two hats. I think it’s nice to be able to drink beer in the summer time, while painting a wall at a block party somewhere, but it’s also fun as hell to run around writing shit on walls on the sly. Graffiti heads get all pissy because their work is illegitimatized by street art’s aesthetics and message.

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

When I was growing up in rural Australia, the Internet was the only way to see any of this stuff. If it wasn’t for sites like Stencil Revolution, I probably would have become a plumber or something.

Damien Mitchell stencil art graffiti tools Damien Mitchell on Graffiti, Street Art, Prague, NYC, His Upcoming Exhibit at Low Brow Artique and more

Do you prefer working alone or painting with others? With whom have you collaborated? Is there anyone in particular with whom you’d like to collaborate?

For legal walls, I’m up for collaboration. There are things you learn and tips — you don’t realize you are giving — that make artists better when they work together. This last year I was lucky enough to work with Edob Love and Heesco painting a couple of walls here in NYC. Who knows what will pop up in 2015?

Do you work with a sketch in hand? Or do you just let it flow?

Both. When I’m painting a large portrait, I usually have some kind of sketch with me to start with, and then I let it go. Showing up to a wall with a big bag of paints and just emptying them all as it goes makes for some of my favorite work, though.

How has your artwork evolved during the past few years? Has living in NYC affected your aesthetic?

Since living in NYC, I’ve been offered larger walls, so I’ve had to significantly change how I work. For years I was painting primarily with stencils, but once the walls got big enough, I ditched them. As for aesthetic, I paint what’s around me, so the city and its residents constantly pop up in my work.

DM exhibit Damien Mitchell on Graffiti, Street Art, Prague, NYC, His Upcoming Exhibit at Low Brow Artique and more

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

I don’t know what the role of the fine artist is, though the role of the graffiti artist — in my opinion — is to be the voice of social change. When there is nowhere to raise your voice, grab some paint and write it on the wall.

Can you tell us something about your exhibit that opens tomorrow at Low Brow Artique?

It’s called Tools of the Trade. A homage to graffiti, it celebrates the tools used by graffiti artists.

What’s ahead for you?

After spending some more time here in NYC, my wife and I are heading to Brazil. The more I look, the more I like!

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

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