Interviews

Home to a rotating range of vibrant murals by first-rate, often classic, graffiti writers, Hackensack’s Union Street Park is a treasure. While visiting on Wednesday, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to its founder and curator, Darrius-Jabbar Sollas also known as Nasty Neo.

When did you first begin curating this spot?  It’s a graffiti-lover’s paradise. We’ve been returning regularly to check it out since we first discovered it — by chance — several years ago.

It’s ten years now. I began curating it in 2007. We are celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Congratulations! How did you discover such an ideal spot?  And how did you come to manage its walls?

I used to pass it every day as I took my kid to school.  And it looked like the perfect spot to showcase graffiti. As I went about locating the owners of the adjacent building to secure permission to use the walls, I discovered that a friend of mine was one of the building’s owners. I was given one huge wall.

What was the initial response to your transformation of this space? How did the community react?

The response was wonderfully enthusiastic. The town’s officials couldn’t have been more positive. And soon I was invited to curate the entire space, not just one wall.

Among the many artists who’ve painted here, do any in particular stand out?

Among them: Serve, Bates, Hef, Med, Tats Cru, Poem, Sade, T-Kid, Wane

What have been some of your challenges in managing this space?

The artists themselves! They can be pompous and arrogant. All of the walls are buffed for them, and too many still need to be catered to.

I notice that you guys are buffing the walls now. What’s ahead? Are you getting ready for anything special?

Yes! We have a birthday barbecue coming up Saturday for Roz…our fifth annual one.

Who are some of the artists who will be painting at the birthday barbecue?

FliteServeWore, Jew, Pase, Python, Rocky 184, Gem 13

It sounds great! Have fun! And thanks for bringing so much vibrancy to Bergen County!

Images

1  Union Street Park curator and artist Darrius-Jabbar Sollas aka Nasty Neo

2  Staten Island-based Goal

3  Classic writer Sound7TC5

4  Graffiti legend Part One

5  The masterful Sade TCM

6  Doe of the RTH crew

Photo credits: 1, 4-6 Dani Reyes Mozeson; 2-3 Lois Stavsky; interview conducted by Lois Stavsky

{ 0 comments }

Cairo-based artist Mohamed Radwan aka Sober recently completed a mural dedicated to female empowerment at Sahel’s Sea Hub compound on Egypt’s north coast. A brief interview with the artist follows:

When did you first paint in the public sphere? And what motivated you to do so?

During the Egyptian revolution and particularly starting 2012, I was motivated by opposition to the political status quo.  I started painting on the streets as a form of political expression of this opposition and solidarity with certain revolutionary figures and ideals.

Why did you choose to create a mural on the theme of “Women Empowerment?”

I believe that graffiti must serve a social purpose or advance a cause. For this particular mural — because of its location and high visibility — I felt that it was important to choose a topic that wouldn’t be divisive and would, also, get the huge exposure it deserves. In my mind, there was no topic more in need of  attention in the Egyptian community, in particular –and globally, as well — as women’s rights and  empowerment.

And why did you decide to feature Wonder Woman so prominently in your mural?

Because Wonder Woman has evolved into a symbol of women empowerment globally. She even had a brief run as a United Nations honorary ambassador. And with the release of the Wonder Woman movie this summer, she has achieved iconic status.

What were some of the challenges faced in creating this particular mural?

The first challenge was the size of it. The wall is 70m long and 5m high. I had never worked on such a large scale before. And that was a huge challenge to me. The second challenge was the very limited time for implementation. We had seven days to complete the mural — which meant spraying 10 meters a day. This, coupled with the hardships of the coastal weather in Egypt — which is extremely hot in the morning and very windy and humid at night — made it very hard for us artists to work continuously for seven days. And not only that, but the humidity and wind were also affecting the stencils on site. Thankfully, I was blessed with a crew of highly professional and highly committed artists and volunteers, who were intent on making this happen.

Have any objections arisen among the religiously and politically conservative elements in Egypt to your subject matter or portrayal of women in an outdoor setting?

Not at all. Women are commonly portrayed in public settings in Egypt — in commercials, billboards and such. It’s nudity that normally causes objections, and I don’t have that in this mural.

How has the local media responded to your mural?

So far the mural was well-received by both formal and social media. But we are seeking more exposure for the mural and contacting numerous media outlets.

All photos courtesy the artist; interview by Lois Stavsky

{ 1 comment }

Andrew-Frank-and-Fountain-House-mural-art

Run by the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, the New York City Mural Arts Project has brought two murals to the Bronx and one to Manhattan this past year.

“Art has the ability to profoundly change the way we think, feel, and even spark meaningful conversation to begin to break down the strongholds of isolation and stigma,” said First Lady Charlene McCray.”The Mural Arts Project is an important investment…in improving our city’s mental health infrastructure.”

Earlier this year, lead artist Andrew Frank Baer began collaborating with Fountain House Gallery and members of the Hell’s Kitchen community in designing and painting a huge two-segment mural. Many of the Mural Arts Project’s participants struggle with mental illness and/or substance abuse problems.The impressive artwork they created has since found a home on West 34th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. After visiting the site, I spoke to Andrew Frank Baer.

I love the the collaborative nature of this project.  How would you describe the principal mission of the New York City Mural Arts Project?

Its principal aim is to integrate people with mental health issues into the community and to destigmatize mental illness.

outsider-art-mental-health-mural-close-up

Could you tell us something about the process? Its beginnings?

Yes! The Fountain House Gallery hosted workshops where its members actively designed and sketched the artworks. And as the local community is involved in all stages of the process, there is constant interaction among us all.

andrew-frank-baer-with-Hells-Kitchen-community-mural-art-nyc

What is it about the project that engages you?

I’ve worked with similar mural-making projects for a few years now. I love drawing, and I love listening. And I especially love working with others and serving people with mental health issues.

What were some of the challenges that this project has faced?

Deciding on a design that would work — one that people would respond to. And, then, getting to know everyone on a sincere level.

The site of the two mural segments is ideal. The two wide, highly visible spaces couldn’t be more perfect! And I think we can all relate to its message: Some days I have to push myself to go outside and walk to the park. Say hello! We can embrace ourselves and open doors together. How has the community responded to it all? 

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We even had construction workers enthusiastically coming up to us while we were working on site!

Congratulations! I’m looking forward to future collaborations!

Photos by Lois Stavsky; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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

en-play-badge 2

{ 0 comments }

kate-storch-and-za-one-graffiti-art

Continuing through this week at Avant Garde LES is Queens-based ZA ONE‘s exuberant solo exhibit, The Evolution of ZA ONE. While visiting last week, I had the chance to speak to its curator, Kate Storch.

ZA ONE is a style master; that is certainly evident here. And it was great fun watching him paint over at First Street Green Park last month. 

Yes! ZA ONE is a true artist. He is fearless in his determination to keep on pushing his craft further and further.  He spent the past two years working on these canvases.

zaone-graffiti-LES-NYC

When did ZA ONE first hit the streets?

He first hit the streets in the mid-eighties. And in 2012, he started going all-city. It was non-stop adrenalin. He is a street killer, as well as a masterful artist.

How did you meet ZA ONE

Jerms introduced us about two years ago. I feel like ZA ONE was a gift. And I love the way he involves his children in his art.  He is a dedicated father, as well as a dedicated artist.

How did the opening of the show go? I’ve heard great things about it!

Yes, it was amazing. There was so much love from other writers. And the exhibit attracted a wonderfully eclectic mix of people including fine artists and musicians.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been busily planning and promoting this coming Friday’s Summer Classics Block Party in honor of National Hip Hop Day.

What can folks who attend it expect?

It will feature live DJs and some of the best graffiti artists and muralists — a mix of both legendary classics and contemporary talents.

summer-classics-block-party-NYV

It sounds great! Good luck with it all!

Photos by Lois Stavsky; interview with Kate Storch conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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

en-play-badge 2

{ 0 comments }

wc--bevan-with-mural-art

I first came upon WC Bevan‘s mesmerizing aesthetic at an exhibit — curated by Jason Mamarella aka d.w. krsna — that I attended back in 2013 at 17 Frost. I was delighted to rediscover it on the streets of Detroit during my recent trip, where I, also, had a chance to visit the artist’s studio and speak to him.

When and where did you first get up in a public space?

I was about 15 or 16 and living in Ohio. I had gotten my driver’s license, and in between delivering pizzas, I’d find walls under train bridges.

What ignited your interest back then in graffiti?

A punk named Gabe Razor gave me his half-filled black book. He wrote, but never disclosed who he was.

Had you any favorite surfaces to hit up back then?

Besides the walls under the train bridges, I liked abandoned spaces – of any kind — and the quarries.

WC-Bevan-street-art-detroit-michigan

These days — when you are out on the streets — would you rather work legally or illegally?

Both. 

Were you ever arrested?

Once in Memphis. I just had to repaint the wall and pose for a photo.

What’s the riskiest thing you’ve ever done while painting in the streets?

In Memphis, I painted a big, googly eyeball 26 stories above the ground while hanging off a bar.

Why did you?

It was fun! Why not? 

WC-Bevan-street-art-Detroit

Would you rather paint alone or collaborate with others?

I like collaborating with rich people who commission me to paint their walls!

Have you any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

I don’t feel it much here in Detroit. We’ve all been through so much together.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art these days?

About 90%.

How does your family feel about what you are doing 

They love it. They’re cool! My father is a folk musician.

wc-bevan-street-art-mural-close-up-detroit

What are some of your other interests?

I record music as a hobby, and I bike.

How do you feel about the engagement of the corporate world with graffiti writers and street artists?

It depends on the nature and mission of the company or corporation. It’s okay as long as the artist is aware of the company’s agenda and can work with it.

What is the main source of your income?

Working on commissioned murals and selling my work privately. 

Have you shown your work in galleries?

Yes. I’ve been in lots of shows – both group exhibits and solo shows. When I was based in NYC, I showed at 17 Frost.

Wc-Bevan-fantasy street-art

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

A loose sketch.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished work?

Yes. And, if not, I’ll fix it. So far, I’ve only painted over one piece.

Do you have a formal art education?

I attended the Memphis College of Art for almost two years.

Was it worth it?

It wasn’t the way I wanted to do it, but I did get a lot of art supplies out of it!

WC -Bevan-mural-art-close-up

Are there any particular cultures or movements that have influenced your aesthetic?

I’ve been influenced by South American art, the Renaissance and architectural designs.

How has your work evolved through the years?

With the space and time I’ve had since moving to Detroit, it has evolved quite a bit.  It’s tighter and bigger.

What inspires you these days?

Pure vision and free association.

Do any particular artists inspire you?

JJ Cromer, Martin Ramirez, Louise Nevelson, Kenny Sharf, R Crumb, Motohiro Hayakawa, Minnie Evans

WC-bevan-graphic

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

If a graffiti artist paints something and it doesn’t appear on Instagram, did it really happen?  My advice to graffiti artists is: Don’t show your face or location. But the Internet does make it easier for us to sell T-shirts!

What’s ahead?

Murals in the Market, a trip to Cuba and more painting!

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

To provide meaning, encourage reflection, and offer people the possibility of seeing things differently.

Photo credits: 1, 5 & 6 courtesy of the artist; 2-4 & 7 Lois Stavsky; interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with Tara Murray

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

en-play-badge 2

{ 0 comments }

Plasma-slug-A-colony-of-love

Portal, a thoroughly enticing exhibit of new artworks in a range of media by the legendary Brooklyn-based artist Plasma Slug, continues through tomorrow at ArtHelix, 289 Meserole Street in Bushwick. When I stopped by yesterday, I had the chance to pose a few questions to the artist.

This is so impressive! Can you tell us a bit about the title of this — your third solo exhibit?

Yes! The exhibit is a portal — an entrance — to another world. Viewers will step into something that will take them out of their routine and they will, hopefully, leave with their minds expanded.

plasma-slug-dna

These are all new works. About how many are in this exhibit? And how long have you been working on this particular body of work?

There are over 40 new pieces, and I’ve been preparing for this exhibit for the past four months.

How do the works on exhibit here differ from your previous ones?

I did not use spray paint to create these new pieces; after much soul-searching, I decided to paint with a brush.

plasma-slug-black-and-white-painting

And why is that?

It was a way for me to “cross over,” — to gain more respect as an artist. The tools we artists use are important as to how we are perceived.

Any other differences between these new works and your previous ones?

This is the first time I’m showing three-dimensional work.

plasma-slug-paiting

What prompted you to do that?

My son was flipping out over a 3-D chalk board he was using, and I liked the effect.

Everything here is so engaging, and your prices are so reasonable.  How can folks see the exhibit if they missed the opening or if they wish to see it again? I could spend hours here!

We’re open today and tomorrow, Sunday from 12-6.

plasma-slug-sticker-art

 Congratulations! It’s quite amazing!

Photos by Lois Stavsky; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

{ 0 comments }

Frank+Ape+-+Over+The+Rainbow

Opening tonight at Contra Galleries at 122 West 26th Street in Chelsea is Over the Rainbow, an exhibit of new works by Frank Ape, the iconic character created by Brandon Sines. Curious about Frank Ape? I was!

I’ve been a huge fan of Frank Ape since I first came upon him on our streets several years ago.  Just who is he?

Frank is a fun-loving Sasquatch who lives in NYC among us humans.  Always caring and positive, he is an ape that often takes the form of a cartoon.

4 Frank Ape - Maui - Brandon Sines

When and where was he born?

He was born in NYC in 2010 shortly after I moved here. He evolved from a mix of various mythological creatures, pop-icons and original characters that I’d used in my earlier artwork.

Can you tell us about the relationship between you, Brandon Sines, the artist and the lovable Frank Ape — whom we’ve come to associate with you?

I identify with Frank Ape on a highly personal level. He gives me an opportunity to be invisible — while, at the same time, present — in his work.

Frank -Ape-in-New- York- City

What can visitors to tonight’s opening expect to experience? 

From 6-10pm, visitors can expect to be taken on a magical adventure in the multi-roomed gallery through the eye of Frank Ape. They will be able to interact with several site-specific exhibitions, view new large-scale Frank paintings, scoop limited edition collectibles at the pop-up gift shop and dance through the night to some of Frank’s favorite songs. And they will have the opportunity to meet the real life Frank!

It all sounds great! What’s ahead?

On August 10th, a new exhibit at Contra Galleries will feature my non-Frank paintings, along with a launch of my book Lips and Drips.

Frank-Ape - Good- Morning - New -York -City - Brandon -Sines

Good luck with it all. It’s quite ambitious!

Photos courtesy Brandon Sines

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

en-play-badge 2

{ 0 comments }

jerry-rugg-mural-art

Fashioned by the hugely talented Jerry Rugg aka Bird0, a delightful range of brightly-hued, surrealistic geometric creatures have made their way onto Toronto’s visual landscape.  We were delighted to meet the artist while visiting Toronto and have the chance to interview him.

When and where did you first get up?

It was in 2002 in Toronto with a wretched, shitty, embarrassing tag.

What inspired you at the time?

The 90’s freight graffiti that I saw on the Canadian Prairies.

Do any early graffiti-related memories stand out?

Discovering that someone in my local town — Rove CBS — was a great graffiti artist and watching him paint.

Have you painted with any crews?

Six years of mayhem with the DMC crew!

jerry-rugg-street-art-skate-park

These days, would you rather work legally or illegally?

 I’d rather not be in handcuffs!

What is the riskiest thing you ever did?

Quit my day job.

What are your preferred surfaces?

I like painting outdoors – the bigger the surface the better.

Have you any thoughts regarding street artists’ engagement with the corporate world?

We have to pay our bills and we have to sleep at night. I guess it’s up to the individual to strike a balance.

jerry-rugg-birdo-geometric-street-art

What about exhibits? Have you shown your work in formal settings?

Yes. I’ve participated in quite a few group shows.

Would you rather paint alone or collaborate with others?

I’m a lone wolf. But I like the concept of collaborating and I like interacting with others. It’s part of our evolution as artists.

Any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

There is friction; they’re different mentalities painting the same surfaces. I’ve always believed that you gotta give respect to get respect.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art these days?

All if it!

Jerry-rugg-birdo-installation

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

I always have a sketch. I’m very strategic.

Have you a formal art education?

The graffiti culture has been my teacher.

Are there any particular cultures – besides the graffiti culture – that have influenced your aesthetic?

Not any specific cultures  — but movements, like Surrealism and artists like Escher and Dali.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished work?

People who know me best would likely say I’m rarely satisfied with anything.

Jerry-rugg-birdo-steet-art

How has your work evolved through the years?

My style is similar, but my technique has evolved, particularly the way I work with shapes.

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

I love it!  We artists are in the business of exposure.

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

Artists are independent thinkers.  Our role is to mix things up.  Artists should challenge, disrupt, or beautify.

 What’s ahead?

Traveling, painting, drinking tea. Repeat.

Sounds good! We hope you make it to NYC soon!

Photo credits: 1, 3-5 courtesy the artist; 2 Lois Stavsky; interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with Tara Murray

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

en-play-badge 2

{ 0 comments }

fcee-paints-mural-art-nyc

Painted collaboratively by Queens-based Diego 127, FCEE and Whisper aka Chip Love, a fantastical alphabet mural has made its way onto a huge wall on 78th Street adjacent to the Garden School in Jackson Heights. While visiting the site as the mural was near completion, I spoke to classic graffiti writer, Diego 127, who had secured the space.

What an ideal spot for such a striking mural! 

Yes! I’d been eyeing this wall since I moved into this neighborhood in 2004.

alphabet-mural-r-zJPG

And how did you go about securing it for this mural?

I eventually connected with Dudley Stewart, an active member of the local community and the president of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. And he was able to get us the support that we needed to make this happen.

How did you come up with this concept — this amazing alphabet?

Lots of text messages between Chip and me! And we loved the idea of playing with the letters of the alphabet — as we so often do — on a big wall.

alphabet-mural-jackson-heights

Why did you choose to work with white, black and grey? I love the effect. The impact of this mural is tremendous.

As an illustrator, I often work in black and white. And Chip, in particular, loves black and white.

Did you guys work from an initial sketch or did it all happen on site?

We had developed a loose plan. But the mural, itself, evolved organically. We free-styled, continually revising it and adding to it.

alphabet-mural-fragment

How long have you guys been working on this mural?

We started in May; so it’s been two months.

How have the kids responded to it?

They love it and they’ve loved watching the process.

street-art-mural-art-artists-nyc

Congratulations on this! I’m so glad I got to see it!  What a fantastical alphabet!

Interview with Diego 127 by Lois Stavsky; all photos by Lois Stavsky; photo #1 features FCEE; seated in final photo are: Whisper aka Chip LoveFCEE & Diego 127.

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

en-play-badge 2

{ 0 comments }

david-hollier-taylor-swift-art

I discovered David Hollier‘s distinctly provocative aesthetic a few years back when I came upon his huge murals of such luminaries as Nelson Mandela and John F Kennedy on the streets of Brooklyn.  Earlier this year, I saw his intriguing work on the 69th floor of the World Trade Center. And, yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit his solo exhibit, Ladies and Gentlemen, at Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and pose a few questions to him.

When did you first start integrating text into your artwork?

I began in 2010.

What inspired you to do so?

Before incorporating text into my artwork, I was working with lines. I then started repeating words within the works. And when a friend commissioned me to create a portrait of her husband using words, I incorporated a brief biography into the portrait. The response was so positive that I continued working in this style. By 2012 I’d given the collection the name Imago Verbosa, meaning a picture made of words in Latin.

david-hollier-jimi-hendrix

What media or tools do you use in fashioning these portraits?

I sometimes use a vintage typewriter. I also use acrylic paint. Huge photographic images are often projected and copied onto a range of surfaces.

How do you choose the subjects of your work? Ranging from Susan B. Anthony to Jay Z, they cross generations, nationalities and sensibilities. Among them are many musicians and politicians. 

Yes! I generally select icons. But some are commissioned, and those are selected for me.

davod-Hollier-star-stuff

We’ve come upon quite a few of your works on the streets of Brooklyn. Do you prefer working in your studio or working on the streets?

They’re different experiences, and I like both. But the streets can be more challenging.

Do you have a formal art education?

Yes. I studied Visual Art and Public Art at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, and I earned a Masters degree in Computer Imaging and Animation from London Guildhall University.

David-Hollier-artwork-sideshow-williamsburg

I’m fascinated by your choice of text infused into each portrait, as many have strong social implications. This exhibit is quite impressive. Do you devote yourself full-time to your artwork?

I divide my time between painting and teaching. I’ve taught at Parsons since 2006.

Congratulations on this! And we especially look forward to seeing more of your public artworks on the streets of NYC.

Note: A CLOSING RECEPTION takes place, tonight, Friday from 6 until 9pm. The show ends of Sunday, July 16th. Sideshow Gallery is located at 319 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Images

1 Taylor Swift, Text: “Never Grow Up,” Acrylic on board, 48″ x 48″

2 Jimi Hendrix, Text: “Fire,” “Voodoo Child” and “Are you Experienced?” Acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 60″

3 Star Stuff, Text: from Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos,” Acrylic on canvas, 72″ x 60″

4 The artist with Susan B. Anthony, Text: from “Women’s Rights to the Suffrage,” Acrylic on board, 27″ x 40″

Photos by Lois Stavsky; interview by Lois Stavsky with Bonnie Astor

{ 0 comments }