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Netism graffiti tag outdoor  NET on TAGSTRACTION, Tonights Unsanctioned Exhibit, the Art World and more

As NET was getting ready for TAGSTRACTION, tonight’s unsanctioned exhibition on the streets of NYC, I had the opportunity to speak to him and find out a bit about it all.

Just what is TAGSTRACTION?

It is a mix of tagging and abstraction, blurring the lines between graffiti tagging, abstract expressionism and stylized signatures.

And when was NET born?

NET was born in 1987, but I’ve been tagging since I was a child.

Netism in studio Brooklyn NYC  NET on TAGSTRACTION, Tonights Unsanctioned Exhibit, the Art World and more

Were you ever arrested? 

I was arrested about fifty times for graffiti since I was 14.

Who are some of your inspirations?

There are many: Barry McGee aka Twist, Adam Cost, Jon 156, Al Diaz, Easy, Phantom 13 aka P13, Old English, Enx, Phil Frost and multiple Brooklyn artists.

Netism on inside door nyc  NET on TAGSTRACTION, Tonights Unsanctioned Exhibit, the Art World and more

You define TAGSTRACTION as “too hood for the nerds and too weird for the thugs.”  Who is your audience?

Anyone and everyone who’s on the street with eyeballs.

How can folks see tonight’s exhibit?

The location will be announced one hour prior to the 7pm opening. Check out my Instagram for it.

tagstraction  NET on TAGSTRACTION, Tonights Unsanctioned Exhibit, the Art World and more

And why did you choose an unsanctioned outdoor location for an art exhibit?  Is there a message here? You seem to be on a mission of some kind.

My message is that you do not need the approval of the Art World to accomplish your goal.  It is time for us to take it into our own hands.

Yes!

All images courtesy NET; interview by Lois Stavsky

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

en play badge 2  NET on TAGSTRACTION, Tonights Unsanctioned Exhibit, the Art World and more

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Directed by Queens-based filmmaker Raul Buitrago, the recently released GOUCH is a sensitive, gripping portrait of a Brooklyn graffiti bomber living a dual life. After viewing the short, insightful documentary — chosen as a Vimeo Staff Pick – I had the opportunity to speak to Raul.

What drew you to graffiti? You obviously have a deep understanding and appreciation of its culture.

Growing up in Eastern Queens in the 90’s, I was exposed to graffiti early on. Graffiti was part of the punk and skateboard culture that was all around me. And I found myself gravitating to it.

Gouch graffiti bomb nyc Queens Based Filmmaker Raul Buitrago on GOUCH, Graffiti and More

And what about this particular writer? Why did you choose Gouch? And how did you connect with him?

Gouch was one of my personal favorite graffiti writers while growing up.  His style and flow are incredible.  I’d known about Gouch years before I reached out to him.  He was featured in the legendary State Your Name DVD, and it was in that video that I first saw him in action. The footage was raw, gritty and true NY graff to the max. I contacted him via his Instagram in 2014.

Are there any issues regarding graffiti that particularly engage you? Any messages you wish to convey to your viewers?

As a fan and student of graffiti culture, I’m interested in its power to lure seemingly ordinary people. Its sway is amazing – and the way it always seems to call you back. So often, it becomes an obsession. I also find it very interesting that it can be glorified and vilified at the same time.  Graffiti has made its way onto advertisements, clothing and other forms of branding while some of its practitioners end up doing time in Rikers Island.  Graffiti is used for commercial purposes because it has that edge that can’t be found in other artistic realms.  It’s unfortunate that big companies are profiting off something that’s created through the toils and risks of people who have such a deep appreciation, knowledge and ability in something so historically rich.

Gouch sprays graffiti nyc Queens Based Filmmaker Raul Buitrago on GOUCH, Graffiti and More

Yes, that is unfortunate, and it is something I’ve thought about quite a bit.  It is — obviously —  graffiti’s aspect of illegality that gives it that edge…You clearly won Gouch’s trust. I imagine that might have been your greatest challenge. What were some of the other challenges you faced in producing GOUCH?

As it was my first documentary, I was learning how to do it as I was doing it!  I’d previously focused on music videos.  That was my greatest challenge.  Gaining Gouch‘s trust was actually incredibly easy.  Upon first meeting, we spoke about graffiti at length.  Because of my knowledge about the culture and my previous video work, he knew he could trust me. Other challenges I faced included coordinating schedules and making sure that his family was comfortable throughout the filming process.  It was important to me that they be comfortable with the finished project since it’s so personal.

Have you a formal education in filmmaking?

I studied Photography at NYU, but I never studied filmmaking. I’m a self-taught filmmaker.

Gouch in NYC Queens Based Filmmaker Raul Buitrago on GOUCH, Graffiti and More

How long did it take you to produce GOUCH?

When I first met up with Gouch, I thought I would produce a two – three minute video. But it evolved into something far more, and I ended up working on it for one and a half years.

I’m so glad it worked out that way! Gouch – in all his complexity — is certainly worth knowing.  And the music by Jazzsoon that accompanies your film perfectly complements it. I find myself viewing it again and again!

gouch with child Queens Based Filmmaker Raul Buitrago on GOUCH, Graffiti and More

You can view the film in its entirety here.

All images courtesy Raul Buitrago; interview with Raul by Lois Stavsky

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

en play badge 2 Queens Based Filmmaker Raul Buitrago on GOUCH, Graffiti and More

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Rubin415 Brooklyn2 2014 On <em>RUBIN NEW YORK/SCANDINAVIA</em> from Dokument Press

Recently released by Dokument PressRUBIN NEW YORK SCANDINAVIA is a stunning survey of Rubin‘s distinct abstract and geometrical artworks that are rooted in traditional graffiti. With dozens of images documenting Rubin‘s journey — from Sweden, where he grew up, to NYC, where he is now based – Rubin New York/Scandinavia  offers an overview of the works of an exceptional artist, who has brought a singular beauty to our NYC landscape.

Rubin415 Brooklyn NYC 20141 On <em>RUBIN NEW YORK/SCANDINAVIA</em> from Dokument Press

The book’s succinct text by Björn Almqvist introduces us to Rubin’s experiences as a child of Finnish immigrants who made their way to Sweden in search of work. The alienation that Rubin felt among Swedes, along with the stark grey concrete walls of the housing complex that enveloped him, were calls to pick up a can and make a mark.

Rubin415 Tony Sjoman Gothenbur8g 199 On <em>RUBIN NEW YORK/SCANDINAVIA</em> from Dokument Press

Inspired by Scandinavian design, Rubin has developed a unique aesthetic that uses geometrical, symbols in lieu of letters. With his splendid craftsmanship and unique aesthetic, he transforms the gritty language of graffiti into his own distinct expression that is as effective on the streets of the South Bronx, as it is inside a church yard or on the outside of a Manhattan boutique.

Rubin415 New York 2015 On <em>RUBIN NEW YORK/SCANDINAVIA</em> from Dokument Press

Rubin New York/Scandinavia also provides us with a handsomely curated survey of Rubin’s studio work that has been increasingly making its way into galleries.

Rubins Cube Gallery Nine5 New York 2014 On <em>RUBIN NEW YORK/SCANDINAVIA</em> from Dokument Press

Rubin New York/Scandinavia is a splendid ode to a distinctly wonderful artist. Its NYC release took place last month at WallWorks, where the artist’s  works remain on exhibit through June 29th.

Rubin cover On <em>RUBIN NEW YORK/SCANDINAVIA</em> from Dokument Press

Images

1. & 2. Brooklyn, 2014

3. Brooklyn, 2014

4. Gothenburg, 1989 

5. Brooklyn, 2015

6. Gallery nine5, 2014

Photo credits: Tony “Rubin” Sjöman and Mika Tuomivuo; all photos courtesy of Dokument Press; book review by Lois Stavsky

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

en play badge 2 On <em>RUBIN NEW YORK/SCANDINAVIA</em> from Dokument Press

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torch fuego in Newark sgk graffiti pit NJ In Newark, New Jersey with Torch Fuego at the SGK Graffiti Pit

The most riveting graffiti spots are those we almost never discover on our own.  Located in tunnels, abandoned buildings, rooftops and hidden passageways, they tend to host some of the most creative, innovative writing — from tags to pieces — to be found anywhere. We recently had the opportunity to visit such a spot — the SGK Pit — in Newark, New Jersey and speak to Torch Fuego who has established an office there.

Can you tell us something about this spot! What an amazing oasis of creativity and escape from it all! 

It was founded over 25 years ago by several Old School writers, and it quickly became — largely under the direction of SGK crew founder Syko – a key spot for writers to practice and learn from one another.

And what does SGK stand for? 

Style, Gifted, Knowledge…and more!

Lesk and more graffiti at the SGK Pit Newark NJ In Newark, New Jersey with Torch Fuego at the SGK Graffiti Pit

Who were some of the writers who frequented it? Were they all locals?

Among the NJ writers were: Syko, RimeCarmelo “Snow” SigonaTeck and Lesk – who made me an SGK member.  But folks also came from other places. Bom5 used to come down from the Bronx.

How and when did you discover the SGK Pit? And what was your first impression of it?

Baye took me there when I was about 15. I thought, “Wow!.” I couldn’t imagine that such a place existed.

torch fuego graffiti the SGK pit newark new jersey In Newark, New Jersey with Torch Fuego at the SGK Graffiti Pit

Do any particular memories stand out?

The few graffiti battles that turned into brawls…lots of parties…and the first time I saw the deer and red foxes that also call this spot home.

And just what is your role here now?

For several years it had been abandoned. But it has recently been revitalized.  And — together with Zew — I basically maintain it. I keep it tidy. I make sure the walls are clean. I introduce new members to old heads, who can pass down knowledge to them. Basically, I want to maintain it as a “practice sanctuary.” And as Syko handed down the torch to me, I feel a huge responsibility.

tara and torch in the graffiti pit newark new jersey In Newark, New Jersey with Torch Fuego at the SGK Graffiti Pit

That seems like quite a responsibility and quite a bit of work!

Yes! I’ve sacrificed my day job for this.  But it’s worth it!

No doubt!

graffiti on ground sgk graffiti Pit Newark New Jersey In Newark, New Jersey with Torch Fuego at the SGK Graffiti Pit

Note: You can meet Torch at a special event today — Saturday — from 1-6 pm at Shorty’s. And tonight — starting at 11pm — Clearport Events will host a graffiti after-party at Port-O-Lounge, 286 1st Street in Jersey City, to benefit The Artchitectz, a program that teaches youth creative skills. Check out Torch’s Instagram for additional info.

Photo credits: 1, 3 & 4 Lois Stavsky; 2 & 5 Tara Murray; photo two features work by Lesk, with Erizl to his left; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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

en play badge 2 In Newark, New Jersey with Torch Fuego at the SGK Graffiti Pit

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Dasic Fernandez and Rubin415 street art Greenpoint NYC Yoav Litvin on <em>2Create</em>: His Ongoing Project and Upcoming Book on Creative Collaborations

We recently had the opportunity to speak with writer and photographer Yoav Litvin about 2Create, his ongoing project and upcoming book on creative collaborations.

We love your recently launched 2Create Facebook Page and Group. Can you tell us something about the concept behind 2Create? What is its mission?

The aim of 2Create is to study and promote teamwork and fellowship as it showcases the art of collaboration. Folks tend to place far more emphasis on competition than on collaboration. But so much more can be accomplished if we work together.

Icy and Sot street art at Welling Court NYC Yoav Litvin on <em>2Create</em>: His Ongoing Project and Upcoming Book on Creative Collaborations

Yes! We tend to glorify individualism, particularly in the West.

And my point is that when two people create, it is greater than two. 1 + 1 is not 2, but something more. The duo is the basic unit of a collective.  And we need to look at forming collectives as a means to solve our societal problems.

Cekis and Cern. streeet art nycjpg Yoav Litvin on <em>2Create</em>: His Ongoing Project and Upcoming Book on Creative Collaborations

One of your initial projects, related to this larger one, is your upcoming book, 2Create: Art Collaborations in New York City.  Can you tell us something about it?

Yes. It will be released by Schiffer Publishing this fall. It showcases the works and processes of nine pairs of NYC graffiti and street artists. Each duo consists of two artists whose unique styles came together to create a larger-than-life work of street art in a NYC neighborhood. The book focuses on the backgrounds, techniques, and collaborative processes of the featured duos.

asvp at work in studio NYC Yoav Litvin on <em>2Create</em>: His Ongoing Project and Upcoming Book on Creative Collaborations

What spurred you to produce this particular book? What was your impetus behind it – in addition to promoting the concept of collaboration?

There were a number of factors. I was interested in expanding the documentation that I began in Outdoor Gallery New York City by getting to know more of my favorite artists – like Cekis and Rubin. But most of all, it was a project that enabled me to further develop myself as an artist by integrating my background in psychology, my passion for progressive politics and my respect and love for graffiti and street art in NYC.

jilly ballistic al diaz Yoav Litvin on <em>2Create</em>: His Ongoing Project and Upcoming Book on Creative Collaborations

What were some of the challenges that you faced in the process?

Identifying artists who could work well together and produce first-rate artwork was the initial challenge. I also had to gain their confidence and access to their relationship so that they would speak freely about the process.  And some of the artists were quite shy – which was an additional challenge. And, then, for some of the works I had to secure walls, materials and more.

Alice Mizrachi and TRAPIF truck art nyc Yoav Litvin on <em>2Create</em>: His Ongoing Project and Upcoming Book on Creative Collaborations

What’s ahead for 2Create?  Where are you going with it?

I want to continue documenting and interviewing duos that work together in a wide range of scenarios: visual arts, dance, music and more!

 2create 500 Yoav Litvin on <em>2Create</em>: His Ongoing Project and Upcoming Book on Creative Collaborations

How can we become engaged with your project? Can we contribute to it?

You can Like the project on Facebook and share your own collabs and connect with others here. You can also follow it on Instagram and on Twitter.

It sounds great! And what a wonderful concept!

Images

1. Dasic Fernandez with Rubin 415

2. Icy and Sot

3. Cekis with Cern

4. ASVP

5. Jilly Ballistic with Al Diaz

6. Alice Mizrachi with Trap IF

7. Logo design by Dan Michman

Photos © Yoav LitvinYoav in conversation with Lois StavskyTara Murray and City-as-School intern Sol Raxlen

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

en play badge 2 Yoav Litvin on <em>2Create</em>: His Ongoing Project and Upcoming Book on Creative Collaborations

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dasic street art bushwick collective nyc Street Art Couples in NYC, Part II: Dasic, D*Face, Mr. Nerds, Jorit Agoch with Leticia Mandragora, Faith 47 and Sipros

This is the second in our series of NYC couples that were spotted around town. Pictured above is Dasic Fernandez as seen at the Bushwick Collective. Here are several more:

D*Face at the Bushwick Collective

dface coney art walls nyc Street Art Couples in NYC, Part II: Dasic, D*Face, Mr. Nerds, Jorit Agoch with Leticia Mandragora, Faith 47 and Sipros

Mr. Nerds at the Bushwick Collective

mr nerds street art Bushwick Collective Brooklyn NYC Street Art Couples in NYC, Part II: Dasic, D*Face, Mr. Nerds, Jorit Agoch with Leticia Mandragora, Faith 47 and Sipros

Jorit Agoch and Leticia Mandragora in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

jorit agoch and leticia mandragora Brooklyn NYC Street Art Couples in NYC, Part II: Dasic, D*Face, Mr. Nerds, Jorit Agoch with Leticia Mandragora, Faith 47 and Sipros

Faith 47 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

faith47 street art Brooklyn nyc Street Art Couples in NYC, Part II: Dasic, D*Face, Mr. Nerds, Jorit Agoch with Leticia Mandragora, Faith 47 and Sipros

Sipros, as seen earlier this year at the Bushwick Collective

sipros street art Bushwick Collective nyc Street Art Couples in NYC, Part II: Dasic, D*Face, Mr. Nerds, Jorit Agoch with Leticia Mandragora, Faith 47 and Sipros

 Photo credits: 1-3 Tara Murray; 4-6 Lois Stavsky

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

en play badge 2 Street Art Couples in NYC, Part II: Dasic, D*Face, Mr. Nerds, Jorit Agoch with Leticia Mandragora, Faith 47 and Sipros

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lady pink paints At Welling Courts 7th Annual Block Party: Lady Pink, Caleb Neelon, Katie Yamasaki, Fumero, Mike Makatron, Dirt Worship, Erasmo, Chris Cardinale, Joel Artista, Chris Soria, Marc Evan, Pyramid Guy & more

Engaging a wide range of artists and art lovers of all ages, along with members of the local community, the Welling Court Mural Project celebrated its 7th anniversary with a huge block party on Saturday. Pictured above is the legendary Lady Pink at work. Here are several more images captured from the Welling Court Mural Project‘s annual event organized by Garrison & Alison Buxton.

Caleb Neelon at work on collaborative mural with Katie Yamasaki

caleb neelon street art wellling court mural project nyc At Welling Courts 7th Annual Block Party: Lady Pink, Caleb Neelon, Katie Yamasaki, Fumero, Mike Makatron, Dirt Worship, Erasmo, Chris Cardinale, Joel Artista, Chris Soria, Marc Evan, Pyramid Guy & more

Fumero at work on tribute mural to Muhammed Ali

fumero mural art welling court mural project nyc At Welling Courts 7th Annual Block Party: Lady Pink, Caleb Neelon, Katie Yamasaki, Fumero, Mike Makatron, Dirt Worship, Erasmo, Chris Cardinale, Joel Artista, Chris Soria, Marc Evan, Pyramid Guy & more

Mike Makatron and Caroline Caldwell aka Dirt Workship at work on a collaborative mural

mike makatron with dirt worship At Welling Courts 7th Annual Block Party: Lady Pink, Caleb Neelon, Katie Yamasaki, Fumero, Mike Makatron, Dirt Worship, Erasmo, Chris Cardinale, Joel Artista, Chris Soria, Marc Evan, Pyramid Guy & more

Cre8tive YouTH*ink, close-up of huge mural painted by youth under the direction of  Jerry Otero aka Mista Oh

cre8tiveyouthink welling court mural project nyc At Welling Courts 7th Annual Block Party: Lady Pink, Caleb Neelon, Katie Yamasaki, Fumero, Mike Makatron, Dirt Worship, Erasmo, Chris Cardinale, Joel Artista, Chris Soria, Marc Evan, Pyramid Guy & more

Erasmo

erasmo welling court mural project nyc At Welling Courts 7th Annual Block Party: Lady Pink, Caleb Neelon, Katie Yamasaki, Fumero, Mike Makatron, Dirt Worship, Erasmo, Chris Cardinale, Joel Artista, Chris Soria, Marc Evan, Pyramid Guy & more

Chris Cardinale at work

chris candinale welling court mural project nyc At Welling Courts 7th Annual Block Party: Lady Pink, Caleb Neelon, Katie Yamasaki, Fumero, Mike Makatron, Dirt Worship, Erasmo, Chris Cardinale, Joel Artista, Chris Soria, Marc Evan, Pyramid Guy & more

Joel Artista at work on collaborative mural with Chris Soria and Marc Evan

joel artista and marc evans and chris soria street art welling court mural art At Welling Courts 7th Annual Block Party: Lady Pink, Caleb Neelon, Katie Yamasaki, Fumero, Mike Makatron, Dirt Worship, Erasmo, Chris Cardinale, Joel Artista, Chris Soria, Marc Evan, Pyramid Guy & more

Pyramid Guy

pyramid guy welling court mural project nyc edited 1 At Welling Courts 7th Annual Block Party: Lady Pink, Caleb Neelon, Katie Yamasaki, Fumero, Mike Makatron, Dirt Worship, Erasmo, Chris Cardinale, Joel Artista, Chris Soria, Marc Evan, Pyramid Guy & more

Joseph Meloy, Ellis G and Abe Lincoln, Jr

Meloy ellis G andAbe Lincoln Jr At Welling Courts 7th Annual Block Party: Lady Pink, Caleb Neelon, Katie Yamasaki, Fumero, Mike Makatron, Dirt Worship, Erasmo, Chris Cardinale, Joel Artista, Chris Soria, Marc Evan, Pyramid Guy & more

Photos by Tara Murray

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

en play badge 2 At Welling Courts 7th Annual Block Party: Lady Pink, Caleb Neelon, Katie Yamasaki, Fumero, Mike Makatron, Dirt Worship, Erasmo, Chris Cardinale, Joel Artista, Chris Soria, Marc Evan, Pyramid Guy & more

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toofly mural welling court NYC The 7th Annual Welling Court Mural Project Launches in Astoria, Queens with: Toofly, Miro, Mr. June, Billy Mode & Chris Stain, Daze & Crash, Vagabonddom, Tamara Heller, OneL NYC, Magda Love and more

Organized by Garrison & Alison Buxton, the Welling Court Mural Project is back gracing Welling Court and its neighboring blocks in Astoria, Queens with a wonderfully diverse array of artworks. Here is a sampling of some of the completed murals, along with others in progress, as artists ready for tomorrow’s official launch and block party.

Miro 

miro graffiti welling court nyc The 7th Annual Welling Court Mural Project Launches in Astoria, Queens with: Toofly, Miro, Mr. June, Billy Mode & Chris Stain, Daze & Crash, Vagabonddom, Tamara Heller, OneL NYC, Magda Love and more

Mr June

Mr June street art welling court nyc The 7th Annual Welling Court Mural Project Launches in Astoria, Queens with: Toofly, Miro, Mr. June, Billy Mode & Chris Stain, Daze & Crash, Vagabonddom, Tamara Heller, OneL NYC, Magda Love and more

Billy Mode and Chris Stain

Billy Mode and Chris Stain Welling Court Mural Project street art NYC The 7th Annual Welling Court Mural Project Launches in Astoria, Queens with: Toofly, Miro, Mr. June, Billy Mode & Chris Stain, Daze & Crash, Vagabonddom, Tamara Heller, OneL NYC, Magda Love and more

Daze and Crash

daze and crash welling court mural project nyc The 7th Annual Welling Court Mural Project Launches in Astoria, Queens with: Toofly, Miro, Mr. June, Billy Mode & Chris Stain, Daze & Crash, Vagabonddom, Tamara Heller, OneL NYC, Magda Love and more

Vagabonddom at work

Vagabonddom welling court mural project nyc The 7th Annual Welling Court Mural Project Launches in Astoria, Queens with: Toofly, Miro, Mr. June, Billy Mode & Chris Stain, Daze & Crash, Vagabonddom, Tamara Heller, OneL NYC, Magda Love and more

Tamara Heller for Crisis Text Line

tamara Heller welling court mural nyc The 7th Annual Welling Court Mural Project Launches in Astoria, Queens with: Toofly, Miro, Mr. June, Billy Mode & Chris Stain, Daze & Crash, Vagabonddom, Tamara Heller, OneL NYC, Magda Love and more

OneL NYC checking out his mural

Onel mural art welling court nyc The 7th Annual Welling Court Mural Project Launches in Astoria, Queens with: Toofly, Miro, Mr. June, Billy Mode & Chris Stain, Daze & Crash, Vagabonddom, Tamara Heller, OneL NYC, Magda Love and more

Magda Love, with her assistant Jamie, at work

magda love paints welling court nyc The 7th Annual Welling Court Mural Project Launches in Astoria, Queens with: Toofly, Miro, Mr. June, Billy Mode & Chris Stain, Daze & Crash, Vagabonddom, Tamara Heller, OneL NYC, Magda Love and more

You can view the murals, meet the artists and join the festivities tomorrow — Saturday — from 12-8 along 30th Ave and 12th Street and neighboring blocks.

First image features Toofly, work in progress to be completed tomorrow, Saturday

Photo credits: 1, 2 4-9 Tara Murray; 3 Lois Stavsky

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

en play badge 2 The 7th Annual Welling Court Mural Project Launches in Astoria, Queens with: Toofly, Miro, Mr. June, Billy Mode & Chris Stain, Daze & Crash, Vagabonddom, Tamara Heller, OneL NYC, Magda Love and more

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valeri larko Bronx Museum of art NYC with painting With Valeri Larko at the Bronx Museum of the Arts

On view through June 26 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts is Bronx Focus: Paintings by Valeri Larko, an extraordinary visual ode to a borough whose landscape is rapidly changing. Among Valeri Larko‘s paintings are many that are infused with the Bronx’s gritty graffiti. With her impeccable renderings of tags, throw-ups and pieces, the artist has immortalized our favorite art form in the borough that birthed it. On revisiting the exhibit last week, I had the opportunity to meet Valeri, who gave a tour of her exhibit.

We love the way you are keeping some of our favorite walls alive through your paintings. What spurred you to focus on this aspect of the Bronx?

I’ve always been interested in the urban landscape, and when I moved from New Jersey to New Rochelle — just a short drive from the Bronx — I discovered the just how rich the graffiti in the Bronx is. I think it is gorgeous, and I love how sites with graffiti always have great stories to tell.

valeri larko obey and more With Valeri Larko at the Bronx Museum of the Arts

Can you tell us something about your process? How long does it take from beginning to end to create a painting?

Everything is done on location. If a site interests me, I begin with a quick pen and ink sketch in a small notebook using a uni-ball pen. If I then decide that I want to do a painting of the particular scene, I do an oil sketch of it. For most of my studies, I work on 300 pound watercolor paper that I staple to a board. For the larger version, I typically paint two to three months, also on location.

Valeri Larko Boone With Valeri Larko at the Bronx Museum of the Arts

What are some of the challenges you face in producing this work?

The weather is, by far, my greatest challenge. The wind is my biggest enemy. My car is — many times — my only shelter, and that is where you will often find me painting, especially in the winter months.

How do the graffiti artists feel about what you are doing? 

They love it. If they see a blank surface at a particular space where I am painting, they will sometimes ask if they can leave their mark on it — to be included in my painting.

valeri larko Bronx drawbridge With Valeri Larko at the Bronx Museum of the Arts

What is your most memorable experience of painting on location?

There are so many, but here is one that comes to mind: I had been working at a site for several weeks on Top Dollar, a painting of a trailer truck. Then one day when I showed up, I was surprised to find a very large boat in front of the truck. I could’t imagine how it got there! Luckily, I had mostly finished the painting, and the boat seemed too clean, too pristine and too out of place to include. But a few days later, the graffiti artist SAET with his friend NARO showed up. Once SAET had christened the boat with his tag, it was totally transformed. And so I decided to add the boat to the painting. I was even thinking of doing a new painting of the boat. But that never happened!

Valeri Larko painting Top Dollar With Valeri Larko at the Bronx Museum of the Arts

Why was that? Why didn’t you get to do the new painting of the boat?

While I was still working on Top Dollar, Tommy — who was living in the Jay’s Hot Dog Camper — informed me that the site was about to be demolished. That is one of the hazards of working on site. Whoa! I still needed at least a week to finish my painting. Luckily I found the guys doing the demolition work, and they agreed to give me one more week to complete my painting! It actually took me eight days, and within hours after I finished, everything on the site was demolished. And what about Tommy who had been living in the camper? He headed on a Greyhound back home to Kansas City where he and his sons had built two houses!

Valeri Larko Top Dollar Bronx With Valeri Larko at the Bronx Museum of the Arts

What’s next? Are any walls calling you? Any sites that particularly intrigue you?

Yes! I discovered an abandoned golf course across from Co-op City. And since I don’t know how much longer it will be around, I’ve been heading there as often as I can!

 What an incredible visual history you are creating!  And we are already looking forward to your upcoming solo exhibit at WallWorks in the fall.

Images

1. Valeri Larko — as seen last week — at the Bronx Museum

2. Ferris Stahl Meyer Diptych, close-up

3. Corner of Boone Avenye and 173rd Street

4. Bronx Drawbridge

5. Valeri Larko painting at Top Dollar

6. Top Dollar

Photo credits: 1-3 Lois Stavsky; 4 City-as-School intern Sol Raxlen; 5 John Wyatt & 6 courtesy of the artist; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky with Sol Raxlen

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

en play badge 2 With Valeri Larko at the Bronx Museum of the Arts

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Flip graffiti pioneer at Centre fuge Speaking with Graffiti Pioneer Charles Henry aka Flip One

A pioneer of the graffiti movement, Charles Henry aka FLIP One was immortalized in Flint Gennari’s classic photo of him tagging a Coney Island-bound train over 40 years ago. And this past spring the now-iconic photo made its way onto a stencil fashioned by Balu for the Centre-fuge Public Art Project. I met up with the artist — now an LA-based Emmy award-winning cinematographer – while he was visiting NYC last month.

When and where did you first get up?

It was back in 1974 in Propsect Park, Brooklyn. I was 15.

What inspired you to?

Flint’s writings were everywhere in my neighborhood. He was my main inspiration. He also got me into photography. Other writers such as Spin, Coco 144 and Mico also influenced me. And I loved the adrenalin rush hitting the trains late nights and the little bit of fame watching my name go by.

flint gennari photo of Flint Speaking with Graffiti Pioneer Charles Henry aka Flip One

What was your preferred surface back then?

The Franklin Avenue shuttle.

How did your family feel about what you were doing?

They were not happy. My dad used to work for the MTA.

Do you have any specific graffiti memory that stands out?

I saw once — and only once — an LL Cool J top to bottom while I was riding the train to school. I will never forget that!

Flip tags graffiti Speaking with Graffiti Pioneer Charles Henry aka Flip One

Did you work alone or did you collaborate with others?

I painted with the Ex Vandals and the Soul Stoned Brothers (SSB).  But I generally preferred working alone, because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.

What was the riskiest thing you ever did?

Entering the 7 yard with Flint, Dime 139 and Asp across from Shea Stadium during a playoff game in the World Series. Luckily, the cops — who were supposed to be watching the yard — were too busy watching the game on their little black and white TV to pay attention to us! And so we managed to get in and out and do our thing in broad daylight without anyone noticing.

Has your work ever been exhibited?

Yes, my work has appeared in Flint Gennari’s photos in several galleries and museums. My small trains have been exhibited in galleries in LA.

flint and balu Speaking with Graffiti Pioneer Charles Henry aka Flip One

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

I think it’s great! It suggests that what we did has meaning.

What about the increasing engagement of the corporate world in the graffiti subculture?

I used to hate it, but it doesn’t bother me any more. Writers risked getting arrested, maimed — and more — for what they did. They should be paid!

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

It’s not an issue. My favorite artists tend to blur the line between both: They include: El MacRetna, ObeyMan One and Revok.

Flint Flip AimSSB Speaking with Graffiti Pioneer Charles Henry aka Flip One

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

I love it! I get to see the work of people I used to war against!

Any thoughts as to why the Europeans are more open to graffiti than most Americans are?

I haven’t really thought about it, but maybe it’s because they place a higher value on self-expression.

And there’s probably no art form more expressive art than graffiti!

Photo credits: 1, 3-5 Lois Stavsky; 2 Flint Gennari; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo 3  features Balu to the right of Flip One and the last photo features Flint to the left and George Colon aka AIM SSB to the right of Flip One

Note: Jan Arnold, the artist’s wife, is in the process of completing a documentary about Flip One’s life. Be sure to check its Facebook page here for some great photos and clips!

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

en play badge 2 Speaking with Graffiti Pioneer Charles Henry aka Flip One

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