Walls

This is the second in a three-part series featuring first-rate graffiti walls that have recently surfaced in the vicinity of the Morgan stop on the L train:

Vor 138 at work

Vor138 graffiti bushwick 2 Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

Asend

Asend graffiti bushwick NYC Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

 Logek

Logek graffiti bushwick Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

Doves

Doves graffiti Bushwick2 Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

 Greg Lamarche aka SP.One

SP.one graffiti Bushwick NYC Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

Yes1 at work

Yes 1 graffiti Bushwick Busy in Bushwick — Part II: New by Vor 138, Asend, Logek, Doves, SP.One and Yes1

Photos of Deves and SP.One by Rachel Fawn Alban; Vor 138, Logek and Yes1 by Dani Reyes Mozeson and Asend by Lois Stavsky

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A native of Barranquilla, Colombia, MICO is an undisputed pioneer of subway art. One of the first writers to get his name up in the early 70’s, MICO also used the trains that rolled through NYC to deliver powerful socio-political messages.

Keith Baugh Subway Outlaws MICO graffiti Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

When and where did you first get up?

It was back in 1970 inside Erasmus High School in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. I used a pen at the time and thought it was so cool!

What inspired you back then?

Our main inspiration was the idea of writin’ our names everywhere and becoming known or famous. Also, I had no other creative outlets for self-expression. My high school didn’t offer me any art classes, and that frustrated me. I also, began meeting other writers like Undertaker Ash, WG, King of Kools, Dino Nod, Half, DECO, and along with my new found Colombian friends, we decided to start competing with those other writers that were already hittin’ the neighborhood walls.

Mico tag LL train NYC Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

Mico Hang Nixon graffiti on train Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

Any early memories that stand out?

My first MICO hit on a street wall with spray paint. I remember finding a can of silver paint in my building’s basement. And I used it to hit the base of a store window at the corner of Beverly Road and Flatbush Avenue.

What about your name? How did you come up with MICO?

Back in Colombia, there was a kid in my class who looked like a monkey. In Colombia, it is quite customary to be called a nickname, so we called him MICO, which means monkey in Colombia.  That guy actually did look like a monkey. Obviously, he didn’t like the idea of being called a monkey. My best friend and I decided to write MICO all over the school walls with white chalk — to drive this guy crazy. Once in NYC, and in need of a name to hit, I thought that if I wrote MICO all over NYC, and that guy from Colombia ever visited and saw “MICO” on NYC walls, he would probably get a heart of attack.

Mico graffiti Bogota Colombia Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

When did you begin hitting the trains? And why?

Early 1972. Remember — my friends at Erasmus Hall H.S. and I wanted to be famous. Once we started hittin’ the streets, my main writin’ partner MANI said, “If we hit our names in big letters with spray paint on the subways, our names will get around even more, and we will be even more famous.” The rest is history. Now the friendly competition we had engaged in with the other writers in East Flatbush became an all-city friendly competition with writers from the Bronx, Manhattan and the rest of Brooklyn. This friendly competition, however, began at the same time that a guerilla war against the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority started — with life and death consequences.

You became known for your social and political messages – like “Hang Nixon,” and “Free Puerto Rico.” Can you tell us something about that?

From a young age, I always had a strong sense of social awareness and was sensitive to injustice the world over. I was always a newspaper reader. Once I started hittin’ the trains, I realized that I could use them as a vehicle to communicate socio-political stuff throughout NYC. And I did!

Mico with youngsters in Bogota Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

Were you ever arrested?

Yes. Back in the winter of 1972, Slim 1, a young Chinese writer, and I were bombing a newly-found RR underground train yard at City Hall. Apparently, they already had a video surveillance camera down there, and they sent down a uniformed cop to chase us out.  We ran into the tunnel and made our way to Canal Street. But when we got there, Detective Steve Schwartz, the notorious detective of the MTA’s anti-graffiti force, was waiting for us.

Any other arrests come to mind?

In ’75 – after I’d stopped getting up on trains — I got arrested, along with another UGA member, for painting clandestine murals throughout NYC for a rally that was to take place outside the UN on November 1, 1975 in support of five Puerto Rican nationalists.  The following morning, William Kunstler, the most famous radical lawyer at the time, showed up in the courtroom and had a private conference with the judge at the bench. We were immediately set free.

Mico spray paint Inwood NYC Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

What is the riskiest thing you ever did back then?

Probably having to climb down from the elevated tracks of the 4 train to the street in the cold winter while the cops were chasing me and others.

Were you involved with any crews?

In 1970, I co-founded with MANI, SALVAJES, the first all-Latino writin’ group in Brooklyn. It consisted of three Colombians and one writer from Spain. I also became the first writer from Brooklyn voted into UGA.

Mico with writers in Inwood NYC Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

How did your family feel about what you were doing?

My mother did not approve at all. I was made homeless by a decision she made when I was 16. That is one of the reasons I spent so much time on the trains.

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

It’s bittersweet as it takes it out of its original vandalism context and brings it into the world of commerce. And instead of your work being in a public space for everyone to enjoy or hate, it now belongs to some collector who hides the work in his or her collection.

Mico graffiti 5Pointz NYC Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

Have you exhibited your work in galleries?

Yes. My painting “MICOflag” was the first painting sold in the Razor Gallery in 1973. In fact, it was the first time in history that a spray paint masterpiece on canvas was purchased in an art gallery setting. I’ve also shown in other galleries and in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. In 2006 I was one of five US artists invited to participate in the 9th Havana Art Biennial.

In retrospect, have you any thoughts regarding the original school of writers?

We were the ones who sailed through unchartered waters. We risked our lives to the 600 volts of juice on the third real. Part of our experience was to discover the various layups and train yards for the next generation of writers. It was interesting that every single one of us in the Original School — who took what were doing seriously — always had a sense of originality. We tried to outdo ourselves with the next masterpiece, and we also had a sense of respect and tolerance for the work done by other writers.

lava Clyde Bama Mico NYC Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

What about the evolution of graffiti? What do you think about what’s happening these days?

I’m impressed!  Its technicality amazes me.

What about your art? How has it evolved through the years?

It’s evolved from letters to figures to abstract social realism, a style I began to develop in the mid 80’s.

Mico Puzzle Signature Collective Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

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

It all comes from my head. I never use in-hand-sketches. I do sketch on paper…but usually it becomes a work of art in itself

What inspires you these days?

Societal issues that arise in everyday life. Justice and injustice.

Are there any specific cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Indigenous and urban.

MIC0 abstract Speaking with Original School NYC Writing Pioneer MICO

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

His or her role is to express and convey ideas that need to be out there.  The artist is a recorder of historical events who gives these events an artistic twist.

What are some of your other interests?

My main focus these days is on my family, social and political realities and preserving nature.

If you were getting messages onto trains these days, what would your message be?

Why is there ALWAYS money for war, but not for education?

Why does the 1% continue to make life miserable for the other 99% – even if it means criminal behavior – AND get away with it?

What’s ahead?

More art.

Interview by Lois Stavsky with Richard Alicea; first image © Keith Baugh; all photos by MICO or Reserved Rights; photos 3 & 4 in Bogota, Colombia; all others in NYC

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busy in bushwick Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

With the wicked wintry weather finally behind us, the Bushwick streets — in the vicinity of the L train’s Morgan station — have once again become a fresh canvas for both local and national writers. This is Part I of a three part series of what’s been happening:

Dero

Dero graffiti bushwick nyc Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Ribs GAK

ribs graffiti bushwick nyc Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Deem

Deem graffiti Bushwick Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Slom

Slom graffiti bushwick Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Bio of Tats Cru

Bio tats cru graffiti Bushwick1 Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Sebs

Sebs graffiti Bushwick NYC Busy in Bushwick    Part I: Dero, Ribs, Deem, Slom, Bio and Sebs

Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson and Lois Stavsky

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New Museum Neighbors Paweł Althamer painting Pawel Althamers Neighbors Transforms New Museums Fourth Floor Gallery into Dynamic Collaborative Canvas and more

The vision of Polish artist Pawel Althamer, the huge white space of the New Museum’s Fourth Floor gallery has become a vibrant collaborative canvas featuring a dynamic range of creative expression.  Visitors of all ages are welcome to participate and are provided with paint and drawing materials. Here are a few images captured last week:

New Museum Neighbors paint Pawel Althamers Neighbors Transforms New Museums Fourth Floor Gallery into Dynamic Collaborative Canvas and more

City-as-School’s Dea Sumrall joins the fun 

Paweł Althamer Neighbors New Museum Pawel Althamers Neighbors Transforms New Museums Fourth Floor Gallery into Dynamic Collaborative Canvas and more

And then captures some close-ups

New Museum close up Pawel Althamers Neighbors Transforms New Museums Fourth Floor Gallery into Dynamic Collaborative Canvas and more

new museum Neighbors dream big Pawel Althamers Neighbors Transforms New Museums Fourth Floor Gallery into Dynamic Collaborative Canvas and more

Featured on the second and third floors of the New Museum are several of Althamer’s haunting sculptures and videos – many produced in cooperation with  community groups that he has worked with over the past two decades.

From the Venetians, an installation of life-size figures

Paweł AlthamerNew Museum sculpture on bench Pawel Althamers Neighbors Transforms New Museums Fourth Floor Gallery into Dynamic Collaborative Canvas and more

Self-portrait as the Billy Goat

New Museum sculpture seated Pawel Althamers Neighbors Transforms New Museums Fourth Floor Gallery into Dynamic Collaborative Canvas and more

Self-Portrait in a Suitcase

Pawel Althamer self portrait in suitcase sculpture Pawel Althamers Neighbors Transforms New Museums Fourth Floor Gallery into Dynamic Collaborative Canvas and more

Another self-portrait, this one in collaboration with Paulina Antoniewicz and Jacek Taszakowski, as he looks out of the window on an imaginary childhood scene

New Museum window Pawel Althamers Neighbors Transforms New Museums Fourth Floor Gallery into Dynamic Collaborative Canvas and more

New Museum sculpture close up Pawel Althamers Neighbors Transforms New Museums Fourth Floor Gallery into Dynamic Collaborative Canvas and more

If you bring a new or gently men’s used coat to be donated to the nearby Bowery Mission, admission is free!  But do hurry – as the exhibit ends April 13.

Photo credits: 1. Rachel Alban; 2-3. Daniel Reyes Mozeson; 4-5. Dea Sumrall; 6-7. Dani Reyes Mozeson; 8. Lois Stavsky; 9-10. Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Rebel Natalia Rak NYC Art Battles Speaking to Polands Natalia Rak in New York City

We discovered the wonderfully talented Natalia Rak a number of months back at NYC Art Battles at 5 Bryant Park, where she was painting alongside Chor Boogie, Max Bode and Don Rimx. We instantly fell in love with her vibrant, realistic aesthetic.

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

The first time was four years ago in the small city of Turek, Poland. I only had a few cans of paint, and the walls were small. Some artists start with letters, and some begin with characters. I started with female faces. I just painted one-sided faces. I struggled with the lines!

What inspired you to start painting on walls?

My boyfriend, Bezt, inspired me. I was watching him while he was working with his Etam group in an abandoned place, and he persuaded me to try. It was a frustrating lesson in humility!

The Legend of Giants Natalia Rak street art Speaking to Polands Natalia Rak in New York City

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

My parents do worry when I paint way up high, but they are supportive. They display all my canvases on their walls, even when they don’t understand them. They are proud of my successes, but they are also concerned about my living “the life of an artist.” Their image of the artist is of this struggling person who spends all his money on art supplies, and then when he’s not painting, drinks or uses drugs. And they have a point! There is little money for art in Poland.

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

Coming from a small town in Poland, I didn’t grow up with graffiti. And I didn’t think much of it. But now that I’m painting on walls, I’ve come to appreciate it. It’s quite different, though, from street art.  Street artists get invited to paint legal murals, while graffiti artists generally work independently. And with graffiti, quantity is as important – if not more so – than quality. Street art is more acceptable.

Natalia Rak street art let there be light  Speaking to Polands Natalia Rak in New York City

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

It’s great. Street art is on the streets, of course, but the artists can also bring their styles and energy to canvases and other media to make their artwork available to people who would love to own it. Galleries are also a way for artists to gain recognition. In Poland there’s hardly any art market. It’s difficult to sell anything here. I’ve had more success selling art outside of my country.

Do you prefer working alone or with others?

I prefer working alone with music. Painting collaboratively seems difficult to me, but I want to have that experience.

Pathfinder Natalia Rak urban art Speaking to Polands Natalia Rak in New York City

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

The Internet invites me to see other cultures. I particularly like Asian cultures. I also enjoy seeing the impact my art has on others – people I don’t even know. I recently saw a photo of a man in Mexico with one of my images tattooed onto his arm. That made me feel so good! Fans push me to create. It’s good to hear opinions about my art too. I have, or try to have, conversations with other artists online.

Are there any particular cultures that influence your aesthetics?

Not a culture but period of art. When I paint, I think of the Secesja, or the Secession period, in Barcelona. The buildings look like plants or nature. When I first started studying the history of art, I was inspired by Jacek Malczewski. Later when I became familiar with Fauvism, I became interested in the combination of colors. Recently, I’ve become interested in Norman Rockwell’s paintings, the way he showed emotion in different situational scenes.

Natalia Rak street art Speaking to Polands Natalia Rak in New York City

Do you have a formal arts education?

Yes, I have a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Lodz. I also studied illustration, comic art, package design and silk screening.

Have you any other any other passions or interests?

Playing computer games. I like playing Battlefield 3. I plan to get Battlefield 4 and League of Legends. My black guitar is still waiting for me in my room. I also like cooking in my free time for friends and trying new dishes.

Do you work with a sketch in your hand?

I work with photos using Photoshop. I enjoy realistic works. I have many ideas in my head. And computers make it easier for me to change colors and composition. Normally, I don’t have a sketch.

NATALIA RAK street art Speaking to Polands Natalia Rak in New York City

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Hard to say.  When I look at a finished piece, I often find some detail that — I feel — can be changed. But I might be out of energy or already thinking about my next wall. And I always think about how I can do better! I can say, though, that I’m more satisfied now than I was a few years ago. I can see my progress.

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

I really like it when a photographer focuses on the work. I don’t like having my face shown in photographs. And I think it’s great that the images are out there and that so many young people are getting into this modern art movement.

What’s ahead?

I’ve been very busy these past few months working on my first solo exhibit, Through the Looking Glass. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. It opens Friday, April 11, at Pretty Portal in Dusseldorf, Germany. I finished six new canvases and I’ve prepared three prints. I hope everyone can find something that they like. I am also planning to paint three walls in the months ahead – but we shall see!

Natalia Rak Through the Looking Glass Speaking to Polands Natalia Rak in New York City

Good luck! It sounds great and we hope you make it back to New York City soon.

Interview conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky; all images courtesy of the artist. 

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Belin and King Bee street art in Bronx Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

We’ve been huge fans of the Spanish artist Belin since we came upon his collaborative venture with Kingbee up in the Bronx awhile back. More recently, Belin was back in NYC painting in midtown Manhattan. That’s where we caught up with him.

When and where did you start getting up?

I started bombing the southern part of Linares, a small town in Andalusia, Spain in 1995. I was 15 at the time. I first went by the name Slam.

Who or what inspired you at the time?

I was always drawing. But then I discovered a black and white magazine produced at the time called Explicit Graff. It changed my whole mentality. I just wanted to get up in my city!

Belin street art in NYC Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

What was your first graffiti crew?

My first crew was LR—Linares Rompe. There were about three or four of us.

Do you have any particularly memorable graffiti memories from back then?

Yes. I remember getting a call from Lechu, a graffiti writer from Ubeda, Spain. Someone had told him I did graffiti. We talked, and he then rode on his motorcycle to Linares to paint with me. That was the first of many trips that he took! There was also Frejo, who tagged “Rasta.” He was from my same hood. He introduced me to rap and basketball. That was around 1997.

Belin street art Luisiana Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

What did your family and friends think about what you were doing?

My family thought nothing of it. And the preppie kids I hung out with in my neighborhood took no interest in what I was doing. My friend was Frejo.

How much time of your time is devoted to art these days?

I work on my art all the time. If I’m not doing it, I’m thinking about it.

Belin Mücke32 street art Germany Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

What are your thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

Graffiti is freehand spray-painted letters. It is a form of street art, but street art is not graffiti. Street artists, like Banksy, often have a political or social agenda. Graffiti is primarily one’s name.

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

It works for me. It’s art either way. The artist needs to eat, too. Gallerists make money for the artists, as well as for themselves. They know how to talk and sell art. And it’s a lot about knowing how to talk. Unfortunately there are weak artists who sell because someone knows how to talk them up, while others, who are quite good, can’t even get into galleries.

Belin street art mural close up NYC Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

What inspires you these days?

The urban environment inspires me. New York inspires me.  There is a lot of energy here. And people are always awake.

How do you feel about collaborations?

It depends. I like to work with other writers on murals. But when I’m in the studio, I like to work alone.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

No. Everything influences me. I watch documentaries.  I listen to music. I read the news. I observe people on the streets. It all comes together in my work. My daily life is my inspiration.

Belin street art Boton Rouge Louisiana EEUU Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

Do you have a formal arts education?

No. I failed school. I liked painting and hanging with my friends more. And I was quite athletic. I played a lot of basketball and even got my black belt in karate. I think that’s why I enjoy graffiti so much. It’s about physical movement and creation and beauty. It’s like dancing.

Do you work with a sketch in hand?

I never used to. My work was mostly freestyle. But these days, I like to plan my work in advance.

Belin street art Mexico Speaking with Spains Belin in NYC

And you generally satisfied with your work?

Yes!

Have you any thoughts on the role of the Internet in all this?

I feel good about it. It helps my art reach people and it’s a great resource.

How do you feel about the bloggers and photographers of this whole movement?

They are important. They help the artists get places.

Interview conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky. Photo credits 1.  Lois Stavsky;  2. & 5.  Dani Reyes Mozeson; all others courtesy of the artist

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Born in Canada, Lady K-Fever is a NYC-based interdisciplinary artist, art educator and curator. A recipient of numerous grants, she currently works with the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Bronx River Arts Center and the Laundromat Project.

Lady K Fever graffiti NYC Speaking with Lady K Fever

When and where did you start getting up?

I started bombing in Vancouver, Canada in the early 90’s. I got all over the city. No block was safe.

What inspired you back then?

In 1992, I found The Faith of Graffiti at a thrift shop and bought a bootleg copy of Wild Style. I immediately fell in love with graffiti.  I was also into skateboarding at the time, and I was a member of the Riot Grrlzs: The Vancouver Chapter.  We were invited to create an installation for an exhibition “Artropolis 1993.” We collaborated to create a graffiti-inspired tag wall about human rights.

What spurred your interest and engagement in social issues?

I was inspired by activism of the Black Panthers and counter culture of the 1960’s & 70’s.

What about graffiti crews? Did you belong to any?

My first crew was the one I created with some of my friends in Vancouver, the ILC crew: The Independent Ladies Crew. I have since put down with lots of other crews: CAC, TLV (the Latin Vandals), IBM, and WOTS.  Right now I am down with KD-TDS-INDS.

Lady K Fever and Cern Speaking with Lady K Fever

Any early graffiti memories?

I’ll always remember the first three-color piece/bomb I did on my own.  It was all about timing.  It was in 1996 in downtown Vancouver, and I had hidden behind a car. I started to paint in the shadow of the car and hide when traffic was coming by. It was a thrill, and I wanted to do more.

When did you first get up in NYC?

My first time painting here was in 2001 at The Phun Phactory before it became 5Pointz. While there, I met so many people and artists who have helped me along my path. I am so grateful that there was a place like that – a place for the global graffiti movement to connect and blossom in New York City.

Have you ever been arrested?

Pleading the 5th and the 4th. 

Have you exhibited your works?

I began exhibiting my work in galleries in 1993 in Vancouver.  In NYC, I have exhibited at  the Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, Longwood Art Gallery, The Corridor Gallery, Andrew Freedman Home and MoMA.

HOWIEGARCIA LADYKFEVER Kathleena 12 op 640x356 Speaking with Lady K Fever

What percentage of your time is devoted to your artwork?

100 percent. All day. Every day. It’s my life. Life is my art. My art is the facilitation of my experiences as a creative human on this planet. I am inspired and find inspiration all day long.

Have you made money from your work?

I sell pieces, do commissions, apply for grants and residencies, teach and consult with museums and arts organizations, speak at schools and conduct workshops. Hustle is hustle.

Any thoughts about the so-called graffiti/street art divide?

The boundaries continue to blur.  I thought we all fought hard for graffiti to be considered “art”. A writer is a writer; an artist is an artist. Both are valid and beautiful and all artists have the right to decide how they want to be identified. What I do not like is the dogma and the prejudices that arise. If graffiti and street art are ultimately forms of freedom of expression, then what really is going on?

Do you prefer working alone or working with others?

Both. I like working alone, and I like the interaction that happens when artists work together. I go through phases.

Lady Fever students Speaking with Lady K Fever

Do you have a formal arts education?

Yes and no. I studied fine art in high school and in college, but I formally went on to major in Theatre.  I worked as a studio assistant with a Canadian pottery artist and as a scenic painter on film/TV sets to gain art trade skills.

What is the riskiest thing you’ve done?

I have done a lot of risky things. On my last day in Toronto, I did a bridge piece along a highway in downtown Toronto.  I wrote the name Lady K Fever in huge letters on the whole bridge.  As I was finishing, I saw a set of police lights flash across the highway. I ran and hid all the way home. That was my exit from Toronto.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

I’m influenced by all cultures. I go through inspirational phases. I love texture and color. I like to work with Indian, African and Mexican fabrics and designs.  Music is also an influence – its sounds, beats and lyrics.

Are you generally satisfied with a finished piece?

Yes and no.  Sometimes, I just have to walk away and move on to the next.

Fever graffiti South Bronx Husky Speaking with Lady K Fever

How has your work evolved throughout the years?

I continue to refine my style and explore concepts.

How would you describe the role of the artist in society?

The artist’s role is to tell stories through personal and collective reflections and responses and to raise questions. The artist is a messenger of universal truth who challenges others to see and acknowledge what they might not want to

Interview with Lady K-Fever conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky; photo credits 1. Lenny Collado; 2. Tara Murray; 3 – 5. courtesy of the artist

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maya street art mural NYC 2 Maya Hayuk Brings her Sumptuous Visual Rhythms to Houston and Bowery in Lower Manhattan

With luscious colors and spirited strokes, Maya Hayuk has brought her distinct visual rhythms to the wall on Houston Street and the Bowery in Lower Manhattan.

Earlier on

Maya Hayuk street art NYC Maya Hayuk Brings her Sumptuous Visual Rhythms to Houston and Bowery in Lower Manhattan

Maya takes a break

maya Hayuk at Houston and Bowery Maya Hayuk Brings her Sumptuous Visual Rhythms to Houston and Bowery in Lower Manhattan

Close-up of completed wall 

Maya street art mural NYC Maya Hayuk Brings her Sumptuous Visual Rhythms to Houston and Bowery in Lower Manhattan

The completed mural with its delicious drips

Maya Hayuk public art NYC Maya Hayuk Brings her Sumptuous Visual Rhythms to Houston and Bowery in Lower Manhattan

Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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This is the twelfth in a series of posts featuring images of girls — and women — who grace New York City’s public spaces:

Brazilian artist Eli Sudbrack in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Eli Sudbrackstreet art NYC Girls on Walls, Part XII: Eli Sudbrack, Danielle Mastrion, Veng & Chris, RWK, Katie Yamasaki with Groundswell Youth, Sest 2 and Fin DAC & Christina Angelina

Danielle Mastrion in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Danielle Mastrion Street art Williamsburg Girls on Walls, Part XII: Eli Sudbrack, Danielle Mastrion, Veng & Chris, RWK, Katie Yamasaki with Groundswell Youth, Sest 2 and Fin DAC & Christina Angelina

Veng and Chris, RWK in Little Italy

Chris Veng RWK street art NYC  Girls on Walls, Part XII: Eli Sudbrack, Danielle Mastrion, Veng & Chris, RWK, Katie Yamasaki with Groundswell Youth, Sest 2 and Fin DAC & Christina Angelina

Katie Yamasaki with Groundswell youth in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Katie Yamasakiand Groundswell street art mural  Girls on Walls, Part XII: Eli Sudbrack, Danielle Mastrion, Veng & Chris, RWK, Katie Yamasaki with Groundswell Youth, Sest 2 and Fin DAC & Christina Angelina

Sest 2 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side

Sest graffiti NYC Girls on Walls, Part XII: Eli Sudbrack, Danielle Mastrion, Veng & Chris, RWK, Katie Yamasaki with Groundswell Youth, Sest 2 and Fin DAC & Christina Angelina

Fin DAC & Christina Angelina — tribute to Lou Reed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Fin DAC and Christina Angelina Girls on Walls, Part XII: Eli Sudbrack, Danielle Mastrion, Veng & Chris, RWK, Katie Yamasaki with Groundswell Youth, Sest 2 and Fin DAC & Christina Angelina

Photo of Fin DAC & Christina Angelina by Dani Reyes Mozeson; of Chris & Veng, RWK by Tara Murray; all others by Lois Stavsky

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Speaking with LA2

February 3, 2014

Keith Haring and LA2 Speaking with LA2

Based on the Lower East Side, LA2 creates bold, brightly-colored energetic works on a range of surfaces. Befriended by the legendary Keith Haring as a young teen, LA2 is best-known for his distinct tag that has earned him accolades both on the streets and in galleries and museums world-wide.  I recently had the opportunity to interview him:

When and where did you first start tagging up?

I was 10 when I first started tagging. The street was my canvas.  I lived on the Lower East Side, and so those were the streets that I hit.

Who or what inspired you at the time?

I noticed kids at the Boys Club and in school tagging up. And I was inspired by Lee Quinones’s work that I saw on subway cars and on walls in my neighborhood.

LA2 tag 1983 Speaking with LA2

Did you tag alone or did you work with crews back in the day?

It didn’t matter.  I just wanted to tag up.  I worked mostly alone, but I did get up with TNS (The Non Stoppers) and El 3 (RIP), who later died when he was electrocuted by the 3rd rail.

You went on to collaborate with Keith Haring.  How did you first meet Keith?

Keith was looking for me.  He had seen my tag and wanted to find me.  When Keith was working on a mural at Junior High School 22, Richie SOE came to my house and told me that Keith wants to meet me, and so I went over there.

How did Keith Haring’s work change after meeting you?

Before he met me, he was doing mostly simple characters. After we began working together, his work became more energetic. And soon after Rock Hudson announced that he had AIDS, Keith came out of the closet, and his artwork took on a more sexual tone.

LA2 art on canvas Speaking with LA2

What was it like collaborating with Keith?

It was great.  I’ve always been fond of Keith as a person and as an artist.  We travelled to Europe together, and Keith made sure that I was paid what was due me.  I feel grateful to Keith, but not to the Keith Haring Foundation. But that’s another story.

Your artwork has been exhibited in galleries worldwide. How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries?

I think it’s great.  It’s a win-win for both galleries and artists. We artists have to make money to keep doing what we’re doing.

Any thoughts about the graffiti-street art divide?

There’s less and less of a divide.  After Keith Haring collaborated with me, the museums had no choice but to accept graffiti.  This past year, I became the first writer to paint in the Children’s Museum of the East End in the Hamptons.

LA2 art character. Speaking with LA2

Who are some of your favorite artists?

They’re all dead.  Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Basquiat were my favorites.

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

I generally work alone.  But in addition to Keith Haring, I’ve collaborated with quite a few artists including Richard Hambleton, Kenny Scharf and my girlfriend’s daughter, Jasmin.  And when Stik was in from London this past fall, I collaborated with him.

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

I think it’s great.  Since my girlfriend, Ramona, created the website, we’ve received invitations from galleries overseas in such countries as Italy and Germany.

LA2 graffiti on shirts Speaking with LA2

Do you have a formal art education?

No, I’m self-taught. I dropped out of Seward Park High School to travel with Keith Haring and help him establish his career. 

What is the riskiest thing you ever did?

Just getting my tag up is risky.  I’ve spent time in jail for that.  Whenever I take my dog, Nico, for a walk, I tag when he pees. And I’ve gotten locked up for that, along with Nico. He’s gotten locked up, too! 

What inspires your art?

It’s inspired by my emotions…the things I go through… my thoughts and feelings.  Creating art is how I express myself.

LA2 graffiti NYC Speaking with LA2

Do you work with a sketch in hand?

Never, it’s all straight out of my head.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

I’m always happy.  I love them all.

How has your work evolved through the years?

It has gotten more detailed.  There’s more line work and people tell me that it’s tighter.

What do you see as your role  – as an artist — in society?

My particular role is to educate kids on how to express their creativity in a healthy way.  They need to use the right materials and to cover their faces.  I developed health problems (COPD) by not protecting myself when painting.  I love lecturing kids and working with them. I will be doing a workshop with children this spring at the Angel Orensanz Center in conjunction with the Fridge Art Fair.

LA2 street art close up Speaking with LA2

What do you see as the future of graffiti?

It’s going to become more and more valued as an art form.

The Europeans have always seemed to value it more than we have. Why do you suppose they are so much more receptive to graffiti than we here in the States are?

It’s because they appreciate art more, in general.  It’s always been that way. And on a personal level, Paul Kostabi sold my art in Italy 20 years ago, gaining the attention and appreciation of Europeans.

What’s ahead for you?

Traveling, exhibiting both here and overseas, educating the youth and continuing to become healthier.

Editor’s note: A selection of LA2’s work in on exhibit at City as Canvas: Graffiti Art from the Martin Wong Collection at the Museum of the City of New York. Curated by Sean Corcoran, it opens tomorrow, February 4, and continues through August 24.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky;  first two photos — of LA2 collaborating with Keith Haring and of LA2 tagging — originally published in Keith Haring, Rizzoli — courtesy of LA2; all other photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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