Walls

Keo xmen graffiti NYC Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

On exhibit through this week at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village is Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip-Hop. Among its many highlights are: memorabilia featuring personal narratives and archives of hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa;  hip-hop party flyers and clothing designed by the late Buddy Esquire; original cells from the animated sequences of Charlie Ahearn’s film Wild Style and prints of Joe Conzo’s photographs of the early days of hip hop.

Here is a sampling of what greeted us when we visited this past Tuesday:

On the exterior of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise

Afrika Bambaataa Born in the Bronx NYC Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

U.K.- based Paul Insect‘s portrait of Afrika Bambaataa

Paul Insect street art NYC Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

And inside the gallery — noted DJ, producer and poet Rich Medina going though the bins of duplicates from Afrika Bambaataa‘s record collection

Rich Medina DJ Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

 Close-up from installation of Buddy Esquire‘s clothing and flyer designs

Buddy Esquire installation Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

Afrika Bambaataa fashioned from Bambaataa’s records by Paul Insect and Bäst

Bast recycled records Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

Selections from Joe Conzo’s’s seminal Born in the Bronx

Joe Conzo Photos Born in the Bronx Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

Joe Conzo and Charlie Ahearn

Joe Conzo Charlie Ahearn Born in the Bronx Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

The pioneering MC and hip-hop historian Grandmaster Caz

Grandmaster Caz Born in the Bronx Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

And legendary b-boy Crazy Legs

Crazy Legs Spinning Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

With Charlie Ahearn

Charlie ahearn and crazy legs Born in the Bronx:  A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Continues through 7.26 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village

Exhibited by Boo-Hooray and curated by Johan Kugelberg, Born in the Bronx is an extraordinary tribute to hip-hop’s early days and its everlasting influence. And if you can get over there tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon — between 1-3pm — you will be treated to a Born In The Bronx Hot Platter Lunch DJ Session with DJ Jazzy Jay and DJ Rockin Rob. The gallery is located at 620 Greenwich Street at the corner of Leroy Street in the Village.

Photos 1-4, 7, 8 & 10 by Lois Stavsky;  5, 6 & 9 by Dani Reyes Mozeson; photo 1 features mural by Keo X-men

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Speaking with Tone MST

July 18, 2014

Characterized by bold strokes and a vigorous flow, Tone MST‘s graffiti surfaces mostly in Brooklyn.  Lenny Collado aka BK Lenny had the opportunity to interview him earlier this year:

Tone graffiti mural NYC Speaking with Tone MST

When and where did you start getting up?

I was in the sixth grade back in 1992. I was making my own markers at the time and practicing on 200-page packs of paper that I used to rack from the corner store. I had to make my own markers because I was dead broke.

How did you make your markers?

I took men’s Brute deodorants, popped off the balls and emptied the containers. I then filled the containers with ink.  I cut up my school’s black board erasers to serve as felt tips.  It was markers until ’94. That’s when I started street and train bombing.

Did you have any preferred surfaces back then?

I liked the train ads in the subway stations, because I would write on them smoothly with my home-made markers.

Tone graffiti art Speaking with Tone MST

Any major influence at the time?

My major influence at the time was Ski MST. He was rolling with writers and he got me acquainted. I was a loner for the most part. He got me to rack paint, and we would vibe off each other for style. We would rack cans on Steinway Street and go to the freight yards to empty out the cans.

Any particularly memorable events?

There was nine of us — Ski MST, Dope, Neke, Cloke, Vare, Pane and a couple of others. We all set out to do a lay-up in the tunnel between 36th street and Queens Plaza and video tape it. One of us hid the paint and a video camera in a sandbox where the tunnel workers kept their supplies. We scoped out the station for a while before setting out on the mission.

How did you guys get into the tunnel?

Some of us through the hatches on the streets above and some through the station.  We started catching wreck on the two trains that had parked between the stations. As everybody’s painting them, Pane, Cloke and me went to the other car and started on some bubble letters. Just as we started, one of the train’s lights turned on and began to move into the station. I saw too that the police had made their way down towards us.

Tone graffiti with character NYC Speaking with Tone MST

So what did you do?

We bounced. When I got out of that station, I must have run about a mile before my lungs gave in from the burn. It was a thrill like no other, and I enjoyed it. I loved bombin’!

Were you in any crews at the time?

I only push MST.

What was the attitude of your parents and your friends towards what you were doing?

My mother hated it, so I lied to her. I built a compartment in my closet to keep supplies. She would find my cans and throw them out. My friends would always point out how dirty I was.

Tone tag1 Speaking with Tone MST

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

It’s a thin line. Both project the same language and image, but they take different avenues. It’s like a GPS. All get to the same point, but through different avenues. The concept of graffiti needs to be explained to people who don’t understand it. Street art is a different entity. I like when the two are combined, like what Shepard Fairy and Cope do when they collaborate. I will say that street art is an extension of graffiti. It originated from graff.

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

I think it’s dope! It’s progress — a positive thing. My gallery, though, is the streets. But if a gallery asks, “Hey, Tone, can you put a show together?” I’m flattered and take it as a step forward.

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

Both! When I started bombing early on, I would do so alone with my Walkman on. I would listen to WKCR with Bobbito Garcia and Stretch and Tag. At one point, I was a vandal. They called me a vandal. But I didn’t get up as much as I wanted to. I didn’t do it to get status. I didn’t go all city, but I love what I did. It was who I was.

tonegraffiti Brooklyn NYC Speaking with Tone MST

Did you have a formal arts education?

I never pursued art school.

What is the source of your inspiration?

I’m inspired by Hip-Hop – rhyming and making beats.

Any particular artists who inspired you?

My influences are Hush, Gaze, Sub 5 and Emit of Sports Crew, MQ and Frantic and Free5. Giz from Queens also made impact on me. And there was Teck BS, Smith & Pink, Ve, Slash and Web13.

ToneMST graffiti Speaking with Tone MST

Do you work with a sketch in hand or do you do free hand?

It’s fifty, fifty. It depends on the situation.

What are your thoughts on the Internet in all of this?

The Internet is a tool, a means to communicate. Someone in Australia can get a look at what you’re doing here in NYC. But I think that graffiti has also been exploited because of it. It wasn’t meant for the masses, and the Internet made it accessible to everyone.

How has your work evolved throughout the years?

I’ve improved and honed my techniques. My pieces have gotten better.

TONE MST graffiti Greenpoint NYC Speaking with Tone MST

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

I’ll say there’s always space for improvement.

Interview conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky. Photos 1 (collab w/KA), 3, and 4 (combo) courtesy of the artist;  2 (collab w/UR New York), 5 & 6 by Lois Stavsky; 7  (collab w/Shiro and Yes One) by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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gallery nine5 will host a block party this evening — from 6-8pm — to celebrate the transformation of its gallery walls into a vibrant, magical public sphere. Here are a few recently captured images:

Vor138‘s completed piece with TATS CRU on the left and Bisco Smith to the right

Tats Cru andVor138 and Bisco Smith graffiti and street art gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

Vor138

Vor 138 graffiti gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

Shiro at work

Shiro paints gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

And her completed piece

Shiro graffiti characters Gallery Nine5 gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

Ket – who has been transforming his original piece with political references and names of victims of violence and war; it’s certain to look different this evening from the close-up captured here!

Ket political graffiti gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

And the always-wonderful Rubin415 at work on Monday

Rubin415 paints abstract graffiiti gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

gallery nine5 is located at 24 Spring Street, and if you can’t make it this evening, you can check out the site-specific exhibit through July 30.

group Ink gallery nine5 to Host Group Ink Block Party This Evening with Tats Cru, Vor138, Bisco Smith, Shiro, Ket and Rubin415

Photos: 1-4 by Dani Reyes Mozeson; 5-6 by Lois Stavsky

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BUffMonster Leanna Valente on Graffiti, Photography, “Instant Art Exposure” & more with: Buff Monster, Veng RWK, Hoacs, QA and Rubin &  Joe Iurato

With cameras in hand, Leanna Valente has spent the past 15 months photographing graffiti writers and street artists in progress.  She now has over 400 photos signed by the artists.  I recently had the opportunity to speak to Leanna about her brilliant Instant Art Exposure project and more:

Have you any early memories of graffiti or street art?

I remember first seeing graffiti as a young child. It was right down the block — under viaducts and bridges — from where I grew up in Buffalo. I loved it at first sight!

Have you, yourself, done any graffiti?

When I was about six, I attempted some bubble letters. And I still give it a try while doodling on a napkin!

What about other art forms? 

I’ve been doing art – of one kind or another — for as long as I can remember.

Veng street art NYC Leanna Valente on Graffiti, Photography, “Instant Art Exposure” & more with: Buff Monster, Veng RWK, Hoacs, QA and Rubin &  Joe Iurato

Any particular styles or genres?

Mainly mixed-media works of acrylic, spray paint, fabric and photography.

Have you shown your work in galleries or formal settings?

I started showing in galleries in 2003 while living in Atlanta. I also showed in Miami, in Southern California, in Buffalo and at alternative spaces in Brooklyn in 2010.

Have you studied art in a formal setting?

I’m basically self-taught. I’ve studied art informally at FIT here in NYC and at the Atlanta College of Art/SCAD when I was living in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hoacs graffiti NYC Leanna Valente on Graffiti, Photography, “Instant Art Exposure” & more with: Buff Monster, Veng RWK, Hoacs, QA and Rubin &  Joe Iurato

Can you tell us something about your photography projects?

My series Extreme Fashion Window Design in NYC focuses on extreme fashion window designs in Manhattan portraying the glamour and grit of the city.  Another series Trashion focuses on the exclusive branding found in our city’s trash. And my Instant Art Exposure project documents NYC’s street art and graffiti scene.

You are obviously quite passionate about street art and graffiti. 

Yes, I have been addicted to it for as long as I can remember, and I officially started documenting it in 2007. I love its unique beauty and grand size. It’s gutsy and challenging.  Just seeing it gives me an adrenalin rush!

I can relate to that! When did you begin this NYC project?

I became avidly serious about it about 14 months ago at Welling Court while watching Kingbee paint. He was the first to sign a photo.

Queen Andrea graffiti NYC Leanna Valente on Graffiti, Photography, “Instant Art Exposure” & more with: Buff Monster, Veng RWK, Hoacs, QA and Rubin &  Joe Iurato

And we all love your shots that the artists sign. It’s a brilliant concept. I wish I had thought of it myself! Did anything in particular inspire it?

Through documenting street art, graffiti and art/fashion mixes for my blog, I became even more interested in documenting the artists “in process.”  It became my way of paying respect to them and the hard work they put into each piece on the walls.  I felt that it was a unique and personal addition to the black book. And when artists began to respond enthusiastically, I continued.

Where is the project headed?

Well, people keep on asking me what I’m doing with it. Originally I was just doing it for myself. It was meant as a personal diary of photos to hang on my wall. But artists I’ve photographed and other people in the scene have suggested that I follow up on publishing a book and launching an exhibit that feature the works. And so in addition to what I do with my standard photography equipment, my primary focus now is on this project. Talks are now in the works for a series of books, gallery shows and select prints. I will never sell the originals, but I will choose, with the assistance of the artists, a select number to make into prints.

That sounds great! Who are some of the artists have you photographed?

They range from such legends as Blek le Rat, Lady Pink, Charlie Ahearn, Lee Quinones, Crash, Futura and Kenny Scharf to contemporary masters such as Shepard Fairey, Logan Hicks, Sp.One, Wane, Chris Stain, Billy Mode, Stik, Stinkfish, RWK and Icy and Sot. And I can’t imagine ever stopping!

Joe Iurato and Rubin street art Leanna Valente on Graffiti, Photography, “Instant Art Exposure” & more with: Buff Monster, Veng RWK, Hoacs, QA and Rubin &  Joe Iurato

Note: You can follow Leanna on Instagram at @leannav & #instantartexposure, in addition to her blog and her soon-to-be-launched website www.instantartexposure.com.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky.

Leanna’s photos: 1. Buff Monster 2. Veng RWK 3. Hoacs 4. Queen Andrea 5. Rubin & Joe Iurato

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wallnuts and werc street art mural nyc The Wallnuts Crew, Werc & Trans1 Transform Gowanus eWaste Recycling and ReUse Warehouse Exterior into Vibrant Outdoor Canvas

The Lower East Side Ecology Center’s eWaste Recycling and ReUse Warehouse – at 469 President Street on the corner of Nevins in Gowanus, Brooklyn — now boasts, in addition to its wonderful facilities, a sumptuous outdoor mural recently fashioned by the Wallnuts Crew.

Werc, close-up

Werc close up street art Gowanus NYC The Wallnuts Crew, Werc & Trans1 Transform Gowanus eWaste Recycling and ReUse Warehouse Exterior into Vibrant Outdoor Canvas

Been3, Trans1

wallnuts street art close up Gowanus The Wallnuts Crew, Werc & Trans1 Transform Gowanus eWaste Recycling and ReUse Warehouse Exterior into Vibrant Outdoor Canvas

Muse

Muse wallnuts graffiti nyc The Wallnuts Crew, Werc & Trans1 Transform Gowanus eWaste Recycling and ReUse Warehouse Exterior into Vibrant Outdoor Canvas

Trans1, Dos… 

wallnuts character and graffiti nyc The Wallnuts Crew, Werc & Trans1 Transform Gowanus eWaste Recycling and ReUse Warehouse Exterior into Vibrant Outdoor Canvas

Chester, Trans1

Chester wallnuts street art gowanus nyc The Wallnuts Crew, Werc & Trans1 Transform Gowanus eWaste Recycling and ReUse Warehouse Exterior into Vibrant Outdoor Canvas

And in addition to the first-rate art on its outside, the ReUse store at the Gowanus Warehouse offers audio equipment, alongside refurbished and heavily discounted computers and other electronics.

Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Presented by No Longer Empty in partnership with Broadway Housing Communities, If You Build It features a range of artwork in different media by more than twenty local, national, and international artists. Located at 155th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Sugar Hill on a site designed by architect David Adjaye, the exhibit — along with an impressive array of events and programs – continues through August 10. Here is a sampling of the artworks that can be seen on the site’s grounds and in future apartments:

Rául Ayala, A Blaze of Glory

Raul Ayala mural no longer empty No Longer Empty Brings If You Build It to Sugar Hill, Harlem with Rául Ayala, Moses Ros Suárez, Carlos Mare, Radcliffe Bailey, Scherezade García, Brendan Jamison & Mark Revels and more

Moses Ros-Suárezseated on sculpture he fashioned — one of four structural models of bridges

Moses Ros Suarez No Longer Empty Brings If You Build It to Sugar Hill, Harlem with Rául Ayala, Moses Ros Suárez, Carlos Mare, Radcliffe Bailey, Scherezade García, Brendan Jamison & Mark Revels and more

Carlos Mare aka Mare1398th FreeStyle Archityper

Carlos Mare graffiti sculpture if you build it1 No Longer Empty Brings If You Build It to Sugar Hill, Harlem with Rául Ayala, Moses Ros Suárez, Carlos Mare, Radcliffe Bailey, Scherezade García, Brendan Jamison & Mark Revels and more

 Radcliffe Bailey, From the Cabinet: Fire Music — fashioned with recycled piano keys

Radcliffe Bailey storm at Sea installation No Longer Empty If You Build It No Longer Empty Brings If You Build It to Sugar Hill, Harlem with Rául Ayala, Moses Ros Suárez, Carlos Mare, Radcliffe Bailey, Scherezade García, Brendan Jamison & Mark Revels and more

Scherezade GarcíaCathedral/Catedral, made up of stacked inner tubes/life savers ‘dipped’ in gold paint “so as to resemble a temporary alter or monument to immigrants and their aspirations”

Scherezade Garcia art inatallation No Longer Empty No Longer Empty Brings If You Build It to Sugar Hill, Harlem with Rául Ayala, Moses Ros Suárez, Carlos Mare, Radcliffe Bailey, Scherezade García, Brendan Jamison & Mark Revels and more

Brendan Jamison and Mark Revels, Sugar Metropolis – composed with half a million sugar cubes

Brendan Jamison Mark Revels Sugar Metropolis No Longer Empty Brings If You Build It to Sugar Hill, Harlem with Rául Ayala, Moses Ros Suárez, Carlos Mare, Radcliffe Bailey, Scherezade García, Brendan Jamison & Mark Revels and more

The exhibit is open Thursday–Friday 3–7pm & Saturday–Sunday 1–6pm & Wednesday by appointment. 

Photo of Rául Ayala by Lois Stavsky; all others by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Speaking with Yes One

July 9, 2014

Bronx native Yes One has been gracing walls, canvases and more with his energetic aesthetic — in NYC and beyond — for almost 30 years. StreetArtNYC is delighted to feature an interview with him.

Yes one graffiti Bronx NYC Speaking with Yes One

How did you first get into graffiti? What inspired you?

I was introduced to graffiti by Smiley 149 of the Ebony Dukes when I was 10 years old. He used to chill outside my favorite candy shop where I played Asteroids on the arcades. He sat on a crate right outside, and we would vibe watching the trains go by on the Tremont El. This was about 1979.

When you began writing, what kind of surfaces did you hit?

Illegal ones — because of the rush. I can’t explain it, but it’s like robbing a bank.

How did your family feel about what you were doing back then?

My mom and dad hated it. They saw it as a crime. My mother was scared. She used to say, “Te voy a botar esas latas!” (I’m going to throw your cans out!)  She actually kept some of those cans, and I have some collectables today.

yes One abstract graffiti on canvas Speaking with Yes One

Have you painted with any crews?

Yes! I’ve painted with BT, 4Burners, GAK, and FX – among others.

Do you prefer working alone or would you rather collaborate with other artists?

I often work alone, but I’m open to collaborating with anyone.

Who are some of the artists with whom you’ve painted?

Dero, Pase, PerOne, Logek, Beasto, Tone MST, Ribs GAK and Shiro  —  to name a few.

Yes1 graffiti Bushwick Speaking with Yes One

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

I see them as two different things. Graffiti is letters, forms and styles. Street art doesn’t pay homage to graffiti, but I can admire it.

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

I think it’s great! I had works featured in a number of exhibits including Cause and Effect and Board of Art and at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

What about the role of the Internet in this scene? Do you follow any sites?

I follow 12ozProphet and FreshPaint. The Internet is a great networking and marketing tool. It is how I’m able to sell canvases overseas.

And the photographers in this scene? How do you feel about them?

They don’t bother me. They have learned the etiquette.

Yes One abstract graffiti on canvas close up Speaking with Yes One

Do you have a formal arts education?

I never went to art school.

What’s the riskiest thing you’ve done?  And why were you willing to take that risk?

Painting in the 2 and 5 train yards in the Bronx with Clark in the late 80s. I was young, and you do foolish things when you’re young.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

My ideal working environment is the Ya Tu Sabe studio space.

What inspires you these days?

Seeing people checking out my walls, taking pictures and smiling. When I see people appreciating my work, I feel I did my job.

Yes One Black Book graffiti wild style Speaking with Yes One

Are there any particular cultures you feel influenced your aesthetic?

I influence myself.

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

I work with a sketch in my hand, but what goes on the wall is not always a hundred percent what was on the paper.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

I’m never satisfied. I may “finish” a wall this week and go back the next saying to myself, “I could have added this or that.”

How do you feel when you look back at the work you did two years ago?

I take it as a good reference point for picking up new techniques and elevating my style. I feel that my work has gotten stronger. And I feel a hunger to produce more and further my talents.

Shiro Yes One Part One graffiti5Pointz Long island City NYC Speaking with Yes One

What percentage of your day is devoted to your art? I know you have a “day job.”

I’d say about 75 percent. It’s work – then, art. I wake up at 5 in the morning and don’t go to sleep until 2 a.m.

What are some of your other interests?

I love baseball and collecting rare items. I also love BMX bikes.

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

The role of the artist is a big one. The artist is there to affect a person’s mind by introducing new ideas and concepts.

Interview conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos 1, 2, 4 & 5  Lois Stavsky; 3 & 6 Dani Reyes Mozeson; photo 5 is from Yes One’s black book; photos 2 & 4 (close-up) are from works currently on exhibit at the Pop Bar in Astoria, Queens; photo 6 is a collab with Shiro, Part and Meres at 5Pointz 

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Alice Pasquini New Journey close up street art  Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

In my meanderings around Jersey City this past year, I came upon a number of first-rate murals by a wonderful array of artists signed Savage Habbitalong with the artists’ signatures. Just who or what is Savage Habbit? I found out this weekend as Inez, its founder, gave me a tour of Savage Habbit’s walls and answered some questions about its mission:

Mr Mustart street art Jersey City Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

Just what is Savage Habbit?

It is foremost a blog that was founded in 2011.  It is dedicated to showcasing the best art that has made its way onto the streets across the globe.  Among Savage Habbit’s missions today is to bring more street art to our local community.

What motivated you to launch Savage Habbit?

I wanted a blog that represented the art that I love, and the only way I could do that was to start my own.

Li Hill paints street art Jersey City Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

And what about the murals?

I’m a New Jersey girl. I was born and raised here. I wanted to walk around my neighborhood and see art in my community. And I wanted to give back to my state. These murals benefit everyone!

When did your first mural surface?

Last year — in 2013.

Ekundayo street art nyc Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

What has been your greatest challenge?

Finding walls.

You seem to have facilitated quite a few murals. How do you find the artists?

Some contact me, and others I contact when I see that they are in town.

sean lugo street art jersey city Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

What’s ahead?

There are five confirmed walls.  Savage Habbit’s next wall will feature Nanook and Mata Ruda.

And what about the name “Savage Habbit?” What does it represent?

The name is derived from a Wu Tang quote:  Ricochet Rabbit had a habit, he was a savage. We are savagely passionate about our habit, art!

case maclaim street art mural jersey city Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

That sounds right!  We look forward to seeing more art on the streets of Jersey City.

Brief interview and photos by Lois Stavsky

1. Alice Pasquini, close-up

2. Mr. Mustart

3. Li-Hill at work yesterday

4. Ekundayo

5. Sean Lugo

6. Case, MA`CLAIM, close-up

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Wallnuts street art graffiti characters NYC The Wallnuts, SHYE131 and Trans1 in Long Island City

One of the most dynamic graffiti productions in town can be found in Long Island City off Queensboro Plaza.  Showcasing the talents of the Wallnuts, UK-based artists SHYE131 and Trans1, the murals exude an exuberant, infectious energy. Here are a few close-ups from the pride of the neighborhood:

Manny Muse, Wallnuts

Manny Muse The Wallnuts, SHYE131 and Trans1 in Long Island City

Chester Wallnuts

Chester wallnuts NYC graffiti The Wallnuts, SHYE131 and Trans1 in Long Island City

Been3 Wallnuts

Been3 graffiti LIC NYC The Wallnuts, SHYE131 and Trans1 in Long Island City

Col Wallnuts

Col wallnuts graffiti NYC The Wallnuts, SHYE131 and Trans1 in Long Island City

SHYE131

SHYE graffiti NYC The Wallnuts, SHYE131 and Trans1 in Long Island City

Trans1

Trans1 street art The Wallnuts, SHYE131 and Trans1 in Long Island City

 Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Chris RWK Woodward Gallery Project Space1 Speaking with Chris RWK

Founder of the much-loved Robots Will Kill, Staten Island-based artist Chris Rwk Chillemi’s creates delightful character-driven artworks that find a home on the streets, in galleries and — most recently — on WAT-AAH!‘s premium bottled drinking water.  I was delighted to interview him.

When did it all begin? When did you first get into graffiti?

It was back in 1988 in Huguenot, Staten Island. I was 11. My brother and his friends started doing graffiti back then, and I would tag along and photograph it. About two years later, I began doodling on public surfaces.

We associate you with your hugely lovable, iconic characters. What was the inspiration behind them?

Letters didn’t hold my attention for all that long, as I’d always been so interested in cartoons and comics. I loved Gary Larson, Jim Davis and Disney stuff. Their styles were all different, but they all had really strong imagery and messages. My first illegal piece, in fact, was the wizard from Hagar the Horrible with a spray can doing a throw up! I can still remember the colors!

Chris RWK Speaking with Chris RWK

What about Robots Will Kill? Can you tell us something about its origin?

Back in 1999, while on a fellowship in Vermont, I came upon a friend, Chris Rini, painting a giant cellphone holding a man! That’s when I came up with the notion that “robots will kill.”  If you do something too much and too often, it becomes robotic, and you lose your love for it.

Robots Will Kill – that began with you – has evolved into an informal global collective. Who are some of its members?

At first it was just me. Then Kevin and a bit later Veng joined. Since, we’ve collaborated with such artists as Peeta, ECB, Flying Fortress, JesseR. OverUnder and Mike Die.

Would you rather paint alone? Or do you prefer to collaborate with others?

I love both. In my studio, I’d rather work alone. But I love painting with others outdoors as it pushes me to another level.

Any thoughts about illegal vs. legal graffiti?

Ideally — what begins illegally evolves into something legal.

Chris RWK Veng RWK street art NYC Speaking with Chris RWK

You’ve exhibited your work in dozens of galleries. How do you feel about showing in formal settings?

It’s great. There are lots of folks who would never notice my work on the streets.  But when it’s in a gallery, they will have to pay attention to it.

What about the graffiti/street art divide? You seem to successfully straddle both.

Street artists need to respect graffiti writers. They don’t always do. They need to learn the history.

What about the corporate world? How do you feel about sharing your talents with private comporations?

Things aren’t black and white anymore. It’s not a matter of us vs. them. I don’t mind working for a corporation, so long as it’s an ethical one. The corporate world makes money. Why shouldn’t we artists benefit from it?

Chris RWK and Veng RWK street art Bushwick NYC Speaking with Chris RWK

What is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done?

I play it safe. I’m not a risk-taker. When I was in high school, my tag was ND – No Drugs…Never Drunk…Never Dull! I’ve been straight edge my whole life.

How does your family feel about what you were doing?

My family has always been supportive. When I was a kid, they built a wall in my backyard, so I could practice!

You have a 9-5 day job here in Manhattan and you live in Staten Island. How do you manage to find time to do so much great art?

My weekday schedule is tough.  I have to wake up at 6am to leave my house at 7, and I’m often not back home until 7 in the evening. I then have to help my son with his homework. I generally don’t begin working on my art until 10pm, and I don’t get to sleep until 2-3am.

Chris RWK and Veng and Gilf street art WilliamsburgNYC Speaking with Chris RWK

Wow! That is a rough schedule. When you work, do you sketch first or do you just let it flow?

About 70% of the time, I work from a sketch.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Yes – but my satisfaction is increased when I get a positive response to it from others.

Have you any ideal work environment?

I need background noise, so that I don’t overly think about what I’m doing!

Chris RWK stickers character on canvas Speaking with Chris RWK

Do you have a formal art education?

I earned my Associate degree at FIT and a BFA in painting from Hunter College.

Do you feel that you benefited from it?

Definitely, as so many elements – from choice of colors to spatial design — are involved in creating a first-rate piece.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

The comic book culture, the sci-fi one and the graffiti culture. I’ve also been inspired by hot-rods and the urban culture, in general.

Chris RWK wat aah Speaking with Chris RWK

What is the source of your inspiration these days?

I’d say my family, my friends and my personal experiences.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

It’s become more personal. My use of layers and colors has become more important to me. And when I paint, I tend to take my audience into consideration more than I used to.

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

I think it’s amazing that something I do here can be seen minutes later by someone in Australia. But I also think we’ve been oversaturated with blogs and Instagram.

Chris RWK street art character NYC Speaking with Chris RWK

Have you any feelings about the photographers/bloggers in the scene?

On the positive side, they help get artists known. But I don’t think much thought goes into much of what makes its way out there.

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

He’s a muse for the general public. Without art, there’d be a lot less for folks to see, feel, think about and talk about.

What do you see as the future of street art and graffiti?

There’s too much going on right now, and too many people trying to get into the game. And so it is likely to fizzle out. But those who are true will survive its fallout. And what will emerge will be even stronger.

What about you? What’s ahead for you?

I will continue to do what I do. Create, paint and get my stickers out there!

Note: Chris will be a featured artist of WAT-AAH!’s upcoming exhibit in Chicago on July 18-20 as part of WAT-AAH! Taking Back the Streets art campaign, which connects today’s leading street artists with the brand’s mission to fight childhood obesity and promote healthy hydration among kids and teens. Joining the likes of Kenny Scharf, Swoon, Shepard Fairey, Haze and Chicago-based POSE, Chris has created a one-of-a kind WAT-AAH! label design featuring PHA’s “Drink Up” drop, as well as an original piece of art (shown above) that becomes featured in the brand’s traveling art campaign, which has been touring the country since its launch in NYC this past February. For more information, visit  wat-aahstreets.com  and follow @wataahstreets.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos: 1. and 8. Dani Reyes Mozeson; 2. Original artwork created for WAT-AAH! Taking Back the Streets art Campaign. Chris RWK.  I Tried to Stop.  36″x48″. Mixed media. Image courtesy WAT-AAH! 3. With Veng, Tara Murray; 4. – 6. Lois Stavsky  7. Limited edition bottle design for WAT-AAH! Taking Back the Streets art campaign. Image courtesy WAT-AAH! 

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