Al Diaz

Since September 26, 57 Great Jones Street — the former home and studio of Al Diaz collaborator, Jean-Michel Basquiat — has been the site of Same Old Gallery, a multimedia exhibit showcasing Al Diaz ‘s masterful wordplay and inventive aesthetic. Curated by Adrian Wilson and Brian Shevlin, it features a diverse array of new work by Al Diaz, in addition to historic photos and memorabilia from back in the day when the SAMO© tag that he and Jean-Michel Basquiat had conceived was the talk of the town. Several photos I captured while visiting the space follow:

Mixed media with stencil art

Another contemplation on the brevity of it all

Mixed media musings

With a message for these times

The 1978 Village Voice article that reveals SAMO©’s identity

And this weekend marks the launch of Al Diaz‘s book with a signing and talk

Photos 1-6: Lois Stavsky

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My latest adventures with Nic 707‘s famed InstaFame Phantom Art project had me riding the 1 train from the Bronx to the Financial District with several NYC graffiti veterans, along with some newer talents. Pictured above is an image of Salvador Dali fashioned by veteran writer Gear One. Several more images captured on this ride follow:

The legendary Taki 183 in collaboration with Nic 707

Brazilian artist Micheline Gil and Nic 707

Canadian artist Stavro and the renowned Easy

Legendary writers Al Diaz and Taki 183

Bronx graffiti veteran Tony 164

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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

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Opening tonight at More Points Bx in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx is Fight 4 Your Write: The CAMO Show, an exhibit of intriguing art in a range of media and styles suggestive of the notion of camouflage. While previewing the exhibit yesterday, I spoke briefly to More Points Bx directors and curators, Sienide and Eric Orr.

What inspired you to curate this exhibit?

We wanted to bring our friends together, while sharing different styles and techniques of art — all beautiful and unconventional and on a common theme.

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What are some of the techniques represented here?

There are so many. Among them are: stencil art, aerosol art, mixed media, painting, printing, sketching, drawing with markers…More Points Bx even has its first oil painting featured here.

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Can you tell us a bit about the exhibit’s theme? 

It’s our theme — the concept of camouflage. As graffiti writers, there is much we hide. And much of what we write is only for us to decipher.

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How did you decide which artists to feature?

We got the word out among our friends, and we reached out to others on social media.

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There’s quite a range of artists here — from several younger emerging ones to many established legends. How many artists are featured in the exhibit?

There are 36. Dozens of people reached out to us.

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After the exhibit officially opens, how much longer will it remain on view?

It will stay up for a bit over a month — 36 days to be exact!

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How can folks arrange to see it if they miss the opening or if they wish to view it a second time? There’s so much to see!

One of us is here at 527 Faile Street just about all afternoons and evenings. We can also be reached by email at mrmorepoints@gmail.com.

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What can folks who attend the exhibit’s opening expect — besides the great art and great company?

Music for the evening will be powered by DJ JAZZY JAY with special guests, and drinks will be provided by Port Morris Distillery. Come out and help us kick off the new season!

Images

1  BG 183, Tats Cru

2  Sienide, Rhonda Rae and Al Diaz

3  Al Diaz

4  Bio Tats Cru, Steve Cogle and Nicer Tats Cru

5  Yes One

6  Eric Orr

7  Serve

Photos and interview by Lois Stavsky

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Recognized for his folksy outsider aesthetic, Brooklyn native Steven Cogle has shared his talents on public spaces for the past few years at the Welling Court Mural Project.  I recently met up with him.

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When did you first begin drawing?

I was five or six when I started drawing cartoons.

Any inspirations back then?

I was a big fan of Charles Schultz.’s Peanuts comic strip, and I also loved Bugs Bunny.

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Did your family have any response to your early drawings? Did they encourage you?

Not really! But my classmates did. I was always drawing characters for them.

What about your teachers?

I took an art class when I was a student at George Gershwin Junior High School in East New York.  I couldn’t say, though, that my teacher encouraged me.  But when I discovered Lee J. Ames’ How to Draw books in the library, I used them to teach myself how to draw.

Did you go on to study art in a formal setting?

No. I’m self-taught.

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How would you describe your particular aesthetic? It’s been referred to as Neo-Expressionism.

My artwork reflects me – tribal Africa crossed with urban blight. Growing up in East New York, I witnessed a lot of tragedy and loss, along with hope and survival. As I layer the painting on the canvas, I am also layering the experiences that I saw.

Have any specific artists influenced you?

Eric Orr became a mentor to me, and explained the business side of art to me.  And I was influenced by Picasso’s versatility, Basquiat’s palette and Clemente’s spirituality. 

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What about galleries? When did you first show your work in a gallery setting?

In 2004 my work made its way into two Brooklyn spaces and into an exhibit at the Chelsea Center for the Arts in Manhattan. I’ve since exhibited in several galleries in Brooklyn and in Manhattan, and my work is in collections across the globe. My dream is to see my work in a museum setting.

I first discovered your artwork in Astoria, Queens, where you painted with the Welling Court Mural Project. This year, in fact, you collaborated with Al Diaz.  You don’t generally paint in public spaces. What brought you to Welling Court?

I’m fond of Garrison Buxton, the project’s organizer, and I love the make-up of the neighborhood. I’ve painted there for the past four years.

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Have you any favorite artists among those active on our streets?

I like the way Chris RWK and Joe Iurato bring me back to my childhood. And there are several Staten-Island based artists I especially like: ErinKelli, John Exit and Kwue Molly.

What’s ahead? 

I’ve been working on a film to be released in 2017. It tells my story, while showcasing a range of creative artists. I plan to move to Italy by the end of this summer, and I wanted to document my life here. And, of course, more painting is ahead.

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Why the move? 

It’s time for a change!

Yes, change is good! Good luck with it all! 

Photo credits: 1 Lidia Santana; 3, 4-6 courtesy of the artist; 2 Lois Stavsky; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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I recently stopped by 212 ARTS and had the opportunity to speak to Laura “Lulu” Reich who, along with Marc Leader, founded and directs the gallery.

I’ve heard great things about your current exhibit, Gumshoe: Red, White And Black, and I’m so glad I finally had the opportunity to visit this space! How long has 212 ARTS been here?

We’ve been here as 212 ARTS since this past October.

This space here at 240 East 4th Street is so perfect for a gallery. Why did you choose this particular neighborhood? And how were you so lucky to get this space?

I’m an East Village girl and I love everything about this neighborhood — its history, alternative culture and more. Yes, acquiring this space was mere luck! I had found out from the landlord that it was available.

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What is the vision behind 212 ARTS

It is to give exposure in a gallery setting to urban artists, particularly those who work on the streets, as well as in their studios. It is also to educate folks about the artists in this scene. There are stories to tell, as in this current exhibit, Gumshoe: Red, White And Black.

Can you tell us something about this current exhibit?

It is Gumshoe‘s first solo exhibit in NYC. We chose to present this exhibit because we love Gumshoe’s work and her distinct female energy! And it seemed like the perfect exhibit for Valentine’s Day.

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And what about its title, Red, White and Black?

Most of the pieces in the exhibit are red, white and black. The title is a play, of course, on the colors of the American flag, presenting the darker side of the American dream.

And the gum that always makes it way onto those glorious red Louboutin heels? What is that all about?

As we strive for perfection and sometimes almost reach it, we meet inevitable disaster! The gum is the metaphor for that. We get stuck along the way!

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Oh, yes! There is a story to tell! Until when will folks be able to see this exhibit?

We are open Tuesday through Saturday 2:00 pm – 8:00 pm and on Sunday 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm.  You can also make an appointment to see it by contacting me at laura@212arts.com  Gumshoe‘s exhibit closes on Wednesday, February 17th.

What’s next?

Opening on the 18th is an exhibit featuring artworks by NYC graffiti legends. Among those showing are: Crash, Skeme and T-Kid.

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I’m certainly looking forward to that! Good luck!

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; all photos feature Gumshoe‘s work; photo 4 of Gumshoe‘s installation also features Jily Ballistic and Al Diaz; photo 5 of  Gumshoe at work was captured awhile back on the Lower East Side.

Photo credits:1 & 4 Lois Stavsky; 2 & 5 Dani Reyes Mozeson and 3 Houda Lazrak

Note: Our highly acclaimed Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Veteran NYC graffiti writer Al Diaz will be a featured artist this Sunday, June 16th, in the exciting Writing On It All project at Governors Island. We recently met up with Al who spoke about his early years as a graff writer on the Lower East Side and his text-based graffiti, rooted in his early collaborations with the legendary Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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When and where did you start getting up?

Back in 1972 on the LES. I was 13. I hit mostly trains and trucks back then.

What was your tag at the time?

Bomb-One.

Is that because you were bombing lots?

No. That term didn’t even exist at the time. My friends gave me that name because I used to panic and blow-up.

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What inspired you to get up back then?

My cousin was close-friends with Snake 1. And we spent a lot of time with him and other writers up at the Writers Corner 188 in the Heights.

Do you have a formal art education? 

As a kid, I took painting and drawing classes, and I went to the High School of Art and Design.

Have you ever been arrested for graffiti?

Once they picked me up and held me over night in Coney Island.  But, no, I was never arrested for graffiti.

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Have you any early graff-related memories that stand out?

I remember when a truck driver caught me writing on a truck and beat the hell out of me, mangling my wire-framed glasses. It was probably not even his truck.

How did your family feel about what you were doing?

They hated it. Back then we were considered juvenile delinquents.

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How did you transition into the word-play that you do today?

In 1977, I became friends with Basquiat. We met at City-as-School.  I introduced him to writing on walls. We came up with the term SAMO (Same Old Shit). That was the beginning. What Basquiat and I did was soon picked up by the SoHo Weekly News and the Village Voice.

Any thoughts about Jean Michel Basquiat’s commercial success?

That’s the art market. It is what it is.

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

Why not? I’m too old to be idealistic.

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Who were some of your influences?

Jackson Pollock. I love his manic energy. Picasso, Charles Bukowski and Tom Waits.

Tell us something about what you are doing now.

In 2008, I started pulling WET PAINT signs off the subways, cutting them up and making anagrams from its letters. At first I did it just to entertain myself. But the project continued to evolve and three years later, in 2011, I began posting these redesigned, recycled signs back on the walls in the train stations.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

I’ve always loved words and language, and I’m continually becoming more adventurous in my wordplay. I now have a list of almost a thousand words made from WET PAINT!

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

I see my art as social commentary. The masses are generally asleep. It is the responsibility of the artist to wake them up.

You can register here to participate in Al Diaz’s WET PAINT project this Sunday from 12-3pm in the interior of an early 20th century house that had served as senior officer housing when Governors Island was a military base.

All photos courtesy of the artist

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