graffiti

Launched over 10 years ago, the Lilac Mural Project has evolved into a Mecca of richly diverse street art and graffiti and one of the Mission District’s main attractions. On her recent visit to San Francisco, travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad had the opportunity to speak to Lisa, who – along with her husband, Randolph Bowes – initiated the impressive project.

What spurred you to launch this project? What was its initial mission?

When we first moved into this neighborhood in 2005, it was quite dangerous. It was plagued by gang violence and drug activity. Living in such a tragic setting was having a negative psychological impact on me. I didn’t feel safe. And when I told my husband that I wanted to move, he suggested that we bring in muralists. He saw art as a way to transform the environment.

How did you react to his suggestion?

I thought it was interesting, but I was quite skeptical!

What won you over?

Once Baltimore native CUBA – a classic graffiti artist with wide experience – and Mark Bodē, whom he introduced us to, started to paint here, everyone was eager to join them. We asked permission from the property owners for other artists to paint, and Lilac Alley began to evolve into a safe place. The problem of unsightly graffiti was also solved. And soon we were asked to curate neighboring alleys.

How did you finance all of this early on?

When we first started, we would pay for the paint, food and transportation for about 30 artists. But as the project grew, it started to become cost prohibitive. When we told the artists that we could no longer afford to pay for their products, they assured us that they were just happy to have a place to paint safely.

Can you tell us something about your gallery, Mission Art 415? When did you launch it and why? 

My background is in interior design and fine art, and I’ve worked in fine art galleries. So when this gallery space became available about three years ago, it seemed like a natural fit. And because San Francisco is so expensive and so many artists are struggling to survive here, the gallery gives them an opportunity to sell their art and earn some income. All that I ask from the artists is a 10% commission, and I’ve established contacts with international collectors. I also get commissioned murals for artists — such as Mark BodēNite Owl and Crayone — from local businesses.

What about this neighborhood? How has it changed since you’ve moved here?

Rents are continually increasing, and older businesses are being run out. And there’s been increasing tensions between the members of the long-time Latino community and the newer residents.

Do you have the same issue that we are are having in NYC – particularly in Bushwick – where ad agencies are replacing murals with ads by offering money to local businesses for use of their walls?

No! I have not had that happen. I actually approach businesses. When I see their buildings or storefronts tagged, I remind the owners that they can get fined for that, and I offer to connect them with great muralists who can get their signage up on their buildings – graffiti style.

What are some of the challenges you face in curating both a gallery and a mural project that has grown to cover 14 blocks?

The huge costs of running a business, along with the local politics, are the main challenges. I love what I do, but I am always working!

Images:

1 Mark Bode

2 Crayone

3 Twick ICP

4  Mission Art 415 Gallery

5 Nite Owl

Interview conducted by Karin du Maire and edited and abridged by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1, 4 & 5 Karin du Maire; 2 & 3 courtesy the Lilac Mural Project

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Teeming with color and charm, the huge wall at City-As-School on Hudson Street between Clarkson and West Houston in the West Village has been the talk of the town. I had the opportunity to visit it while it was still in progress and speak to CAS educator Maria Krajewski, who’s been devotedly involved with this project since it first began.

When did this impressive project begin?

Magda Love actually started her mural in May, 2016. But due to permitting issues, the painting had to be stopped four days after it had begun. We were told that we needed formal approval not only from the Department of Education, but, also, from the Department of Environmental Protection.  About 25 people in the DOE and DEP had to approve the process. We had to work out insurance, liability, releases… That took about a year. We were so grateful to get the permit!

What is happening here is described as a project of the Mad Academy that you had co-founded. Just what is the Mad Academy?

It is a pre-professional training initiative that was developed as a collaboration among students, teachers and mentors. Its goal is to provide CAS students direct training in design, arts and music under the guidance of NYC’s top creative industry professionals.

I know that Magda Love has been involved with City-as-School now for several years. I remember the first mural that she had painted here. But how did you engage the Brazilian muralist Eduardo Kobra? His popular appeal is enormous!

Eduardo Kobra’s team actually approached us, as it was a great opportunity for him to paint on such a huge wall adjacent to a school building and to engage with students.

Working on a project this enormous must have posed many challenges. What were some of the main ones?

The enormous bureaucracy that confronted us in obtaining the necessary permissions to seeing it through was our greatest challenge. And funding, of course was another huge challenge. Once we got the permit, we didn’t have any money! When Lisi Gehrend joined the team to fundraise as part of her Master’s Degree in Art, Law and Business at Christie’s Education, the largest mural in NYC was finally underway

You’ve had quite a team. And how has the response been — from students and the community?

It’s been amazing. The community loves it, as do the students. They are, in fact, painting their own murals now on our building.

Congratulations! It is amazing! And it’s so wonderful how it all came together.

Images:

1 & 2 Magda Love

3 Al Diaz

4 Eduardo Kobra & team

5 City-As-School  students Charlie Federico & Kaira Wong

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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The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak

This past Saturday, The Point’s Riverside Campus for Arts and the Environment in the South Bronx was the site of the Ngozy Art Collective‘s second live painting event. Curated by Sade TCM, the joyous afternoon featured over a dozen female graffiti writers and muralists painting away.

The legendary Lady Pink

The classic Bronx-based graffiti writer Erotica 67 Fly ID

 Shiro

Gia and Anjl

Steph Burr

And some more action — with Zera to the right of Shiro

Also featured was an art gallery photography exhibition by Gloria Zapata that continues through Saturday, November 17. Here is one of Gloria’s photos featuring her original work:

Photos 1-7 by Houda Lazrak; final photo Gloria Zapata

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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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A master of style and ingenuity, the wonderfully talented and resourceful Sade TCM has been making his mark in the writing culture and beyond for over three decades. Recently, we had the opportunity to visit and interview the Mount Vernon-based modern legend.

When did you first get up?

I was in 7th grade when I hit the doors of Clark Junior High School in the South Bronx. I was hanging out in school with Rush M.P.C. who was tagging at the time with fat black markers. He suggested I try it. I did!

What inspired you to keep at it?

Graffiti was all around me. On ceilings. In hallways. Daze and Crash were doing gates that I passed every day while walking around my neighborhood.

And what about trains? When did you first hit the trains?

I was in 10th grade. It was the winter of 1982.

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

There are many, but the one that stands out is the day I arrived. The previous evening, I was over at the Esplanade lay-up in the Bronx at the Morris Park/Esplanade stop. I had written SADEISM across three quarters of a  blue and silver car — a beige interior, cherry red outline, sky blue flame cloud with a regal blue outline and white highlights. The next day — as I was sitting on the Writers Bench at 149th Street and the Grand Concourse, along with Dez, G-man PGA, Sob and Cose — the train rolled by and and stopped directly in front of us. What a thrill that was! I knew then that I had arrived!

Did you generally hit the trains alone? 

I was often with my partner, Dune.

What was the riskiest thing you had done back in the day? And why were you willing to take those risks?

Running around in subways tunnels with live third rails and riding on tops of trains when they’re moving –- train surfing — were all risky. Why did I take those risks?  Youthful ignorance of consequences.

How did your family feel about what you were doing?

They mostly didn’t know about it. But my mother definitely didn’t like it. She thought it was stupid, and she warned me that if I got arrested, she wouldn’t be coming to pick me up.

Would you rather paint legally or illegally?

Back then, it was all illegal. But these days I’d rather paint legally. I like the leisure of legal.

You are a master of styles — over 1,000, in fact!. Is there anyone in particular with whom you’d like to paint with or battle?

Yes! I’d like to paint with Baby 168. And I’d like to battle Skeme, because he called me a toy!

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

It’s a natural evolution. It legitimizes the value of the art. I’ve shown at Wall Works, at More Points and at the galleries of Westchester Community College and SUNY/Purchase University.

What is the main source of your income?

It has always been related to art. After I graduated from high school, I started my own business painting murals. But then after I was involved in a serious accident in 2000, I  switched to graphic design.

Have you a formal art education?

I earned an associates degree in visual arts from Westchester Community College and a BFA from SUNY/Purchase University. But when it came to graffiti, my primary educators were those writers I admired. I’d watch their work on lines as I was coming up.

Was your formal education worthwhile?

Carla Rae Johnson challenged me to use a pencil when I was a student at Westchester Community College. And at Purchase, I learned the most from my anthropology teacher regarding understanding cultures. A formal education did open my mind to broader possibilities.

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

95% of the time I work from a sketch.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Am I satisfied with it? Yes! Am I happy with it? No!

What is your ideal work environment?

My living room and my courtyard, here in Mount Vernon.

What inspires you these days? I’m a visual junkie. Sometimes sculpture. It could be anything! I draw every single day, and I always attempt to do something I haven’t done before.

How has your art evolved through the years?

It’s evolved in both subject matter and technique. I now draw beyond graffiti letters, and draw with pencils, crayons, and charcoal brushes.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Edgar Degas, I like the way he captured light…Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Frazetta. Among graffiti writers: Crash, Daze, Baby 168, Dondi, Tac, Spade, Dez, Part and Kel.

What are some of your other interests?

Writing and cooking. I used to be into motorcycle drag racing.

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

I feel that the divide exists because of titles. Graffiti writers and street artists can inspire one another. An evolution took place. Many of the early street artists like Keith Haring, Hektad, A. Charles and Richard Hambleton bombed the streets in the spirit of graffiti. Problems arise when street artists scoff at graffiti. Graffiti has not yet gotten the legitimacy it deserves.

What about the role of social media in all of this? How do you feel about that?

It’s a double-edged sword. It’s great for gaining more documentation, knowledge  and exposure. But as the evolution of styles continues to grow at an alarming rate, the Internet has also ushered in an age of mediocrity.

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

A documentarian of the imagination, and the imagination is unlimited.

You recently curated an amazing event in the South Bronx celebrating the launch of the art collective, Ngozy. You were its principal founder.  What prompted you to launch it?

As an artist growing up in NYC, I know firsthand the struggles that artists face — particularly graffiti artists. Our culture is not given the value — nor the serious documentation — that it merits. We know that we have to start somewhere, and collectively we are stronger. Conversations with Ngozy partners John”Crash” Matos and Robert Kantor led to the birth of Ngozy

What is Ngozy‘s mission?

Among its many missions is to reach and educate the broad community about our culture.  We aim to facilitate the artists’ ability to sell and promote their art, as we make the art experience financially accessible to a wide public.

How can folks find out what artworks are available through Ngozy?

They can visit our site or download our free app for iOS or Android.

And what about artists? How can they become involved?

Anyone can register, set up an account, and submit work on the site or on the app. Blog posts and notices of events are also welcome!

I’ve recently registered, and it looks wonderful! I was delighted to discover the works of some of my favorite artists on the Ngozy site. What are some of the challenges you face in promoting the Ngozy collective?

The legitimacy of our art form remains a challenge. We need to shift the understanding of our culture on all levels. Getting exposure is essential, so that we can introduce Ngozy to new people. And we need sponsorship to accomplish our goals.

What’s ahead for Ngozy?

We are working on an all female live-painting event for October 27th, and we are currently seeking sponsorship. Among the many artists scheduled to participate are: Lady Pink, Shiro, Erotica and Steph Burr. Specific details and information will soon follow.

Note: Sade can be contacted at gfantauzzi22@gmail.com.

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with Tara Murray and edited by Lois Stavsky; all photos courtesy of Sade.

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Gracing the 21-floor staircase of the new citizenM New York Bowery is MoSA (the Museum of Street Art), a rich range of images and words fashioned by 21 5 Pointz Creates artists under the curatorial direction of Marie Cecile Flageul. After visiting the soon-to-open hotel, I had the opportunity to speak to Marie who, along with 5 Pointz founder Meres One, has been directing the project since its inception:

This project is quite remarkable! Can you tell us a bit about its background? 

In Fall 2016, we held our first meeting with citizenM‘s chief marketing officer, Robin Chadha, a huge art lover who is intent on integrating art into his projects. He had been following the entire 5 Pointz story from Amsterdam, where he is based. He approached us because he was interested in bringing back a bit of 5 Pointz to NYC. The result is MoSA,

What about the staircase installation, A Vertical Love Letter to the Bowery? What is the concept behind it?

citizenM tries to understand and embrace the communities they move into. And this particular Lower Manhattan neighborhood has an incredibly rich history, which we attempted to capture with images of significant faces, places, moments and words.

How did you decide which artists to include?

Every artist included had contributed to 5 Pointz. Once I came up with the story line and quotations, it was easy for me to select artists. I had learned from Meres how to look at aerosol art and understand its visual voice.

What were some of the challenges that came your way in the course of managing and curating this project?

A major challenge was giving up control and trusting the artists once they understood the concept and direction of the project. There were also several logistic issues. There was no air conditioning early on, and the lack of elevators became a joke. But it all evolved into a kind of musical chaos, as all of the workers and staff here have been incredibly enthusiastic and supportive.

As it is nearing completion, what are your thoughts regarding the final outcome of this project?

I am humbled by the amount of love, hard work and dedication every artist has put into this project. Their attention to detail has inspired me. I am hopeful that thousands will see it — 5000 square feet that anyone can enjoy and a priceless gift to Downtown Manhattan.

How can folks who are not hotel guests gain access to the exhibit?

As early as October 1, anyone can come into the lobby — between 10am and 5pm — with ID and walk through the exhibition. I will be giving a personal tour to the first 500 folks who register. Groups of 10 or more people can email me at marie@5ptz.com 

Congratulations! And what a great way for visitors and students to learn about the history of this historic neighborhood! I look forward to revisiting it soon.

Note: All of the artists who participated in this project are identified here, and brief interviews with them with videography by Rae Maxwell, along with original soundtrack by Say Word Entertainment artists Rabbi Darkside and The Grand Affair, can be viewed here. In addition to A Vertical Love Letter to the Bowery, a court installation is underway by Rubin 415, Esteban del ValleDon Rimx, Lady Pink and Meres One. And gracing the plaza outside the hotel’s entrance is a captivating mural by Meres One, blurring the line between graffiti and fine art.

citizenM New York Bowery is located at 189 Bowery off Delancey Street.

Images:

1. Meres One

2. Marie and Meres on roof top of citizenM New York Bowery

3. Nicholai Khan

4. See TF

5. Zimad

6. Vince Ballentine

7. Kenji Takabayashi  aka Python

8. Elle

9. Noir

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos by Lois Stavsky

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Celebrating the launch of the Ngozy Art collective, along with the Point’s 25 years of community service and outreach in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, 20 legendary Bronx writers painted live this past Saturday on the Point Campus for the Arts and Environment. Produced by the Ngozy Art collective and curated by Sade TCM, the event, A Cultural Happening in Da’ Bronx, was an ode to the borough that forged a culture that has since impacted the entire world. Beginning next week, the masterfully crafted works — brimming with infectious energy, dazzling colors and expressive creativity — can be viewed on the website of the Ngozy Art collective that will offer local artists a platform to share and sell their artwork.

The image featured above was painted by BIO Tats Cru.  Several more paintings that surfaced last Saturday follow:

John “Crash” Matos

Stash

Chris “Daze” Ellis

Totem TC5

Sienide

Pase BT

Nicer Tats Cru

Saturday’s event also featured a gallery-style exhibition designed by the Point artist-in-residence Eric Orr.  And the legendary hip hop DJ and producer Jazzy Jay, presented by Christie Z, added the musical element to the day.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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Conceived and curated by Nic 707, the ingenious InstaFame Phantom Art continues to bring old school writers, along with a diverse range of younger artists, from NYC and beyond onto New York City subway trains.  Pictured above is Nic 707; several more images I captured while riding the 1 train last week follow:

South Carolina native Thomas Crouch

The legendary KingBee — with background by Nic 707

Veteran graffiti writer Spar One

Yonkers-based Fabian “Skaer” Verdejo

Brooklyn-based mixed-media artist Bianca Romero

Japanese artist Minori

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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Hosted by James Top, Joey TDS and Poke IBM, the 38th Annual Graffiti Hall of Fame took place this past weekend in East Harlem. Pictured above is the work of Vase One and KingBee  (standing to the left of  Shiro on the ladder). Several more photos of images captured yesterday follow:

Shiro tags subway map

Skeme

Terrible T-Kid

Cope 2

Break Uno

Delta 2 at work

And you can find more images from the historical two-day event on the StreetArtNYC Instagram.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Continuing through this weekend at Red Bull Arts New York is RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder, the historic solo exhibition focusing on the extraordinary, idiosyncratic talents of the late multi-media artist, graff writer, hip-hop pioneer and Gothic Futurist theoretician RAMMΣLLZΣΣ. A diverse selection of the artist’s visual works, music and writings, along with rare archival documentation and ephemera, presents an intimate portrait of the visionary New York cult icon. The mixed-media image above features one of the artist’s wildly imaginative Garbage Gods.  Several more images from the remarkable  RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder follow:

Letter Races, Mixed media

Monster models, Mixed media

Letter M Explosion, Mixed media

Luxturnomere Hammer Bar Hammerclef Force Field One, Spray paint on cardboard

Jams, Spray paint and acrylic on canvas

The man, himself

The exhibit continues through Sunday at 220 West 18th Street in Chelsea, Manhattan. Red Bull Arts New York is open from 12-7pm.

Photo credits: 1, 4-7 Lois Stavsky; 2-3 Karin du Maire

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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