New York

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The First City Project has been busy at work transforming a historic 9000-square foot Glen Cove, Long Island site into an extraordinary Mecca of street art and graffiti. Curated by Joe LaPadulaSean Sullivan and Harris Lobel — with the assistance of Brandon Aviles — it opens tonight, Thursday, March 2, to the public. While visiting yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to the projects’s founder Joe LaPadula.

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This place is remarkable. You guys are making history! There’s such an amazing mix of styles and genres here. It’s home to some of my favorite artists, as well as others who are new to me. What made you decide to open it to the public on this particular date?

The Glen Cove BID (Business Improvement District) is holding its annual meeting on this date, March 2nd. And as I had recently been nominated to serve on its board, I thought that this space would be an ideal place for the BID to meet on this date. And, then, why not invite the public?

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The local residents here seem quite enthusiastic and curious. And as this place is a street art and graffiti aficionado’s dream, many folks are likely to travel into Glen Cove, Long Island from NYC, NJ and beyond.  What can visitors expect to experience at this opening?

For the locals and surrounding communities, it will be a new experience. They will be introduced to the next generation of urban-themed artists. And for everyone, it will be a chance to see some great art and meet dozens of talented artists. There will also be a huge variety of refreshments from Sweet Agenda Cafe‘s Dough Donuts to catered Italian meatballs to Garvies Point Brewery‘s craft beer. We will even have a Gorilla Cheese Food Truck on our grounds.

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How many artists are included here? It seems that every step I take, I discover someone new!

There are 125, and we are still counting!

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What was your greatest challenge in dealing with so many artists with so many different sensibilities?

Placement was the hugest issue.

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How can folks visit this space, if they are unable to attend the opening event?

They can contact me or one of the other curators — Sean Sullivan or Harris Lobel.

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That sounds great! Good luck with it all.

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Images

1 Dain

2 Layer Cake NY

Karen Bystedt and Joe Mac LaPadula

4 Rocko

5 Dom

6 Marc Evan

7 Ben Fronckowiak

8  Joe LaPadulaBrandon AvilesSean Sullivan and Harris Lobel (left to right)

Photo credits: 1-5, 7 & 8 Lois Stavsky; 6 Harris Lobel

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mr-prvrt-a-visual-bliss-jorit-agoch-street-art-staten-island-ny

Passionately engaged in promoting the positive values of the cultures of street art, graffiti and hip-hop, the Staten Island-based NYC Arts Cypher is a dynamic ever-evolving venture. For the past few months a host of  local, national and international artists have been busily at work preparing for Cypher Fest, NYC Arts Cypher‘s first Annual Street Art Festival. While visiting I had the opportunity to speak to its founder and president, Charlie Balducci aka Charlie B.

When was NYC Arts Cypher born?

It was founded in 2004, and it became an official 501c3 nonprofit organization in 2007.

What spurred you to create it?

It was a way for me to stay involved in all aspects of the arts and entertainment and –- at the same time — engage the community.  The realization of it was a dream come true. Of the five boroughs, ours had been the least recognized.

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How would you describe its mission?

Its mission is to promote positive values through programs and events related to urban art. NYC Arts Cypher also serves as a networking tool for artists in all five boroughs. And with its open-door policy, it introduces many of our local kids to a range of skills from painting and dancing to acting and producing videos.

What are some of the concerns that  NYC Arts Cypher has addressed?

When Amanda Cummings, a local teen, threw herself in front of a bus in 2013, we took on the issue of bullying.  And, tragically, the issue of bullying was in the news once again when 13-year-old Staten Island resident Danny Fitzpatrick took his life leaving behind a note that expressed his pain as a victim of bullying. Among other issues we address are: vandalism, drug abuse and conflict-resolution.

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Does any particular highlight stand out?

In 2010, we were awarded “best documentary short” at the Staten Island Film Festival for our documentary, M.U.R.A.L

Can you tell us something about it?

Yes. It presents graffiti as an art form – rather than an act of vandalism. It features interviews with a range of people from the youth who are active in our programs to law enforcement officials to such accomplished artists as the members of Tats Cru and Meres of 5Pointz fame.

What are some of the challenges you encounter in overseeing such a multi-faceted space?

Working on sustaining it is the principal challenge, as we continue to expand and offer more programs and networking opportunities.

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It seems like a monumental task! How do you do it?

We have support from sponsors like SIBOR, Wheel Concepts and Williams Eye Works. But nothing beats the heart of a volunteer — like Cynthia Valle and Tony Spinelli.

What’s ahead for NYC Arts Cypher?

We are utilizing all our resources to beautify not only our block, but — also — neighboring blocks, as artists from across the globe are now painting alongside local artists. We will continue to engage schools in a range of programs promoting positive values –particularly the Don’t Be a Bully initiative that combats bullying with creativity and Pillz Killz that tackles head on the epidemic of drug abuse plaguing our community. We will also be hosting  a pop-up shop and café. And next Sunday, September 10th we will be presenting Cypher Fest, our first Annual Art Festival.

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Images

1  Mr. Prvrt & A Visual Bliss with Jorit Agoch at work on the right

2  L7 Matrix

3 & 4 Sipros

5  La Femme Cheri

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4 & 5 Lois Stavsky; 3 Tara Murray; interview with Charlie B conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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

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Phetus-mural-art-close-up-glen-cove

A remarkable museum, featuring the artwork of dozens of street artists, muralists, graffiti writers and bombers, is underway in the least likely spot –a 300-year-old historic Glen Cove, Long Island mansion. While visiting this designated city landmark last week, I had the chance to speak to Sean Sullivan aka Layer Cake, who is actively engaged in the transformation of this 9000-square foot site that was once home to one of the five founding families of the city of Glen Cove.

This is remarkable? Whose concept was this?

Joe LaPadula — known among us for his fabulous cutting-edge urban art car projects — knew about this site and saw its potential to serve as a platform to introduce his favorite art form to the public.

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How did you become involved with it?

I did a Ferrari hood for Joe’s project, and we discovered that we share a similar vision. And then I involved Harris Lobel who has done a great job overseeing the Drip Project in Mount Vernon’s Mes Hall.

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This home is the centerpiece of the First City Project – which has also engaged artists in painting in public spaces. What is the goal of this project?

There are many. The First City Project‘s principal goal is introduce the residents of the City of Glen Cove and surrounding communities to the next generation of urban-themed artists.

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When did the transformation of this site begin?

The actual painting began on May 2. I was, in fact, the first artist to paint here.

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There is such a wildly diverse mix of art here. How were you able to engage such a variety of artists?

At first I reached out to those I know and like. And then it was a matter of word of mouth, as artists connected to one another.

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What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in seeing this through?

Working with such a varied range of artists with so many different personalities is, in itself, a challenge. But immediate ones that come to mind are: artists not showing up on time; having to stay up far too late and the inevitable politics that comes with it all.

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What’s ahead for the First City Project?

Live art events, gallery exhibits, more outdoor mural projects that engage the community — particularly the youth — student art classes and more.

It’s very exciting! Good luck with it all! And we look forward to news about upcoming events.

Images:

1. Phetus

2. Such

3. Reaps

4. Sean Sullivan aka Layer Cake

5. Ellis G

6. Chris RWK, Nite Owl, Zero Productivity and Easy

7. Pase

Photos and interview by Lois Stavsky

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

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michael-cuomo-recycled-art-masks-Yonkers-waterfront

Working with a motley range of discarded objects, Yonkers-based interdisciplinary artist Michael Cuomo repurposes them into masks that he calls Heads of State. Exhibited in both outdoor and indoor spaces, his unique sculpture assemblages provoke and entertain. This past week, some of his newest smaller masks made their way onto the Yonkers Waterfront.

Pigskin

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Rex

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Installation in Progress

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A master of neo-primitive folk art in all media, Michael Cuomo recently released a coloring book with his original soulfakes drawings. You can purchase it here.

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Photos by Richie DiFrisco

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Graffiti-A-New-York copy

Aired last year in Italy, Sky Art’s underground documentary hit Graffiti A New York brilliantly chronicles the history of graffiti in NYC focusing on several key figures in the scene. After viewing the documentary, we had the opportunity to pose some questions to its producer and director Francesco Mazza.

You grew up in Italy. What spurred your interest in NYC graffiti? And how were you first introduced to its culture?

In the early 90’s a number of original graffiti writers from the Bronx moved to Italy looking to recover — thanks to the good weather and the healthy food — from the “crazy 80’s” in New York. They, maybe, needed what we now think of as a “detox” after the tumult.  At the time, graffiti writing had already come to the European consciousness through the movie Style Wars and the book Subway Art, but because of the influence of these newly migrated Masters, Italy, unlike the rest of Europe, developed a graffiti style akin to that of New York City’s.  It was the kind of style created by Phase 2, who moved to Italy himself, back in the 70’s. The walls of my neighborhood, Milano Lambrate, in the early 90’s looked exactly like those in the Bronx during the 70’s and the 80’s.

To us kids playing soccer in the street, those wall paintings were a sort of a mystery, and kids love mysteries. So, out of curiosity, we started asking questions to the older guys, and we all got involved.   From that point on, graffiti became an essential part of our lives — in our neighborhoods and in our identities as individuals.

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What made you decide to produce a film on the topic? 

Having lived in New York for three years already, I was looking for a way to show the city to an Italian audience from a fresh and original perspective. I asked myself, “What do I know best?” The answer was clear: graffiti. I figured that behind the history of the graffiti movement, there was the history of the city itself. Really, graffiti writing could flourish only because of the terrible financial situation of New York during the 70’s. I always found it fascinating that all the crime and pain and blood of the 70’s spawned, at least, the most vibrant art movement the world has ever seen.

How long did the process take — from its conception to its completion?

The film itself took about a year to be made, but there are some elements of the history that I’d still like to add. I’m hoping for the opportunity to re-shoot some parts and add additional ones for a US release.  I’m searching for funding right now.  As great as it was to bring this to the Italian market, it has become clear to me that the documentary was the kind of record of a movement that deserves to be a part of the American canon, as well.  It’s about NYC. It documents the scene decade by decade. It’s really important to find a way to bring this history “home.”  Hopefully, I’ll find the financial backers; and due to the nature of the film, I’d love to partner with a museum, if possible.

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How did you decide which artists to include?

“Graffiti writer” is a label. When you look beyond the label, there is literally everything. Artists, addicts, entrepreneurs, fools, poets, murderers; you name it, I saw it. Right off the bat, you have to understand that you won’t be able to get close to everybody if you want to stay somewhat safe.  It’s also very hard to gauge the importance of the single artist. Is a graffiti artist important because he had or has a great style? Cool, but what if the said writer has done only a couple of hits and nobody in the community cared about him? And what if you focus on the quantity, but then the style of that writer — whose name was everywhere — literally sucked?

There was a balancing act.  I, of course, chose artists with historical importance, but I also reached out to the writers that I like and that inspired me when I was a kid. Fortunately, most of them were willing to help me with the project.  I also felt strongly about making sure women were represented in the film.  They were absolutely a part of the movement, but sometimes when history chronicles events, women don’t always get the due they deserve in the record.  It was important to me to not fall into that trap as a director.

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How did the artists respond to you?

Some of them were skeptical at the beginning, and they were absolutely right. When mainstream media talks about graffiti writing, they tend to create confusion. If we consider the art world, I think that after the 19th century, nobody considered an artist as someone who can only “make something look pretty.” Nobody thinks that Pollock, so to say, was an amazing artist because he could simply “make a canvas look pretty”; there was a complexity that was beyond — or sometimes even consciously lacking — beauty.  For some reason, all around the world, when media, or institutions, or public opinion deal with graffiti writers, they consider the graffiti writers’ work just on their ability to “decorate” a wall in a happy, colorful way. To me, and I think to all graffiti writers, there is, indeed, decoration. Maybe beautiful, wonderful decoration, but graffiti writing is also something else. Graffiti writing points right to the contradiction of contemporary society where we all matter. We all pay taxes and have the right to vote —  but, at the same time, to what degree do we really matter to the machine?  I think it’s a question everyone asks. As a result, millions of individuals decide to express their identity, their presence in the world by writing on a wall, consciously facing the consequences of their deeds.

When I walk in my Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn and I see a portrait of a dragon on a shutter, I think, nice illustration, but nothing beyond that. When I see a rough tag on a wall, I don’t say, “Look at that! So pretty!” but I think about a guy or girl that, despite the risk of getting busted and sentenced to two years of prison, decided to face the challenge and put his freedom at jeopardy to have me see his name.  Now, what is more interesting, from a social/cultural point of view? The fellow who copies an illustration of a dragon and gets paid for that, or the one who takes the risk for free to screw up his life forever just to have one individual out of one hundred thousand reading his name?  I personally have no doubt about which is both more interesting and matters more.  So, the graffiti writers I contacted were really scared that I was another guy from the media industry with no grasp at all of the roots and the meaning of the movement. It took me a lot of time and efforts to gain their trust, but once they realized what I was talking about, they were really cooperative and with some of them I built great friendships.

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What were some of the challenges you faced in producing the film?

I served as writer, director, and executive producer. The network, Sky Art,  gave me a budget, and I was free to manage it however I liked.  But that was hard, because as a director, I always wanted more  — more days of shooting, more footage, more writers to interview — but as an executive, I had to put some limits. It was like being two different people at once.  Now that I can look back, I better understand the limitations I had and their effects on me. And an American alternative presentation — that wasn’t able to be made at the time —  is something important to pursue going forward, as much to “do right” by NYC.

Who was/is your target audience?

The original documentary targets an Italian audience who is fascinated with New York but doesn’t really have a knowledge of it, as well as everybody else who wants to know, once and for all, the real history of one of the most relevant artistic, cultural and, to a certain extent, political movements of the 20th century.  Now I need to broaden the reach beyond Italy.

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Will New Yorkers have the opportunity to view it?

Unfortunately, as of now, they don’t, and that’s a travesty.  That’s where my fight is now — finding a means to change that.  Everything about this movie is New York City.  The residents need this film.  It needs to be a contribution to their historical record.  Hopefully, I’ll find the funding for what is really a “preservation” project.  People aren’t around forever.  The interviews with important artists in Graffiti A New York, all in English, need to come “home.”

I certainly agree!  Graffiti A New York is not only a passionate homage to the roots of graffiti, but an essential visual and spoken record of a significant NYC era.  What’s ahead for you? Can we expect any more films on the topic of street art or graffiti?

Currently I’m working on a project for the Discovery Channel for which I hope to be able to announce details soon.  Later this year I’m doing a documentary on Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth Catalogue that I’m very excited about.  This fall I’ll be shooting a short project in New York again.  I’m also continuing to show Frankie: Italian Roulette, my short fictional film from last year, at festivals across the US.  Next up for Frankie is the Crossroads Festival in Jackson, MI on April 2. Even Frankie is about life in NYC and fighting to stay there, so — going forward —  it’s no surprise that I’ll, of course, continue to focus on the themes present in Graffiti A New York: art, actions of consequence, social responsibility of both the system and the individual, and, of course, the city of New York itself.  And, fingers crossed, we can make the US adaptation of Graffiti A New York.  That really must happen.

The questions for this interview were formulated by Lois Stavsky and Tara Murray after viewing the European market release Graffiti A New York.

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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eder-muniz-and-meal-street-art-graffiti-ithaca

On our recent stopover in Ithaca, New York, we were delighted to discover the rich and varied street art and graffiti — by local, national and international artists — that have found a home there.  Here is a small sampling:

Italian artist Alice Pasquini, close-up

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Brazilian artist Eder Muniz

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Peruvian artist/activist Paloma Abregu Arroyo and Ithaca-based Caleb R Thomas, close-up

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Oakland-based artist Desi Mundo

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French artist Roti

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The legendary Copenhagen-based graffiti writer Bates

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Ithaca-based Meal

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 First image is a collaboration between Eder Muniz and Meal 

Special thanks to Meal for introducing us to Ithaca’s rich public art and to Fresh Paint NYC for connecting us.

Photos: 1, 2, 5, 6 & 8 Lois Stavsky; 3, 4 & 7

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Committed to healing and transforming communities by beautifying the urban landscape, Wall\Therapy has brought dozens of magical murals to Rochester, New York. Here are a few we discovered on our brief stopover last week:

Montreal-based Omen

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Italian artist Peeta

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West Coast-based Troy Lovegates aka Other

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Tel Aviv-based Know Hope

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Rochester’s own Mr Prvrt

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West Coast-based Sam Rodriguez

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Brazilian artist Binho

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And kicking off this Friday, July 17, is WALL\THERAPY 2015 featuring an extraordinary array of artists including NYC-based Li-Hill, Vexta and Daze. 

Photos: 1,2, 4-6 Lois Stavsky; 3 & 7  Sara C Mozeson

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Mr-Prvrt-Roa-subway-tunnel-Rochester

With its extraordinary array of wonderful artworks crossing styles, genres and cultures, Rochester’s abandoned subway tunnel is a graffiti hunter’s dream. Here’s a small sampling of what we saw last weekend, while making a few stops in Upstate New York:

Mr. Prvrt and Bile FFL

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Brazilian artist Eder Muniz

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Ax

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Bile FFL

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FUA Krew

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Chris Pape aka Freedom and Taro AAK

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Special thanks to Fresh Paint NYC for introducing us to this space.

Photos: 1 with segment of Roa piece, 3 & 4 Sara C Mozeson; 2, 5 – 7 Lois Stavsky

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MadC--graffiti-Yonkers-NY

A master of form, composition and color, German artist Claudia “MadC” Walde fashions luscious artworks that surface both on public spaces and in galleries world-wide. Her current exhibit Bits and Pieces at WallWorks NY remains on view through June 2.  Here are a few images:

1700Acrylic, watercolor and spray paint on canvas

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2035Acrylic, watercolor and spray paint on canvas

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1126, Acrylic, watercolor and spray paint on canvas

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1342Acrylic, watercolor and spray paint on canvas

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1149, Acrylic, watercolor and spray paint on canvas

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Wide View

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WallWorks NY is located at 39 Bruckner Blvd in the Bronx, just a few minutes away from Manhattan.

Photo credits: 1 Sara C Mozeson; 2, 4, 6 & 7 Tara Murray; 3 Lois Stavsky; 5 City-As-School intern Diana Davidova

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Huge fans of Michael Cuomo‘s street and subway interventions, we were delighted to visit his studio as he was getting ready for YOHO Artists Open Studio, in addition to a WallWorks NY pop-up show and a solo exhibit at Art Cafe in Brooklyn. Here’s a sampling of what we saw:

Lucky, fashioned from found objects

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Big Mouth, fashioned from found objects

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Self-Portrait

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The Tempest

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Untitled

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Note: Michael Cuomo’s studio is located at 578 Nepperhan Ave., Suite 505; Wall Works NY’s pop-up show — featuring a wondrous array of artists including Nick Walker, Tats Cru and Crash — opens tonight and continues through the weekend at 28 Wells Street, 2nd floor. And Michael’s solo exhibit at Art Cafe opens May 6 from 6-9 at 886 Pacific Street in Brooklyn.

YoHo

Photo credits: 1, 3-5 Lois Stavsky; 2. City-As-School intern Diana Davidova; YoHo Open Studio graphic designed by John Wujcik

You can check out a detailed schedule of what’s happening this weekend in Yonkers — including live painting by Crash, Fumero and Damien Mitchell — here.

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