To celebrate the launch of the new book from Wooster Collective, ELEVEN SPRING: A CELEBRATION OF STREET ART, artist ELBOW-TOE remembers the historic event and its impact on the world of street art.
I was talking to a younger artist the other day about street art that I was involved in as opposed to murals — which she considers street art — and she said, “Oh, you mean vandalism.”
How did we get here?
I recall the moment that I knew I wanted to be a street artist – I was at work, and one afternoon, my friend pointed me to this post on a blog I had never heard of called Wooster Collective. It was an image by an artist who had photoshopped street signs, so that they looked transparent from the correct angle. It was absolutely magical. How did it get there? Who was the artist? I had seen some street art around over the years: WK Interact when I was in school in the early 90’s and around the early 2000’s quite a bit of NECKFACE around the corner from a print shop I was using.
As I began to explore the archives of Wooster Collective, I saw that there was in fact a community that had built up around these random acts of art that I had paid little heed beyond the internal “huh, that’s interesting.” What was truly fascinating about the work was that, aside from a moniker, the work was anonymous. In that anonymity there existed a mystery. It elevated even the most banal work, purely by the act of risk that was involved. And for the first time in over a decade in the city, it pulled me out of my tunnel vision and got me looking at the walls as spaces to be activated.
The Wooster Collective site was such an impeccably curated space that it got people outside of the movement to give it their attention. Having known the Schillers over those early years, I, of course, was head over heels when I was asked not only to be involved in their secret project but to be given a coveted space on the main floor. At the time I don’t think any of us realized that this exhibition would have the impact that it did.
11 Spring was truly a transformative exhibition; it reflected the very transition that would occur wholeheartedly in this movement just by walking from the outside of the building to the inside. The exterior of the building still had the raw power of getting your work up. The work was often messy and might last only a few hours before being covered by a new piece. Contrast the organic energy of the ever-changing composition on the shell with an impeccably curated show inside the five floors of a gutted building, where all these artists were able to truly flex their technical and creative muscles without concern of the work being damaged or transformed by others.
It was this mercurial quality of traveling from the outside to the inside and then back out again that gave this show such power in my opinion. I am not sure that there is a direct correlation of this show to the mural program that followed, but it certainly opened a larger audience up to the possibilities of their public spaces’ potential.
I will always cherish the experience.
Note: With its outstanding documentation, along with an introduction by Shepard Fairey and an afterword by JR, ELEVEN SPRING: A CELEBRATION OF STREET ART captures an important moment in the history of the movement. Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 29 — from 6:30 to 8:00 PM – Marc and Sara Schiller, along with FAILE, Lady Pink, Michael DeFeo, and WK Interact, will be at the Strand for a special signing and celebration of the book’s launch. You can buy tickets to the event here.
1. COVER, ELEVEN SPRING: A CELEBRATION OF STREET ART
2. ELBOW-TOE (BRIAN ADAM DOUGLAS), EVERYBODY’S GOT ONE, MADE WITH WOOD BURNER, YARN, AND PAINT. PHOTO ELBOW-TOE
3. WK INTERACT, THE FIRST ARTIST INVITED INSIDE THE BUILDING. PHOTO JAKE DOBKIN
4. 11 SPRING STREET, THE DAY OF THE OPENING. PHOTO JAKE DOBKIN
5. SHEPARD FAIREY, HARD AT WORK, MAKING IT LOOK EASY. PHOTO WOOSTER COLLECTIVE
6. BARNSTORMERS’ COLLABORATION WITH PAINTINGS BY Z¥$, DOZE GREEN AND KENJI HIRATA. PHOTO JAKE DOBKIN
7 JUDITH SUPINE AND DAVIDE ZUCCO (R3KAL), THERE IS HELL IN HELLO. PHOTO DONALD DIETZ