Public Art Projects

Adjacent to Old Jaffa’s bustling flea market and a short walk from its famed Clock Tower is its Greek Market, whose restaurant and shop doors serve as open-air canvases to an eclectic range of artists. The image featured above is the work of Tel Aviv-based fashion designer Athalia Lewartowski.  Several more images — captured on my recent far too brief visit to Tel Aviv — follow:

Also by Athalia Lewartowski

 

The masterly visual artist Elad Green

Tel Aviv born and based illustrator and graphic designer Tal Shetach

The ever-intriguing Soskee

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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To turn the page is to progress. It is often difficult, though, to turn a page. Each page  — as is each new day — is a fresh start that holds uncertainties. Eventually, the page must turn, no matter how long we take to reflect on it. And in Beirut, a city plagued by tragedy, poverty, economic crisis and corruption, we’ve learned how to turn the page and move forward.

The work pictured here, Turning the Page – قلبة الصفحة – is how three artists — Spaz, Kabrit and Exist — are moving forward in collaboration with the nonprofit organization Beitelbaraka to renovate Geitewe, a neighborhood that had been devastated by Beirut’s 2020 massive explosion.

Beirut-based Spaz

Lebanese artist Kabrit

Beirut-based graffiti artist and graphic designer Exist 

Exist, detail

Special thanks to Spaz for this post

Photos by Lebanese photographer Ihab Fayad 

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In celebration of Earth Day, National Geographic has partnered with ABC Owned Television Stations (OTV) and local artists in four major cities to fashion murals centered on four themes: wildlife, the Amazon, forests and oceans. All of the murals have been inspired by photos from National Geographic’s archive.

The image featured above was painted here in NYC by Brooklyn-based muralist and illustrator Steffi Lynn. Several more images of environmentally-conscious murals that have surfaced this month in collaboration with National Geographic follow:

A close-up from the NYC mural — fashioned by Steffi Lynn — located at 573 Johnson Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Philadelphia-based muralist and multimedia artist Eurhi Jones in partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia

Philadelphia-based Eurhi Jones with a close-up of her mural located at the Overbrook Environmental Education Center

The prolific Chicago-based self-taught street artist Sentrock at work

 A wide view of Sentrock and his mural located at ABC Chicago station’s building façade at 190 N State Street

 San Francisco-based illustrator and muralist Alice Lee in partnership with Paint the Void adds the final touches to her mural

Alice Lee with her completed mural, located at the intersection of Divisadero and Haight streets

Featured photos courtesy of National Geographic’s #NatGeoPlanetPossible project

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In late fall, the fiercely independent and inventive multimedia artist Robert Janz died at the age of 88. Since moving to Tribeca several decades ago, he had transformed his neighboring streets into an unconventional open air gallery. Intent on enriching our awareness and appreciation of the ephemeral with his artworks and poems, he quietly raged against consumerism, greed, egotism and human defilement of the environment.

Earlier this year, photographer and artist Allan Molho graced Duane Street — just several steps from where Robert Janz had lived — with the installation pictured above in his honor. What follows is an interview with Allan, along with photos of Robert Janz‘s work that Allan Molho had captured.

When did you first encounter Robert Janz‘s distinct aesthetic in a public space?

Back in 2011, I discovered images of mountains and birds over ads on a construction site.

What initially attracted you to Janz‘s work?

I was attracted to its subversive nature. I liked that Janz wasn’t selling a product. There was nothing commercial about his work. It was pure communication. In addition to ripping up ads to repurpose them as flowers or birds, he also left poems on  walls.

You were obviously inspired by him.

Yes, he certainly inspired me He had a serene belief in his work and in his creativity. And as an artist, I know how important this is. I’m also inspired by his resolve to continue getting his message out in public spaces until his late 80’s.

What spurred you to photograph Janz‘s work throughout the past decade?

I wanted to share it with other folks. Janz was a great artist, and his ideas are important. He was unique in many ways.

And what inspired you to install this memorial to him on Duane Street?

Because of the ephemeral nature of Janz‘s public art in this neighborhood, I want to keep his memory alive. It is important that he be remembered.

Have you crafted any other public installations that pay tribute to others?

Yes. Among those whom I’ve honored in public spaces are: Michael Stewart, Timothy Caughman and Covid 19 doctors.

Note: Be sure to check out Allan Molho‘s website — www.memorialsnewyork.com, — for an ongoing documentation of  NYC memorials, tributes and commemorations.

Photos: 1 Lois Stavsky; 2-6 Allan Molho

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Bringing a touch of the 1920’s to First Street Green Art Park on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the prolific Brooklyn-based muralist Lexi Bella painted the image featured above last month on the occasion of FSG’s 2nd annual New Year New Murals & Clothing Drive.  What follows are several more faces fashioned by artists in NYC open spaces that I’ve encountered in recent meanderings around the city:

Moscow-born, NYC-based Urban Russian Doll in Manhattan’s Chinatown

Brooklyn-based self-taught Haitian American artist Alan Aine in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Bronx-native Andre Trenier in East Harlem with the 2021 Grandscale Mural Project

British-Israeli artist Solomon Souza in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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Clarence Rich has been enriching the streets of Jersey City for over a decade. His impressive multi-faceted body of both street art and studio art ranges from curious characters to poignant portraits of family members to harmonious rhythmic pattern. I was delighted to feature his infectious aesthetic in the exhibition On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey that continues through this month at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey. An interview with the artist follows:

When and where did you first get up?

When I was 13 or 14. In 1997, I had my first real tag.

Had you any preferred surface back then?

Anything and everything around me.

Did anyone or anything in particular inspire you at the time?

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in Jersey City, I saw graffiti everywhere. Along with skateboarding and playing basketball, kids were always writing their names, tagging… It’s almost as though everybody’s older brother did graffiti – including mine. He’s two years older than I am, and he has been my partner since the beginning. I wrote LOSER as my tag. and he wrote DZEL, and together we started the AIDS (And It Don’t Stop; Alone In Deep Space) crew. And there were a few main people getting up in the neighborhood who were amazing. Among them was T.DEE. He was the founder of Undercover, the first graffiti magazine.

What about the name Loser? How did you come up with it?

We used to hang out in the parks and sit on the stoops. And one of our neighbors walked by and saw the graffiti and said, “What kinds of losers do this shit?”

Do any early graffiti-related memories come to mind?

There were just so many amazing things that changed my life. Meeting so many great artists who inspired me. That was a blessing. But here’s a story: We’re also rappers. Our original rap group was called AIDS — Adolescents In Dire Straits; Alone In Deep Space…We started tagging it on walls, but we never thought it would go anywhere. And so once we started our crew, then we had to switch our rap name to the “Animal Crackas.”

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

I’d rather collaborate because my crew is so amazing. It’s now 20 years old.

Is there anyone, in particular, with whom you’d like to collaborate?

Rembrandt.

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

I’m right in the middle. We’re bridging it. We’re not just graffiti writers. We are evolving. Many of us are transitioning from graffiti to street art to fine art. And we do all three. Some of the most amazing writers are also fine artists.

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

I’m so happy! I’ve put together amazing shows in galleries for these past ten years. But to hang in a museum? Even that word! It’s huge for an artist.

What about the corporate world? How do you feel about street artists and writers collaborating with corporations?

Let’s get their money. I got this two-year old. I have to make money, and I don’t want to always have a day job working with fire alarms. I want to be an artist who paints whatever it is I want to paint whenever I want to paint it.

How do you feel about the role of social media in this scene?

I’m just trying to ride the wave. If you’re not on it, you’re missing a big audience.

Have you a formal art education?

Yes. My mom encouraged me to get one. I studied Fine and Commercial Arts at DuCret School of the Arts in Plainfield, NJ. It was the best thing I ever did in my life. It helped me find out who I was. But it’s also in my blood. My grandparents worked as animators for Terry Tunes, and my grandfather was one of the animators for Beavis and Butthead.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

I’d paint anywhere. I just need time to paint! Now that I’m a dad, I get up most mornings at 4 – just so that I could have time to paint.

What inspires you these days?

For now, my son inspires me. Becoming a father was the ultimate change in life. I want to be a good man, and provide for him and his mom.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Hip-hop, 100%.

Is there a central theme that ties your work together?

I’d have to say “family.” I’ve always been inspired by my mom and the women in my life, and just painting a woman is a beautiful connection to women. I can paint any female face and it becomes familial to me.

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

When I work on walls, I let it flow. I just freestyle.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? And how do you know when it’s finished?

Never. I’m never satisfied with anything!

How important are others’ reactions to you?

It always feels good when you hear people say that they like your work.

How has your work evolved through the years?

It’s moving in the direction of fine art.

Have you any preferred colors?

Blue. Why? Picasso. And there’s more. I take pride in myself that I don’t use fancy paints. I don’t put tips on my cans. I just go to Home Depot or the hardware store and I buy the colors they have. And the color blue has so many variations.

What media do you currently most enjoy working with?

Most of my work is mixed media.

How has the work you’ve done on the streets impacted your studio work?

They’ve influenced each other. They’ve both evolved. Sometimes I feel more comfortable painting with a brush. But I want to do both. I want to make money from fine art and still paint on the streets.

 

How has your artwork evolved in the past several years? And how does your studio work differ from your street art?

I keep pushing it as an artist. My body of work is constantly evolving. When I work in my studio, I do it in smaller increments in multiple sessions. When I do a piece on the street, it usually takes me a day. And I haven’t yet broken into doing large-scale portraits in my studio with spray paint. I’ve done a few, and I’d like to do more. And sometimes things just happen. Like I stumbled upon creating patterns, and people really like them. I think they’re among my best work.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits:  1 & 2 Sara C Mozeson; 3 & 5 Lois Stavsky; 4, 6, 7  & 8   Rachel Alban

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In both public and private spaces, Flemington, NJ-based artist James Kelewae aka Luv One fashions mesmerizing images that blur the line between graffiti and fine art. His distinct talents remain on view in  On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey through February 27 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey. While selecting artists to feature in the exhibit, I met up with James in Trenton, NJ and had the opportunity to interview him:

When and where did you first get up?

I first hit a public surface back in 1995 while skateboarding in the Chicago suburbs where I grew up. I was 17 at the time. But it wasn’t until much later, 2006, when I became serious about painting on city walls.

Had you any preferred surface back then?

Brick. I liked the way it absorbs paint. I also liked getting up on trains with oil sticks.

Did anyone or anything in particular inspire you at the time?

The thrill of breaking rules. I liked the rush that I got.

Do any early graffiti-related memories come to mind?

In 2007, Will Kasso and I painted a two-block wall along the main bridge in Trenton. We painted in daylight pretending we had permission. It was so much fun!

Do you or did you belong to any crews?

I was a co-founder of the SAGE Coalition, a diverse group of artists dedicated to planning and producing inner-city beautification projects. And I’ve painted with Trenton’s Vicious Stylez Crew .

Would you rather work alone or collaborate with others?

It’s more fun with others, and you can accomplish more. But egos often get in the way.

Is there anyone in particular with whom you’d like to collaborate?

I’d like to collaborate with Cern, Chor Boogie, Other and José Parlá.

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

I’m interested in bridging the gap.  I use mostly spray paint, a graffiti tool, in a street art aesthetic. But each is entitled to its own voice.

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

I have mixed feelings. On one hand, it dilutes the culture, but graffiti and street artists should get acknowledged for their hugely influential work by a broader audience.

What about the corporate world? How do you feel about street artists and writers collaborating with corporations?

The work that I did for Vonage helped me make the down payment to the house I now own. Depending on the corporation and the circumstances, the experience can be a positive one.

How do you feel about the role of social media in this scene?

I don’t like it. I’d rather spend my time creating art.

Have you a formal art education?

Yes! I graduated from SVA with a degree in Illustration.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

Outdoors.

What inspires you these days?

All the visual information that’s around me. I take in everything!

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Celtic art…its colors and patterns; the Book of Kells, medieval art, hip-hop, skateboarding and punk rock.

That’s quite eclectic. Is there a central theme that ties your work together?

Interconnectivity…building bridges…moments of intersection and overlap.

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

I find myself working more and more freehand.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? And how do you know when it’s finished?

I always want my next piece to be better than my last. I know when it’s finished when I’m sick of it.

How important are others’ reactions to you?

Ten years ago, I was super concerned about others’ responses to my work. Currently, they are not important at all.

How has your work evolved through the years?

My style was originally very illustrative. I focused initially on portraits. These days my style is largely abstract.

Have you any preferred colors?

I love them all.

What media do you currently most enjoy working with?

Mixed media and spray paint.

How has the work you’ve done on the streets impacted your studio work?

It’s my studio work that has most impacted my street art. It’s tightened my art on the streets. My street art is calmer than it used to be.

How does the subject matter differ?

When I paint on the streets, it’s important that I take the community and the site into consideration. It’s important that it be accessible. My studio work is largely personal.

How has your studio work evolved in the past several years?

It’s more spiritual in its sensibility and its theme.

How long do you generally spend on a studio piece? On a street art work?

I work on my studio pieces over time – a few hours at a time over a period of a few months. When I paint outside, it’s generally for 4-5 hours a day over five days.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

It’s always in my brain, but because of family responsibilities, I can only devote about 40% to it.

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

It is to challenge one’s perception of accepted norms. It is to reshape society. To share the human experience…to bear witness and to capture a moment in time.

What’s ahead?

More canvas work.

Good luck!

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1 Sara C Mozeson; 2, 4, 6 & 7 Courtesy of James Kelewae; 3, 5, & 9 Lois Stavsky 8 & 10 Rachel Alban

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Third-generation New Brunswick native RH Doaz fuses folk art imagery — inspired by Hungarian folk art patterns — with the aesthetics of street art to create beautifully crafted, poetic images both on the streets and in his studio. I was delighted to feature his work in  On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey, a group exhibition of NJ-based artists that continues through February 27 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey. A brief interview with him follows:

When and where did you first get up?

In the late 1990’s – with stickers and tags in New Brunswick and in NYC.

Had you any preferred surface back then?

The backs of street signs. That was always the best! Newspaper boxes. Anything with a surface that I could stick something onto that would stay up!

Did anyone or anything in particular inspire you at the time?

Yes! Among my early inspirations were: the handmade posters I saw in New Brunswick advertising basement shows; Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant image, and the simplicity of Michael DeFeo’s flower image.

Do any early graffiti-related memories come to mind?

Taking the NE Corridor train into Manhattan and seeing different graffiti crews at every stop.

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

They’re two mediums competing for real estate. Graffiti always wins!

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

The more people who see your art, the better!

What about the corporate world? How do you feel about street artists and writers collaborating with corporations?

As long as the artist is given full credit, I don’t have a problem with it.

How do you feel about the role of social media in this scene?

It allows me to connect with other artists, and that helps me feed my kids.

Have you a formal art education?

Yes. I minored in Art at Defiance College, located in northwest Ohio.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

Any huge outdoor wall in October.

What inspires you these days?

Nature, folk art, nostalgia….

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Skateboarding, Hungarian, folk art, punk rock and hip-hop.

Is there a central theme that ties your work together?

Telling stories that haven’t yet been told through folk art.

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

These days I usually do have a sketch-in-hand.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? And how do you know when it’s finished?

Absolutely! I know I’m finished when there’s no more space left. The pattern feels complete. I’ve reached the sense of saturation where nothing needs to be added.

How important are others’ reactions to you?

I’m honored when others like my work. I like knowing what others think. I feel like I need to know.

How has your work evolved through the years?

I’m better at storytelling, and my patterns and palette are more refined.

Have you any preferred colors?

As I’m color-blind, I need to work with colors that strongly contrast one another with bold black outlines.

What media do you currently most enjoy working with?

Aerosol.

How has the work you’ve done on the streets impacted your studio work?

I’m more willing to experiment with patterns and palates on the streets, and this experimentation has impacted my studio work.

How long do you generally spend on a studio piece? On a street art work?

I spend anywhere between 5-10 hours on a piece I do in my studio. An outdoor mural generally takes about 60 hours, 6-7 10-hour days.

How important is it to you to maintain a presence in the public sphere?

It’s everything!

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

It is to tell visual stories that no one else is telling. Our most beautiful aspect is our aesthetic expression.

Note: You can view RH Doaz‘s talents in  On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey through February 27 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey and at Woodward Gallery‘s current exhibition New in 22.

Photos and interview by Lois Stavsky

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The Grandscale Mural Project, one of my favorite public art projects in town, brings vitality, color and intrigue to East Harlem. Since this past summer, I’ve revisited its current reiteration several times, always delighted by its diversity and charm.

The mural captured above — a portrait of public art administrator and producer Ayana Ayo — was painted by muralist and teaching artist Kristy McCarthy aka D. Gale. A few more images — almost certain to refuel your spirits in these uncertain times — follow:

Multidisciplinary Ecuadorian artist and educator Toofly

NYC-based visual artist and arts educator Lola Lovenotes

Multidisciplinary Brazilian-American artist Phes

    Mexico-born artist Sandy Perez

Bronx-based artist and arts educator Lady K Fever

Bronx-bred style master Image

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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This past fall, under the curatorial direction of veteran graff writer Wen Cod, over two dozen artists once again brought their blazing talents to Boone Avenue in the Bronx. The vibrant image featured above was painted by the hugely talented Blame1, a member of both FX and the Slaughter House Krew. Several more exhilarating images follow:

Stylemaster Doc TC5

Queens native graffiti writer and fashion designer Claw Money

The inventive graff pioneer Cycle

Veteran writer and illustrator Wore One

The delightfully imaginative Long Island-based Phetus

The hugely skilled artist and typographer Queen Andrea

The ever-deft Bronx-native Yes One

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4 & 7 Ana Candelaria; 3, 5, 6 & 8 Lois Stavsky

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