Walls

Under the curatorial direction of Sharif Profit, this past weekend’s Graffiti Hall of Fame — located on 106th Street and Park Avenue in East Harlem — teemed with tantalizing talent. Among the featured pubic artworks in this event’s 43rd annual edition were walls and cubes fashioned in a wide range of styles by legendary writers and noted urban artists from NYC and beyond. The scintillating piece pictured above was painted by graff master Skeme, also known as 3 Yard King. Several more images of artworks captured this past Sunday afternoon follow:

BedStuy Walls founder and curator Miki Mu at work

Veteran writer and aerosol artist Renard Kelley aka Vens adding the final touches to his mural

 Delta 2’s masterful mural complemented by an adorable passerby who instantly poses!

The wildly prolific Cope 2

French artist Louis Vicius aka Jaek El Diablo

Will Power‘s tribute to the late writer and DJ Dez aka Kay Slay— with Al Diaz‘s iconic tag finding its way to the bottom!

Barcelona-based artist and tattooist Phen

  Bronx-native NAC 143 at work

 Stockholm-born, East Harlem-based Scratch

Note: Keep posted to the Street Art NYC Instagram and Threads for more images of artworks that surfaced in this year’s Graffiti Hall of Fame .

Photographs by Lois Stavsky and Dani Reyes Mozeson

{ 0 comments }

This past Sunday, Welling Court Mural Project director Alison C. Wallis introduced us to the distinctly talented Dutch artist, Ottograph, who had just graced the exterior of a three-story local home with his delightfully playful aesthetic. What follows are excerpts from an interview conducted then at Welling Court with the renowned international artist by Street Art NYC contributor and UP Magazine staff member Ana Candelaria.

When did you begin painting? 

I started about 40 years ago. I was 12.

What inspired you at the time?

My inspiration came from a Chaka Khan music video. I saw a guy who was roller skating and at the same time painting on a wall with a spray can. I said to my mom, “Mom I’ve got to do that!“ I then painted my first piece in a suburb in Amsterdam and was instantly hooked.

What was your tag back then?

I didn’t have any reference to graffiti. I’d never seen it before, so I copied the tag BEAT, the name of the guy painting in the Chaka Khan video.

Have you had you other names?

As we were watching the subway trains go by, we would always say “Oh shit! You saw that one?” And so when I was a teen, I took on my second tag, SHIT. Later I changed my name to ZEY because I liked the letters, and you can almost make it like a COCA COLA logo with the sling from the Y going under the other letters. But then I figured it was too short, so I added an apostrophe and an S, and it became ZEY’S. Then later there was ZEIS and finally ZEISER. That was the last one before my current one.

How did you get your current name OTTOGRAPH

My real name is OTTO. I was listening to a song by N.W.A and one of the artists Eazy-E,  shouted “And all the ladies want my autograph,” and I was thinking Otto? Autograph? Hey, that’s me! Do you know what’s crazy? Over in Europe no one gets it, but in America people instantly start smiling when I tell them my name. I’ve stuck with that name for the past 15 years.

Had you a preferred style back then – when you were bombing?

I really liked doing blockbusters. I made a lot of giant blockbusters on the subways. This was around 1985. It was so scary, and, like, the biggest adrenaline rush ever!

Were you involved with any crews back then? 

When I was like 17 or 18, I created the SHIT HAPPENS posse and for the first three months I was the only member. Now it has over 300 members! I see people putting S.H.P on their pieces and I don’t even know who they are.

What were some of the highlights of your career as an artist?

Painting last week on Sedgwick Avenue at the birthplace of Hip Hop was definitely a highlight. They had an open mic the whole night. It felt like I was playing music in my studio, but then I would look up, and they’re actually rapping in front of me. I felt like I was in a movie. And one special memory I have that stands out is from when I was painting at 5Pointz. I remember standing between seven guys in their 50s or 60s who all had massive pickup trucks. They found a way to link up their sound systems together and played Busta Rhymes songs the whole day. The scene was amazing! The kids were playing soccer, and we were just painting. I will never forget that day. Busta Rhymes, BBQing and painting.  Holy moly!  it’s perfect.

Where else – besides NYC and Amsterdam – have you painted?

Within the states I’ve painted in Hawaii, San Francisco, Denver. I’ve painted in Russia like 15 times, mainly in Saint Petersburg. I’ve also painted in Japan, Berlin, Spain, Italy. I’ve painted in Africa — in Gambia and Zanzibar. The next big project I have coming up is in Nigeria. I’m supposed to go out there in three weeks, but the political situation is a little out of hand at the moment, so I may have to push it to a later date. I can’t wait for it to happen!

Are there any cultures that influence your aesthetic?

Yes, my style is largely influenced by Aboriginal and Native American art. I love their patterns. I tend to put a lot of dots in my work, and that comes from the aboriginals who used to make artwork using only dots. The dots for me are a good way to fill in spaces. I always try to fill out a drawing. I usually start with my character, King Canary; then I work my way around it.

Where do you see yourself five years from now? 

I see myself doing the same thing. Traveling the world, painting as many murals as I can and meeting interesting people.

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

Note: Keep posted to UP Magazine for a comprehensive portrait of the artist, also penned by Ana Candelaria

{ 0 comments }

On my recent visit to this year’s Welling Court Mural Project in Astoria Queens, I discovered a wondrous array of art fashioned in a multitude of styles. The distinctly striking mural pictured above was painted last week by Meres One in his singular stained-glass style. Several more images of new artworks follow in this first of a two-part series documenting WCMP23, a community public art project organized and curated by Alison C. Wallis

Bronx-based BG 183, Tats Cru

Ecuador-born, Queens-bred multidisciplinary artist Toofly

Nepalese artist Imagine 876

Fumero in his distinct GRAFSTRACT style

Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist Kimyon Huggins

Veteran UK writer Noir

Photos: Lois Stavsky

{ 0 comments }

Celebrating NYC’s iconic Hip Hop landmarks – with live painting, artworks, DJ’s, performers and more — the Landmark Festival make its mark this past weekend in East Harlem. A sequel to the hugely popular Landmark exhibit that debuted in January, it was spearheaded and curated by Kate Storch.

Featured above is Japanese native artist Shiro One at work. Several more images — focusing largely on the artworks — captured when I visited on Sunday afternoon follow:

Queens-based Jerms and Topaz 

Brooklyn-based “Miniature Artist” Danny Cortes recreates “Disco Fever,” a dance club that operated from 1976-1986 in the South Bronx and featured legendary hip-hop artists such as Lovebug Starski, Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow & Run-DMC

Manhattan-based Doves and Bluster, Title mural  and backdrop for MC’s

Bronx-based artist and activist KayLove with black book in hand — in which she has made her mark

The legendary hip-hop rapper, producer and DJ Large Professor to the left of Landmark curator Kate Storch

Photos 1-3, 5 & 6: Lois Stavsky; 4 courtesy Landmark Festival

{ 0 comments }

I returned to Freeman Alley this past Sunday to discover a wonderfully diverse range of artworks in varied media, along with artists from near and far at work. Pictured above is the lovely Ecuadorian nomadic artist Lasak. Several more findings follow:

 Boston native Mattaya Fitts

Bronx native Abe Bx

Italian artists Rat Rockster and Ikas leaving their mark in the alley as they pass through NYC

Colombian artist Luch pays homage to his hometown Valle de Cocora

The spirit of Indonesia from Komodo

An surprise visit from the prolific mark-maker Qzar

And one of several sticker combos

Photos: Lois Stavsky

{ 0 comments }

In this twelfth post in our new series, PUSHING IT FORWARD — featuring ILLicit creatives claiming space on NYC streets — we’re back to the Bronx. Pictured above is Avert — hunted down in Hunts Point. Several more images of Bronx markings follow:

The ubiquitous Cope2 

Riot

Dase and NA

Roach

Dzel and Elude, AIDS Crew

Aster — whose tag seems to keep on surfacing!

And a treasure trove of markings on a freight spotted along the tracks in Mott Haven

Post by the Pushing It Forward Collective

{ 0 comments }

Born and raised in Queens, New York and based now in, Bari Italy, Cear One has left his mark not only in his native city, but in Central America and now in his current hometown in Southern Italy. I recently had the opportunity to interview him:

When did you first “get up?”

I started practicing tags when I was about 13 or 14. But I didn’t actually go outside with spray paint until I was 17. That’s when I did my first throw-ups and fill ins on Queens’ rooftops.

Where were you living at the time?

I was living in Flushing, but I also went around Astoria, Jackson Heights and other parts of Queens.

What inspired you to?

My uncle, the Original KR1, was a writer. He was a big influence. Graffiti magazines and videos also inspired me.

Were there any other artists out there who motivated you to “get up” when you first started?

There were many! Among them are: Zephyr, SP1, Cope2, Ces, Per, Sabe KST, Keep, Nato, Bruz and West Cost writers Saber and Revok.

And why did you continue to “get up?”

I loved the feeling of it. It’s thrilling. It’s kind of a rush – like a natural high. And when I get up, I feel like I’m getting a good workout!

Have you any favorite surfaces or spots?

With markers, I love a smooth surface. And with paint, I like corner spots — like hidden or abandoned areas.  I love concrete, metal, doors, plastic, trucks, gates, old buildings, brick, cinderblock… Trucks are especially great because they move.

How do you choose your spots?

I go for the kinds of spots that are likely to last. Those are ideal.

What’s your earliest graffiti-related memory?

The pieces my uncle made for me as birthday presents.  He’d write my name, and he’d add characters and backgrounds – all in graffiti style.

What is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done?

I guess it would be highway spots. While I’m painting, people are beeping , shouting or cheering me on. It’s very distracting!

What is the average amount of time you spend on a piece?

Doing an illegal piece could take up to 20 minutes or a half hour – depending on its size and details.

How do you feel when someone goes over you? And what do you do about it?

I don’t like it. I go back over them!

Have you had any memorable encounters while you were getting up?

Once when we were walking along the Long Island Railroad tracks in Queens, we didn’t hear the train coming or see the lights blaring — until it was seconds away. We literally dodged this train by maybe a minute, as it quickly zoomed by us.

Have you ever used any implements to defend yourself? If so, what were they? And what were the circumstances?

We once threw a sledge hammer at a conductor to back him off from coming out of the train.

Was there a singular moment when you realized that graffiti is a particular passion of yours?

I can’t say it was a single moment. It was watching graffiti videos and movies, reading Subway Art, going down to Canal Street for ink and supplies, checking out tags, doing them inside trains, going back home and practicing. I was kind of feeling that whole movement back then in 2000. it was an exciting time for me.

If you were offered the opportunity to do a legal mural for pay, would you take it?

Yes. I would, and I have in the past. I don’t frown upon legal pieces.

From your perspective, how welcoming has the graffiti scene been to diverse groups of people?  

It’s always been a diverse crowd. Graffiti brings together people from all nationalities and backgrounds.

Would you rather paint on your own or with other writers?

I love painting alone. I might do a few pieces with another writer and then move on.

You’ve painted in here in NYC and now you’re living and getting up in Bari, Italy. Where else have you painted?

I’ve also painted in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

What was it like to paint in those countries?

While in Costa Rica, I got interested in abandoned places – so that I could take my time without cops or other people bothering me. In Nicaragua, I painted in central places where everyone was partying and no one was paying attention, so I could sneak in and out of a space, without getting noticed.

And what’s it like in Bari, where you live now?

I like Bari because it’s metropolitan, and my art gets lots of views – many more than it could get in Costa Rica or Nicaragua.

What is your favorite paint? Caps? Colors?

Favorite paints are Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch, Montana, Loop. As far as caps, Astro fat caps are amazing.  Pink Dot cap , Orange Dot Cap, New York Fatcap. As for colors…I love shades of greens, blues, purples, pinks, oranges and reds. I also like black, white and silver.

What do you see as the future of graffiti, particularly illicit graffiti?

It will continue to grow. There are many new writers out there and they seem very dedicated.

What about your future? Where are you headed?

The passion to go bombing will always be with me. I’m always looking to improve my skills, and I want to be part of this movement’s history.

Interview edited for brevity and clarity by Lois Stavsky; all photos courtesy of the artist

{ 0 comments }

As COVID-19 was raging back in 2020, Dripped On The Road, a traveling artist residency program, brought 14 murals to Indiana, Pennsylvania. Within two weeks, the artists transformed the town’s visual landscape, while embracing and uplifting its residents. In the course of their remarkable residency, they learned first-hand about Indiana’s distinct history and painted murals that utterly reflected it.

Featuring resident artists Damien Mitchell, Sarah Rutherford, Evan Lovett, Riiisa Boogie, along with program directors and artists Ramiro Davaro-Comas, Jonathan Neville and Denton Burrows, the acclaimed documentary “Small Town Big Canvas: An Indiana, PA Story” — directed by OWLEY Studios — chronicles these two weeks.

Not only did the seven artists uplift the town’s spirit and enhance its appearance, but they also conducted workshops with youth using non-toxic spray paint and upcycled materials. And they planted trees that “will live on even after the murals are gone.”  Sustainable painting practices and environmental responsibility are essential, the documentary affirms, to Dripped On The Road‘s mission.  We are cautioned that one needs to be mindful of the environment when painting public art.

“Small Town Big Canvas: An Indiana, PA Story” brilliantly captures the mutual respect and appreciation that developed between the artists and the members of the Indiana community as the project evolved. The artists clearly “felt the pulse of the people,” and the Indiana residents showered them with gratitude in return.

Founded in 2016,  Dripped On The Road artists have have painted over 100 murals and traveled over 12,000 miles.“Small Town Big Canvas: An Indiana, PA Story” is a moving, impressive ode to its multiple missions and a particular paean to this distinctly vital project. It is also a model for public art that too often becomes too commercial.

Note: The NYC public premiere of “Small Town Big Canvas: An Indiana, PA Story” was held on April 27 at the Anthology Film Archives, featuring resident artists Damien Mitchell, Sarah Rutherford, Evan Lovett and Riiisa Boogie, followed by a Q & A moderated by UP Magazine editor T. K. Mills. We are looking forward to further showings in the NY metropolitan area.

Images:

  1. The crew in front of Denton Burrows‘ mural
  2. Evan Lovett
  3. Sarah Rutherford
  4. Damien Mitchell
  5. Riiisa Boogie
  6. Jonathan Neville w/ Indiana, PA youth
  7. Damien Mitchell

Post by Lois Stavsky and and City-as-School intern Antonio Gomez; all photos courtesy Dripped On The Road.

{ 0 comments }

Back with our documentation of ILLicit Creatives claiming space on the streets of NYC, this post focuses on the markings that have surfaced on open spaces in Brooklyn. Featured above are the legendary 2DX members DEK and ZROC. What follows are several more images captured these past several weeks in Brooklyn.

Angr

Reap

Homesick, Uwont and Carve

Duel RIS

Tears and Regae

South LNE

Scarento

Post by the Pushing It Forward Collective

{ 0 comments }

An oasis of motley murals, graffiti art, paste-ups, stickers, tags and bombs. Freeman Alley has it all! The image pictured above was painted by Brooklyn-based artist and curator Miki Mu. Several more images captured on a recent visit follow:

SacSix, crkshnk, City Kitty, OH!, Drecks and more

Bronx-based artist and educator Lola Lovenotes

Brooklyn-based Ecuadorian artist Lasak

Mixed-media artist Drecks

Stealth Art and more

The enigmatic Crash 42170

Bronx-based graffiti and textile artist Mrs

17-year-old Soup 64

Freeman Alley is located at 12 Rivington Street, off the Bowery.

Photos: 1-8 Lois Stavsky; 9 Amelia Cleary

{ 0 comments }