Amir Diop

On view at the prestigious National Arts Club through January 27, 2021 is Voices of the Soho Renaissance, an exhibition showcasing several artworks that had first surfaced on the plywood used to board up stores in Soho earlier this year. For those of us who first saw these works in their original sites, it is a delight to view them in such a stately setting. And if you missed seeing them earlier on, this is your chance!

The image featured above, The River Unconscious, is the work of the immensely talented Brooklyn-based artist Brendan T McNally. Additional images of artworks by members of the The Soho Renaissance Factory (SRF) on view follow:

Politically conscious African-American, Brooklyn-bred Amir Diop, “Samson and the 400 Years of Bondage”

Lebanese-American glass and light artist Trevor Croop AKA Light Noise in collaboration with Amir Diop, “We Are Used in Your Wars Even Though We Can Be Gone in a Flash”

Trevor Croop AKA Light Noise, “Change”

Native New Yorker Sulé whose masked characters don timely political slogans, “My Execution Might Be Televised”

Indigenous American multimedia artist Konstance Patton, “Godezz Mildred of Peace and Comforter of the Inner Child”

Brooklyn-based  Manuel Alejandro Pulla aka The Creator, “Brooklyn Bridge March for Justice”

Along with these artworks on exhibit are more than two dozen photographs documenting these extraordinary times — when protests were sweeping our streets daily — by acclaimed photographer Graham Macindoe.

Located at 15 Gramercy Park South, the galleries at the National Arts Club are open Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Admission is free, and you can make a reservation by filling out this form.

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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When the plywood returned to the streets of Soho shortly before the November presidential election, the artists got busy again. What a treat for us street art lovers! The image pictured above is the work of the increasingly prolific NYC-based Pure Genius. A small sampling of what’s been happening on the streets of Soho follows:

Brooklyn-based Manuel Alejandro Pulla aka The Creator with a call to support small businesses

Eyes that Love Art brings his mixed-media aesthetic to Grand Street plywood

Konstance Patton‘s signature lady with Amir Diop‘s political art to her right

Konstance Patton with a message; Sule on the door to her right and Light Noise above them both

Two short-lived works by One Rad Latina in her signature style

One of several collaborative works by Calicho and Jeff Rose King

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

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The following guest post was written by Juyoun Han, an attorney at Eisenberg & Baum, LLP

According to the New York Times, Black Lives Matter protests may have been the largest movement in U.S. history, and the most vigilant of these protests remain on the walls, corners, and surfaces of streets that we walk by every day. In cities across the country — Seattle, Salt Lake City, Chicago, New York City — artists banded together to use their creativity as a powerful visual advocacy against racial injustice. World-renowned artist Banksy, for example, created a painting that depicts a candle at a memorial starting a small flame at the corner of a U.S. flag. Banksy expressed his support for the BLM movement in an Instagram post, saying “people of colour are being failed by the system.”

Unfortunately, these murals are short-lived, either because they are immediately tagged or destroyed by dissenters who blithely deny America’s problem of racism. Artists who had transformed boarded-up businesses into powerful BLM art witnessed their art getting thrown out by storeowners. Such defacement of protest art is unfortunately a recurring violation. In 2014, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, a renowned Portland-based artist, Ashley Montague, painted a mural of late Brown entitled “Status Quo.” Unfortunately, the mural was tagged and painted over.

Now, here’s the good news: the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (“VARA Law”) may be the key to protecting and preserving these artworks. Under this law, the creators of 5Pointz recently cemented a victory after declination of review by the U.S. Supreme Court, obtaining a $6.75 million award against a luxury condo developer who destroyed what was previously considered to be “the world’s premier graffiti mecca.” The lawsuit sets a powerful precedent that may be relied upon to protect BLM murals.

Q&A about VARA Law for street artists:

My artwork was completely destroyed. Can it be protected under VARA?

Yes. VARA law protects artworks from being destroyed, but you will need to prove that the work gained “recognized stature.” This means that your work must have gained recognition by the art community and the public. There are many ways to meet this “recognized stature” standard. For example, you can show that your artwork garnered social media attention and other press coverage, that other members of the art community vouched for your work, or that your work had been featured in movies or videos.

My work is not destroyed, but some people tagged it and now it is a mockery. Does the law protect me?

Yes. VARA protects against modification, distortion, or mutilation of artworks that harms an artist’s reputation. For example, removing and making changes to sculptures made to be installed for a certain space, or partially painting over an original mural and allowing the public to see the distorted art form can harm the original artist’s esteem and reputation in the community. Even an emerging artist can show that the artist’s reputation has been harmed on a case-by-case basis. After all, part of the goal of VARA law is to protect works of lesser known artists as well as artists who have already gained fame

What if multiple artists collaborated on a single piece of artwork?

VARA may protect artwork even if it was created by multiple artists as a collaboration piece; not every artist involved needs to be famous. Even an artwork led by an artist joined by a community of teenage students can be protected under VARA.

If I am hired to install the art, can I still gain protection under VARA?

No. If you were hired to install a piece of art, then the “work-for-hire” exception applies and VARA will not protect your artwork.

What kind of protection would I gain under VARA?

If your artwork has already been destroyed, you can bring a legal action for compensation. If you have knowledge that your work may be destroyed in the future, you can prevent that from happening by requesting a legal injunction. You are also entitled to a 90-day notice before your work is removed.

What kinds of murals will VARA NOT protect?

If you signed a document or “waiver” of your VARA rights, then you cannot try to preserve your work. If you created an artwork on a property without permission or authorization from the property owner, this is a grey area—there is at least one legal case that says VARA law will not protect unauthorized artworks. However, if the artwork is removable (for example, on a board or a canvas) from the wall of the building, it might be protected even if not authorized.

If your artwork was not destroyed but modified due to normal wear and tear, or due to weather or climate change, it can be more difficult to ask for legal recovery. Also, the following forms of art are excluded from VARA protection: works made for hire, posters, maps, globes or charts, technical drawings, diagrams, models, applied art, motion pictures, books and other publications, electronic publications, merchandising items or advertising, promotional, descriptive, covering, packaging material or container; nor does VARA  cover any work not subject to general copyright protection.

Does it matter which state I live in?

No. VARA law is federal law, so it applies no matter which state you live in. However, there are state laws that are similar to VARA, which may give you additional legal protection.

What can artists do to protect their art?

Authorization – gaining authorization, preferably in writing, from the owner of the mural’s site to create your artwork will be advantageous in a legal action.

Recognition – the more the artist can show recognition (e.g. social media, press coverage, public and art community’s acclaim) the more effective it would be to prevent or recover compensation from those who destroyed the work.

Timely Response – if you are aware of threats to destroy or mutilate your artwork, respond in a timely manner. Contacting lawyers can help prevent the damage, facilitate negotiations, and if necessary, bring legal actions.

About the author: Juyoun Han, is a lawyer at Eisenberg & Baum LLP based in NYC. Juyoun’s practice includes Art Law, Artificial Intelligence Fairness & Data Privacy, and Disability Rights litigation. She was involved in the 5Pointz litigation and thanks her clients who have opened her eyes to
the world of art.

Note: The views expressed on this post are those of the individual author writing in her individual capacities only – not of any employers or affiliates.

Street art protest images featured here were selected and photographed by Lois Stavsky 

Ori Carino on the Lower East Side

Calicho Arevalo in Gowanus

july4art on the Bowery

Souls NYC in the Bronx, south of West Farms

5 & 6  Amir Diop in Soho and Noho

Unidentified artist in Gowanus

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Several artists — whose artworks I had first discovered several months ago on plywood in Soho — have continued to share their visions and talents in Harlem…this time on kiosks. Featured above is the work of Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist  Konstance Patton aka KonArtStudio. What follows are some more public artworks I recently came upon while walking west on 125th Street:

Also by Konstance Patton aka KonArtStudio

Multimedia artist Sule Marquez-Monsanto 

Brooklyn-based artist Manuel Alejandro Pulla aka The Creator

The hugely talented visual artist Brendan T Mcnally in collaboration with artist/activist Amir Diop

And some words of wisdom–

Note: Konstance Patton, Sule, Brendan T McNally and Amir Diop — all members of the Soho Renaissance Factory — have been busy at work inside a huge studio space in Soho.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Several artists — whose works I had discovered on plywood in Soho — recently shared their visions and talents in Harlem, as they painted portraits inspired by the wondrous photography of Barron Claiborne

The image featured above — a portrait of the photographer  — was fashioned by the wonderfully talented Brendan T Mcnally. Additional images follow from several artists, who collectively identify as the Soho Renaissance Factory.

Artist/activist Amir Diop 

Glass & light artist Light Noise 

Multimedia artist Sule 

And joining the artists representing the Soho Renaissance Factory — producer and DJ Xtassy Beats

Konstance Patton aka KonArtStudio

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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While many of the original artworks that had surfaced on the boarded-up stores in Soho are no longer on view, others continue to emerge. Featured above are works by NYC-based politically-conscious artist Sule and Brooklyn-based artist Manuel Alejandro Pulla. What follows are several more artworks I came upon earlier this week, along with a few captured within the past month.

Also by Sule, “My Color Is Not a Crime”

Artist/activist Amir Diop in collaboration with Eyes That Love Art, “Take Me to a Place Where I Won’t Be Judged by My Weight, I Won’t Be Labeled as a Nerd– Where Black Lives Matter”

NYC-based multidisciplinary artist DVNNY,  “Let Us Live,” — a plea from the transgender community

Jordanian-American multidisciplinary artist Ridikkuluz pays homage to the 30–year-old Egyptian LGBTQ activist Sarah Hegazi — arrested and tortured in Cairo for raising the LGBT flag at a concert — who died last month by suicide while living in exile in Canada — to the left of LEXXX‘s plea to “Free the Ninos”

Isabelle with Vincent Van Gogh quote: “Art is to Console Those Who Are Broken by Life”

Brooklyn-based Czech artist Irena Kenny, “We are the change that we seek.”

To be continued next week!

Photo credits: 1, 3 – 7 Lois Stavsky; 2 Sara Ching Mozeson

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When I returned to Soho earlier this week, I was thrilled to discover several pieces — including a few collaborations — new to me. The image featured above, “Our Nation’s Claim to Justice,” was fashioned by Colombian artist Calicho Arevalo and Queens-native Jeff Rose. Several more artworks that have recently surfaced on Soho’s boarded-up stores follow:

Multidisciplinary artists Alice Mackay (center) and Marco Villard 

The legendary NYC writer/artist Duel RIS 

Venezuelan artist Alberto Barreto and multimedia artist AV

Ukrainian-born, NYC-based multidisciplinary artist Si Golraine at work

Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist Konstance Patton

Amir Diop, Brendan T Mcnally and Light Noise collaborate on mural in memory of graffiti writer Michael Stewart who died at the hands of the NYPD in  1983

To be continued next week!

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4 – 7 Lois Stavsky; 3 Sara Ching Mozeson

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While many of the boards in Soho continue to be dismantled, the ones that remain continue to intrigue. And, happily, new ones surface — largely by artists who generally work in their studios — addressing a range of issues from systemic racism to transphobia. The socially-driven artworks featured above were fashioned  a few weeks back by Brooklyn-based artist Jerardo Calixto in collaboration with Sofi ✍ Signs. Several more images captured earlier this week — several in progress — follow:

NYC-based Fabio Esteban with a message

NYC-based Brendan T Mcnally takes a brief break from “Break Free” in progress (check out Brendan’s Instagram to view the now completed mural and its moving backstory)

NYC-based, Moscow native Sofia Granovskaia aka Dr Antic to the right of artist/activist Amir Diop — with an important request and reproach re: his missing artwork

Multidisciplinary artist Matthew Mazur — dedicated to “our Black Trans Brothers and Sisters who were taken from us too soon.”

Native Belarus artist Mitya Pisliak at work

Brooklyn-based, Czechoslovak-born Kamila Zmrzla Otcasek

On racism — signed Scott Woods 

To be continued next week!

Photo credits: 1, 3, 4, 6-8 Lois Stavsky; 2 & 5 Sara Ching Mozeson

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