Bronx

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For the past week, Kenny Scharf has been at work on a massive mural along Third Avenue in the Bathgate section of the Bronx.  Replete with the artist’s colorful, fanciful characters, the artwork brings vibrancy and intrigue to this central Bronx neighborhood. Here are a few more images we captured yesterday:

A small segment of huge, block-long mural

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Another segment

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Yet another fragment

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And eleven-year old Jadeden — who has been mesmerized daily by Kenny’s work — sharing one of his artworks

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Visible from the Cross Bronx Expressway, this mural was produced in collaboration with Krinos Foods and coordinated by KM Fine Arts.

An exhibit of Kenny Scharf‘s works remains on view at the Nassau County Museum of Art, where he will be painting live on Sunday, June 19, 12-4 p.m.

Photo credits: 1 Lois Stavsky; 2-5 City-as-School intern Sol Raxlen

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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While down in Miami, I met up with Bronx native Mastro whose masterful graffiti designs and styles can be found on walls, hats and a range of surfaces throughout NYC, Miami and beyond. 

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Can you recall any early graffiti memories?

My earliest memory is riding the 6 train to Pre-K. Everything around me was bombed. I remember thinking, “What is this magic?” Growing up in the Bronx, I saw classic NYC graffiti everywhere. Seen, Mad and Pjay were among the writers I saw on my day-to-day commute.

When and where did you first hit the streets?

When I was in 5th grade, I started with stupid, little tags – like Shadow and Ace – all along Zerega Avenue. I was also getting up in my school. I thought I was “King!” But I was a toy.

What inspired you to get up?

Graffiti was everywhere. How could I not?

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When and how did you come up with the name Mastro?

I was in my mid-teens. It was actually part of my name, and none of the aliases made any sense.

Did you paint with a crew back then or were you largely alone?

I generally liked to keep it solo and quiet.

And thse days?

I paint both solo and with others. But I don’t think the crew should define the writer. Rather, the writer should define the crew.

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Do you have a formal art education?

Yes. I have a BA in Architecture from Pratt.

Did you go on to work as an architect?

After I graduated, I worked as an architect for a while. But at the same time I began customizing hats. And that business took off almost immediately – and was a lot more fun!  I thought, “Why should I work for someone else when I can do better on my own?”

And just how are you doing on your own?

I’m doing great. I never expected my business to go this far. Besides customizing hats, I get paid to do body painting and lettering. And I’m also commissioned to produce graffiti murals and installations.

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What would you say is the key to your success?

It’s a matter of my being in the right place at the right time. And that is something I work on doing.

Although you are based in NYC, you seem to spend more time on the road then you do back home.

Yes, I’ve been traveling just about full-time across the U.S. I try to cover as many music/art festivals and fairs that I possibly can. I tend to hang out where there are lots of people all the time.

What are some of the challenges of leading such a nomadic life?

The biggest challenge is having to do my own laundry.

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As you didn’t forge a career as an architect, would you way that your Pratt education was worthwhile?

Yes! It definitely taught me how to become a better artist. But it did not teach me how to sell my technique.

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

My parents get a kick out of it!

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

Technically – all of it. I create non-stop both on and off the wall.  My art is my “work.” The only aspect of it that actually feels like work is when I’m moving and lifting materials.

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What advice would you offer young artists who would like to build a successful art business?

Always have access to your presentation portfolio. Be prepared to share it with anyone at any time. Know how to write a proposal, a contract and a rider sheet. And be ready to easily accept all types of payment from credit cards to PayPal.

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

I don’t like the Internet. I don’t like having to use technology to promote myself. But I can’t deny that it does increase recognition, awareness and sales.

That would seem to be a good thing.

But social media can easily turn you into a techno-slut. Too many people seem to depend on social media to increase their value. It’s your work that should be valued, not your number of “likes” or followers. Back when I first started, we did it for the love of it; now folks do it for the “likes.” And back in the day, you had no idea what a writer in Australia was doing unless you saw it in a magazine. These days, it is just far too easy to borrow and regurgitate styles from half way around the world.

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Are there any particular cultures – or artists — that have influenced your aesthetic?

Growing up in the Morris Park section of the Bronx, I was influenced, of course, by everything that was happening around me – graffiti, hip-hop, breakdancing. The artist who had the hugest influence on my aesthetic was Wane COD, a master of intricate simplicity.

What are your favorite places to paint?

Abandoned places that are withering away, and those places that have stood the test of time where nature is flourishing

How has your artwork evolved in the past few years?

I’m trying to make it crisper and smoother. I would like all demographics to be able to understand my writing.

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

I’m here to create. I don’t think about it.

What’s ahead?

Building and creating wherever life takes me. Living my life as a “permanent vacation,” earning money doing what I love.

Note: Photos are of artworks seen in NYC and in Miami. Pictured in the third photo are: Mastro, Eskae and Disem — with Mastro and Eskae trading names.

Photo credits: 1-3, 7 & 8  Lois Stavsky; 4 & 5 Tara Murray; and 6 Mastro; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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Curated by Lady K Fever and hosted by Aldo Perez, Ihe Art of Peace, an exhibit of mural and graffiti art celebrating peace, opens tonight at the Al Iman Community Center. I had the opportunity to speak to Lady K Fever while visiting the space at 2006 Westchester Avenue earlier this week.

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Can you tell us something about the concept behind this exhibit?

It is an exploration of the notion of peace from the perspective of artists representing a range of ideologies, nationalities, religious backgrounds and ethnicities. The title is a take on The Art of War by Sun Tzu written in the 6th century B.C.

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What inspired it?

It was inspired by Peace December, an organization started five years ago dedicating the month of December to celebrating peace. As Sheikh Musa Drammeh of Peace December contends, trillions of dollars are spent on defense and none are allocated to promoting peace. 

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As curator, how did you decide which artists to engage in this exhibit? 

When Aldo Perez approached me to curate it, I sought artists from a range of backgrounds and communities. Many, in fact, had already been engaged in community-based projects promoting co-existence.

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What were some of the particular challenges you faced in curating this exhibit?

My main concern was that the imagry would not offend the community. I also had to keep the artists’ egos in check, reminding them that The Art of Peace’s principal mission is to promote peace. And I was working with a limited budget.

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The exhibit opens this evening from 6-10pm. How might folks — who can’t make it this evening — see it?

Yes, there will be a reception tonight with DJ Prince Tafari, the artists and special guests — including Assemblyman Jose Rivera. There will also be select artworks for sale. Folks who won’t be able to attend can email artists4peacebx@gmail.com and arrange a time to visit The Art of Peace.

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Images:

1.  Rocko 

2. BG183, Tats Cru with Lady K Fever and Aldo Perez posed in front

3. Meres One

4. Chris Riggs

5. Scratch and Lady K Fever

6. Lexi Bella

Interview and photos by Lois Stavsky

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For the past several days, over two dozen artists — from writers to muralists —  have been busily transforming a huge block along Boone Avenue at 174th Street. Here are a few more images that we captured these past two days from Writers Block organized by Wen Cod:

Mastro

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Curve

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Spot and Acne aka Young Socrates

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Yes 1 at work 

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Nero aka Uncle Ro

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Wen Cod, who organized the event, captured at work in the early stages yesterday morning

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Rath at work

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Danielle Mastrion, Lexi Bella, and Doc TC5 to the far right

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Ces checks it out

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 Note: First image features Jersey Joe aka Rime

Photo credits: 1-4 & 6-9 Lois Stavsky; 5 & 10 Tara Murray

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This past Saturday, David Gonzalez, award-winning journalist, photographer and co-editor of the New York Times photoblog, Lens, led a group of Instagramers on a walk through Hunts Point, introducing us to works by some of its legendary graffiti artists and muralists. Here are a few images StreetArtNYC captured on Instagram:

Tats Cru with How and Nosm, close-up

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Nicer, Tats Cru with Instagramer Sarah Sansom aka catscoffeecreativity seated

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Ces

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Daze

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Crash, who also shared some Hunts Point history with us, in front of his mural

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David Gonzalez leads the way to the Point, Tats Cru‘s headquarters

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Artist-at-work at the Point

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David Gonzalez (left), Whitney Richardson (center), James Estrin (right) and Kerri MacDonald (top) of The New York Times at the Point

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Renowned photojournalist Martha Cooper, also on the walk, shared with us some photos she had taken of the trains in key spots over 30 years ago, and she captured us all here.

Note: You can check out the Instagram hashtag #NYTBronxWalk for more images from Saturday’s tour.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Currently gracing the walls of Graffiti Universe up in the Bronx is a range of styles from photorealistic portraiture to stylish graffiti. Here is a sampling of the work fashioned by both international and regional artists:

Italian artist Jorit does the legendary TAKI 183

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Vins and Signl, EOS 

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Norwegian artist Stay One, KD

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Graffiti Universe is located at 2995 Boston Road in the Allerton section of the East Bronx.

Note: First image is by London-based Trans1

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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For over three decades Bronx native Just One has been making his mark on NYC public and private spaces. We recently had the opportunity to speak to the prolific artist.

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When did you first get up? And where?

It was back in 1984 — over 30 years ago — in the West Farms section of the Bronx. I was 14 at the time.

What inspired you to do so?

My older brother and his friends were all doing it. It was the natural thing to do.

Any early memories that stand out?

I was at a handball court in Crotona Park when the spray can I was holding in my hand almost burst into flames.

How did that happen?

It came into contact with a cigarette lighter, and could have easily blown up.

We’re glad it didn’t! We’ve noticed your work in quite a few projects these days – from JMZ Walls in Bushwick, Brooklyn to Operation Skittles at August Martin High School in Jamaica, Queens. Do you prefer legal or illegal surfaces?

I love painting anywhere – but to experience the full essence of graffiti, there is nothing like painting on a surface I discover on my own. Finding a space, being there alone and creating something out of nothing is the ultimate experience.

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Have you ever been arrested for graffiti?

No!

How’s that?

I have good instincts.

What was the riskiest graffiti-related thing you’ve ever done? And why did you do it?

Hitting an elevated abandoned train line, where I had to hop over each wall to do another letter. Why did I do it? I’d been eyeballing that spot for quite awhile and nobody else took it, so I’d figure I’d take my chance. And, yes, it was worth it!

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

My children love it!

What percentage of your day is devoted to your art these days?

About 70%.

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What keeps you painting after all these years?

Passion and the adrenalin rush!  It also relieves my stress.

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

I, myself, prefer the movement and flow of graffiti. But art is art. And street art can be beautiful.

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries? Have you shown your work in galleries?

I don’t have a problem with that. It’s a good thing! I’ve shown at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery in Long Island City and in bars and other alternative spaces around town.

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

Both.

Is there anyone in particular you would like to collaborate with?

I’d like to paint with Mitch 77, Jamie Hef and Lee Quinones.

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Do you rep any crews?

TMC, TFO, KD, COA and I’m the prez of WF, World Famous Crew.

How you feel about the role of the Internet in this scene?

It can be too much. When it gets too much into your business, it’s bad.

Do you have a formal arts education?

I’m self-taught, but my teachers always encouraged me to draw.

Do you work with a sketch in your hand or do you let it flow?

I freestyle.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Most of the time!

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How has your work evolved in the past few years?

It’s sharper and neater. And I work much faster.

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

To inspire others to express themselves.

How do you feel about the photographers in this scene?

The more exposure our works get, the better for us.

What do you see as the future of graffiti? Where is it going?

It will continue to evolve.

And what about you? What’s ahead for you?

I plan to keep painting.  And I want to get back into the canvas scene and hopefully — sometime soon — do a solo show.

Interview by Lois Stavsky with City-As-School intern Diana Davidovaphotos: 1, 3-5 courtesy of Just; 2 & 6 (with Awez) Lois Stavsky

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Conceived and curated by Lady K FeverA Timeline of Handstyles: Signatures from the 1960’s to Present Day, presents an extraordinary array of writers’ signatures spanning three generations. While visiting the space — across from the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse — I had the opportunity to speak to Lady K.

I love this! There is so much history here. What prompted you to organize this?

When I first hit the streets, I did so as a tagger. And the first book I ever read on this culture, The Faith of Graffiti, alerted me to the significance of the tag. On a more personal level, this wall is also my way of paying homage to the old school writers who were so supportive of me when I first moved to NYC.

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This wall serves as a canvas for early legends, as well as for some of the new artists on the scene. How did you get the word out?

I spoke to a number of writers from different generations, and asked them to invite others.

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What were some of the challenges you faced in curating this?

Figuring out the logistics of it all, engaging younger writers, and dealing with the inevitable politics.

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Were there any particular surprises?

Folks rumored to be dead suddenly surfaced! Seeing Swan 3 was, perhaps, the biggest surprise! What a pleasure that was! And I was surprised — and delighted — that so many folks were willing to travel here from afar to tag this wall.

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What’s next?

I’d love to curate a huge warehouse and engage far more people.

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The mural will remain on view through the end of this month — with a special public viewing on Sunday, June 28, 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm.

Note: Special thanks to Delicioso Coco Helado for providing the space and supporting the project.

Photos: 1-7 Lois Stavsky; 8 & 9 Lady K Fever

Note: Photo 2 features Charmin 65 and Swan 3; photo 3 Stella Isabella; photo 4 Nicholai Khan; photo 5 Dun One; photo 6 Meek; photo 7 Broham380

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Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter, Roberto Clemente and Satchel Paige are among the legendary baseball players whose faces now grace a range of storefronts on and off River Avenue from 158th Street to 162nd Street. A partnership between the 161st Street Business Improvement District and 501 See Streets, this particular project is one of several initiated by 501 See Streets founder and director, Noah Sheroff. I recently met up with Noah to find out more about him and his Paint New York project.

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You are on a mission to bring public art to neighborhoods in NYC and beyond. What spurred your interest in street art?

I grew up in a neighborhood that was largely void of art. When I first visited 5Pointz in 2011, I was struck by the beauty and energy of it all. The following year I went on a tour of the Bushwick Collective, and soon after that, I discovered the Welling Court Mural Project in Astoria, Queens.  By then I was hooked!  I knew that I wanted to bring art murals to communities that wouldn’t otherwise have them. 

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We are familiar with the murals you facilitated that have transformed the blocks around Yankee Stadium.  Have you engaged other neighborhoods?

Yes. Danielle Mastrion painted a mural on Flatbush Avenue and Avenue H in Brooklyn; Miss Zukie collaborated with John Paul O’Grodnick on Benson Street.across from the Lewis & Clark School, and Marthalicia painted on Jerome Avenue and East 198th Street.

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What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered?

It’s been a daunting learning experience!  The community members are often apprehensive. Artists tend to question my motives. And the funders are hesitant to fund “a new kid on the block.” 

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What seems to be the main concern of the community?

They are concerned about the content – about offending the sensibilities of the folks who live in the neighborhood.  That is one of the reasons artists are often asked to submit a sketch first. 

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You are in the process of forging alliances with several Business Improvement Districts. Are they generally receptive?

Yes, the BIDs are generally receptive. They see the art as a way to highlight their businesses, bring commerce to their neighborhoods and attract tourists. I am also forging partnerships with civics and other neighborhood organizations.

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What’s ahead?

I’m interested in expanding Paint New York into more neighborhoods and working with a range of community groups. And at this point, fundraising is essential to cover expenses and to pay the artists for their talents and time.

Good luck! And we are looking forward to 501 See Streets bringing more art to our streets!

Note:  Find out how you can help support Noah’s project here

Interview by Lois StavskyImages 1 & 2 Danielle Mastrion; 3 & 5 Lexi Bella; 4 & 6 Andre Trenier; photo credits 1 & 2 Lois Stavsky; 3-6 City-As-School intern Diana Davidova

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Almost 40 years ago the historic Old Bronx Courthouse building closed its doors. This past Thursday evening, the landmark structure reopened to host When You Cut Into the Present the Future Leaks Out, a thoroughly engaging multi-media exhibit, curated by Regine Basha for No Longer Empty Featuring over two dozen artists on three levels, its title references the remix suggested by William S. Boroughs. Here are a few more images captured on Thursday:

Teresa DiehlL-Alber-Into, Video and sound installation

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 Another view of  Teresa Diehl‘s ever-transforming hallucinatory musical installation

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Shellyne RodriguezPrototype For Belphegor’s Eye, 168 flesh-tint dyed mousetraps, rhinestones, gold chains, copper wire, plywood

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Shellyne RodriguezGeperudeta, Ceramic

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David Scanavino, Untitled, Linoleum tile

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Ellen HarveyAlien Souvenir Stand (close-up), Oil on aluminum, watercolor on gesso board, propane tanks, plywood, aluminum siding and poles, aluminum diamond plate, magnets

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Lady K FeverAll Rise (close-up), Mylar on façade of  building

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The exhibit continues through July 19, along with a variety of programs ranging from fashion shows to presentations by such Bronx-based artists as Eric Orr, Per One and Joe Conzo. The old Bronx Courthouse is located at 878 Brook Avenue at East 161 Street and Third Avenue in the South Bronx. 

Note: First photo features Deborah Fisher and Paul Ramirez Jonas, Something for Nothing, Mixed media, Custom designed neon sign

Research for this post by City-As-School student Diana Davidova; photos 1, 5, and 7 Diana Davidova; 2-4, 6 and 8 Lois Stavsky

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