Brooklyn Is the Future


For the past several years, Queens-based photographer Raphael Gonzalez aka Zurbaran1 has been creating intriguing, visually dynamic images of street art, often focusing on the artists at work.  Within the past year, his photos have made their way into several shows including his first solo exhibit, The Hand of An Artist. He has also been featured in Yoav Litvin‘s blog, 2createart. I recently had the opportunity to meet up with him.

I love what you are doing! When did you first begin to photograph NYC’s street art and graffiti?

About four years ago.


What inspired you to do so? 

Several years ago, my daughter visited Berlin and returned home incredibly excited about the street art she had seen there. Her enthusiasm, along with the photos that she showed me, inspired me to check out what was happening on the streets of NYC. And I first became serious about it all in October, 2013 when Banksy hit NYC with his month-long day residency Better Out Than In.

Within the few years that you’ve been shooting street art, you seem to have established friendships with many of the street artists you photograph.  Can you tell us something about that?

The very first street artist I met was Alice Mizrachi. I was standing in front of her mural at Welling Court when she noticed me. She was living right there at the time, and — almost at once — came out in her pajamas to speak to me! I was so impressed by her intelligence and craft. I photographed her in front of her mural, and we struck up a friendship right then.  She was the first street artist I photographed and spoke to. Since that day, I’ve become friends with many more.


You’ve been photographing many artists as they work. How have they responded to this? Are they open to it?

The response has been great! And when I share the photos I’ve taken with them, they are so appreciative.

That’s great! As street art is so ephemeral by nature, it’s so important to document it. And I’m a huge fan of artful photographers who document the process. I notice that you’ve focused quite a bit on the artists’ hands.

Yes, I like observing their hands in action. And photographing hands gives me a chance to use my long lens which I love doing!


And you’ve also begun collaborating with some of the street artists whose works you photograph. How do you go about engaging them?

Yes! I love collaborating. The process makes me think a little differently, and the artists have been wonderful.  Among them are FumeroGizTrans1NoirCity Kitty. Some I’ve approached, and others have approached me.

What are some of the challenges that you face in seeing your projects through?

There’s never enough time. And there are so many artists! Going through all the photos that I take and then editing them is a lengthy, time-consuming process.


How has the scene changed since you first started photographing street art?

There are fewer walls, and street art has become more commercial. And it seems that in the past few years, street artists have achieved celebrity status. It’s almost like they are the new rock stars!

What’s ahead for you?

I would like to engage in more collaborations…different in nature than the usual ones!


I look forward to seeing them all, and I will be keeping up with you — in the meantime — via your Instagram!

All photos © Raphael Gonzalez aka Zurbaran1; interivew conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky


1. El Niño de las Pinturas, Brooklyn Is the Future, Brownsville

2. Hendrik Beikirch aka ECB, Bushwick

3. Dasic Fernandez, Welling Court Mural Project

4. Fanakapan, Bushwick Collective

5. Noir, as featured in Raphael Gonzalez‘s solo show at Fatty’s in Astoria, Queens

6. Futura, Bushwick Collective

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Writing onthe Walls is an ongoing project launched last year by N Carlos J – noted artist, community revitalizer and founder of Brooklyn Is the Future — for his father, a Brownsville native who had been diagnosed with cancer. This is Part II of our continuing documentation of it:

Danish artist Welin


Brooklyn-based Ben Angotti


French artist Zeso, close-up

zeso-street-art- -detail-nyc

Chilean artist Teo Doro


Long Island-based Phetus


And you can find out here how you can help support this wonderfully transformative project.

Note: The first image is by Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista.

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4-6 Tara Murray; 3 Lois Stavsky



Featuring an awesome array of outdoor and indoor murals, along with a range of smaller works in different media, Brooklyn is the Future opens this evening at the Vazquez at 93 Forrest Street in Bushwick. Here is a small sampling of what I saw when I stopped by yesterday.

Brooklyn is the Future curator, N Carlos J at work.


Chris Soria at work 


 Eelco at work


Marc Evan at work


Savior Elmundo, close-up


Ben Angotti, close-up


Rob Plater


The two-weekend long exhibit and charity event opens this evening at 6pm.


Photos by Lois Stavsky; the first photo features LMNOPI


Fusing elements of graffiti, painting, drawing and graphic design, N Carlos J creates masterful, atmospheric works both on and off the streets. He is particularly interested in the unconscious as it reflects our inmost emotions. We recently met up with the Brooklyn-based artist and had the opportunity to speak to him.

N-Carlos-J-Untitled-enamel and acrylic on canvas

You have quite a presence in Bushwick and beyond these days — painting murals, organizing projects and now curating. Can you tell us something about your background?

I attended Art & Design in the 80’s, and I was around graff heads all the time back then. Like just about everyone else there, I got up when I could.

Do any early graffiti-related memories stand out?

The first time I tried to spray my name, I ended up covering my entire hand with Krylon paint. It was impossible for me to wash it off, and I knew I had better before my mother would see it.

I suppose your mom wasn’t too happy about what you were doing!

She wasn’t. She thought I was crazy!


Did you continue to study art in a formal setting?

Yes. I attended F.I.T., where I earned a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts.  But soon after, I took a 15-year break from art.

Why was that?

I was married, and I felt pressured to earn money.

But these days you are back into it.

Yes, 100% of my time now is devoted to art.  When I’m not doing my own art, I am organizing projects, working on commissions or teaching art. And I am busy now curating an exhibit to open next Friday.


Now that art is playing such a central role in your life, do you feel that your formal art education was worthwhile?

Absolutely. It taught me discipline, and it helped me master technique and color theory.

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

I feel that they must coexist. It is a conversation that we must have.

What do you see as the future of street art?

Street artists are going to continue to treat themselves more like businessmen.



Yes, I can see that happening. But that’s a whole other conversation! How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries?

I love it!

Have you shown in galleries?

I’ve participated in many group shows and I’m working on two solo exhibitions for fall, 2015.

What about the corporate world’s engagement with graffiti and street art? How do you feel about that?

If it pays well enough, I have no problem with it.


What about the role of the Internet in this scene?

It is a blessing and a curse.  It gives us exposure, and that is, of course, a good thing. But it makes it too easy for others to steal styles and ideas from us.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

Painting outside on a summer day with hip-hop music blasting.

What inspires you these days?

Listening to music by Kendrick Lamar or CyHi the Prynce inspires me. And reading excerpts from books like A Tale of Two Cities or The House of Rothschild gets me in the right space.


Are there any particular cultures that you feel have influenced your aesthetic?

American pop culture, but Renaissance and post-impressionist painting have also influenced me.

What about artists? Who are some of your favorite artists?

Among those I particularly love are: Borondo, Connor Harrington and Alexis Diaz

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

Sometimes I work with a sketch, and sometimes I don’t.


Are you generally satisfied with your work?

No! I am a perfectionist.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

I tend to more freely fuse figurative and expressionistic elements.

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

The artist is the keeper of the flame. We are what moves this planet.


What’s ahead?

I’m currently curating, Brooklyn is the Future, a huge, two-weekend long exhibit and charity event to open next Friday, April 17, at the Vazquez at 93 Forrest Street in Bushwick.  Among the three dozen participating artists are: Damien Mitchell, Eelco, Ghost, Li-Hill, Mr. Prvrt, Rocko and Rubin. The artists are asked to envision the future of Brooklyn metaphorically or literally.  I am also curating a show called Good Times Bushwick for Bushwick Open Studios opening on Friday, June 5 at Express Yourself Barista. It will include a gallery show, outdoor murals, along with a day party and a barbecue.

Wow! It sounds great! Good luck with it all!

Interview by Lois Stavsky with Houda Lazrak

Photos: 1 and 3 (close-up of panel for Brooklyn is the Future) courtesy of the artist; 2, 7 & 8 Lois Stavsky; 4 & 5 Dani Reyes Mozeson and 6 Tara Murray