East Harlem

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The 15th edition of the NYC Graffiti Hall of Fame, presented by Joey TDS and James Top, was launched this past weekend inside the famed East Harlem schoolyard on 106th Street and Park Avenue. Pictured above is by French graffiti artist Pro176. Here are several more artworks captured yesterday:

Rhode Island-based PFunk at work

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Local writer Rath

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New York City-based graffiti legend Quik

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NYC-based, Stockholm native Scratch, the sole female to paint this year!

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NYC-based Hops1

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NYC-based Poet

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Keep posted to our Facebook page for more images of new Graffiti Hall of Fame murals.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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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East Harlem resident Naomi RAG has continued to yarn bomb her neighborhood, enhancing it with color, warmth and intrigue. Here are some more images of trees that she has cloaked:

Tree pictured above, as seen last week from another angle

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As seen last week 

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As revisited a few weeks back at night

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And as seen a few weeks back at dusk

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Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson

Note: Our highly acclaimed Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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A collective of artists based primarily in Harlem, HART has become an active force in the uptown arts scene. While visiting its space, I had the opportunity to speak to one of its founders, Kristy McCarthy aka D Gale.

Can you tell us something about HART’s mission?

Our mission is to use art as a tool to engage, educate and empower the members of our Harlem community.  We are especially interested in beautifying abandoned and neglected spaces.

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When was the Harlem Art Collective first born?  And was anyone – besides you – involved in its conception?

It officially began last February. Gia Gutierrez and I had talked about starting some sort of Harlem-based artist organization. But as she didn’t have enough free time at that point to devote to launching it, Harold Baines and I organized the first few meetings with about 10 other artists and community members.

How did you get the word out?  And how many artists are currently involved?

We initially got the word out mostly via emails and through our personal networks. About 40 artists currently participate.

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Here at HART’s base, you provide space for local artists to live and free studio space for artists to create. In addition, you rent out two of the bedrooms to folks who are in NYC for short periods of time.  How did you come upon such an amazing 5-bedroom space in the heart of East Harlem?

We found out about it from the building’s landlord. And its size and location made it a perfect match for our needs.

Among your projects is the always-engaging Guerilla Gallery on 116th Street off 2nd Avenue. It has introduced us to many new artists, and it also showcases art by some of our all-time favorite ones. What other projects have you initiated? 

We have partnered with other community organizations — such as the East Harlem Block Nursery, Concrete Safaris and the Manatí Community Garden — to paint murals at block parties and community events. We worked with Urban Innovations to paint and install little free libraries in community gardens around Harlem, and we have hosted free art workshops at the HART house.

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How can an artist join your collective?

We hold meetings twice a month. Anyone interested in attending and finding out more about HART can contact us via our Facebook page. We are also going to start a monthly newsletter this spring and, hopefully, add a community calendar to the Guerilla Gallery.

What’s ahead?

We are working on organizing a spring show that will feature artists from the collective and from the neighborhood. We are also working on starting other Guerrilla Galleries on abandoned construction walls around Harlem. And we are planning to paint more murals that directly involve the community. We have, also, recently formed a women’s caucus within the collective to organize projects specifically dedicated to women’s issues and female empowerment.

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That sounds great! Good luck with it all. We are looking forward!

Images:

1. El Nino de las Pinturas, inside the Hart House

2. Lexi Bella, Danielle Mastrion and Kristy McCarthy in East Harlem

3. Kristy McCarthy in East Harlem

4. The Guerrilla Gallery in East Harlem, as seen earlier this year

5. Steve Perez, Zerk Oer and Bio,Tats Cru at the Guerrilla Gallery in East Harlem, as seen this past week on massive wall spelling out E-L  B-A-R-R-I-O

Photo credits: 1 & 4 Tara Murray; 2, 3 & 5 Lois Stavsky

Interview by Lois Stavsky

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Monument Art, an international mural festival — similar in scale and scope to Los Muros Hablan NYC  that took place in 2013 in East Harlem and the South Bronx — was launched earlier this month. Curated by Celso Gonzalez and presented by the La Marqueta Retoña initiative, in collaboration with the City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, it features a stunning array of soulful, site-specific murals.

South African artist Faith 47, 103 St & Madison Ave

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Brooklyn-based Puerto Rican photographer Luis R Vidal, 111 St & 1 Ave

"Luis Vidal"

Belgian artist Roa at work, 1o8 St & Lexington Ave

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 Roa‘s completed piece

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Mexican artist Sego at work, 103 St & Madison Ave

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Sego‘s completed mural

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NYC-based Viajero at work, 113 St & 2 Ave

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Viajero‘s completed mural

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Argentine artist Ever at work on 99 St & 3 Ave

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Ever‘s completed piece

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Andrew Antonaccio and Filio Galvez of the Miami-based collective 2Alas, 138 St & Park Ave, South Bronx

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The first image — a portrait of Puerto Rican novelist Nicholasa Mohr on 111 St and Lexington Ave — was painted by LA based El Mac in collaboration with Puerto Rican artists Celso Gonzalez and Roberto Biaggi, Cero.

Photo credits: 1 & 9 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3, 5-8 & 10-13 Tara Murray; 4. Dani Reyes Mozeson 

Note: This blog will be on vacation through Nov. 1. You can follow us on our Facebook page and on Instagram.

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For the past several wintry months, fiber artist Naomi RAG has been beautifying East Harlem with her splendid yarn bombing. Yesterday, I spoke briefly to Naomi.

"Naomi RAG"

 When did you first begin to grace public streets with your talents?

The first time I yarnbombed was four years ago back in Cambridge, England.

 What inspired you to do so at the time?

Via social media, I had heard about International Yarnbombing Day, and I loved the idea of bringing color and beauty to our urban landscape.

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Where else have you yarnbombed?

Liverpool’s Crosby District — where I was staying for a bit — and here in East Harlem, where I’ve lived for the past year.

 What is your impression of your new neighborhood?

I just love it! I especially love its diversity. It is quite similar to the London Borough of Hackney.

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"Naomi RAG"

How have folks here responded to your pieces here in East Harlem?

All the feedback has been positive. And it’s the positive reactions that motivate me to keep at it.

What’s ahead?

My goal is to create one new piece a month to share here in the public sphere.

That sounds great!  We are looking forward! 

Photos 1-3, Lois Stavsky; 4 & 5, Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Opening this evening from 6-9pm at the Hi-Arts Gallery on 304 East 100th Street is JR’s Inside Out Mi Gente/ Oyáte kiŋ Art Project — focusing on and uniting two communities: NYC’s East Harlem and South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. Here are a few images captured yesterday while visiting the exhibit, curated by Carlos Mare:

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Closer-up

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And more

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And outside with murals by Alice Mizrachi and Part One

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 Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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"The X-Spot"

Topaz – one of the most active members of the hip-hop and 5Pointz communities – began customizing T-shirts when he was in junior high school. His most recent venture is the X-Spot, a unique space at 2 East 116th Street in East Harlem. We recently visited him and had the opportunity to speak to both Topaz and Jay, the manager of Production X.

Topaz

How did you guys come up with the idea to open such a space?

We grew up together in Rego Park, Queens, and we’ve been working together for years. We’ve actually had two stores before – one in Paterson, New Jersey and the other in South Carolina. We wanted to do something different from what we’d done in the past.

Jerms

In what ways is this venture different?

Our emphasis here is on providing services and maintaining a gallery.  It is production-based. Although we sell graffiti art on canvases, select magazines — like the latest issue of Flashbacks — and CD’s, our space here is not primarily a store or shop.

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What are some of the services that you provide?

We provide clients with all forms of graphic design — customized murals, logos, portraits, canvases, T-shirts and more.

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It sounds – and looks – great! Whom do you see as your principal clientele?

At this point, it is largely the hip-hop community – rappers and entertainers. But, ideally, the general public, especially as graffiti continues to gain respect and recognition as an art form.

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This is such a great location! It’s right off 5th Avenue in East Harlem and down the block from the 2 and 5 subway lines. How did you guys come up with such a great locale?

A lucky set of circumstances – as Jay’s cousin had previously worked at this location.

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The artwork on display here is primarily by you, TopazJerms and Treat Street NY. Are you open to other artists participating in your projects?

Absolutely.  Talented and committed artists can stop by our space or drop us an email at ProductionX@aol.com or LordRoccolypse@aol.com.

Photo credits: 1. and 2. Topaz by City-as-School intern Tyler Dean Flores; 3. Jerms by Lois Stavsky; 4. Jerms, Topaz & Blone by Lois Stavsky; 5. Treat Street with Jay (X-Productions) by Lois Stavsky; 6. Treat Street, as commissioned by Derek Jeter’s nephew, by Lois Stavsky and 7. PoetPaceJermsSav, Ice and more by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Topaz

Yesterday at noon, the 14th edition of the NYC Graffiti Hall of Fame, presented by Joey TDS and James Top, was officially launched inside the famed East Harlem schoolyard on 106th Street and Park Avenue. Here is a small sampling of what went down during the early afternoon:

Topaz

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Scratch

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Ligisd

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Hops

Hops

Bver

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Wiz Art

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Queen Andrea

"Queen Andrea"

 And earlier in the week, Tats Cru — with Crash and Nick Walker — fashioned a huge mural outside the school yard. Here are some close-ups:

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"Tats Cru"

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The 14th edition of the NYC Graffiti Hall of Fame continues today from noon to 8pm.

Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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The following guest post is by Yoav Litvin, the author of the recently released Outdoor Gallery – New York City, a  book on contemporary NYC street art and graffiti. 

Today, May 29, 2014, marks the 33rd anniversary of the incarceration of Oscar López Rivera. Born in San Sebastián, Puerto Rico in 1943, Rivera moved to the United States at age 9. At 18, Oscar was drafted into the United States army, stationed in Vietnam and awarded the Bronze Star for his service. After the war, Oscar returned to the Puerto Rican community in Chicago and found it in a dire state: the community was plagued with drug addiction, vast unemployment, inadequate health care and poor education. Profoundly affected by the condition of his community, Oscar became a community organizer and activist, working towards equality.

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In a highly political and controversial trial, Rivera was sentenced to a total of 70 years in prison for numerous felonies, including seditious conspiracy for his actions resisting the forceful authority of the United States over Puerto Rico. Rivera was accused of being a member of FALN, the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation), which had been linked to dozens of bombings aimed at raising awareness of Puerto Rico’s situation. Notably, the authorities were never able to tie Rivera or any of the other defendants in the case to any bombing. In 1999, President Bill Clinton offered clemency to Rivera and 15 additional Puerto Rican Nationalist members of FALN. However, Rivera rejected the offer because it was not extended towards fellow prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres, who was subsequently released in 2010.

To mark the 33rd anniversary of the incarceration of Oscar López Rivera, Puerto Rican NYC-based artists COCO144 and Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo  painted a collaborative mural in his honor at Camaradas El Barrio in Spanish Harlem, NYC. I recently interviewed both artists:

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Why did you create this mural? What is its message, and whom do you aim to reach?

Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo: I was asked by Orlando Plaza, the owner of Camaradas El Barrio, to create a mural dedicated to Oscar López Rivera. I immediately thought of COCO144, a fellow Puerto Rican artist and friend I have worked with on multiple exhibitions since 2005. COCO’s work has always had a political dimension, and he has been an advocate for writers of the aerosol movement since its beginnings in New York City in the late 60s and early 70s. When I asked him to paint the mural, he agreed on the condition that we work on it together.

The mural’s message is ultimately for the viewer to determine. The piece we did obviously advocates for Mr. López Rivera’s release, but to COCO and me it is more. It’s an intergenerational dialogue representative of our artistic freedom; it is our inheritance as sons of the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York City and the world. My hope is to increase awareness about Oscar López Rivera’s case and reach the younger Latino youth in the city. As Puerto Rican artists and writers in New York, we have been instrumental to the development of the city’s progressive social-fabric since the industrial boom of the late 1800’s. We continue that historic legacy, but instead of rolling cigars or sewing clothing, we’re creating art.

COCO144: Eternal (Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo) approached me with the idea of painting a homage to Oscar López Rivera and, in turn, I asked him to collaborate. I feel that painting the mural at Camaradas El Barrio is another vehicle of reaching out to the public and, specifically, the establishment’s patrons. Its message is that after 33 years of incarceration, Mr. López Rivera should be set free.

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How does Oscar López Rivera’s legacy affect your life — in general — and your artistic practice, in particular?

COCO144: I draw parallels with the legacy. First, there have been a number of Puerto Rican nationalists who have been treated in the same manner — or worse: Don Pedro Albizu Campos, Lolita Lebron, Oscar Collazo, and Alejandrina Torres, to name a few. As a Puerto Rican, their treatment carves into my soul. That they are restricted in expressing their national pride contradicts the US constitution and its foundations. Artistically? Everything in life affects me on that level!

Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo:  Since my early childhood, my father taught me the history of Puerto Rico and its colonial relationship with Spain and the United States. It’s a lifelong dialogue. We would discuss it while I was sorting my baseball cards. It’s part of our condition as human beings. Oscar López Rivera is another political prisoner in this long colonial relationship, but he is still alive! We have a chance to help free him and continue to fight for the freedom of all political prisoners who strive towards a just and democratic reality. Engaging my history is part of my artistic practice. Without it, my work would not exist in the same way and I would not be the same person.

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What do you perceive as the role of art and creativity within NYC’s Puerto Rican community?

COCO144: There shouldn’t be restrictions for art and creativity for Puerto Ricans — or for anyone — in NYC or anywhere. Puerto Rican artists have organized and created workshops/institutions for the arts in communities like El Barrio, Loisaida (the Lower East Side) and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  We have, also, done so in other parts of New York, the United States and the world.

Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo: Art and creativity are at the very center of our culture. Art is our embassy. Arte es nuestra embajada. As Ana Lydia Vega, the Puerto Rican writer, once wrote, “Literature and art in Puerto Rico have to take the place of embassies and consulates…” Our artwork has been the embassy and consulate in New York and throughout the world. Art and creativity were at the center of the writing movement in New York City. Puerto Ricans contributed to the establishment of the writing tradition at its inception. We developed the art form and continue to propel it forward. One example is the artist Jean Michel Basquiat. Of Puerto Rican and Haitian heritage, he started as a writer in NYC and developed into one of the most influential artists in the world. Art and letters are our specialty, and they’ve travelled beyond the walls, trains, galleries and museums to become a global phenomenon — the foundation of a whole global industry and community. There’s not one writer in the world who can’t trace his/her roots back to New York City. It’s in every line of a writer’s signature, handstyle, tag, or piece. It’s our legacy.

A LA LETRA, an exhibit featuring new works by COCO144 and Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo, will open on Sunday, June 8, 6-10 pm at Camaradas El Barrio‘s Emperial Gallery. The artists’ new mural honoring Oscar López Rivera will be officially unveiled at the opening. 

You can check out Yoav Litvin’s interview with COCO144 here.

Photo of the two artists in front of their mural by Yoav Litvin; mural close-up, completed mural and Camaradas at night by Vin Zarate.

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I first met Viajero this past summer while he was fashioning a mural on East 111 Street for Los Muros Hablan NYC. I became an instant fan of his distinct aesthetic. A few months later, I caught up with him at the Julia De Burgos Cultural Center for its Dia De Los Muertos 2013 art exhibit.

"Adrian Viajero Roman"

When I came upon you at work on your mural for Los Muros Hablan, you mentioned that it was your first time painting in the streets. What was it like? Would you do it again?

It was a great experience. I loved working in a public space where I could interact with folks who passed by.  Some stopped simply to observe, and others asked questions. And it was wonderful to have the opportunity to bring my vision to the streets of East Harlem – where my grandparents lived when they came from Puerto Rico. And, yes, I would love to do it again.

Could you tell us something about the Diaspora Mural? Who does it depict? What does it represent?

The subject of the mural is a young boy from Puerto Rico.  The traditional mask that he is wearing symbolizes his cultural roots. Although I grew up here in NYC, I’m particularly interested in the immigrant experience and the notion of identity.

"The Diaspora Mural"

Your work is quite amazing. Do you have a formal art education?

When I was 12, I began taking specialized lessons at the Pratt Institute. I attended the Arts Students League of New York at age 18.  I then earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the New World School of Art in Miami, Florida and a second BFA in Graphic Design from the New York Institute of Technology here in NYC.

Was all this formal training worthwhile?

I would say so.  I have my own distinct style, but the art education I received drew it out of me and helped me refine it. Yes, my formal training was worthwhile.

Have any particular folks inspired you?

My grandfather was a painter. I have great admiration for him. He taught himself how to read and write in three different languages.  My brother is a sculptor, and my uncle is an architect. I grew up among folks who inspired me.

"Adrian Viajero Roman"

What about cultures?  What are some of the cultures that have influenced you?

I’ve traveled extensively through Africa, the Caribbean and Central America. I feel most connected to culture when spending time in countries and cities that hold onto their indigenous traditions. It is these indigenous cultures that have been my primary influence. I acknowledge and honor my indigenous roots in my artwork.

Have you exhibited your work in gallery settings?

Yes. I’ve shown my work in solo and group shows in the United States and in Puerto Rico.

How has the “art world” responded to you? Has it been receptive to your vision? 

It has been. I feel that I’ve been able to find my own corner.

"Adrian Viajero Roman"

Any favorite artists?

My grandfather. He used to paint on coconuts falling from trees.  Swoon is a particular favorite among street artists. And I love Whittfield Lovell – his portraits and his installations.

How has your work evolved — particularly in the past few years?

I’ve become increasingly engaged with the community.

Have you any particular theme that you attempt to convey in your work?

I’m interested in memory — in preserving it — especially in relation to our struggles. I like giving new life to found objects that embody cultural memory.

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

For myself as an artist – it is to offer experiences to people that take them out of their comfort zone. I want folks to think and not blindly follow trends.

And we certainly look forward to seeing your vision on our streets again! 

Interview by Lois Stavsky; photo of Viajero on East 111 Street by Dani Reyes Mozeson; photo of completed Diaspora Mural courtesy of the artist; final two photos of artwork at the Julia De Burgos Cultural Center by Lois Stavsky

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