graffiti

Launched in 2009, Welling Court Mural Project has transformed Welling Court and its surrounding blocks in Astoria, Queens into a welcoming, wondrous open-air gallery. Under the curatorial direction of Alison Wallis, a diverse range of artists are now busily bringing their talents and visions to Welling Court in preparation for this weekend’s festivities. When visiting on Monday evening, I came upon several artists at work and a few newly fashioned murals. Pictured above is artist, curator and arts educator Alice Mizrachi with spray can in hand. Several more images follow:

Style master Noah TFP at work

The renowned Greg Lamarche aka Sp.One

Thailand-based artist Headache Stencil

The legendary Lady Pink, close-up from her almost-completed mural

Another detail from Lady Pink’s hugely impressive and uplifting mural

Japanese artist Shiro brings new vibes to her old spot

These next few days will bring many more artists to Welling Court culminating this weekend in a two-day festival. Featuring live painting a  marketplace and more, it will take place June 25 and 26 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 11-25 30th Avenue.

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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The Second Annual Troutman Rock has once again brought some of  NYC’s most intriguing writers together for a riveting first-rate production in Ridgewood, Queens. The image pictured above features the skills and visions of  FCEE, Nic1 and Curve. Several more murals follow:

French artist Seb Gorey, Homage, In Memory Of Kings

The legendary Greg Lamarche aka Sp.One

Queens-based style master Carlo Nieva aka Diego 127

The ever-ingenious Queens-based Chip Love aka Whisper

The amazingly skilled veteran graffiti writer Strider

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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In June 2018, Ohio’s Massillon Museum hosted “Moniker: Identity Lost & Found,” an exhibition featuring a distinctly remarkable documentation of mark-making and monikers, a grassroots movement which began in rail yards in the late nineteenth century. An exhibition catalog published at the time sold out almost immediately. This month heralds the release of a second edition in softcover format of Moniker: Identity Lost & Found in conjunction and cooperation with the Black Butte Center For Railroad Culture and its current exhibit, End Of The Line.

Published by Burn Barrel Press, the just-released Moniker: Identity Lost and Found features 148 full-color pages of rare archival documents, photographs, and artwork, along with a glossary of relevant terms. A fascinating foray into a distinctly American subculture of ephemeral artworks, it also offers a glimpse into many of these artists’ minds in their own voices. What follows is a sampling of images from the pages of this significant book as it brilliantly introduces us to an art form that is often overlooked by so many, including us graffiti and street art aficionados.

Who is This J.B. King? – from The Saturday Evening Post article by Jean Muir, May 1945 — referencing the prodigious “writer”  J. B. King, who was identified by his loopy scrawl

20,000th mark, 2002,  From the collection of  Smokin’ Joe

Writing implements, courtesy of Scot Phillips

Hoboe’s (sic) Directory, Nevada; 1910 Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Library, University Archives, (UNRS-P2017-07)

I Want to Be a Boss. Photograph by Sally and Jerry Romotsky, 1969. 35mm color transparency. Rail worker graffiti under the Fourth Street Bridge in Los Angeles. Courtesy Sally and Jerry Romotsky

Matokie Slaughter – Photo by Kurt Tors

You can order the paperback edition of  the hugely informative and entertaining Moniker: Identity Lost & Found here.

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On view through this coming Saturday, June 11 at Nahmad Contemporary is “Jean-Michel Basquiat: Art and Objecthood.” Curated by Basquiat scholar Dr. Dieter Buchhart, it is the first exhibition dedicated solely to the artist’s use of found objects and unconventional materials in his works. The image pictured above was fashioned in 1985 with acrylic, spray paint, oilstick, hardware and twine on found wood. Several more images captured on my recent visit to the gallery follow:

Untitled, 1985, Oil and oilstick on wood

Untitled (1960 Yellow Door), 1985, Oil, oilstick, Xerox collage and metal on wood door

Self-Portrait, 1985, Acrylic, oilstick and bottle caps on wood

Multiflavor, 1982, Acrylic and oilstick on canvas mounted on upcycled wood

Procession, 1986, Acrylic and wood relief on wood

Located at 980 Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Nahmad Contemporary is open Monday – Saturday
10AM – 6PM.

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky

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As the Bushwick Collective readies for its 11th Annual Block Party, a first-rate array of artists from near and far have been busy at work around Troutman and St Nicholas Avenues and its surrounding blocks. Pictured above is the Dutch artist David Louf aka Mr. June working on a small section of his new huge, hugely impressive mural. Several more images of newly-fashioned murals captured in the rain yesterday evening follow:

The distinctly skilled Italian artist Ligama, segment of huge stunning mural

 The wonderfully talented Milan-based Mr. Blob at work on a small segment of his huge tantalizing mural

The New York-based highly versatile visual artist Cody James

Pittsburg-based artist Ashley Hodder, close-up from wonderfully ravishing mural

And — on a lighter note — West Coast based aritst James Smith aka 1.4.4.0 completing his delightfully playful mural 

You can view all of the murals — including many by local artists — this Saturday, June 4 at the Bushwick Collective Annual Block Party, while enjoying performances by KRS ONE , STATIK SELEKTAH & FRIENDS, NEMS, TERMANOLOGY, POSITIVE K, & 30 other talents.

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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Whether viewed outdoors or indoors, Kenny Scharf’s infectious aesthetic is always a delicious visual treat. Currently on view at TOTAH on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is WOODZ ‘N THINGZ, a series of dazzling paintings that delight our senses and heighten our consciousness as they reflect the ecological threats our natural world faces — while suggesting alternative ways of dealing with its fragile state.

Pictured above is WOODZ, fashioned in 2022 with oil and acrylic on linen within a powder coated aluminum frame. Several more images from the legendary artist’s second solo exhibition at TOTAH follow:

ZPRUNGZ, 2022, Oil and acrylic on linen with powder coated aluminum frame, 70 x 90 inches

Kelp Us, 2022, Oil, acrylic, spray paint & silk screen ink on linen with powder coated aluminum frame, 48 x 60 inches

WORLDZEND, 2022, Oil and acrylic on linen with powder coated aluminum frame, 70 x 90 inches

PHILIPS TIME TO GO, 2022 Oil on Phillips flat screen TV, 20 x 30 x 5 inches

Located at 183 Stanton Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, TOTAH is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11AM to 6PM.

Photos of images:  1 & 3 Lois Stavsky, 2, 4 & 5 Atlas Torres 

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To turn the page is to progress. It is often difficult, though, to turn a page. Each page  — as is each new day — is a fresh start that holds uncertainties. Eventually, the page must turn, no matter how long we take to reflect on it. And in Beirut, a city plagued by tragedy, poverty, economic crisis and corruption, we’ve learned how to turn the page and move forward.

The work pictured here, Turning the Page – قلبة الصفحة – is how three artists — Spaz, Kabrit and Exist — are moving forward in collaboration with the nonprofit organization Beitelbaraka to renovate Geitewe, a neighborhood that had been devastated by Beirut’s 2020 massive explosion.

Beirut-based Spaz

Lebanese artist Kabrit

Beirut-based graffiti artist and graphic designer Exist 

Exist, detail

Special thanks to Spaz for this post

Photos by Lebanese photographer Ihab Fayad 

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Masterfully fusing his distinct calligraphy with motley symbols, Lower East Side native Angel Ortiz aka LA II has been making his mark on the streets, in galleries and in museums for decades.  Best known for his collaborations with the late Keith Haring in the 80’s, LA’s current exhibition, Walking the Line, at Van Der Plas Gallery is a testament to the artist’s infectious aesthetic that impacted Haring and continues to captivate.

The image featured above, The Ultimate Masterpiece, was fashioned in 2022 with acrylic and marker on canvas. Several more images of artworks captured on my recent visit to the gallery follow:

Black and White Tondo, 2022, Spray paint and marker on canvas, 10″ x 10″

Vase, Sculpture

The Grand Master Tondo, 2021, Spray paint and marker on canvas, 10″ x 10″

Yellow on Blue, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 57″ x 57″

Three Triangles, 2022, Acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 40″

LA Crown, 2022, Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 24″

Located at 156 Orchard Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Van Der Plas Gallery is open daily from 12pm – 5pm.

Note: You can check out the interview I conducted with Angel back in 2014 here.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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Clarence Rich has been enriching the streets of Jersey City for over a decade. His impressive multi-faceted body of both street art and studio art ranges from curious characters to poignant portraits of family members to harmonious rhythmic pattern. I was delighted to feature his infectious aesthetic in the exhibition On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey that continues through this month at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey. An interview with the artist follows:

When and where did you first get up?

When I was 13 or 14. In 1997, I had my first real tag.

Had you any preferred surface back then?

Anything and everything around me.

Did anyone or anything in particular inspire you at the time?

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in Jersey City, I saw graffiti everywhere. Along with skateboarding and playing basketball, kids were always writing their names, tagging… It’s almost as though everybody’s older brother did graffiti – including mine. He’s two years older than I am, and he has been my partner since the beginning. I wrote LOSER as my tag. and he wrote DZEL, and together we started the AIDS (And It Don’t Stop; Alone In Deep Space) crew. And there were a few main people getting up in the neighborhood who were amazing. Among them was T.DEE. He was the founder of Undercover, the first graffiti magazine.

What about the name Loser? How did you come up with it?

We used to hang out in the parks and sit on the stoops. And one of our neighbors walked by and saw the graffiti and said, “What kinds of losers do this shit?”

Do any early graffiti-related memories come to mind?

There were just so many amazing things that changed my life. Meeting so many great artists who inspired me. That was a blessing. But here’s a story: We’re also rappers. Our original rap group was called AIDS — Adolescents In Dire Straits; Alone In Deep Space…We started tagging it on walls, but we never thought it would go anywhere. And so once we started our crew, then we had to switch our rap name to the “Animal Crackas.”

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

I’d rather collaborate because my crew is so amazing. It’s now 20 years old.

Is there anyone, in particular, with whom you’d like to collaborate?

Rembrandt.

Have you any thoughts about the street art/graffiti divide?

I’m right in the middle. We’re bridging it. We’re not just graffiti writers. We are evolving. Many of us are transitioning from graffiti to street art to fine art. And we do all three. Some of the most amazing writers are also fine artists.

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries and museums?

I’m so happy! I’ve put together amazing shows in galleries for these past ten years. But to hang in a museum? Even that word! It’s huge for an artist.

What about the corporate world? How do you feel about street artists and writers collaborating with corporations?

Let’s get their money. I got this two-year old. I have to make money, and I don’t want to always have a day job working with fire alarms. I want to be an artist who paints whatever it is I want to paint whenever I want to paint it.

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

I’m just trying to ride the wave. If you’re not on it, you’re missing a big audience.

Have you a formal art education?

Yes. My mom encouraged me to get one. I studied Fine and Commercial Arts at DuCret School of the Arts in Plainfield, NJ. It was the best thing I ever did in my life. It helped me find out who I was. But it’s also in my blood. My grandparents worked as animators for Terry Tunes, and my grandfather was one of the animators for Beavis and Butthead.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

I’d paint anywhere. I just need time to paint! Now that I’m a dad, I get up most mornings at 4 – just so that I could have time to paint.

What inspires you these days?

For now, my son inspires me. Becoming a father was the ultimate change in life. I want to be a good man, and provide for him and his mom.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Hip-hop, 100%.

Is there a central theme that ties your work together?

I’d have to say “family.” I’ve always been inspired by my mom and the women in my life, and just painting a woman is a beautiful connection to women. I can paint any female face and it becomes familial to me.

Do you work with a sketch-in-hand or just let it flow?

When I work on walls, I let it flow. I just freestyle.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? And how do you know when it’s finished?

Never. I’m never satisfied with anything!

How important are others’ reactions to you?

It always feels good when you hear people say that they like your work.

How has your work evolved through the years?

It’s moving in the direction of fine art.

Have you any preferred colors?

Blue. Why? Picasso. And there’s more. I take pride in myself that I don’t use fancy paints. I don’t put tips on my cans. I just go to Home Depot or the hardware store and I buy the colors they have. And the color blue has so many variations.

What media do you currently most enjoy working with?

Most of my work is mixed media.

How has the work you’ve done on the streets impacted your studio work?

They’ve influenced each other. They’ve both evolved. Sometimes I feel more comfortable painting with a brush. But I want to do both. I want to make money from fine art and still paint on the streets.

 

How has your artwork evolved in the past several years? And how does your studio work differ from your street art?

I keep pushing it as an artist. My body of work is constantly evolving. When I work in my studio, I do it in smaller increments in multiple sessions. When I do a piece on the street, it usually takes me a day. And I haven’t yet broken into doing large-scale portraits in my studio with spray paint. I’ve done a few, and I’d like to do more. And sometimes things just happen. Like I stumbled upon creating patterns, and people really like them. I think they’re among my best work.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits:  1 & 2 Sara C Mozeson; 3 & 5 Lois Stavsky; 4, 6, 7  & 8   Rachel Alban

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In both public and private spaces, Flemington, NJ-based artist James Kelewae aka Luv One fashions mesmerizing images that blur the line between graffiti and fine art. His distinct talents remain on view in  On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey through February 27 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey. While selecting artists to feature in the exhibit, I met up with James in Trenton, NJ and had the opportunity to interview him:

When and where did you first get up?

I first hit a public surface back in 1995 while skateboarding in the Chicago suburbs where I grew up. I was 17 at the time. But it wasn’t until much later, 2006, when I became serious about painting on city walls.

Had you any preferred surface back then?

Brick. I liked the way it absorbs paint. I also liked getting up on trains with oil sticks.

Did anyone or anything in particular inspire you at the time?

The thrill of breaking rules. I liked the rush that I got.

Do any early graffiti-related memories come to mind?

In 2007, Will Kasso and I painted a two-block wall along the main bridge in Trenton. We painted in daylight pretending we had permission. It was so much fun!

Do you or did you belong to any crews?

I was a co-founder of the SAGE Coalition, a diverse group of artists dedicated to planning and producing inner-city beautification projects. And I’ve painted with Trenton’s Vicious Stylez Crew .

Would you rather work alone or collaborate with others?

It’s more fun with others, and you can accomplish more. But egos often get in the way.

Is there anyone in particular with whom you’d like to collaborate?

I’d like to collaborate with Cern, Chor Boogie, Other and José Parlá.

Have you any thoughts about the street art/graffiti divide?

I’m interested in bridging the gap.  I use mostly spray paint, a graffiti tool, in a street art aesthetic. But each is entitled to its own voice.

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries and museums?

I have mixed feelings. On one hand, it dilutes the culture, but graffiti and street artists should get acknowledged for their hugely influential work by a broader audience.

What about the corporate world? How do you feel about street artists and writers collaborating with corporations?

The work that I did for Vonage helped me make the down payment to the house I now own. Depending on the corporation and the circumstances, the experience can be a positive one.

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

I don’t like it. I’d rather spend my time creating art.

Have you a formal art education?

Yes! I graduated from SVA with a degree in Illustration.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

Outdoors.

What inspires you these days?

All the visual information that’s around me. I take in everything!

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Celtic art…its colors and patterns; the Book of Kells, medieval art, hip-hop, skateboarding and punk rock.

That’s quite eclectic. Is there a central theme that ties your work together?

Interconnectivity…building bridges…moments of intersection and overlap.

Do you work with a sketch-in-hand or just let it flow?

I find myself working more and more freehand.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? And how do you know when it’s finished?

I always want my next piece to be better than my last. I know when it’s finished when I’m sick of it.

How important are others’ reactions to you?

Ten years ago, I was super concerned about others’ responses to my work. Currently, they are not important at all.

How has your work evolved through the years?

My style was originally very illustrative. I focused initially on portraits. These days my style is largely abstract.

Have you any preferred colors?

I love them all.

What media do you currently most enjoy working with?

Mixed media and spray paint.

How has the work you’ve done on the streets impacted your studio work?

It’s my studio work that has most impacted my street art. It’s tightened my art on the streets. My street art is calmer than it used to be.

How does the subject matter differ?

When I paint on the streets, it’s important that I take the community and the site into consideration. It’s important that it be accessible. My studio work is largely personal.

How has your studio work evolved in the past several years?

It’s more spiritual in its sensibility and its theme.

How long do you generally spend on a studio piece? On a street art work?

I work on my studio pieces over time – a few hours at a time over a period of a few months. When I paint outside, it’s generally for 4-5 hours a day over five days.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

It’s always in my brain, but because of family responsibilities, I can only devote about 40% to it.

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

It is to challenge one’s perception of accepted norms. It is to reshape society. To share the human experience…to bear witness and to capture a moment in time.

What’s ahead?

More canvas work.

Good luck!

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1 Sara C Mozeson; 2, 4, 6 & 7 Courtesy of James Kelewae; 3, 5, & 9 Lois Stavsky 8 & 10 Rachel Alban

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