hip-hop

The following post is by Street Art NYC contributor Ana Candelaria

An artist, curator, dancer and filmmaker, NYC native Savior Elmundo has long been a huge force in the urban art scene. Recently, I had the opportunity to find out a bit more about him.

When and where did you start tagging?

I was fifteen years old when I started. I grew up on the Upper West Side. My tag was REIN. It stands for Ruler – Equality – I – Now. My partner and I tagged and bombed everywhere — Harlem, the Heights, Queens and Brooklyn.

Were you down with any crews?

Yes. My mother moved us to Woodside, Queens. She thought a change of environment would be good for me. But it actually made things worse. I joined a graffiti crew in Queens, and I’d sneak down the fire escape at three o’clock in the morning just to go bombing. Everyone at that time was pretty much down with a click or a group, and there were lots of them.

And then what happened? Did you stay in Queens?

No. I couldn’t take Queens for long. I traveled to Manhattan and hit the club scene. Downtown — Soho and the Village — became my new home as I began working as a professional dancer. Hip Hop was — and still is — a big part of my life. I wouldn’t have become a street artist or filmmaker if it wasn’t for dancing.

What led you into filmmaking?

I wanted to tap into something else. I didn’t want to be a dancer for the rest of my life. A friend convinced me to do a short film based on a story I had shared with him. Reflection was my first short film. It was accepted into several festivals including the NY Film Festival. I directed and produced five short films in total. Life was going great until one day, in the midst of preparing for my first feature film documentary, I received word that a family member had passed away. I picked up the brush and began to paint as a form of therapy. That’s when art took over my life.

When did you first come up with your particular logo “MAKE ART?”

Ten years ago — when I first stepped into the art scene. I wanted to get a message out there that would make people think. “MAKE ART” incorporates art, film, and dance. It also serves as a reminder for people to make art. It’s simple, and I write it in a distinct way so people know that it’s me. I sign all of my pieces with my name Savior Elmundo, “MAKE ART,”  and the year.

Did any particular artists influenced you?

Icons such as Andy Warhol, Dali, Picasso, Frida and Matisse. Studying their work has helped me come up with my own style and ideas. For example, in one of my designs Dali and Picasso face each other wearing boxing gloves with my tag “MAKE ART” in the middle. Another one of my creations was inspired by an image of the boxer Muhammed Ali holding a draft notice from the army. I inserted a graphic design image of my tag “MAKE ART” on the document.

I consider myself a mixed-media artist. I like working with different things and I love texture. I do a lot of message work, but, lately, I find myself gravitating more towards my 3D art work. I’m also working on a couple of other styles that I will be releasing some time in the near future.

Are you generally satisfied with your work when you’re finished? 

I’ve destroyed so many pieces, but I’ve learned not to do that anymore. One day, I painted a canvas and uploaded a picture of it onto my website. Two days later, a client contacted me to buy it, but I didn’t have it anymore. I had gone over it and created a different painting. That’s when I learned that my work is not for me; it’s for them.

Your work has been showcased in dozens of exhibitions in a range of spaces. Do any particular ones stand out?

The 21st Precinct, curated by Robert Aloia, was one memorable show! Each artist was given one room in the 21st Precinct building on East 22nd Street to showcase their work. The building,  had three floors with about sixty rooms. I used an image from Rene Magritte’s, Son of Man, one of my favorite paintings, and turned it into one of my own images. I designed a man with a Goya can — instead of an apple — on his face standing in front of a stack of Goya cans. I covered the entire wall with a black and white wheatpaste of this design. As a Latino, Goya is a big part of my culture.

Another particularly memorable exhibit was at the World Trace Center. For that I  did an installation using a door that I had found on the curb side as a tribute for 9/11  The door read “Always In Our Hearts 9/11” in 3D letters.

And my first solo show was in 2019. All of my work was displayed in 3D. The show was a reflection of the past thirty years of my life. The words displayed were key elements of my past. Since 2010, I’ve been in a total of 70 group shows.  So many that are memorable!

How did you come up with the concept for Collage NYC, the hugely popular weekly live art event at The Delancey?  

As soon as I started to make some money from selling art. I wanted to do something to give back.  I wanted to build a home where artists could come together to create freely and inspire each other. I imagined a place where people could have a good time after a long, stressful day. I also wanted to bring back the paint parties that Basquait and Keith Haring used to participate in back in the 80s. The vibes are super chill! You can watch the artists paint; you can dance, or you can just lounge at the bar and have a drink. This year marked our 10th anniversary.

Have you words of wisdom that you’d like to share with up-and-coming artists?

Pay your dues and know the rules. Learn the process and put in the work. Don’t be late! Get your name out there. Learn how to talk about your art and how to sell yourself. Get out to every gallery in Soho and Chelsea on a Thursday night and just introduce yourself!  You have to hustle to get what you want. Also, it’s very important to understand the history of art and respect it. Don’t be afraid to take things to the next level. That’s how I got my start as a curator.

What’s ahead?

A two-man show with my brother A.J. LaVilla. I’m really excited about it. I’m also working on a project with a corporate company that people will hear about. There are more solo shows in the pipeline and other creative ideas are brewing.

Good luck!

Interview conducted by Ana Candelaria and edited for conciseness by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1 Ana Candelaria; 2 & 3 Courtesy of the artist; 4 Dani Reyes Mozeson; 5 Tara Murray & 6 Lois Stavsky

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The following post is by Street Art NYC contributor Ana Candelaria

This past Friday, I had the honor of interviewing the legendary Ron English at the release party of Big Poppa classic colorway, a designer toy created by Ron English in partnership with Beacon-based Clutter. Limited to just 75 pieces worldwide, this historic drop featured a limited edition run of 10 Crystal Big Poppa classic sweater designer toys, hand embellished with 4,130 Swarovski crystals. Fans had the opportunity to meet Ron English, view and purchase Big Poppa, and pick up an exclusive collectible can from Kings County Brewers Collective.

Can you tell us something about the birth of Big Poppa?

Here’s a little secret! My character MC Supersized was a bit based of him! Biggie was still around at the time. It was in the late 80’s.

How long did it take to create Big Poppa? 

It took about two years from starting to sculpt to this final product. And that’s good for these things!

What inspired you to create Big Poppa?

Awhile back during a screening of my movie POPaganda, one guy in the audience got up and said, “We watch this movie and we know everything you hate. What do you like?” And I thought I should shout out a few things that I actually like — like puppies and Big Poppa!

What does your new character represent?

For me, he just represents inner joy and happiness. Being at ease with yourself, enough so that you can create without even trying, or at least seeming that you are not even trying. That effortless kind of thing!

How much of your art, would you say, is political? 

Probably — in some way or another — all of it; and — in other ways — really none of it. Most political things kind of come and go very quickly, or they become irrelevant. I actually try to create things that will have a relevance in a thousand years. If anyone will want to know what it actually felt like to live right now, I’m your guy!

Do you want your viewers to walk away with a message of any kind? 

I really want to create a feeling or a vibe that will infect your spirit and hopefully you go away a bit happier. You know…being able to enjoy life a little bit more.

What’s next? 

We just left a recording studio, where we were finishing up our new record called, We Are The New They.

Awesome! What kind of music is it?

The vibe is very modern.  I’m influenced by The Beatles and early rap, so I just put it all in there.  I’m working with some of the most talented people out there. And the great thing is because they’re all playing different characters, they embody all different styles!

Do you, yourself, listen to music when you’re creating? Does it inspire you?

Actually, no! When I create, I’m in a very deep state of concentration. Music could be playing, and somebody could be shooting a puppy, and I would be totally unaware!

Interview withRon English conducted by Ana Candelaria and edited for brevity by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4-6 Ana Candelaria; 3 courtesy Clutter

Note: Photo two features UK-based toy designer and street artist Czee 13 to the right of Ron English

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Featuring a superlative documentation of NYC’s golden age of graffitiHenry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987 remains on view at the Bronx Museum through March 8With his remarkable eye, vision and passion, the award-winning visual anthropologist Henry Chalfant captured a culture that has since evolved into a global phenomenon impacting the entire art establishment. Featured above is Henry Chalfant, as seen at the Bronx Museum several days after the exhibit’s official opening. What follows are several more photos — some captured at the September 25 2019 opening by travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad — and others as seen on subsequent visits.

 Documentation of graffiti on NYC subway trains

Re-creation of Futura graffiti on subway train, 1980

Henry Chalfant — with Bio, Tats Cru to his right — as captured on opening night

Recreation of Henry Chalfant,‘s early studio featuring Tats Cru, Tracy 168 and more

John “Crash” Matos with noted graffiti documentarian and author Jim Prigoff  to his right — as captured on opening night

Martha Cooper — with camera in hand on opening night — turns her lens on Bgirl Rokafella, Jose Parla, Jerry MazeJorge Fabel Pabon and DJ KaySlay 

More photos of trains with quote by Carlos Mare aka Mare 139 to their left: “We may have lost the trains, but we’ve gained the whole world.”

The Bronx Museum is located at 1040 Grand Concourse and is easily accessible by the B, D and 4 trains. Visiting hours for this “must see” exhibit are: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm and Friday, 11:00 am – 8:00 pm.

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4, 6 & 7 Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad;  3, 5 & 8 Lois Stavsky

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A lover of words — both spoken and written — I’ve been a huge fan of Jay Shells’ (Jason Shelowitz’s) ambitious rap project from my first glimpse of his site-specific mural on Myrtle and Broadway several years ago. The recently released The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast — published by Dokument Press — is a photographic foray into Jay Shells’ brilliant urban interventions installed in several key cities from 2013-2018.  Accompanied with maps of site-specific rap lyrics, it is an homage to hip-hop, the spirit of the streets and to street art.

Traveling with photographer and award-winning videographer Aymann Ismail, Jay installed over 400 site-specific interventions. Largely displayed as street signs, the rap lyrics sometimes surfaced on billboards, bus stops, phone booth advertising takeovers and painted murals.

While the first segment of the book focuses on NYC — the birthplace of hip-hop in the early 80’s –The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast  also transports us to neighboring Philly, across the country to LA and then to Atlanta and Houston.

Providing a window into the psychology and cultural differences among the varied sites, the playfully poetic lyrics are witty and sly and— in the vein of rap — often hyperbolic. And offering further insights into it all, each city documented in The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast is introduced by a hip-hop journalist. 

The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast is widely available in bookstores and online and can be purchased here.

All photos courtesy Dokument Press; book review by Lois Stavsky

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A visual ode to the early days of hip-hop and the city that birthed it, Will Power‘s first solo exhibition, wRAPped N BLACK, features 10 large-scale, hugely impressive artworks — each fashioned with white charcoal on black wood panel. Curated by Anthony Bowman, the exhibit continues through Sunday, April 7, at Lichtundfire, 175 Rivington Street on the Lower East Side. Featured above is King of Funk, a  beautifully executed portrait of Parliament-Funkadelic leader George Clinton.  Several more images from wRAPped N BLACK follow:

Hoop Dreams, White charcoal on black wood panel, 60″ x 48″

Da Original BBoy, White charcoal on black wood panel, 60″ x 48″

Child at Play, White charcoal on black wood panel, 60″ x 48″

On Da 1&2, White charcoal on black wood panel, 60″ x 48″

Concrete Summer, White charcoal on black wood panel, 60″ x 48″

The gallery will be open today and tomorrow, Saturday, from 12-6pm and on Sunday, from 1-6pm. For further information, contact gallery director Priska Juschka at info@lichtundfire.com.

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky

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Celebrating the launch of the Ngozy Art collective, along with the Point’s 25 years of community service and outreach in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, 20 legendary Bronx writers painted live this past Saturday on the Point Campus for the Arts and Environment. Produced by the Ngozy Art collective and curated by Sade TCM, the event, A Cultural Happening in Da’ Bronx, was an ode to the borough that forged a culture that has since impacted the entire world. Beginning next week, the masterfully crafted works — brimming with infectious energy, dazzling colors and expressive creativity — can be viewed on the website of the Ngozy Art collective that will offer local artists a platform to share and sell their artwork.

The image featured above was painted by BIO Tats Cru.  Several more paintings that surfaced last Saturday follow:

John “Crash” Matos

Stash

Chris “Daze” Ellis

Totem TC5

Sienide

Pase BT

Nicer Tats Cru

Saturday’s event also featured a gallery-style exhibition designed by the Point artist-in-residence Eric Orr.  And the legendary hip hop DJ and producer Jazzy Jay, presented by Christie Z, added the musical element to the day.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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Continuing through this weekend at Red Bull Arts New York is RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder, the historic solo exhibition focusing on the extraordinary, idiosyncratic talents of the late multi-media artist, graff writer, hip-hop pioneer and Gothic Futurist theoretician RAMMΣLLZΣΣ. A diverse selection of the artist’s visual works, music and writings, along with rare archival documentation and ephemera, presents an intimate portrait of the visionary New York cult icon. The mixed-media image above features one of the artist’s wildly imaginative Garbage Gods.  Several more images from the remarkable  RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder follow:

Letter Races, Mixed media

Monster models, Mixed media

Letter M Explosion, Mixed media

Luxturnomere Hammer Bar Hammerclef Force Field One, Spray paint on cardboard

Jams, Spray paint and acrylic on canvas

The man, himself

The exhibit continues through Sunday at 220 West 18th Street in Chelsea, Manhattan. Red Bull Arts New York is open from 12-7pm.

Photo credits: 1, 4-7 Lois Stavsky; 2-3 Karin du Maire

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Brilliantly countering any claims that feminism is dead and that the Hip-Hop culture “is detrimental to women and girls,” Jessica Nydia Pabón-Colón has written an impeccably researched study of the grrls who have paved their way into the predominantly male graffiti culture, claiming their own space.

Based on interviews conducted with over 100 graffiti grrls across the globe over the span of 15 years, the author, now an Assistant Professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at SUNY New Paltz, provides us with a window into the minds, practices and experiences of a wide range of female writers crossing cultures and generations.

Among the many assumptions and false claims female writers often have to contend with are that they are writing graffiti to get noticed by guys or doing it to make their boyfriends happy. Or that they aren’t writing at all; it’s their boyfriends who are doing it for them. Rumors, too, regarding their sexual promiscuity are rife.

And yet, for various reasons, many are reluctant to identify as “feminists,” a term too often associated with man-haters. Pabón-Colón relates how when she first asked the famed bomber, Miss 17, if she was a feminist, her immediate response was a brusque, “No.” Five years later – in 2009 – Miss 17  had tempered her views, largely due to the friendships that she had developed with the likes of Claw Money and the author, herself.

Throughout Graffiti Grrlz: Performing Feminism in the Hip Hop Diaspora, the author convincingly advances both feminism and graffiti as positive and vital social and political forces. Australian artist Ivey, for example, recounts the pride she feels on seeing her tag up and credits the graffiti culture with helping her get through difficult times and motivating her to pursue her education after graduating from high school.

Whether of not graffiti grrls identify themselves as feminists or perceive themselves as political, Pabon-Colon compellingly affirms that their “performances of feminist masculinity” merge the fundamental social, cultural and aesthetic aspects of Hip-Hop culture with the feminist movement

Published by New York University Press, Graffiti Grrlz is the first academic study on women’s participation within the graffiti subculture. Appended with examples of black book pages, comprehensive notes and an extensive bibliography. Pabón-Colón’s work is a rich tribute to the grrls whose voices are too often silenced and a gift to all of us who love graffiti, perhaps the most significant art movement of our time.

You can order the book directly from the author with a special discount here. And follow news of her readings and signings here.

Note: The third image features NYC native Abby and the final one features London-based Chock painting in the Bronx.

Images courtesy of the author; book review by Lois Stavsky

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To the delight of us graffiti lovers, First Street Green Park has been showcasing artwork by a range of first rate, often legendary, graffiti writers and muralists. The image featured above was painted by Andre Trenier  and Zaone. What follows are several more murals that surfaced at last month’s Summer Classics Block Party hosted by DJNY Art:

Albertus Joseph and Jaylo YNN, tribute to the late Sean Price

Jeff Henriquez at work on tribute mural to the late Guru of Gang Starr

Wore IBM does Rakim

Graff masters T Kid and Doves at work

T Kid‘s completed piece

Completed Doves piece

And on Friday — September 8th — DJNY Art will be hosting “Welcome To The Lab,” a Pop Up event for Nike and Sneaker Lab at Van Der Plas Gallery, 156 Orchard Street on the LES.

Photos: 1, 2, 4, 6 & 7 Lois Stavsky; 3 & 5 courtesy Kate Storch

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Scratch Ecstasy, an exhibition of  work in a range of media by visual artist and legendary filmmaker Charlie Ahearn, continues through June 24 at P.P.O.W in Chelsea. A chronicler of the rise of hip-hop and street art culture, Ahearn has documented the movement since the 80’s through photography, film and slide shows.  The following is adapted from an interview conducted by travel and street photographer Karin du Maire with Charlie at the gallery:

Can you tell us something about the title of your current show, Scratch Ecstasy? To what does it refer? 

Yes! The word “scratch” actually has a double meaning. It refers to scratching on a surface, but it also refers to a technique pioneered by Grand Wizzard Theodore of a needle going back and forth on a record — which creates a very jazzy, electronic effect.

Ectasy-Garage-flyer

And what about the word “Ecstasy” in the title? What is its reference?

It’s a reference to a real place in a real time — the Ecstasy Garage, where I was listening to not only Grand Wizzard Theodore scratch his music, but also to Chief Rocker Busy Bee on the microphone or Grand Master Cass, along with many other artists who were performing there. I spent a lot of time at  the Ecstasy Garage doing a slide show and watching different hip-hop performances, largely to an audience of high school kids. It was a very out-of-the-way place.

charlie-ahearn-map

What was your mission back then? 

It is similar to the mission of this show — to create a record of what was going on so that people today can pinpoint certain people and places that should get recognition and be remembered.

What about your own paintings that are on exhibit here? Can you tell us something about the process?

It started with me doing the painting on canvas with the forms that would be in it. The colors I chose reflect the bright fluorescent colors that were prominent in inexpensive flyers that the kids would hand out to get others to show up.

charlie-ahearn-survival

And what about the slide show that is going on? 

It is the slide show that I gave at the Ecstasy Garage with Grand Wizzard Theodore as the DJ. As presented here with the music, it is a reflection of what was going on back there at the time. I gave it at the Ecstasy Garage as a kind of way of working on Wild Style — the slides in a particular order to tell a story, and it all ended up in the movie, one way or another.

lee-quinones-graffiti

Thank you for preserving and sharing so much history with us.

Note:  P.P.O.W will be screening Charlie’s 1979 kung fu film, The Deadly Art of Survival, tomorrow, Friday evening, at 7pm. The gallery is located at 535 West 22nd St, 3rd Floor, in Chelsea.

Images

1  Charlie Ahearn at P.P.O.W — as interviewed by Karin Du Maire — with Data Rock, silkscreen on canvas

2  Scratch Ecstasy, silkscreen on canvas

3  The World of Hip Hop, silkscreen on canvas

4  Nathan, silkscreen on canvas

5  Howard the Duck, Lee Quinones, LES mural

Photo credits: 1 & 2 Karin Du Maire; 3, 4 & 5 (still from slide show) Lois Stavsky; interview conducted by Karin Du Maire and edited by Lois Stavsky

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