Nelson Rivas

The shutter featured above was painted by New York-based Chilean artist Nelson Rivas aka Cekis on East Houston Street, around the corner from his recent mural at Rag & Bone.  Several more images featuring the enticing art that has surfaced on NYC shutters and gates follow:

The legendary Kenny Scharf in the East Village

Brooklyn-based Master Moody Mutz on the Lower East Side

Staten Island-based Kwue Molly in Astoria, Queens with the Welling Court Mural Project

Barcelona-based El Xupet Negre in Bushwick

Ecuadorian artist Apitatán in Bushwick with JMZ Walls

Photos by Lois Stavsky


"Queen Andrea"

The once drab and dull 900-foot long tunnel connecting Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue at the 191st Street subway station is now a wondrous canvas featuring bright and bold graffiti and fine art.  While visiting it last week, we had the opportunity to speak to Jessie and Katey, the Baltimore-based duo, who — along with NYC-based artists, Queen Andrea, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2 — were selected to paint murals along the tunnel.


We love the way you are beautifying this Upper Manhattan tunnel. How did you two first meet? And how did you two — Baltimore-based artists —  become involved in this NYC project?

We met when we were both students at MICA: Maryland Institute College of Art. And about four years ago, we started painting together. We’ve both lived in New York, and when we heard about the Department of Transportation‘s open call for artists who specialize in painting large scale murals, we applied.

Jessie-katey-abstract art-DOT


What aspect of the project most appealed to you?

We loved the idea of returning to NYC to paint such a huge, awesome space.



What was it like working with the other muralists on this project? 

It was great, and getting to know them all was wonderful.



What about the Department of Transportation? What was it like working for the DOT?

It was the bomb! They even supported us with potties!



Were there any particular challenges?

At one point the walls cried, and we had to repaint some spots. But — overall — the entire experience was awesome.

 Photos of images:

1. Queen Andrea, Lois Stavsky

2. Jessie and Katey, Lois Stavsky; 3. Dani Reyes Mozeson 4. City-As-School intern Diana Davidova 

5. Queen AndreaDani Reyes Mozeson

6. RRobots, Dani Reyes Mozeson

7. & 8. CekisDani Reyes Mozeson

9. Cope2, Tara Murray; 10. Dani Reyes Mozeson


This is the second in an ongoing series featuring the range of faces that surface daily on NYC’s public spaces:

Australian artist Jess Busj at 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens — close-up

Jess Busj

Russell King and Matt Siren at Welling Court in Astoria, Queens

Russell King and Matt Siren

Mata Ruda at the Bushwick Collective

Mata Ruda

Joseph Meloy at 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens

Joseph Meloy

Toofly at the Bushwick Collective


Australian artist Daek on Manhattan’s Lower East Side

daek william

Nelson Rivas aka Cekis in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx

Nelson Rivas aka Cekis

Photos by Lenny Collado, Tara Murray and Lois Stavsky


"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis painting from Fence Series"

Chilean native Nelson Rivas aka Cekis, one of the pioneers of the Latin American street art movement, began painting on the streets of his native city, Santiago, when he was sixteen. Since then, his artwork has graced the walls of a range of cities from Sao Paulo to Paris. Based in NYC for the last seven years, he has painted murals throughout Brooklyn and beyond. Recently, Nelson held his first open studio featuring the Fence Series, a series of paintings on the theme of immigration and the concept of self-imprisonment. While visiting Nelson’s studio last week, we asked him a few questions.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork on paper"

What inspired you to create the Fence Series?

Various personal experiences and encounters have sparked the concept of these paintings. When I moved out of Chile, I left behind almost everything I’d ever known: my family, my friends, and my career as a graffiti artist.  When I came to NYC, I had no money, poor English language skills and hardly any friends. I had actually exiled myself from freedom and comfort, and I began to feel fenced in.  It was a fence I had imposed on myself to enable me to grow as an artist. Once here, I met many immigrants with incredible stories. These people and their stories spurred me to further explore the theme of fences, particularly as they relate to immigrants.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork"

How long have you been working on this particular series?

A couple of years ago, fences began to surface in my studio work. At first, they appeared as a subtle layer of texture, and then they gradually evolved into an essential element of my work.   In the last six months, however, I started to play and experiment with fences as the main feature of my work. I started creating different colored fences, overlapping them, and intertwining them. I transformed the fence into a metaphor for imposed or self-imposed oppression, division, and the yearning for freedom.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork on paper"

How would you describe the process of creating your work?

The more I work and develop the concept, the more natural the process becomes. I don’t have any particular formula. If I did, I would start to get bored.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork on paper"

What materials do you primarily work with?

I’ve been working with lots of acrylic markers, acrylic house paint, spray paint, paper, wood and photos.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork on paper"

How has working in a studio been different from working in the streets?

I love painting on the street, but in NYC it is quite difficult to get new walls. It is easy to feel paranoid even when you are a legal resident. This is the main reason I started painting in the studio.  I love painting murals, but I’ve come to enjoy the idea of experimenting, exploring and trying out new ideas on paper, wood or canvas. Also, when I work in my studio, I have fewer distractions. Then when I go outside, I apply some of the techniques I’ve developed from my studio work to my huge public works.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork on paper"

What’s next?

I’d like to continue painting at home and eventually share these latest pieces in a gallery setting. I recently received a grant to paint outdoor murals in Sunset Park later this spring. And I plan to travel abroad in the late fall to participate in a huge street art festival scheduled to take place in South America.

Good luck! We’re looking forward to seeing your outdoor murals in the months ahead.

Photos by Street Art NYC & Nelson Rivas