NYC

NYC-based, Stockholm-born graffiti artist and graphic designer SCRATCH has been busily making her mark on the street, on canvas and on spray cans. The image featured above was painted this past summer in uptown Manhattan. More of SCRATCH‘s works on various media follow:

Also painted on the streets, this one in Brooklyn

 “A Galaxy Far Far Away,” on canvas

 “Blue Sky” on canvas

“Viking Warrior” on canvas

On repurposed spray can

Check out the shop at Wall Works New York to view more of SCRATCH’s works on canvas and on spray cans that are for sale.

All photos courtesy the artist

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The following guest post was written by Juyoun Han, an attorney at Eisenberg & Baum, LLP

According to the New York Times, Black Lives Matter protests may have been the largest movement in U.S. history, and the most vigilant of these protests remain on the walls, corners, and surfaces of streets that we walk by every day. In cities across the country — Seattle, Salt Lake City, Chicago, New York City — artists banded together to use their creativity as a powerful visual advocacy against racial injustice. World-renowned artist Banksy, for example, created a painting that depicts a candle at a memorial starting a small flame at the corner of a U.S. flag. Banksy expressed his support for the BLM movement in an Instagram post, saying “people of colour are being failed by the system.”

Unfortunately, these murals are short-lived, either because they are immediately tagged or destroyed by dissenters who blithely deny America’s problem of racism. Artists who had transformed boarded-up businesses into powerful BLM art witnessed their art getting thrown out by storeowners. Such defacement of protest art is unfortunately a recurring violation. In 2014, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, a renowned Portland-based artist, Ashley Montague, painted a mural of late Brown entitled “Status Quo.” Unfortunately, the mural was tagged and painted over.

Now, here’s the good news: the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (“VARA Law”) may be the key to protecting and preserving these artworks. Under this law, the creators of 5Pointz recently cemented a victory after declination of review by the U.S. Supreme Court, obtaining a $6.75 million award against a luxury condo developer who destroyed what was previously considered to be “the world’s premier graffiti mecca.” The lawsuit sets a powerful precedent that may be relied upon to protect BLM murals.

Q&A about VARA Law for street artists:

My artwork was completely destroyed. Can it be protected under VARA?

Yes. VARA law protects artworks from being destroyed, but you will need to prove that the work gained “recognized stature.” This means that your work must have gained recognition by the art community and the public. There are many ways to meet this “recognized stature” standard. For example, you can show that your artwork garnered social media attention and other press coverage, that other members of the art community vouched for your work, or that your work had been featured in movies or videos.

My work is not destroyed, but some people tagged it and now it is a mockery. Does the law protect me?

Yes. VARA protects against modification, distortion, or mutilation of artworks that harms an artist’s reputation. For example, removing and making changes to sculptures made to be installed for a certain space, or partially painting over an original mural and allowing the public to see the distorted art form can harm the original artist’s esteem and reputation in the community. Even an emerging artist can show that the artist’s reputation has been harmed on a case-by-case basis. After all, part of the goal of VARA law is to protect works of lesser known artists as well as artists who have already gained fame

What if multiple artists collaborated on a single piece of artwork?

VARA may protect artwork even if it was created by multiple artists as a collaboration piece; not every artist involved needs to be famous. Even an artwork led by an artist joined by a community of teenage students can be protected under VARA.

If I am hired to install the art, can I still gain protection under VARA?

No. If you were hired to install a piece of art, then the “work-for-hire” exception applies and VARA will not protect your artwork.

What kind of protection would I gain under VARA?

If your artwork has already been destroyed, you can bring a legal action for compensation. If you have knowledge that your work may be destroyed in the future, you can prevent that from happening by requesting a legal injunction. You are also entitled to a 90-day notice before your work is removed.

What kinds of murals will VARA NOT protect?

If you signed a document or “waiver” of your VARA rights, then you cannot try to preserve your work. If you created an artwork on a property without permission or authorization from the property owner, this is a grey area—there is at least one legal case that says VARA law will not protect unauthorized artworks. However, if the artwork is removable (for example, on a board or a canvas) from the wall of the building, it might be protected even if not authorized.

If your artwork was not destroyed but modified due to normal wear and tear, or due to weather or climate change, it can be more difficult to ask for legal recovery. Also, the following forms of art are excluded from VARA protection: works made for hire, posters, maps, globes or charts, technical drawings, diagrams, models, applied art, motion pictures, books and other publications, electronic publications, merchandising items or advertising, promotional, descriptive, covering, packaging material or container; nor does VARA  cover any work not subject to general copyright protection.

Does it matter which state I live in?

No. VARA law is federal law, so it applies no matter which state you live in. However, there are state laws that are similar to VARA, which may give you additional legal protection.

What can artists do to protect their art?

Authorization – gaining authorization, preferably in writing, from the owner of the mural’s site to create your artwork will be advantageous in a legal action.

Recognition – the more the artist can show recognition (e.g. social media, press coverage, public and art community’s acclaim) the more effective it would be to prevent or recover compensation from those who destroyed the work.

Timely Response – if you are aware of threats to destroy or mutilate your artwork, respond in a timely manner. Contacting lawyers can help prevent the damage, facilitate negotiations, and if necessary, bring legal actions.

About the author: Juyoun Han, is a lawyer at Eisenberg & Baum LLP based in NYC. Juyoun’s practice includes Art Law, Artificial Intelligence Fairness & Data Privacy, and Disability Rights litigation. She was involved in the 5Pointz litigation and thanks her clients who have opened her eyes to
the world of art.

Note: The views expressed on this post are those of the individual author writing in her individual capacities only – not of any employers or affiliates.

Street art protest images featured here were selected and photographed by Lois Stavsky 

Ori Carino on the Lower East Side

Calicho Arevalo in Gowanus

july4art on the Bowery

Souls NYC in the Bronx, south of West Farms

5 & 6  Amir Diop in Soho and Noho

Unidentified artist in Gowanus

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Few NYC street art spots are as reflective of our times as is Freeman’s Alley, located off Rivington Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. And in these challenging times, the nation’s precarious political state and its ongoing pandemic have been the major themes of the street art that has emerged there.

Pictured above is NYC-based artist SacSix‘s portrait of our vice president-elect, Kamala Harris — a representative of the change we so sorely need. Several more images captured this past Sunday follow:

NYC-based Raddington Falls‘ politically-conscious Lego-inspired characters

Crkshnk’s depicts  former NYC mayor and current Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani as court jester

California-based Jeremy Novy laments the loss of “free hugs” in the time of Covid-19

 NYC-based DeGrupo celebrates President-elect Joe Biden’s victory

NYC-based Eye Sticker — in this pre-election paste-up — asks us to vote out “Trumpkin Season”

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4-6 Ana Candelaria; 3 Lois Stavsky

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A stirring pubic art exhibition has recently made its way to 6th Avenue and 43rd Street in Midtown Manhattan. Brazilian artist Alexandre Keto imagines the future lives of Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Agatha Felix had they not become “victims of deadly brutality.”

The image featured above depicts Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old African American woman who was found hanged in a Texas jail cell three days after she was arrested during a traffic stop in July, 2015. Several more images from Alive with Us /Viva com Nós follow:

17-year-old Florida-based African-American high school student Trayvon Martin, murdered in 2012 by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, to the left of 18 -year-old Michael Brown who was fatally shot in 2014 by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo

Alexandre Keto — captured at work in the final stages of the mural’s production

Michael Brown, closer-up

Brazilian 8-year-old Agatha Felix, shot in the back in a Rio de Janeiro favela in 2019

And, again, Agatha Felix

Produced by Art Bridge and presented in partnership with Arts Brookfield, “Alive with Us /Viva com Nós” is part of City Canvas, an initiative of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs

Photo credits: 1-5 Lois Stavsky 6 Sara C Mozeson

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A Presidential Parody continued to make its way around town on Sunday — despite the steady rain — with stops at Trump Tower and neighboring sites. A brief interview with New Yorker actor/creator Maia Lorian, who conceived and enacted — along with Enormvs Muñoz and kelci greenway — Sunday’s gorilla art performance, follows:

What inspired this particular chapter of A Presidential Parody?

My latest ad takeover for A Presidential Parody was made under the truest digital dystopian duress that is 2020. A solo work, from creation through install, made during the last days of my mom’s life. The piece is admittedly darker than my previous works, as virtual vigils and FaceTime goodbyes — followed by my dear mother’s Zoom funeral — took place in the background. This piece is in honor of my mom and every other life tragically lost during the Trump presidency. I like to bring my posters to life, like in a true ad campaign, which allowed this poster to progress into a funeral march

In what way does this current piece — both the ad takeover and the performance — differ from some of your former ones? Your other pieces seemed lighter. And despite your playful costume, it is quite intense.

This takeover is a true product of the 2020 dystopian nightmare reality that came to be under Trump — the poster created and installed during the last day of my mother’s life, with the funeral procession taking place after her Zoom funeral.

This performance piece also entails a procession. Can you tell us something about that?

In a typical funeral you see who’s there, and they’re able to offer condolences. I was filmed at my mom’s and wasn’t able to speak to anyone that attended. Grieving is isolating to begin with; grieving during a pandemic makes it even more so. I imagine there’s a group of us from 2020 that deeply understands what it means to have a FaceTime goodbye with the person you love most.

After my father died, for coping I went out dancing a lot. I was also in a play at the time. Neither of those are realities in 2020. 2020 has consumed so many of us with grief, whether it was loss of a loved one, or loss of employment, loss of ability to socialize the way we used to, even loss of the way we used to be able to hug, and most importantly, the loss of basic human rights. Watching the Trump debacle unfold during these last four years, and now during a pandemic, has been too next level. It’s more important than ever to get out the vote. So I created a funeral march of sorts, to honor my mom and the many other lives tragically lost under the reign of Trump, because it’s time for the Demon Cheeto to go.

We last spoke over a year ago. Have you any further thoughts on the state of our nation?

The country’s become a dumpster fire, but we have to keep trying, or it’ll just get worse. We must vote Trump out of office, ultimately- this work is to help to get out the vote.

What do you see as your personal mission in these dire times?

To help get out the vote and get Trump out of office. I come from a background in comedy — CollegeHumor, The Onion, SNL. Trump’s reign has been so negatively absurd, it’s been made up of laugh and cry at the same time moments — moments of horrified disbelief, so I like to unite people with laughter, since we all may be crying on the inside.

And what’s ahead for you?

I will keep on creating, fighting, and trying to help make a difference by using my privilege to subvert, owning my risk with embrace, and hope my mom and dad are up above, watching and protecting.

Thank you for what you are doing. And I am sorry for your loss.

Note: Maia’s wonderful wings were created in collaboration with Matt Siren

Photo credits: 1 Courtesy of Maia Lorian 2-7 Lois Stavsky 

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In early May — before the brutal death of George Floyd and the ongoing protests that followed it — members of the The Bowery Union began installing images of artworks on Soho’s shuttered spaces. As The Street Art Project progressed, artists from outside of NYC began to contribute their talents, as well.

Over a dozen of the boards have since been salvaged and are now on view at The Bowery Union‘s spacious gallery space at 329 Broome Street. And along with them are works by these same artists on a range of surfaces.

The two large portraits featured above — Barack Oh Mama and Regina George Washington — were fashioned by NYC-based artist and writer Isabella Cortez. And making its way in between them is the now-familiar face created by Jessi Flores aka Stealth Art. Several more images seen on my recent visit to The Bowery Union follow:

Brooklyn-based Cavier, “From Dust to Dawn”

Tomaso Albertini, Duel RIS and Swoon; Swoon’s image was initially made for  the ‘Create Art for Earth‘ campaign 

 NYC-based Oscar Lett, “In Still Waters”

NYC-based Miishab, “Heaven’s Gate,” to the left of Romanian artist Gagyi Botond, “Silence 2.0”

NYC-based Adrian Bermeo, “Bustelo Boy #2”

Dominican-American artist Indie 184, “Take Back Your Power”

All are invited tomorrow (Tuesday) evening for an artist’s talk featuring Doc Hammer at 7pm and to the exhibition’s opening reception on Thursday at 8. Check here for specific details.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Following the murder of George Floyd, the spirit of resistance that once characterized Lower Manhattan once again permeated its streets, as the boarded-up stores became canvases for politically driven murals.  Several of these artworks no longer on the streets are on view in a splendid exhibition — curated by Sono Kuwayama, Bob Holman and Howl! Happening — at Howl! on 6 East 1st Street. Others remain on the streets. The image featured above, Black Trans Lives Matter,  was fashioned with acrylic and house paint on plywood by Maya EdelmanScooter LaForge, and Sono Kuwayama.

Several more images follow — from both the Howl! exhibition and its neighboring blocks.

Multidisciplinary artist Lissa Baur, “Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat,” Acrylic on plywood, on view at Howl! 

Mrs. Skittles, Grace H. Gutekanst and Robert Blodgett, “Little Boy Blue,” Acrylic on plywood, on view at Howl! 

Colombian/American artist Felix Morelo,GOOD LUCK SPOT,” Acrylic on plywood, on view at Howl! 

Michael Walling and DLA, as seen on East 4th Street

Irena Kenny & Sono Kuwayama, as seen on East 4th Street

The noted painter Izhar Patkin, as seen on Cooper Square

The exhibition continues at Howl! through Sunday, August 23, from 11 AM–6 PM,  Thursday–Sunday.

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky

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Although dozens of boards that have served as canvases for a diverse range of artworks are no longer part of Soho’s visual landscape, the neighborhood remains my current favorite destination for street art. The image featured above was created by the talented, NYC-based writer and painter Gerry Vewer. Several more images — some discovered earlier this week and others captured within the last month — follow:

West Chester, PA-born, NYC-based Maeve Cahill’s homage to Black inventors, who’ve been largely “written out of history”

Documentarian Middlemen Doc and NY-based filmmaker and multidisciplinary artist Rochelle Leanne to the left of the widely-posted “Black Lives Matter” image

Artist and self-described cosmic anthropologist Loren Crea Abbate to the left of multidisciplinary artist Beatriz Ramos

Multidisciplinary artist and designer K O FF EE

Visual artist and poet Android Oi in collaboration with Brooklyn-based MaryKathryn Medlock — to the right of  NYC-based UNLOK

To be continued next week!

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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From the playful to the political, the artworks surfacing daily on Soho’s boarded-up doors and windows delight and provoke. Featured above — in the second of our series documenting Soho’s open-air museum — is Maeve Cahill‘s tribute to the late African-American journalist Ida B. Wells, alongside alluring images by an artist identified as A V.  Several more artworks captured earlier this week follow:

NYC-based Nick C. Kirk, stencil of civil rights activist and football quarterback, Colin Kaepernick 

NYC-based Urban Russian Doll, Portrait of Breonna Taylor, the black emergency medical technician who had been shot to death in her Louisville, Kentucky home

 NYC-based Hektad

 Athens, Greece-born, NYC-based Lydia Venieri, “Say Their Names,” Portraits of African-Americans murdered by the police

NYC-based artists Tiger Mackie (L.) and Beelzebaby (R.)

Newark, NJ-based Goomba at work

Photo credits: 1-6 Lois Stavsky and 7 Ana Candelaria 

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Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist Sara Erenthal has been busy! Sharing her personal musings on found objects, enhancing windows of local businesses and interacting with passersby, she has been making a huge mark on NYC’s public spaces throughout the pandemic. I recently had the opportunity to pose a few questions to her:

Of all the NYC artists I know who also use the street as a canvas, you may have been the only one out there almost daily at the height of the pandemic. What spurred you to hit the streets at a time when so many folks remained indoors or only went out for essential items?

At the very beginning of the pandemic, I was out only for errands. I wasn’t making any art. I actually isolated myself for about two weeks, as I wasn’t feeling well. But on the first walk I took, after self-isolating, I ran into two little pieces of wood. I couldn’t resist. Why do I do it? I live alone. The only view I have is of my alleyway. I need to get out and stretch my legs. I need to create art for my sanity. The street is a place where I can scream and be heard.

How have folks responded to seeing you out there?

The response has been amazing. People stop me and thank me for creating work. I’ve even been receiving donations, along with all kinds of support. People are so grateful that I am out there creating art in these times.

Do any particularly memorable experiences stand out?

There are many!  Early on, I came across a coffee table near my apartment that had been discarded. I wrote on it, “Hey, neighbor, let’s connect.” A month later, I discovered that a homeless guy who lives near my local train station had adopted this piece. I would love to meet him.  Particularly memorable is the day I sat myself down in Prospect Park with a sign that read: “I live alone. Please talk to me from 6 feet away.” The response I got was incredible. People lined up to speak to me. It was the interaction that I so crave.

You’ve been featured in at least a half dozen publications – from the Gothamist to the Brooklyn Rail – within the past few weeks. Has that publicity impacted your career as an artist?

It has. But equally, as people see my work on the streets and on Instagram, my audience expands. It’s a mix of both.

Both pieces that you did in my Upper West Side neighborhood — one on a discarded mirror and the other one, an ad-takeover on a phone both — disappeared within two days. How does that make you feel?

I was not surprised that the mirror was taken. I’d rather it land in someone’s house than in a landfill. But I was disappointed that my piece was stolen from the phone booth. Someone obviously broke into it. I went out of my way to bring art into a neighborhood that misses it. I wanted it to stay for other people to see it. Whoever took it was not considerate.

Yes! I miss seeing it on my daily strolls. Hopefully, you can return to Manhattan sometime soon. And thank you for bringing art into the lives of so many during this surreal time.

Interview conducted and and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3, 5 & 6 Sara Erenthal, and 4 Meremundo

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