public art

Soho’s boarded-up windows and doors now host a wide range of varied artworks. While combing the streets this past Monday, I came upon works by several artists new to me, as well as by those familiar to all of us street art aficionados. The image featured above is the work of Brooklyn-based Dena Paige-Fischer. A small sampling of more images that have transformed the blocks in the vicinity of Grand and Mercer Streets into an open-air museum follow:

Miami-native, NYC-based SacSix

NYC-based multidisciplinary artist Jo Shane at work posting political texts

Some musings from an anonymous source

Brooklyn-based Kamila Zmrzla-Otcasek, to the left of Mia and Adrien Otcasek

NYC-based artist and animator  Sara Lynne Leo

 Brooklyn-based Denis Ouch

The prolific Optimo NYC

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Since George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man, was murdered in broad daylight on May 26 by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, protests have risen up throughout the world. Here in NYC, our streets have teemed with images and signs, along with daily peaceful and powerful protests in all five boroughs. The image featured above in memory of George Floyd was fashioned by Sara Erenthal in her Prospect Lefferts Garden neighborhood. Several more images recently seen on NYC streets follow:

 Lmnopi, Black Lives Matter, on the Lower East Side

An unidentified school-age child getting the message out with chalk at Riverside Park on the Upper West Side

LinkNYC for #BlackOutTuesday on the Upper West Side

Stickers posted near Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side

Sign fashioned by West Coast — based Kate DeCiccio, seen on First Avenue in the East Village 

Protestors in Union Square Park demand that “our lives be free of police violence”

And “Justice for Floyd” — in procession walking north from Washington Square Park

Photo credits: 1 Sara Erenthal; 2, 6-9 Ana Candelaria and 3-5 Lois Stavsky

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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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With his extraordinary passion for art and his penchant for sharing it with others, Nic 707 touched so many of us. Beginning in 2013, I accompanied Nic several times a year — often along with other artists and photographers — on his subway train interventions, as he transformed dull, ad-saturated subway cars into vibrant moving canvases. Nic 707 was as eager to showcase other artists’ work — from old school writers to contemporary creatives — as he was to share his own, and he always had a “new” artist to introduce me to.

Each trip with Nic was a distinct adventure. And I was waiting for the current crisis to end, so that we could hit the trains — where I would, once again, serve in my dual role as look-out and documentarian. Sadly, that won’t happen, as Nic passed away last Sunday, April 12 — a victim of the cruel Coronavirus.

The image pictured above features Nic 707 and the legendary Taki 183 — whose tag Nic brought back to the trains — outside Taki 183′s Yonkers workplace. What follows are several photos of Nic 707 and his artworks riding the trains:

Nic 707 eagerly waits for the train to arrive

Nic 707′s iconic character, Kilroy

Kilroy in love

Kilroy as spaceman

Nic 707 schooling a subway rider on the history of subway graffiti

Two Upper East Side ladies on the 6 train discussing Nic 707‘s abstract art with him

Keep posted to the StreetArtNYC Instagram feed for images of works by other artists who participated in Nic‘s InstaFame Phantom Art project.  You can check out the interview I conducted with Nic 707 back in 2013 here.  And you can read David Gonzalez‘s obituary of Nic (Fernando Miteff ) in The New York Times here.

R.I.P. Nic 707. We will miss you.

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky

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Named for the historical Downtown Newark district in which the mural project is located, the Four Corners Public Arts initiative has brought over a dozen alluring murals to Treat Place and Beaver Street in Downtown Newark — a short work from Newark Penn Station. Referencing the neighborhood and its distinct history, the artworks were conceived and painted largely by local artists.

The mural featured above, a tribute to the late neighborhood legend, Jerry Gant a.k.a 2 Nasty Nas, was painted by Newark-native Manuel Acevedo. Several more murals sponsored by  Four Corners Public Arts — an ongoing collaboration between the City via Invest Newark, the Newark Downtown District (NDD), Newark Arts and local property owners RBH Group and Paramount Assets — follow:

Newark-raised, Brooklyn-based Gera Luz, Sacred Water

Layqa Nuna Yawar and Kelley Prevard in collaboration with A Womb of Violet — a Newark-based Black women’s artist collective –, “Magnitude and Bond”

The Rorshach Art Collective — Newark natives Andre Leon and Robert Ramone, –“Radiance”

Brooklyn-based Armisey Smith, “The Natural World of the Lenape,” to the left of Puerto Rico-born, Paterson-raised  Jo-el Lopez, “The Guardian of the City”

Atlantic City-based Sue Daly in collaboration with The Barat Foundation, “Sewing a Path to Freedom

Newark-based Gabe Ribeiro, “Newark Is for Artists”

Photo credits: 1, 2, 5 & 7 Rachel Fawn Phillips; 3, 4 & 6 Lois Stavsky

Special thanks to Rachel Fawn Phillips for introducing me to this project.

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Curious about the face behind the poetic, bright yellow stickers that have increasingly become part of NYC’s visual landscape, I was delighted to meet and speak to the beguiling My Life in Yellow.

We street art aficionados know you as My Life In Yellow. When was My Life in Yellow  born?

It was born ten years ago as the name of my blog when I first moved to New York.

Why Yellow?

I was always drawn to the color yellow. It was my grandmother’s favorite color. And when I was in college, my room was blue, while the room next to mine was yellow. The girl who dormed there was always happy, had yellow accessories and always wore the color yellow. The yellow room was so much more inviting and cheerful than mine that I soon began to surround myself with the color yellow.

When did you start slapping your stickers up on the street and why?

Several years ago, I met Thomas OKOK Gunnarsson aka TagsAndThrows. He introduced me to the street art/graffiti world. We walked around the city together as he photographed graffiti. One year later his friend, AllYouSeeIsCrimeInTheCity, a street art photographer based in Sweden, came on a visit to New York City. She gave me my first sticker and encouraged me to write on it. I was going through a difficult break-up at the time, so I wrote “Tell Him How You Feel” on a postal sticker. She slapped it for me in Soho.

What inspired you to keep making stickers and getting them up?

I started getting really positive feedback. And it was a kind of therapy for me as I was going through difficult times.  People started to reach out and say things like, “Now I know I’m not alone” and “Me too, omg — I feel this way.” I started to realize how similar we all are in our dark thoughts, what we don’t say out loud. That was the moment I felt, “This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Have you any particularly memorable street art experiences?

I spontaneously slapped a sticker on a bridge in Berlin. The sticker read. “Tell Him How You Feel.” A girl nearby noticed it and commented, “A lot of people jump off that bridge.” I hadn’t thought of that! Another time I slapped a sticker on the Manhattan Bridge that said, “It’ll Be Ok.”  I did not realize until afterwards that I had slapped it on a suicide/help call box!

Who are some of your favorite sticker artists?

MQ and Token. I appreciate how consistent they are. I see their stickers everywhere!

 

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Yes, I slap and I walk. And then when I revisit it, I feel like I’m visiting my child.

How has your street art evolved in the course of these these past five years?

Its intent and tone have stayed the same, but I also wheatpaste now. And I’ve painted directly onto walls–by myself and in collaboration with other artists.

What is your favorite piece that you’ve created?

That’s a tough one! “Once my lover, now my poem.” I find myself writing it a lot.

How long do you usually spend on each sticker?

It comes in spurts. I often write a whole bunch at one time. Sometimes it’s just spontaneous.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

Don’t tell my boss, but I think about it all the time.

Have you exhibited your work?

Yes! I’ve exhibited in several local spaces. When I first met Sac Six a few years back. he encouraged me get up on canvas.  I still make little canvases — that look like my stickers — that I show and sell in exhibitions. I’ve also created works that don’t resemble my stickers at all. I was recently featured in the Phoenix Rising exhibit at the Gala on 129 Allen Street, where one of my pieces sold.

Where else have your stickers traveled, besides the streets here in NYC?

London, Paris, Trinidad, Sweden, Berlin, LA, Miami. All placers I’ve been to. I prefer to slap stickers myself. There’s something special about it. It’s nice when people offer to slap my stickers up in other places, but I don’t give them out.

You’ve also painted in sanctioned public projects. Do you prefer working legally or illegally?

There’s something magical about pasting stickers up. I like its randomness, but I also enjoy working legally.

How has your family responded to your work on the streets?

They’re entertained by it. My father exhibits his photography. My grandfather was an artist.

Did you ever study art in a formal setting?

No, I’m self taught. I have a BA in business and a degree in Fashion Design from Parsons.

What are some of your other interests?

Spoken word poetry. I’ve performed in various venues. And I recently curated an event to help raise money for the JED Foundation.

Where are you headed? Any recent projects?

I recently collaborated with street art photographer Ana Candelaria. Ana’s photos always make me so happy. I love how she captures my stickers out in the wild: weather-faded, slapped-over and scratched-off. I love her documentation of their deterioration. Her photos really speak to me and I’m looking forward to many more collaborations with Ana. I‘ve also just released a chapbook of my poetry, Despite it all.  Where am I headed? I’d like to travel the world, get on stages with my poetry, paint more murals and conduct workshops on the power of words.

That all sounds great! What do you see as the artist’s role in society?

To help people feel something.

Note: You can purchase My Life In Yellow‘s recently-released poetry book together with Ana Candelaria‘s photograph of her iconic sticker as a PHOTO PRINT & CHAPBOOK BUNDLE PRE-SALE here.

Interview conducted and edited for brevity by Lois Stavsky with Ana Candelaria

Photo credits: 1 (featuring Ana’s photograph) – 3, 6, (featuring My Life In Yellow‘ s collaboration with Androi 0i for Underhill Walls 7 & 9 Lois Stavsky; 4, 5, 8, 10 & 11 Ana Candelaria 

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Eight walls and three loading docks on the exterior of Yoho Studios have a brand-new look. Described by the artist as New Earth Hieroglyphs, the art brings Michael Cuomo’s distinctly abstract, black and white spiritual aesthetic into the public sphere. Upon viewing it, I had a few questions for Michael:

How did this wonderful opportunity to share your particular aesthetic in a public space come your way?

I was granted permission by Heights Real Estate and Yonkers Arts, an organization that has been promoting and encouraging artistic ventures in the City of Yonkers.

You are a master of many different styles and techniques. How did you decide on this particular composition?

I wanted to share the power of high vibrational frequency that these designs offer. I am honored to be able to present my artwork to the community on a main street, 578-540 Nepperhan Avenue, where thousands pass daily.

How have folks responded to it?

They love it. While I was painting, many stopped by to chat. Others honked their horns from their cars, and gave me a thumbs up! The response has been thoroughly positive.

You work mostly in your studio. What has it been like to change your working environment to an outdoor one?

I love working in both settings. But I love the interaction with others that best happens in public spaces.

How do you feel about the final product?

I’m enthralled!

What’s ahead?

In addition to my studio work, I’d love to find more opportunities to paint outdoors.

How can folks best contact you?

They can drop me an email at michaelcuomoart@gmail.com. Or they can send a direct message to my Instagram account.

Great! And we’re looking forward to seeing more of your work on the streets!

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photos 1, 2 & 3 courtesy of the artist; 4 & 5 Lois Stavsky

Note: An earlier version of this interview — with additional photos by Fawn Phillips — first appeared here.

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Famed world-wide for its exciting night life, Downtown Las Vegas is also home to a rich array of murals fashioned by celebrated national and international artists. The image featured above was painted by the hugely talented Puerto Rican artist Alexis Diaz in 2013, the year that the annual Life Is Beautiful festival was born as part of “the major transformation of Downtown Las Vegas as a cultural hub.” What follows are several more images from the streets of Vegas captured on a recent visit by travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad.

LA-native Tristan Eaton for Life Is Beautiful, curated by Just Kids, an award-winning, women-led art platform, 2016

 UK-based D*Face on the side of the Plaza Hotel & Casino for Life Is Beautiful, curated by Just Kids, 2017

Portuguese “trash” artist Bordalo II, for Life Is Beautiful, curated by Just Kids, 2018

Swedish artist Joakim Ojanen for Life Is Beautiful, curated by Just Kids, 2018

Chicago-based Kate Lewis, for Life Is Beautiful, curated by Just Kids, 2019

Photos by Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad 

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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In addition to the first-rate graffiti in the vicinity of Philly’s 5th Street and Cecil B Moore, the entire city is home to a remarkable range of public art — hosting everything from striking unsanctioned interventions to hundreds of hugely impressive murals. The image featured above is the work of Philly-based Adam Crawford. Several more images I captured on my recent visit to Philadelphia follow:

Baltimore-based duo Jessie and Katey 

Philly-based crochet street and installation artist Nicole Nikolich aka Lace in the Moon

Philly-based San Salvador-born Calo Rosa

Philly-based Jes

And Philly’s iconic stikman

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Focusing on street art, graffiti and creative urban culture, UP is a provocative cutting-edge NYC-based quarterly magazine.  Launched in spring 2019, each issue spotlights a specific theme. Its first (sold-out) issue features several articles on money-related issues, and its second highlights matters of travel and place, as they relate to urban culture.

Lower East Side-based photographer Anna Candelaria introduced me to UP, and I was impressed by its in-depth coverage of the contemporary global urban art scene. Last week, Ana joined me as I met up with its chief editor, T.K. Mills.

Can you tell us a bit about UP Magazine‘s mission?

Our mission is to provide the art community with provocative writing that reflects the critical issues of our generation. We strive to present to our readers high-quality articles that investigate, inform, and entertain. Like good art, UP Magazine is made to make you think and make you feel.

What attracted you to urban culture? Particularly street art and graffiti?

After I had received my Masters Degree in Global Affairs from NYU, I wasn’t quite sure what direction my life would take. Shortly after Trump was elected President, I decided to visit Cuba. That’s where I first discovered my love for graffiti. I kept seeing 2+2=5. It seemed to be written everywhere. At first I couldn’t figure it out, and then I realized it was a reference to George Orwell’s 1984  — which certainly seemed relevant at the time. I even got to meet the artist. From that point on, I began paying close attention to the writing on the wall!

Before launching UP Magazine, had you any experience writing on this topic for other publications?

Yes, I wrote for several platforms including Sold Magazine, Open Letter and Art Fuse. I was also hired by a company, Saga, to interview West Coast-based street artists. When the company ended up not publishing my interviews after taking a different direction, a few of us began thinking about starting a new publication that would focus on urban culture.

How did you assemble such a dedicated and talented staff? 

Awhile back, I met Vittoria Benzine, a Brooklyn-based street art journalist and personal essayist, outside McNally Jackson Bookstore in Soho. As we began talking, we discovered our common interest in urban art. She then introduced me to Christina Elia, a freelance writer with a BA in Art History Communications. From there the crew grew to close to a dozen people, including street photographer Lonnie Richards, our Director of  Videography.

You have produced two excellent issues, each over 100 pages. What were some of your challenges in seeing this through?

The biggest and main challenge is finding sponsors and raising money to make this magazine happen.

Where is Up headed?

The only direction is up. We plan to further develop and expand our print and online presence. And we are looking forward to the launch of our third edition — with its focus on community — this spring.

That sounds great! I’m certainly looking forward to your next issue. And good luck with it all!

Note: Be sure to check out Up Magazine’s website and online shop. And with the promo code streetartnyc you can purchase issue II of Up Magazine at 25% off.

Interview conducted and edited for brevity by Lois Stavsky with Anna Candelaria

Images

1 Illustration of T.K. Mills by Vanessa Kreytak

2 Cover of Issue #1 featuring artwork by Fumero

3 Spread from Issue #2,”The Banksy Tunnel,” written by Candelaria Barandiaran with photos by Sabrina Ortolani

UP pop-up in Miami

5 Photo of T.K. Mills by Gabriel Ortiz, Jr

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