urban art

Not only was the late legendary writer Fernando Miteff — known to most of us as Nic 707 — a master of multiple styles, but he was also the founder and curator of one of NYC’s most distinctly impressive public art projects, InstaFame Phantom Art.

Beginning in 2009 until his untimely death last year from Covid, Nic 707 regularly rode the MTA trains with the singular mission of transforming their interiors into a one-of-a-kind pop-up gallery in motion. Having accompanied him on many of these adventures, I witnessed first-hand not only his boundless passion for graffiti, but his deep love for all art, as he showcased contemporary artworks in styles ranging from figurative to abstract, along with his and other writers’ tags, throw-ups and pieces.

And the response of the train riders who viewed Nic’s pop-up shows was almost always overwhelmingly positive. Many posed questions to Nic as they photographed his installations, and in response, Nic would graciously school them on the history of graffiti, its impact on contemporary art, the personal histories of the varied artists and more.

InstaFame Phantom Art (Volume 1): The Nic 707 Collection (NYC Transit Exhibition Catalog) is the perfect tribute to Nic — a paean to his creative energy and vision — and a gift to us all. Penned by his brother, Karim Miteff, it not only features dozens of images of works by Nic and by several other artists that rode the trains between 2009-2013, but it tells the story of graffiti and of Nic’s particular circumstances, including his 27-year hiatus from the culture. Much, in fact, is presented in Nic’s own words, as told to Karim.

Among the key subjects the book covers — in addition to Nic 707’s story — are: the tools writers use, the evolution of their styles, their code of ethics and the development of crews. Nic 707 was, in fact, the founder and first President of the Bronx-based OTB Crew.

And featured, of course, are dozens of images of variations of Nic’s iconic Kilroy character, described by the artist as “a kind of an entity…a presence. Even though he has no eyes, he sees all…but he doesn’t judge. He promotes love and holds the key to a silent and ancient wisdom. He represents the potential for alien intervention to help save mankind.”

Nic 707 was one-of-a-kind. He was, as his brother accurately describes him, a “Style Master. Visionary. Time Traveler.”

Writing about InstaFame Phantom Art back in 2015 in The New York Times, David Gonzalez described the project as one “with hundreds of one-of-a-kind panels that would be the envy of any urban gallery.”

I am already looking forward to the second volume of InstaFame Phantom Art: The Nic 707 Collection (NYC Transit Exhibition Catalog). 

Images:

1 Book cover, 2021

2 Black Star Bumper Car on the IRT 4 train, 2013

3 Lollipop$, 2012

4 Souls in Transit, 2013

5 Choose Your Palette, 2012

Photos 1, 3-5 Courtesy Karim Miteff; Photo 2, Lois Stavsky

Book Review by Lois Stavsky

Note: The book is available here.

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Lower East Side native Marcus Glitteris is not only an intriguing self-taught artist but a passionate curator, as well.  Largely  influenced by New York City’s Downtown club scene, he teems with the energy that permeated it. Earlier this week, I stopped by Home Grown, an exhibit he curated at Village Works in the East Village, and posed a few questions to him:

Can you tell us something about your vision in curating this exhibit?

Its main focus is to showcase the varied works of a wide range of artists who live or have lived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side or East Village.

And what about this wonderful space?

Village Works is the name of this new gallery. Designated specifically as a space to showcase NYC artists, it sells rare art books, as well as art. My friend, Joe Sheridan, is the creative director here. We know each other from the night life scene, but since, Joe has since ventured into the the artist community and invited me to curate here. This space used to be an architectural firm.

What about the show’s title? It does seem appropriate now that I know a bit of the backstory. 

“Home Grown” is a term lots of New Yorkers, especially those in urban neighborhoods, grew up with. It references the distinct qualities and influences of a particular neighborhood. In my case — and in the case of many artists in this show — it is the Lower East Side.

The range of artists here is so varied — in terms of their backgrounds and choice of media. How did you choose which artists to include in this exhibition? 

It’s a community. Many I’ve known for a long time. Others I met and got to know in varied circumstances. Carol Fassler, for example, is a photographer I met on many occasions over the years on Thursday nights at the New Museum. And then there are artists who were new to me…whom I didn’t know anything about. Nora Timbila, for example, was introduced to me by Joe. When I curate, I like to mix up shows with artists who are established, artists who are emerging and artists who’ve never had a show before.

What were some of the challenges you faced in seeing this exhibit through?

Working with artists in any industry can be complex. Some of the artists — especially the more established ones  — ask, “Who else is in the show?” or “Where is the venue?”  So I have to deal with that. And it can get stressful!  To be a successful curator, though, I have to admit that I’m not always right, and yet still set boundaries. A curator has to have patience, compassion and love.

How was the response to this particular exhibit?

It was wonderful! The energy was great, as were all the people who came by.

Congratulations!  I especially loved discovering artists in Home Grown who were new to me.

Note:  Home Grown continues at Village Works, 90 East 3rd Street, through next Wednesday, April 14. Text 917.749.0319 to find out if the gallery is open or to make an appointment.

Images:

1 Optimo NYC 

2 Marcus Glitteris

3 Marina Reiter

4 BC1 NBA

5 Nora Timbila

6 A. Candela

7 As seen from the outside — Renda Writer and Hektad

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1, 4, 5 & 7 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3 & 6 A. Candela

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Bold and engaging, the murals that surface in Trenton, New Jersey are largely site-specific, many paying homage to those who call Trenton and its neighboring towns home. The image featured above — painted collaboratively in 2014 by Will Kasso, Luvonesta, Andre Trenier and Lank — looms large over a colorful playground, a short distance from the Trenton Transit Center. Several more artworks, far more recent, captured earlier this week on my first visit to Trenton follow:

Trenton-based legendary artist Leon Rainbow — two of four murals paying homage to frontline workers

Close-up

Trenton artist Dean ‘Ras’ Innocenzi pays homage to the late New Jersey skateboarder Brendan Wilkie —  one of several murals featured in the 2020 “Murals on Front Street” project, coordinated by Leon Rainbow

Philly-based Spanish artists Saoka and Imse  for “Murals on Front Street”

Austin, Texas-based masterly graffiti writer Sloke One  for “Murals on Front Street”

And Luvonesta and Lank bringing it inside to Trenton’s Starbucks, close-up from huge mural

Photos by Lois Stavsky

Special thanks to James J Kelewae for introducing me to the streets of Downtown Trenton

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Prolific, passionate, and hugely inventive, both Clarence Rich and Mr Mustart are among Jersey City’s most prominent street artists. POLARITY: New works by CLARENCE RICH & MR. MUSTART, showcases their talents  — individually and collaboratively — in a tantalizing exhibition that continues through April 13 at Jersey City’s PRIME Gallery.  The image pictured above, 3rd Eye, was fashioned with mixed media on canvas by Clarence Rich. Several more images from the exhibit — curated by PRIME  Gallery director, Maria Kosdan — follow:

Mr Mustart, Polaris, Mixed media on canvas, 11 x 14”

Clarence Rich, Solace Sky, Mixed media on canvas, 24 x 30”

Mr Mustart, Dry Ice, Mixed media on canvas 16 x 20”

Clarence Rich, Hippy, Mixed media on canvas, 16 x 20”

Mr Mustart, All Eyes On You, Mixed media on canvas, 40 x 60”

Clarence Rich & Mr Mustart, Poetic Justice, Mixed media on canvas, 11 x 14”

And painted directly onto the wall by Clarence Rich & Mr Mustart

PRIME Gallery is located at 351 Palisade Avenue in Jersey City Heights. To visit you can contact its director here.

Photo credits: 1-7 Lois Stavsky; 8 Courtesy PRIME Gallery

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Charged with glorifying terrorism and insulting the monarchy in his songs, Spanish rapper Pablo Hásel was arrested and imprisoned last month. For the past several weeks since his arrest, demonstrations have erupted almost daily, and dozens of murals have surfaced advocating “freedom of expression.” While the demonstrations have, on occasion, turned violent, the street art has been a peaceful diversion.

The image above, painted by the talented Barcelona-based Catalan artist Cinta Vidal, features the rapper as he is being painted over — or obliterated — by the king.  Several more of the ephemeral murals follow:

Barcelona-based Galleta Maria depicts a double-headed snake that is preventing a woman from speaking

Graffiti writer Kader One at work painting the rapper hanging while grasping a keychain featuring a crown

Spanish artist El Edu, at work on “La Llibertat (h)a mort,” mourning the death of freedom

Graffiti writer Antón G. Seoane aka SlimROK, “Freedom or Fire”

Barcelona-based Argentine artist Zosen, “Libertad Expresion,” a call for the “freedom of expression”

All photos by Fernando Alcalá Losa; courtesy, Audrey García

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The following book review is by Street Art NYC contributor Houda Lazrak

For over a decade, the POW! WOW! Street Art Festival has been bringing standout murals by internationally renowned artists to cities throughout the globe. POW! WOW! WORLDWIDE!: 10 Years of International Street Art, authored by the festival’s founder and curator Jasper Wong and published by Paragon Books, pays a well-deserved homage to the hundreds of murals created during the festival’s many iterations.

POW! WOW! WORLDWIDE!: 10 Years of International Street Art, chronicles POW! POW!’s many editions in fifteen cities, with page spreads of striking murals. Each chapter begins with an image of a location’s discerning geographic or urban features: Taiwan’s sprawling nightlights, Long Beach’s palm-tree lined waterfront, Antelope Valley’s field of tulips, Haiwai’s oceanside downtown, Rotterdam’s glass-lined buildings.

Photographs of the murals follow with many in-progress images of artists at work including: Nychos, Jeff Soto, Cinta Vidal and Tran Nguyen. The process shots are dynamic and illustrate the labor of mural making. Readers are also provided with biographical information of each of the participating artists.

Featured are many examples of collaborative murals. The mural painted by James Bullough and Ricky Watts, for example, fuses Bullough’s realistic portraiture with Watts’ fluid shapes and psychedelic patterns. In another mural highlighted, Rone’s figurative signature style meets Aaron de la Cruz‘s calligraphic mazes. And featured, too, is a three-person collaboration between Cambodian, Japanese and Hawaiian artists Andrew Hem, Yoskay Yamamoto and Edwin Ushiro, respectively.

The book also features candid shots of festival goers, participants and organizers, offering a window into the festival’s atmosphere beyond the art-making. In his forward, editor-in-chief of Booooooom Jeff Hamada, describes the festival’s intention as a “naive desire to bring people together – not just to paint walls and go home, but to actually get to know each other, share stories, and form real friendships.

Jasper Wong also writes that the festival’s name itself, POW!WOW!, “is taken from a Native American term that describes a gathering that celebrates culture, music and art, which spoke to [their] core mission to beautify, educate and bring people together through art and music.” The book portrays this intention and the excitement that unravels. The unique urban culture of cities is also shown in image compilations. Among these are: Korea’s thriving music and food scene, and San Jose’s bicycle culture.

POW!WOW! is often invited to return to its host cities, attesting to the positive value that murals add to the vitality of metropolises. In flipping through the pages, the location types are noticeable: artworks are often erected in residential areas, discrete alleyways, and unpretentious parking lots. It serves as a reminder of POW!WOW!’s contribution to diverse neighborhoods, beyond hyper visible spots in downtowns areas or arts districts.

POW! WOW! WORLDWIDE!: 10 Years of International Street Art is a welcome addition to any street art aficionado’s library and can be purchased from most online book stores.

Featured images

1 Book cover, TRAV MSK, in Long Beach, California, 2018

2 Overview of Taiwan

3 Nychos & Jeff Soto, Hawaii, 2013

4 James Bullough and Ricky Watts, Hawaii, 2018

5 Jet Martinez, San Jose, 2017

6 PichiAvo, Worcester, 2017

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HEKTAD! Love Will Tear Us Apart, a solo exhibition featuring a delightfully charming array of new works – all on the theme of love — by the prolific NYC-based artist Hektad, continues through Sunday at One Art Space. Executed in his signature style, the works reflect Hektad’s early days as a graffiti writer in his native Bronx, as well as his recent years as a Manhattan-based street and studio artist. The 30″ x 30″ image featured above is aptly titled “Love Spray.” Several more images captured while we visited One Art Space this past Sunday follow:

My Love Is Golden, 2021, 36″ x 36″

Bear Brick, Sculpture, 20″ tall

Another Bear Brick 20″ tall sculpture

My Broken Heart, 2020, 61″ x 72″ (L) and Love of Passion Series – Red, 2021, 24″ x 24″

Wide view

Located at 23 Warren Street, One Art Space is open Monday through Friday from 1 – 6 pm,  Saturday and Sunday from 1 – 5 pm. And this Friday — beginning at 6pm — there will be a talk, book launch and signing for the artist’s first book. You can register for the event here.

Photo credits: 1, 2 & 5 Lois Stavsky; 3, 4 & 6 Ana Candelaria

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On our first-time, long-overdue visit to Jersey City’s Deep Space Gallery this past Sunday, we were greeted by a treasure trove of first-rate artworks in a wide range of styles and media. Currently on exhibit is MORE MINIS, the gallery’s annual miniature show, showcasing works by over 60 contemporary artists. While many are formally trained, others are self-taught. All produce delightfully intriguing work.

Featured above is a close-up from an installation of spray cans painted by Jersey City-born and bred multimedia artist and graffiti veteran T.DEE, along with a small sculpture — from the series Elephas Maximus Indicus — crafted by noted India-born, Newark-based “3D light artist” Sunil Garg.

What follows are several works by featured artists who also have a strong presence on our streets:

NJ-based GOOMBA, “#8 of 9,” Acrylic, spray paint and ink on canvas

NYC-based Optimo NYC, “AIDSERIES #5: And It Don’t Stop,” Aerosol, enamel and acrylic on canvas

NJ-based RH Doaz, “Moving On,” Mixed media on reclaimed wood

Jersey City-born, bred and based Clarence Rich, “Maelstrom,” Acrylic on canvas

Jersey City-based Catherine Hart, “Love Note 3,” Resin art, one of 12

Wide view of segment of MORE MINIS exhibition

Founded in 2016 by the multi-faceted Jenna Geiger and artist Keith VanPel, Deep Space Gallery is  located at 77 Cornelison Avenue in Jersey City’s Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood. To visit Deep Space Gallery and view the distinctly alluring artworks on exhibit through mid-February, you can send a direct message to its Instagram account. or drop an email to deepspacejc@gmail.com.

Photo credits: 1 & 7 Ana Candelaria; 2-6 Lois Stavsky

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The Waterford Walls International Street Art Festival celebrated its 6th year in 2020. But it was a year like no other. Instead of taking place over a long weekend in August, it lasted for over 45 days, as artists from throughout Ireland arrived one at a time to paint their murals in accordance with social distancing guidelines. With live interviews and videos online, the festival successfully transformed urban spaces while, also, engaging the public.

The image featured above was created collaboratively by the noted Irish artists Aches and Maser. Several more images that surfaced in the 2020 The Waterford Walls International Street Art Festival follow:

London-born Ireland-based muralist and illustrator Dan Leo 

Dublin-based sign painter and lettering artist Vanessa Power

Waterford-based Polish artist Magda Karol

Dublin-based muralist and graphic artist Garreth Joyce

Irish printmaker and muralist Shane O’Driscoll

Dublin-based Niall O’Lochlainn and Waterford-based Caoilfhionn Hanton

All photos courtesy Waterford Walls; special thanks to Houda Lazrak for making the connection

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Pictured above in Part II of our documentation of the politically-driven “Shared Freedom” mural art project — curated by Will Power at First Street Green Art Park — is Calicho Arevalo‘s playful mural, as captured by Ana Candelaria. A few more artworks follow — with even more to be featured on the StreetArtNYC Instagram page.

NYC-based Miami-native Sacsix, “Chokey on the Smokey”

NYC-based multimedia artist Early Riser

Painter, actor and professional skateboarder Danny Minnick in front of huge segment of his beguiling mural — as captured by Berky

Veteran Bronx-based graffiti writer and painter Zimad – as captured by Berky

And Zimad earlier at work — as captured by Berky

Painter and graff master Heart1

And Heart1 — with spray can in hand — as captured by Berky

While visiting the “Shared Freedom” mural art project, be sure to stop by the  POP UP GET OUT THE VOTE / RETAIL STORE that has been set up  adjacent to First Street Green Art Park — on 35 E 1st Street. And don’t forget to VOTE!

Photo credits: 1 Ana Candelaria; 2, 3 & 7 Lois Stavsky and 4, 5, 6 & 8 Berky

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