Street Artists

Ever on a mission, East London-based artist Annie Nicholson aka Fandangoe Kid has been busy here in New York City. Last week, I had the opportunity to meet up with her in Red Hook, Brooklyn at the site of her De-Construkt residency.

When did you first become interested in sharing your messages in public spaces?

Back in 2005 — when I was studying film and visual arts in Paris — I began leaving text messages on friends’ doorsteps. My artwork has always been narrative-driven.

Your current projects generally reference your family members. Can you tell us something about that? 

In 2011, my mother and sister were killed in a crash. Their bodies landed in the East River. Nothing has been the same since. For several years I was totally derailed. Sharing my thoughts in the public sphere and working with young people have kept me alive. My public messages are, also, my means to remove the stigma that exists around loss and mental health.

How have folks responded to seeing your text messages reflecting your very private — often deeply painful — reflections on your losses?

Many have approached me and shared with me stories of their own losses and vulnerabilities. It is part of their healing process, as well as mine.

And working with youth is wonderfully therapeutic — as I know! How did you connect with the young people with whom you work?

I’ve actually worked in art education for over 10 years — from the Tate Modern to the British Film Institute. And then four years ago, I began working with traumatised young people in a program I’d launched at the Hackney New School using the arts as a means to understand and share their stories more effectively.

Are there any particular artists who inspired or influenced your particular text-driven aesthetic?

Steve Powers — certainly! He is one of my favorite artists working in this genre and a huge inspiration. Others include: Jenny Holzer, Barbara Krueger and Camille Walala.

What brought you here to New York City?

For six years — since the loss of of my sister and mother here in New York City — this city has been hanging over me. I felt the need to spend some time here. And Laura Arena, who offers residencies in Red Hook to artists from all over the world, has given me the opportunity to do so.

Why the streets? Why do you primarily utilize the streets to transmit your messages?

I like the visibility that the streets offer. My messages are easily accessed on the streets, especially by young people.

What’s ahead?

I will be returning to NYC in the fall with plans to install large-scale works in more permanent public sites to create a platform for dialog.

Good luck with it all!

Photo credits: 1, 3 & 6 courtesy of the artist; 2, 4 & 5 Lois Stavsky; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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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Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to meet up with Poornima Sukumar. A muralist and community artist based in India, she is the founder and director of  the Aravani Art Project, a collective that creates spaces for people from the transgender community to connect with other communities and cultures in their local neighborhoods. In July 2016, Poornima was invited to present the Aravani Art Project at the Global Youth Forum, and she was hosted by the World Bank as a panellist for the LGBTQIA+ discussion in Washington DC. She is also a TEDx speaker.

What is the mission of the Aravani Art Project? Can you tell us a bit about it?

It aims to create a collective space for people from the transgender community by engaging them in public art and other interventions. We are interested in providing opportunities for members of the transgender community to collaborate with artists, photographers, filmmakers and general members of society to voice issues and engage in dialogues. We want to help society see people from the transgender community in a new light. We also make an effort to become invested in their personal lives. We look out for them just as we would look out for our own friends. The projects are completely built on trust and friendship, and friends always look out for each other! We are intent, in fact, on providing members of the transgender community with access to health care, as well as the skills they need to procure jobs.

When was it started? And why?

It began in January, 2016. After 3 ½ years of working on a film about the transgender community in India and making close friends among members of that community, I wanted to remain involved.  I was concerned about the violence and the prejudice that so many of them encounter. I felt the need to bridge the gap between  members of the their community and society, at large.

Who are some of the other folks who have worked with you in implementing your mission?

Among them are: Sadhna Prasad, who serves as the project’s art director; trans leaders Shanthi Sonu and Priyanka Divaakar and trans artists Chandri and Purushi.

About how many people has the Aravani Art Project engaged so far?

Since the project began in 2016, we’ve engaged over 1,000 folks in 25 projects.

How have you made these opportunities for collaboration and exchange happen? That’s quite an impressive number of projects.

As a muralist and illustrator, I know many artists. We’ve also received commisions. This past year, Facebook, in fact, invited us to their office in San Francisco.

How has the general community responded to the Aravani Art Project?

Very beautifully – folks open up to us slowly, and, organically, folks want to connect.

And what about the name Aravani? What is its significance?

The term Aravani means a person who worships Lord Aravan, the patron God of the transgenders.

What’s ahead?

We are looking to forge more collaborations internationally and reach out to more communities whose voices remain unheard. We are planning two projects abroad and five in India. We are always seeking visibility.

How can folks become engaged in your projects?

We are eager to engage all folks — straight, gay, transgender — in implementing our projects. And if you are interested in becoming involved, you can write to us here.

That sounds great! And we look forward to seeing you back in NYC with the Aravani Art Project!

Interview by Lois Stavsky with Bonnie Astor; all photos courtesy the Aravani Art Project

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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This is the 14th in a series of occasional posts featuring the range of faces that have surfaced in NYC open spaces. The image featured above was painted by Fumero in Astoria, Queens for the Welling Court Mural Project, curated by Ad Hoc Art. Several more follow:

Danielle Mastrion  for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Nile Onyx for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Indie 184 on the Ridge Wall on the Lower East Side, curated by 212 Arts

Funqest for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Albertus Joseph for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Anthony Lister with the L.I.S.A Project NYC in Lower Manhattan

Photo credits: 1 Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad;  2 -7 Lois Stavsky

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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The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak

Earlier this year on a frisky afternoon, I met up with Noémi Nádudvari at a lively café in the 7th district of Budapest. A Budapest native and street art lover, Noémi, with the help of several like-minded individuals now known as the Colorful City Group, founded the Színes Város Festival (Color City Festival), the premiere large-scale public wall painting project in the country. Inspired by Hungarian painter Victor Vasarely’s vision that colors should play a vital role in city planning to make the world a more livable place, Noémi and her team have added over 70 murals to the facades of the Budapest City Center. I asked her a few questions about this project before she took me on a walking tour of the neighborhood.

It is a pleasure to meet you, Noémi. If I understand correctly, you work here at Café Dobrumba?

I do! I am the manager of Café Dobrumba. My team and I collaborate to create a rotating menu inspired from our travels abroad. Sadly, these are my last few weeks working here. I will be focusing my time and energy on the Színes Város Festival. It is impossible to have a full time job and, also, curate an expanding street art festival!

Yes, the Color City Festival! Tell us about this great initiative and how it all started.

The start of the festival was in 2014 with myself, my collaborator, Peter, and a super small group of people who were on board with the idea of creating an arts and culture initiative with murals by street artists at its center. We are now in our fifth edition. It is a little hard to believe sometimes. If six years ago someone had told me that I would be the curator of a city-wide street art festival, I would have laughed in their face! Today we produce around 8-10 murals each year, trying to find new wall spaces every cycle.

It sounds like you’ve come a long way. Was this festival your first experience curating? 

It was my first time curating a large-scale event. I studied aesthetics, philosophy of art and Latin in college, and then I worked in contemporary art galleries, auction houses, and was involved in the organization of festivals promoting young designers in Budapest. In 2011, I organized Urban Tactics, a one-day live painting event. It was the first-ever legal live painting in a public space in Hungary. We set up a series of panels on the street and presented an exhibition of work by six graffiti artists. That was my first real curating experience. At the time, we were struggling with money and permissions and did not think that something bigger would be possible.

Can you elaborate on the particular model of the festival in regards to the rotating themes and sponsors?

Because street art is so new in Hungary, we decided to collaborate with the city council and government to launch the project, along with sponsors who are keen on increasing the appreciation of street art in Budapest. Each year, we invite a sponsor to select a theme for the festival. It forces us to work within a certain framework. I then create a brief and reach out to local and international artists who may be interested in producing work around the topic. The mural painting then happens.

Can you tell us a bit about the topics that have been the focus of the festival?

In 2014, the topic was Let’s Start to Talk; in 2015, Hungaricum — a phenomenon that is unique to Hungary and represents great value for Hungarians; in 2016, Water and City / River and the City, focused on the Danube River which separates the city into the Buda and Pest sides; and in 2017, the theme was The Gastronomy of Art – The Art of Gastronomy.

Where are the murals located?

Mostly around here, the 7th District, but we started to do some walls in the Buda side of the city as well. Ruben Sanchez finished a piece there this past winter. The challenge on the Buda side is that we have to create murals that are more classical — in the vein of a 19th century-style aesthetic — to fit the context of traditional Hungarian architecture.

How have neighborhood residents reacted to the festival?

Good, actually. At first, there was some suspicion. But now, a few years later, we get more favorable reactions. Older generations have actually embraced it the most. They come with their grandkids to watch the artists paint, and a few have told us “We’d love to have this everywhere.”

What — would you say — were, or are, your biggest challenges?

Putting the festival together is pretty challenging, but as a curator/organizer, I would say the most difficult part is obtaining painting permissions. The city of Budapest does not easily give them. It’s a long process. We have to ask five different entities for permission before we can even begin painting.

It’s also difficult to find available walls. We’ve come up with a couple of strategies. The first is that we offer to renovate the building façade. It improves the state of the building and benefits the residents. Residents are then a lot more willing to give permission for a mural. As you can imagine, though, it then becomes very expensive for us. The second strategy is finding walls in parking lots. Since the walls are not immediately on the street, the permissions are easier to get. But, this means the mural will be erased when the parking lots are transformed into real estate developments. It could happen after one year or a few years, but in the meantime, the murals are there. Sadly, construction has started in a parking lot where we have some of our favorite walls by two members of Berlin’s The Weird Crew, HRVB and Vidam, who is half Hungarian.

The other challenge is dealing with sponsors who wanted to control the art aspect of the festival. I always insist that we need artistic freedom as soon as we start working with a sponsor. Each year this gets easier as sponsors develop a better understanding of street art and the goal of Színes Város.

How has the festival evolved?

Better artists, better walls. And more artists from abroad. Foreign artists love Budapest! Which is great because we really need a new image of the city… We want to invite international artists to show more street art styles to Hungarian audiences, as well. We were very happy to have artists like Adno, Dan Ferrer, SPOK ÉS KORSE, BreakOne, Ruben Sanchez and others painting walls in Budapest.

What is your main goal with Színes Város ?

At first, the goal was to expose Hungarians to street art and get them to understand what it is; I wanted to educate the public about this art form. Now that this goal has somewhat been met and people are starting to appreciate art that is less mainstream, I am trying to push the limit and include more adventurous, interesting, challenging pieces every year.

I always say in the press conferences that one of the main goals of the festival is to show the great variety of styles that exist. People should be more open and even excited about styles that are new to then, because there isn’t one common taste. No one has to like all the murals. but everyone will have their favourites. For me that’s an important message. You don’t have to love all of them, but try to understand them; try to speak about them; explain why you like a mural or not. Diversity is so important. It is even more important nowadays when the world is moving in a direction that doesn’t encourage inclusiveness…Trump being a prime example of that.

Do you feature other types of installations besides murals?

Not at the moment. There was a boom in the early 2000 of small street art pieces. Artists were trying to do small works. But there were too many risks involved because, unfortunately, you could go to prison if you get caught just doing a paste up. Graffiti and street artists mostly tried to paint outside the city, finding hidden lonely places where they can work easily without anyone bothering them. So that is why we are missing small pieces in the city. In cities like Berlin and London, you feel like something more is going on aside from the murals – you get that feeling because of the paste ups, stickers, stencils etc. That is a project for the future, focusing on smaller works as well.

Any other future projects or plans?

For the festival’s fifth year, I want to publish a catalog with images of all the walls. Maybe an exhibition, as well. In the longer term, I want to start an artist exchange program to allow Hungarian artists to go abroad, gain recognition in the international scene and collaborate with other artists. Fat Heat paints everywhere in Europe and Russia, which is great, but I would like to see more Hungarian artists represented around the world.

Sounds exciting! We wish you the best for what’s next!

Images

1 Lisbon-based AkaCorleone

2 Budapest-based Márton Hegedűs

3 Spanish artist Dan Ferrer

4 Portuguese artist BreakOne

5  Russian artist Adno (right) and collaborative mural by Spain’s Spok Brillor  and French artist KORSE 

6 Vidam (left) and  HRVB

7 Hungarian artist Péter Szabó-Lencz aka Petyka

8 Budapest-based TransOne and Fat Heat

All photos and interview by Houda Lazrak

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A huge sticker fan, I first discovered iwillnot‘s stickers almost a decade ago while combing the streets of DC in search of striking street art. Soon afterwards, I met him and was struck by not only his outstanding aesthetic sensibility, but his huge passion for stickers and its wonderfully democratic collective culture.

In his recently released and hugely popular book, Smashed: The Art of the Sticker Combo, iwillnot shares not only his story, but provides us with tremendous insights into the entire sticker culture.

Intent on trading his stickers with other sticker artists, iwillnot had early on established a network of artists to exchange sticker packs. He was soon installing sticker combos in cities throughout the East Coast. And in 2011, he began to envision “smashing an art gallery in a major city with thousands and thousands of stickers.” Smashed: The Art of the Sticker Combo documents the realization of this dream.

With the support of street art enthusiast and Fridge Gallery founder and curator Alex Goldstein, iwillnot curated a 12.5 feet tall by 20 feet wide 10,000 sticker installation in 2013. By 2016, the entire gallery was smashed with hundreds of thousands of stickers, representing over 500 artists from 15 countries. The 2016 DC Street Sticker Expo reached over three million people.

With dozens of photographs documenting it all, Smashed: The Art of the Sticker Combo is certain to appeal to all of us sticker art fans and street art aficionados. The book can be purchased through Amazon or directly from the author here. And if you would like to participate in this year’s DC Street Sticker Expo, you still can!

All images courtesy iwillnotthe third image features — Foes, Mr Say, Skam, Sore Infest (top) RX Skulls, Obit, Who, and Ride (bottom); book reviewed by Lois Stavsky

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Opening this Wednesday evening. July 25, from 6-9pm at GR Gallery at 250 Bowery is “Super Matter,” a solo exhibition featuring new works fashioned collaboratively by Simon Grendene and Victor Anselmi, known to us street art aficionados as ASVP.  Segments of recognizable icons, reimagined as shapes of expressive energy, mesmerize the viewer with their dynamic strokes and bold contours. The tantalizing image featured above was fashioned on wood.  A small sampling of additional works from the upcoming exhibit follow:

On canvas

On wood panel

And on a similar vein to their mural art that surfaced a few months back on the Lower East Side

Images courtesy GR Gallery

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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Since 2005, Festival Asalto –the oldest international festival of urban art in Spain — has been bringing a diverse range of alluring public art to Zaragoza, while actively engaging the community in all aspects of realizing its vision. While visiting Zaragoza last month — with map in hand — we roamed the city in search of public artworks. Pictured above is a close-up from a hugely impressive mural by Spanish artists Aryz and Daniel Munoz aka San. Several more images  — a small representation of what we encountered — follow:

French artist Zepha

Madrid-based Sabek

Madrid-based Okuda

Belgian artist Roa

UK-based Helen Bur

Copenhagen-based Isaac Malakkai with Canary Islands-based artists Felo CNFSN and Tono

France-based Mantra

Photos 1-6 & 8 Lois Stavsky; 7 Sara C Mozeson

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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17 Frost Gallery — Brooklyn’s widely impressive hub of “community, camaraderie and collaboration” — is back! And to celebrate its renovation and expansion that began in January 2017, when it closed its doors to the general public, it is hosting WELCOME BACK, ON TRACK this Saturday evening from 7-11pm.

A rebirth of sorts, WELCOME BACK, ON TRACK, features dozens of artists working in a range of media representing contemporary art, street art and graffiti genres.  While 17 Frost Gallery had previously presented monthly solo and group shows, it is now gearing towards exhibiting pop-up shows, with artists encouraged to present new works.

All are invited to celebrate 17 Frost Gallery‘s “rebirth” this Saturday evening. Among the dozens of artists in this premier exhibit — curated by Ellis Gallagher — are such modern legends as Al DiazCope2, Eric Orr, UFO97 and Cost.

With DJ Choice Royce, music and Brooklyn Gin, libations

Featured images

1 EKG

2 Alex Itin

3 Close-up from collaborative work by Cabaio Spirito, rené, Alex Itin and netism

Photos courtesy Ellis Gallagher

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Celebrated across the globe for his inventive stencil art, Joe Iurato continues to inspire and delight us with his innovatively conceived  and beautifully executed artwork. On exhibit at Castle Fitzjohns through this week is “Bottles + Cans,” an exhibition of new works, along with a life-size instillation of a Bistro. Pictured above is Modern Love (Sunset), 2018 spray paint on wood cut out, reclaimed wood. Several more images captured at the exhibit follow:

He Was Here a Second Ago, 2018 spray paint on wood cut out, reclaimed wood

It’s All Downhill From Here, 2018 spray paint on wood cut out, reclaimed wood

Watering Can (Peace), 2018 spray paint on wood cut out, reclaimed wood

Street Stories and Rhymes, 2018 spray paint on wood cut out, reclaimed wood

James ‘right to sing the blues, 2018 spray paint on wood cut out, reclaimed wood

Installation, Bottles + Cans, mixed media

Castle Fitzjohns is located at 98 Orchard Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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The soulful face pictured above is the work of the young Tel Aviv-based UK native Solomon Souza. Several more images of faces that recently greeted me in Jerusalem follow:

Also by Solomon Souza, on a lighter note:

A decade-old stencil in Jerusalem’s German Colony

A series of stenciled faces in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood

Closer up

Jerusalem-based Signer AFK 

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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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