Yoav Litvin

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Penned by photographer, writer, neuroscientist and street art aficionado, Yoav Litvin, 2Create: Art Collaborations in New York City is a distinctly elegant ode to the art of collaboration. Recently released by Schiffer Publishing, it was formally launched last month at the Bronx Museum of the Arts alongside a collaborative photography exhibit, 2gether: Portraits of Duos in Harlem and the South Bronx by Litvin and Tau Battice. A textual and visual documentation of the creative and collaborative process among nine pairs of artists, 2Create also presents first-hand accounts of each one’s early life and work.

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Featuring such duos from NYC-based Al Diaz and Jilly Ballistic to the Iranian brothers Icy and Sot, 2Create: Art Collaborations in New York City showcases a broad range of styles, sensibilities and processes. It also introduces us to the specific locale — from Manhattan’s Union Square Subway Station to a Greenpoint, Brooklyn rooftop — of each of the collaborative works featured. With its astute insights and superb design, it stands out among the dozens of street art-related books published last year.

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After reading the book, I posed a few questions to Yoav:

Your first book, the highly acclaimed Outdoor Gallery: New York City, focused largely on individual artists. Why did you decide to focus on duos in this book? 

In contrast to other art forms, such as music or dance, the visual arts involve a more solitary practice. Painters are famous for being hermits: closing themselves off from the world in their studios where they paint their masterpieces. At least, that’s the popular narrative. I feel that because the visual arts are easily commodified and objectified, they have evolved in such a way.  While I was working on Outdoor Gallery, which focuses on 46 individual artists, I noticed several duos of street and graffiti artists who produced incredible works, and I was fascinated by their practices. In 2Create I seek to investigate the art and practice of collaboration in different mediums — collage work, screen printing, stenciling, graffiti and mural making. My goal with 2Create is twofold: to present the behind-the-scenes processes of these artists and to investigate the secrets of collaboration, with the ultimate aim of encouraging others to create together. Just like any skill, collaboration needs to be practiced!

Dain-and-Stikki- Peaches

How did you decide which duos to feature in 2Create?

My process with 2Create was mostly democratic. I was looking to present a diversity of styles, messages, mediums and locales. I am cognizant and weary of the politics involved in the arts and attempted to focus on artists that I felt were doing radical, innovative work and were constantly challenging themselves. Throughout my research on collaborations, I discovered there were two major categories that lie on a continuum — from complementary collaborations – individual works presented side by side – to integrative, a single piece that seamlessly integrates the work of two artists. I chose nine duos that present the full spectrum.

Icy-and-Sot

Icy-and-Sot-paint

What insights did you, yourself, gain into the collaborative process, particularly among visual artists?

Collaboration is a skill that should be practiced by any visual artist as part of his/her development. Collaboration is an exciting and stimulating process that can produce immense growth if approached correctly, but can be very challenging at times. An artist needs to respect and trust his or her collaborator and be willing to be adaptable and open to critique. The collaborative process can open new doors for an artist  — in techniques, messages, ideas and human connections that can be useful moving forward.

ASVP-2Create

The book, itself, is masterfully designed. Can you tell us something about that? 

For the design I worked with the designer Dan Michman, who is also an excellent childhood friend. It was important for me that every aspect of this project be collaborative. Dan is the best designer I know, plus I like him a lot and knew from experience that we’d collaborate well. Our process was incredible. Dan took my materials — images and texts — along with my notions on the artistic process and on collaboration, and created a stunning design “language” for the book. It was a truly integrative collaborative process. I could not be happier with the way it turned out. Plus, the cover design is simply stunning. Lastly, Schiffer Publishing did a great job in the book’s production.

2Create-cover

How has the response been to 2Create?  Is there any particular readership you’d like to reach?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In addition to appealing to the street art and graffiti fan crowd, my hope is that 2Create will integrate as a text book for art schools, colleges and universities. I believe the behind-the-scenes process shots, the revealing interviews and the insight into the art of collaboration make it a unique resource for artists in general, and visual artists in particular. But 2Create is more than a book on art. It is a document that presents the collaborative duo as the basic unit of a collective humanity in which empathy and collaboration trump disregard and domination. In an era of the cult of celebrity, war and climate change, collective action is not only beneficial, it is necessary. 2Create expresses these radical notions and I hope it will serve to inspire activists fighting for the greater good.

For more listen to Yoav speak on Counterpunch Radio here.

Images

1 & 2 Rubin and Dasic 

3 & 4 Bunny M and Square 

5  Stikki Peaches and Dain

6 & 7 Icy & Sot

ASVP

All images © Yoav Litvin

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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We recently had the opportunity to speak with writer and photographer Yoav Litvin about 2Create, his ongoing project and upcoming book on creative collaborations.

We love your recently launched 2Create Facebook Page and Group. Can you tell us something about the concept behind 2Create? What is its mission?

The aim of 2Create is to study and promote teamwork and fellowship as it showcases the art of collaboration. Folks tend to place far more emphasis on competition than on collaboration. But so much more can be accomplished if we work together.

Icy-and-Sot-street-art-at-Welling-Court-NYC

Yes! We tend to glorify individualism, particularly in the West.

And my point is that when two people create, it is greater than two. 1 + 1 is not 2, but something more. The duo is the basic unit of a collective.  And we need to look at forming collectives as a means to solve our societal problems.

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One of your initial projects, related to this larger one, is your upcoming book, 2Create: Art Collaborations in New York City.  Can you tell us something about it?

Yes. It will be released by Schiffer Publishing this fall. It showcases the works and processes of nine pairs of NYC graffiti and street artists. Each duo consists of two artists whose unique styles came together to create a larger-than-life work of street art in a NYC neighborhood. The book focuses on the backgrounds, techniques, and collaborative processes of the featured duos.

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What spurred you to produce this particular book? What was your impetus behind it – in addition to promoting the concept of collaboration?

There were a number of factors. I was interested in expanding the documentation that I began in Outdoor Gallery New York City by getting to know more of my favorite artists – like Cekis and Rubin. But most of all, it was a project that enabled me to further develop myself as an artist by integrating my background in psychology, my passion for progressive politics and my respect and love for graffiti and street art in NYC.

jilly ballistic-al diaz

What were some of the challenges that you faced in the process?

Identifying artists who could work well together and produce first-rate artwork was the initial challenge. I also had to gain their confidence and access to their relationship so that they would speak freely about the process.  And some of the artists were quite shy – which was an additional challenge. And, then, for some of the works I had to secure walls, materials and more.

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What’s ahead for 2Create?  Where are you going with it?

I want to continue documenting and interviewing duos that work together in a wide range of scenarios: visual arts, dance, music and more!

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How can we become engaged with your project? Can we contribute to it?

You can Like the project on Facebook and share your own collabs and connect with others here. You can also follow it on Instagram and on Twitter.

It sounds great! And what a wonderful concept!

Images

1. Dasic Fernandez with Rubin 415

2. Icy and Sot

3. Cekis with Cern

4. ASVP

5. Jilly Ballistic with Al Diaz

6. Alice Mizrachi with Trap IF

7. Logo design by Dan Michman

Photos © Yoav LitvinYoav in conversation with Lois StavskyTara Murray and City-as-School intern Sol Raxlen

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Inti

Outdoor Gallery NYC author Yoav Litvin recently returned from a five-month trip abroad, where he explored the street art in several key South American cities and towns. I had a chance to catch up with him last week:

Those of us following you on Instagram got a mere glimpse into your incredible adventures on the streets of South America. You visited Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Brazil. What spurred your interest in that region?

I was curious. I had seen amazing works from South America online, and while I exploring the streets of NYC, I had met a number of South American artists.

"Gonzalo Sánchez"

In what ways did your findings meet your expectations?

I expected to be blown away and inspired. And I was — beyond any expectations.

"Stinkfish" "APC crew"

What were some of the highlights of your trip?

There were so many!  Among them were: walking around the streets of Lima with Entes; coming unexpectedly upon an art festival in La Paz, Bolivia and being in São Paulo during its 3rd annual Graffiti Fine Art Biennial.

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Do any particular impressions stand out? 

The juxtaposition between Peru’s rich culture and history and its current street art particularly struck me. And navigating Bogota was what NYC was like for me in the early 80’s. I always had to keep my eyes open!

"Marcelo Mente"

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What about some of the challenges along the way?

The biggest challenge — I would say — was the language. And living in the Vidigal favela in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro certainly was an experience.

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Where do you think the street art scene in South America is going? Do you think it will continue to remain so authentic?

It is difficult to generalize as each city and town is unique. But I suspect that it will continue to thrive.

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What’s next for you? 

This Wednesday evening, May 27, I will be speaking about my personal style as a street art and graffiti documentarian, along with the role — as I see it — of the street art photographer.  After sharing some of my experiences in photographing NYC street art and graffiti and publishing Outdoor Gallery NYC, I will speak about my recent trip abroad and present many images of street art that I photographed in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Brazil. The event will take place 7:00 – 9:00pm at Nowhere Studios, 582 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn.

EVENT FLYER

Note: All photographs © Yoav Litvin, 2015

1. Inti, Santiago, Chile 

2. Gonzalo Sánchez “Painters”, Valparaíso, Chile

3. Stinkfish and the APC Crew, Bogota, Colombia

4. Entes & Pésimo & 5. Decertor, Lima, Peru

6. Marcelo Ment & 7. Tarm1, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

8. Nove, São Paulo, Brazil 

9. Apitatan, Quito, Ecuador

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Outdoor Gallery New York City author and photographer Yoav Litvin continues readings from his book and conversations about New York City street art this evening, August 6, from 5-:30 – 7:30 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Among the topics he will discuss are: documenting street art and graffiti; constructing and editing interviews, and publishing and promoting his book.  Admission is free and you can hop off the Bronx Trolley that provides a free arts and culture tour of the South Bronx on the first Wednesday of every month. Yoav will be joined this evening by the wonderfully talented artist and art educator, Alice Mizrachi, who will speak about her own art and its evolution.

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On Wednesday, August 20, Yoav’s special guest, Brooklyn-based street and subway artist Jilly Ballistic, will join him at Word at 126 Franklin Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The discussion will begin at 7pm.

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And on Thursday, August 28, Chris Stain, one of our favorite stencil artists and muralists, will be joining Yoav at 7pm at the collectively-owned Bluestockings at 172 Allen Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

"Chris Stain"

Photos by Yoav Litvin

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"Outdoor Gallery NYC"

Currently on view at 17 Frost is an exhibit of artwork by artists featured in Yoav Litvin’s remarkable book, Outdoor Gallery NYC. While visiting the exhibit on Thursday afternoon, we had the opportunity to speak to Yoav: 

This exhibit is in many ways a reflection of your book. It is wonderfully eclectic.

Yes, like the book Outdoor Gallery NYC, it celebrates the diversity of the incredible range of street art that surfaces in NYC’s public spaces.

"Enzo and Nio"

How did you connect with all of these artists – whose works are featured in your book and in this Outdoor Gallery NYC exhibit?

I initially met most of them through encountering their works on our streets. I further connected with them via Facebook or Instagram.

Cern

Can you tell us something about the process from the time you had your resources – your photos and interviews — to the actual production of the book?

Working with the designer, Steve Mosier, I created a template for a book. I then presented my concept to about 30 publishers. In late summer, I signed a contract with Gingko Press, my first choice.  The first copies of the book became available last week.

Billy Mode

The book looks wonderful, and your book launch party was quite remarkable. We’ve heard that folks waited on line for hours to get in.

Yes, that was quite humbling. And I feel grateful to everyone.

"Alice Mizrachi"

To what do you attribute the incredible success of the book launch?

My sense is that folks appreciate my particular approach. I have deep respect for all of the artists who share their works with us in public spaces. I admire their visions and their skills. I particularly love the way they challenge conventions.

"Chris Stain"

You are a scientist, as well as a photographer and street art documentarian. Has your background as a scientist affected the way you approach street art?

I suppose it has. It is essential that my research and findings remain “clean” and unbiased. I am interested in presenting something that is important not only on a local level, but on a global one, as well.

Bishop203

In what ways has this project impacted you?

I feel that I’ve developed a distinct personal style and approach to documenting street art.

"Icy and Sot"

If you had the opportunity to spend time in another city and work on a similar “Outdoor Gallery” project, which city would you choose to visit?

I’d probably choose São Paulo, Brazil.

NewMerica

The exhibit, curated by Yoav Litvin with Royce Bannon, continues through March 8 at 17 Frost Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Yoav can be contacted at yoavlitvin@gmail.com; for updates, visit the book’s Facebook page.

Interview with Yoav Litvin conducted at 17 Frost by City-as-School intern Anna Loucka with Lois Stavsky; photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky. 1. Exterior of 17 Frost painted by Bishop203, elsol25 and Royce Bannon; 2 .Enzo & Nio, Retro Bomba; 3. Cern, Jardim Electrico; 4. Billy Mode, Love; 5. Alice Mizrachi, Queen, close-up; 6. Chris Stain, Up in the Bronx; 7. Bishop203, Jesus Christ Superstar;  8. Icy and Sot, Race and 9. ÑEWMERICA, small segment of collaborative mural 

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COCO144 is a pioneer New York City-based graffiti/street artist. He started tagging in 1969, co-founded United Graffiti Artists and introduced the stencil into the graffiti movement in NYCThis interview was conducted and edited by Yoav Litvin. Yoav is a writer, photographer and author of a forthcoming book on NYC graffiti/street art.

You were there at the beginning of it all. How did graffiti start?

Graffiti is what the media called it. What I call the writing movement started in NYC back when I was in junior high in 1968. It began in the Inwood section of Manhattan with Julio204. Then in 1969, it took off in Washington Heights, with writers like Phil T. Greek and TAKI 183.1970

Why did writing start?

Writing was a reflection of the times — the socio-political and economic realities back then. It was a combination of the spirit of the anti-war movement, frustration with economical and social inequality, and racial and political tensions.

1972

How do you feel about the evolution of it all? Where’s it heading? What’s the difference between today and back when graffiti just started out?

It has changed from a social scream of the inner city to a large-format, graphic design-like urban beautification movement. Go out right now and try to write your name on a wall, you’ll get arrested! Try to paint anything else and you’re more likely to get away with it.  Back then, we wanted to be known within our circle of writers for destroying the system; you hit, do your thing and were cool to be incognito rather than celebrating who you are. That’s changed today.

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Why do you think this movement has spread throughout the world?

Making your mark is a contagious virus with no known vaccination or cure.

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Who do you consider are the pioneers?

My contemporaries, far too many to name, but I also feel that folks who are really interested in knowing the history of the movement should do their research.

1995

How did you get your name – COCO144?

COCO was a term of endearment given to me by my parents when I was 3 months old. I grew up on 144th St. in Harlem.

What are some of your preferred mediums?

Markers, spray paint and later I developed the stencil for obvious tactical reasons.

2009

What were some of the concerns and dangers you had to consider?

Going into the yards you always had to consider the third rail. Other than that, there wasn’t much security to worry about at that time.

How have you evolved as an artist?

My name has developed and evolved in a calligraphic sense. I’m still working with my name. I see it as a process of constant rediscovery of myself; my name is a big part of who I am. Today I am influenced by my workplace, a Science Research Institute in Manhattan. I integrate the sciences into my name. I find it fascinating that both art and science utilize and emphasize the process of experimentation/trial and error. Both also greatly value and rely on curiosity and modesty as driving forces. Lastly, both accentuate the importance of the process as much as that of the final product.

2010

1) Photo, 1970

2) Photo, 1972

3) Photo, 1974

4) Photo, 1984

5) Photo, 1995

6) Photo, 2009

7) Photo, 2010

All photos ©COCO144

For a slideshow by COCO click the following link: COCO

For an interview with Yoav on Street Art NYC see here.

 

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While not conducting his post-doctoral research on Brain and Behavior at The Rockefeller University, Jerusalem native Yoav Litvin can be found on our city streets pursuing his passion for street art. We recently met up for a chat.

Dain

What spurred your interest in public art?

As a result of an injury, there wasn’t much I could do other than walk around.  So that’s what I did. And once I began to notice street art, I couldn’t stop taking photos of it. I also appreciate the risks artists take when putting up pieces; it’s a rush I can relate to. And I admire the artists’ generosity in taking these risks to share their vision with the public.

Alice Mizrachi and Cope2

What is it about street art that continues to so engage you?

I love its beauty and humor. I appreciate its aesthetic and the way it challenges convention. It is a beautiful, non-violent way to raise issues in the public sphere.  And as a political person, I am drawn to the confrontational nature of much of it.

Never Satisfied

What do you see as the role of the photographer in today’s street art movement?

Because of the transient nature of public art, I see it as essential. The image is important, but so is its context and appropriate accreditation to the artist.  And documentation of NYC’s street art trends is especially essential as this city is the world’s cultural Mecca.

gilf!

Tell us a bit about your current project.

I’ve been working for over a year now on a book that profiles 46 of the most prolific urban artists working in NYC.  It will feature images and interviews, along with some exciting supplements.

Jilly Ballistic

Have you any favorite artists whose works you’ve seen here in NYC?

There are too many to list. I love them all for different reasons.

Enzo and Nio

How do you keep up with the current scene?

In addition to documenting what I see and speaking to artists, I follow popular street art blogs such as StreetArtNYC, Brooklyn Street Art and Vandalog.  I also check Instagram daily for new images that surface not only on NYC streets, but across the globe. And I try to attend gallery openings as often as possible.

NDA and Elle Deadsex

We certainly look forward to reading your book.  Tell us more about its current progress. How close it is to publication?

I’ve finally completed the stage of collecting texts and images, and am currently working together with a first-rate designer. I am now seeking a publisher.

Yoav can be contacted at yoavlitvin@gmail.com

Featured photos are in the following sequence:

1) Dain. Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

2) Alice Mizrachi and Cope2. Boone Avenue, The Bronx.

3) Never Satisfied. Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

4) gilf! Grattan Street, Bushwick, Brooklyn.

5) Jilly Ballistic. Astor Place 6 Train station, Manhattan.

6) Enzo and Nio. Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

7) ND’A and Elle Deadsex. Jefferson Street, Bushwick, Brooklyn.

All photos by Yoav Litvin.

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