Public Art Projects

The following post is by Street Art NYC contributor Ana Candelaria

An artist, curator, dancer and filmmaker, NYC native Savior Elmundo has long been a huge force in the urban art scene. Recently, I had the opportunity to find out a bit more about him.

When and where did you start tagging?

I was fifteen years old when I started. I grew up on the Upper West Side. My tag was REIN. It stands for Ruler – Equality – I – Now. My partner and I tagged and bombed everywhere — Harlem, the Heights, Queens and Brooklyn.

Were you down with any crews?

Yes. My mother moved us to Woodside, Queens. She thought a change of environment would be good for me. But it actually made things worse. I joined a graffiti crew in Queens, and I’d sneak down the fire escape at three o’clock in the morning just to go bombing. Everyone at that time was pretty much down with a click or a group, and there were lots of them.

And then what happened? Did you stay in Queens?

No. I couldn’t take Queens for long. I traveled to Manhattan and hit the club scene. Downtown — Soho and the Village — became my new home as I began working as a professional dancer. Hip Hop was — and still is — a big part of my life. I wouldn’t have become a street artist or filmmaker if it wasn’t for dancing.

What led you into filmmaking?

I wanted to tap into something else. I didn’t want to be a dancer for the rest of my life. A friend convinced me to do a short film based on a story I had shared with him. Reflection was my first short film. It was accepted into several festivals including the NY Film Festival. I directed and produced five short films in total. Life was going great until one day, in the midst of preparing for my first feature film documentary, I received word that a family member had passed away. I picked up the brush and began to paint as a form of therapy. That’s when art took over my life.

When did you first come up with your particular logo “MAKE ART?”

Ten years ago — when I first stepped into the art scene. I wanted to get a message out there that would make people think. “MAKE ART” incorporates art, film, and dance. It also serves as a reminder for people to make art. It’s simple, and I write it in a distinct way so people know that it’s me. I sign all of my pieces with my name Savior Elmundo, “MAKE ART,”  and the year.

Did any particular artists influenced you?

Icons such as Andy Warhol, Dali, Picasso, Frida and Matisse. Studying their work has helped me come up with my own style and ideas. For example, in one of my designs Dali and Picasso face each other wearing boxing gloves with my tag “MAKE ART” in the middle. Another one of my creations was inspired by an image of the boxer Muhammed Ali holding a draft notice from the army. I inserted a graphic design image of my tag “MAKE ART” on the document.

I consider myself a mixed-media artist. I like working with different things and I love texture. I do a lot of message work, but, lately, I find myself gravitating more towards my 3D art work. I’m also working on a couple of other styles that I will be releasing some time in the near future.

Are you generally satisfied with your work when you’re finished? 

I’ve destroyed so many pieces, but I’ve learned not to do that anymore. One day, I painted a canvas and uploaded a picture of it onto my website. Two days later, a client contacted me to buy it, but I didn’t have it anymore. I had gone over it and created a different painting. That’s when I learned that my work is not for me; it’s for them.

Your work has been showcased in dozens of exhibitions in a range of spaces. Do any particular ones stand out?

The 21st Precinct, curated by Robert Aloia, was one memorable show! Each artist was given one room in the 21st Precinct building on East 22nd Street to showcase their work. The building,  had three floors with about sixty rooms. I used an image from Rene Magritte’s, Son of Man, one of my favorite paintings, and turned it into one of my own images. I designed a man with a Goya can — instead of an apple — on his face standing in front of a stack of Goya cans. I covered the entire wall with a black and white wheatpaste of this design. As a Latino, Goya is a big part of my culture.

Another particularly memorable exhibit was at the World Trace Center. For that I  did an installation using a door that I had found on the curb side as a tribute for 9/11  The door read “Always In Our Hearts 9/11” in 3D letters.

And my first solo show was in 2019. All of my work was displayed in 3D. The show was a reflection of the past thirty years of my life. The words displayed were key elements of my past. Since 2010, I’ve been in a total of 70 group shows.  So many that are memorable!

How did you come up with the concept for Collage NYC, the hugely popular weekly live art event at The Delancey?  

As soon as I started to make some money from selling art. I wanted to do something to give back.  I wanted to build a home where artists could come together to create freely and inspire each other. I imagined a place where people could have a good time after a long, stressful day. I also wanted to bring back the paint parties that Basquait and Keith Haring used to participate in back in the 80s. The vibes are super chill! You can watch the artists paint; you can dance, or you can just lounge at the bar and have a drink. This year marked our 10th anniversary.

Have you words of wisdom that you’d like to share with up-and-coming artists?

Pay your dues and know the rules. Learn the process and put in the work. Don’t be late! Get your name out there. Learn how to talk about your art and how to sell yourself. Get out to every gallery in Soho and Chelsea on a Thursday night and just introduce yourself!  You have to hustle to get what you want. Also, it’s very important to understand the history of art and respect it. Don’t be afraid to take things to the next level. That’s how I got my start as a curator.

What’s ahead?

A two-man show with my brother A.J. LaVilla. I’m really excited about it. I’m also working on a project with a corporate company that people will hear about. There are more solo shows in the pipeline and other creative ideas are brewing.

Good luck!

Interview conducted by Ana Candelaria and edited for conciseness by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1 Ana Candelaria; 2 & 3 Courtesy of the artist; 4 Dani Reyes Mozeson; 5 Tara Murray & 6 Lois Stavsky

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Curated and managed by Prospect Heights resident Jeff Beler, Underhill Walls, a model community-based mural art project, always delights. Earlier this month, while the streets were still somewhat occupied, I visited Underhill Walls‘ current installation, where over a dozen artists refashioned the covers of some of their favorite books. Featured above is the wonderfully talented Subway Doodle‘s rendition of Maurice Sendak’s classic, Where the Wild Things Are. Several more images that I captured follow:

Zero Productivity refashions A A Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” with Paolo Tolentino‘s rendition of Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” to its right

Gotham Pro Arts Academy students in collaboration with Jeff Beler with some additional assistance from Paulie Nassar

Jaima does Dr. Seuss’s “Horton Hears a Who!”

Colombian artist Calicho Arevalo designs the Herman Melville classic “Moby Dick”

Manhattan-based artist and art teacher Marivel Mejia does Arthur Laurents’ “West Side Story”

Justin Winslow does Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City”

And Paulie Nassar designs the Harper Lee classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” 

Underhill Walls is located at the corner of St. Johns Place and Underhill Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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First Street Green Art Park, one of my favorite spots in town, not only introduces me to a wide range of artists who are new to me, but also showcases works by those who’ve been making their mark on the streets for years. Featured above is a tribute mural to Koby Bryant and his daughter by the richly prolific Fumero. Several more images recently revisited in First Street Art Green Park follow:

The artist couple Bella Phame

Puerto Rico-based Deider Díaz aka ElektroTypes

Detroit-born, NYC-based RF3RD

Harlem-based Roycer aka Royce Bannon

Noted graffiti/street artist Hektad

The itinerant Ratchi with the masterful Cram Concepts

First Street Art Green Park is currently accepting proposals for murals to be installed early next month. Check here for specifics.

Photos of artworks: Lois Stavsky

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Since the January, 2013 death of West Coast graffiti icon and hip-hop ambassador, Salvador Lujan aka Lord BIZR68, an arts festival has taken place each year to keep his legacy alive. Dozens of first-rate aerosol artists convene to paint murals in his honor at an event organized by his sister, Serena Lujan.

Featured above is the work of veteran West Coast graffiti artist Dare — painted at the 7th annual Bizare Art Festival at Calwa Park in Fresno, California. Several more images — all captured by Bay Area’s Suitable 4 Framin’— follow:

Bay Area artist and musician KayTwo 

Bay Area artist Yoker One

Nuetron252 at work

Bay Area artist Hero

Bay Area artist Wzrd at work

Cre8 at work

West Coast muralist and designer Marcos LaFarga at work

And some tags

Photos:Suitable 4 Framin’

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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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The following post is by Houda Lazrak:

While visiting Santiago, Chile in late December, I sat down with Santiago-based architect and street art/graffiti expert Sebastián Cuevas Vergara. We met a few blocks from one of Santiago’s main urban landmarks, Plaza Baquedano, now known as Plaza de la Dignidad or Dignity Square — the main site of Chile’s protests against social inequality that erupted last October following a hike in subway fares. 

Every Friday afternoon, thousands gather in Plaza de la Dignidad to express their frustration with the high cost of living, rising rents, government corruption and an unsustainable social welfare system. The walls in the vicinity are plastered with protest posters, tags, graffiti, wheatpastes and other varied urban interventions.

Sebastián shared some of his thoughts and observations about the current state of public space in Santiago:

So much has changed here since I last visited Chile in 2013. What are you up to at the moment?

I am currently teaching a street art class at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Chile. This a particularly pertinent moment to be talking about people’s relation to public space in view of all the street art that has surfaced since the social crisis started.

Yes, it does seem extremely relevant.

I have a thesis: Santiago is the city with the most diverse graffiti in the world at the moment. There is poetic graffiti, urban graffiti, feminist graffiti, political graffiti…

And so many posters too!

The languages of the streets are changing. When the protests started, designers started making posters: a simple, straightforward, immediate response. Posters and graphics have been part of Chilean identity since the 1970s, so this was quickly picked up again.

Is this happening mainly in the city center?

It is concentrated in the center of the city. This is where it has the most significance, near ‘zona cero’ where the protests surface every Friday.

How have the graffiti and street art changed in Santiago since the social revolution erupted?

There are several changes. First, many artists are no longer signing their works. The personal nature of graffiti is not of essence now. Artists are, instead, giving their art to the movement. This is particularly interesting, because the graffiti scene in Santiago is very competitive. Second, works are much larger in scale because artists are collaborating. Third, performance art is integrated into the protests and with the graffiti and street art. Finally, feminist street art is now at the forefront. The work of groups like the Chilean feminist collective LASTESIS has gone viral.

How might what is happening now affect the future of public space in Chile?

The significance of the writing on the walls is now taken more seriously. The city is now asking,” Do we erase the graffiti or maintain it?”

People in Chile didn’t really understand that public space belongs to them — rather than to the police and to the politicians. Now it has been returned, and they are occupying it. There were more than one million people protesting. One way to occupy this space is through graffiti. On the first two days of the revolution, everyone was doing graffiti everywhere. And many building owners were saying, “We want to maintain the graffiti to show our support to this social movement.” Owners now have the choice of whether to keep the graffiti or not. In the past, the municipality would have automatically erased it. It’s a huge change. 

Since the military dictatorship that emerged in the 1970’s, public space has been restricted and surveilled. This is now changing. All these expressions are now happening in Chilean public spaces, even if the police tries to stop them.

Has what is happening here impacted the mainstream art establishment?

There is less trust in art institutions, because change is happening outdoors. The art that people want to see is now happening outside of museums.

Are there some works that have surfaced on the streets that are particularly prevalent?

Matapaco, the dog who became a symbol of Chilean revolutions. He was a stray dog that marched with protestors and defended them against police forces. Lots of images of him are appearing in the street. People in Santiago are also putting bandanas on their dogs in solidarity. There is also Museo de la Dignidad, a group that is installing golden frames around what they think are there best street art works made in direct response to the social situation.

Did you participate in the protests?

I created an intervention, LibreCircular, in Plaza Italia, where the main protests occurred. I collaborated with artists to paint a large circle on the ground that represents the right to circulate in the city.

To me, the most important value of public place is free circulation and people’s right to it. The Chilean government took this away from us when they imposed a curfew in Santiago last October. This intervention was a response to it.

How did people react to this particular intervention?

People’s interaction with the piece was super interesting. Some sat down to take photographs right in its center; cyclists held a night protest where they rode on the circumference of the circle over and over again; and protestors also started a fire in it.

What are some of your thoughts on the current state of affairs?

Well, there are a lot of social issues in Chile. There is no affordable healthcare or education, and things blew up.

This moment is political, but also cultural. People are trying to appropriate cultural powers. With new generations and new ideas, Chile has woken up. And artists are now playing a political role.

Sources like television and newspapers are no longer trusted, because they represent the state’s agenda. The agenda of the streets, the public’s agenda, is written on the city’s walls, and on Instagram. Hopefully, a new constitution will be written in the next months. I believe that the ideas that appear in the graffiti of Chile’s streets should be considered in the writing of  the constitution. Values are created in the streets, and graffiti is a participatory process that reflects these values. One of the most important values that came out of these protests is dignity.

Have you any ideas on what the impact of this social revolution may be?

It is hard to tell what the dimension will be, or if real change will happen.  But it is definitely the start of a historical process.

Thanks for speaking with us, Sebastian. We’ll be following Chilean news in the next months from New York!

Images

1 Photographer Bastián Cifuentes Araya‘s documentation of Chilean protestors’ head gear for the project: “Por qué nos encapuchamos” / “Why we get hooded.” The gear protects them from tear gas, and makes a political and artistic statement. 

2 Valparaiso-based stencil artist Mauro Goblin

3 Varied political graffiti in the historical, artsy Lastarria neighborhood in central Santiago

4 Varied political graffiti

5 Multidisciplinary artist Miguel Ángel Kastro, Chile, Octubre 2019

Varied political graffiti — featuring Matapacoa stray dog that accompanied Chilean activists during protests, and is now a symbol of the current social revolution

Serigrafía Instantáneaportrait of Camilo Catrillanca, the grandson of a Mapuche indigenous leader, shot in the back of the head by government armed forces in November 2018. Catrillanca’s image became emblematic of police brutality and crimes against Chilean civilians.

 Ricardo Pues, Homage to the ‘primera linea’ protestors featuring “Thank you” in several languages to those who have been at the front lines of protests since the 2019 manifestations started

Interview with Sebastián Cuevas Vergara and photos by Houda Lazrak

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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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Under the curatorial skills and direction of NJ-based Darrius-Jabbar Sollas aka Nasty Neo, the rotating walls in Hackensack’s Union Street Park brim with bold rhythms and swooping patterns. Featured above is the work of NYC-bred, Jersey City-based Raul Rubio aka Sue Works. Several more recently-captured images follow:

New York-based Jamie Hef

Bronx native Yes One

Brooklyn-based 5PointzCreates founder Meres One

Bronx native Abe BT5

Bronx native Pase BT

Bronx Team veteran writer Jew

A segment of the park — featuring (from left to right) TenseOneMeres OneSue Works, Sade TCM, HefPase and Jew

Photos: Dani Reyes Mozeson

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