folk art

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A self-taught, multi-disciplinary artist, Sara Erenthal has a strong presence on the streets of Park Slope, Brooklyn. We recently spoke.

You’ve established quite a presence here on the streets of Park Slope. What keeps you coming back?

There is a lack of public art in Park Slope, and there seems to be a hunger for it. Folks here have been so receptive to what I am doing. They seem excited to have something interesting and different to look at.  Park Slope is where I am living these days, and so it’s easy for me to get around either by foot or by bike.

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With the exceptions of the walls you are commissioned to paint, your canvas is almost always some type of discarded object. Why is that?

Since folks take many of my works home with them, I feel that I am saving trash from ending up in landfills. Also – what I am doing is not illegal. I cannot take the legal risks of doing unsanctioned artworks that could land me with a fine, time in jail or both.

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You almost always seem to be drawing faces. Can you tell us something about them?

They are variations of myself – subconscious portraits. Growing up in a cloistered ultra-Orthodox world, I was limited to just one hairstyle. The changes in the hairstyles represent the changes in myself.

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I’ve noticed folks stop and often photograph you while you are drawing.  Do any particular interactions with passersby stand out?

Yes! Recently a woman ran after me as I was rushing out of my house — in my pajamas — to the local health food store to buy some ginger. I was sick at the time. She asked me if she could bring her father – a huge fan since he had seen my work on a mattress — to meet me. He showed up almost instantly for his daughter to snap a photo of the two of us  — with me decked in my pajamas!

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In addition to your work on found objects, you’ve also painted on a range of sanctioned surfaces this past year. Any particular challenges? Any favorites?

Painting on a shuttered gate was definitely a challenge as I generally paint on flat surfaces. Among my favorites is the artwork that I painted at D’Vine Taste.

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Yes! I love the stark simplicity of the white on black. It’s beautiful! And what about the piano? How did that become your canvas?

A local pre-school threw it out last spring with a sign “Free piano.” Six months later it was still there. I asked then for permission to paint it. And I love that it is still there! I feel as though I gave it a new life.

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You did! What’s ahead? 

I am now preparing for a solo show to open at FiveMyles Gallery at 558 St Johns Place on March 9 from 6-9pm. And later in the spring, I will be exhibiting my work at Google’s New York site in Chelsea. An outdoor mural in Gowanus is also on the horizon.

I’m looking forward to it all! Good luck!

Photo credits: 1-5 & 7 Lois Stavsky; 6 Tara Murray; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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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NYC’s prolific RAE BK will join forces with the legendary DJ Kool Herc at 99 Bowery on New Year’s Eve for an unprecented event. A brief interview with RAE BK about his new exhibit  and its New Years Eve launch follows:

This sure seems like a fun way to spend New Years Eve! What spurred you to do this? 

After everything that has gone on with this Presidential Election in the US, I decided the best way to bring in a 2017 is with a bang.  I hope it’s a way to at least turn the page for an evening for those who attend. The name of the exhibition is All Systems Go and it centers around the comparison of discarded objects and human beings.

What kinds of works can we expect to see? On the streets we’ve spotted everything from your stickers to your huge installations?

There will be about 40 pieces ranging from ‘found object’ sculptures to large scale canvases to paintings on paper.  These are works I have made over the course of eight months.  And what better way to say goodbye to 2016 than to have a living legend, the Father of Hip-Hop, DJ Kool Herc, to bring some bass and get people moving later on?

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Can you tell us something about the found objects that you have been working with? Where did you find them?

A lot of the parts I have collected and used to make the work have come from an area in Willets Point. Queens, NYC.   It’s about a 10- block section full of “chop shops,” huge pot holes and some really weathered people. The feeling is third-world for sure. For someone looking at it from the outside — like me — it’s like the land of the forgotten.  Mechanics look like they’ve put in a week’s straight worth of doing car repairs. Others are selling drugs and looking to turn tricks. The work I have created is as much a reflection of the materials as it is of the environment.  A lot of rusted metals, worn fabrics and scraps of plastics… Think “pop-artifacts.”

What was it like to work with these objects?

While working in my studio, I kept seeing the worn and weary faces of the people I encountered in the weathered parts. I adopted the philosphy of making the best of the materials you are given.  And these materials came from the people of Willets Point. People there do what they have to do to make a living. Whatever it takes. The interesting thing is that for all the rusted, decayed, crushed pieces I found, I also found stuff that had a nice gold or silver shine or burst of color that created a cool high-end, low-end quality to the finished pieces.

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How can one attend All Systems Go on New Years Eve?

Opening night will be a ticketed event with open bar and music spun on vinyl by DJ Kool Herc.  I will be giving away a small original piece of work just before midnight too. You can get tickets here.

And if we can’t make it to the New Years Eve opening, will we still be able to see your show?

Yes! The show will run for at least another week after that. Check my Instagram for updates.

Interview by Lois Stavsky; photos 2 & 4 from NYC streets, Tara Murray

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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michael-cuomo-recycled-art-masks-Yonkers-waterfront

Working with a motley range of discarded objects, Yonkers-based interdisciplinary artist Michael Cuomo repurposes them into masks that he calls Heads of State. Exhibited in both outdoor and indoor spaces, his unique sculpture assemblages provoke and entertain. This past week, some of his newest smaller masks made their way onto the Yonkers Waterfront.

Pigskin

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Rex

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Installation in Progress

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A master of neo-primitive folk art in all media, Michael Cuomo recently released a coloring book with his original soulfakes drawings. You can purchase it here.

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Photos by Richie DiFrisco

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Recognized for his folksy outsider aesthetic, Brooklyn native Steven Cogle has shared his talents on public spaces for the past few years at the Welling Court Mural Project.  I recently met up with him.

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When did you first begin drawing?

I was five or six when I started drawing cartoons.

Any inspirations back then?

I was a big fan of Charles Schultz.’s Peanuts comic strip, and I also loved Bugs Bunny.

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Did your family have any response to your early drawings? Did they encourage you?

Not really! But my classmates did. I was always drawing characters for them.

What about your teachers?

I took an art class when I was a student at George Gershwin Junior High School in East New York.  I couldn’t say, though, that my teacher encouraged me.  But when I discovered Lee J. Ames’ How to Draw books in the library, I used them to teach myself how to draw.

Did you go on to study art in a formal setting?

No. I’m self-taught.

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How would you describe your particular aesthetic? It’s been referred to as Neo-Expressionism.

My artwork reflects me – tribal Africa crossed with urban blight. Growing up in East New York, I witnessed a lot of tragedy and loss, along with hope and survival. As I layer the painting on the canvas, I am also layering the experiences that I saw.

Have any specific artists influenced you?

Eric Orr became a mentor to me, and explained the business side of art to me.  And I was influenced by Picasso’s versatility, Basquiat’s palette and Clemente’s spirituality. 

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What about galleries? When did you first show your work in a gallery setting?

In 2004 my work made its way into two Brooklyn spaces and into an exhibit at the Chelsea Center for the Arts in Manhattan. I’ve since exhibited in several galleries in Brooklyn and in Manhattan, and my work is in collections across the globe. My dream is to see my work in a museum setting.

I first discovered your artwork in Astoria, Queens, where you painted with the Welling Court Mural Project. This year, in fact, you collaborated with Al Diaz.  You don’t generally paint in public spaces. What brought you to Welling Court?

I’m fond of Garrison Buxton, the project’s organizer, and I love the make-up of the neighborhood. I’ve painted there for the past four years.

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Have you any favorite artists among those active on our streets?

I like the way Chris RWK and Joe Iurato bring me back to my childhood. And there are several Staten-Island based artists I especially like: ErinKelli, John Exit and Kwue Molly.

What’s ahead? 

I’ve been working on a film to be released in 2017. It tells my story, while showcasing a range of creative artists. I plan to move to Italy by the end of this summer, and I wanted to document my life here. And, of course, more painting is ahead.

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Why the move? 

It’s time for a change!

Yes, change is good! Good luck with it all! 

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

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As featured earlier this year in the New York Times, Nic 707’s Instafame Phantom Art movement continues to bring dozens of artists — from Old School writers to contemporary painters — back into NYC subway trains. Here are a few recently-captured images:

The legendary Skeme of Style Wars fame

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Gear One

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Nic 707

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Ivory

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The legendary Taki 183

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Michael Cuomo

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Kingbee — with fragment of Michael Cuomo on left

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Misha Tyutyunik

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Photos by Lois Stavsky

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We love the way discarded and found objects — or fragments of them – are transformed into public art.  Here’s a small sampling:

RAE BK in Manhattan

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Jim Power aka the Mosaic Man captured at work in the East Village

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Fragment from a pole fashioned by Jim Power

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Michael Cuomo in the Bronx

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Unidentified artist on the Lower East Side

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Photos: 1, 3-5 Lois Stavsky; 2 Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Huge fans of Michael Cuomo‘s street and subway interventions, we were delighted to visit his studio as he was getting ready for YOHO Artists Open Studio, in addition to a WallWorks NY pop-up show and a solo exhibit at Art Cafe in Brooklyn. Here’s a sampling of what we saw:

Lucky, fashioned from found objects

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Big Mouth, fashioned from found objects

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Self-Portrait

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The Tempest

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Untitled

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Note: Michael Cuomo’s studio is located at 578 Nepperhan Ave., Suite 505; Wall Works NY’s pop-up show — featuring a wondrous array of artists including Nick Walker, Tats Cru and Crash — opens tonight and continues through the weekend at 28 Wells Street, 2nd floor. And Michael’s solo exhibit at Art Cafe opens May 6 from 6-9 at 886 Pacific Street in Brooklyn.

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Photo credits: 1, 3-5 Lois Stavsky; 2. City-As-School intern Diana Davidova; YoHo Open Studio graphic designed by John Wujcik

You can check out a detailed schedule of what’s happening this weekend in Yonkers — including live painting by Crash, Fumero and Damien Mitchell — here.

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RAE-This-May-Come-as-a-Shock

On exhibit through April 19 at 34 1/2 Bayard Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown, RAE’s brilliantly idiocyncratic Trunk Work celebrates the retrieval and contents of RAE‘s trunk from his former Brooklyn studio, while chronicling the events related to its loss and rescue. Graphically and conceptually engaging, Trunk Work wittily defines the mood and culture of the Brooklyn environs that housed RAE‘s trunk, as it showcases a range of RAE’s rescued and new works.

For four years, you couldn’t gain access to your trunk. What exactly was inside it?

Various artworks, notebooks, sketches, implements and a range of personal items.

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How did you lose access to it?

I had been maintaining a studio in a Flatlands, Brooklyn apartment building. But as a result of tenant complaints, I was forcibly removed. Barred from entering the building, I had no way to retrieve my trunk.

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What kinds of complaints might these tenants have had?

They didn’t like my taste in music; they complained that it was too loud. And the noise from my art practice bothered some. Finally, when a microwave I was using to melt some materials exploded, the landlord decided that he’d had enough of me.

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How did you finally retrieve your trunk?

This past August, cracks were discovered in the building’s facade and the entire building was evacuated. Amidst the chaos of it all, I was able to retrieve my trunk from what was once my studio.

We’re so glad you did! What a story! And what an amazing recreation of it all!

In true RAE fashion, Trunk Work is far more than an art exhibit; it is a totally immersive experience. Set in a Chinatown basement at 94 1/2 Bayard Street, right off Mulberry, it continues through April 19, Thursday-Sunday (except for Easter) from 1-6pm.

Photos 1-3 and 5 by Lois Stavsky; 4 by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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RAE BK in Africa

Brooklyn-based RAE — whose folksy sculptures, stickers, paste-ups and paintings on NYC streets always delight us — recently returned from Ethiopia.  And we had some questions for him:

What took you to Ethiopia?

I had connected with the non-profit organization H2 Empower Inc that had recently completed construction of the first community library in the town of Hosanna.

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What was your role there?

I worked with kids building sculptures out of found objects and painting the walls outside.

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Those of us who follow you on Instagram had the opportunity to witness an exhibit, as well – with goats in attendance!

Yes, we staged an exhibit in the living room of the home of a local family we met in town.

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How did it all culminate?

We successfully raised funds to furnish an empty, unused wing of the Alemu Woldehanna Community Library with tables, chairs and a computer station.  That financial goal has been met, and the furniture making will soon be in production.

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Who will be involved in the next step?

The students at the nearby School For The Deaf in Hosanna, Ethiopia will be making the furniture.

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It all sounds great! Welcome home!

Photos courtesy of the artist

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RAE

Brooklyn-based artist RAE recently transformed an abandoned East Village bodega into an extraordinary pop-up show. Word of Mouth, features dozens of his works on a range of media, alongside items one would expect to find in a bodega. We visited last week.

This is amazing! How did you come up with the idea?

I started working in grocery stores when I was seven. First just stocking milk; people bought a lot of milk back then. Later I became a delivery boy and deli worker. Some of the spaces I worked in were not always on the up and up… if you know what I mean. They were pretty colorful, and I never forgot that. To me they seemed to have art everywhere — from the neon sale labels on the packagings to the misspelled graphics on the signs. Everything was more interesting to me than maybe it should have been.

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How did you find this space? It’s ideal.

Through a series of connections with life-long East Village folks, this place opened up for me. It was closed down just before Hurricane Sandy hit, and after the flood, it never reopened. All that was left behind was two shelves and two inches of dust.

There’s so much of your art here. What a treat! Everything from stickers to huge sculptures. When did you begin preparing for this exhibit?

About two years ago. And for the month before the opening, I was here day and night. We wanted to get the store just right for our grand opening.

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How has the response been?

My store worker tells me people are really enjoying the products and sale specials we put on. This week there is a sale on lima beans and sugar wafer cookies. Please spread the word.

Word of Mouth remains open through November 16, Thursday through Saturday, 2-7pm on the corner of Avenue C and 12th Street. It’s a must-see!

RAE interviewed by Lois Stavsky with Tara Murray; photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson. 

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