Jersey City

A huge fan of Mr. Mustart‘s mesmerizing aesthetic since I discovered it on the streets of Jersey City a decade ago, I was delighted to feature his talents in the Morris Museum‘s current group exhibition, On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New JerseyWhat follows is an interview with the artist:

When and where did you first get up?

Back in Russia. I was about 11-12 when I first got up on a wall. I remember using a navy blue spray can from a local auto shop. At that time the paint only came in two colors.

Had you a preferred surface?  

No! Everything goes, and as long as there is room for creativity, it’s all a blank canvas.

What inspired you to hit the streets? 

A desire to be heard and also seen now that I think about it. Also, I was inspired by the music that I listened to at the time. At first, it was punk rock and heavy metal. Then when I was about 13 or 14, back in 97-98, it was a wave of hip-hop and rap music – groups like Public Enemy, Naughty By Nature, Cypress Hill, Wu-Tang, Gangstarr, of course 2Pac and Notorious BIG, BIG Pun, Big-L, Jay-Z, Nas, Dr. Dre, Snoop, KRS One, MC Hammer, Kool G Rap, Coolio, … whosever bootleg tapes and VHS videos made it to my small town.

There was no internet at that time, mind you. I remember watching music videos with b-boys in them rocking on linoleum mats with graffiti pieces and characters in the background. I was already drawing, sculpting and making my own play-weapons like wood gun replicas, ninja darts, bows and arrows. and more. The music and the videos opened me up to an entire new world of self-expression.

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others? 

I like doing both. Some of my finest memories are from the times I painted with my friends. And sometimes it’s more therapeutic for me to work alone. Depends on what it is that I’m doing.

Do you belong to any crews?

I’m an honorable member of BAMC, a huge and very talented international crew based out of California and the A-Team aka the AIDS Crew, a collective of some of the dopest local street and graffiti artists based out of Jersey.

Have you any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

Before we get into any type of logomachy about this hot topic, let’s agree that there is no solid definition of either one. and the lines between have been crossed numerous times throughout its brief history and continue to till this day.  I don’t think it’s that much of a divide, rather a continuous interaction and coexistence/collision of ideas, concepts, social commentary, techniques and more. Don’t believe the hype.

I think it’s more of a territorial issue. Most graffiti writers have been doing their thing on the streets for years and even decades without serious recognition from the art world, mostly because  graffiti has been classified as a crime rather than an urban form of expression. It’s the label “street art” that took graffiti places it has never been. So I think the divide is more personal and not as systematic as people like to think.

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries and museums? 

I think it’s great. It’s Art and that’s where the Art belongs. It’s a window of opportunity for many talented artists and a positive outlet for those who come from harsh environments with many self-destructive vices.  It gives many people hope and a way to earn some sort of a living.

And what about the role of social media? How do you feel about that?

Its role is to connect people and that’s what it does best. It’s been great for me personally. It gives me a free platform with a global outreach. It’s a way for me to expand my network and come across great opportunities.

Have you a formal art education?

I graduated from New Jersey City University in 2009 with a BFA Degree in Painting and Drawing, but even before and throughout middle and high school, I’d always attended some sort of art classes and artists’ workshops.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

Lots of daylight, a peaceful space without too many distractions – with some kind of instrumental music in the background and lots of blank canvases and paint. And hunger to search within.

What inspires you these days?

Good music, interactions with people. Everything really. Life.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Growing up in Russia and moving to New Jersey at the age of 14 pretty much sum up my background of influences. The hip-hop culture and music from all parts of the world, especially the music from Russia, Poland, France, Brazil and of course USA.

Is there a central theme that ties your work together?

It’s my organic and free-flowing style. I rarely work with a sketch in hand. My themes change as I do.

What about colors? Have you any favorite ones?

I especially like working with yellow. It’s energetic and exciting, but colors are nothing in isolation. I love the nuance that exists among the colors rather than individual hues.

And media? Which do you prefer working with?

Spray paint is mostly my go-to, but I would draw with a stick on sand if I have to.

How important to you are others’ responses to your work? Is it important that they like it?

When the reaction is positive, that’s great! I feel like that’s the greatest reward for any artist, whether you’re a painter, a sculptor, a chef, or a dancer! If someone doesn’t like something, that is fine too; it simply is not for them.

How has the work you’ve done on the streets impacted your studio work?

They impact each other. It’s a back and forth thing.

Where would you rather be? On the streets or in a studio setting?

Probably on the streets. Just because I like being outdoors. But I see myself  spending quality time in a studio with some canvases. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

How long do you generally spend on a studio piece?

All depends on its nature. Sometimes a few hours, and sometimes months. I also work on many pieces simultaneously.

How has your work evolved through the years?

It’s always evolving, and I’m always experimenting. It’s a continuous journey with no end in sight.

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

My parents always encouraged me. They are both creative and always valued and supported my niche for creativity. They are thrilled that I can earn a living as an artist.

Have you any favorite artists?

I feel like art is about self-expression, so anyone who has been doing it and has done it well and with love is a favorite.

 

What are some of your other interests?

Eating healthy and traveling. Breathing.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

It’s to find their inner light and to share it with others.

Note: You can view a sampling of Mr. Mustart‘s abundant talents in On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey through February 27 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey

Photo credits: 1, 3, 4, 5, 7 & 8: Lois Stavsky; 2 Sara Ching Mozeson and 6 Rachel Alban

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While exploring the streets of Jersey City in the vicinity of the Grove Street station off the Path train, I found myself riveted by one particular block. Along Coles and First Street, an eclectic range of graffiti pieces and street art murals rotate regularly. I was struck by their authenticity and their inherent spirit of community. I soon found out that the person behind them is Jersey City-native Wyme Santos. A man with a mission, he is the founder and curator of the community-based organization, JC Hundreds Mural Co. While visiting on a Sunday earlier this summer — when artists were busily painting — I had the opportunity to meet Wyme and find out a bit about his ongoing project:

Can you tell us something about the name of your company, JC Hundreds? What is its significance?

It all starts with one mural. And with one wall at a time, we soon have 100 murals that beautify a neighborhood. A culture can then develop that encompasses hundreds of murals.

About how many murals have you facilitated since you began this project?

In the course of two years, I’ve curated about 400 murals throughout Jersey City.

It is this block that captured my attention. How did you get the space to do this?

I reclaimed it. Once a block that had hosted a range of art and a traditional art supply store, it had become largely neglected.

Several of these artists are from Jersey City.

Yes, most are from New Jersey, and many are local, as we try to represent Jersey City’s diversity.

It’s wonderful how this space is so inviting and open. 

Yes, I like providing artists with a place to practice, paint or just hang out. I see art as a therapeutic medium.

That is the ideal! The energy here reminds me somewhat of 5Pointz, the LIC graffiti Mecca that was destroyed to give way to soulless condominiums. 

Yes! It’s about having the right energy and embodying the true spirit of graffiti.

What are some of the challenges you face in seeing your mission through?

Obtaining permissions in a variety of  locales throughout Jersey City is one challenge. I want to provide more legal spaces for artists. Art saves lives.

Can you tell us more about what you are doing in addition to curating walls?

I recently started a children’s program for mural art. We teach kids, ages 6-12, the ground rules of graffiti. They learn how they can uphold the culture, engage with the community and use eco-friendly paint. Two of them, V¡V and KüP, aka toodope_grlz, were the only kids who painted in the Jersey City Mural Festival. There are still some openings in our ongoing Summer Spray Paint Camp.

Do any personal graffiti-related memories stand out? I love your style! It’s quite distinct.

I remember meeting Rime, Nace and Sek when I was about 14. I had just caught a tag when I overheard Nace telling Sek, “You gotta write like him. You need to flow like him,” pointing to my tag.

Wow! What’s ahead?

I am working towards acquiring 501(c) status as a nonprofit organization and establishing a year-long program that engages children. And, of course, finding more spaces outdoors and indoors for artists to practice and paint.

Good luck with it all!

Images:

1 Wyme Santos in front of segment of mural by enemthagreat

2 Wyme Santos

3 John Exit

4 Byas

5 Avery

6 Ray Arcadio (L) and Distort (R) memorial walls

7 enemthagreat

8 Mr Mustart

www.jchundredsmuralco.com

10 Ree Vilomar

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1, 5, 7 & 10 Tara Murray; 2-4, 6 & 8 Lois Stavsky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wide view of segment of MORE MINIS exhibition

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

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

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This past Saturday, Green Villain and Writer’s Bench  hosted a buoyant block party at the site of the former 2015 landmark Demolition Exhibition. The hundreds of folks who attended the massive celebration were treated to live painting and music, along with food provided by local vendors. Pictured above is Newark-based Mr. Mustart. What follows are several more images captured Saturday by David Sharabani aka Lord K2.

The legendary Bronx native Skeme aka 3 Yard King at work

On the scene with Skeme aka 3 Yard King’s work in progress

Philly-based Mecro at work

Jersey City-based 4Saken painting with Molly posing

Blackbook signing

NYC-based classic writer Mone TFP

NYC-based graffiti pioneer Curve at work

Young artist takes a break

Photos by David Sharabani aka Lord K2.

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A veteran French graffiti writer, designer and illustrator, Jaek el Diablo shared his talents with us in Jersey City earlier this year, painting several walls in coordination with Green Villain, along with independent commissions.  At the time, street and travel photographer Karin du Maire had the opportunity to interview him:

When did you begin doing graffiti?

It’s been about 25 years now since I first started doing graffiti. I began in the early 90’s.

What inspired you at the time?

I was into the skateboard culture back then, and I met many other skaters who were tagging the streets. They exposed me to graffiti, street art, comics and pop culture, in general.

What, would you say, has had the largest impact upon your particular style — both as a graffiti artist and a designer?

Comics! I was always drawing, and the comics I was reading inspired my characters. I think that was the beginning of my story!

How would you define your style? What differentiates it from others?

If I had to define my style, I would describe it as cartoon. I was influenced early on by the Kermits, Disney, Hanna–Barbera… In my work, I try not to reproduce the same thing that I see. I put my own stamp on it! It’s kind of like sampling in hip-hop – a remix of sorts! I see my work as a tribute to some of my favorite characters. It’s always a tribute.

Can you tell us a bit about the difference between French graffiti and the graffiti you’ve seen here while painting in NYC or Jersey City?

I think that back in Europe, we’ve had other influences — such as Mode 2 and the cartoon styles that inspired him. And we have the German graffiti writers whose letters are always evolving. Here in NYC, the writers are very academic; they are Old School academic. Not all  — there is Rime MSK and a few guys who are next level. But most NY writers maintain the classic graffiti style. To me, the two books, Spraycan Art and Subway Art, are the Bible, the base. I love being here and discovering the origin of my religion!

What about the future of graffiti? Where do you see it going?

I see more and more big murals, especially tribute murals, and more illustrators doing street art. I see lots and lots of styles, but there will always be a return to the roots of it all – which is graffiti. I see it  going in a variety of directions. But, I think, in the future there is no museum. It is only in the streets!

Many walls in NYC are now curated. How do you feel about this trend?

On a positive note, the walls are better and better, because the artists are carefully selected. But it’s also a negative thing. Graffiti was meant to be open to all. If you had a can, the wall was free! But, yes, these curated walls help break down the negative stereotypes of graffiti. And that is good for my art! So maybe that is the future!

Photos by Karin du Maire; interview conducted by Karin du Maire  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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Deeply passionate about street art and graffiti, Green Villain has curated dozens of walls in a range of styles in Jersey City and beyond, including many in NYC.  On September 29th, the public is invited to celebrate the launch of Green Villain‘s second volume in an ongoing book series documenting various projects. Vol. II: Mural Program is a 124 page time capsule of the past four years of productions. The mural pictured above was painted in Jersey City by Victor Ving of Greetings Tour in 2015. What follows are several more images of street art and graffiti  — featured in the new book — that have surfaced in Jersey City. Specific locations of the artworks are provided in Vol. II: Mural Program.

Zimer, Jersey City, 2016

Rime, Jersey City, 2015

Dmote aka Shank, Jersey City, 2015

Clarence Rich, Jersey City, 2017

Rotterdam-based Eelco, Jersey City, 2014

Austrian artist Nychos, Jersey City, 2016

All are invited to join the Limited Edition Photo Book Launch —

Date: September 29th
Time: 6PM – 10PM
Address: 218 Central Ave, Floor 2, Jersey City
Music: Soul/Funk Vinyl Selections by Open Crates 
Catered Food and Beverages by River Horse

The following photographers contributed to Vol. II: Mural Program:  Charles A Boyce,  Vincent Marchetto, Marek Pagoda, Gregory D. Edgel, Billy Schon, Andrea Riot, Jayne Freeman and William Benzon.

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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werc-and-gera-luz-paint-jersey-city

A strikingly beautiful mural has surfaced across the street from the Jersey City Municipal Court. Spearheaded by the Jersey City Mural Arts Program, it is the work of the incomparable duo, Werc and Gera Luz. Contemplating the theme of justice, it features Maat, the Egyptian Goddess of Justice. Pictured above are the two artists at work. What follows are additional photos — all captured on site by street and travel photographer Karin du Maire.

Gera Luz, posing beneath Maat — the Egyptian Goddess of Justice — whom she remarkably resembles!

Gera-Luz-poses-at-mural

An admirer with a gift for Gera Luz

passerby-gifts-gera-luz

Close-up featuring the weighing of the heart with a feather — that determined the fate of the departed soul

Werc-and-Gera-Luz-mural, close-up-jersey-city

Werc and Gera Luz pose in front of their completed mural

werc-and-gera-luz-completed-mural-Jersey-City

Special thanks to Karin du Maire for capturing and sharing these images.

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ki-smith-with-Ryan-Bock-art-mana-contemporary-jersey-city

While visiting Ryan Bock‘s solo exhibit at Apostrophe NYC‘s Mana Contemporary studio space last month, I had the opportunity to speak to Ki Smith who — together with his brother Sei —  founded Apostrophe NYC  back in 2012. For the past several months Base 12, Apostrophe NYC‘s 12 emerging artists, have been working in a 8000-square-foot space through a one-year residency program at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City.

This is such an ideal space. How did this residency come your way?

Mana actually reached out to us after seeing the wide press coverage we received in response to our guerrilla-style pop-up exhibits.

Your pop-up shows were certainly unconventional! It’s not surprising that they — particularly your intervention at the Whitney Museum — generated so much media attention. It was your pop-up exhibits at the Kosciuszko Street stop on the J Line, in fact, that initially attracted my attention. When I first met you, you were based in Bushwick. 

Yes. But as a result of the opportunity that Mana offered us, several of us have since moved to Jersey City.  And we love it here! Mana is a very unique place and is located in a great area that’s just a short walk from Little India and all its great restaurants.

 

With your distinct styles and sensibilities, you guys all seem to work so well together. 

Since starting the Base 12 project we have all gotten to know each other quite well and I feel like every one has gained a lot of respect for each other’s work and practices. And with 12 of us working together to navigate the contemporary art world, we are able to accomplish so much more than if we were working individually — 12 times as much!

Here at Mana each Base 12 artist has been publishing a book to accompany his or her exhibit. That’s quite impressive.

I feel like making books and records of exhibitions is really important and something that very few smaller galleries do for artists, so we decided that we had a good opportunity to create a new company Apostrophe NYC Books. And in classic Apostrophe style we do everything in house, from printing to binding to working with the artists to designing and hand silkscreening the covers.  Making books is another great way to share art, and because of the especially quick turnaround on the shows we are currently doing, it’s also a great way to memorialize shows that people might miss the opportunity to visit.

What’s ahead?

The following solo exhibits are scheduled: Charlie Hudson on July 8th; Kolter Hodgson on July 22nd; Alana Dee Haynes on August 5th; Morell Cutler on August 19th; Julia Powers on September 2nd; Caslon Bevington on September 16th and James Reyes on September 30th. And next Saturday night, July 15th, is the opening of Base 12: Little Big Show, a group exhibit that critiques assumptions of virtual versus “real” representation with two allied narratives in sequential galleries: the first in an exhibition of miniature digital reproductions, the second in a series of original artworks.

That sounds very exciting! I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for you all!

Note: Tonight is the opening of  Charlie Hudson‘s solo exhibit.

Images

1 Ryan Bock artwork — with Apostrophe NYC co-founder Ki Smith

2  Julia Powers

3  Kolter Hodgson

4  James Reyes

5  Charlie Hudson

Photos and interview by Lois Stavsky

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Distort-enraged

On view in Jersey City through June 16 is DISRUPTION, an exhibit of politically and socially charged artworks by a diverse group of NJ-based artists. While visiting the exhibit at Jersey City Theater Center‘s Merseles Studios last week, I spoke to its curator, Allison Remy Hall .

Can you tell us something about the title of the exhibit — DISRUPTION?

Yes! It is part of a larger series of events and performances presented by Jersey City Theater Center that focus on the theme of rapid change — from the environment and climate to industries and social systems — that has resulted in a sense of “disruption.”  Lucy Rovetto, Jersey City Theater Center‘s Visual Arts Coordinator, invited me to curate this exhibit.

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What has the theme of DISRUPTION come to mean to you — in the course of curating the exhibit?

I originally thought of it as a disruption of norms and expectations — as most prominently evidenced by the results of the November election. But I’ve since been thinking more about the moral and spiritual disruptions that characterize our present times as a result of these changes. We have come to value things solely by their material worth.

How did you get the word out to the artists whose works are on exhibit here? While I’m familiar with Distort, Mr Mustart and Sam Pullin from their work on the streets, others here are new to me.

I reached out directly to some artists whose work I know and like, and Jersey City Theater Center launched an open call.


Luis-Alves-collage

Did curating this exhibit exact any changes within you — how you, personally, think about these issues?

I feel now that what we are facing is bigger than just a political challenge. It’s not simply about left and right; it’s about right and wrong.

How have people responded to the exhibit?

They’ve responded really well.  It has brought people together and has started a conversation.

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How do you — as an artist and curator with a strong social consciousness — feel about the role of art in these challenging times?

Art allows us to reclaim the narrative.  It is a means for us to transmit a message: We are humans and this is how we are being affected. Art has an essential role in these times.

How can folks see the exhibit before it closes on June 16th?

They can email me at info@nosucharts.com. And ongoing events are posted here.

David-lamorte-paper-sculpture

Note:  Merseles Studios, a venue of Jersey City Theater Center, is located at 339-345 Newark Avenue, 2nd floor.

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