Jersey graff

Opening tomorrow, Thursday, September 19, at the elegant Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ is “Aerosol: Graffiti | Street Art | New Jersey | Now,”  the first U.S. museum exhibition to showcase contemporary urban artwork painted directly from floor to ceiling onto a museum’s gallery walls. While visiting the exhibition as its installation was near completion, I had the opportunity to speak to the legendary artist, curator and educator, Will “Kasso” Condry, who, along with Morris Museum Director of Exhibitions and Chief Curator Ronald T. Labaco, curated the landmark exhibition.

This is remarkable! It’s so great to see a museum as prestigious as the Morris Museum showcase aerosol art. In addition to its global impact, modern graffiti has had a huge influence on contemporary art that isn’t often acknowledged. How did you come to co-curate “Aerosol: Graffiti | Street Art | New Jersey | Now?”  It is looking wonderful — a perfect ode to my favorite art form!

The museum’s chief curator, Ronald T. Labaco, reached out to me earlier this year. He had been researching graffiti and street art in New Jersey and came upon my work in my native city, Trenton, and beyond. He also read about several of my projects in my current home, Middlebury, Vermont, where I’ve served as the Alexander Twilight Artist-in-Residence at Middlebury College. My wife, Jennifer Herrera Condry — an administrative genius — has been the perfect link between Ron and me.

Your artwork often reflects a strong social consciousness, particularly as it relates to community-building. Can you tell us something about the striking mural you chose to paint for “Aerosol: Graffiti | Street Art | New Jersey | Now?” 

Yes! It is a tribute to the late Jerry Gant, a beloved visual artist, poet, performance artist and educator, who strongly impacted his native city, Newark. Gant had worked on murals and sculptures throughout Newark and became identified with his spray-painted message, “Detox the Ghetto.” 

I love the way your mural, along with all the murals in this exhibition, seamlessly fuses into its surroundings. And the installation of tags and throw-ups further enhances the exhibition’s authentic flavor.

Painting directly onto the gallery walls was Ron’s concept, and we’ve all loved the experience.

There are so many talented artists in your native state, particularly in Trenton and Newark. How did you go about selecting which artists to feature in this exhibition?

I started with a list of 25 names. I consulted with Leon and then Demer. I was interested in featuring not just “names,” but those artists who have put in lots of work, even if they are not all that well-known. Most of the artists I selected I know personally. And I know that they are committed to their art form and are, also, accomplished and reliable.

You then narrowed your list down. Which artists are featured? While most are graffiti masters, there are several muralists, as well.

There is a total of 12 artists. In addition to me, the artists who participated in the exhibit are: 4sakn, Acet TM7, Dave “Mek One” Klama, Dean “Ras” Innocenzi, DemerockDistort, Elan, Felipe Prox One Rivas, Leon Rainbow, Jonathan Conner aka LANK and Maliq Griffin.

What were some of the challenges you faced in seeing this through?

The biggest challenge was getting the artists to check their email accounts! And, of course, getting everyone scheduled to paint — between their jobs and other commitments — was quite a challenge. Luckily, Ron and the museum staff were very supportive.

How do you feel about it all — now that it’s close to completion? 

I’m satisfied! Very happy, in fact! The feedback I’ve gotten so far has been overwhelmingly positive. And I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase talented artists who are underrepresented and under-appreciated in the “art world.”

What’s ahead?

The exhibition opens to the public on Thursday, September 19, and we will be celebrating its opening on Thursday, October 3.

6:00PM – 7:00PM Aerosol viewing and reception for museum members
7:00PM – 8:00PM
A conversation with the Aerosol artists (FREE for Museum Members, FREE with Museum Admission for non-members)
8:00PM – 9:00PM Aerosol remains open

And what about you? What’s ahead for you?

I’m about to start a tattoo apprenticeship. I’m continuing to develop my studio practice, and I will be working on a huge label-design project.

That all sounds great and congratulations on “Aerosol: Graffiti | Street Art | New Jersey | Now.” 

Featured images:

1.  Will “Kasso” Condry

2. Demer, to the left of Kasso

3. Distort

4. Leon Rainbow

5. 4sakn

Interview conducted and edited for brevity by Lois Stavsky; photos by Lois Stavsky.

Note: The Morris Museum is located at 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morristown, NJ. Check here for travel directions and information regarding hours and admission.

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Brimming always with color, craft and attitude, the walls that surface at Hackensack’s Union Street Park — under the curatorial direction of Darrius-Jabbar Sollas — are a graffiti lover’s heaven. The mural featured above was painted by the hugely talented Sade TCM. Several more images captured last week follow:

The legendary Part One

Bronx-based Sienide

Graffiti master Soze 527

The prolific Wore One

Brooklyn-based Johnny Samp

And fellow Brooklynite Fargo

Wide view — as dusk approaches

Located at 97 Union Street in Hackensack, NJ, Union Street Park is a 30 minute drive from NYC.

Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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The following guest post is by photographer/arts educator Fawn Phillips aka Rachel Fawn Alban

A park in the largely residential neighborhood of Hackensack, NJ may sound like an unlikely destination for graffiti lovers, but Union Street Park is a gem. Curated by Darrius-Jabbar Sollas since 2007, its walls feature some of the best graff I have seen in some time. Pictured above are DC-based  CRI and Bronx-based Kingbee. Some more photos of the graffiti art I photogrphed this past week follow:

Massachusetts-based Mike Helz

Veteran Bronx writer Nev and Bronx native Abe

UK-based Trans1

Veteran writers Jus One, Vase One and Mad2

Bronx-native Pase

Veteran Bronx writer Jew

Union Street Park is located at 97 Union Street, Hackensack NJ

Photos Fawn Phillips 

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torch-fuego-in-Newark-sgk-graffiti-pit-NJ

The most riveting graffiti spots are those we almost never discover on our own.  Located in tunnels, abandoned buildings, rooftops and hidden passageways, they tend to host some of the most creative, innovative writing — from tags to pieces — to be found anywhere. We recently had the opportunity to visit such a spot — the SGK Pit — in Newark, New Jersey and speak to Torch Fuego who has established an office there.

Can you tell us something about this spot! What an amazing oasis of creativity and escape from it all! 

It was founded over 25 years ago by several Old School writers, and it quickly became — largely under the direction of SGK crew founder Syko — a key spot for writers to practice and learn from one another.

And what does SGK stand for? 

Style, Gifted, Knowledge…and more!

Lesk-and-more-graffiti-at-the-SGK-Pit-Newark-NJ

Who were some of the writers who frequented it? Were they all locals?

Among the NJ writers were: Syko, RimeCarmelo “Snow” SigonaTeck and Lesk — who made me an SGK member.  But folks also came from other places. Bom5 used to come down from the Bronx.

How and when did you discover the SGK Pit? And what was your first impression of it?

Baye took me there when I was about 15. I thought, “Wow!.” I couldn’t imagine that such a place existed.

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Do any particular memories stand out?

The few graffiti battles that turned into brawls…lots of parties…and the first time I saw the deer and red foxes that also call this spot home.

And just what is your role here now?

For several years it had been abandoned. But it has recently been revitalized.  And — together with Zew — I basically maintain it. I keep it tidy. I make sure the walls are clean. I introduce new members to old heads, who can pass down knowledge to them. Basically, I want to maintain it as a “practice sanctuary.” And as Syko handed down the torch to me, I feel a huge responsibility.

tara-and-torch-in-the-graffiti-pit-newark-new-jersey

That seems like quite a responsibility and quite a bit of work!

Yes! I’ve sacrificed my day job for this.  But it’s worth it!

No doubt!

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Note: You can meet Torch at a special event today — Saturday — from 1-6 pm at Shorty’s. And tonight — starting at 11pm — Clearport Events will host a graffiti after-party at Port-O-Lounge, 286 1st Street in Jersey City, to benefit The Artchitectz, a program that teaches youth creative skills. Check out Torch’s Instagram for additional info.

Photo credits: 1, 3 & 4 Lois Stavsky; 2 & 5 Tara Murray; photo two features work by Lesk, with Erizl to his left; 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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