New Jersey

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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Bold and engaging, the murals that surface in Trenton, New Jersey are largely site-specific, many paying homage to those who call Trenton and its neighboring towns home. The image featured above — painted collaboratively in 2014 by Will Kasso, Luvonesta, Andre Trenier and Lank — looms large over a colorful playground, a short distance from the Trenton Transit Center. Several more artworks, far more recent, captured earlier this week on my first visit to Trenton follow:

Trenton-based legendary artist Leon Rainbow — two of four murals paying homage to frontline workers

Close-up

Trenton artist Dean ‘Ras’ Innocenzi pays homage to the late New Jersey skateboarder Brendan Wilkie —  one of several murals featured in the 2020 “Murals on Front Street” project, coordinated by Leon Rainbow

Philly-based Spanish artists Saoka and Imse  for “Murals on Front Street”

Austin, Texas-based masterly graffiti writer Sloke One  for “Murals on Front Street”

And Luvonesta and Lank bringing it inside to Trenton’s Starbucks, close-up from huge mural

Photos by Lois Stavsky

Special thanks to James J Kelewae for introducing me to the streets of Downtown Trenton

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This past fall, a diverse range of artists who live or work in Hoboken, NJ converted 15 utility boxes into alluring artworks. The charming image pictured above, The Hoboken Tree, featuring birds representing varied nationalities that have found a home in Hoboken, was painted by local painter, designer and illustrator Alison Josephs. Several more images — all reflecting the notion of “equality and inclusion” — follow:

Hoboken resident, Greg Brehm, Home Sweet Hoboken 

South India-native, self-taught artist Sayeed A. Syed, Clear Skies

Colombia-native, Hoboken-based multi-media artist Anita Torres Milena, Universal Lotus

Hoboken-based artist Chesleigh Meade, Venuses of Hoboken

West Coast-bred, Hoboken-based style master Matthew Dean, Hoboken United

Russia-native, Hoboken-based multi-media artist Raisa Nosova, Silver Mask

All of these artworks and more can be found along Washington Street —  from 1st to 14th — a short walk from the PATH train’s Hoboken stop. The “Art Box Mural Project” marks the first initiative of The Hoboken Arts Advisory Committee, “a group of local citizens–artists, merchants, organizational leaders and public officials–working to bring innovative, interesting and beautiful public art to the City of Hoboken.”

Photos by Lois Stavsky; more from this project to be featured on the Street Art NYC Instagram

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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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The annual Jersey Fresh Jam, Trenton’s premier urban arts festival, was held last Saturday, August 11. Arts educator and photographer Rachel Fawn Alban was there to capture the action as local and regional artists converged — despite intermittent bouts of rain — to bring their talents to the walls of Terracycle INC. What emerged was a wonderful fusion of graffiti and mural art representing a range of sensibilities, styles and themes. Pictured above — from left to right — are Damien Mitchell, Puppet Master Icky and Colombian artist Joems. Several more photos captured by Rachel follow:

Damien Mitchell at work

SoulsNYC with spray can and cell phone in hand

Meres at work with Mek on top

Kes1 at work — in collaboration with Seoz

Ras at work

Ron with multiple spray cans in hand

Photos by Rachel Fawn Alban

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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Yesterday afternoon, we visited one of our favorite sites — Hackensack’s Union Street Park. Curated by Darrius-Jabbar Sollas, it is an oasis of first-rate graffiti with walls that rotate regularly during the summer months. The image pictured above was painted by graff master Frank Wore. Several more images follow:

EBNTC5

Part One

Jerms

Ree

Johnny Samp

Soze 527

Photo credits: 1, 3 & 6 Lois Stavsky; 2, 4, 5 & 7 Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Since 2015, Wooden Walls has been bringing a diverse range of first-rate local, national and international artists to the boardwalk of Asbury Park, a small — but vibrant — seaside city on the Jersey shore. The image pictured above was designed and painted by West Coast-based artist Mike Shine. What follows are several more Wooden Walls murals recently captured by arts educator and photographer Rachel Fawn Alban:

The mysteriously beguiling NYC-based Dee Dee

Asbury Park-based multidisciplinary artist Porkchop

Brazilian artist Thiago Valdi

With West Coast native Beau Stanton painted above

Beau Stanton, up close

Photos by Rachel Fawn Alban

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Opening this coming Saturday, April 28th at Detour Gallery, a hugely impressive space in Red Bank, New Jersey, is CLASH: An Urban Collective, a group exhibition presenting a diverse array of urban artists. The image featured above was fashioned by Brooklyn-based Dain who remains active on the streets of NYC. What follows are several more images from the upcoming exhibit:

LA-based Cleon Peterson

LA-based Ashleigh Sumner

Norweigian artist Ståle Gerhardsen

Montreal-based Stikki Peaches in collaboration with Dain

New York-based Faile

The opening reception will be held Saturday evening from 6 to 9:30pm at Detour Gallery, 24 Clay Street in Red Bank, NJ. The exhibit continues through June 2.

Photos courtesy Detour Gallery

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 2015 Ironbound founder Gary Bloore started Paint for Pink when his partner, Lisa Byron, was battling breast cancer. After years of fighting the disease, Lisa passed on December 8th, 2016.  Gary Bloore has continued the tradition of Paint for Pink in Lisa’s memory. I recently met up with Gary at Ironbound‘s new site, a huge — once abandoned stadium — at 226 Rome Street in Newark, NJ, the home of this year’s Paint for Pink.

What an amazing site this is! Can you tell us a bit about it?

What was once a 4,500-seat concrete bleacher stadium was shut down and abandoned in 1987.  No one wanted to touch it. There was trash everywhere — broken bottles, litter, rubbish of every type. And then in May, we got permission to clean it up.

That’s quite a feat! How did you manage to do that?

Lots of elbow grease and determination. And visions of events — such as this one — that could take place here. There were about 50 volunteers. It has been a year of expansion for us working in partnership with Ironbound president Mike Steadman, along with the City of Newark. It’s a symbol of rebirth for us. Lisa died in December, and in these past few months we took a dead stadium and put life into it.

What is the particular mission of this event — Paint for Pink

Its mission is to create and spread awareness of breast cancer and other health-related issues. The Rutgers Community Health Center brought a mobile van and gave free exams. Since July, in fact, we have been working with the Rutgers School of Nursing and Newark Tech High School’s Teal Center in establishing the LIT (Learning, Inspiring Teaching) Program with the mission of teaching Newark Tech High School kids how to teach other kids about health issues.

What a great concept! How many artists participated in this year’s Paint for Pink event?

Twenty-eight artists contributed. In addition to the Newark-based artists The Artchitectz, others from out-of-town — such as Dojo and Repo — joined us.

And how was the response?

It was tremendous!  There was tremendous community interest and involvement — and lots of entertainment and great food.

Congratulations! It is all so amazing! And the art is wonderful.

Images

1 Goomba, Rizl and BenK

2 Seoz

3 Jodo

4 Repo

5 Chek, Dojo, Lesk, Repo, Tameartz +

6 Mone & Jick +

7 Torch Fuego and Risky — indoors

Photo credit: 1, 2, 4-7 Lois Stavsky; 3 courtesy Gary Bloore; interview conducted 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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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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