New Jersey

The following post is by Newark-based arts educator, writer and photographer Rachel Alban

I returned this past Saturday to the Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ to revisit On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey which remains on view through this Sunday, February 27. Curated by Lois Stavsky with my assistance, it is “the first museum exhibition to examine the duality of New Jersey artists whose creative versatility extends from the street to the studio.”

Working with Lois on this exhibit was meaningful on so many levels. It gave me the opportunity to connect with artists throughout NJ after a year of living almost entirely virtually. And introducing some of our favorite artists to new audiences and presenting them in such an elegant setting was especially wonderful.

The above photograph featuring a couple viewing a detail of Rorshach‘s huge mural was taken this past Saturday. Several more photos follow — some captured this past weekend, and others as far back as late summer.

Flemington-based artist James Kelewae aka Luv One to the left of the Newark-based duo Rorshach

Jersey City native Will Power, segment of his mural “1984,” a throwback to his childhood

Multidisciplinary artist Clarence Rich to the left of Jersey City-based Emilio Florentine

Newark-based Layqa Nuna Yawar painting the US golden dollar coin depicting a representation of Sacagawea and her son

The late Newark-based legendary multidisciplinary artist Jerry Gant, a segment of a special installation of his works

Jersey City-based Mr Mustart’s strikingly intriguing mural captures this visitor

Noted stencil master Joe Iurato to the left of Jersey City-based artist and arts educator Catherine Hart

New Brunswick native RH Doaz with a glimpse of Catherine’s mural

Located at 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morristown, NJ, the Morris Museum is open Wednesday – Sunday, 11:00AM to 5:00PM. Just a few more days remain to check out On and Off the Streets: Urban Art Jersey

Generous support for this exhibition is provided by the Joseph Robert Foundation and Loop Colors.

Photos: Rachel Alban

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Clarence Rich has been enriching the streets of Jersey City for over a decade. His impressive multi-faceted body of both street art and studio art ranges from curious characters to poignant portraits of family members to harmonious rhythmic pattern. I was delighted to feature his infectious aesthetic in the exhibition On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey that continues through this month at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey. An interview with the artist follows:

When and where did you first get up?

When I was 13 or 14. In 1997, I had my first real tag.

Had you any preferred surface back then?

Anything and everything around me.

Did anyone or anything in particular inspire you at the time?

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in Jersey City, I saw graffiti everywhere. Along with skateboarding and playing basketball, kids were always writing their names, tagging… It’s almost as though everybody’s older brother did graffiti – including mine. He’s two years older than I am, and he has been my partner since the beginning. I wrote LOSER as my tag. and he wrote DZEL, and together we started the AIDS (And It Don’t Stop; Alone In Deep Space) crew. And there were a few main people getting up in the neighborhood who were amazing. Among them was T.DEE. He was the founder of Undercover, the first graffiti magazine.

What about the name Loser? How did you come up with it?

We used to hang out in the parks and sit on the stoops. And one of our neighbors walked by and saw the graffiti and said, “What kinds of losers do this shit?”

Do any early graffiti-related memories come to mind?

There were just so many amazing things that changed my life. Meeting so many great artists who inspired me. That was a blessing. But here’s a story: We’re also rappers. Our original rap group was called AIDS — Adolescents In Dire Straits; Alone In Deep Space…We started tagging it on walls, but we never thought it would go anywhere. And so once we started our crew, then we had to switch our rap name to the “Animal Crackas.”

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

I’d rather collaborate because my crew is so amazing. It’s now 20 years old.

Is there anyone, in particular, with whom you’d like to collaborate?

Rembrandt.

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

I’m right in the middle. We’re bridging it. We’re not just graffiti writers. We are evolving. Many of us are transitioning from graffiti to street art to fine art. And we do all three. Some of the most amazing writers are also fine artists.

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

I’m so happy! I’ve put together amazing shows in galleries for these past ten years. But to hang in a museum? Even that word! It’s huge for an artist.

What about the corporate world? How do you feel about street artists and writers collaborating with corporations?

Let’s get their money. I got this two-year old. I have to make money, and I don’t want to always have a day job working with fire alarms. I want to be an artist who paints whatever it is I want to paint whenever I want to paint it.

How do you feel about the role of social media in this scene?

I’m just trying to ride the wave. If you’re not on it, you’re missing a big audience.

Have you a formal art education?

Yes. My mom encouraged me to get one. I studied Fine and Commercial Arts at DuCret School of the Arts in Plainfield, NJ. It was the best thing I ever did in my life. It helped me find out who I was. But it’s also in my blood. My grandparents worked as animators for Terry Tunes, and my grandfather was one of the animators for Beavis and Butthead.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

I’d paint anywhere. I just need time to paint! Now that I’m a dad, I get up most mornings at 4 – just so that I could have time to paint.

What inspires you these days?

For now, my son inspires me. Becoming a father was the ultimate change in life. I want to be a good man, and provide for him and his mom.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Hip-hop, 100%.

Is there a central theme that ties your work together?

I’d have to say “family.” I’ve always been inspired by my mom and the women in my life, and just painting a woman is a beautiful connection to women. I can paint any female face and it becomes familial to me.

Do you work with a sketch-in-hand or just let it flow?

When I work on walls, I let it flow. I just freestyle.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? And how do you know when it’s finished?

Never. I’m never satisfied with anything!

How important are others’ reactions to you?

It always feels good when you hear people say that they like your work.

How has your work evolved through the years?

It’s moving in the direction of fine art.

Have you any preferred colors?

Blue. Why? Picasso. And there’s more. I take pride in myself that I don’t use fancy paints. I don’t put tips on my cans. I just go to Home Depot or the hardware store and I buy the colors they have. And the color blue has so many variations.

What media do you currently most enjoy working with?

Most of my work is mixed media.

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

They’ve influenced each other. They’ve both evolved. Sometimes I feel more comfortable painting with a brush. But I want to do both. I want to make money from fine art and still paint on the streets.

 

How has your artwork evolved in the past several years? And how does your studio work differ from your street art?

I keep pushing it as an artist. My body of work is constantly evolving. When I work in my studio, I do it in smaller increments in multiple sessions. When I do a piece on the street, it usually takes me a day. And I haven’t yet broken into doing large-scale portraits in my studio with spray paint. I’ve done a few, and I’d like to do more. And sometimes things just happen. Like I stumbled upon creating patterns, and people really like them. I think they’re among my best work.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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

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Third-generation New Brunswick native RH Doaz fuses folk art imagery — inspired by Hungarian folk art patterns — with the aesthetics of street art to create beautifully crafted, poetic images both on the streets and in his studio. I was delighted to feature his work in  On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey, a group exhibition of NJ-based artists that continues through February 27 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey. A brief interview with him follows:

When and where did you first get up?

In the late 1990’s – with stickers and tags in New Brunswick and in NYC.

Had you any preferred surface back then?

The backs of street signs. That was always the best! Newspaper boxes. Anything with a surface that I could stick something onto that would stay up!

Did anyone or anything in particular inspire you at the time?

Yes! Among my early inspirations were: the handmade posters I saw in New Brunswick advertising basement shows; Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant image, and the simplicity of Michael DeFeo’s flower image.

Do any early graffiti-related memories come to mind?

Taking the NE Corridor train into Manhattan and seeing different graffiti crews at every stop.

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

They’re two mediums competing for real estate. Graffiti always wins!

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

The more people who see your art, the better!

What about the corporate world? How do you feel about street artists and writers collaborating with corporations?

As long as the artist is given full credit, I don’t have a problem with it.

How do you feel about the role of social media in this scene?

It allows me to connect with other artists, and that helps me feed my kids.

Have you a formal art education?

Yes. I minored in Art at Defiance College, located in northwest Ohio.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

Any huge outdoor wall in October.

What inspires you these days?

Nature, folk art, nostalgia….

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Skateboarding, Hungarian, folk art, punk rock and hip-hop.

Is there a central theme that ties your work together?

Telling stories that haven’t yet been told through folk art.

Do you work with a sketch-in-hand or just let it flow?

These days I usually do have a sketch-in-hand.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? And how do you know when it’s finished?

Absolutely! I know I’m finished when there’s no more space left. The pattern feels complete. I’ve reached the sense of saturation where nothing needs to be added.

How important are others’ reactions to you?

I’m honored when others like my work. I like knowing what others think. I feel like I need to know.

How has your work evolved through the years?

I’m better at storytelling, and my patterns and palette are more refined.

Have you any preferred colors?

As I’m color-blind, I need to work with colors that strongly contrast one another with bold black outlines.

What media do you currently most enjoy working with?

Aerosol.

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

I’m more willing to experiment with patterns and palates on the streets, and this experimentation has impacted my studio work.

How long do you generally spend on a studio piece? On a street art work?

I spend anywhere between 5-10 hours on a piece I do in my studio. An outdoor mural generally takes about 60 hours, 6-7 10-hour days.

How important is it to you to maintain a presence in the public sphere?

It’s everything!

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

It is to tell visual stories that no one else is telling. Our most beautiful aspect is our aesthetic expression.

Note: You can view RH Doaz‘s talents in  On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey through February 27 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey and at Woodward Gallery‘s current exhibition New in 22.

Photos and interview by Lois Stavsky

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Since 2002, Meeting of Styles has been sponsoring and organizing first-rate graffiti festivals throughout the world. Earlier this fall, the first Newark NJ Edition of MOS — under the curatorial direction of  Get Lost Alot — brought local, national and international artists together to celebrate and share their talents in Brick City. Last week, photojournalist and arts educator Rachel Alban and I visited one of its key locations along Raymond Boulevard.

The stylish, colorful writing featured above was spray painted by the seemingly nomadic John Connor aka All About Letters.  And the bold image to its right was fashioned by the masterly Mexican tattoo artist Yeer THC.

Several more artworks we came upon on and off Raymond Boulevard follow:

West Coast-based artist and curator Espy

 German/Croatian artist Kosmik One

Bronx-bred artist El Souls 

Graffiti writer Tense One in collaboration with multimedia artist YN ART/Art by Prop

Graffiti stylemaster Revenge

The prolific NYC-based artists Wane One and Adam Fu

We look forward to coming upon more walls painted during Brick City’s “Meeting of Styles” in future graffiti- hunts within Newark!

Photo credits: 1-4, 6 & 7 Lois Stavsky; 5 Rachel Alban 

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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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