public art

Curated by Bianca Romero, the new Lombardy Walls is a delightful addition to East Williamsburg’s visual landscape, bringing color and charisma to what was once a banal North Brooklyn block. The huge mural featured above was painted by Brooklyn-based Bianca Romero in what has become her distinctly infectious signature style. What follows are several more artworks that surfaced this summer for the first edition of Lombardy Walls.

Brooklyn-based Dain on door

Street art veteran and Robots Will Kill founder Chris RWK

Harlem-based Marthalicia Matarrita

Chicago-based Czr Prz

  Filipino artist Jappy Lemon, currently based in NYC, does Spiderman

Will Power and Albertus Joseph do OlDirty Bastard

Lombardy Walls is located at Lombardy Street and Porter Avenue.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Working with paintbrush in hand, award-winning Manhattan-based artist Miguel Diego Colón recently brought his skills and vision to First Street Green Art Park. After he had finished his mural, I posed a few questions to him:

Although your artwork surfaced publicly this past year on a huge billboard near the Kings Plaza Shopping Center, this was the first time you actually painted in public. What was that experience like?

It was amazing! I loved interacting with passersby who stopped to watch me. I loved hearing people’s interpretations of what I was doing. And I felt flattered when people took photos of the mural and of me while I was painting.

All of your images reference some kind of economic or social injustice. How did you decide which images to incorporate into your mural?

I researched online the term “social justice.” I then visually interpreted particular issues that stood out…that particularly mattered to me.

And so the overall theme of your mural is social justice — or the lack of it.

Yes. I am concerned with oppression of all kinds…what it means to have one’s rights taken away.

Is there any particular segment of the mural that you especially like? 

One of my favorite segments is the image of the couple embracing during the collapse of a sweatshop. I like the way it represents connection — the way people can connect, especially during trying times.

What’s ahead?

I’m currently applying for a number of grants. And I would love, of course, more opportunities to paint in public spaces. I’m also working in my Fountain House Gallery studio on a painting modeled on my First Street Green Art Park mural, “Liberty’s Last Embrace.”

It sounds great! Good luck with it all! And, thank you, Jonathan Neville and First Street Green Art Park.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky. Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Born and based in the Italian town of Civitanova Marche, the wonderfully talented multidisciplinary artist Giulio Vesprini will be bringing his vision here to NYC this coming week. A brief interview with the artist follows:

You’ve studied art formally at the Academy of Fine Arts in Macerata and at the Department of Architecture in Ascoli Piceno. What spurred you to turn your talents to public spaces?

My two greatest passions are graphics and architecture. And thanks to the outstanding teachers I had in both disciplines, I came up with a way to combine my passions: archigraphia. I view painting in public spaces as a superior expression of art.

When and where did you first paint in a public space?

I started painting when I was fourteen yeas old. It was back in 1994. Using two old spray cans, I painted a big face on an abandoned wall. It seemed really ugly!  I didn’t know what I was doing, but it was fun doing it. I felt free, and it was a wonderful feeling!  At that moment, I understood that the wall was my only true canvas. 

Your work seems to straddle the lines between graphic design, fine art and street art. Can you tell us a bit about your process? Do you work with a sketch in hand or just let it flow?

Each one of my works is planned in terms of the space that will hold it. I always combine graphic language with the language of architecture. I always bring with me a drawing, along with some landscape photos. I feel that every street artist has to consider the site on which he is working — in terms of its distinct story and locale. Urban art should fuse with the specific space and not prevail over it. 

Have you collaborated with other artists?  Are there any artists out there with whom you’d like to collaborate?

Yes, I have collaborated with many others street artists. Among my most interesting collaborations were those with Aris and 108, two italian street artists. I’d like to paint with MOMO and Rubin415. I very much like their styles, and I think that they have a perfect understandng of architecture.

Have you exhibited your work in gallery settings? If so, where?

I’ve exhibited in Milan, Florence and in Bologna. Now I wish to show my art works in galleries in other countries — like Germany and France. I dream of having a show in the United States.

What’s ahead?  

I’ll be in NYC from August 5 though August 22. I am excited to be painting at rag & bone on East Houston Street, and I look forward to other opportunities to paint in NYC, as well. In September, I will be in France for an international street art festival and then off to projects in Rome, Turin and others Italian cities.

Photos

1  Mural for school in Civitanova Marche, Italy for project cordinated by Vedo a Colori

2  Final wall for the second edition of the Manufactory Project in Comacchio, Italy

3  Final wall for the Pennelli Ribelli Festival in Bologna, Italy

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos courtesy of the artist

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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Located on 120th Street and Park Avenue in East Harlem, Eugene McCabe Field is now home to two tantalizing public art installations.  Featured above is a close-up from local fiber artist Naomi RAG‘s 12 x 24 foot mural fashioned from yarn.

A larger segment of the mural

The mural, La Flor De Mi Madre, in its entirety

Harlem-based Capucine Bourcart, Eat Me!, a photographic mosaic of approximately 1,500 printed metal square pictures of local healthy food — asking to be eaten!

Photos captured at dusk in the heat 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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The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak

Earlier this year, I visited Waterford, Ireland, the country’s oldest city — approximately 100 miles south of Dublin. Best known for its exquisite crystal, Waterford has also become, in recent years, a street art destination. Using the arts to rejuvenate urban space, its annual street art festival, Waterford Walls, has transformed Waterford into Ireland’s largest and most accessible outdoor gallery. 

While there, I had a chance to meet Waterford Walls founder, Edel Tobin, at its headquarters, and speak with the nonprofit’s Assistant Project Manager, Gabe McGuinness, as we strolled the streets together:

You are based in an interesting building right in the center of the city. What an ideal location!  How did it become the site for your offices?

Yes, it’s great! The building was donated by a local family. They wanted to see what we can do with it to develop the arts in Waterford. 

Lucky you! The festival was initiated a few years ago in 2015. How many walls have you produced since?

We are up to 180 walls at this point. And we try not to paint over any previous ones.  

Why Waterford?

It started with a community garden project spearheaded by Edel.  From there, she got the ball rolling to showcase public art.

How did you become involved? 

I came to visit the festival one year, absolutely loved the project and applied for a job!

Can you tell us something about your background?

My background is in archaeology and geography. I am interested in integrating the arts with these disciplines. I also studied cultural policy and arts management. I’ve produced music festivals, and I’ve done production management for short films.

Just when does the Waterford Walls festival take place? And what goes on during it?

The festival takes place annually at the end of August. This year it will be held from August 22-25. We invite artists to paint, of course, but we also host other activities — such as panel discussions and talks on themes around public space. And we organize children’s workshop and set up live music events, among other things. 

Which neighborhood does the festival take place in?

In the first years it was in the city center. Starting last year, we expanded and brought it up to a hillier part of the city called Ballybricken. 

How do you go about finding and selecting artists?

We invite two or three headliners each year, and we also have an open call. Artists are encouraged to apply to the open call, which is generally held from September – December. The  selection committee then determines the final roster. We have hosted artists from all around the world and Waterford-based artists  — like Caoilfhionn Hanton — as well.

Is there an overarching theme each year?

No, there is no brief for artists. We ask them to create something based on what Waterford represents to them. We encourage them to spend time in the city before painting to seek inspiration from the local culture and history. Some of the common themes are: nature and animals, Irish folktales, Vikings, marine-related motifs and the famous Waterford Crystal factory.

What has been the impact of the festival on Waterford?

It has helped develop O’Connell Street as cultural quarter of the city. It has encouraged creative industries to come into Waterford. We also do focus groups with community members and ask what they would like to see. Their input serves as a basis for our five-year plan. Like I said, we’ve focused on the city center, but we want to expand to bring public art to the outskirts, as well. 

And what about the locals? How have they responded?

We’ve gotten a lot of support from the Waterford community! Some of the hotels give us free storage space during the festival and local businesses offer lunch to the artists. We also get emails from people saying they want to give us walls for the festival. Unfortunately, many walls are made of pebbledash, or roughcast, so the surface is tricky to work with. It’s basically plaster with pebbles thrown on it. They are okay for abstract murals, but details don’t work well. There are also local businesses who want to sponsor walls, so they pay for the entire production cost. Some of the murals have also been totally appropriated by the Waterford residents. The seated elephant by Louis Masai, for instance, is adored! There would probably be protests if it were removed!

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in seeing such a momumental project through?

We are well-known among artists but not by the general public. Most people in the next big town over, Cork, don’t even know about us. We are trying to change that. We started doing weekly guided tours on Saturdays from April to November, and we offer private tours, as well, for tourists or other visitors. We also host tours for schools interested in branching out of the more traditional Celtic art taught in class. Another, more practical, challenge is that artists often request walls without windows, which are hard to come across! The festival is also a non-profit, so it relies heavily on sponsorship. The last two years we’ve been sponsored by German Montana, but it’s tough to find funding. More and more people are coming to Waterford specifically for the murals, though, so that helps with fundraising. 

Yes! Myself included! The murals brought me here to Waterford! We wish you the best for the future. And we are looking forward to the 2019 edition! 

Images

1 Glasgow-based Australian artist Smug, Portrait of Waterford Walls curator, Louise Flynn

2 UK-born, Johannesburg-based Sonny Sundancer

3 The itinerant American muralist Arcy

4 Irish artist Shane O’Malley 

5 Waterford-based artist Caoilfhionn Hanton 

6 The French Monkey-Bird Crew

7 London-based Louis Masai

8 Dublin-based Ominous Omin

Photos and interview by Houda Lazrak

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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I’ve been mesmerized by Vanessa Rosa‘s distinctly beautiful and engaging aesthetic since I first came upon the Brazilian artist’s mural painting several years ago — as part of the Faces on the Blue Wall project — outside Lisbon’s Julio de Matos Psychiatric Hospital. We initially met up as she was beginning her residency at Red Hook’s Pioneer Works in 2017 and reconnected last week.

You are quite nomadic! Can you tell us a bit about your recent travels and adventures? Where have you been in the past year?

Yes! I visited Thailand for the Dinacon, the Digital Naturalism Conference, an experimental conference about exploring new ways of interacting with nature. I then traveled to China, where I visited the Shanghai K11 Art Mall, the first art mall in Mainland China. While in China, I also visited fiber optics fabric factories in Shenzhen, because I am interested in creating crazy patterns with this material. Following a brief visit to NYC and Boston, I spent time in a music producer’s space in Sao Paulo, where I painted and got to know rappers — especially Nego Bala — from the favelas. I spent the month of September in the Amazon beginning an artistic partnerhsip with the extraordinary shaman and artisan, Same Putumi.

In October, I traveled to Frankfurt to represent my family’s publishing company, Viajante do Tempo, at the Frankfurt Book Fair. From Frankfurt I went to Berlin and then London. Finally back in Brazil, I produced a show at the Museum of Image and Sound in São Paulo, and also worked with Same Putumi and with my friend, the architect Veronica Natividade.

Wow! You are amazing! What brought you back to the US?

I’d been invited to participate in next year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival, an annual exposition of living cultural heritage on the National Mall in Washington, DC. It  is DC’s largest cultural event. In 2020, the festival will explore how diverse domains of cultural knowledge—from religion to design to science—shape the ways we understand, experience and respond to ever-changing natural, social and built environments.

And why New York City? Why did you choose to work in New York City?

I want to make things happen. And for someone who wants to have access and impact, no other city is as important as this one. I am, in fact, in the process of applying for an artist’s visa.

Your studio space here at the NYC Resistor in Downtown Brooklyn is extraordinary in terms of its equipment and resources.

Yes. My residency here at the NYC Resistor is ideal. We meet regularly to share knowledge, hack on projects together and build community. It is the perfect match as it is so rich in technology. And interacting with its other members advances my research and the projects that I’d started earlier with Same Putumi.

Can  you tell us something more about your mission — particularly regarding your collaborative work with Same Putumi?

My mission is to save the Amazon through the recognition of knowledge systems possesssed by indigenous groups. The Amazon’s genetic diversity is more important than gold. We must recognize and strengthen indigenous people’s knowledge systems. It is a knowledge they have attained from a high level of observation that no scientist can reach.

And what about your new drawings?

I’m combining 16th century drawings — by the Italian artist Serlio — on how to use linear perspective with Islamic patterns and 17th century crazy character drawings by Braccelli. And I’m doing this with a drawing machine!

What about public art? Mural Art? Will you be doing anything here in NYC? Can we expect to see anything soon?

Yes! I will keep you posted!

That sounds great! I’m looking forward!

Note: On Saturday, July 13, 1-4pm, Vanessa will be presenting a workshop on watercolor at the NYC Resistor, 87  3rd Avenue, 4th Floor in Brooklyn. Information and tickets are available here.

Photo credits: 1, 4 & 5 Lois Stavsky; all others courtesy of the artist; interview conducted by Lois Stavsky

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Just a few blocks from the Kings Plaza Shopping Center in Flatbush, Brooklyn, a huge, beautifully-crafted, provocative billboard greets passersby. I’d met the artist, Miguel Diego Colón, several months ago in the studio he shares with other Fountain House artists in the Silks Building in Long Island City. At the time he was working on the images he’d planned to incorporate into this project. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with him and find out more about this ambitious venture:

What an impressive, powerful mural “Stand Up” is!  Can you tell us something about its theme? Its intent?

I was interested in creating a public mural that reflects the many forms of oppression that I have faced and have observed in my community here in New York City. Among these are: the destructive forces of racism, sexism, inequality, and the stigma against those struggling with mental illness. It is my way of providing solidarity with others who are oppressed.

Did any specfic recent events or incidents spur you to focus on these themes of inequality and resistance?

I had heard about a photographer who had been slammed to the ground at a Trump rally. And that had me thinking about all the bullying that has been taking place at various Trump rallies and the importance of  “standing up.”

How were you able to access such a huge, visible space?

Betty Eastland, a peer-specialist and artist, working at Fountain House Studio had sent me a link to 14×48, a non-profit project that repurposes vacant billboards as public art spaces. 14×48‘s mission is to create opportunities for artists to engage with public art. I sent 14×48 a sketch, along with a proposal, and examples of other paintings on the theme of social justice. I was amazed when I found out that I had been selected.

How long did you work on “Stand Up?”

About five months. Once I was ready to paint, I constructed stretcher bars. I then started with graissaile before adding paint.

This was your first public mural. How have folks responded to it?

Everyone has been so supportive. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

What’s next?

 I would love to create more work in public spaces. I think of it as an audition to do more public works. And I’d love to bring my vision to Manhattan. Times Square would be ideal!

Yup! That would be great! And congratulations on “Stand Up.”

Photo credits: 1, 3 & 4 Courtesy of the artist; 2, 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Note: To find out more about Miguel–his educational background, influences, personal circumstances — you can read an extended interview here.

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Based in Bari in the South of Italy, Nico Skolp is a masterful designer, graffiti writer and muralist with a particular passion for working in public spaces. As he readies to visit and share his talents with us in New York City, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to him:

You began painting on the streets as a graffiti writer while still a teenager. How has your style evolved since?

I still paint graffiti, but I am always searching for new inspiration. I’m interested in the possibility of communicating with a larger audience — one outside of the graffiti community. My murals blend shapes and colors into elaborate site-specific abstractions. Although graffiti is composed of  letters, it is more difficult to understand and more abstract than some other types of art. It is an interesting paradox!

You’ve been increasingly collaborating with other artists. What is that experience like? Is there any artist — in particular — with whom you’d like to collaborate?

I like collaborations. I like sharing visions and methods. It helps sharpen skills. If I could choose anyone with whom to collaborate, I would definitely say MOMO. His works are so interesting!  I admire his research and his experimentation.

Have you a formal art education? 

I graduated  with a degree in Industrial and Communication Design. In fact, I feel more like a designer than an artist. In 2006, I set up a visual arts and design agency, Ff3300.

Do any particular graffiti/street art memories stand out?

There is no one memory — in particular — that stands out. But I feel that my crew — Sorry Guys — contributed to the growth of a new generation of writers. Younger writers often enthusiastically tell me how much we have influenced them, as they grew up following us. It is an honor to think that I have inspired other writers, as  others — who came before me — inspired me.

When you paint in public spaces, do you work with a sketch-in-hand or just let it flow?

It depends. If the work is a commission, frequently I must first produce a sketch. Otherwise, I don’t, but I do seek inspiration beforehand. I used to work spontaneously, but recently, I’ve been using a method based on the rules that represent my style. It was from my style that the software open-source — based on shapes that are controlled by certain variables — was conceived. With these, you can make infinite compositions. You can download the software here. I designed it with Piero Molino, a close friend — an engineer who works for UBER in San Francisco.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

In general, yes! I’m satisfied, but I’m always striving to improve. Technically, I think I’m at a good level, The skills I have acquired have boosted my self-confidence. I’m happy with my life choices.

Have you exhibited your work in gallery settings? 

I’ve never had a solo exhibition. I’ve just contributed canvases to some graffiti exhibitions such as the one held at the 2010 Meeting of Styles in Tessalonica, Greece.  I’ve been thinking recently about showing in a solo exhibition and hopefully start with one in Bari. I love this city and it is where it all started for me. It has recently become a hub for tourism, and I love the idea of making a cultural contribution to it. 

What’s ahead?

I just finished my latest work in Matera, the 2019 Capital of Culture in Europe, and I’m heading now to  New York City, where I’d like to explore its urban art culture and make a contribution — why not a wall? — to the city! I will make myself available for any opportunities.

Yes! That would be wonderful!

Note: Nico Skolp can be contacted via his Instagram or his email nicoff3300@gmail.com.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; all images courtesy of the artist

Featured images:

  1. Matera, Italy
  2. Bari, Italy
  3. Bari, Italy
  4. Corato, Italy
  5. Matera, Italy

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Presented at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 and continuing though March 30 is Red Crown Green Parrot, a public art project by Kashi Gallery — conceived and fashioned by Jerusalem-based artist Meydad Eliyahu, a descendant of Malabar Jews, in collaboration with Dubai-based Thoufeek Zakriya, a Muslim who was born and raised in Kochi. I recently had the opportunity to speak to Meydad about this impressive project.

First, can you tell us something about the project’s title — Red Crown Green Parrot? What is its significance?

The title is inspired by the themes of the crown and the parrot which frequently appear in the  cultural expressions  of Malabar’s Jews — such as women’s folksongs, illuminated Jewish marriage contracts and synagogue decorations.The parrot is also a symbol of the storytelling in ancient local literature and culture.

What is the project’s principal mission? 

The presence of the Malabar Jews has almost completely disappeared — not only from Mattancherry’s physical space, but also from its collective memory. The project’s primary missions are to preserve the memory of Malabar Jews and to shed light on the loss of the unique multicultural dialogue that characterized Mattancherry in the past.

How did you go about trying to accomplish this?

Through a public intervention of a series of paintings and calligraphic wall works in Malayalam, English and Hebrew. The project is a walking route through the neighborhood that the Jews once lived in,  It includes a demolished cemetery with only one tomb left in an abandoned synagogue from the 14th century, along with several other hidden sites.

What were some of the challenges you encountered in seeing the project through?

We were uncertain as to how local residents would react to our reawakening a memory of a chapter that had ended 70 years ago. We did not know if and how they would accept it and whether they would want it to play such a prominent role in their present-day visual lives. That was one challenge.  Another challenge was  securing permission to work on the walls that we wished to use. That was something we couldn’t do until we arrived. But Thoufeek and I were determined to overcome any obstacles that came our way.

How have the city’s residents and visitors responded to the project?

Our most generous partners were the local residents. They welcomed us with great warmth and enthusiasm. When we were hesitant to put the first brush stroke on the first wall, they prodded us to start painting. Some helped us choose the right motifs and helped us secure walls; others helped with ladders and assisted with the clean-up. And we feel that we accomplished our mission.

“I’ve been living in Kochi for over 40 years, and this is the first time I’m seeing and learning about the Malabari Jewish sites,” commented one of the local residents.

Note: Created and performed in ‘Jew Town’, the historical Jewish urban area of Mattancherry, Kochi, India, Red Crown Green Parrot was supported by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and curated by Tanya Abraham.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; all photos courtesy Meydad Eliyahu

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Recently installed on the embankment of Sajsary Lake in Yakutsk, Russia — the second coldest city in the world —  is a massive sculpture fashioned by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel.  Forged with steel in his infectious signature style, the 4-meter public art object represents the artist’s vision of the primitive man —  a punk-like figure sporting spiked hair, released from civilization’s shackles.

Curated by the National Art Museum of the Republic of Sakha in collaboration with Artmossphere, Okuda’s 4-meter public art object, Ancestral Retromirage, is the final project of the fifth International Yakut Biennale of Contemporary Art that began in April 2018.

Photos courtesy of Artmossphere

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