urban intervention

COVID-19, the global pandemic that has impacted so many of our lives, has prompted responses from visual artists — both on the streets and in their personal spaces. The image pictured above was painted by the Italian artist, Alessio-B. Several more images — stirred by the current crisis — follow:

Toulouse-based sculptor James Colomina in Switzerland

Multi-disciplinary artist Sara Erenthal — from her Brooklyn apartment

Tag Street Art in Tel Aviv

Philadelphia-based Sean Lugo

Switzerland-based duo Bane and Pest on canvas

Argentina-based Nazza Stencil Art, Portrait of  “the fight against Coronavirus,”  based on photo by Milan-based photographer Flavio Lo Scalzo

All images courtesy of the artists

Keep posted to Street Art NYC  for Part IV of COVID-19-related images — including several by local artists and news of some of the ventures they have launched.

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With his extraordinary passion for art and his penchant for sharing it with others, Nic 707 touched so many of us. Beginning in 2013, I accompanied Nic several times a year — often along with other artists and photographers — on his subway train interventions, as he transformed dull, ad-saturated subway cars into vibrant moving canvases. Nic 707 was as eager to showcase other artists’ work — from old school writers to contemporary creatives — as he was to share his own, and he always had a “new” artist to introduce me to.

Each trip with Nic was a distinct adventure. And I was waiting for the current crisis to end, so that we could hit the trains — where I would, once again, serve in my dual role as look-out and documentarian. Sadly, that won’t happen, as Nic passed away last Sunday, April 12 — a victim of the cruel Coronavirus.

The image pictured above features Nic 707 and the legendary Taki 183 — whose tag Nic brought back to the trains — outside Taki 183′s Yonkers workplace. What follows are several photos of Nic 707 and his artworks riding the trains:

Nic 707 eagerly waits for the train to arrive

Nic 707′s iconic character, Kilroy

Kilroy in love

Kilroy as spaceman

Nic 707 schooling a subway rider on the history of subway graffiti

Two Upper East Side ladies on the 6 train discussing Nic 707‘s abstract art with him

Keep posted to the StreetArtNYC Instagram feed for images of works by other artists who participated in Nic‘s InstaFame Phantom Art project.  You can check out the interview I conducted with Nic 707 back in 2013 here.  And you can read David Gonzalez‘s obituary of Nic (Fernando Miteff ) in The New York Times here.

R.I.P. Nic 707. We will miss you.

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky

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As the the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact all of our lives, it has, also, begun to make a presence on NYC streets. Pictured above is the work of Jilly Ballistic — who emerged from the underground to address us — in collaboration with Adrian Wilson. Several more images sparked by the current pandemic follow:

The Act of Love, as seen in Soho

crkshnk pasted in Freemans Alley

Jason Naylor on the Lower East Side

Sara Erenthal on a repurposed drawer in Flatbush, Brooklyn

Photo credits: 1 & 4 Ana Candelaria; 2 & 3 Lois Stavsky 5  Sara Erenthal

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I first encountered JoDo’s now-iconic bee on a wall in Bushwick several years ago. And this past week, I had the opportunity to visit it in all its glory in JoDo’s first retrospective exhibition on view at The Yard on 85 Delancey Street. We, also, had a chance to speak:

When and where did your now-iconic bee first surface in the public sphere? 

In November, 2015 here in NYC.

What inspired you to hit the streets with it?

Once I moved to NYC, I started noticing all that was happening on the streets here. And so I decided to take my bee – that first appeared indoors in a group exhibition – outside.

Can you tell us something about your bee? What does it represent? 

It is a divine creature that represents the communication between the Gods and us humans. Each bee is distinct.

And what about its name — JoDo?

It’s a reference to my parents. Jo from my father’s name; and Do from my mom’s.

I’ve seen your bee on a wide range of surfaces. Have you any preferred ones?

I love stone and brick, but any kind of surface is fine.

Do you prefer to paint on the streets “with permission?” Or would you rather do it illegally?

I like both. Generally what I do is unsanctioned, but there are advantages to painting legally. For example, when I paint with Paint for Pink in Newark, I am given not only a wall, but paint and all the time I need!

What is your first graffiti memory?

The writing I noticed while growing up in Mexico City. I didn’t get involved with it because I assumed it was associated with gangs. But I loved trying to decipher its letters. 

What about cultural influences? What are your principal ones?

Definitely NYC graffiti, and I’ve been influenced by the time I spent working within Mayan communities in the jungles of Mexico.

What is your most memorable graffiti experience?

My time in St. Petersburg, Russia. I met up there with the graffiti writer AKA6. It was the first time I bombed with spray paint, rather than with mops.

And the riskiest thing you’ve done?

Also in Russia. Painting by myself inside the ruins of buildings. I didn’t know what could happen to me.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Yes, I kiss and hug all of my pieces after I finish them and whenever I pass them by

Have you exhibited your work?

Yes. Among the spaces I’ve shown in are: the Living Gallery, 17 Frost and here at the Yard.

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

My family is very supportive. They both hugely appreciate art.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

When I’m not working at marketing or art curation, I’m doing art. And when I’m not doing it, I’m thinking about it.

What are some of your other interests?

Discovering other people’s talents. 

Have you any feelings — positive or negative — regarding the engagement of graffiti artists with the corporate world?

I love the idea of infiltrating the corporate world. That’s how we artists can have more influence and reach people who otherwise might not see our work. It’s like playing with the system to get our message out.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

They include: the late British painter JM William Turner; the late Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara; the late Italian-Argentine artist Lucio Fontana Rubens; the Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan; the late Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida, and the late American sculptor Robert Smitson.

Do you prefer painting alone or with others?  

I’m very independent, but I also like painting with others. Among those I’ve gotten up with are: Easy, Sev TDT, the ACK Crew, Blitz, Rambo, Pork, Glazer, Token, ZB-Bunny, Myster, TCOB, Slae, AKA6, Lansky, Sohr, Freaky, Uncle Robert, Hank, Trice, Regalos Margot, ET, Avocado, CaseEx-Vandals, Delay, DB, Umii, Pariah, Dwel, Hiss, El Sol, Chupa and the O’s, Image, Jel, Nic 707, the TDT Crew, KRR, Masters of Massacre, Extremely Humble  and Optimo.

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

Graffiti and street art are both art, but they’re totally different categories of expression. Most street artists just bring their fine art sensibilities outdoors. Most writers are driven to make their mark and be part of graffiti history.

Have you a formal art education?

No. I studied art curation. My father taught me how to draw. He took me to museums just about every week. And then when I lived in Europe, I visited museums all the time.

How has your iconic bee evolved through the years?

It used to be very stiff. Now it flows. It’s definitely improved!

Where else besides NYC and St. Petersburg has it surfaced?

It’s made its way to Moscow, Asilah, Malaga, Cadiz, Ek Balam, Mexico City, Playa del Carmen and Miami.

What’s ahead?

I want to create more art – some with the bee and some without it. I want to work on a larger scale, and I want to continue to make my parents proud of me.

How can folks see JoDo Was Here — your current show on the 2nd and 3rd floors of The Yard on the Lower East Side?

Viewing hours are Monday – Friday 10-5 and weekends by appointment. They can direct message me via my Instagram or drop a note to Lee Wells of the International Fine Arts Consortium (IFAC) at Lee@ifac-arts.com. The exhibit  continues through March 22.

Great! And congratulations on this exhibit! 

Interview conducted and edited for clarity and brevity by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1 Ana Candelaria; 2, 5 & 8 Courtesy of the artist, and 3, 4, 6, 7 & 9 Lois Stavsky

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We were delighted to recently meet up with the nomadic Ecuadorian artist Lasak, view her artwork — on and off the streets — and find out a bit about her.

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

It was back in 2010 in my hometown, Guayaquil, on the Ecuadorian coastline. I was 21 at the time.

Have you any early graffiti-related memories?

No. I didn’t grow up with graffiti. My hometown, at the time, was very conservative. No one would dare leave a mark on private or public property. There were police everywhere. And when I first started, I’d often get into trouble. Now Guayaquil is much more open, and there is street art everywhere.

Who/what, then, inspired you to get up?

Damián Vásquez aka Disaikner, a friend of mine who’s an amazing designer, illustrator and tattoo artist.

Have you any favorite surface?

I like everything, but I especially like metal doors.

Do you prefer to paint on the streets “with permission?” Or do you prefer doing it illegally?

I like both. I like the thrill of painting illegally, but I also like to be able to take my time, which I can only do on legal walls.

What was the riskiest thing you ever did on the streets?

While I was up on a ladder painting, I saw a man trying to rob a lady. I stopped what I was doing to get down to help her. And the next thing I noticed was a gun pointed at me!

Do you prefer painting alone or with others?

I like both. When I paint with other artists, I get to learn from them and we get to share our knowledge.

Have you exhibited your work?

Yes, throughout Ecuador, and in many other places including Necoche, Iguazu, Sao Paulo , Berlin, Barcelona, Berlin, Indonesia, Hawaii and NYC. But the streets are my main canvas.

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

It took them awhile to understand my lifestyle. My mother was upset, at first, that I didn’t finish university, where I’d been studying architecture.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

I spend about 6-7 hours a day on art. I’d love to devote the entire day to art, but I also work at assorted jobs to earn necessary income.

What are some of your other interests?

I’m interested in working with community-based projects and helping people. That’s my primary interest and mission. My first experience teaching art was to adult cancer patients in Ecuador. It was super amazing! When I help others, I’m also helping myself, because I don’t get depressed. I’m, also, interested in music, especially electronic music. And I love to dive. When I do, I feel like I’m in another world.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Apitatán, Inti, and Lauren YS aka Squid Licker immediately come to mind!

What about cultural influences? What are your principal ones?

My main cultural influences are indigenous and Hindu.

Have you a formal art education?

None. My friends – including all those I’ve met in my travels — have been my teachers.

What are some of the countries you’ve traveled to and painted in?

Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Indonesia, Korea and the US.

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

I only work with a sketch when I’m commissioned to paint a piece. Otherwise I just let it flow.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

I’m happy, but I also feel confused. How does one judge artwork?

What inspires you?

Nature…the ocean…my travels around the world…learning about other cultures and sharing my knowledge with others.

How has your work evolved through the years?

My composition has improved. My work is more balanced and more interesting.

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

It helps me get my work out there to people who otherwise wouldn’t see it , but it takes up too much time.

What do you see as the artist’s role in society?

To offer people an entry to another world.

What’s ahead?

I’d like to move to Hawaii and study art there in a formal setting. I’d, also, like to teach scuba diving, and so I need to earn a certificate that allows me to do that. I’m interested, too, in working with organizations engaged with saving sharks. And, of course, creating more art that engages the community.

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with  City-as-School interns Basil Lyons and Alyssa Torres and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1-3, 5, 6 & 8 courtesy of the artist; 4 & 7 Lois Stavsky

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The following post is by Houda Lazrak:

While visiting Santiago, Chile in late December, I sat down with Santiago-based architect and street art/graffiti expert Sebastián Cuevas Vergara. We met a few blocks from one of Santiago’s main urban landmarks, Plaza Baquedano, now known as Plaza de la Dignidad or Dignity Square — the main site of Chile’s protests against social inequality that erupted last October following a hike in subway fares. 

Every Friday afternoon, thousands gather in Plaza de la Dignidad to express their frustration with the high cost of living, rising rents, government corruption and an unsustainable social welfare system. The walls in the vicinity are plastered with protest posters, tags, graffiti, wheatpastes and other varied urban interventions.

Sebastián shared some of his thoughts and observations about the current state of public space in Santiago:

So much has changed here since I last visited Chile in 2013. What are you up to at the moment?

I am currently teaching a street art class at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Chile. This a particularly pertinent moment to be talking about people’s relation to public space in view of all the street art that has surfaced since the social crisis started.

Yes, it does seem extremely relevant.

I have a thesis: Santiago is the city with the most diverse graffiti in the world at the moment. There is poetic graffiti, urban graffiti, feminist graffiti, political graffiti…

And so many posters too!

The languages of the streets are changing. When the protests started, designers started making posters: a simple, straightforward, immediate response. Posters and graphics have been part of Chilean identity since the 1970s, so this was quickly picked up again.

Is this happening mainly in the city center?

It is concentrated in the center of the city. This is where it has the most significance, near ‘zona cero’ where the protests surface every Friday.

How have the graffiti and street art changed in Santiago since the social revolution erupted?

There are several changes. First, many artists are no longer signing their works. The personal nature of graffiti is not of essence now. Artists are, instead, giving their art to the movement. This is particularly interesting, because the graffiti scene in Santiago is very competitive. Second, works are much larger in scale because artists are collaborating. Third, performance art is integrated into the protests and with the graffiti and street art. Finally, feminist street art is now at the forefront. The work of groups like the Chilean feminist collective LASTESIS has gone viral.

How might what is happening now affect the future of public space in Chile?

The significance of the writing on the walls is now taken more seriously. The city is now asking,” Do we erase the graffiti or maintain it?”

People in Chile didn’t really understand that public space belongs to them — rather than to the police and to the politicians. Now it has been returned, and they are occupying it. There were more than one million people protesting. One way to occupy this space is through graffiti. On the first two days of the revolution, everyone was doing graffiti everywhere. And many building owners were saying, “We want to maintain the graffiti to show our support to this social movement.” Owners now have the choice of whether to keep the graffiti or not. In the past, the municipality would have automatically erased it. It’s a huge change. 

Since the military dictatorship that emerged in the 1970’s, public space has been restricted and surveilled. This is now changing. All these expressions are now happening in Chilean public spaces, even if the police tries to stop them.

Has what is happening here impacted the mainstream art establishment?

There is less trust in art institutions, because change is happening outdoors. The art that people want to see is now happening outside of museums.

Are there some works that have surfaced on the streets that are particularly prevalent?

Matapaco, the dog who became a symbol of Chilean revolutions. He was a stray dog that marched with protestors and defended them against police forces. Lots of images of him are appearing in the street. People in Santiago are also putting bandanas on their dogs in solidarity. There is also Museo de la Dignidad, a group that is installing golden frames around what they think are there best street art works made in direct response to the social situation.

Did you participate in the protests?

I created an intervention, LibreCircular, in Plaza Italia, where the main protests occurred. I collaborated with artists to paint a large circle on the ground that represents the right to circulate in the city.

To me, the most important value of public place is free circulation and people’s right to it. The Chilean government took this away from us when they imposed a curfew in Santiago last October. This intervention was a response to it.

How did people react to this particular intervention?

People’s interaction with the piece was super interesting. Some sat down to take photographs right in its center; cyclists held a night protest where they rode on the circumference of the circle over and over again; and protestors also started a fire in it.

What are some of your thoughts on the current state of affairs?

Well, there are a lot of social issues in Chile. There is no affordable healthcare or education, and things blew up.

This moment is political, but also cultural. People are trying to appropriate cultural powers. With new generations and new ideas, Chile has woken up. And artists are now playing a political role.

Sources like television and newspapers are no longer trusted, because they represent the state’s agenda. The agenda of the streets, the public’s agenda, is written on the city’s walls, and on Instagram. Hopefully, a new constitution will be written in the next months. I believe that the ideas that appear in the graffiti of Chile’s streets should be considered in the writing of  the constitution. Values are created in the streets, and graffiti is a participatory process that reflects these values. One of the most important values that came out of these protests is dignity.

Have you any ideas on what the impact of this social revolution may be?

It is hard to tell what the dimension will be, or if real change will happen.  But it is definitely the start of a historical process.

Thanks for speaking with us, Sebastian. We’ll be following Chilean news in the next months from New York!

Images

1 Photographer Bastián Cifuentes Araya‘s documentation of Chilean protestors’ head gear for the project: “Por qué nos encapuchamos” / “Why we get hooded.” The gear protects them from tear gas, and makes a political and artistic statement. 

2 Valparaiso-based stencil artist Mauro Goblin

3 Varied political graffiti in the historical, artsy Lastarria neighborhood in central Santiago

4 Varied political graffiti

5 Multidisciplinary artist Miguel Ángel Kastro, Chile, Octubre 2019

Varied political graffiti — featuring Matapacoa stray dog that accompanied Chilean activists during protests, and is now a symbol of the current social revolution

Serigrafía Instantáneaportrait of Camilo Catrillanca, the grandson of a Mapuche indigenous leader, shot in the back of the head by government armed forces in November 2018. Catrillanca’s image became emblematic of police brutality and crimes against Chilean civilians.

 Ricardo Pues, Homage to the ‘primera linea’ protestors featuring “Thank you” in several languages to those who have been at the front lines of protests since the 2019 manifestations started

Interview with Sebastián Cuevas Vergara and photos by Houda Lazrak

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Opening this Saturday, November 9 at 9127 East 5th Street in Downtown Los Angeles is “The Streets Are Queer.” Presented by In Heroes We Trust and Rainbow Walls, it features works by over two dozen self-identifying queer North American artists who have left their mark on our streets. Featured above is LA-based figurative painter and muralist David Puck at work on a portrait of Vanessa Vanjie. Several more public works by a small sampling of the artists featured in “The Streets Are Queer” follow:

Brooklyn-based photographer and filmmaker, Daniel “Dusty” Albanese aka the Dusty Rebel, currently at work on a book and documentary about queer street art

New Orleans-based Brooklyn-native Hugo Gyrl

The itinerant São Paulo-native Suriani

NYC-based Patron Saint of the Underground Jilly Ballistic 

UK-based duo The Postman

LA-based Homo Riot

Curated by Homo Riot,”The Streets Are Queer” continues through December 7.

All photos courtesy the gallery

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One of my favorite spots in town is East Harlem’s Guerrilla Gallery. Located on 116th Street, between second and third Avenues, it hosts some of the most authentic walls found anywhere. Always reflecting the spirit of the folks who either live in East Harlem or identify with its culture, the art that surfaces there is often political, provocative and celebratory. The aerosol portrait featured above was painted by Mexican artist Tomer Linaje.

This summer’s installation, produced by the Harlem Art Collective, is a salute to Harlem. Several images I captured of the current installation while exploring the neighborhood this past week follow:

Evelyn C Suarez, Rashida Stewart and more

Adam Bomb with Rafael Gama, bottom right

Rafael Gama, closer-up

Kristy McCarthy aka Dorothy Gale, Shani Evans, Rashida Stewart and more

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Curated by Nic 707, the ingenious InstaFame Phantom Art continues to bring old school writers, along with a diverse range of younger artists, onto New York City subway trains. Pictured above is photographer/arts educator Rachel Fawn Alban snapping graff pioneer Dr Revolt, an original member of the historic NYC subway graffiti crew the Rolling Thunder. Several more images captured while riding the 1 train last week follow:

Al Diaz aka SAMO©

NYC-based multi-disciplinary artist Paulie Nassar

Bronx-based InstaFame Phantom Art founder and curator, Nic 707

Sweden-born, East Harlem-based Scratch

       Japanese painter and performance artist Pinokio

Social worker Luca Sanremo checking out the legendary Taki 183 with background by Nic 707,

Photo credits: 1, 3, 5-8 Lois Stavsky; 2 & 4 Rachel Fawn Alban

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A lover of words — both spoken and written — I’ve been a huge fan of Jay Shells’ (Jason Shelowitz’s) ambitious rap project from my first glimpse of his site-specific mural on Myrtle and Broadway several years ago. The recently released The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast — published by Dokument Press — is a photographic foray into Jay Shells’ brilliant urban interventions installed in several key cities from 2013-2018.  Accompanied with maps of site-specific rap lyrics, it is an homage to hip-hop, the spirit of the streets and to street art.

Traveling with photographer and award-winning videographer Aymann Ismail, Jay installed over 400 site-specific interventions. Largely displayed as street signs, the rap lyrics sometimes surfaced on billboards, bus stops, phone booth advertising takeovers and painted murals.

While the first segment of the book focuses on NYC — the birthplace of hip-hop in the early 80’s –The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast  also transports us to neighboring Philly, across the country to LA and then to Atlanta and Houston.

Providing a window into the psychology and cultural differences among the varied sites, the playfully poetic lyrics are witty and sly and— in the vein of rap — often hyperbolic. And offering further insights into it all, each city documented in The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast is introduced by a hip-hop journalist. 

The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast is widely available in bookstores and online and can be purchased here.

All photos courtesy Dokument Press; book review by Lois Stavsky

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