Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Outliers

Coming down to the wire. Finished the chapter on the "Graffiti Free New York" program, and begun the final chapter, which is a bit about a building owner in Gowanus who's chosen to have his building buffed by the city, and isn't quite keen on getting a mural done. Instead, he's quite happy with this:
Sexy, right?  You just have to love the way they've barely even bothered to use matching paint to buff the graffiti that was there. Why, it's kind of an abstract block piece, don't you think?

Now, contrast this with another picture, which I also took in Gowanus a few years back:

100_0348 Now that's what I'm talking about!

Now, the funny thing about graffiti that I've discovered as I've worked on this thesis is that although this last image is kind of what I always envisioned it to be, and what I've always thought would be awesome to have more of, there are lots of variations to the form.

Some of which go beyond mere color, shade and form (or lack thereof) and enter the realm of droll, on the one hand, and um, let's just say, "provocative" on the other. I've never seen in person the work of two artists in particular who represent these two poles, but I've learned a lot about them, from reading sites like Vandalog, Animal, Streetsy, Wooster Collective, The Street Spot and Brookyn Street Art.  Think of them as the outliers, commenting in a sort of meta way on graffiti and street art as a whole

First up is Mobstr

<Urban Genius And Urban Genius

The second image is a cheeky critique of street art in general, but it's the first one that I really like. It's the kind of pithy attitude that I wish I saw more of when it comes to buildings like my friend's up in Gowanus there, with his cornucopia of gray. Plan and simple: A building may look like shit with messy tags all over the place, but it looks just as crappy with a bunch of just as sloppy splotches of paint.

How big a deal can a guy be who seems to be known mostly for pithy sayings written in block letters? Well, as it turns out, big enough to be invited to participate in an art festival in England. The piece he did is very insider-y, to be sure, but just you gotta love that second one, the rain cloud piece, for its site specificity.

Then there's, Lush. Pretty much everything this guy does is NSFW. We're talking Hustler level pornography. Some of what he (I assume it's a he; he's always behind a mask) does is commentary that's obviously only meant for online consumption, like this. (I'm linking instead of embedding, so you can't blame me if you click on it at work and get in trouble).

And there's stuff like this. That's actually some of his tamer stuff; if you have a lot of time to waste, flip through his Flickr stream for some seriously weird, mostly misogynistic crap. The folks at Vandalog, where I first discovered him, seem to be mostly bemused by his shtick, and it's pretty clear that he sees himself as something of a provocateur. For some reason, I imagine he digs the Insane Clown Posse and Human Centipede movies.

So there ya go. Two thoroughly different takes on this whole "I'm gonna write some crap on a wall" concept. You can probably guess which one I prefer.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

a blink of an eye later

Yeesh. Was it only two weeks ago I was kvetching about Red Hook? Forget the schedule, the schedule's all been shot to hell. Part of the reason is I used up a lot of time to work on what ended up being an 11-page paper on Five Pointz, and part of the reason was, well, life has been getting in the way.

At least on the former aspect, I've got a bonus chapter for my thesis that I never thought I'd be able to add. And today I finished a chapter on the Department of Transportations' Urban Arts Program and Groundswell Mural Arts Program, which is similar to the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Neither facilitates the creation of graffiti murals per se, but they do some really neat stuff on both public and private land around New York City, and Groundswell, I feel, could be a great clearinghouse for artists available for mural work.

I'll get into this a little more soon, but right now I'm about to pass out. So in the meantime, here's one of their most recent murals, a few blocks away from my house, on the side of a jail:

More soon. I promise. Sleep, now.....

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thinking of Red Hook

Today is one of those days where the entire day has been one giant distraction. How is Sandy affecting Connecticut? Long Island? Lower Manhattan? Coney Island? The ENTIRE FREAKIN East Coast? Oh, and the election that will decide the leader of the free world in all of eight stinkin days.

When faced with the kind of utter madness that is a hurricane like Sandy, when it's possible to spend the entire day cooped up in an apartment, alternating between caring for an infant and gawking at images of cranes dangling precariously from buildings....

Ah yes, in case you couldn't tell, this was written on Tuesday, when we were just waking up to discover that New York City and most of the coast along the Northeast had been turned upside down and shaken vigorously, like one of those cheesy snow globes you see in gift shops. And befitting that day, I got two paragraphs finished before getting utterly and hopelessly distracted.

Superstorm Sandy caught my attention for many reasons, and I'm still grieving for all that was lost in her vicious maw. But the neighborhood of Red Hook was of particular interest to me, partly because of its rich maritime history, (See here for a fascinating description of Fort Defiance, which was based there), but also because, in spite of its secluded geography, it has an impressive collection of street art. It also has, or rather had, an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants, many of which are now in peril.

A few years ago, Red Hook was actually being marketed as some sort of second coming of Williamsburg, the "NEXT BIG THING," but of course, with no subway to speak of and only one bus to ferry you across the Brooklyn Queens Expressway into the rest of Brooklyn, it was never going to happen. And now that Sandy has exposed how vulnerable the place is to wholesale inundation by the Atlantic Ocean, it's future is definitely up in the air.

I still love it though, and am hoping it recovers. Here are just a few street art-related reasons why:

DSCN8896 UFO,  on Otsego Street right by Ikea

SAM_0774 Great White Shark on ">Van Brunt Street 

IMG_7132 Over/Under on Coffey Street You'll notice it doesn't show up on Google Street View yet; it's fairly new.

 IMG_7129 Swoon on Pioneer Street This one is so new, the entire lot looks different on street view.

Tons more pics are living over at Flickr, along with, I'm sorry to report, several pictures of the damage inflicted on the neighborhood. Hang in there Red Hook. I'm pulling for you.