Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rollin, Rollin, Rollin...

Several months ago, I stumbled across an online map that had been created by a popular energy drink concern that I'd rather not name. The map detailed in fairly impressive fashion, the locations of the most popular street art in New York City.

It rubbed me the wrong way for the same reason that apps that do the same thing do. When I first started seeking out graffiti, it didn't take me long to figure out on my own where to find the best stuff. Basically, my method was to go to industrial areas and just wander. And although I probably spent more time in the company of grime, filth and noise than I needed to, the thrill of the find always made it worth the shlep.

Not only does a map take away any sense of surprise, it also lays bare the one real downside of building-based murals: Lack of movement. Many of the the earliest graffiti masterpieces (I make no distinction between graffiti and street art) unmappable in the traditional sense, because they never actually stood still. They were on train cars, which meant you might be able to clue someone in to the existence of one by telling them what line it was running on, but that's it.

As we all know, the days of art-covered trains in NYC are long past. You might find a train that's been defaced by one of those dreadful car ads, but that's about it. Fortunately, we seem to be living in a renaissance of a different sort of movable art:

I think what I like best about the box truck (and occasional moving van) phenomenon is it brings the art to me. I rarely find myself able to get out to Bushwick, Williamsburg or the Bronx, but I do work near Columbus Circle and Ninth Ave, where I saw this truck from Cernesto.

I also get down to Gowanus fairly regularly, where our local scrap metal recycling concern was host to not one but two trucks last month.

Beyond the occasional tag, you'll never find any decent graffiti on 57th Street, aka land of the billionaire's lairs. But keep your eye open on the traffic...

Some times I need only walk out the door onto Smith Street to catch a glimpse of something awesome.


Now, graffiti is that unlike most art forms, in that its public nature dictates that the best of the best gets mixed in with crap, as there are no barriers to keeping out the latter. This is true of trucks too:

Um, ok....

IMG_2436 Eh....

IMG_2999 Did we not finish this one? Note the reference to Instagram....
SAM_0823 But when they're done right, trucks with murals are like the perfect amalgamation of motion, pizzazz, and whimsy. This van, which was done by the Smart Crew, was parked in the shadow of the Navy Yard.

IMG_2401 Grasshopper, from Urban Animal, on Queens Boulevard. IMG_3028 Spotted this truck on Fordham Road.

I could go on and on here, but you get the general idea. Although the New York City's robust building mural scene is confined to a handful of neighborhoods, mostly in the outer boroughs, thanks to the equally bustling truck scene, graf is well-served to both well-heeled and down and out New York City hoods. Like food trucks, but with vittles for the creative soul..

Fruit truck, Bed-Sty