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October 2010

New York Times Graffiti on the Gowanus - Subway Art History

Today was a big front page of the Arts section story in the NY Times on graffiti.

Here is an excerpt:

Graffiti-articleLarge Anyone who has been lost in the last few weeks around the southern reaches of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn could be excused for experiencing a powerful Koch administration flashback. On the wall of a brick warehouse there, visible from the parking lot of a furniture store, a huge mural unfurls itself, a loving, seemingly spray-by-spray re-creation of one of the more infamous pieces of graffiti ever to ride the subway: a 1980 work by the artist known as Seen that covered the length of a No. 6 train car with the ominous phrase “Hand of Doom.”

The original work — among those canonized in Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper’s 1984 landmark photographic history, “Subway Art” — was a token of its troubled urban times, a reference to the Black Sabbath song of the same title with the words flanked by a hooded executioner and a time bomb. The 21st-century version, on closer inspection, turns out to be a bit gentler and a lot more oblique. It reads “Joan of Arc,” and the hatchet man has been replaced by an armored representation of the martyred French saint.

A few miles away, on a streetfront wall in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, a similarly odd example of historical revival has sprung up: a kinetic-looking 1980 piece by the graffiti writer Blade has been recreated, with the five letters of his name changed to read Plato. On a coffee shop wall in Bushwick, a name piece from the same year by the artist known as Dondi has been faithfully resurrected but changed to read Gandhi. And a copy of an early-’80s subway tag by the artist Sin appeared just last week on a row of lockers inside Louis D. Brandeis High School on the Upper West Side, with the addition of a few letters and some philosophical heft; the name is now Spinoza.

The pieces might sound like the result of some kind of graffiti-world version of Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium. But they are actually the works of a newly formed collective of (mostly) former graffiti writers in their 20s and 30s, who have embarked on an unusual citywide campaign to summon 50 or more of the most famous pieces of old-school graffiti out of the history books and back onto the streets. The project, called “Subway Art History,” is unusual not only because the artists are making the pieces with the permission of businesses, schools and other perhaps nostalgic owners of blank vertical space, but also because of the nature of the pieces themselves. They are expressions of homage in a subculture that has almost always been defined by fierce competition, intense striving for originality and a kill-the-elders attitude toward the past.

“In graffiti it’s like a teenage thing: ‘No way am I going to become my father, no way am I going to make anything that looks like anyone else’s’ — and then, of course, you become your father,” said a 32-year-old former graffiti writer who helped form the collective. He and other group members (there are 2 founders and a floating membership of about 10) asked that their names be withheld, not for the usual reason — the police — but because the collective, which calls itself Slavery, is seeking to get away from the ego jockeying that normally accompanies graffiti work.

The project was partly inspired, he said, by one completed last year along a blighted commercial stretch of West Philadelphia by the artist Steve Powers. As part of that city’s Mural Arts Program, Mr. Powers created a series of eye-popping murals visible from the elevated train line, with the cooperation of local property owners.

Read the full article here.

Street Art Roundtable at Jodi Arnold

Journalist Leona Beasley attended our Street Art Roundtable at Jodi Arnold on October 14 and wrote a great article about it for the Tarrytown Patch. Here are highlights from her article. Please go to the Patch to read the article in its entirety. The link is below....

Weisler - 5ptz Lost Narratives: The Evolution of Street Art with Photographer and Archivist Charlene Weisler

A few evening ago I attended an Art Roundtable entitled Lost Narratives held at Jodi Arnold, a boutique on 56 University Place at 10th Street in NYC. The talk featured Graffiti Artist and Archivist Charlene Weisler whose photography is on display at the Tappan Z Gallery at 51 Main Street in Tarrytown.

Jodi Arnold's fashions and Charlene Weisler's photography came together as a joint venture, a shared initiative where the question of is Graffiti Art, also called Street Art blight or art?

In a lively discussion headed up by Charlene and a panels of artistic types who included Jeanne Frank, a private art dealer and specializing in 20th century art, Megan Innes, an NYU Museum Studies MA candidate, and Michael Stoltz a NYC Art's Educator whose work with youth offers him a unique perspective on the graffiti generation. All shared their ideas about Graffiti Art. The panel was asked to talk about the differences between the terms Public Art, Graffiti Art and Street Art.

Charlene Weisler

"I think in terms of degrees. Public Art is excepted, it's government sanctioned, it's paid for, and is generally established in a set place so it will be there. Street Art is a scrappier version with a certain aesthetic, and it's transitory. Graffiti Art is the shortest of all (lasting time wise) and is the most illegal. It is in general less desirable then Street Art or Public Art. Some say scrolling your name isn't Graffiti Art they see that as tagging. But perhaps if you have enough [scrolls] it could turn into art."

Charlene Weisler photography can be seen at the Tappan Z Gallery 51 Main Street  in Tarrytown, New York. http://www.tappanzgallery.com/.


Read the full article here.

The Best Public Art From LonelyPlanet

What is the difference between Public Art, Street Art and Graffiti? My opinion on the subject is that the difference is in the degree of public, political and civic acceptability. Public art is economically and aspirationally supported and encouraged. Street Art is neither financially supported or fully accepted by society but it is "tolerated" especially when said street artists become "famous" (saleable). Graffiti, lowly sister of the arts as it is, is not supported in anyway and is considered blight to be eradicated.

Loney Planet website offers this post on the best public art works in the world. While this is not street art, it is free and unemcumbered by museum and gallery walls and is out in the open. And some of their chosen spots are in fact street art. How can I resist? So here is the Lonely Planet links to the best public art in the world. Enjoy.

Here are a couple of highlights:

East Side Gallery, Berlin

Germany’s Berlin Wall, torn down by the people in September 1989, was a target for Berliners’ rage against the communist machine; the so-called East Side Gallery, the longest extant stretch of the wall, has been covered with more than 100 murals and graffiti. Although vandalism and the elements have destroyed much of the gallery’s power, it’s still a powerful reminder of the former regime of iron, with artworks ranging from Dalíesque freak shows to Pink Floydian bricks. Happily, a restoration project is under way. The gallery is near the city centre; get the train to Ostbahnhof. For history and information about the conservation effort visit www.eastsidegallery.com.

Banksy stencils

The works of enigmatic artist Banksy can be seen around the world, from the Israeli West Bank barrier to his (rumoured) home town of Bristol, England. Largely satirical takes on politics and culture, Banksy’s pieces combine stencils with graffiti and have raised street art to the highest ranks (a fact he finds amusing). The prolific artist has said that he began creating stencils because graffiti took too long. Tips for seeing his work in situ are a case of hurry before it’s painted over by the local council or before it goes up for auction at Sotheby’s for more than £100,000. Read Banksy’s latest manifesto and see his work at www.banksy.co.uk.


Hidden Art in the NY Times and NY Magazine

My work has been on exhibition at the Jodi Arnold boutiques in Manhattan (56 University Place) and Brooklyn (347 Atlantic Avenue) for about a month. The Manhattan show just came down and the Brooklyn show will be up for a couple more weeks.

Jodi Arnold has received some well deserved press this past week and I have been fortunate enough to have my work included in some of the photos taken in the Brooklyn stores. The New York Times and New York Magazine have both published articles and photos of her store. And in both articles, a discerning viewer can see my art work.


 This is all priming for my big art review in these publications.....

Competing Street Art Exhibits

Does this spell the mainstreaming of street art...?

The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Arts announced its plan for a 2011 street arts exhibit. “It’s going to be the first major museum survey of the history of graffiti and street art presented in the United States,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

516 ARTS in downtown Albuquerque is doing it first.

The downtown art space in collaboration with the ACLU-NM and other local art organizations will host STREET ARTS: A Celebration of Hip Hop Culture & Free Expression. The two month collaboration will begin in October and run through November.

The show will feature local, national and international artists of various mediums. The schedule consists of literary art events, mural projects, tours of street arts projects, panel discussions, a hip hop film festival and a spoken word festival.

For more information on the event, check out the full exhibit schedule. 

Street Art and Graffiti Roundtable - October 14, 2010 in NYC

If you are in NYC on October 14, 2010 from 6-8p, please join us for a roundtable discussion on street art and graffiti at Jodi Arnold, 56 University Place (near 10th Street) in NYC from 6-8p. This event is free and will be a lively discussion on graffiti from experts involved in all aspects of NYC life. Here are the details:

Lost Narratives Roundtable

Street Art: Is It Art Or Is It Blight?

When: Thurs., Oct. 14, 2010, 6-8pm

Where: Jodi Arnold boutique, 56 University Place, at W. 10th St.

Participants: Street art photographer Charlene Weisler (whose work is currently on exhibit in our store), art dealer and author Jeanne Frank, art educator and screen writer Michael Stoltz, Brooklyn Museum student curator Megan Innes as well as prominent urban planners, art critics, architects, academics and local politicians


Charlene Weisler has been photographing street art for the better part of a decade. She still recalls a day in the early 1980s when she was waiting on the platform of the F train and encountered Keith Haring making chalk drawings. That day revived Weisler’s existing interest in street art.

Through her work, Weisler highlights elements of public art pieces that make the viewer discover something new and self-contained. She attempts to capture what is transient and impermanent; something that could be gone the next day. New York was teeming with graffiti artists in the 1980s – spray-painting the subways, public yards, and the streets: They were arrested in droves. What have we learned since then?


What does public art mean to our community and society? With cities cutting funding for public art nationwide (most recently, San Diego), how should we, architects, urban planners, and politicians in New York City – a hotbed of graffiti and street art from the Bronx to Soho – react to it, discuss it, and encourage positive programs involving street artists.

The difference between graffiti and “legitimate” street art is permission: Graffiti is illegal. But is the solution to sanction street art, providing a legal space for the spray-painters and stencilers to create? That could defeat the very purpose of street art itself as being an outlet for social and political commentary that shouldn’t be constrained within a gallery space. Can you take art into one system and place it into another without it losing its essence? Because if the art is city-sanctioned or in a gallery, there is an implicit i financial value – which could well impede free creation.

Another issue is that street art carries with it issues of ownership: emotional, social, and societal. How can street art be supported but not appropriated by our communities?

Throughout the discussion, we will attempt to come to a conclusion regarding what citizens can do to participate and foster discussion around our public art pieces.

Bonnie Lynn and Her Street Art Photography

I met Bonnie in Soho where she has been selling her street art photos as cards and small prints for a couple of years. She has captured a great time line of some of my favorite works - many of which are long gone. Bonnie and I appear to have traveled in the same street art circles but had never met. As we talked I was able to point out the locations of many of her photos which include the venrable 11 Spring Street, a certain block in Chelsea and a particluar building in Soho.

Bonnie has a gallery opening in upstate New York in October.  She has an excellent eye and some beautiful shots. Visit her website at BonnieLynnPhoto.com


Saw this posted on Cool News but I am not sure how I feel about this type of judging. What do you think?


Grand Rapids, Michigan is one of a number of communities using the arts as an economic stimulant, reports John Wisely in USA Today (9/28/10). Rick DeVos, an heir to the Amway fortune, came up with the idea to offer a total of $449,000 in prizes in an arts competition. This year, more than 1,200 artists submitted pieces with Grand Rapids residents voting for their favorites, using "their mobile phones to text in thumbs up or thumbs down on various works."

The competition, called ArtPrize, "drew an estimated 200,000 people downtown, far exceeding expectations ... A research team from Michigan's Grand Valley State University estimated the economic impact of ArtPrize at $5 million to $7 million." This year's event -- ArtPrize's second -- is on now through October 10th, and so far "local restaurants and bars are reporting sales up 20 percent to 40 percent over last year's opening days."

Baltimore has a similar program, called Artscape, "which features visual and performing arts across the city for a weekend." It "drew more than 350,000 people in 2009 and generated about $26 million for the economy." The only naysayers are art experts who think everyday people have no business judging arts competitions. Even Ran Ortner, who won $250,000 in last year's ArtPrize, agrees: "If you have children voting on a culinary competition, they are going to vote for the ice cream and candy" he says.