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August 2011

The New York Times Reports on 5 Pointz

The New York Times has finally reported on the destruction of graffiti mecca 5 Pointz ... on a day when a hurricane hits New York and very few people have access to the paper at the newstands. So I am posting the article and giving a link to the Times website. I am also embedding my video on 5Ptz here that has my interview of CEO Jonathan Meres Cohen. Please consider signing the petition which can be accessed via the www.5ptz.com website.


Writing’s on the Wall (Art Is, Too, for Now)


THREE heavyset guys armed with aerosol canisters have their boombox tuned to a ribald talk-radio show as they transform a grungy section of wall in Long Island City, Queens, from a peeling mess to a psychedelic swirl of letters spelling out their names. The opposite of furtive, these tattooed artisans laugh as they brandish spraypaint cans for an audience of curious passers-by. Tagging may be illegal in New York, but not on this extraordinarily colorful industrial block beneath the shriek of the No. 7 subway line.

Farther along the street, a transit-themed mural includes a tongue-in-cheek four-star rating credited to Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., one of the city’s most vocal critics of graffiti — or, as it is described by fans and practitioners, aerosol art. To them, this desolate site known as 5Pointz Arts Center is a mecca for graffiti artists, rappers and break-dancers from the five boroughs and beyond. Icons of the medium like Cope 2, Tats Cru and Tracy 168 have painted here, and musicians as diverse as Joss Stone and Jadakiss have shot videos using its garish walls as backdrop.

“These walls to me are no different than a canvas in a museum,” said Jonathan Cohen, 38, an artist from Flushing. He is the primary guardian here, and the source of the billboard-size words painted on the main wall, “5Pointz: The Institute of Higher Burnin’.” That his piercing eyes are worried and his dark hair infiltrated with gray is directly linked to recent statements by the building’s owner that 5Pointz is living on borrowed time — destined to be replaced by two residential towers.

Since 2001, Mr. Cohen, whose nom de graffiti is meresone, has performed the role of on-premises curator, peacemaker and, in his vision, museum director. Permission to use the outside of the dilapidated warehouse, at 45-46 Davis Street, as a canvas was granted by the owner, Jerry Wolkoff, who also rented out makeshift art studio space until 2009, when a fire escape collapsed and seriously injured a jewelry artist. After the accident, the interior studios were dismantled and Mr. Wolkoff paid a fine for safety infractions, but the graffiti, monitored by Mr. Cohen, was allowed to continue, gratis.

Painters from France, Australia, Spain and elsewhere have been invited to make their mark on what some members of the urban arts frontier laud as an endangered landmark. The site is noted in foreign guidebooks as the hippest tourist attraction in Queens, an out-of-doors paean to street art. It is a headline attraction for Bike the Big Apple tours. But it lacks any mention on the local community board’s list of cultural destinations, unlike the Museum of Modern Art’s nearby PS1 outpost, which invited 5Pointz to perform at its summer arts series on Sunday, before Hurricane Irene forced a postponement. The taggers were to demonstrate their art on canvases, not on MoMA’s walls.

At 5Pointz, a graffiti lovefest is celebrated daily in broad daylight and includes the prime display space up on the roof, where passing subway riders are treated to — or assaulted by — a striking portrait of the murdered rapper Notorious B.I.G. as interpreted by the New Zealand artist OD. Even the chairman of Community Board 2, Joe Conley, considers the mural “a magnificent example of creativity — it looks like a real painting.”

On the flip side, he dismisses the building it is painted on as “a blight.”

“People refer to it as ‘that graffiti building,’ not ‘that arts center,’ ” he said. “It by and large has a negative connotation.”

Mr. Conley and his board agree with the building’s hitherto arts-friendly owner and developer, Mr. Wolkoff, that the moldering complex is ripe for razing in the name of urban development. Mr. Wolkoff envisions two 30-story apartment towers, and pledges to include affordable loft space for working artists. He also promises a rear wall accessible to graffiti artists.

“A rear wall? That won’t cut it,” objected Marie Flageul, an event planner who is part of a 10-person crew that acts as docents at 5Pointz. “It’s like David and Goliath. What the landlord doesn’t understand is that 5Pointz is a brand and an icon, and if he knocks it down it will be missed. 5Pointz is the United Nations of graffiti.”

What Mr. Wolkoff proposes is two million square feet of development in a spot that currently houses 200,000 square feet of deteriorating warehouse decorated by an ever-mutating collection (aerosol art is not forever) of 350 murals and tags applied by a revolving cast of about 1,000 artists each year. There is no chance, he said, that the new project will be christened “Graffiti Towers.” He’s not that sentimental.

“There is an evolution going on in that part of Long Island City; the building is old, it doesn’t warrant repairs, and no matter what, it has to come down,” Mr. Wolkoff, 74, said in a telephone interview from Long Island, where he and his son own two business parks and are attempting to develop the decaying Pilgrim State psychiatric center site in Brentwood.

“It’s time for me to put something else there,” he said of 5Pointz. “It’s a great location for young people and empty nesters who can’t afford Manhattan.” Mr. Wolkoff does not think the clatter of the No. 7 train will deter renters: “I can get you to 53rd and Fifth in 12 minutes!”

Supporters of this unlikely art temple are rallying to preserve it. An online petition called “Show Ur Love to 5Pointz” has accumulated more than 11,000 signatures and comments. The prevailing emotions: disbelief that the building will disappear and force graffiti artists back underground, and outrage that street art is again being censored.

On a recent Saturday, as Mr. Cohen was busily assigning another dozen spray-painters to several available sections of wall and roof, an assortment of fans and curiosity-seekers stopped by, some to gawk, others to pay their respects.

Jason Nickel, an art installer at PS1, brought his children, Lily, 12, and Jude, 8. “I heard the building might come down, and I was afraid the kids might not get to see it,” he said. “It’s a cultural landmark, actually.” Lily issued high praise. “It’s cool,” she said, twirling in front of a sinister mural by Christian Cortes.

Mr. Cortes, 38, abandoned his illegal spray-painting for a legal career in digital art in the mid-1990s, but after responding to an invitation from Mr. Cohen to visit 5Pointz and paint a wall, he found himself hooked again on creating graffiti tableaus.

“I got inspired as an old man to see what some of the young kids were doing here, carrying the flag for something that seemed to be disappearing,” Mr. Cortes said. “In other parts of the world, graffiti is accepted as an art form: here we are painting among Dumpsters on scraps of a building that’s going to be demolished, but because it’s legal, it feels like heaven. This is as good as it gets in New York.”

Don and Itta Ross, both 82, were in from Great Neck to scope out PS1 and 5Pointz. They found the graffiti “interesting.” They also lamented the lack of public art in New York City.

“New York is very backward in that respect,” Mr. Ross, a designer, said. “As long as this place isn’t hurting anybody, why not leave it alone? It’s a form of public art.”


Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

Marchandmeffre Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre are two photographers who collaborate and capture the erosion and deterioration of Detroit ... and many other places ... via their art. In fact their art reminds me of what I am trying to achieve via street art graffiti.



Their statement says it all : Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension. The state of ruin is essentially a temporary situation that happens at some point, the volatile result of change of era and the fall of empires. This fragility, the time elapsed but even so running fast, lead us to watch them one very last time : being dismayed, or admire, making us wondering about the permanence of things. Photography appeared to us as a modest way to keep a little bit of this ephemeral state.

Visit : http://www.marchandmeffre.com/detroit/

Spray Paint Reality - Babelgum

Spray Paint Reality is a great post on Bablegum, a fascinating blog and wonderful resource for spray graffiti. There are some amazing posts on this site and up to date graffiti places to check out. Here is a recent video from the RJ's Street Art London series:


Great blog! And if you want to try it yourself, take a lesson from a master - GRAFFITI VERITE' 4 (GV4): Basic Techniques for Creating Graffiti Art on Walls & Canvas


Please Sign The Petition to Save 5 Pointz From Demolition

Lic 5pointz 3 This post below is a grab from a facebook invite from Jonathan Meres the CEO of 5 PTZ. There is a rumor that the owner of the land and buildings of 5 Pointz wants to demolish all structures and develop it for luxury use.

Please help prevent the demolition of 5 Pointz which is an arts gem in the industrial section of Long Island City, Queens New York. They want to tear it down to make way for luxury condos. We have enough luxury condos but not enough urban art centers. Please visit 5 Pointz yourself and see what I mean about an arts gem. You get there by taking the 7 train to 45 Road Court House Square.


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Today at 5:30pm - November 1 at 8:30pm

This is an on-line petition.

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5POINTZ, an artistic NYC icon, is set to be demolished by Jerry Wolkoff.
If you have ever been to 5POINTZ, you know how artistically awesome this place is. I have been there numerous times and want to be able to go back and enjoy the freedom of artistic expression this place gives.

If you haven't been there, Google "5POINTZ NYC" and you will see exactly what I am talking about.

If ya live in the Tri-Sate area, you can take just see it for yourself.
5POINTZ is located at: 45-46 Davis Street. Queens NY

Help me help this place survive. Losing it will be very unfortunate.
Its a huge part of NYC and I need your help. 5POINTZ needs your help.

Its simple. Just sign the petition. It takes 10 seconds of your time.
Please Share, re-post, and invite this event as much as you can.


Philadelphia Magic Gardens

When in Philadelphia, or if looking for an excuse to go to Philadelphia, go no further than the magnificant Philadelphia Magic Gardens located at 1020 South Street. It is a magical work of "outsider art", "street art" or whatever art.

Magic gardens 2 Magic gardens 2 Magic-garden-outside Magic Gardens is the creation of mural mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar whose work can be found on over 100 public walls throughout the city of Philadelphia and around the world. Philadelphia's Magic Gardens is a folk art environment, gallery space, and nonprofit organization that showcases Zagar's amazing works.

Located at the site of Zagar's largest public mosaic installation, the Magic Gardens includes a fully mosaiced indoor gallery and a massive outdoor labyrinthine mosaic sculpture. The installation, primarily consisting of found objects and contributions from the community, covers half a city block with myriads of tile, texture, and color. A walk through the labyrinth will reveal sculptures from Latin America and Asia, bicycle wheels from local South Street shop Via Bicycles, Zagar's hand-made tiles, and mirrors of every shape and size.

It is a spectacle! A must see. So see it!

Taki 183

Taki-183-print-2 For those of us who grew up in New York, maybe one of our first experiences with graffiti was the ubiquitous Taki 183 scrawled on the walls wherever you looked. The graffitist, a Greek kid who lived on 183rd Street in Manhattan, spawned copycats. 

I'm talking the 1970s and what happened from Taki 183 was an explosion of street art (much of it on subway cars) and tags all over the city. It was great. And it led to the likes of Keith Haring and Basquiat in the 1980s. So what happened to Mr Taki 183? He has emerged from hibernation to publish a new book called The History of American Graffiti


Here is a video compilation of NYC in the 1980s when graffiti covered the subway cars. This was a gritty, raw precurser to the street art of Banksy, English and Supine, all of whom now boast gallery representation. Pish tosh. 


Queens Museum - New York Panorama

IMG_4916 I love street art but what about "streets" art? Answer: Yes! And the best in NYC "streets" art is the amazing, football field sized installation of NYC aptly called the New York City Panorama. It is located in the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadow Park not far from the New York Mets' Citifield.

The panorama of New York City which has every street and every building in the five boroughs is represented here in beautiful 3D. However there is just one problem. According to David Strauss the Director of External Affairs for the Queens Museum, the panorama has not been updated since 1992 because of funding.

That means that buildings like the World Trade Center still stand strangely on the tip of Manhattan Island like a harsh reminder of what was, rather than what NYC has become. The out-of-date panorama is not just a reflection of loss, however. Since 1992, Battery Park City has blossomed as has many neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.

IMG_4918 But that doesn't mean that nothing has been done. There once was an Adopt A Building Program where doners could "adopt" their apartment building, or a famous NYC landmark proceeds of which went to maintainence of the Panorama. Alas, the program was scrapped in 2008 but at least Battery Park City, currently a grey patch on the side of the WTC towers, has been created and will be installed soon.

So what can we do to maintain and update this treasure? Wouldn't it be wonderful if developers and major real estate companies helped with a donation to put their new buildings in the panorama? A big hint hint - Silverman, Ratner, Trump etc etc.

Please contact David Strauss  at the Queens Museum and help preserve an important NYC art project. His phone is: 718-592-9700 ext 145

The Voting Booth After Dark

Vanessa libertad garcia I am not a big book reader but my friend George Tibbett suggested that I read "The Voting Booth After Dark" by Vanessa Libertad Garcia. He said it reads like poetry, of which I am a fan. And it is an engrossing and quick read. I agree and found a lot of elements that I liked very much.

The book is an addiction confessional that reads like a series of poems. The chapter titles immediately sound like a series of poem titles - The Dead End Days, Envy, Anxiety, Lament etc. (They also read like the names of tarot cards in a post modern deck, albiet one with very few good and redeeming cards.) Or maybe it is reminiscent of a Leonard Cohen song of longing or a weird twelve step program that has on twice as many steps. The chapter, Hatred, reads to me like a po mo Elliot take-off on The Wasteland which is one of my favorite poems. So I got a lot out of this book.  

Needless to say I got into the rift and while I found it depressing, I also found it illuminating and deep. Read it and see what you think.

Cuban-American writer & filmmaker Vanessa Libertad Garcia has completed a myriad of successful projects in both the film & literary worlds.  Her debut book The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive is available for purchase online at numerous well-known and independent sites. Ms. Garcia is currently in development for her first feature film based on the book’s characters titled Dear Dios, and her second book -- a collection of love poetry.