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A Look Inside the Batcave

Like all great graf places, the batcave in Brooklyn is slated for demolition to build ... wait for it ... luxury apartments. But here it is as is.

Dating back to the 1950s, the Gowanus Batcave is one of the City's oldest graffiti havens. Similar to its Queens counterpart 5 Pointz, the Batcave is being demolished and converted into residences. In this immersive 360° video from the New York Times, peek inside the graffiti-filled Batcave before it is gone for good.


The Benefits of Looking at Art

IMG_3824I knew that when I look at art I feel good - or at least better. Now there is a study proving that out.

Robert Lederman sent me this interesting article which I also think should include street art. What better way to feel the positive effects of art as you walk down the street and see an amazing mural.
Past research has shown that looking at art, whether in a museum, gallery, or home, can benefit your mental health. And now, a recent study suggests that the positive effect holds true for viewing art online as well. The study, from the University of Vienna’s Arts and Research on Transformation of Individuals and Society, concluded that just one or two minutes of exposure to online art improved participants’ mood, anxiety, loneliness, and overall well-being.
“The results of this paper suggest that online cultural engagement, including but not limited to fine art, does seem to be a viable tool to support individuals’ mood, anxiety, loneliness, and well-being especially when such content is beautiful, meaningful, and inspires positive cognitive-emotional states in the viewer,” the authors wrote. If you are looking to tap into the mental health benefits of art from your own home, there are plenty of options to explore — we suggest starting with Smithsonian’s roundup of the best virtual exhibitions from 2020.
Art photo by Charlene Weisler

India's Beautiful and Amazing Truck Art

I have seen these fabulous trucks myself while traveling in India in 2013. Here are some of my photos IMG_2030 IMG_2030


HyperAllergic's recent post on these trucks gave me added insight into why. Here is a short excerpt and you can read the full article here.

In India, trucks play a pivotal role in transporting heavy-duty goods, journeying for endless kilometers across the country. Most drivers are on the road for weeks, sometimes months at a stretch, living a nomadic life and often sleeping and eating in their vehicles. Their trucks become their travel companions and their homes, and the drivers go to great lengths to beautify them. They work closely with truck artists, describing the illustrations they would like to see.

“A good artist should have a steady hand and an intuitive understanding of color-pairing,” said Raj Dongre, in Hindi, over the phone. He has been embellishing trucks with his designs for over three decades. Before the country was engulfed by the pandemic, he worked in a truck-building workshop in Nagpur. In the summer heat, wearing scruffy clothes, he would dip his brush in colors of indigo and green, and glide it across the truck’s sturdy body, defining the fine feather wisps of a peacock. His hands moved with adept flourish, while songs from old Bollywood films played on his mobile phone.

A superstitious totem often seen on the bumpers is the nazar battu: the mug of a sharp-toothed demon with matted hair, believed to ward off the evil eye. Graffitied catchphrases like “Horn OK Please” and “Use Dipper at Night” (the latter encourages other drivers to dim their headlights at dusk) are now an inextricable part of the truck nomenclature. 

To preserve and promote the country’s ephemeral art tradition, Bawa launched All India Permit (AIP) in 2018, an art project which collaborates with local truck artists. AIP supplies them with Cold Rolled steel sheets on which they paint their vibrant creations. In turn, these pieces become one-of-a-kind collectors’ items, available for sale. A sizable portion of the proceeds goes to the artists, providing them with financial sustenance, particularly during the ongoing quarantine period. AIP’s online platform showcases the artworks, while educating visitors of the art form’s cultural relevance.

“Unfortunately, I think this might be the last generation of truck artists,” speculated Bawa. “Many want their children to work in air-conditioned offices, not on rough highways. Also, there is [financial] uncertainty in this field.” While both Ahmad and Dongre don’t want their kids to inherit their profession, they believe that truck art will never peter out. “Otherwise,” Dongre mused, “the Indian highways will be gloomy and bare forever.” 


An Atrocity Rises From the Ashes of 5 Pointz

Before and After Photographs of 5Pointz Mural Site Show a Bleak Transformation

The Australian Town That Turns Trash Into Christmas Trees

The 2020 tree is made from farm castoffs.A great find from Atlas Obscura -

The traditional public Christmas tree in Lismore, the largest town in the northeast of Australia’s New South Wales, used to be pretty ho-ho-hum.

Before 2015, a Cook pine in the middle of a roundabout was dressed up each holiday season as a tannenbaum. But, like all Cook pines, the tree leans toward the equator, so the effect of decorating it was underwhelming. “Everyone said ‘Oh, that’s a bit sad, it can’t even stand straight,’” says Neil Marks, acting mayor of Lismore City Council.

The first tree—built under the cover of night out of a pile of bicycles—debuted in 2015 and ushered in a new tradition. In subsequent years, the tree has been made from used tires, old road signs, broken umbrellas, and potted plants combined with solar-powered lighting. Materials are sourced from the town’s junkyard, and various town staff take on design and construction.

Like most things in this unusual year, the 2020 tree was a little different. It was a group effort, since most staff worked from home due to COVID-19 restrictions. And the tree is an ode to resilience. “This year’s tree is a nod and a tribute to our rural community,” says Marks, who spoke to Atlas Obscura while he waited to see whether flood waters in town would recede and allow him to travel back to his workplace. “They’ve had a tough time. They’ve gone through fires, a drought, and now a little too much rain.” Local farmers have also suffered from indirect effects of COVID-19, including border closures, despite Lismore being one of the many regions of Australia that has had no active cases of the virus.

This year’s 23-foot tree is made from recycled 6.5-gallon drums that store chemicals for use on farms. The decorations are made from used animal feed bags, piping, and discarded metal.

Many in the community love the scrappy, garbage-inspired trees. “I’m very much in the ‘bah-humbug’ community but, despite my general pessimism, I have grown fond of our tree,” says Lismore resident Gray Wilson.






Artist Sues Trump’s Border Wall Contractors for Destroying His “Cheese Wall”

Just like with the destruction of 5Pointz in Queens, NYC, the VARA act may provide some justice to the destruction of the Cheese Wall --- Thank you to HyperAllergic for posting ---


A 70-foot wall made entirely of cheese, erected near the US–Mexico border as a critique of the current government’s immigration policies, has been destroyed — and the artist behind the work is suing Trump’s border wall contractors for allegedly dismantling it.

Cosimo Cavallaro began working on the sculptural installation, “Cheese Wall,” in March 2019. The Canadian-Italian artist leased a private property in San Diego County to create a barricade out of bricks of expired Cotija, a Mexican cheese named after a town in the state of Michoacan. Cavallaro’s often works with perishable materials to highlight the problem of waste, both in terms of material accumulation and financial extravagance.

In a complaint filed in San Diego federal court, Cavallaro claims that employees of the construction company SLSCO, hired by the Trump administration to fortify the US-Mexico border wall, “knowingly and willfully trespassed onto the site and destroyed the Cheese Wall” on or around October 2019.

Cosimo Cavallaro’s “Cheese Wall,” built of blocks of Cotija cheese, before it was destroyed. (photo by Alan Shaffer; courtesy of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP)

The suit rests on a potential violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, conversion, private nuisance, and trespass. Cavallaro also claims he was “deprived of the opportunity to communicate his artistic message through the Cheese Wall” and “to see the Cheese Wall, at its full length, stand in contrast to the border wall.”

“The loss of Cos’s work has been devastating to him,” Melinda LeMoine of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, who is representing Cavallaro, told Hyperallergic.

“For years, he worked to bring his vision of the Cheese Wall to life, only to have trespassers tear it apart and bury it in the dirt. He has never sued anyone before. But he felt that he had no choice here. He cannot recreate what is lost, but he can stand up for what is right,” she added.

Cavallaro standing at the former site of his destroyed “Cheese Wall” near the US-Mexico border. (photo by Alan Shaffer; courtesy of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP)

The artist is seeking damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

When Trump took office, he promised to build a “big, beautiful” wall along the Southwest border to keep out what he falsely described as an influx of Mexican criminals. According to recent analyses, the (now possibly lame-duck) president has built 15 miles of new primary barrier and 350 miles of replacement or secondary barrier; another 221 miles are still under construction. That is a far cry from the 2,000-mile stretch of concrete he had committed to during his 2016 campaign.

In a 2019 interview, Cavallaro said that his installation was meant to “show and expose waste.” The sculpture was supposed to stand at 1,000 feet and was still under construction when it was torn down. By then, it stood at six feet high and contained more than 400 Cotija bricks.

“I don’t like walls,” Cavallaro said. “This is a wall that I can handle, that I’m willing to live with. This wall is perishable, it will not last.”

Tel Aviv's Florentin District is Losing Its Wonderful Street Art

Florentine 04-Rami-Meiri-Photo-Lord-K2-scaledThe Times of Israel sheds light on an international travesty. Artist neighborhoods filled with street art are being over run by developers and destroyed. One such neighborhood is the Florentin in Tel Aviv. Read more here --

The hub of Tel Aviv’s street art scene remains Florentin. Operators regularly offer guided street art tours for foreigners and Israelis alike to view the art spread throughout the neighborhood. Abarbanel Street and its surrounding industrial zone of wood and metal workshops — as well as art galleries — are the street art epicenter.

But with Florentin’s ongoing, fast-paced gentrification, the art on its streets is dwindling. In several parts of the neighborhood, in fact, street art was recently painted over by the municipality. Due to soaring real estate prices, rival developers are battling over the land in their haste to build residential housing. And as they do this, they are stripping away the neighborhood’s soul, driving real estate prices even higher, while offering little to the public — apart from more living quarters in an overcrowded section of a city that is in dire need of cultural spaces.

“Street Art Tel Aviv” — the first in our series of books documenting Tel Aviv’s urban art scene — captures the streets of the city when they still largely belonged to us.


The End of Centralia's Graffiti Highway

Atlas Obscura reports the end of a stretch of old highway in Delaware that over the years has become decorated with graffiti.

A trio of camera-toting 20-somethings stumble out of a Delaware-plated Honda Civic onto the shoulder of a rural Pennsylvania highway. It’s summer 2020, and amid the pandemic, they’ve road-tripped nearly three hours up circuitous, mountain roads to reach their off-the-grid destination: the notorious, smoldering, coal-country ghost town of Centralia. They’ve come to this remote corner of Columbia County to take in one sight in particular, the vast spray-painted surface a mile of the former Route 61, commonly known as “Graffiti Highway.”

But, to their surprise, the promised anarchic, visual feast just beyond the “No Trespassing” signs is gone. As of early April 2020, the colorful art, scrawled wisdom, and periodic vulgarity of the highway was officially laid to rest by the property’s current owners, Pagnotti Enterprises, on the grounds that one person’s postapocalyptic wonderland is another entity’s liability. The road’s messages—from “You fell in love with my flower but not my roots,” to “Out of nothing came everything,” to “OBEY … if you want to”—now rest beneath pyramids of dirt.

Formally closed in 1993 due to a decades-long mine fire simmering beneath its surface, this abandoned 0.74-mile stretch of road had achieved cult status in the first decade of the 2000s. After years of disuse, it took on new life as an artistic commons adorned with everything from pineapple-carapaced turtles to less-than-family-friendly fare, often of the male anatomical variety. By 2017, it was anecdotally cited by some locals as the sixth-most-visited attraction in the state. Its warped surface was a magnet not just for taggers, but also for horror fans and gamers in search of one of the inspirations behind Silent Hill (the 2006 movie based on the video game), mountain bikers, skaters, ATV enthusiasts, photographers, local party people, ghost hunters, and the generally curious.

The Graffiti Highway had become a destination in its own right.
The Graffiti Highway had become a destination in its own right. Flickr/R. Miller/CC BY 2.0

Around the Graffiti Highway, a new community sprang up, one born of—yet completely separate from and sometimes opposed by—the one that preceded it. As Johnson notes, it became a space where people chose to assert, through their tags, that “I was here, I can be here, I’m a part of this.” With interest fueled by Facebook groups, the Silent Hill franchise (Roger Avary, one of the screenwriters behind the film adaptation of the horror game, cites Centralia as an atmospheric muse), and cable television features, it morphed into Centralia 2.0. The Graffiti Highway became Centralia’s new public square, offering visitors a barrage of constantly evolving, often droll, visual novelty.

As locals reported, graffiti had indeed migrated off the highway.
As locals reported, graffiti had indeed migrated off the highway. 80schic84 (Atlas Obscura User)

As the highway’s popularity grew, the remaining locals called for increased patrols and citations. Some reported that the graffiti was creeping away from the highway and into neighboring areas, including cemeteries. Planned events, including a Barbie Power Wheels race that drew hundreds of RSVPs in February 2017, prompted enforced closures. Still, other observers—including Dave DeKok, author of Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire—point out that accidents on the site were few and far between. On April 8, DeKok told a local news outlet, “It was just a lot of people coming together. It was a lot of fun and it wasn’t hurting anyone.”

During the week of April 6, a three-day burial process took place. A convoy of 400 dump trucks descended on the area, delivering between 8,000 and 10,000 tons of dirt. One by one, their beds were lifted and tailgates opened. Cascades of dirt piled onto the colorful marks below.

The Graffiti Highway’s end has not gone unmourned or uncontested: several change.org petitions have called on officials and business leaders to reverse the burial. At press time, one appeal to Governor Tom Wolf had nearly reached its goal of 35,000 signatures. Impassioned, wistful remembrances, forlorn musings, and heartfelt pleas fill the comments. People refer to it as “one of the most beautiful places in Pennsylvania,” a “place of free expression, creativity and adventure.” One person declares its destruction, “a disservice to the beauty of human art juxtaposed in nature.”

Street Art Reurns to NYC and I Am Thrilled!

... But I know some people are not happy with the rebirth of NYC graf. Oh well. The re-emergence of street art and graffiti is a sign that New York still has its artists. I see this trend as a big positive, revealing a core creative that is basic and authentic to our experiences living here. For  those of us who remember the street art of the 1970s and 1980s, today is reminiscent of the work of those days and a refresher from the sanctioned commoditized version we were living in since 5Pointz was destroyed.


Hot off the press from the New York Times ---

Graffiti Is Back in Virus-Worn New York

The Seventies called. They want their walls back.

While most New Yorkers grudgingly accepted New York City’s lockdown in March, one community eagerly embraced it: graffiti writers. Deserted commercial streets with gated storefronts offered thousands of blank canvases for quick tags or two-tone throwies, while decorative murals in gentrifying neighborhoods were sprayed over as the streets rendered a definitive critique.

From the South Bronx to East New York, a new generation of graffiti writers has emerged, many of whom have never hit a trainyard or the inside of a subway car. But like early taggers who grew up in a city beset by crime, grime and empty coffers, today’s generation is dealing with its own intense fears over the devastating effects of the coronavirus on communities and the economy.

“Does art dictate the times or do the times dictate art?” said John Matos, 58, a graffiti writer known as Crash who started out in the 1970s. “Before now, the streets were sanitized, with pieces that were cool and nice, and done with permission. Now, we’re back to the roots.”

In his day, tagging was a dangerous — and illegal — art done under cover of night as writers sprayed whole subway cars from top to bottom. To many New Yorkers, it was a hallmark of a city in decline, a view later reinforced by the “broken-windows” approach to policing. Many artists from that era made the shift to gallery exhibits or commercial murals in the mid-1980s, when the city began aggressively targeting what was largely considered vandalism. By 1989, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had declared victory over graffiti (though in recent years some whole cars have been painted clandestinely, leading city officials to step up security).

In the following decades, street art — murals commissioned by landlords and businesses or done by collectives in gentrifying neighborhoods — became trendy as the city experienced an economic and population boom. And while graffiti never disappeared completely, in recent weeks it has become ever more visible citywide. The increase in graffiti is for many residents an unwelcome sign of the recent economic upheaval, especially for property owners who take on the Sisyphean task of trying to erase it all.

“It all begins and ends with angst,” said Mr. Matos, 58, the son of an evangelical preacher who grew up in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx. “Teenage angst is always going to be provoked. I always equate graffiti with music, like the way Stevie Wonder wrote political songs. What’s going on in the streets is a response to things.”

Today’s pieces are just as bold — and illegal — as those from four decades ago. Henry Chalfant, a co-producer of the 1983 graffiti documentary “Style Wars,” said it’s just part of the landscape for him. He noted that as subway graffiti declined, more artists took to the streets, where they painted without permission.

“It’s more just getting your name out there now,” said Mr. Chalfant, who published “Subway Art” with the photographer Martha Cooper. The book is a definitive archive of the ephemeral art. “Is that really different after the trains were over and the old kings stopped painting? People just went out and bombed. And they still are.”

The lockdown — especially when the M.T.A. announced reduced hours — echoed subway graffiti’s heyday some 40 years ago, when artists took advantage of snowstorms that left dozens of unattended trains parked overnight in tunnels. And while wearing a mask may have looked odd six months ago, no one has a second thought about it now, making it easier to paint despite the near-universal presence of surveillance cameras.

Concerns over the virus, as well as the death of George Floyd and others at the hands of the police, have been reflected in the pieces showing up around the city. But a lot of the new tags around town are, on their face, apolitical, though the mere act of writing on a wall is a political statement in itself.

“The whole thing with quarantine is that people feel powerless because daily life and activity is very different,” said Eric Felisbret, the author of “Graffiti New York,” who took up aerosol art as a teenager on the Lower East Side. “They can’t control anything. But they can get out there and bomb — that’s something they can control.”