He was there almost from the very beginning in 1970, until the last days of his life. His influence was felt by multiple generations, and his impact on style can be seen in some of the most famous writers in the world.
Michael Tracy was born February 14, 1958, in the Bronx. As a kid he spent three days a week in Manhattan with his Puerto Rican grandfather, and four days with his Irish mother in the Bronx. His father had left the family early on. Tracy roamed the Bronx fearlessly, at night he broke into the Bronx Zoo to play with the animals, and drive the carts around.
As the graffiti movement blossomed around him in the early '70s, he started writing with a group of kids from his school, Sacred Heart. Those kids would turn into some of the most talented writers of the 1970s.
In 1974, he officially named the group Wanted. He quickly turned over the presidency of the crew to his right hand man, Chi-Chi 133.
In 1975, he started a newer group with limited membership called Wild Style. To Tracy, wild style was more than just a style, it was a way of life, as he said in a recent interview. “To me it’s almost like a religion or way of life, but it started as a series of interlocking mechanical letters that we did our pieces with. So people would see a TRACY 168, or a PNUT 2 piece and they’d have a little WS inside them and whether they could read them or not they’d say “Yo, WILD STYLE!“ So it was not only a crew but it was also the type of style we represented.”
To later generations it would always be the title of the Hip-Hop film by Charlie Ahearn.
The bulk of Tracy’s work was done on the trains from 1972 to 1976. His earlier pieces were just outlines of his eponymous tag. By 1973, he started to blossom, adding his innate artistic ability into his works.
In 1974, he painted a perfect rendering of Yosemite Sam on the side of the trains. Cartoons were fairly new at the time, and his rendering was highly sophisticated.
In 1975, he painted a rocket going sideways, the flames shooting out and enveloping his name, taking a great concept and rendering it perfectly. At the same time as doing these elaborate pieces, he continued to blanket the lines with his name, and painted in billboard letters with silver and black in under ten minutes. His speed and efficiency were so great that he could do twenty of these in a night.
Guess who's about to move into Jean-Michel Basquiat's old studio in Manhattan's Bowery neighborhood? It's the film star Angelina Jolie, who will pay a monthly rent of $60,000 for the property. From now on, call it Atelier Jolie.
The Manhattan building that once housed the studio and living quarters of late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has found a new tenant. Last week, actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie announced that she had secured 57 Great Jones Street, a two-story structure owned by Andy Warhol for 20 years, for a new creative endeavor platforming underrepresented fashion workers. With 6,600 square feet at her disposal, Jolie is working to create “a community of creativity and inspiration, regardless of socio-economic background” by providing resources and support to an international network of tailors through Atelier Jolie.
John Roesch and Garrett Kelly, the two Meridian Capital Group brokers who negotiated the deal, confirmed to Hyperallergic that Jolie signed an eight-year lease on the historic building that had been on the market for $60,000 a month since last November. Pop artist Andy Warhol bought 57 Great Jones Street, situated in Manhattan’s Noho neighborhood, in 1970 before leasing it to his close friend and fellow artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, in 1983. Basquiat both lived and made art in the space until his untimely death at age 27 in 1988.
Basquiat, a Brooklyn native of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, worked prolifically in the space as he continued to contest the boundaries between so-called “high art” and “low art” through his signature street art style that addressed themes of race, class, religion, and mortality. During the 1980s, Basquiat and Warhol shared a very close friendship, operating as collaborators, confidantes, and even creative competitors. Their friendship was widely publicized, but became fractured after their joint exhibition’s poor reception also yielded characterizations of Basquiat being “an art world mascot.” Though the two never formally reconciled, Warhol’s death in 1987 reportedly contributed to Basquiat’s downward spiral alongside his intense rise to fame and mistreatment as a Black man in the arts scene. Basquiat was found dead in the Noho apartment on August 12, 1988, from a heroin overdose.
In 2016, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation installed a plaque honoring Basquiat on the building’s exterior, which had long been tagged by graffiti artists paying tribute to the late visionary. Village Preservation’s Executive Director Andrew Berman described the building as “a uniquely significant part of New York City’s cultural heritage and landscape,” expressing pride in its landmark designation.
“It is our hope that this building will remain intact and in some way accessible to the public forever, in order to allow all who wish to the ability to appreciate its historic significance,” Berman told Hyperallergic.
The building’s first floor is home to an exclusive, invite-only Japanese restaurant called Bohemian. Neither Atelier Jolie nor the restaurant could be reached for inquiries.
Roesch told Hyperallergic that Meridian Retail Leasing negotiated the deal with Jolie for about six months. “We had a ton of offers from reputable operators, but her concept seemed best fit for the building and its history,” he said. Perhaps nodding to Basquiat’s reuse of existing materials for the surfaces of his work, Atelier Jolie pledged a commitment to sustainability through the use of “leftover, quality vintage material and deadstock,” focusing on the production of “quality heirloom garments with personal meaning.”
Steel and other community members will create large-scale works for an exhibition in November.
Ant Steel is not the type to scale walls or stealthily spray-paint street corners under the cover of darkness. Steel asks for permission to paint. Always. He’s not interested in tags or gaudy throwies and tends to paint vibrant, highly realistic works as community projects.
Steel’s more formal approach to graffiti stems from a career in graphic design that involved preparing images for advertisement. If it was a spray job, Steel would go and watch the painters dangle off the side of giant billboards, his feet firmly on the ground. Only more recently has Steel begun creating a different type of public art: a mural of Queen Elizabeth II outside a shopping center, an extensive pro-Ukraine painting on a town wall—and now, a series of works as artist-in-residence at St Albans Cathedral, Britain’s oldest site of continuous Christian worship.
The wall depicting a peregrine falcon Steel painted for St Albans Film Festival. Photo: courtesy Ant Steel.
“Street art has a loud voice and I want it to shout as loud as possible,” Steel told Artnet News. “At the cathedral, I have a remit of running workshops and events. My goal is to be involved within the community.”
To be clear, Steel won’t be transforming the stone walls of St Albans with color, though, in a curious echo, the cathedral is riddled with thousands of carved graffiti marks dating back hundreds of years. Instead, Steel will be creating large-scale works on boards as well as working with children, asylum seekers, refugees and adults to create an exhibition in November, one he believes will “turn some heads.”
Steel’s wall for Ukraine in St Albans. Photo: courtesy Ant Steel.
The Cathedral approached Steel after learning about the workshops he led for the St Albans Film Festival as part of its broader push to attract younger and more diverse audiences. The landmark has been running its artist-in-residence program since 2018.
“The Cathedral has long been a patron of arts and is keen to support local artists,” Kevin Walton, the Cathedral’s Canon Chancellor, told Artnet News. “Ant Steel’s fresh and engaging artistic offer and his dedicated approach to community work matched our vision.”
Walton was also drawn to the idea of a contemporary graffiti artist playing off the marks worked into the Cathedral. “We are consciously building on our long heritage in this place,” Walton said.
See more images from the artist in resident program below:
Ant Steel at work outside St Albans Cathedral. Photo: courtesy Ant Steel.
Hyperallergic reports - On February 24, the first anniversary of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, the Ukrainian postal service released a new stamp featuring a Banksy mural and the shorthand “FCK PTN!” in Cyrillic. The mural, which the British street artist painted in the fall of 2022 on a bombed building northwest of Kyiv, portrays a young boy in Judo robes flipping an older man. Many speculate Banksy depicted Vladimir Putin getting body slammed, as the Russian President is reportedly a Judo practitioner.
In a press statement, the national post shared that the image is “allegorical,” representing the struggle between Ukraine and Russia. “Our small country, compared to Russia, courageously entered into an unequal battle with the enemy and, despite all the difficulties, is fighting for the Victory,” wrote Ukrposhta.
Expecting high enthusiasm for the stamps with Banksy’s mural, Ukrposhta set circulation of the postage at 1,500,000 copies with a limit of 10 sheets per online order. A sheet of stamps costs 180 Ukrainian hryvnia (~$4.90), and the agency says 42 UAH (~$1.14) will go toward ongoing humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, such as rebuilding schools.
Banksy has unveiled a new mural highlighting the fight against domestic violence on the morning of Valentine’s Day, drawing applause from fans around the world who praised the artist for not forgetting the reality of abuse on this supposedly romantic day.
Titled Valentine’s Day mascara, the work appeared overnight on a white brick wall in the British seaside town of Margate, one of the most economically deprived areas of Kent.
It depicts a woman dressed as a 1950s housewife tossing a man into a real abandoned freezer, around which Banksy created the work. The woman in a blue checkered dress, apron and yellow household rubber gloves has a broken tooth and a black eye probably caused by a punch. She appears to be enacting her revenge on her abuser, while only his legs are visible, sticking out from the end of the freezer.
Banksy, Valentine’s Day mascara (2023). Credit @banksy.
The work went live on the elusive artist’s Instagram page on Tuesday morning, and garnered more than half a million likes within a couple of hours. Many have left comments praising the artist for drawing attention to the issue.
Levels of domestic violence rose during the pandemic lockdowns, and the most recent Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 5 percent of adults aged 16 years and above—6.9 percent women and 3 percent men—experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2022, equating to 2.4 million adults.
“Sheeeessssh but that’s some people’s reality,” one user wrote on Instagram. “Fighting violence used against women. Even on Valentine’s Day. Always!” wrote another user.
Another speculated if there were other hidden messages behind the work. “Anyone else notice the Ukrainian colors? I think that’s the message,” another user pointed out.
One user guessed if Banksy was female. Another shared their horrible accounts of domestic violence and abuse their family experienced. “Anyone who’s experiencing abuse—get help, get out, get free,” the user wrote.
If you or someone you know is being abused, support and help are available.
Many skate parks across the world are filled with wonderful street art. Today I want to give a shout out to River City Skate Park in Seattle Washington.
According to their site, River City SkatePark project has been in the works for 15 years. Initially generated as a business plan by three South Park high school students, this once neglected property has blossomed into an incredibly unique skatepark. There’s nothing else like it in the world!
Designed by our late friend, visionary and founder of Grindline, Mark “Monk” Hubbard, River City is a beautiful concrete structure with four doors in the cardinal directions and one continuous, circular half pipe with lines through the middle. Experienced skaters from around the world visit this park, but many people in the area are unable to enjoy it because of the level of difficulty. We’ve been gathering design ideas from skaters and non-skaters alike to ensure that the new and improved RCSP draws people from many crowds and accommodates a variety of uses. Please help us honor Monk’s vision – to finish building River City SkatePark and help build a healthy community space for people to gather and express themselves.
Jim Bachor travels across the country filling potholes for a living. He doesn’t just fill the unsightly road gaps with cement, he actually turns them into art — and often, social commentary. Bachor uses hundreds of pieces of Italian glass and marble that he cuts to create the sometimes subversive mosaics, which he installs on the ground to beautify unsightly city streets. He doesn’t work with cities on the installations, he works rogue, and he places the mosaics himself.
Bachor began his pothole art in Chicago, where he lives, by installing the word “pothole” in black and white marble in a road divot in 2013.“People loved it and thought it was funny,” he said. “Was it legal? I still don’t know. I decided to turn my hobby into a bit of a Robin Hood thing. If I had to ask for permission, I wouldn’t be doing this.” He was recently in D.C. making pothole mosaics of wolves for a conservation group.
In D.C., Bachor was hired by the #RelistWolves Campaign, a privately-funded group that is working to get Northern Rocky Mountain wolves reclassified as an endangered species in an effort to get them the same protection as other gray wolves.
Now he spends about 10 hours on each piece and said he has created 108 artworks, including commissioned installations for streets in Nashville, Philadelphia, New York City and Los Angeles.
One of the oldest cities in the world, full of history and the cradle of democracy and culture.
This is Athens. The ancient’s ‘glorious city’. And at the same time, a contemporary city that assimilates cultural trends and adapts them to its own character. It goes without saying that the modern urban religion of graffiti and street art is part of this: tags, throw-ups, wild style graffiti, political activist stencils, stickers, paste-ups and public art murals created for festivals and other projects. So if you love art and street culture, you’ll love discovering this lesser-known side of Athens.