On Friday, “SHOWTIME,” an exhibit celebrating subway art and artists, opened at Armature Art Space in Bushwick. The show was spearheaded by BuskNY, an organization advocating for the rights of subway artists to perform without being hassled by the NYPD. In addition to visual art inspired by the subway, opening night featured performances by staples of the subway arts scene, including dance crew Waffle Life, violinist Filip Pogady and puppeteer Kalan Sherrard, recently described by Daily Intel as “NYC’s most avant garde nihilist subway performer.”
Sherrard, 26, who was arrested while performing in the Times Square subway station last April, wore a balaclava and tights and performed using a pterodactyl puppet and another resembling a black version of the creepy baby spider in Toy Story. Near the entrance to the exhibit, New York Times-profiled sculptor Ming Liang Lu, 57, sat cutting out paper portraits of attendees. The show also featured art by Steven Bartoo, Yehuda Blum, Edwin “EQ” Class, David Everitt-Carlson, Sharlene Chou, Joan Iaconetti, Ron Richter, Marina Ross, Michah Saperstein, Rie Shimamura, Lorena Toyos, Milo Wissig, Chris Wright, and Heidi Younger.
Despite the fact that most subway performances have been legal since 1985, performers often get harassed, ticketed and arrested by cops unfamiliar with the rules, says Matthew Christian, a classical violinist and co-founder of BuskNY. In March, the Times reported that arrests of peddlers and panhandlers had tripled in the first two months of the year (compared to the same period last year), thanks to a crackdown under NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton.
“I think everyone involved in the subway recognizes the importance of art, and the MTA does that by creating institutional permanent art installations, which are great,” Christian says. But “we also want to highlight the aspect that’s a little bit more participative, where riders can be involved in creating art or see art be created in the subway,” he adds. “That’s a huge part of what makes the subway a positive experience.”
The gallery will be open this Wednesday and Saturday and by appointment until October 12.