The last time I saw a bunch of RAE BK‘s work all in one place was in 2015, just after the street artist and Brooklyn-native had opened his guerrilla-style solo exhibition in Chinatown. But the show wasn’t held at a gallery, instead RAE’s site-specific installation was housed inside a dingy old basement, accessible only by way of an unmarked, totally unassuming rust-red metal door adjacent to a bustling produce market. Even then, I was so jaded that I couldn’t allow myself to believe that this was a real basement with real dirt and dust everywhere. But actually it wasn’t just a fancy pop-up rental space with a stage-grit makeover, nor was it an attempt by some developer to “activate” a particular corner before the building was torn down. As RAE told me, the basement was simply on loan from a recently-retired butcher with whom he had a “tentative relationship,” and the show, called Trunk Work, was one of those rare art happenings that was both real and strange.
Since Thursday, the white walls at Eric Firestone Gallery have been wholly devoted to just a small portion of Henry Chalfant’s archive of “subway photographs.” Henry Chalfant: 1980 focuses on a year in which graffiti was still regarded as subversive and dangerous. At the same time, street art was at its most vibrant and anarchic. The work offers not only a trip back to the “golden age of graffiti,” but a thorough “visual anthropology,” as Chalfant describes it– a studied view of street culture back when it actually came from the streets.
Oh Trump! The presidential hopeful continues to be a never-ending repository of hilarity, amazement, disgust, and abject terror. His bravado, swagger, and blatant disregard for those pesky things called facts have attracted millions of voters, but have repelled many others. We’ve seen more than enough of that doughy orange face and wispy hair to last most of us a lifetime, but a group called Indecline– what most outlets are reporting as an “anarchist collective” but don’t seem to embody those ideals at all– decided to take it one step further yesterday when the installed a naked Donald Trump statue at Union Square.
Soaring temperatures, brunch plans, hangovers of various kinds, cute outfits, and sundry pictures of food and iced beverages: if you had an awesome weekend but didn’t Instagram it for the world to see, then did it really happen? The way we see it– pics or it didn’t happen.
After a false start three weeks ago, street artist Logan Hicks is ready to give his Bowery Graffiti Wall mural another shot. The stencil mural, entitled Story of My Life, was supposed to go up the last week of July, but was scrapped after the wood panels that held the canvas shifted positions overnight, ruining the half-finished piece. Keep Reading »
Jim Power, working out his makeshift studio at the 6th Street Community Center, is busy getting ready to leave his mark on the new Astor Place Plaza, using the same creations he’s been planting around the East Village for the last 30 years: mosaics. With the help of his assistant, Julie Powell, he’s scraping, chiseling, and tiling new poles. The product of all this work is something that he and the rest of the East Village are quite used to seeing at this point, so much so that Power’s earned the nickname “Mosaic Man” for the dozens of colorful, chipped tile pieces he’s congealed together, then cemented onto light posts over the years.
Whatever medium you work in, it’s hard to be an artist. Barely anyone pays attention to anything you do, so keeping self-motivated can be tricky when you’re consistently weary from day jobs, keeping track of your 1099s and W9s, and closing down that bar you performed at to ensure you grip that sparse handful of wrinkly cash you so rightfully deserve. In the midst of all this noise, it’s easy for all those half-baked ideas to slip into some dark, far-away box at the back of your mind, and potentially never see the light of day.
Luckily, there are some folks out there who are willing to nudge you in the direction of productivity. Here are two upcoming opportunities to inspire artists, both visual and performance types, to get out there and do their thing.
Sometimes it can get a little old going to the same bars, galleries, shows, knowing the kind of stuff you’ll see there. So, shake it up with…
A live band at karaoke:
Saturday, July 30 at Cake Shop, 152 Ludlow Street, Lower East Side. Doors at 8pm, music at 9pm. $10. More info here.
Karaoke is always a fun choice (I’m aware many would disagree) but karaoke backing tracks can often be in weird keys and sound like an early 2000s MIDI version of the song you actually wanted to sing. That’s all about to change with Be Yourself Karaoke, a live band that specifically plays ’90s/early 2000s emo and pop-punk songs with audience members as the lead singer. The setlist of songs to choose from is much less overwhelming than those huge karaoke binders and includes hits from Yellowcard, Fall Out Boy, Say Anything, Good Charlotte, and more. Yes, that means you too can relive that dream of bopping around your bedroom yelling to MCR while wearing too much eyeliner, only this time you’ll have a microphone and a stage.
Earlier this year, when the East Village’s beloved Stage Restaurant closed in the wake of a dispute with its landlord Icon Realty Management, Brooklyn-based artist Gilf! plastered the diner’s former home with caution tape reading “Gentrification in Progress.” It wasn’t the first time one of the company’s properties was the site of artistic protest: Karen Platt, a resident of an Icon-owned building on East 5th Street, has been known to chalk up the sidewalk with messages like “Enough Is Enough,” and over July 4th weekend, someone spray-painted a message on the sidewalk in front of the now for-rent Stage space that advised, “DO NOT RENT HERE. DO NOT BUY HERE. BOYCOTT IN EFFECT.”
Amidst all the pigeon poop, garbage juice, and sundry other mystery substances littering the streets of New York, there are actually some hard-working people out there trying to make this city just a teensiest bit nicer. Sure, you could go the ad-hoc route like this artist who leaves gold spray-painted trash bags lying around. Or, go the way of the city’s Department of Transportation and commission artists to unleash the pretty. Williamsburg is the new recipient of one such beautification project, with a massive painting adorning the ground of Ascenzi Square, in the triangle formed by Roebling Street, Metropolitan Avenue, and N 4th Street.
Back in February, we noticed a FREE COFFEE sign hovering a few stories above the controversial Starbucks on Union Avenue and wondered if it was an olive branch to neighbors who were rankled by the corporate interloper’s bid for a liquor license. But a barista at the Starbucks told us there were no free Frappuccinos to be had, and it quickly became apparent that the glowing sign was either an art installation, an epic prank, or both. Curious to find out, we slipped a note under the door of one of the building’s top-floor apartments, requesting a word with the sign maker.
Last week, we finally got a text: “This is the guy behind the free coffee sign.”
It’s no secret: New York in the summer stinks. Most of the time, that overpoweringly unpleasant smell is coming from the garbage bags whose contents are slowly cooking, sous-vide style, in the sun. But if you’ve wandered the streets of North Brooklyn or the Lower East Side recently, you may have noticed a flash of gold peeking out from the rat castles that are our city’s trash piles. Those gilded bags aren’t the Department of Sanitation’s newest attempt at urban beautification; they’re the work of Peruvian-born artist Iván Sikic, whose new series “Trashed” aims to call attention to New Yorkers’ relationship with waste.