Tomorrow night there’ll be a party in Williamsburg to celebrate the release of Outdoor Gallery, a book of photographs that author Yoav Litvin hopes will be viewed for decades to come as a historical document of the city’s street art. Most of the 46 street artists Litvin spotlights have contributed works to an exhibit he curated at 17 Frost.
When the show kicks off Saturday at 6 p.m., there’ll be murals by the art collectives El Sol 25 and Numerica, street art cinema by Dega Films, a DJ, and PBR. Plus you’ll have a chance to buy one of the first 150 copies of the book. Earlier this week, we spoke to Litvin about the project he’s been working on for the past couple of years.
The timing of this book is so interesting because 5Pointz was whitewashed in November. Do you feature any of the 5Pointz art in your book?
Oh yeah, for sure. I was involved in that whole campaign as much as I could. Sad. Really sad. It was just such a special place, just a really unique place as far as, objectively, the art, but also just the energy.
Well there’s the motivation that everybody knows such as people who want to get famous. So you write your name—not just, well, you start by writing your name but the evolution there is of that is infinite. You see pieces of graffiti where people write there names where there is just akin to any artist showing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And the only reason that it’s not showing is that some people have some kind of stigma against it. But the skill level is just outstanding. So of course there’s that motivation, there’s a more political kind of motivation where some artists have something to say that they want the public to see, and that’s also a strong motivation.
There’s also the adrenaline rush, of course, of putting something out there that’s illegal. Some people just like to go big with their art so this is the only chance that they can take to make something huge, you know. This is why I called the book Outdoor Gallery because in essence it’s a statement as far as the art doesn’t belong to anybody, but it belongs everybody. That really struck home with me because something about art in a museum detaches it; I don’t feel it’s as grounded as something that comes from within a community.
There are more men than women, but there are a lot of women and also I tried to feature a lot of women. So out of 46 artists in the book, 12 are women, which is I think a pretty valid representation of the percentage.
Again it’s hard for me to answer in their name. I think there’s definitely a wider acceptance today of street art than there was years ago, so I can definitely see a shift. But there still is some stigma, and of course it’s still illegal.
I think you have to separate case by case, you can’t really give a blanket statement. If somebody comes and spray paints—and destroys—a private residence, top to bottom, that’s one thing; whereas one, if a person comes and puts up just a tiny sticker on a public street sign, that’s another.
[Laughs]. I can recommend 46 that you should know. And then another 46. I mean there really are so many and, there are of course some legends in the field and then there are some that are just starting up.
Well for example in my book there’s Cope2 who is extremely well-known. By the way, I’m definitely not trying to suggest that this is like an exhaustive list of all the artists. It’s just the artists who I encountered with my lens with today’s world of social media, and a friend introduces a friend, and of me liking this person so I seek them out. But there’s definitely legends that are on superstar status like Banksy, you mentioned, and Obey, and Ron English, for example, as a character in The Simpsons.
No [laughs], so one thing that I think is very important with artists is that you don’t tell them what to do. [Laughs]. Especially graffiti artists and street artists. If there is a respectful relationship, and there is, they’re not going to do something that’s inappropriate because they want to have attention, they want to succeed, they want to represent themselves well.
Well there was 5Pointz, and then there’s a newer project called the Bushwick Collective, there’s — in Queens — the Welling Court mural project. Those are projects. But there’s definitely areas especially in Brooklyn — Bushwick, Greenpoint, Williamsburg — where there are spots that you go visit because there are, there’s good turnaround on different kinds of art. But those spots are usually illegal spots where the spots I told you before are legal spots that the owners designate for street art.
There are definitely some people who get heartbroken when a piece that they believe should run for a long time is sabotaged with or somehow destroyed by the weather or whatnot. But I think with street artists and graffiti artists, it’s part of the deal—they know that it’s ephemeral and I actually really love that. I don’t love art being destroyed, but I love the fact that it’s ephemeral—that it’s kind of very much in line with what, out time on this planet, you know?
Correction: The original version of this post was revised because it misidentified Cope2 as Katsu.