The challenge is always the same: how to translate the urgency, the lawlessness, the serendipity of discovery inherent in street art and graffiti into the gallery setting. For street artist/graffiti writer Elle, the answer lay in a collaboration with legendary street photographer Martha “Marty” Cooper, and the result is the excellent exhibition at East Williamsburg’s Mecka gallery, “Unextinguished.”
The foundation for the show are photographs from Cooper’s seminal book Street Play: a dozen or so images of Alphabet City kids in the 1970s playing with whatever was at hand in the rubble-filled lots that defined the landscape of that neighborhood. Elle and Cooper blew up the photos, along with some of Elle’s signature wheatpastes (the ones with her name and those eyes), then sprayed the shit out of everything with pastel paint from fire extinguishers.
There are massive wall pieces on view (and for sale) at “Unextinguished,” plus a half dozen wheatpaste gowns standing on mannequins, new prints from Cooper’s Street Play series, as well as Elle’s jewelry (in dope-ly designed boxes), tote bags and t-shirts.
No surprise, the opening of the exhibition was a loud, rowdy affair, with DJ Cat King blasting the tunes and big crowds of other artists, photographers, graf writers, and fans paying their respects to these two talented women… and, of course, to drink tons of beer, maybe play a little Skelly on Elle’s hand-chalked court, and occasionally repair to Mecka’s smoking room in back.
Mecka Gallery is located on Meadow Street between Bogart and Morgan, and is open Thursday through Saturday from 12 noon to 6:00 p.m. “Unextinguished” will be up through May 10.