At the corner of First Avenue and East 11th Street, tourists and residents alike stopped in their tracks, stunned by the mural in front of them. It was a very familiar visage split straight down the middle. The right half of the face depicted an image of a young boy with a relaxed smile, round cheeks and a discernible afro on a white backdrop. The left half, by contrast, showed an older, gaunt face with straight hair and alert eyes on a black backdrop. The faces were further bifurcated into crisp diamonds in all the colors of the rainbow, standing out from the neighboring red brick facades. The face was none other than the late king of pop: Michael Jackson.
Behind These Prison Walls
Opening Monday, May 22 at The Living Gallery, 7 pm to 9 pm. One night only.
This one-night-only exhibition will be showcasing the work of Lorenzo Steele Jr., a visual artist who formerly served as a corrections officer at Rikers Island. As we’ve outlined in the past, conditions at Rikers could be described as “dismal,” if you’re into understatements. This holds particularly true for its younger residents, as New York state still charges 16 and 17-year-olds as adults, one of only two states to do so. This will soon change due to the recent passing of the Raise the Age initiative; individuals under 17 will no longer be held in county jails as of October 2018 (18-year-olds, too, starting a year later) and the “majority” of defendants aged 16 and 17 will be dealt with in Family Court rather than tried as adults.
Lorenzo Steele Jr. knows this particular plight all-too well, as the majority of his photographic documentation (taken from 1987-1999) chronicles the grim conditions to which inmates at Rikers have been subjected. Specifically, his work zeroes in on the adolescent jail and its solitary confinement unit. These images will be displayed alongside found weapons and other prison-sourced artifacts. Even as we spend our days lamenting the state of politics and Russia and the world, it is important to remind ourselves that there are also local travesties still happening around us, and it wasn’t the new administration that put them there. More →
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. More →
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.
Arturo Castro alert: on Saturday the Broad City star paid a surprise visit to Comedy Central’s public painting party. Castro, who plays Jaime on the show, braved the cold along with Abby’s post-dentist shopping buddy Bingo Bronson to help hundreds of fans paint-by-number a #BC3 wallscape at North 11th Street and Wythe Avenue. Watch our video for a partial time lapse of the painting process and for Castro’s take on what fans can expect from season three, which premieres on Wednesday, February 17 at 10 p.m. The mural will remain up until February 28.
Another Bushwick Open Studios has come and gone. In order to make sense of it all (though, let’s face it, there was no making sense of the above) we took some photos and talked to some artists whose work we dug. Click through our slideshow, below, to see this year’s highlights and lowlifes.
While on sabbatical from the NYC winter in Puerto Rico and working on his latest “Illumignarly” video, NYC skateboarder and Samurai founder Billy Rohan received word that his 100 Gates Program had received a $30,000 grant from the Lower East Side Business Improvement District. A Chinatown resident and active neighborhood advocate, Rohan’s idea was to commission artists to decorate 100 roll-down gates connected to businesses in the LES.
So a screen-printed canvas banner isn’t exactly in the tradition of Diego Rivera’s proletarian frescos, but the message this building-sized advert is sending to Bushwick residents is loud and clear. Detroit: the land of opportunity, Bushwick: nearing saturation.
Speaking of artistic tributes to the neighborhood, here’s the latest mural to go up on the E&S Wholesome Foods wall, on Essex Street. No, it doesn’t say “Welcome to the LES, now leave,” but close!
Last time you saw Romon Kimin Yang, better known as Rostarr, he was 20 feet off the ground, swaddling Music Hall of Williamsburg in his signature “Graphysics” for Absolut’s Open Canvas Initiative. Or maybe you’ve seen his smaller ink and acrylic paintings hanging alongside Basquiat, Haring, Scharf, and Pollock in the “Calligrafitti: 1984-2001” exhibit at the Leila Heller Gallery (on display through October 5). Either way, if you’re familiar with the Brooklyn artist you know exactly why we wanted him to paint our Newsroom in Williamsburg. In the video above, he talks about the concept of intersection, which lies at the heart of his work and at the heart of ours.
Come by and see the wall for yourself. We’ll be working out of the Newsroom — at 155 Grand Street, off of Bedford Avenue — weekdays through October. Our first event, on Tuesday at 7 p.m., is a screening of Captured hosted by the film’s subject, Lower East Side documentarian Clayton Patterson.