Strolling through the gallery openings in Chelsea the other evening I came upon Jen and Paul’s One Stop Shopping Souvenir City & Chelsea Bus Tours. Definitely hard to miss, the glitzed up light blue parked bus (on 26th Street the night I was there, but apparently more often located on 24th Street) beckons to passers-by, welcoming them in and offering an array of humorous art souvenirs for purchase. The mobile shop — created, designed, run, and driven by performance artists Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw — displays and sells an impressive selection of clever mock DIY-style art kits, games, and supplies that poke fun at the big-name contemporary artists whose work is often found within the galleries that surround it. Make your own Jeff Koons balloon animals with a set of branded balloons. A glasses and nose disguise is repositioned as a Cindy Sherman Disguise Kit. There’s Chuck Close Graph Paper, Paul McCarthy Ketchup bottles, Mini Damien Hirst Shark, William Wegman Dog Treats and much more. Definitely chuckle-inducing throughout. And if that weren’t enough, Jen and Paul offer free Chelsea tours led by the two of them as well as a few semi-celebrity guests such as Paddy Johnson and comedian Sean J Patrick with others to follow. Make sure to keep an eye out for the bus if you’re headed to Chelsea this fall, or sign up for a tour over here.
You can learn more about Jen and Paul in the video below:
I stopped by the opening of Outlaw Arts’ graffiti and street art show 21st Precinct last Saturday evening. The 1863 NYPD building will be demolished in the coming months and a condominium will take its place, so, as has become recently popular in NYC and abroad, the four-story space was handed over to street artists who covered every wall, door, floor, ceiling, bathroom, and other nooks and crannies throughout with their art. The irony of graffiti in a police station was not lost on many of the artists who themed their work accordingly: there were excerpts from the Miranda Rights sprayed in beautiful type graffiti; there was a bathroom that looked like a murder scene with a blood-filled sink; a machine gun vending machine; Pacino’s Scarface above writing in white powder simulating cocaine on the floor, and much more. Each artist was apparently given a room or hallway or stairway to go to town on, and go to town they did. Some of my personal favorites included Rae-BK, Alice Mizrachi, Yok and Sheryo, Mr. Toll, and of course others who I was not able to identify, such as the bottom photo. (Update: it’s Erasmo.)
It’s interesting to see how street art is increasingly making its way indoors and with that so is the sense of a downtown gallery scene. There were even iPads displaying additional works in some of the rooms and business cards abound. And why not? Just as with any art, there are some truly exceptional artists among many of the more mundane, and I, for one, would be thrilled to have any one of a number of these artists’ works on my walls.
Many of the featured artists were wandering around the opening, blending in with everyone else, except for the rare case of red spandex pants that far from blended, but that seemed to be the point. If you missed the event last weekend, don’t despair, the 21st Precinct at 327 East 22nd St. will be open to the public again this coming weekend 8/23 and 8/24 from 1 to 6pm. If you can’t make it live, you can see many more (and better) photos here and here.
Look up New York! The Water Tank Project has started to roll out…or maybe “wrap around” would be more accurate. I first learned of Word Above the Street’s project roughly one year ago, but was happy to hear yesterday, via an interview on wnyc, that this is actually taking place right now. Filmmaker Mary Jordan, the creative and driving force behind the project, was working on a documentary in Ethiopia in 2007 when she fell gravely ill due to contaminated water. It was the women in the village she was in who nursed her back to health. In return, they asked that she let people know of the global water crisis when she returned to the U.S. Jordan founded Word Above the Street and set out to fulfill her promise through a citywide exhibit on the very icons that proudly contain our own fortunate and excellent water supply. Over 100 water tanks will be wrapped with art by acclaimed artists (such as John Baldessari, Jeff Koons, Maya Lin, Andy Goldsworthy), street artists (including Icy & Sot, Barry McGee, and Fab 5 Freddy), emerging artists, and even NYC public school students. The first one, by Laurie Simmons (top photo), went up two weeks ago on 29th Street near the High Line, and another one (I couldn’t find the artist, but third photo down) on West 25th Street.
Tanks in all five boroughs will be included and, in addition to the art above, action will be taken on the ground through educational programs, tours, and a symposium dedicated to global water issues. So, keep your head up and eyes peeled for the next 3 months if in NYC. Or, if not, you can always follow them on twitter or instagram for the latest updates. Water above all!
Photos & images courtesy of The Water Tank Project
When it comes to street art, it doesn’t get much cuter than Stik. The British graffiti artist based in London paints mouthless and noseless stick figure characters on walls, doors, water towers, and more, that despite their minimalistic quality exude warmth and charm. Sometimes in groups holding hands (see the two water towers we’re acquainted with in the East Village and Bushwick), and other times alone, these not-so-little guys are usually painted in black and white against solid bright colored backgrounds. In addition to his unauthorized work, the somewhat private Stik, who has been homeless at times, works with many charitable and human rights organizations. See? That good heartedness shines through in his art. Stik’s work can be seen in Europe, NYC, and even the Middle East and Japan. We are fortunate to have two of his works right in our neighborhood.
You can see more of his work here and an interview below:
All images courtesy of Stik except bottom left: Geof Hargadon via Brooklyn Street Art, and bottom right: Paul Whitehouse via Huffington Post London.
The past few weeks I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the West Village and occasionally found myself on streets I hadn’t visited in a while. One of these was Leroy Street over by Washington where I came across three typographic murals, or, more accurately, concrete poetry, on the exterior of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise Gallery. It’s hard to explain the happy feeling playful or stylish or clever typography instills in me. That might be because it’s not really logical, it’s just an emotion. It goes as far back as my childhood when the IBM logo or the Design Research logo (and store in general) had a similar effect on me. Even the subway graffiti, not the black tags all over the interior of the cars that created a gloomy feel, but the occasional spectacular tag on the outside of a train car, large, colorful, and with dimension, would inspire me to run home and title my French homework “FRENCH” in block letters or bubble type, much to the dismay of my teacher who probably could have done without the header altogether but, at a minimum, I’m sure would have preferred it read “FRANCAIS”.
Anyway, back to the Concrete Poetry. Defined as “poetry in which the typographical arrangement of words is as important in conveying the intended effect as the conventional elements of the poem, such as meaning of words, rhythm, rhyme and so on,” another term for it is Visual Poetry. After a little research I discovered that these street pieces were created by Swedish artist Karl Holmqvist who is known for his text-based works, poetry, and readings. I don’t claim to know what these mean, but I enjoyed them and the surprise of turning a corner and seeing them there. Make of them what you will.