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Thirteen Portals to Art

IMG_9110Dana VarinskyArtists Nicolina Johnson and Perola Bonfanti at “Portal 0”

Two abandoned doorways got a touch up this week, thanks to artists Nicolina Johnson and Perola Bonfanti.

The artists told The Local that the new installations at Avenue C and Seventh Street, and Second Ave and Third Street, are the first of a series of thirteen interactive “portals” that will be completed this summer. The portals will be numbered starting from zero, with each painted according to the numerology symbols associated with its number.

A QR code painted on the bottom of every portal directs the participant to the project’s website, which requires answers to riddles in order to move on to the next portal. The link for “Portal One” asks, “the more you look at me, the less you see. Who am I?”

IMG_9106Dana Varinsky“Portal 0”

“When you get through the final portal, the 13th portal, the mystery will be revealed,” Ms. Johnson said. “We think it will be well worth the effort.” Those without a smart phone will also be able to participate via the project’s website, which will be incorporated into the art in each panel.

Ms. Johnson is the creator of The Bean’s window art, so she said the location of “Portal 0” over an abandoned elevator shaft outside the café was an easy choice. The three panel doorway is painted with Babylonian images, and the circular zero figure represents a particle accelerator. “It mixes the newest science and the oldest civilizations,” Ms. Bonfanti explained. Read more…

Ray Sumser’s Cartoon Universe

Ray Sumser, a Californian artist who recently moved to the East Village, has been working on a series of cartoon projects. His goal: to portray the “most recognizable characters” from popular cartoons. He’s been bringing his art to public spaces like Union Square too.

An Inside Look at Unsilent Night

Last Saturday, the event known as “Unsilent Night” took place in the East Village for its 20th year. This winter time annual event has garnered participation from cities around the world, including San Francisco, Chicago and Melbourne. But it all started in New York.

The Local embedded with creator, Phil Kline, in the days before his New York and Philadelphia Unsilent Night events, in order to get an inside look at how he prepares. The parade of devices playing Kline’s music started out at Washington Square Park. Participants carried boom boxes, iPhones or other portable audio equipment, cranking up the music in unison. The composition was timed by Kline to finish just as everyone arrived at Thompkins Square Park.

If you couldn’t make it on Saturday, enjoy this glimpse of the night, and just how Kline made it happen

Watch the Trailer! New Centre-Fuge on First Street

Left to Right: Carson DeYoung's piece, Yok, Sheryo and BeauTim Schreier Left to Right: Carson DeYoung’s piece, Yok, Sheryo and Beau

Here it is! Cycle 4 of the Centre-Fuge Public Art Project, wherein curators Jonathan Neville and Pebbles Russell (a.k.a. Pebbles van Peebles) bring new art to a construction trailer on East First Street every other month. No celebrity cameos this time around, except of course for the artists themselves. Tim Schreier shot them at work between First and Second Avenues over the weekend. Read more…

Street Scenes | Container Painters

Chris and Veng, Robots Will Kill, sun dappledScott Lynch

H. Veng Smith (a.k.a. Veng), last seen painting a mural with schoolkids on Avenue D, was one of several artists who redecorated the construction containers on East Fourth Street over the weekend. See more shots at The Local’s Flickr group.

Cheesy Art: East Village Pizza Gets Piece of the Pie

109Tim Schreier

Hermann the German isn’t the only pizza-parlor painter in the neighborhood. After doing the wall of The Bean’s forthcoming location (with an assist from Mosaic Man), Walker Fee scored a gig across the street. This past weekend, we spotted the muralist painting the facade of East Village Pizza. The owners, we were told, wanted to bring balance to the block. And apparently, Mr. Fee will bring still another mural to the block after this one.

Meanwhile, a block away on St. Marks Place, there’s a newish mural of “Mister Shoetree” on the side of Foot Gear Plus. The artist, Robert Gardner (a.k.a. Robare), brought it to our attention in the comments of our “Making It” interview with shopkeeper Linda Scifo-Young.

Soggy Kick-Off to First Park’s First Season

Photos: Lori Greenberg/Bergworks GBM (final photo courtesy Robert Sestok)

Yesterday’s rain washed out the dance performances and children’s events that were to kick off the inaugural season of programming at the former home of the BMW Guggenheim Museum. But that didn’t stop a few die-hard supporters of First Park from clustering around a newly installed sculpture by Robert Sestok.

The Detroit artist was in high spirits as he unveiled First Street Iron, a ten-foot-tall work of welded steel that he said was a “tribute to the city” he often visited. It will remain on display at the plaza between First and Houston Streets, near Second Avenue, until Oct. 22.

As The Local previously reported, Mr. Sestok first became aware of the restoration at 33 First Street well over two years ago because a close friend lived on the block. He was asked to create something for the park before the BMW Guggenheim opened in the once rat-infested lot. Read more…

Tagging the Question

Picture 016Kenan Christiansen Jeff Gurwin commissioned this mural at Avenue A and Second Street as a way to propose to his girlfriend, Caitlin Fitzsimons.

In a gesture of urban romance, East Village resident Jeff Gurwin, 28, proposed to girlfriend Caitlin Fitzsimons, 27, by commissioning a mural for her on Avenue A and Second Street.

“I knew I wanted to propose this way because we’re always taking pictures of graffiti. I wanted to integrate things into the wall that were special to her,” Mr. Gurwin told The Local in a phone interview.

The wall is covered by images of Ms. Fitzsimons family dog Parkey, her favorite flowers (yellow roses) and a cherry blossom tree modeled after a tree the couple often visit in Central Park.

The question itself is spelled out in stenciled Scrabble tiles, as the game is the couple’s favorite pastime.

Painted by graffiti artists Tats Cru, the mural took five hours to finish. This process and the subsequent proposal were taped for a stop motion video that has become a viral sensation on YouTube.

Marriage Proposal videoClick above to view a video of the mural’s creation.

Ms. Fitzsimons discovered the mural on her way to meet Mr. Gurwin, who told her he was food shopping. Instead he was waiting for her at the corner.

“She saw it and was so surprised. It was more than I expected. We were both just floating,” he said. In response to the romantic street art, Ms. Fitzsimons happily said yes.

For those who want to swoon over the mural in person it will be on display for the next month.

Packing Away His Spray Paint

Angel "LA II" OrtizStephen Rex Brown Angel Ortiz, the street artist known as LA II, has decided to stop producing street graffiti after a recent stint on Rikers Island on vandalism charges. Below: Mr. Ortiz with a recent piece.
Angel "LA II" Ortiz

LA II is taking his art off of the streets.

Angel Ortiz, the iconic graffiti artist known as LA II, told The Local that he’ll now only spray his paint cans in legal settings after spending more than a month at Rikers Island for a frenzy of tagging all over the East Village.

Mr. Ortiz said that his time in jail had essentially scared him straight — though the old-school graffiti artist who collaborated extensively with Keith Haring confessed that putting down his markers and cans would be tough.

“I’m hanging up the gloves,” said Mr. Ortiz, who’s 44. “No more spray painting in the streets. I don’t know how I’m going to do it.”
Read more…

Catching Up With Chico

IMG_0191Kenan Christiansen Antonio Garcia, the street artist known as Chico, recently received commissions for 10 new neighborhood murals, including this in-progress work outside Whiskers pet supply store on Ninth Street. Below (from left), Phil Klein, a co-owner of Whiskers, Mr. Garcia and artist Joel Salas.

It’s hard to walk around the East Village and not run into a mural by Antonio Garcia, who’s known to almost everyone by his nom de spraypaint, Chico. The locally born graffiti artist has spent most of his 34-year-career dedicated to painting the public walls of the neighborhood with lush murals often directly inspired by contemporary events.  When he was laid off from his job at NYC Housing in 2008 he left the city to live in Florida with his family.

“I always said I’d come back,” said Mr. Garcia, standing before his latest work at Whiskers Holistic Pet Care on Ninth Street.  “If they pay for my ticket, I’ll come.”

And even though he’s only been in the city a few weeks his murals have already began to proliferate.

On his most recent trip, sponsored by Branson B. Champagne, Mr. Garcia painted a mural celebrating the royal wedding on a wall in East Houston and Avenue B. The job only took 12 hours and he soon had more projects lined up. Before he leaves on June 24, Mr. Garcia agreed to 10 new mural projects in the neighborhood.
Read more…

Mural Imperiled by Mars Bar’s Closure

Phillip Kalantzis Cope Mars Bar and views of Ori Carino’s mural.

In the ephemeral world of public art on the Lower East Side, the longevity and unbombed state of the mural decorating the brick wall outside Mars Bar stand as a mark of respect for its creator, Ori Carino.

Hank Penza, Mars Bar’s owner, first gave Ori permission to utilize the wall in 2002. Ori’s distinctive style was already familiar in the neighborhood from the numerous murals he had designed and executed, along with art work he was hired to place on the sides of trucks, and his spray-painted t-shirts that were sold in local boutiques. At first, Ori returned annually to execute a new composition on the Mars Bar wall. The current mural has been standing since 2007. Plans to erect a 12-story apartment building on the site may threaten its continued existence.

Walking quickly along East First Street, it is difficult to fully appreciate the intense drama and rich allegorical meaning being depicted in his mural, as animal and human figures grapple with the human condition. Rather, it is necessary to slow down, pause, step back, focus on the detail, mastery, and complexity of the struggle occurring on this urban canvas to fully appreciate it.
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Public Art With A Caffeinated Twist

Nicolina Marie is one of those fortunate East Villagers who are able to make a living with their art.

This holiday season, she is decorating 40 city stores with snowflakes and sleighs throughout the city. On Tuesday at The Bean, a coffee house on Third Street and First Avenue, she painted overnight and into the next day, when customers came in for their morning coffees.

Ms. Marie considers her work at The Bean, B-Cup Cafe, and Two Boots, among others, a commercial form of public art. “I get paid, which is great,” she said. “But I also get to reach a lot of people, which is ideal.”

Ms. Marie has also done projects worldwide, and this December’s sparkly windows are the last of her work before she heads to Chile to complete a public art piece.

She also runs a non-profit group, The Free Art Society, through which she creates public art with her friends. A Seattle native who’s lived in New York for the past four years, Ms. Marie is already well known in the neighborhood, and in November her Free Art Society hosted an Art Explosion of free outdoor art.

NYU Journalism’s Meredith Hoffman reports.

Artists Answer Foes of ‘Extreme’ Tags

houston bowery graffiti Kelly Knaub The wall at Bowery and Houston.

Two new curators hope that the large piece of “extreme tagging” on the cement wall at Bowery and Houston will quell concerns about over-sized street art from some members of the community.

Produced by San Francisco painter and graffiti artist Barry McGee, the wall is a collage of simple but striking tags, referring by name and writing style to various intergenerational graffiti artists.

Mr. McGee’s work is the fourth formally curated project at Bowery and Houston since May 2008, and the first for the space’s new curators: 29-year-old East Village residents Kathy Grayson and Meghan Coleman, both alumni of now defunct Deitch Projects.

“Barry McGee is the ultimate smoother over,” Ms. Grayson said, explaining her hope that Mr. McGee’s mural would “smooth over the Shepard Fairey mess,” referring to the previous, controversial mural. (For a comprehensive play-by-play of destruction to the Fairey mural, which lived from April to August, see here via Bowery Boogie and here via ArtsBeat.)
Read more…