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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…

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…

Watch Phlegm at Work on Avenue A

The street artist Phlegm had a busy day on Sunday. Not only did he add a character to the Know Hope mural on East Second Street, he also sprayed a surreal image on the gate of My Little Village Preschool on Avenue A. Videographer Matthew Kraus passed along this video of the process.

Nice Guy Eddie’s Loses One Kiss Mural, Gains Another

IMG_0171Stephen Rex Brown Chico at work today.

The original Kiss mural at Avenue A and East First Street has been wiped out, and Antonio “Chico” Garcia is busy creating a temporary replacement that depicts the band comin’ home to New York City.

The new design is on a woodshed outside of the former Nice Guy Eddie’s, which is getting a gut renovation by the new owner, Darin Rubell, who also owns Ella and Gallery Bar. When finished in the next day or two, the mural will show the band arriving on a train to the city. 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.

Welcome to the ‘Machine’: New Art at Extra Place

Sonni: Music Machine, at Artist Alley at Extra PlaceScott Lynch

Here’s a peak at the latest sidewalk mural at Extra Place, set to be officially unveiled this Saturday. “Music Machine,” painted by Buenos Aires-born, New York-based street artist Sonni in his trademark primary colors, picks up the theme of his 30-foot acrylic-on-metal mural “Boom Box,” which was the toast of Miami’s Art Basel festival in 2010. It’s the second exhibit at Artist Alley @ Extra Place, which – like last week’s mural behind La MaMa – is a collaboration between Fourth Arts Block and Murals Around New York.

A reception for the work will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Oaxaca Taqueria at the end of Extra Place, which is located mid-block on East First Street, between Bowery and Second Avenue. You can see more of Scott Lynch’s photos in The Local’s Flickr group.

On East First Street, Adam Yauch Lives On

DanielleMastrionwMuralStephen Robinson Danielle Mastrion with her art.
FumeroStephen Robinson Fumero with his work-in-progress.

Less than a week after the death of Adam Yauch, a mural of him and his fellow Beastie Boys appeared on East First Street yesterday, part of “phase 3” of the Centre-fuge Public Art Project.

The painting by Brooklyn native Danielle Mastrion joined new works by five other artists – Fumero, Michael DeNicola, Jade Fusco, CRAM Concepts and Bishop 203 – on a metal construction trailer between First and Second Avenues. Since the street-art initiative was launched in January, the modular unit has served as a canvas for a new batch of artists every other month.

One of them, Fumero, recently painted a mural on the walls of The Strand. See another photo.

With New Mural, ‘Palace’ Gets All Ginned Up

muralDaniel Maurer The mural-in-progress this morning.
UntitledRay LeMoine David Nordine on Saturday.

Last week it was The Bean’s forthcoming location, and this week an Avenue A newcomer makes itself known with a mural. On Saturday, David Nordine, 27, was painting what he said would be “a cameo of a man and woman facing each other” on the wall that Amor y Amargo shares with its forthcoming sister establishment, Gin Palace. (The building at Avenue A and Sixth Street also houses Cienfuegos, a cocktail bar by the same owners.)

Mr. Nordine, who lives on Third Street, has done other work in the neighborhood, including murals on the walls of Mama’s Food Shop and the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union.

Want Free Socks? A Man Named Skullphone Wants to Give Them to You

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 4.07.51 PMDaniel Maurer

Thought the Hole’s indoor garden was wild? Fuse Gallery may just give it a run for its money when its latest exhibit, “XOS / SOX” opens May 2. Skullphone, the Los Angeles-based street artist last seen purdying up construction containers on East Fourth Street, is piling 1,000 “custom produced” socks in the gallery behind Lit lounge, for everyone to take. Street-art inspired footwear sure is a thing lately. Is this going to hurt business at Sock Man and Sox in the City? Dunno, but we’re definitely snagging a pair to toss in the drawer with those pink tiger-print aNYthing socks…

“XOS / SOX,” opening reception May 2, 7 p.m.; through May 30, Fuse Gallery, 93 Second Avenue, (212) 777-7988 

Michelle Obama Sneakers? Pop-Up Shop Is Kickin’ It Old-School

Want to sport Michelle Obama sneakers while sipping Barack-branded coffee? Here’s the place to go: Hip-Hop U.S.A, a Harlem-based company that puts on sneaker-art competitions, has opened a pop-up shop at 343 Lafayette Street, between Bleecker and Bond Streets. The Local stopped into the store’s opening to check out sneakers painted by graffiti artists in the style of their train murals from the 1970s and 80s. Seems subway artists are making a comeback.

At Houston Mural, Retna Gives $5,000 for Budding Street Artists

retna checkTim SchreierRetna (right) with Mista Oh! (left) and mentors from The Art School w/out Walls.

Marquis Lewis, a.k.a. Retna, returned to the scene of his Houston Street mural today, to donate $5,000 to a program that teaches at-risk youth to create street art similar to his own.

The artist, who painted “A Conversation with a Great Friend” on the wall at Houston Street and Bowery last week, said that his donation to the Gowanus-based organization, Cre8tive YouTH*ink, was triggered, appropriately enough, by a conversation between friends in which Carlo McCormick, an East Villager and the Senior Editor of Paper magazine, connected him to Jerry Otero, a.k.a. Mista Oh!, an educator who runs the non-profit.

Last year, Mr. Otero, along with artist Ray Smith, launched The Art School w/out Walls, a program that connects at-risk kids in low-income neighborhoods with mentors who help them create public art. The program aims to expand into dance, music, and sports – hence the $5,000 check that Retna handed over at the wall today. Read more…

Watch Retna Paint the Latest Mural at Houston and Bowery

Photos: Tim Schreier

Marquis Lewis, better known to the street-art world as Retna, has been painting one of his signature hieroglyphic works on the wall at Houston Street near Bowery for the past two days. Our photographer Tim Schreier stopped by yesterday afternoon and earlier today to document his progress. The artist was still at work when we last checked in with him at 6:45 p.m. this evening – we’ll show you his finished mural once it’s completed.

Fun fact: Retna recently participated in the Boneyard Art Project in Tucson, Arizona, for which artists such as Faile (creators of the previous Houston Street mural) and Erik Foss (the owner of Lit Lounge and Fuse Gallery on Second Avenue) made art out of decommissioned military aircraft.

Update: And Now, Retna’s Finished Mural at Houston and Bowery

Alain Levitt’s East Village

Alain Leavitt, BubblesLeigh LedareThanks for the help, Mr. Levitt.

He may have started out in Los Angeles, but musician Alain Levitt, one half of NYC synth-pop duo Bubbles, has called the East Village home for a solid decade. “The neighborhood has changed quite a bit,” he muses via e-mail in between recording sessions. “There’s good coffee now, some nice restaurants and lots and lots of college kids.” Having recently wrapped a “mini East Coast tour” with Gang Gang Dance, he’ll likely see more of those college kids when he hits the road again. For the moment, however, he found time to tell us about his favorite local hangs.

Read more…

Traces of De La Vega

DLV - China Star_3Kevin McLaughlin
DLV - Stromboli_2Kevin McLaughlin Pieces by James De La Vega.

The thick white chalk etched on an East Village sidewalk read:


East Village artist James De La Vega once brought this existential aesthetic — and his occasionally controversial thoughts — to the streets of the East Village and then for five years to his “Museum” on St. Marks Place, which closed last year citing rent increases.

A self-described “pessimistic optimist,” his presence in clever quotes and imagery remain part of the neighborhood’s urban adornments; goldfish holding umbrellas underwater and his signature “Realiza Tu Sueño” (“Become Your Dream”) are still found throughout the area. Places including the facade of The China Star restaurant on First Avenue, the garbage cans outside Stromboli pizza shop and Porto Rico on St. Marks Place all bear the traces of his noticeable absence.

Mr. De La Vega has since moved on to new projects and has bittersweet feelings about the area: “The East Village is a powerful neighborhood,” he told us. “The locals were my favorite but I don’t miss the neighborhood.”

Mr. De La Vega’s work resonates with simple, but profound, images and rhetoric, yet he also addresses various socio-political controversies, often through illustrations and commentary on behalf of his Latino heritage. He once addressed the gentrification of East Harlem through a painted a mural stating: “Don’t think for a minute that we haven’t noticed the 96th Street boundary moving further north.”
Read more…

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…

Enter Goldman

Picture 086Kenan ChristiansenThe Goldman at Union Square Park.

On a drizzly day like today the weather couldn’t be more dreary. The sky isn’t offering a speck of color and besides puddle-dodging, people barely have a reason to look up. How shocked they all act when they come to Union Square Park and find the Goldman quietly shining. He peers into a small mirror and empties a can of Gold 4100 spraypaint on his face as carefully as if he were shaving.

“Does that hurt your skin?” they ask him.

“I use special paint,” he says. He gets this question a lot.

The Goldman has been practicing his “statue mode” for more than 10 years and isn’t deterred easily by weather. He worries more about putting out the right energy and being at the right place, in the right time.

“I go where the people go,” says the Goldman. “The weather does not matter. If it gets too bad I go underground to the subway. But you have to follow the money.”
Read more…

Street Scenes | Appreciating Chico

chico_(3_of_1)Phoenix Eisenberg

Graffiti is an iconic form of artistic rebellion, whose epicenter has long been New York City.

With activities ranging from boxcar tagging to anarchistic promotion, the graffiti artist has a persona associated with intrigue and deviousness. But why the fascination with graffiti as a fine art in the last few years? Do popular graffiti artists today such as Banksy, Judith Supine, Shepard Fairey, and Dan Witz still portray rebellion?

Antonio Garcia, better known as “Chico,” started his career of spray-painting illegally, but soon found a new way to use his talents. Seeing the plain walls and brick that covered the Lower East Side, Chico saw a market. Today it is difficult to walk a block without seeing his commissioned work, whether it is a memorial or a small ad for a veterinarian business. Although Chico’s work is arguably just as skilled and creative as some of the greatest artists in the field, he has not drawn as much interest as Banksy or Shepard Fairey. Perhaps this is because, in jumping on the legal and marketable side of the art form, he risks losing the exact quality that draws so many to graffiti – the thrill of the illicit.

Paint Your Wagons

Avenue BColin Moynihan
East 9th Street (2)

Various forms of street art and graffiti, of course, are a familiar part of the East Village landscape, enjoyed by some, deplored by others and impossible to eradicate. Magic marker tags, murals, stickers and spray-painted shapes can be seen adorning walls, doors and sometimes even lampposts and fences in the neighborhood.

But some of the improvised canvases used by graffiti writers and painters are mobile. While roaming the streets of the neighborhood over the past few days The Local has kept an eye out for tagged vehicles. They have not been particularly difficult to find. It does turn out, though, that vans appear to be a more popular graffiti and mural target than any other type of vehicle.
Read more…