Stay Gold Gallery
June 23–July 9, 2006
For four days, curators Alyssa Natches and Lou Auguste welcomed a slew of street artists to paste, paint and stencil to their heart’s desire on plywood walls constructed in the rented Stay Gold gallery space on Brooklyn’s Grand Street. Tiki Jay from LA was in town for his first New York showing, while New York diehards Michael De Feo, Dan Witz, the artistic pair Skewville, and FAILE—among others—packed the space to capacity.
Street art is not without its tensions, and when one of Witz’s pieces near the entrance of the Open Air show was disrespected by some young upstart who painted over it, Witz created the show’s pièce de la resistance—a large photographic image of himself mooning the room. Hanging ominously at the top edge of a plywood wall with his legs dangling, it underscores his notoriety in an art scene that thrives on illegality and masculine bravado.
In such aggressive and hyper-graphic company, Dark Cloud is a welcome surprise. His works are among the few pieces that go against the grain and downshift the adrenaline to take contemplative forays by means of his iconic, brain-like clouds that drip and float on fields of color. If Dark Cloud’s paintings are the poetic interludes of the show, it is the Skewville who visually tie together the hallucinatory frenzy of visuals that stack the show with ocular bling. From wooden fire hydrants constructed on the gallery walls to rollered block letters that veil underlying works, their quick-witted splashes include an orange painted circuit box with an upturned metal arrow, camouflaging itself in the “VIP Collectors” area—a makeshift corridor hidden behind a padlocked chain link gate. Consisting of small panels and portable pieces, the Collectors corridor comes across as both a snide joke about the collectability of street art and the artists’ “who cares” attitude towards gallery respectability.
Famous names abound in the exhibit. Michael De Feo is looking as good as ever in his one part guerrilla, two parts Pop Art stylings. Tiki Jay (aka Tiki-J) is probably one of the best stencil artists around but his tiki-inspired iconography looks a little out of place in this show. Only his signature Easter Island images fashioned into concrete sculptures are perfectly suited to hula with his East Coast brethren.
While the established names dominate, there were a few unknowns making their own small contributions. One Egyptian kid with attitude, aptly named Pharoah, added his own small metallic Arabic tag colliding Kufic script with street calligraphy.
Coinciding with the show is the launch of the new film, “Open Air,” a twenty-minute documentary by Natches and Auguste. It’s a straightforward romp through the LA and New York street art scene, with the artists themselves narrating their story. As a primer on the world of street art, it may disappoint some passionate die-hards for whom the documentary is not long enough or does not delve deeper into the malleable world of throw ups and tags. More intellectually driven than hip hop graffiti and less aggressive than gangland tags, street art is proving to be popular with restless artists uninterested in the traditional gallery circuit.
Comfortable in the neighborhoods dominated by art-volk and hipsters, street art still has an eager audience. Filled with recognizable images from past incarnations—whether on Elizabeth Street in Manhattan or in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg—Open Air is a welcome window into the pulse of today’s clever street art. After it comes down, I hope Auguste and Natches will consider more shows to chart the state of the scene. In an art form that thrives on flux, each new exhibition would promise the surprises and vibrant energy of Open Air.
Hrag Vartanian is a writer, critic, and designer. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Light and Desire: Illuminating Anger and TransformationBy Jen C. George
OCT 2021 | Dance
On September 15, New York Live Arts opened its doors, elevators, and stairwells, and welcomed an audience into an unconventional space for an opening night performance: its third-floor studio. The front row (masked, of course) settled into cushions on the floor, as the seated rows filled behind them, ready to witness Colleen Thomass Light and Desire.
79. (Brooklyn Navy Yard, Columbia County)
NOV 2021 | The Miraculous
An artist in his mid-30s living in New York and working in a 300-square-foot studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, finds himself consumed by frustration and anger. Although he is having exhibitions, after the shows close his paintings inevitably return to his studio, unsold. Hes not sure he wants to go on being an artist. A psychiatrist he consults helps him to understand that his anger revolves around his feelings about race, class and entitlement. Eventually the psychiatrist recommends that he begin working with a physical trainer, who has him start boxing and working out with a punching bag. Around the same time the artist, who is half-Choctaw and half-Cherokee, has been meeting with traditional Native American artists who tell him how the practices of dancing, drumming and beading have saved their lives. These experiences lead him to make a breakthrough in his work. Instead of focusing on painting, he begins to adorn Everlast vinyl punching bags like those he has been using at the boxing gym in extravagant styles inspired by Native American beadwork, pop culture, and everyday life. Along with beads, he adds tassels, sequins, brass and steel studs, yarn, chains, and sundry items. Some of the bags feature beaded texts quoting everyone from Simone de Beauvoir to Public Enemy.
Leland Bell: Paint, Precision, and Placement. A Centennial ExhibitionBy John Goodrich
OCT 2022 | ArtSeen
Any ambitious painter faces a conundrum: what can a painting say today that hasnt already been said? Some artists, chastened by the historical record, may phrase it a little differently: how to paint something worth hanging on a wall, when the walls of our museums already boast the most extraordinary paintings? Leland Bell (1922-1991), who would have turned one hundred years old this fall, was possessed by the second of these challenges. His centennial show at the New York Studio School, which includes some two dozen paintings and drawings selected by curator Steven Harvey, puts on full, luminous display his passions, insights and struggles.
Kennedy Yanko: Postcapitalist DesireBy Folasade Ologundudu
MAY 2021 | ArtSeen
In the historic landmark townhouse housing Tilton Gallery on New York Citys Upper East Side, Kennedy Yanko presents her latest exhibition and first solo show with the gallery, Postcapitalist Desire.