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Reading the Streets

Reading the Streets: First Park street art

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Written by ILANA NOVICK, Auction Central News International   
Friday, 24 April 2015 15:02

Artist unknown, First Park, New York. Photo by Ilana Novick.

NEW YORK – First Avenue and Houston Street is finally notable for something other than endless construction and the long tease of building the (mythical?) Second Avenue Subway. First came Centre-Fuge Public Art Project, and on the first warm weekend in what feels like years, I visited First Park, the skinny green strip on Houston between First and Second avenues, which joined the art party last year.

First up is the black and white Ronald McDonald as Michael Jackson mural. Jackson looks pissed; his iconic uniform, with its block M against a circle, hanging limply off of his tired body. I hope the afterlife offers better paying positions.

At first I thought the piece was part of the Wack Donalds project by French artist Mr. One Teas, featuring Ronald McDonald in sometimes hilarious, sometimes compromising positions. This piece however, is by Ivan Orama, the artist behind one of my favorite pieces at the 21st Precinct Show last summer, a sassy, pig-tailed girl, mouth wide open, the better to scream “New York City will eat you if you let it” with.

Next to the King of Pop is Ms Me’s creation: a woman in a bank robber ski mask with Mickey Mouse ears, because the best bank robbers have a touch of whimsy. Her left breast has also turned into what looks like a baby unicorn whose horn has just begun to emerge. Part robber, part mythical creature, I couldn’t stop staring. The animal was cute, but I’m pretty sure the cuteness is a distraction, the better to steal my wallet.

On the way out, I spotted an unexpectedly poignant piece, a contrast to the playful surrealism of the one before: a mural of two boys, lying down with their feet up against the wall, eyes wide but weary. The boy in the blue baseball cap turns to his friend, asking, “You sure it's still worth it?”

Too real, I thought. Can I go back to the mouse/robber? Has this mural been reading my mind? Creepiness aside, I hope the answer to the boy’s question is “yes.”

Last Updated on Friday, 24 April 2015 15:15

Reading the Streets: 'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes

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Written by ILANA NOVICK, Auction Central News International   
Friday, 17 April 2015 14:02

Paula Hayes, 'Gazing Globes,' Madison Square Park, New York City. Photo by Yasunori Matsui.

NEW YORK – The city, thankfully, has emerged from the thaw that made basic errands feel like walking through a snow globe. If however, you’re nursing a bit of Stockholm Syndrome for the flakes we’ve left behind, head over to Madison Square Park before April 19 for "Gazing Globes," sculptor Paula Hayes’ first outdoor exhibit, where you can view gorgeous snow globes without feeling as if you’re living in one.

Photo by Yasunori Matsui.

The 18 spheres, located on the West Gravel southwest corner of the park, are made of transparent polycarbonate, and mounted on fiberglass pedestals, lit from within. They’re particularly striking at night, when a walk through the park feels like a walk through field of beautiful, glowing plants, possibly a native species from a distant planet I’d like to visit.

During the day, at first glance, they look like pristine, minimalist versions of the tchotchkes lining fireplaces all over America. Inside, instead of storybook gingerbread houses are old radio parts, glass vacuum tubes, and shredded tires. I was shocked to learn from the park’s website that the snow in these globes is actually pulverized CDs.


Photo by Ilana Novick.

With all of the musical technology that was the backbone of my adolescence turned to (admittedly beautiful) dust, outdated technology under glass, it feels like looking into a reverse crystal ball, revealing secrets of the past, with perhaps, a few clues into the future.

Photo by Ilana Novick.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 April 2015 14:34

Reading the Streets: Tatiana Trouvé’s 'Desire Lines'

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Written by ILANA NOVICK, Auction Central News International   
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 12:25

Tatiana Trouvé’s, ‘Desire Lines,’ is on view at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street. Photos by Ilana Novick

NEW YORK – Unfurled, Tatiana Trouvé’s Desire Lines, now on view at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street would cover all 212 Central Park paths, approximately 843 acres. The colorful rope, in shades of red, green, pink, brown and blue are installed on black wooden spools.

If unleashed, the rope could lead visitors through the Ramble, around the Reservoir and perhaps toward a nap in Sheep Meadow.

Central Park has been a staging ground for many installations, but unlike the orange shawls of The Gates, for example, the ropes and the paths will never touch. The lack of physical connection between the park and the rope is the most frustrating – and tantalizing – part of the French-Italian artist’s installation.

At first this bothered me – am I really just looking at a series of large spools with colorful threads, I thought? Yes, and that’s the magic of Desire Lines. It’s all potential energy, a roller coaster at its highest point before the big descent. I’ll admit to relishing the thought of pulling a thread. I decided however, that the installation’s restraint, as well as my own, was what makes the piece special. It’s about what it could do, but chooses not to.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 April 2015 12:45

Reading the Streets: Chris Stain and Billy Mode

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Written by ILANA NOVICK, Auction Central News International   
Thursday, 26 March 2015 14:27
Chris Stain and Billy Mode, Bushwick Collective, Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Ilana Novick.

NEW YORK – The wall says, “Invent the future,” and despite the striking letters, gray shot through with swirls of orange and yellow, demanding respect and attention, the petulant teenager inside me answered, “You got a manual?”

I calmed down once I noticed the girl in the blue shirt with her hands formed into a heart shape over her friend, both girls starting fiercely ahead, as if daring me to drop the act, and embrace their message.

The 28-by-57-foot wall beckons passerby on the corner of Troutman and Wyckoff in Bushwick. Longtime collaborators Chris Stain and Billy Mode created the mural for the Bushwick Collective.

According to a 2013 interview with the artists in Time Out New York, Stain and Mode based it on a photo they took of two girls in front of another mural the two artists collaborated on in Albany, N.Y. In this mural the girls are a small field of green and purple flowers, outlined in black, like the plant version of the girls above them, color emerging from the concrete below.

To the left of the words is a boy on a bicycle, staring at, and, I’d like to think, drawing inspiration from the girls, inventing his own future.

The girls are smiling too; maybe because they’ve already gotten started.

Take the L Train to Jefferson Street if you want to catch up with them.

Chris Stain and Billy Mode, Bushwick Collective, Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Ilana Novick. Chris Stain and Billy Mode, Bushwick Collective, Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Ilana Novick. Chris Stain and Billy Mode, Bushwick Collective, Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Ilana Novick.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 March 2015 14:46

Reading the Streets: NYC gets 'tanked'

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Written by ILANA NOVICK, Auction Central News International   
Friday, 13 March 2015 10:25
Laurie Simmons, The Water Tank Project, New York City. Photo by Mary Jordan NEW YORK - It all started with a stomach virus. For many of us, it means “a day spent screaming pleas to every conceivable deity for mercy and the ability to once again swallow.” For filmmaker Mary Jordan, a water-borne illness she suffered while filming a documentary in Ethiopia was the catalyst for the Water Tank Project, a public art installation and awareness campaign that uses my favorite part of the New York skyline as a canvas for both art and awareness of the worldwide clean-water crisis.

According to the United Nation’s Department of Social and Economic Affairs, 1.2 billion people, nearly one-fifth of the world's population, live in water-scarce areas while 1.6 billion people face economic water shortage—this includes the Ethiopian women who nursed Jordan back to health. After she was better, Jordan asked what she could do to repay them. The only thing the women wanted in return from her was awareness.

Back in New York, Jordan repaid these women through starting Word Above the Street (soon to be renamed Water Above All), the organization behind the Water Tank Project. Word Above the Street uses the iconic water tower, my favorite part of the New York City skyline, to draw attention to the crisis, with works from artists like Jeff Koons, Bruce Weber and Marilyn Minter, among many others.

It’s not all big names and cute animals, though. In collaboration with Studio in a School, the Water Tank Project sponsored a contest for high school students whose winners will show their work high above the city. In late March, a new website will also feature a curriculum for middle and high school teachers to raise awareness of the water crisis among their students.

With an estimated 12,000-17,000 water tanks in the city, the search for sites was extensive, beginning with a ride on “Mary’s Vespa,” remembers curator and Project Manager Mitra Khorasheh. Once they located the tanks, convincing the building owners to participate was relatively easy, as the organizers had already secured permission from the Department of Buildings. To protect the water, each painting, drawing, or photograph, is printed on a vinyl canvas, which is then installed by wrapping the piece around the water tower “like a corset.”

I first spotted Marilyn Minter’s piece in the Financial District. A drenched woman emerges from what looks like the most refreshing pool on earth, a smooth arc of water tumbling from her lips. The water droplets frame her like spotlights. Lacking pool access, I was ready to find the nearest sprinkler and run through it to capture even a moment of that excitement, until I realized 30-year-old women frolicking in children’s parks aren’t a common sight, and also there’s still ice on the ground.

I like to imagine a conversation between Minter’s exuberant woman and Laurie Simmons’ underwater doll, swimming above Horatio Street in a red bikini. I can’t tell if she’s unconscious or simply serene, but I know there’s a story behind those doll eyes. That’s what I love about these artists’ subjects; they could be statues or dolls, but somehow, the smallest expression or glance makes me believe there are secrets in their smirks.

If you’re all maxed out on imaginary conversations, and would prefer more tangible proof of personality and/or adorable dogs, take the 4 or 5 to Union Square for Bruce Weber’s “Palomino Takes a Wave,” which features the photographer’s late golden retriever, paw on the world’s smallest, cutest surfboard, intently focused while riding a wave. If enough people see this one, I predict dog surfing as the next Internet video trend.

Find the map and plan your tour of towers by visiting the Water Tank Project at and keep an eye out for their new site launching in late March. And don’t forget to look up!

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Laurie Simmons, The Water Tank Project, New York City. Photo by Mary Jordan Bruce Weber, The Water Tank Project, New York City. Photo via Eteri Chkadua, The Water Tank Project, New York City. Photo by Brook Christopher Marilyn Minter, The Water Tank Project, New York City. Photo by Brook Christopher
Last Updated on Friday, 13 March 2015 10:32
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