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Reading the Streets

Reading the Streets: Joe Iurato

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Written by Ilana Novick   
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 10:11
Joe Iurato at the Bushwick Collective, New York City. Photo via downtowntraveler.com

NEW YORK - Joe Iurato captures children in a way that balances wonder and mischief. In his hands, kids are not entirely "The Bad Seed," or complete sweetness and light. I saw his work for the first time at the Centre-Fuge Public Art project, which involved a meeting between a toddler-size boy and a bird, increasing my appreciation for both. They’re looking at each other a bit suspiciously, but more out of curiosity than malice.

Iurato’s pieces are small, spray-painted wood cutouts that often reference skateboarding, or art, or other interests he’s had throughout his life. Over the July 4th weekend I spotted one at the Bushwick Collective, on Troutman Street. A boy, his face in a downward gaze and hidden by a baseball cap, crouches down on the street.

He’s outlined so clearly and vividly in blacks, with such accurate shadowing, he looks like a still from an animated movie, like he would soon get up and flicker across the wall, a movie for passersby. And then there’s the action coming from a tiny spray can in his hand, out of which flow the words, “Never let go,” in blue spray paint.

He’s a little bit mischievous, as one might imagine his parents would not approve of his graffiti, but I bet they’d also impressed at his initiative. I wondered if the boy was a graffiti artist in training, if maybe one day he’ll not only be hanging out by the wall, but also creating pieces of his own.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE
Joe Iurato at the Bushwick Collective, New York City. Photo via downtowntraveler.com Joe Iurato at the Bushwick Collective, New York City. Photo by Ilana Novick Joe Iurato at the Bushwick Collective, New York City. Photo by Ilana Novick Joe Iurato at the Bushwick Collective, New York City. Photo by Nora Nussbaum
Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 July 2014 10:40
 

Reading the Streets: Top street artists 'go green' to benefit inmates

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Written by Ilana Novick   
Monday, 07 July 2014 11:19

KAWS, Santa Cruz, California, photo via graffiti.org

NEW YORK - Turhan Gumersere is the warden at Rikers Island, and a respected graffiti artist. As Trike 1 aka LP 36 aka Turk 1, his bubble letter tags and careful, colorful recreations of cartoon characters like Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse brightened subway train walls from his first tag on the IRT line in 1972. He created these intricate pieces without formal training and climbed fences and ran through tunnels with the strength and stamina of a skilled basketball player to protect his turf from other aspiring writers, who were warned not to enter without his or his crew’s permission. Based on the skill involved in his work, I think competitors were wise to tread carefully.

The two worlds collided OM June at the Horticultural Society’s annual Block Party and Silent Auction to benefit GreenHouse, a Horticultural Society program that works with inmates on Rikers Island, using horticultural therapy as a tool to prepare for reentry, and gardening skills as a source of employment to reduce recidivism. Graduates can join the Green Team, a vocational internship program, following release.

Gumersere was one of several street artists participating in the silent auction. KAWS, Barry McGee aka Twist, Shepherd Fairey, Dondi White, and Todd James garnered some of the highest bids of the night. Another Reading the Streets subject, Steve Powers, aka ESPO also donated a piece.

It was a good year for both the Horticultural Society and Gummersere. This was the most successful auction yet, and Gummersere was appointed last month to head the 2,298 bed Anna M. Kross Center at GreenHouse.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE

KAWS, Santa Cruz, California, photo via graffiti.org

Steve Powers, Love Letter to Brooklyn, New York City, photo by Abby Fentress Swanson for WNYC via wnyc.org

Trike1, New York City, photo via 12ozprophet.com

Rooftop soiree to benefit the GreenHouse Program, New York, photo via thehort.org

Last Updated on Monday, 07 July 2014 16:55
 

Reading the Streets: Mechanics Alley mystery baby

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Written by ILANA NOVICK, Auction Central News International   
Friday, 27 June 2014 16:43

Baby, artist unknown, Mechanics Alley, New York City. Photo by Ilana Novick.

NEW YORK – Mechanics Alley sits quietly unmarked and unassuming behind the Manhattan Bridge, stretching between Madison Street to the south and Henry Street to the north, with the only street sign visible on Monroe Street. Ships were built and repaired on this street in the 19th century, but now it’s not even acknowledged by the almighty Google Maps. More than a source of art, I thought it was an invitation to a mugging. That is until a friend tipped me off to a mysterious, unsigned mural of a baby's upper body, with a clenched fist, small but mighty.

The sense of wonder in the baby’s eyes, and its cherubic cheeks made it seem friendly and accepting at first, but there was always a new, unsettling detail that revealed itself after a closer look. Those cheeks only briefly lessened the blow of the baby’s paleness, especially against a plain black wall. It looked like an infant ghost than a human baby, initially sweet and huggable, but then mysterious and scary. Plus, it’s just a head. Where’s the rest of it? And what’s with the fist? Does the baby want to punch me?

So much of what I write about for this column is at least signed, if not hash-tagged, Google-mapped and press-released. With so many legal walls, and even real estate developers using street art as a marketing tool for new properties, it’s easier than ever to at least track the name of the artist, if not their biography. The only other similar piece I have seen was another baby face at graffiti mecca 190 Bowery, by artist Mactruk, but I don’t think the babies are the same. Much like the mysterious East River piano, however, this baby is destined to remain anonymous and peaceful, with a hint of sinister mystery, much like the alley where it resides.



ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE

 Baby, artist unknown, Mechanics Alley, New York City. Photo by Ilana Novick.

Baby, artist unknown, Mechanics Alley, New York City. Photo by Ilana Novick. 

 Baby, Mactruk, 190 Bowery, New York City. Photo via globalgraphica.com.

Mechanics Alley, New York City. Photo by Kevin Walsh via forgotten-ny.com. 

Last Updated on Friday, 27 June 2014 16:58
 

Reading the Streets: East River piano an unsigned masterpiece

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Written by ILANA NOVICK, Auction Central News International   
Tuesday, 10 June 2014 13:28
East River Piano, New York City, photo via severalseconds on Flickr, www.flickr.com/photos/severalseconds

NEW YORK – Near the Brooklyn Bridge, just north of the South Street Seaport, a piano sat alone, East River water lapping at its legs. The keys were rotten and broken, but against the backdrop of the Brooklyn Bridge, it was almost majestic, like it was climbing out of the water to declare its supremacy over the rest of us.

I snapped a picture and spent more time than I’d like to admit researching its origins, which remain elusive. Was it an art installation, and if so, who made it? Why did no one sign it or claim it, and was Banksy secretly resuming his New York residency from October 2013? Was the combination of an intense fog and a long week producing hallucinations?

There was something joyously child-like about the way that New Yorkers interacted with the piano, climbing on it like a jungle gym when the tide was low, or even tentatively tapping a key, looking behind them as if to ask an unseen parent for permission to touch it.

One woman even ignored a high tide, and the perils of questionable East River waters to film a video depicting her attempt to make the nonworking piano sing once again.

I continue to debate whether it was an intentional public art installation, whether someone had actually thrown a piano into the East River, but then realized, intentional or not, something about way all of the elements fit together: the river, the bridge, the gray sky, and the incongruous piano, made it just as worthy as anything I’ve covered that was funded, curated and claimed.



ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE
East River Piano, New York City, photo via severalseconds on Flickr, www.flickr.com/photos/severalseconds East River Piano, New York City, photo via severalseconds on Flickr, www.flickr.com/photos/severalseconds East River Piano, New York City, photo by Ilana Novick.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 13:49
 

Reading the Streets: Tina Trachtenburg's flash flock

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Written by ILANA NOVICK, Auction Central News International   
Monday, 02 June 2014 15:24

Flash Flock, Tina Trachtenburg, New York City. Photo by Ilana Novick.

NEW YORK – Tina Trachtenburg gives me a new outlook on pigeons. Walking through Washington Square Park on a superlative spring day, I noticed a group of them gathering in front of a bench, relaxing in the sunlight, much like their mortal enemies, cats. Usually this would be enough to make me run screaming in the other direction (despite a lifetime in New York City, I side with the cats) but there was something different about these pigeons.

Their eyes were a little bigger and somehow more welcoming, their feathers more vividly colored and plush than the average New York City rock dove. They were nibbling on pizza, one of my favorite foods. More importantly, they weren’t moving. Why? Because these birds, as well as the pizza, were made out of felt, a creation of artist Tina Trachtenburg.

Tina Trachtenburg, slide show superstar of the delightful Trachtenburg Family Sideshow Players, a family band and multimedia act that includes her husband and daughter, has long been in love with pigeons. She’s also known for creating the Sideshow Players’ merchandise, and saw a recent break in touring and playing shows as an opportunity to combine her artistic skills, with her love of pigeons. As she told The Examiner in a recent interview, she wanted to do something nice for pigeons, to get more New Yorkers to appreciate them.

If you’d like to become one of these New Yorkers, visit the bird’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/tinatrachtenburgartist. I saw the birds in Washington Square Park, but she’s brought them to Williamsburg and Central Park, among others. You can also follow the hashtag #flashflock on Instagram.



ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE

Flash Flock, Tina Trachtenburg, New York City. Photo by Ilana Novick. 

 Flash Flock, Tina Trachtenburg, New York City. Photo by Ilana Novick.

Flash Flock, Tina Trachtenburg, New York City. Photo by Lippe via TheExaminer.com

Last Updated on Monday, 02 June 2014 15:45
 
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