I saw art today in an exhibtion that was open, cheerful and free, and required nary a minute of waiting time.
Unlike plan A, which would have involved a junket into Manhattan, where the Park Avenue Tunnel had the decency to open itself to pedestrian traffic for a few brief hours for the first time in its history. Nice, I’m sure, but you gotta park, you gotta get there when the line opens at 7:30 a.m., then you gotta walk, and worst of all you have to stand there jammed up with other tourists, just waiting for the privilege of seeing an esoteric sound-art installation. I saw it in a picture, it was nice.
But why not take your art al fresco, by people who created it in situ. If you were me, you could perch comfortably on the back of a kneeling scooter en route.
Graffiti has been around for millennia — the Temple of Dendur at the Met has names chiseled into its stone — and for almost half a century it’s been showcased at a 2,000-square-foot building in Long Island City called 5 Pointz.
Some of the great names in graffiti have done some of their best work here, along with less experienced taggers. That’s the beauty of the art, of course. It’s absolutely democratic. The work we saw on the walls today at 5 Pointz will be rubbed out and painted over soon enough, generally in two to three weeks. That’s just the way it is. People have lots of opinions about work in aerosol paint, but that’s the bottom line.
Today we saw a disturbing blue bull by Chicago-born Estebana del Valle, who gave an interview to the 5 Pointz website in which he said that he first tagged a bench at his junior high, moved on to K Mart and bridges and now shows his art in galleries.
When asked what percentage of his time he devotes to art, he said 120 percent. The role of the artist in society, he said, is “to challenge and to contribute to the collective thought.” And I thought it was all about that splendiforous blue color.
We only managed a small slice of the 5 Pointz scene. As we headed down Crane Street, a crew of two was slapping up some new paint, in the center of which was the outline of a dog to be colored in later – the image, I was told, came from the internet and was some kind of “folk image” of a canine. To me it looked like Oliver had recently posed.
Up and down the street a dozen young men managed their supplies of spray cans and consulted drawings on scraps of paper.
Shiro, originally from Japan, now works out of New York. Some of her feisty supergirls, put up just this month, stole the show.
According to Shiro’s facebook bio, In addition to her accomplished career as an artist, she works as a nurse and witness a lot of suffering and drama. The experiences from the medical field changed her prospective on life and she wanna express her message through her artwork: “Love life and live it to the max! We exists RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE!” Maybe you would like to step into the studio of the coolest lady in the world?
These walls under the shadow of the 7 train are owned by landlord Jerry Wolkoff, who has allowed hundreds of street artists over the years to create art on, in and around his former warehouse but who has more recently announced that he is trying to convert his property into a high-rise residential tower and luxury shopping mall. The artist Meres, also known as Jonathan Cohen, who manages Five Pointz, has been plunged into a fight to save the graffiti mecca. Today, we saw tourists from all over the world, agog and clicking away at the spectacle before them.
And a photo shoot for an ad underway.
The model had designed all the clothes in the line, and her husband created the skateboard.
Even the lightpoles had been tagged.
Even the hydrants.
About half way down the street, pushing along on my knee scooter The Bloke, I discovered I felt nude. My cast, that is. It needed flair. And the crew of The Royal KingBee were happy to oblige.
KingBee interrupted the insect he was delineating to spray an elegant, signature K on my fiberglass in black. Keith, who had just come back from a beer run, did a red tag.
Memo, KingBee’s younger brother, explained the crew’s interest in the vanishing bee populations of North America.
I felt I was beginning to blend in. Nicely.
The longer I stayed at 5 Pointz, the longer I found I wanted to stay. And a scooter like mine was the perfect mechanism for getting around, seeing things faraway.
Or close up.
A lot of graffiti is self referential. Note these dangling spray cans.
That’s alright. If you’re healthy, a lot of living is self referential. Before today, I wasn’t going to let anyone write on my cast. When asked, I said I had no interest. I was going to keep it clean, unsoiled. Keep it neutral.
Ream added the final tag to my cast, one he said he’d passed down to his three-year-old son — Demon3. He told me he’d just had double bunion surgery, that they’d cut one bone and shaved another and that he was still in pain every day. And here he was, erecting some kind of kaleidoscopic Kandinsky on a wall in Queens, New York.
So for today, skip the art tunnel, or the art museum, or the symphony orchestra in a plush, cramped chair. Don’t wait on line.
Every time a graffiti artist gets out there with an aerosol can, they take a risk. Can they do it this time? Not that it’s forever, since another dude will come along in a couple weeks and put up their own brilliant version of reality. But still, go to 5 Pointz, see what they can do. Today.