During our New York vacation (you can see our adventure on Instagram) we participated in the “Alternative New York Street Art Tour: Brooklyn“, an interesting trip through the streets of Brooklyn to discover its thriving street art, guided by Jeffrey Stirewalt.
The Bushwick district is an open-air gallery and semi-permanent exhibition of graffiti and murals, born from the initiative of lifelong neighborhood resident Joe Ficalora. Ficalora’s goal was to redevelop his neighborhood, the same place where he witnessed the violent death of his father, into an abundant environment for art.
In 2012, upon receiving permission from local building owners, Ficalora called street artists from around the world to begin embellishing the walls with their art. Thus The Bushwick Collective was born. Each work remains for at least a year: after which, based on the appreciation of the neighborhood and the public, either is replaced or remains.
Invader (1969) is the pseudonym of a French artist, who since 1998 has made work using colored tiles or small pieces of Rubik’s cubes adhered to walls in order to mimic the coarse pixelation typical of 8-bit video games of the ’70s and ‘80s. One of these games, Space Invaders, is the inspiration behind his intervention, Invasion, which depicts an incursion of aliens in spaceships with colored ghosts. Invader’s work never is never casually produced, but is strategically based on an aesthetic and conceptual criteria. Although his mosaics are now featured in over 65 cities in 33 different states, his true identity is still unknown.
Even Bushwick has been invaded!
Dan Witz, who started painting hummingbirds on the streets of New York in the late ‘70s, is an American pioneer of street art. However, unlike some other street artists, Witz developed a photorealistic style that heavily contrasted with the contemporary punk culture. Painting in a hyper-realistic way was almost rebellion against the dominant aesthetic concerns of his era. As he himself declared, “the very genesis of contemporary art sprung from the rejection of realist academic painting; and now the modernists have become the rule, and the realist painters the transgressive force of change “. Witz’s starts with projected digital images that he then paints over, increasing the subject’s realistic quality through contrasting light and shadows.
In Bushwick, you can admire one of his famous cages, this one holds an ape. His series of animals and men trapped behind bars (whether grills, doors, or railing), in small installations reflects on both the physical and metaphorical concepts of freedom, an fragile and precarious idea.
Sipros is a young self-taught Brazilian street artist, with a very personal and recognizable style, who specializes in both realistic and imaginative portraiture that you should feast your eyes on. Although he prefers to paint human faces because, as he says, “it is more difficult and I can identify with my subjects. In addition […] I have a different subject each time”, his work is constantly evolving, thanks to the speed and passion he has when creating.
For the Bushwick Collective this year, Sipros made a giant interactive mural of a puppet Salvador Dalí holding a glass in his right hand while his left reaches out on the sidewalk, ready to trap the passersby .
Fumero (Jay Miesel Fumero), based in New York, defines his style as Fumeroism and his work as “Graficts”, a combination of graffiti and abstract art. His art is easily recognizable due thick black outlines filled with vibrant colors, combining American Pop Art elements with his inclination for caricature. His work gives off a strong, even emotional energy. Passionate about drawing and comics from an early age, he devoted himself to graffiti starting from adolescence, initially creating simple tags and bubble lettering, then transitioning to figures and portraits. For Fumero, graffiti is nothing but an extension of the comic strip, an opportunity for him to explore the possibilities of shapes, lines, and colors in composition with letters and characters.
Fumero’s Self Portrait at Bushwick exemplifies Fumeroism; a representation of style and character that is uninhibited and daring. It invites you to look beyond the boundaries of a conventional reality.
The work of artist David Hollier (born in London, relocated to the USA), is easily recognizable due to the peculiar juxtaposition of portraits and words. Hollier portrays people from a historical-cultural point of view, carefully choosing words through which the portraits take shape, thus giving a semantic value to his works. The Buddha of Letters, for example, is formed by the Metta and Karuna, or prayers of kindness and compassion from the Brahma Viharas, two fundamental prayers of Buddhism. The text ends with an invocation to the Amida Buddha and produces a virtuous circle around the mural, words potent in poetic and spiritual meaning.
New York based street artist WhIsBe, whose identity remains anonymous, produces work inspired by the commercial images of Andy Warhol. The artist began painting walls illegally in 2011 to share his message with the greatest possible number of people. Made famous by McDictator, a work rejecting McAmerican culture, WhIsBe modifies images to alter their meaning, while inserting their own, often political message.
For example, in the series Vandal Gummy, WhIsBe recontextualizes a Haribo gummy bear in a bleak way. The sweetness and childlike innocence associated with the candy is stripped away, and the bear has wound up in the hardy environment of the Department of Corrections. WhIsBe pushes viewers to reflect and question social institutions, often through interesting juxtapositions.
GIZ, born and raised in Bushwick, began painting walls in 1988 at just ten years old. From 2013, his art has evolved into a playful extension of Pop Art. Painting is how he vents and undwinds, and he continues to experiment with different styles while constantly exploring new media.
In Bushwick, GIZ’s work provocatively denounces modern addiction to social media. Two immortalized characters, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, are shown jaded and drugged, asking “how many likes they got” as a needle with the ubiquitous Instagram heart plunges into Charlie’s arm. In today’s culture, fame correlates heavily with social media appreciation.
Louis Masai, of London focuses primarily on animals in his art. Creator and promoter of the “Save the Bees” project, Masai’s works raises public awareness of the fragility of bees, insects that are essential for the survival of the earth. To draw attention to colony collapses and environmental disorder, Masai paints realistic bees suffering and in dire search of help.
For the series The Art of Beeing, Masai intends to “face the crisis of extinction one wall at a time” focusing on solving the problems behind mass bee death. At Bushwick, he has created two visually compelling murals with a striking subject – a bee sewing back together a crumpled stuffed animal with a needle and thread, reviving life from matter.
Turin based artist Pixel Pancho (1984) found high acclaim in New York for his captivating cyborgs that evoke existential ideas. He began working in 2001, designing a project that connects the human world with that of robots, which – as he says – “are a metaphor of man. […] God or the gods created man in their image and likeness. […] Human beings […] have always tried to be gods. […] I wanted to show the mistakes made by humanity but through a robot, which is the son of man “.
Case Ma ‘Claim, aka Andreas von Chrzanowsky, is a hyper-realistic street artist from Berlin who specializes in human hands. His massive graffiti is created via photographic enlargement that he paints over with a myriad of shades and colors. His forms go beyond reality, upsetting the laws of our universe and it and abstracting it into new and fantastic realms.
Bushwick facilitated the collaboration of these two artists who produced an arresting mural of two robotic-human hands with white flowers born in their embrace. Perhaps this is to say that through love, nature can reclaim itself from the destruction of human devices.
Nils BERT Jänisch – who claimed Weimar as his graffiti capital – and FUBAR – a writer from Miami – collaborated on a mural that combines the cartoonist style of Jänisch with FUBAR’s signature panda with a spray can and roller in hand, who just seems to have finished the FUBARBERT signature.
The panda expresses the message that we at Artemperature also share: “I love Bushwick!” We love it because the project was not only fundamental for reviving an ill-fated neighborhood, but also because it celebrates street art champions collaboration.
We would like to end by sharing one particular work, a self-portrait by Lola (9), for the message she sends. Additionally, Lola assisted Sophie (7) in finishing her mural.
It is important to feature the creativity of Lola, because through creating murals (at any age), street artists become spokespersons of culture. In our opinion, Lola represents the fundamental values of the Bushwick Collective – collaboration and sharing. Both those who make their walls available and those who paint on them do it for the cause. They are striving to valorize their neighborhood by instilling in it a love for art beauty – definitely one of the best things that New York can offer!
Photos by Marta Scandiani