Lapse of time II

As mentioned in the previous post, when I visited New York in 2005, I spent a lot of time walking around the Lower East Side, the East Village, and SoHo, and there was, as you can see in the photos, a vibrant street art culture taking place there. Arriving here two weeks ago, I knew that the scene had shifted, that gentrification had caused many artists to move out of Manhattan and into areas like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, but on my first day here I took a walk around the areas that had been so filled with artworks five years ago.

My memories of that previous visits are so clear (and the photographs I took are much treasured), so it felt quite disorienting to discover how much those areas of the city have changed. I know that cities don’t stay the same, of course, that they are constantly engaged in a process of transformation and redefinition. This process is often imperceptible when you live in the city, but when you make occasional visits separated by a gap of several years, sometimes the differences are striking.

And so in 2010 I discovered that the Orchard Street Gallery was no more (but I was relieved to find out that Ali Ha and Ad DeVille have opened Factory Fresh in Bushwick instead). I couldn’t see many stencils or paste-ups. There were loads of tags, and a huge amount of sticker action, especially on phone booths, mail boxes and doorways. The desire to exploit the adhesive nature of certain surfaces leads to some pleasing accidental patterns, as you can see below:

I also came across a nice dripped portrait:

New to me also was this massive piece by WK Interact, which you can see up on the rooftop, below the billboard for Marina Abramovic’s show at MoMA:

There were also some works by artists who were not on the scene 5 years ago, such as Elbow-Toe:

And, late on my first day in New York, while I was still feeling as though I was somewhat in between two cities, I came across an image from home.

In the midst of other stickers and tags on this doorway, there’s a sticker which says ‘Damn You Meggs’ – Meggs is a member of the Everfresh collective in Melbourne (and I’ve written here previously about his work in connection with that of D*face and Anthony Lister).

Seeing this sticker reminded me how important travel is in the world of street art – that artists can circulate around different cities, bringing their images from one to another, and that the result is a strong community, so that you can feel at home, even when you are 12,000 miles away.

2 comments so far

  1. CaveatCalcei on

    It is fantastic to see you blogging again – this trip has inspired you. Excellent finds. I always love reading your posts, this one is even better because it is NY based. My favourite city…

  2. alexarchitect on

    basically cities, in their underlying built fabric, hardly change at all. on the other hand, people, social attitudes, ethnic mix, and all the other complex ingredients in the melting pot of humanity change constantly. the static built environment is simply adapted to meet the socio/economic changes as they come about.
    this is a nice blog carrying personal reflections about a city, the apple. always the wise way to go as ” things are not as they are but as we are”. there was a time when harlem was a ghastly open urban mouth filled with rotten teeth (buildings) small scale walk-up (pruit eigos), and gap sites. passing through the place just before christmas it is clear that things are on the up and up. instead of a black only population, the mix is becoming more heterogenous. gap sites are filling, old buildings are being regenerated bright lights illuminate the streets and the damp decaying feeling of social despair is dissipating. street art is the best form of urban therapy and story telling. a wee bit like a short hand “brothers grimm”


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