Memorials to the potential energy of spray paint in public bathrooms

Cement cast sculptures of outdated aerosol cans, July 2014.
Cement cast sculptures of outdated aerosol cans, July 2014.

At the age of 11 I fell in love with graffiti. It was the mid 1980’s in NYC and it was a great time to be a kid being shuttled back and forth from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Brooklyn to Queens, Queens to the Bronx, the Bronx to Staten Island, and Staten Island to Long Island. I had family in each borough, and I always loved those journeys for a lot more reasons now than I knew at the time. They were multi-sensory, stimulating inspirational portals of awareness. I became hyper aware of the art on the streets and I wanted to participate. At 12 years old I was far too scared to put the works directly onto the streets at the time, but I wanted to learn that style, and I began writing. Twenty five plus years later, the same energy still inspires my work, but an evolution has taken place. Its not just in my own work, the whole medium and context of graffiti as a subject has expanded. My new installation dictates to me how times have changed within my own public art practice as well as a metaphor for how graffiti is changing. Of course there are tons of amazing artists worldwide who have taken the traditional letter styles and characters to amazing new levels of style and execution. I will always be a fan and a lover of that form of graffiti, but I do see and have desires to communicate the evolution of graffiti as a subject itself.


The sterile white glossy public bathroom walls call out to writers. It begins in your junior high school’s bathrooms and transcends right through to the bus or train you took to high school and into the rest of the world. To this day I still love finding the tags of my friends still holding up in public bathrooms. Mostly in bars and pubs but some of these tags have been in place for over 15 years. In this context, of course I could have pulled out a marker and tagged this space, but that is not in my interest the same way as it was years ago. My perception of could be done in the space has changed. With this piece, it is my intention to evoke the memories of the past, while suggesting what could have happened if the cans were real and full of paint. This installation sets the stage for both. The walls are clean and free of any markings, yet the very present dormant outdated cement cans remind the viewer what could have happened in this space, and that a graffiti artist wanted to remind them of that. The casts are not adhered to the floor, they can be picked up and taken. This puts the viewer in a position to make a few choices about the work and hopefully how they may obtain a piece of art. In this case it will not be through a gallery, art dealer or an auction, there is a whole other impulse to deal with.


Find these cans if you can. My cement works always get left behind, they are easy to transport, anonymous and unsigned.


Photos by Ryan Seslow