LA II: On the Streets of NYC’s Lower East Side and at the Dorian Grey Gallery

In late winter a number of Keith Haring-like images began to surface on the streets of the Lower East Side. I should have immediately recognized them as the work of Angel Ortiz (Little Angel aka LA ll), the main inspiration behind much of Keith Haring’s art. But I didn’t. Whereas Keith Haring is regarded as one of the key artists of the 20th century, LA ll is just now on his way to attaining the respect and recognition he deserves. Deemed as Keith Haring’s “silent partner,” LA ll collaborated with and traveled alongside him for about 10 years, profoundly impacting Haring’s style and sensibility. A solo exhibition of LA ll’s recent paintings is at the Dorian Grey Gallery at 437 E. 9th Street through April 17. It’s worth a visit.

photo by Tara Murray
photo by Lois Stavsky

Photos by Lois Stavsky and Tara Murray

Red Nose aka Tazz Gets Up in SoHo

Despite the prevalence of handmade stickers here in NYC, few depict characters.  While the sticker heads in Philly continue to create a range of personalities and creatures, most here seem to prefer to make their statements with assorted handstyles and messages. Red Nose aka Tazz, a Bronx native who began getting up in the lay-ups in the 80’s, is an exception.  I’ve come upon variations of his iconic pit-bull a few times this past week. This huge one is in SoHo.

Photo by Lois Stavsky

Dede Confidential in Tel Aviv

I met Dede Confidential this past fall in Tel Aviv. His whimsical stencils, drawings and stickers could be found throughout Tel Aviv’s edgier neighborhoods. He since tells me that the municipality has been buffing the walls in an all-out war against street artists. This has not stopped Dede from using his city’s walls as his principal canvas. He says he’s only more determined to engage the public. Luckily, he’s been documenting his pieces before they disappear.

Photos: Dede Confidential


Ian Francis at Joshua Liner Gallery

I discovered Ian Francis‘s work in 2008 at the Outsiders NY group exhibit that Steve Lazarides had brought to the Bowery. This afternoon I checked out his first NYC solo exhibit, Fireland, at the Joshua Liner Gallery in  Chelsea.  Infused with both abstract and figurative elements, the mesmerizing works exude a sense of fragile alienation in an uncertain world teeming with contradictions.  Fireland continues through April 2 at at 548 W. 28th Street in NYC.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

Speaking with Alice Mizrachi

An artist, curator and educator, Alice Mizrachi is the co-founder of the YOUNITY Arts Collective, a word-wide group of female artists committed to sharing their talents with the community and educating the next generation.  While visiting Alice’s studio in Sunnyside, Queens last week, we had the opportunity to pose some questions to her.

Your entire life – your own work and the work you do with others – seems to center on art. At what point did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?

I was always drawing, but I didn’t get serious about art until my junior year in high school. I reached out then to the art teacher at Benjamin Cordoza High School and told him that I wanted to be in his studio art program.  He was skeptical at first, but I won him over. I never wanted to leave my assigned “studio” space. I decided that the only college I would attend was an art school. I applied to Parsons – behind my parents’ back – and was accepted.

How did your parents respond when they found out that you were determined to attend an art college?

They were not happy.

I guess you had bills to pay! What kind of work did you find once you graduated?

I worked for a bit in illustration, design and animation.

What about these days?

My days are filled with creating art and inspiring others to create art. I teach both in school settings, informal spaces and in my own studio. On weekends about ten girls come to my class here where we do everything from making collages to cutting stencils. I’m also working on a number of proposals that will allow the members of the YOUNITY Arts Collective to share their talents with folks in other parts of the world.

What inspired you to launch the YOUNITY Arts Collective?  It is the force behind one of my favorite murals in Williamsburg.

Toofly and I were seeking an organized forum for women artists to share their ideas and to showcase their artwork to the public. We were also interested in teaching the next generation how to organize art events, while providing them with the opportunity to work with professional artists. We wanted a solid group in which each member could maintain her individuality, yet be part of a collective. And in 2007, YOUNITY was launched. We view YOUNITY as a world-wide catalyst for change.

What kinds of projects has YOUNITY generated?

Many! We’ve created murals in public spaces, curated exhibits, set up crafts markets, organized panel discussions and arranged youth workshops.

I first discovered your artwork a number of years back at Fuse Gallery in the East Village. But since I’ve since seen it on city walls. I’ve also noticed your stickers around town.  What initially inspired you to get up?

My brother’s a b-boy and while we were growing up in Queens, he turned me on to the whole hip-hop scene. When I was in junior high school, I started catching tags in the streets. But my first official wall was at a Meeting of Styles event in 2003.

Who are some of your influences? Artists who’ve inspired you?

Many, many…I feel a strong connection to Basquiat and Frida Kahlo. I love Swoon, both her art and her sense of social responsibility.  I’m also inspired by Trystan Bates who runs Honeycomb Arts.  And my friends and members of the YOUNITY Arts Collective are a constant source of inspiration.

Your art seems to reflect a strong Middle Eastern sensibility. Where does that come from?

My parents were born in Israel and I visit the country once a year. I’m intrigued by Hebrew and Arabic calligraphy which I’ve begun to incorporate into my artwork.

That explains it! If you could collaborate with anyone, whom would you choose to work with?

Among the artists I’d love to paint with are: Know Hope, Gaia, Os Gemeos and the Peruvian collective, Pussy Crew. And I would LOVE to work with the Guerilla Girls.

If you could paint anywhere, what spot would you choose?

My desire is to get up in a large policed area like Times Square.

What’s next?

I just had an interview that aired last week on I am part of a group show that opens on March 24th at NYU’s Bronfman Center Gallery. In April I may be traveling to China with some of the YOUNITY ladies to paint in a jam. In July I will be exhibiting at Causey Contemporary Gallery with Honeycomb, an arts collective based out of Argentina. In 2012 there will be a YOUNITY exhibit at Causey Contemporary. I’m also currently applying for grants for upcoming projects – so we’ll see where that goes.

‘sounds great! What do you see yourself doing in the years ahead?

Art, art and more art. I’d also like to travel more. Last summer, I participated in a residency in Paris, where I had the opportunity to paint murals and work on a commissioned series of prints of jazz musicians. I would love more opportunities to create artwork abroad.

The following image, courtesy of Alice Mizrachi, is a collaboration between the artist and Trystan Bates:

Interview by Lois Stavsky

Royce Bannon presents “The Unusual Suspects”

Opening tomorrow, Saturday evening, from 6 – 10pm at the 17 Frost Art and Performance Space at 17 Frost Street in Williamsburg, The Unusual Suspects features new and collaborative pieces by Abe Lincoln, Jr., Celso, Chris RWK, Darkclouds, Deeker, Infinity, Keely, Matt Siren, Moody, Nose Go, Royce Bannon and Sno Monster. Curated by Royce Bannon of the famed Endless Love Crew, the artwork ranges from minimal iconic characters to splashy expressionistic compositions.   There are some surprises, too, like this collaboration between Abe Lincoln, Jr. and Nose Go:

Photo by Lois Stavsky

NYC’s Baser: The “Incredible Style Animal”

While most of NYC’s first-rate stencils, wheatpastes and pieces have left Manhattan for Brooklyn and parts of Queens, my borough still boasts an incredible range of stickers.  Faust, Sure (RIP), Ader and Baser are among those whose handstyles delight me daily.  Yesterday while walking along Hudson Street in SoHo to 14th Street in the West Village, I came upon dozens of Baser stickers. He’s beginning to rule certain neighborhoods! Here is a recent sticker by NYC’s self-proclaimed “Incredible Style Animal.”

Photos by Lois Stavsky

Speaking with Cekis

Legendary in his native Chile and throughout South America, Cekis is currently based in Brooklyn, New York.  Working primarily as a muralist here in the U.S., Cekis’s artwork has also appeared in a number of galleries including the Carmichael Gallery, the Brooklyn Rotunda, Ad Hoc, and the Abrons Arts Center. As a member of the YMI Crew, working primarily with Cern, he has created large works in the streets of Bushwick and Washington Heights. While visiting his studio earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions. – Lois Stavsky

When did you first get your work up public spaces? I was 17 when I first started painting on the streets of Santiago, Chile.

What was your inspiration at the time? I fell in love with graffiti when I saw the movie “Beat Street.”  I was also influenced by the political graffiti I saw in my city. Then in 1993, a group of us started painting on the walls in Chile.

What was it like back then? There were risks.  My country was in a transitional period. We were still reeling from Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship. We had to begin painting way past midnight. We’d start at 2 or 3 in the morning.  We all spent some time in jail for what we were doing.

How did your parents feel about what you were doing? My parents are traditional. They didn’t really understand what I was doing.  It was not easy gaining their acceptance.

Have you gained it? Yes, when they saw the respect I was getting as a muralist, they were better able to come to terms with my decision to be a full-time artist.

I know that you’ve painted with Os Gemeos back in Chile. Who are some of the other artists you’ve collaborated with outside of the US? Among those I’ve painted with are: Loomit, Lazoo, Vitche, Stohead, Herbert Baglione, Doze Green and Cycle.

What are some of the crews you’ve represented? DVE, ADEP, VLOK and YMI

Any favorite artists? Many, many. Among them: Aislap, Grin, Phil Frost, Kara Walker, Keith Haring, Lee Quiñones, Nick Cave, Nema TPG, Os Gemeos, Jr., Sure (RIP), Nunca, Diego Rivera, Martha Cooper, Dondi, Mode 2…

That’s quite a diverse group! These days you work mainly in your studio, and your work has appeared in galleries.  But you still keep on working on the streets.  Is that your preferred canvas? I love the way street art engages so many people. And I love interacting with the public.  When I paint in my studio, I prefer wood to canvas because it feels more like I’m painting on a wall.

What do you think of the street art scene here in NYC – principally in Brooklyn these days? I like when artists use the streets to communicate and share their talents with passersby.  I dislike when folks use the streets to further their own careers.  Not all kinds of art belong or work in the street, and some artists use the streets as a means to access galleries.  That’s not what street art’s about.

What about the street art scene in Chile these days? How is it different from what’s happening here? In Chile and throughout Latin America there’s more freedom to paint on the streets because most people don’t see it as a criminal activity.  The South American writers lack the access to the kinds of art supplies that we have here in the U.S, so they’ve become more inventive – both in their process and, as a result, in their styles.  Also, because the police generally don’t harass street artists in South America, they have more time and more space for experimentation.

Any other differences? The folks there tend to value us far more than they do here.  They appreciate what we are doing. They often react strongly to what we are painting on the walls, and they love to watch us while we’re painting. They’re always offering and bringing us food and drinks.

I’ve sensed that in my visits there. I only hope it stays that way!  What are you working on these days? I’m currently working on a series of paintings on the theme of immigration in preparation for my first solo show sometime later this year.  I’m also in the process of working on a proposal for a public mural on an extended thoroughfare in southwest Brooklyn.

Good luck! I’m looking forward to all your ventures!

A commissioned mural by Cekis on 116th Street in East Harlem

Photos and interview by Lois Stavsky