An Italian in the Big Shiny Apple

"1 Gram" by Nemo's. Photo by Jaime Rojo.
1 Gram by Nemo’s. Photo by Jaime Rojo.

Two of the most provocative murals painted in New York this summer come from Nemo’s, an Italian street artist on his first visit to NYC. Both pieces can be found in Williamsburg, a neighborhood where murals function as billboards and billboards masquerade as murals.

First came 1 Gram (which happens to be the weight of a dollar bill). Brooklyn Street Art notes that the piece faced a bit of censorship, in that the wall owner didn’t like the penis on Nemo’s character and the artist agreed to remove it. But it seems a bit silly to quibble over castration when the penis was a relatively minor component of the mural and it’s overall message is already so bold and potentially controversial.

Stocks – Pillory by Nemo's. Photo by Jaime Rojo.
Stocks – Pillory by Nemo’s. Photo by Jaime Rojo.

Nemo’s followed that up with Stocks – Pillory. At first, the mural might seem a bit cliché: Another critique of the TV entertaining us with the public shaming our latest victim. Except that it’s not quite so simple and cliché. The victim isn’t trapped. The key is just around the corner, and the “prisoner” could probably reach it if he tried. Or, better yet, he could just back right out of his prison. The hole of the pillory are much larger than his head and his hands. But instead of slipping out to freedom, he maintains his clearly painful television existence. And we watch on. Entertained.

Actually, in both murals, the men are there by choice. In Stocks – Pillory, the man rests in the faux-pillory, and in 1 Gram, he feeds himself into the meat slicer. All it would take to stop the agony would be for them to take a step back to examine their lives. But we all know that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. And so the torture of contemporary society continues.

No matter how you read them, neither mural is decorative, the dominant trend in “street art muralism” lately. You’d be hard-pressed to find many street artists painting such provocative murals, especially in New York City. Unless of course, the mural is actually just an ad. When street artists are judged by their murals and those murals get them gallery shows and print releases and larger murals and corporate-commissioned murals, when “street art muralism” is a career path, decorative sells. Why mess with that?

So many street artists are like Nemo’s men: seeing no viable alternative, they sacrifice themselves to the entertainment, advertising, and real estate industries. But the biggest names in Italian street art buck the trend. Nemo’s follows in the tradition of Blu, Ericailcane, and Ozmo, as well as the notoriously rebellious attitude of FAME Festival.

What makes these Italians different? I don’t have a good answer. It could be nothing more than accepting nothing less than their true vision. The power to walk away. When Blu’s mural was buffed in LA, he left town rather than paint something else. When Blu’s murals were being used as as marketing tools in the gentrification of Berlin, he buffed them. When Ericailcane painted a mural critical of Mexico’s president, he painted his ideal mural and then faced a destructive act of censorship rather than self-censoring from the start.

But that’s just a negotiating tactic. It doesn’t explain why other street artists stick to decoration, or why mural festivals tend to work with those artists. So maybe they shouldn’t. The alternative isn’t an impossibility. Take a page of Nemo’s book. You can step back from the pillory and you can stop slicing off your face.

Photos by Jaime Rojo for Brooklyn Street Art

Ozmo and FoxxFace’s site-specific works in Little Italy

FoxxFace with Tristan Eaton in the background
FoxxFace with Tristan Eaton in the background

This month has seen lots of fresh artistic activity facilitated by The L.I.S.A. Project NYC on Mulberry Street in the heart of NYC’s historic Little Italy. I mentioned some of that the other day. Additionally, Italian muralist Ozmo and NYC’s FoxxFace have recently joined the ranks of Tristan Eaton, Beau Stanton and many others with site-specific public art on Mulberry Street. There’s still more to come (thanks L’Amour), but for now, Ozmo and FoxxFace…


For a few months, FoxxFace had been quietly researching at the Italian American Museum in Little Italy. That research has led to the creation of 17 small painted works on wood, each one inspired by a photograph of an Italian-American immigrant. The finished works were installed on street signs throughout Little Italy in early June. There’s no map of where each piece is, so visitors will just have come to Little Italy, walk the street, and discover the artworks for themselves.


When we heard that the Italian muralist Ozmo would be visiting New York this month, it was a bit last minute, but we scrambled to find a spot for him to paint. Actually, a mutual friend insisted on it, threatening that he would lose a lot of respect for our program if we did not work with Ozmo, and we wholeheartedly agreed. It was an opportunity we did not want to miss.


Ozmo’s piece, entitled Lisa, the Half Naked Princess, is a sort of portrait of The L.I.S.A. Project NYC and Little Italy. It encapsulates many of the complexities that make our work unique among mural programs. We aim to bring fresh energy to Little Italy through public art rooted in street art and graffiti, but still acknowledge the neighborhood’s historic identity. In the mural, a beauty from the Renaissance sits atop references to contemporary Little Italy and street art, and small pieces of text scattered throughout the piece reference contemporary Little Italy’s multifaceted identity as a home for a diverse group of New Yorkers, a popular tourist attraction, and a spiritual home for Italian-Americans across the country.

More photos of work by Ozmo and FoxxFace after the jump… Continue reading “Ozmo and FoxxFace’s site-specific works in Little Italy”

Drawings for the Masses: a group show of personal sketches made public


Drawing for the Masses is a group show of about a dozen international street showing, not just any drawings, but personal drawings and prepatory sketches that would be the blueprints for eventual murals. While a rough sketch of an existing mural may not seem that exiting, 999 Gallery assures you that these works are sometimes more precious to the artist than the public work since these were not intended for others to see. So, stop by to see see the personal work of 108AndrecoBorondoGaia2501Guy DenningHitnesLucamaleonteMartina MerliniMoneylessOzmo and Tellas.

The show opened last night in Rome’s 999 Gallery.

Ozmo and Jeremy Fish in Turin

Jeremy Fish

Jeremy Fish and Ozmo are showing together starting later this week at Galo Art Gallery in Turin, Italy with their two-man show From Lines To Shadows. Despite their work being quite different, when the two met back in Milan about 7 years ago, they clicked and gained a mutual admiration for each other’s work. From Lines To Shadows opens November 24th from 5:30-9pm.


Photos courtesy of Galo Art Gallery