Brooklyn Street Art ‘On the Radar’ Event Highlights New and Emerging Street Artists
The duo behind BrooklynStreetArt.com held an interesting and informative multimedia presentation on a balmy late August afternoon, which highlighted new and emerging street artists from the borough and beyond, in front of an intimate crowd at the Coney Island Museum.
In the shadow of the Coney Art Walls, and surrounded by the museum’s vast collection of ephemera from the historic Steeplechase and Luna Park with Coney Island’s rich history as a seaside attraction from the turn of the century until the early 1960s on display, site founders Steve Harrington and Jaime Rojo led a spirited presentation that highlighted 12 street artists who use the urban canvas in new and exciting ways.
After being introduced by Coney Art Walls curator Jeffrey Deitch who joked that the pair passed up a trip to Banksy’s Dismaland to be here, the dapper Harrington and Rojo spoke passionately about street art’s transformative abilities.
Among the artists profiled were Icy and Sot, Borondo, Cane Morto, Isaac Cordal, Don’t Fret, Hot Tea, Kashink, Joe Caslin, LMNOPI, Paper Skaters, and Vermibus.
“Street art and art in general is what motivates people to get up in the morning and toil everyday. It brings a lot of great things to our lives,” Rojo said, leading into the presentation.
Below are highlights of the artists featured in “On the Radar.”
Icy and Sot
The first two artists, Icy and Sot, are brothers from Tabriz, Iran who were granted political asylum in the U.S. before settling in Brooklyn. The pair works mainly with stencils to depict human rights, justice, social and political issues affecting people across the globe.
“The reason we like them is because they are using their art to being social and political aspects to their work in a very poignant and direct way. We think that’s the difference that they have from Blek Le Rat [and others],” Rojo said.
The brothers have exhibited their works both together and separately in galleries all over the world since 2006. Follow their latest works on Instagram at @icyandsot.
Referred to as an “artist’s artist” by Harrington, Borondo is a Spanish-Italian graffiti writer and painter who “has a true talent for atmospheric painting that is informed by his Italian roots. He uses light and context to create atmospheric, abstract portraiture that connects with people very strongly,” Harrington said. Known for using a reductive method of scratching images out of panes of glass, Borondo’s latest public piece was a large scale painted mural in Sulitjelma, Norway last month.
With the literal meaning of graffiti translated to “scratched,” Borondo adds his own modern twist to the earliest form graffiti that was etched onto cave walls.
Translated to “dead dog,” Cane Morto is an Italian street art collective comprised of three individuals whose style Rojo referred to as “brutal abstract painting,” which sacrifices painstaking detail for a bigger, brutal impact when viewed from a distance.
Harrington appreciates the trio’s reverence for the Italian masters reflected in their work, mashed up with “badass graffiti vandals who want to rip shit up. They always have these two tension points pulling against one another.”
Last year Cane Morto spent a two month spraycation bombing all over the Italian countryside for an upcoming documentary.
Working with miniature street sculpture, Isaac Cordal packs a powerful message in such small pieces. A master of placement, Cordal’s work depicts elements of the human condition in provocative ways.
“[My art features] men and women [that] are suspended and isolated in a motion or pose that can take on multiple meanings. The sympathetic figures are easy to relate to and to laugh with,” Cordal says about his work. “They present fragments in which the nature, still present, maintains encouraging symptoms of survival. The precariousness of these anonymous statuettes, at the height of the sole of the passers, represents the nomadic remainders of an imperfect construction of our society. These small sculptures contemplate the demolition and reconstruction of everything around us. They catch the attention of the absurdity of our existence.”
From Spain, Cordal’s work has been exhibited in Colombia, Belgium, France and England, among other places.
One of Chicago’s most prolific street artists, Don’t Fret has murals — both commissioned and non-commissioned — all over the city. Chicago Magazine described his work as “crude portraits and clever critiques of everyday life, like Edward Gorey images for the Instagram age.”
Usually using humor, with an absurdist streak, Don’t Fret “has a comedic sense that doesn’t take himself very seriously, and asks us not to take our daily existence seriously either. Life is something to laugh at,” Harrington said.
Oliver Hild, owner of Maxwell Colette Gallery, told ChicagoMag.com that Don’t Fret is “kind of quirky, and he’s always been, which is part of his appeal. His practice is a veritable sausage: a meaty mix of painting, installation, writing, and performance art stuffed into a casing of classic conceptual art and seasoned liberally with illegal street work.”
Minneapolis, Minnesota’s HotTea transforms public spaces using yarn in a style referred to as yarn bombing. After numerous scrapes with the law as a graffiti writer, HotTea’s “non-destructive” form of street art beautifies public spaces with colorful installations, many times adding a three-dimensional quality to public fences, structures and commissioned installations.
“Not being able to write graffiti anymore because of legal trouble and going around to different parts of the city I wanted to paint, I began to think of materials that would interact in a city environment without getting in trouble,” HotTea said. “I had to find a way to transition from a graffiti artist to public installation art.
In 2013 HotTea was named Best Street Artist in the city by Minneapolis City Pages, and his designs have been featured on Sesame Street.
Only one of two female artists of the dozen highlighted in the presentation, and the only one to have her work displayed at Coney Art Walls, France’s Kashink’s style of “candy-colored ironic comedy” is instantly recognizable. Kashink’s bright color palette combined with precise technical application bring to mind her influences — Gilbert and George, Keith Haring, Frida Kahlo and graphic novelist Charles Burns.
Interestingly Kashink only depicts men in her work, preferring provocative, cartoonish portraiture. Her best known work is “50 Cakes of Gay” in which she painted 50 brightly-colored wedding cakes on a wall in Paris in support of gay marriage. Equal rights that look good enough to eat!
The themes she’s been treating in her shows are meaningful: the absurdity of social interactions through the theme of masks, the taboo subject of death and the various ways to deal with it especially in the latino culture.
Brooklyn-based street artist and social activist, LMNOPI, is the second female street artist Harrington and Rojas highlighted. An Occupy Wall Street veteran and community organizer, LMNOPI’s art speaks to causes people from all walks of life should be thinking about. Anti-capitalist and environmental causes figure prominently in her work.
Her best-known pieces is an anti-fracking series that features Smokey the Bear imagery. She was issued a cease-and-desist by the owner of the intellectual property, but covered under fair use, the artist fought back and alerted the media, thereby drawing many more eyeballs to the damage fracking does to the planet and our water supply.
“She’s one of those artists that’s always in tune with what’s happening in the world today,” Rojo said about LMNOPI. “She addresses issues of racism, police brutality, child labor, indigenous rights — she won’t let us forget people who’ve been marginalized.”
Giving a voice to the voiceless is an admirable stance and LMNOPI is determined to have her art’s visibility make an impact.
“My inspiration bone is connected to my heart bone,” she told Powderzine.com. “My heart bone is connected to my eye bone. I work intuitively. When developing a new piece, I start with sketching and water colors. I pay attention to my dreams. I look for symbols and signs. Some of it ends up in my performance work. Some goes into my street art.