Normally, to see the guys do what they do so well, you’d have to stay up late and go wandering the streets. And even then, the chance that you would catch them “in flagrante delicto” is small, their actions being as furtive as the very creatures of the night.
Graffiti is still an illegal activity in New York, so the art pops up overnight on a given street corner.
The reason why “wild spray painting” is illegal, can sometimes be very obvious. Who wants to wake up to find his freshly painted garage clad in streaks of electrifying spray paint? If the NY subway looks better with or without the graffiti, is food for discussion.
But I think everybody must at least have been wowed once when coming across a vast piece of graffiti.
45-46 Davis Street in Long Island City, Queens is the mecca for graffiti artists. Here, aerosol artists, as they prefer to call themselves, don’t have to be constantly on the look out for police cars patrolling the neighborhood. Here, they don’t have to trespass old decrepit warehouses and risk stepping on rusty nails. And here, they can do their thing in broad daylight. It also gives us, the onlookers, the chance to see them at work, without having to go out there in the wee hours with a torch.
This block, called 5Pointz, is a meeting place for aerosol artists from the five boroughs of New York City.
Since 2002, Jonathan Cohen, alias Meres One, has been running and organizing the 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Inc.
Artists have to apply and get permission to work on a wall. And all this under the watchful eye of the owner of the warehouse, Jerry Wolkoff. At no charge. An accident inside the building in 2002 has led to its closure. The place is old and not in good shape. For some time now, it is said that the warehouse is to make place for new developments. The latest rumor says this would happen this summer!
Organizers and artists are raising their voice to preserve this shrine for underground art. It’s a very special and unique place indeed. Well informed people (like you), come from far to see for themselves. But is that enough to keep the bulldozers from pulling up one day and tear the place down? Money rules the world, and I guess 5Pointz is not to become the exception.
Basquiat started out painting on walls and doors, till one day someone gave him old doors from demolished houses and canvases to paint on. Now he hangs in the world’s most prestigious museums. That’s the undeniable proof graffiti is rightfully accepted in the realm of art forms.
That graffiti has made it to galleries and our living rooms, is a great thing. But we must never forget where it comes from: the streets…with that wonderful and exciting illegal edge.