By: Alejandro Paulino
Graffiti has had negative connotations surrounding it with its ever-growing popularity. Critics of what is considered “high art” (Picasso or Van Gogh) will argue that graffiti is a low or largely ignorable form of art at best and vandalism at worst. On the other side of this argument are people like author Yoav Litvin, who believe that graffiti should be embraced by the mainstream.
Yoav aims to not just make people believe that graffiti should be appreciated but to participate as well. He published a photography book that features the work and interviews of 46 NYC street/ graffiti artists he selected. “I chose the artists in the book based on the art I encountered on the street,” explains Yoav. “After I reached out to them, I suggested we work together on a ‘profile’ for my book. Most of them were eager to work with me.”
To promote the release of his book “Outdoor Gallery: New York City,” Yoav Litvin and Royce Bannon curated a week-long art gallery in a space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with brilliant works of art from some of the 46 artists he reached out to. It was refreshing to see the works of art on display during the opening night were not featured in the book.
The book itself was available for purchase for $40, its hardcover feels substantial when you hold it and should appreciate in value as the artists and curators involved in its creation become even more famous. If you were lucky enough to be at the release, the artists in attendance that were featured in the book were signing copies.
The unique works of art was the reason for coming out to this space (besides picking up this must-have book). Among the one-of-a-kind pieces on display there were four pieces that caught the eye: “Hang in There” by CHRISRWK, “Mother” by ELSOL25, “Phor get me now” by PHETUS, and Race by Icy and Sot.
The illustrations in CHRISRWK’s piece were reminiscent of the cartoonish graphics used in the Kidrobot line of designer toys and apparel and had a contemporary pop art feel to it.
The painting by ELSOL25 was a bizarre piece that inspired observers to do a double take upon first glance. The illustration is a creature that is an amalgamation of different species, foods, and inanimate objects (the creature’s legs are those of a female, but it has the head of a bear).
PHETUS created a piece that looked very busy. It reminded me of mundane, hopeless city life and the unpleasant characters people have to deal with everyday; the colors used were also drab for added effect. It was easy to stare at this one and get lost in your own thoughts while thinking about your Monday morning commute.
Of all the pieces at the gallery, Icy and Sot’s painting was a personal favorite. The canvas was solid wood and illustrated the end of a race in which a girl won first place followed by two boys that were runner-ups. The podium being positioned upside-down was a way of conveying a message: even though the girl won, they’re all on the same level. Their relaxed facial expressions also strengthen this notion; there is no anger or feeling of disappointment in any of them. It was a fair game. These pieces are not for the mainstream. There was very little commercialization going on here as the works made you look twice, think to past events and experiences from your own life, and give you something to take away that can’t be put into words. Art is what you yourself make of it, after all. “The works echo that street art is extremely diverse in all respects: messages, styles, and mediums. You cannot pigeonhole street art,” claims Yoav. “When you examine the book and the pieces in the show, this is evident.”