This weekend, in addition to a star-studded lineup of musical guests that includes everyone from The Strokes to Outkast to Vampire Weekend, Governors Ball, New York’s annual three-day music festival, will bring 20 street artists to Randall’s Island for The Mural Project. Spearheaded by Everyone Only co-founders Lola Sherwood and Varghese Chacko, the group effort, subtitled “An Ode to New York,” promises a variety of perspectives on New York City, its melting pot of culture, and especially its lively street art scene.
The 20 artists will make several collaborative works in addition to their own murals. Following the festival, the works will be shown again at the newly opened Greenpoint warehouse gallery Succulent Studios, starting June 28.
From a primordial version of Lady Liberty to a memorial to the women of New York, here are the 19 murals of The Mural Project.
In Iranian brothers Icy and Sot’s mural, as is often typical in New York, subway riders stare off into the distance, ignoring the performer in the center. And yet, even though the performer appears to be a nuisance for the riders, he is more colorful than anything else in the otherwise black-and-white scene.
Unlike most New Yorkers, Brooklynite street artist Juan Carlos Pinto never tosses his MetroCards and subway maps. Instead, he keeps them and recycles them in his art, often using them as mosaic-like backgrounds for portraits of such historical figures as Jean-Michel Basquiat, who appears here on the right. Ed Koch, the New York mayor who fought a losing battle against street art, appears in the middle, with a shoutout to Pinto’s friend Keith Haring above his head. On the left is Lou Reed, an iconic figure in the New York art scene.
Argentinian street artist Magda Love puns her street moniker’s last name by pasting her signature image of a heart onto a bed of flowers. Love sees her work as a response to the street art world around her. “When I paint around a lot of guys, I try to make my work even more girly,” Love says, calling her work deliberately “childish and dreamlike.” In a move fitting for this project, Love will release a mixtape in addition to making her mural.
Despite the seemingly light-hearted nature of Fumero’s fire-engine-red mural, the work is actually an ode to the recently deceased Army of One, who, after working as a New York firefighter during 9/11, struggled with drug addiction and depression and used street art as a form of therapy. Shown in the process of spray-painting his slogan, “Give peace a chance,” Army of One is memorialized as a hero, not just for the nation, but also for the New York street-art scene. In addition to this mural, Fumero has also made an homage to Notorious B.I.G.
Rubin 415, a Swedish-born street artist known for his abstractions, works in a somber color palette for this two-part mural inspired by the work of New York painters from the first half of the 20th century. Like Joseph Stella’s famed painting of the Brooklyn Bridge, Rubin 415’s mural breaks a New York scene into geometrical shapes, making the image nearly unrecognizable.
In New York-based street artist Gumshoe’s Stuck in New York, a woman in pinstriped socks has stepped on gum, causing her to take a break from her stroll down a Manhattan street to examine her soiled stiletto. “It’s a lot like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz,” Gumshoe says. “She’s going into New York City, and she gets stuck. She’s out of her comfort zone.”
Social realist Chris Stain has based his mural, done with his two young Brooklynite apprentices Cynthia Martinez and Vince Maximin, on a photograph taken by photojournalist Martha Cooper during the 70’s. For the Baltimore-born street artist, whose work gives Cooper’s photograph his signature stencil-like look, the pigeons were synonymous with New York City at that time.
Represented here by Veng and Chris (two of three of the team’s members), Staten Island-based graffiti collective Robots Will Kill is known for its cartoon-like boys, spray-painted with skinny arms and big eyes. Here, RWK puts a dark twist on the “I Love New York” T-shirt by putting a skull-and-crossbones inside the heart.
New York appears in Dumbo-based street artist Craig Anthony Miller’s mural in a distorted and lushly colored owl’s face. Although Miller’s signature owl may not make any explicit references to famous New York landmarks, the clash of deep purples, reds, and yellows recalls the busy, crowded nature of the city.
Chicago-based humorist Don’t Fret urges festival-goers to “go for broke” (even as they go broke) in his tongue-in-cheek mural.
“It’s almost like trying to tie in Pop and graffiti with something primordial,” says street artist Joseph Meloy, a Lower East Side native, about his abstract, highlighter-colored, spray-painted scenes that recall the hustle and bustle of a New York street on a hot summer afternoon.
Katherine Clarke Langlands’ first work in New York City is this mural, a part of an ongoing series called Making Planets, paintings of abstracted astrological images. The mural is also a depiction of Langlands’ own experience, in which New York is now the center of the universe, its five boroughs abstracted into earth-toned blobs that pull everything and everyone toward them.
An ironic take on New York’s catcallers, Manhattan street artist WhIsBe’s mural shows a bent over pinup model, her transparent robe spilling open. An intentionally misspelt phrase familiar to many New York women accompanies the work: “Smile your beautiful.”
There’s no doubt about it—Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty has a classical style to her bronze drapery and piercing eyes. But in New York graphic artist Jacob Henderson’s rendition, she’s rising out of the Hudson River wearing sunglasses, and she looks a lot more contemporary. His remixed version of Lady Liberty is meant as a “recreated personality,” as Henderson says, one that combines a European esthetic with a Mesoamerican one.
Known for his photocollages overlaid with dripping spray paint, Kimyon 333 brings a distinctly local flavor to The Mural Project. Kimyon’s mural is personal—the three women, who Kimyon calls “the women of New York,” are each a part of his life or neighborhood. From left to right, there is a Dominican musician, a multiracial jewelry designer, and a Israeli artist.
Flatbush native Adam Dare’s signature brokenhearted rabbit appears here against a sea of spray-painted bunnies, all of whom rush toward a heart with the Brooklyn Bridge inside it that is just out of reach.
John Paul O’Grodnick
In New York street artist John Paul O’Grodnick’s mural, a robot that waves at the viewer is the only object without any color. Neon oranges, yellows, and blues clash to mirror the business of New York’s most famous crowded landmarks.
For this eye-popping mural, Italian-born and Brooklyn-based street artist Iena Cruz paints his signature face, a “‘human’ monster,” as he calls it. The face symbolizes the evil that stays hidden within many New Yorkers.
Bàlu and Art is Trash
Spanish duo Bàlu and Art is Trash’s collaborative mural mocks New York’s unwillingness to treat street art as art. A nude half-person walks with a paint roller as several policemen try to stop him from painting. In an ironic gesture, Art is Trash writes his name in red spray paint.