I’m one of those people that stops to take photos when I’m running. I don’t do it as much as I used to when I first started running and would be amazed all the time by the sights I was seeing on foot for the first time. Now I take a lot of mental pictures and blow air-kisses to the things I like. But great pieces of street art in NYC usually make me stop to take a quick snap. So for this edition of The Rundown, I thought I’d take you through a route that hits some of my favourite pieces on the Lower East Side, starting at the legendary Bowery Mural.
If I find myself in Los Angeles on a Monday night, I always try make it out to a BlacklistLA run. The route involves heading to a mural of street art or two, taking in some of the sights of LA along the way. I do those two things on my own a lot, but there’s something about sharing in the experience with a couple hundred others. I’ll never forget the first time I went, meeting at the glorious Disney Concert Hall, and then heading out into the streets of LA, at 10pm, about 200-300 of us, running into the night. It was heady and exhilarating!
Following along on Instagram, I’ve watched how BlacklistLA has grown – from putting on their first 5K in honour of the City of Los Angeles’ birthday to having an artist create a special BlacklistLA mural. So I was really excited to talk to founder Erik Valiente and find out more about his personal love of running and how it fuels his passion for the group. He’s not a “traditional pen on paper artist,” as he sees it, but he brings a creativity to the routes he curates around the city, fostering a love for running and community that is absolutely inspiring.
“If you commit 100% to something and expect nothing, but you do it from the bottom of your heart, because you want to see people happy, you get to see your community change,” he says. Erik shares how he stepped out of the car, and started appreciating seeing life on foot, or by bike, which is his preferred mode of transport now. We met in Downtown LA’s Little Tokyo, and talked and ran…
For more on BlacklistLA, click on over to their site, and follow them on Instagram. And if you live in LA, go on one of their runs – you won’t regret it!
From the moment I turned a corner in Miami, on a one-day trip, and spotted what I’d gone in search of – Faith47’s Multum in Parvo, a woman with her head bowed and arms cupped together in service/suffering – I was captivated. The piece was for a series of artworks done specifically by women artists for Wynwood Walls. Being from South Africa means I’d seen Faith’s (not her real name) work in Cape Town, where she’s from, before. But there was something about seeing this piece here on a wall in the US that struck me.
I don’t know if it was the sheer size – seeing the emotion of the woman’s body language loom so large – but it took my breathe away. As have many of her other pieces. Witness the swans in flight of The Psychic Power of Animals on Broome Street in Soho or the birds in migration of Estamos Todos Los Que Cabemos in Harlem, which reminds us that nature ignores the lines we humans draw on a map. And every time I see another work of hers go up in other parts of the world, I make a mental note to visit them should I venture to those spots any time soon.
I’m thrilled, then, to have been able to see Faith bring her works to the walls of the Jonathan Levine Gallery in Chelsea. It’s her first solo US show, but a continuation of one she started in London last year. Aqua Regalia 2 seeks to cast a new light on items that seem to be of mundane value. So in taking cardboard signs that would’ve been held by those in need and lottery scratch-cards that would’ve been held by the hopeful, and putting putting them under the gaze of a divine goddess of sort, she transforms the ordinary into so much more. Her animal and feminine figures are here in the exhibition too – I’ve never quite looked at hands before, the way Faith gets me to look at them.
Though her works here may be confined to a smaller canvass this way, they’re no less as breath-taking.
In one of those New York moments, I found myself in a back lot in Little Italy on Sunday night, watching Corey Glover, lead singer for funk-metal pioneers Living Colour, drop his mic – and actual mic stand – to the ground, after he’d delivered a Sunday sermon that seemed to shake the very walls around us. Walls that had fresh paint on them as part of the L.I.S.A Project’s Loman Arts Festival. Walls, Glover encouraged us to look at instead of at him, but the way he was quivering and moving with the spirit of the songs he was singing, that was very hard to do.
I had hoped he would do Cult of Personality, Living Colour’s Grammy-winning, signature track. A track I was introduced to back in Cape Town by a musician friend some 10 years after it was released. Hey, better late than never, right? The songs Glover did perform were solid enough to make me think about how much I’ve missed hearing good ol’ fashioned rock music, complete with soul-digging singing and rough guitars.
Glover, fresh off supporting Aerosmith, was singing Last Temptation, acapella, when his voice quivered with the spirit within the song. He paused to take a moment and talk about the trouble with New York, his place of birth, at the moment, and the special kind of “love, beauty and art” it takes to live here in the Big Apple. Coincidentally, it riffed off the conversation a Parisian friend and I had on the ride over about him wanting to move here and the boxes he needs to tick before he can.
I didn’t know Glover’s nickname is Reverend Daddy Love. I now know why. The lyrics he sang about, and the verve with which he sang them, swirled around in my mind as I took in the art pieces that had been painted for the fest – all in the name of beautifying the lower parts of Manhattan, and keeping things culturally alive. If you find yourself in Little Italy and the LES, keep an eye out for the new works. They may not leave you as invigorated as seeing Glover perform live – that has to be seen to truly be experienced – but they will make you feel like the soul of a city that’s constantly changing is never truly lost.
Ron English’s new Temper Tot
Leon Reid’s Mr Stop
A Space Invader is always welcome
Art is Trash in action
Bio Tats Cru, Binho Ribeiro and Nicer Tats Cru Secret Walls Mural
Oh, and Glover’s other band Galactic plays Brooklyn Bowl August 14th.
When you only have one night in Miami – and you’re there for work – you still want to make the most of it. And with the Paris Marathon just around the corner, I found that, in actual fact, the best way for me to do a lot was to run around. Literally.
As a fan of street and spray-can art, going to Wynwood Walls has been on my bucket-list for some time now. So as soon as I got to the hotel, with a podcast of an interview with Kevin James – the reason for my trip to Miami – loaded on my iPhone, I ran the 3 miles to the walls, and then spent another 2 and a half running from section to section, trying to soak it all in. There’s not really a natural path to follow to see it all, so I just weaved in between the streets, whenever I saw something that grabbed my attention, I’d follow it and go look at it up close. Google Art has this incredible street art programme where you can use Street View to look at pieces of art from all over the world, which is great for preservation too, but there’s nothing like seeing the tall, towering pieces in person.
There were a few I really wanted to see, the rest, outside the walls, occupying the surrounding area, I just wanted to stumble upon in whatever way I was meant to find them. Faith47, one of South Africa’s finest artists, most certainly as women go, has a few pieces up. One is from 2013, titled Multum in Parvo, that was actually the first piece I found, after taking a wrong turn – although I think in this context there was no such thing. It’s incredibly moving to see, and there is something about the scale of seeing an image like this on such a large canvass that really just shifts a whole lot of emotions inside.
She also has a smaller piece inside the Wynwood Walls complex, and this other beautiful piece I wish I had taken a better picture of. A collaboration with Alexis Dias titled Eros, it’s a magnificent meditation on sensuality, and if you look at the snake, it comes apart beneath the woman’s body. The detail, as always, it what makes it so striking.
Swoon is another one of my favourites, who first started out by placing her life-sized portraits of friends and family around NYC, and I also took in the Lady Pink piece – a treat given she is the only woman considered capable of competing with the guys back in the day when she used to paint subway trains in the early 80s.
Stumbled upon this familar face, and found out it was Nicholai Khan, who painted Madiba’s face for his Be Your Own Icon series. Unfortunately the part where Nelson Mandela’s hands are resting on his face has been tagged over.
Other familiar faces, or at least tags…
Dal East x2
And found a few new names to keep a look out for in the future…
like Miss Van
Mr D 1987
I tried not to feel overwhelmed, but it still happened. The fear that you won’t see everything has to be accepted. You aren’t. It just makes for the perfect reason to return to Miami. That, and the glorious weather.