A tour of the Five Points Street Gallery with Joe Ficalora
It’s been my habit to “photowalk” around the Five Points of Bushwick, where Scott Avenue ends at the intersection of St
It’s been my habit to “photowalk” around the Five Points of Bushwick, where Scott Avenue ends at the intersection of St. Nicolas Ave and Troutman St. On Friday morning (afternoon?), I felt hungover, when I heard the tell-tale sound of a spray can being shaken. Little did I know that the artist I spied spraying was painting the entrance to the Triangle, the outdoor performance venue of the Bushwick’s Five Points. The venue happens to have three sides, nestled in the triangle created by Jefferson St, Scott Ave, and St Nicolas.
The artist beautifying the corrugated steel entrance is friendly and takes time to hook me up with “the guy who runs all this.” Within minutes a black BMW pulls up and Joe Ficalora, Director of Operations at GCM Steel, inc, springs onto the sidewalk. He is wonderful and “neighborhoody,” the very quality that attracts me to Brooklyn in general. Joe is eager to share his gallery, and he takes me up and down the Five Points, pointing out his favorites. Yes, the Five Points themselves are his gallery. GCM, his multi-generational family company, owns most of the wall space, and he gets to curate them.
Since my photowalks have become routine, my favorite street murals have become the ones painted by Never, whose work I’ve seen on Meserole Street, as well as somewhere in the Lower East Side. Never has two pieces on the Five Points, and is a favorite of Joe’s. His theme is an owl in various horrifying situations.
Five Points also has a lot of murals by female artists, including a two-story portrait of Biggie by Danielle Mastrion, and a mural with a hand-painted fox figure by three collaborating female artists.
I asked Joe if he took-on aspiring street artists for Five Points, but it seems Joe has a long waiting list. His favorite artists, however, are almost always obliged, even perpetrating murals without official permission.
Geobany Rodriquez was the first street artist commissioned by Joe, and he still has a mural on Troutman at St. Nicolas, of a purple woman with the head of a bird opposite an Aztec warrior, all on a green backdrop. You can see Geobany paint this mural and speak about his art here.
Jim Avignon is also a street artist from the beginnings of the Five Point gallery, and he has a piece of a multi-eyed, blue-faced man on the Five Points.
Joe also fills me in on Geometricks as we wander. It’s the latest street art show he’s involved in, in Redhook, at the Gallery Brooklyn. It runs from September 22nd to October 28th and is curated by street artist Hellbent.
Joe motions to Frank Mattarella, his childhood friend across the street, and we stomp over to the entrance of the Triangle. I have a huge smile on my face as Joe fiddles with the padlock and the still-wet door opens into a little outdoor stadium. Mysteriously, within the walls of the Triangle, my camera runs out of batteries, and I have no photographic evidence of its interior. Street artist RimX and Alex Seel join us, and we smoke and talk about growing up in Bushwick, and his inspiration for bringing art to his neighborhood.
Stay tuned to Bushwick Daily for the interview with Joe, Frank, Alex, and RimX in Bushwick’s Bermuda Triangle.