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A Pop-Up Graffiti Museum in Williamsburg Takes Us Beyond the Streets — Arts & Culture on Bushwick Daily

A Pop-Up Graffiti Museum in Williamsburg Takes Us Beyond the Streets

From vandalism to art.

Georgina Hallowell

georgina@bushwickdaily.com

A gallery dedicated to the history of street art goes "Beyond the Streets" to illustrate the evolution of graffiti featuring the work of over 150 artists. The Williamsburg pop-up features vibrant murals, dripping 3D sculptures, nostalgic photography, a cool Beastie Boys installation full of memorabilia, and more. While New York remains the mecca of street art, we have never seen something to this magnitude.

Curated by graffiti historian, Roger Gastman, the exhibit honors the pioneers, the legends, and current artists that have contributed to the culture of street art. 

"The idea was to build a museum because as important as this culture is, as huge as it’s gotten and as many successes as it’s had, a lot of the museum world and high art world are still afraid and questionable, so we wanted to build our own space and not have to follow anyone else's rules," says Gastman.

"Beyond the Streets" leads you through two floors of graffiti heaven showcasing various graffiti hand styles: from wild style to bubble letters.  Even the elevator plastered with photos of vintage spray cans captures the essence of street art. The staircases are hit by Miss 17 and Claudia Gold, legendary women on the scene. 

Although this exhibit goes beyond the streets of New York, you can expect to see work from prominent local artists like COCO 144, DAZE, SNAKE 1, TAKI 183, CRASH, KATSU, BLADE, Lee Quinoñes and more. Many of these self-taught artists who have already transitioned into gallery work know exactly what it's like to hop fences, break chains, and sneak into train yards at night to express themselves. They have created moving murals on subway cars and used storefronts as their canvases. Gastman made it his duty to capture the evolution of artists throughout each exhibit.

“We want to be able to educate all walks of people on the culture through some of the best artists who honed their skills on the street and then went into the gallery world and have really robust studio practices,” says Gastman. “At the same time every 10th or 15th exhibit we made sure we put in something that was a little bit more historical to remind everyone where they are and where the culture came from.” 

Graffiti pioneers like “Cornbread,” are celebrated throughout the museum. The countless articles that were written about the Philadelphia native credited as the world’s first graffiti writer are examples of what inner-city youth did for fun and recognition, but seen as nothing but defacement and vandalism.

“Overall, Philadelphia starts graffiti, New York makes it famous. Graffiti at its core is illegal. People write on the streets and that's what they do. What we did for the show was not taking work from the streets and putting it indoors, we focused primarily on artist studio work and what they do now. Of course, a lot of that is inspired by the streets. The artists made work for the show and it's not salvaged work from the street, it really is people's studio practices," says Gastman. 

Around the art are reminders that although their art is celebrated all over the world, it wasn't always this way. Signs like “Say it, Don't spray it” and “$500 Reward for Graffiti Vandals” remind viewers that graffiti has come a long way. Today, artists like CRASH and DAZE are proof of how much of a global phenomenon graffiti culture has become. They were hired as graffiti consultants on the Netflix show, “The Get Down,” to capture the essence of the Bronx during the ‘70s. Unlike music, dance and DJing, graffiti is an element of hip-hop that is usually remembered last.

The hip-hop inspired installation dedicated to the Beastie Boys is one to see! The legendary photos, handwritten lyrics, and racks of their personal favorite vinyl records will bring back nostalgic memories. One of the largest things in the room are glaring black and white letters spelling Beastie Boys repainted by graphic designer, Cey Adams, originally known for creating the old school logo for the cover of their 1983 “Cooky Puss” album. The hip-hop influenced artwork doesn't end there. Take a trip down memory lane with party flyers designed by the late Buddy Esquire - a prominent figure during the birth of hip-hop.  

Most of the work in the exhibit was made in advance. Artists spent weeks in the studio to bring the walls of this exhibit alive as they've done for countless neighborhoods and galleries around the world. There are a number of amazing graffiti spots all over the city like Bushwick, Bowery, East Harlem, and 5Pointz, a now destroyed but former graffiti landmark. This exhibit is all of these hot spots in one place. 

The work of popular New York City based-artists in the graffiti scene is heavily represented at the Williamsburg gallery. TATS CRU also known as The Mural Kings made their mark with a huge New York-themed installation. TATS CRU, Wilfredo “Bio” Feliciano says this is great for New York City.

“I think that it is a step in the right direction. This is one of the bigger shows I have seen dedicated to street art,” says Feliciano.

Gastman says it was important to bring the show to New York which is the second stop for Beyond the Streets with Los Angeles being the first. Staff is working to bring the exhibit to a city near you, but so far, nothing is announced. As for New Yorkers, he has one goal for everyone who decides to go see “Beyond the Streets.”

“I want people to be inspired. I want everyone to come home with a new favorite artist,” says Gastman.

Don't miss your chance to check out the history and evolution of street art. “Beyond The Streets” is located at 25 Kent Ave and will be on display through August 25. Admission is $25 and you may visit from Thursday-Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Photos courtesy of author.

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