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It has become a staple of the street art and graffiti scene that an organizer occupies an abandoned or soon-to-be-redeveloped building, invites artists there, and makes sure they fill the space with colorful works that contain topical jokes, insider gags, and photogenic corners. The next step involves luring art fans with the promise of a party and then stepping back to watch them descend on the site and fill their social media feeds with images that ignite an online deluge of sharing, liking, and commenting.
For the last few weeks, over 65 street artists and graffiti writers have been busy transforming the interior of a four-story building in Manhattan’s Gramercy neighborhood into exactly that type of urban art oasis.
Rob Aloia of Outlaw Arts has pulled together artists including Sheryo and The Yok, Faust, MrToll, Rae, Ghost, Tone Tank, Ket, and Pixote to saturate the once infamous 21st Precinct with colorful and quirky installations of all kinds. Closed in 1914, the police station has had many lives over the past century, but its former existence as an NYPD hub is the type of historical footnote that makes a show like 21st Precinct into an alluring media sensation.
Overall, the building-wide exhibition is overstimulating and unfocused. Few of the pieces directly addressed the setting, and even those that do (tackling drugs, gun culture, or mugshots) never go far beyond the surface.
There are some global politics, courtesy Alan Ket, of course, who’s filled one room with the names of Palestinian dead from the recent Gaza attacks. The most provocative room is staged by Cash4, Matt Siren, and Smells (there may have been others), who filled their space with scrawls of gentriffiti, a hilariously self-aware portmanteau that pokes fun at the art as much as the developer for homogenizing the city. Rae also has a strangely appealing bedroom installation of dreamy figures floating in the night sky around a paint-stained bed.
21st Precinct is an artistic melee, so large powerful letters (“Flight” and “Fight”) by Faust are placed adjacent to less interesting work, while MrToll’s hallucinatory sculptures float on walls in a way that’s far more intimate than most of the slapdash aerosol pieces nearby.
The thrill of these expectedly chaotic shows is that they turn large urban spaces into massive sketchbooks. Some ideas work, but most look incomplete or half-baked. There’s something about this vein of graffiti and street art culture — exemplified by 21st Precinct —that’s stuck on the romantic myth of art as a fun (mostly male) free-for-all. It’s seductive to think that art works that way, but more often than not it benefits from strong curation.
21st Precinct continues at 327 East 22nd Street (Gramercy, Manhattan) on August 23 and 24, 1–6pm.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
In 1850, when Dr. Robert W. Gibbes commissioned J. T. Zealy to make daguerreotypes of persons held in slavery in and around Columbia, South Carolina, for Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz to use in support of his theory that African people were a separate species, daguerreotypes were at the height of fashion.
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.