Two Must-See Street Art Shows Arrive Downtown
It wasn't that long ago when the only place you could go look at street art was, you know, out in the street. Destinations such as 5Pointz in Long Island City were great for the constantly updated murals by artists both local and visiting, there was the occasional organized exhibition at Deitch, or by the Wooster Collective, and the Bowery Wall offered up a steady stream of commissioned pieces, but mostly, if you wanted to keep up with your favorite artists or discover anything new and fresh, you had to wander around any number of neighborhoods (Lower East Side, Williamsburg, Tribeca, Bushwick) and see what you could find. Which is a fun activity, don't get me wrong, and one in which I still often indulge in, but nowadays there are also new street-art shows in legitimate galleries opening seemingly every week, and often three and four at a time. It's impossible to keep up, but here are at two new exhibitions that are worth checking out.
Shepard Fairey's On Our Hands
Shepard Fairey, of "Obey" (now a clothing/merchandising line) and the Obama "Hope" poster renown, is one of the most famous and successful street artists of all time, second really only to Banksy. So even though he's always been plenty active in New York City, putting up huge murals on Bowery and in DUMBO, for example, it's kind of big deal that Fairey's first solo show in five years just opened in Chelsea's Jacob Lewis Gallery. Featuring all new work by the affable and prolific artist, the exhibition is called On Our Hands and focuses on corporations that have bought their way into the government, and the resulting inaction by our elected officials on environmental concerns such as climate change, fracking, and risky oil excavation. Fairey uses his signature false-propaganda technique (and multi-layered aesthetic) to good effect in order to hammer home his point.
On Our Hands runs through October 24 at the Jacob Lewis Gallery on 521 West 26th Street on the fourth floor
Attack The Block at One Art Space
Meanwhile, downtown in Tribeca at the storefront gallery One Art Space, an impressive survey of street art is on display with the cheekily named Attack the Block exhibition. The space here is pretty small, but the curators have done an excellent job assembling a wide variety of today's top street artists all in one place. There's a terrific Shepard Fairey, a pair of lovely Swoons, some fun Chris/Robots Will Kill sketches and finished pieces, a huge Leon Reid IV strutting stop-sign sculpture, a number of Tim Conlon's classic-looking burners on scale-model freight trains, a menacing Lister, a hype-worthy Skewville installation, two of Elle's beautiful backlit pieces, a hard-hitting Gilf! design, a haunting Dan Witz… on and on, more than 25 artists in all. It's a great overview of the current scene (or, at least, one aspect of the scene), that can appreciated by long-time fans and newcomers alike.