Words and images by Andrew LaSane
This past week was an important one for the New York City graffiti scene for two reasons, both of which involved demolition. Last Friday, guys in hard hats with heavy machinery began knocking down the walls of 5 Pointz in Long Island City, an event that everyone knew was coming but many were still not ready for. Seeing the mostly buffed walls turned to rubble was like twisting the knife that had been stuck in the culture's back many months ago. The second important event was the closing weekend of a dope graffiti art show at the 21st Precinct building on East 22nd Street, curated by the folks at Outlaw Arts.
The fate of the former NYPD precinct is sealed and the building will eventually be demolished, so the idea was to cover just about every square inch of the space with lots and lots of graffiti and invite the public in to enjoy it. There was a very short window for people to see the show (two weekends), but those who made the effort were greatly rewarded. We stopped by on the final day and expected a line down the block, but there were very few people on East 22nd Street and no line at the door. We walked up, paid the suggested donation, and followed the music to where the real party was. There was a sizeable crowd inside and everyone had their cell phones pointed at the floors, walls, and ceilings.
The building was four floors of ocular orgasms: murals, tags, paintings, t-shirts, photography, and sculptures were around every corner. Lots of artists contributed to the show, including Sheryo & The Yok, Ivanorama, N Carlos J, Jesper Haynes, ELLE, Chris Soria, Faust, Hellbent, ASVP, Al Diaz, Bishop203, Curtis Kulig, Hue, Icy & Sot, Dasic, Ghost, Pixote, Rambo, HEK TAD, Coby Kennedy, NEPO, and so many more it was insane.
Some artists were given their own rooms to do their thing, while others tagged bathroom stalls and sticker-bombed the stairwell. It would have taken a full day to stop and look at a quarter of what was there, so the game plan for many was to move at a pace that was a bit faster than a crawl in some areas, and to linger longer if you were lucky enough to find a less densely populated room.
The best thing about the show was its lack of order. The environment was about as far away from a gallery aesthetic as it could be, though there were pockets where paintings and other art were hung with price labels on the wall nearby. An artist's wheatpastes could be seen on one floor, and an identical one would pop up an hour later in a closet and it didn't matter. There were anti-police tags and anti-street art tags, cute animal drawings, messages about someone's sexual shortcomings, and barely legible scrawls, all making perfect sense together under one roof.
In case you haven't figured it out yet, we're saying that the show was a must-see, and shame on you if you missed it because it won't happen the same way ever again. A special thank you to the curators and all the artists involved, and farewell to 5 Pointz and the 21st Precinct.