Monthly Archives: July 2004

Obey Giant: East Village

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Shepard Fairey’s icon of André the Giant pops up on the streets in various forms: stickers, posters and stencils. Here’s another example of a large wheat-pasted poster on the wall of a tenement building in the East Village, in New York. What makes this location noteworthy is that it’s adjacent to a vacant lot at the corner of 2nd Ave. and East 1st St., a block that has several vacant lots, abandoned vehicles and strewn junk, as well as lots of graffiti, making it one of the most decrepit and as yet un-gentrified blocks in lower Manhattan. The icon’s eyes stare directly at Mars Bar, a notorious dive bar across the street. (See previous image of Shephard Fairey’s Obey Giant poster here.)

Ivan Corsa Photo

Pet Rescue Logo

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Walking around Tribeca, in New York City, recently, we spotted this intriguing graphic-logo on the black tinted window of a van for what appeared to be a pet or animal rescue organization. However positive and well meaning the organization, there is something strikingly creepy about this logo. The white-on-black color arrangement adds a dark feeling to the graphic impact. The use of a cross over a globe in the design adds a degree of ominous religiosity to the logo. Finally, the animal figure appears almost demonic with its blanked-out eyes and goat-like form. The overall effect of the design suggests that the operators of the van are part of some dark, secretive international organization whose leader not only has a thing for pets but is bent on world domination. Austin Powers where are you?

Ivan Corsa Photo

NYC: Foam and Futon

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“Lowest prices in New York!” Since this image was snapped, Economy Foam & Futon Center in the Lower East Side has undergone an exterior makeover, deleting this giant advertisement from the city landscape. The ad for Foam & Futon is classic billboard-style marketing, but it’s on the side of a tenement building instead of an actual billboard. The store, located below the sign at the corner of Houston and Allen streets, sells all kinds, shapes and sizes of foam and American-style wood frame futons. As the low-cost bedding option of choice for so many young, apartment-dwelling New Yorkers, the futon business is a swift trade. The futon’s popularity is that it allows the living room to be turned into a bedroom (and vice versa), which is a necessity for many tenants living in space-starved studio apartments. Soundproofing foam is also popular. NYC is one of the noisiest cities on Earth, so the need for some New Yorkers to pad their walls with foam is a requirement for getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining sanity.

Ivan Corsa Photo

LA: Capitol Rare 1 (1 of 2)

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The address itself may not mean anything to most people or even to most residents of Hollywood, but 1750 Vine St. is home to a 13-storey building that is an instantly recognizable architectural icon of Los Angeles. The Capitol Records building suggests a stack of 45-rpm records on a turntable spindle. The structure was built in 1956, supposedly at the urging of Capitol recording stars Nat King Cole and Johnny Mercer, as the new headquarters for the hugely successful recording label. Architecturally nothing looked like the building then and nothing quite looks like it even now, almost fifty years after its completion. Designed by Welton Beckett, the structure is especially significant in that it is the world’s first circular office building and a prime example of futurism. That was a big deal back in ’56, but now buildings come in all sorts of un-box-like curvilinear shapes. The tip of the needle-like spire (see image 2 of 2 here) has a light that blinks out the spelling for Hollywood in Morse code into the low-rise skyline. On the south wall, at the base of the building, is a famous mural called “Hollywood Jazz,” which includes images of Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday. The star for John Lennon in the Hollywood “Walk of Fame” is set in the sidewalk in front of the building.

Ivan Corsa Photo

LA: Capitol Rare 2 (2 of 2)

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The address itself may not mean anything to most people or even to most residents of Hollywood, but 1750 Vine St. is home to a 13-storey building that is an instantly recognizable architectural icon of Los Angeles. The Capitol Records building suggests a stack of 45-rpm records (see image 1 of 2 here) on a turntable spindle. The structure was built in 1956, supposedly at the urging of Capitol recording stars Nat King Cole and Johnny Mercer, as the new headquarters for the hugely successful recording label. Architecturally nothing looked like the building then and nothing quite looks like it even now, almost fifty years after its completion. Designed by Welton Beckett, the structure is especially significant in that it is the world’s first circular office building and a prime example of futurism. That was a big deal back in ’56, but now buildings come in all sorts of un-box-like curvilinear shapes. The tip of the needle-like spire has a light that blinks out the spelling for Hollywood in Morse code into the low-rise skyline. On the south wall, at the base of the building, is a famous mural called “Hollywood Jazz,” which includes images of Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday. The star for John Lennon in the Hollywood “Walk of Fame” is set in the sidewalk in front of the building.

Ivan Corsa Photo

Obey Giant

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The face of the late great wrestling superstar André the Giant became an international underground icon in the 1990’s after his image was appropriated by the designer Shepard Fairey in the form of stickers put up as street art in cities around the world. Often the image was subtitled with the word “Obey” or simply “Giant.” Although much of Fairey’s current crop of stencils, stickers and wall paintings rely on iconic images other than that of André, occasionally one finds a classic piece with the Giant’s porcine mug staring blankly from a wall, like this one on Spring Street in Nolita, in New York City. Fairey’s sticker art project started out in 1989 as an experiment in phenomenology, which he dubbed “The Giant Has a Posse.” By the mid 90’s an estimated half-million Obey Giant stickers had been put up across the globe.

Ivan Corsa Photo

The Met Museum Terrace

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is among the foremost collections of important art and antiquities in the world. It is also one of the most popular places to spend an afternoon for tourists and native New Yorkers alike. Few of the thousands of daily visitors to the Met realize that one of the institution’s best features is its roof garden. The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, or simply “The Roof,” can be accessed only via a single bank of elevators tucked deep into the far end of the museum’s southwest wing, far away from the main entrance and galleries. The perch is an outdoor gallery where art installations and sculpture occupy most of the space throughout the summer. This image taken on the terrace shows “Stone Houses,” the work of British artist Andy Goldsworthy, which will be on view until October 31, 2004. The Roof Garden also offers visitors amazing panoramic views of Central Park, in which the Met sits, and the surrounding Manhattan skyline.

Ivan Corsa Photo

Genghis of Ludlow St.

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The ruthless Mongol ruler and warrior Genghis Khan (c. 1162-1227) unified his people and created the world’s largest empire, which at its speak reached as far west as Hungary and as far east as Korea and covered much of China and Russia. A New York City artist has paid homage to Genghis with this piece of mixed media street art on Ludlow St. on the Lower East Side. The work uses a wood plaque, paint and ink, with a splotch of white paint serving as backdrop for the ink illustration of the illustrious Khan.

Ivan Corsa Photo

Bar Barramundi, New York CIty

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The steel shutters in front of commercial spaces get battered over time by people and the elements. In New York City especially, they also get bombed by graffiti–some of which is art, some just plain vandalism. Occasionally, a shop proprietor will commission art for their store front or take the DIY approach and paint the shutters themselves. Here the protective skin of the popular Lower East Side bar Barramundi has been given an eclectic decorative treatment. The paint is faded and the style is rough, but the effect is like that of folk-art. Behind the arty facade is a dive bar for rock kids, artists and assorted alcohol-swilling hipsters. We like the animal pattern along the top of the shutter and how the painting uses a different color and pattern for each horizontal shutter strip. Note the address on the center door shutter and the bar hours on the right.

Masumi Hawkins Photo

Swoon: Kids Play 3 (3 of 3)

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Swoon is a New York City street artist whose work is instantly recognizable to residents of certain neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, where much of her work can be found. Last Friday, Swoon and her art were featured in a lengthy New York Times’ article by Kirk Semple about street art. Though Swoon’s work gets it widest exposure via the exterior nooks and sides of buildings in SoHo, Chinatown and the Lower East Side, she is an accomplished, professional artist who has exhibited her art at galleries in the United States and Europe. These images of Swoon’s work on Ludlow Street just north of Canal St. in the Lower East Side depict children playing ball. (See Kids Play 1 and Kids Play 2.) Swoon’s brilliant and original works are meticulous, life-size paper cutouts of people slapped up with wheat paste on blank walls. As noted on this Web site previously (See below: Street Art by Swoon | 03.31.04), the images are sometimes illustrated on, and carved out of, Chinese newspapers and show people engaged in everyday activities at street level.

Ivan Corsa Photo