Within a couple of days after salsa-music singing queen Celia Cruz passed away last year, this memorial mural went up on a wall facing East Houston Street near Avenue B. The area has quickly gentrified in recent years, but still retains the flavor of the Puerto Rican community that still calls the neighborhoods at the far east ends of the East Village and the Lower East Side home. The mural was painted by the local artist Chico, whose work can be found throughout New York, but especially in neighborhoods of lower Manhattan.
Like characters out of a children’s book, these illustrations of anthropomorphic animal characters look like they were drawn with a Sharpie pen. They appear without any context other than a graffiti-covered surface. We haven’t seen these critter drawings anywhere else so they may be a one-off attempt at artistic expression or amusement. If you weren’t looking looking carefully enough, you’d probably walk right by these without noticing them–the critters are small and appear on the side of an old, dirty school building on Rivington Street in the Lower East Side.These illustrations are also yet another example of one layer of street art and graffiti “layering” over one another, at once defacing the surface and graf or art underneath and yet annotating the predecessor’s work.
For the graf writer, a clean storefront shutter is a tempting blank canvas just asking for Krylon. The shutters pictured here look fairly new, so you’ve got to pity the owner who’s just had them installed. There may be debate about whether or not this kind of graf is art. (There’s no question that is vandalism.) At any rate, as graf goes, this is a pretty good example of a work that was interupted while in progress or one in which the writer ran out of white spraypaint–look carefully at the letters and notice how they’ve been barely filled. Graf aside, there’s an interesting jux here: the Chinese characters on the awning, the names of the business (“888”) and the tag-annotation of “Fever.
Ivan Corsa Photo
On Rivington Street in lower Manhattan, we saw this advert promoting a new album release by Utada Hikaru, a major Japanese pop star. She rose to fame with a series of chart-topping dance pop tunes four years ago. But unlike most young J-pop idols, Utada wrote her own material and had a vocal range that put left much of the competition in the dust. She was a true Tokyo diva without any of the usual diva baggage–no capricious attitude, no pretentious posturing. Plus, Utada’s music was really good and represented a fresh break from the neverending parade of dross that passed for a lot of mainstream Japanese pop music. Utada was an original. She spoke fluent English and had lived in the United States while growing up. But what was really amazing about her was that when her first big hit single, “Automatic,” arrived on Japanese radiowaves, Utada was only 18 years old. Now she’s got a new record, “Exodus,” and, in an ambitious attempt to reach a larger international audience, it’s being released in the United States, where Japanese pop idols rarely bring their music. Utada’s new disc drops October 5.
Ivan Corsa Photo