The Ride keeps an eye out for stories of unique cultural importance to New York City. As the only show of its kind in New York, we like to promote and experience other similarly one-of-a-kind offerings in the City that Never Sleeps.
On October 2nd, I attended the opening of a new show down at the POP International Art Gallery. POP art has been one of my favorite styles ever since I was introduced to Andy Warhol as a child, and spent time studying artists such as Peter Blake and Roy Lichtenstein. What has always drawn me to POP is its ability to be whatever the artist wants. There are few “wrong” choices in POP art, and so it has a wider field of artistic expression. I can not more emphatically recommend that you take a swing down to the POP International Galleries’ Soho location and check out this exhibit. The work on display is absolutely amazing and breathtaking.
The exhibit is called “Product of UR Environment”, a subset of UR New York, a Graffiti and Urban Art collective. The artists on display are SKI and 2ESAE, graffiti artists born and raised in New York City. They recently made news with their controversial subway art, where they placed ads for their exhibit over the advertisements on a subway car.
Whether or not you agree with their tactics, their art is one of a kind, and causing heads to turn. Walking into the gallery I was immediately struck by the energy of the room. The art gallery was packed with people of all different cultural and financial backgrounds jointly examining, interpreting, and discussing the artist’s work. They say don’t ever judge books by their covers, but the difference in backgrounds that were mixing in this room was so stark it couldn’t help but be noticed. In a way you had to wonder if this was the artist’s intent. Next to the stairs down to the lower level of the gallery, I saw an middle-aged woman in a cocktail dress, chatting animatedly to a young man with what appeared to be a full body tattoo (I make this guess based on his tattooed hands and face). The next thing I noticed was that I had, in fact, noticed this conversation. Like it or hate it, society is built on a basis of instant reactions based on what we see, and I was standing in a gallery filled with art designed to call me out on the exact behavior I was currently exhibiting. The setup and exceution could not have been more perfect. I was instantly questioning societal behavior, and I hadn’t even begun to look at the art itself.
The mixed media piece pictured above was the first one my eye was drawn towards. One of the reasons that I was drawn was that out of the corner of my eye, the color scheme reminded me of fall in Central Park. I thought it would be a piece built on that vein. Upon examination it felt like a deconstruction of standard “colors” within paintings. Within the piece are layers upon layers of brush strokes, colors, pencil markings, stencils, and then obviously the metal high voltage in the lower right, the tag in the upper left, and the Brooklyn Bridge in the upper right. The upper and lower halves are divided by a barrier of chain link, barbed wire, and a threat of electrocution. There is an openness to the upper half of the piece, a sense of clutter below the barbed wire, and a sense of climbing by the stencils of branches reaching high, yet not high enough to crest the fence. It’s a story I’ve been fortunate enough not to have to live, yet I’ve heard countless times from those who’ve grown up in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. Climbing is hard, the obstacles are many, but when you finally make it over the fence, you can leave your mark on the world, shown through the tag in the upper lefthand corner.
POP International Galleries have been highlighting the great POP artists (look next month for the largest private Andy Warhol collection in the world on display) as well as promoting new up and coming artists such as Ski and 2ESAE since 1997. Owner/Founder Jeff Jaffe is the one who found these two artists and has put their work on display.
As a gallery organization focused on Pop Culture, once again, POP International is honored and humbled to present this inspiring duo’s new body of work. Ski and 2ESAE walk the walk! They have taken it to the streets and from the streets and I am proud to continue representing them. They are the real deal – full of inspiration and joy, and their authenticity and energy is nothing short of contagious. – Jeff Jaffe
The cornerstone of POP art, is taking an aspect of Pop Culture or the every day object and making it a piece of art. SKI and 2ESAE took this one step farther by taking a piece of their personal history (a used spray paint can) and repurposing it as an artform.
I was particularly drawn to the “Contents Under Peer Pressure” and “I Think I Can I Think I Can” messages as they seemed like clever repurposing of common concepts. The bright colors stood them out from the artwork around them, and yet their use of contrast and negative space allows the messages to be seen through the noise, something that I have found lacking in much Urban and Graffiti Art. All the pieces on display tell a story, and they all follow the artist’s journey. Take, for instance, their photos using the image of Kate Moss.
The picture is messy. Lines, shapes, and colors explode out of her and around her inside a frame of equal bright chaos; and yet, each individual line has a purpose, has a meaning. The markers used, the pencil lines drawn, they all are done with the specific purpose of bringing out what the picture is trying to say, and it all stems from words written near her forehead: “Thoughts Scrambled”. Instantly the painting becomes more clear, the chaos is scrambled thought. The only question is, whose thoughts are they? Are they the thoughts of Kate Moss? Or is Kate Moss one of the thoughts tormenting the artist? That’s up to the viewer to decide, but I think the most important thought depicted is the hardest one to find, as it’s written in non-contrasting pencil in the lower left, with an inconspicuous arrow leading you to the answer.
And that, I would say, is the most important message of the exhibit, “Love”. These artists are here because they love what they do, and they can’t imagine expressing themselves in another way. To me, art is always about love, in some form. Without love, art simply can not exist. The art created by these two new artists, is filled with love for their surroundings, for their culture, for their background and heritage, for their neighborhoods. It’s filled with anger and despair at gentrification, over marketization and advertising, at the onslaught of national chains into these things that they hold dear. But lastly, and most importantly, it’s filled with Hope; hope that our society will find the room for all cultures, and allow them to exist side by side. It shows hope that all of those cultures will become accepting, and maybe the scrambled thoughts will become clear again.
“Product of UR Environment” is on display through late October at the POP International Galleries’ Soho location at 473 West Broadway. For more information, galleries, and videos visitwww.popinternational.com or call (212) 533-4262.
Click the images below for larger versions.