NEW YORK – Alexander Hamilton may be the hottest politician in New York City thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, but Honest Abe Lincoln may have a shot too, if street artist AINAC (Art is Not a Crime) has anything to say about it.
Stencils of the former president first started appearing in 2013, under overpasses in Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay, and storefronts in Bay Ridge.
According to an interview with local blog the Bensonhurst Bean, AINAC was inspired by Banksy’s New York residency, which included a robot painting in Coney Island. “We built off the Banksy hype,” AINAC told the Bean, “Banksy had just left and everyone was hyped about street art … we said, ‘If this [expletive] can do it, why can’t I?’” It felt like the entire City was obsessed with finding Banksy at the time, so it was heartening to read that rather than simply contribute to the ever-escalating Banksy hype, at least one budding artist decided to create some hype of his own.
I first spotted President Lincoln along the BQE on Hicks, shooting Magda Love’s My Head is a Jungle x2. Lincoln may have been honest, but in AINAC’s hands, he’s also a little creepy, with his wrinkles stenciled in black ink, and dark eyes that seemed to follow me straight to Red Hook. Said eyes are peeking out from behind a theater curtain, perhaps a nod to his untimely demise. Underneath, are the words, spray-painted in white, “I C You.” I have no idea whether that’s AINAC’s contribution or not, but it’s certainly fitting.
Other Lincolns around Brooklyn are a little more gentle, or at least colorful, including one against an electric blue background, with flecks of white paint, like sparkles.
That piece is on view at AINAC’s 210 Gallery show, “Art is Not the Crime,” a legal and visual leap for the artist who was reportedly arrested for the Lincoln stencils in 2014. Or, at least, a 24-year-old named Vladimir Bubnov who may or may not be AINAC, was arrested. At any rate, while the charges were dropped, the stencils became scarce. A year later, AINAC is working in variety of mediums, and seemingly eager to move on from the controversy. For more information on the exhibit, visit 210 Gallery’s website: http://210.gallery/.
By ILANA NOVICK