NEW YORK – This week, Martin Shkreli, alleged price-gouger of lifesaving AIDS and cancer drugs, was arrested for securities and wire fraud. Shkreli was making headlines for the $2 million purchase of “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” the single-pressing album by rap group the Wu Tang Clan. Needless to say, the Shkreli connection tested my devotion to the group, even though they have nothing to do with Shkreli’s business dealings. Which brings me to Duke A. Barnstable’s work, sitting quietly (and appealingly) on Lispenard Street, near Church Street, which may have renewed my faith.
Against a backdrop of random tags, there are kittens wearing signs with Wu Tang Clan song names written beneath them in black marker. Among those tags are: “Protect Ya Neck,” and “Bring the Ruckus,” and others. The juxtaposition of the sleeping kittens and tough phrases melted my heart on the spot. Those paws! Those tightly closed eyes! It was clever and cute, and may or may not have been responsible for lost hours spent pining for felines on Petfinder.
Prior to blessing TriBeCa walls with cats, Barnstable gained notoriety three years ago for installing signage at the 2012 Frieze Art Fair’s sculpture park, claiming credit for assorted rocks and trees. Following that stunt, he had a series of pieces lampooning art world luminaries on the streets near West Chelsea galleries. These included a voodoo doll of New York Magazine’s art critic Jerry Saltz, and a flyer featuring a William Wegman Weimaraner with a exasperated thought bubble stating “Hey William Wegman, enough with the dogs.”
The cheekiness remains intact, even without art-star targets. In fact, Barnstable’s cats may have reminded me of what I love so much about street art, and a certain group of 7-9 rappers out of Staten Island. As the entire Internet can attest, if you need to restore your faith in anything, just add cats.
By Ilana Novick