NEW YORK – The irony of a graffiti show in a police station was too delicious to ignore entirely, but it was the sheer variety of styles, colors and the excitement of meeting new favorite pieces that made August’s “21st Precinct Show,” curated by Outlaw Art’s Robert Aloia, one of my favorites of the year. It was proof that even in our detached age, a clever concept is no match for witnessing the results of artists given the freedom to go joyfully crazy.
The former police station on East 22nd Street was most recently a shelter, and is soon to be pricey condos (the most luxurious holding cells in history?). For a beautiful, brief moment, however, it was tagged, spray painted, wheatpasted and stickered by an all star cast of artists including Elle, Matt Siren, Adam Dare, Sheryo and the Yok, Bunny M, RAE, Icy and Sot, and so many more.
In one corner was Ivanorama’s stark black and white wheatpaste of a young girl, pigtailed and wide eyed, screaming with her hands at the sides of her face in that classic Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone pose, with the words “NYC will eat you if you let it” written underneath. Even the children know the rent is too damn high.
On the wall of a room that once fingerprinted gangsters and prostitutes were Dali and Picasso, spray-painted into a boxing ring, with the command to “make art” written above. The piece gave no indication of who would win this particular match.
Reading the Streets favorites Icy and Sot contributed a stencil of a boy, faced obscured by a bandana, carrying a Coke tray filled with Molotov cocktails in the shape of soda bottles.
Upstairs, photographer Jesper Haynes recreated his ’90s era darkroom, complete with red lights, red drapes, and photos of the East Village in the late 80s and early ’90s. The Velvet Underground played in the background, as the people next to me chatted about nightclubs and friends and artists who moved on. I may or may not have teared up, but if anyone asks, I blame the heat.
Composure regained, I ended my trip with a visit to Queen Andrea’s room, all abstract neon shapes, including what looked like a sun who decided that yellow was just too limiting, and pink and blue and green and orange were much more appropriate for its special rays.
NYC may eat you if you let it, if you don’t, it just might give you some thrilling art.
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