Reading the Streets: Around Williamsburg Bridge

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James Bullough, Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Jamie Rojo via


NEW YORK – A man has a loving moment with the skeleton pony he rides across a red backdrop on a South Williamsburg wall. Across the street, disembodied hands and fingers strain for connection. Such are the surrealist wonders that greeted me after a walk across the Williamsburg Bridge.

The skeleton pony (below) is by Zed1, an Italian artist whose work typically features soft, round-faced characters whose eyes are suspended in perpetual surprise. The scenarios are often surreal, though this piece stands out among his animal-centric work, as the animal in question has passed on, leaving only expertly, intricately rendered bones. I had no idea a skeleton could do anything except frighten me; the tender look the man gives this pony however, is evidence of more adorable qualities.


Zed1, Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Ilana Novick

Zed1, Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Ilana Novick


The hands across the street are by James Bullough, an American artist now based in Berlin whose work often features fractured or striated images, whether of a body part or building. In this case, we never meet the hands’ owners, but instead see the pointer fingers reaching towards each other, the second work I’ve seen this year that makes me think about Michelangelo’s Adam Reaching for God (the first was JR’s Tribeca ballerina), though the lack of any other identifying details makes it harder to determine which is which. Perhaps that’s the point.

Less surreal, but no less arresting is a mural I’ve wondered about for a year, overlooking a Broadway traffic island (below).

A young girl, rendered in black and white, rests her head in her hands and her elbows on the ground. Her eyes are shifted ever so slightly to one side, as if she’s contemplating a great mystery just out of the viewer’s reach. Her bangs curl up at the edges, as if they too are preoccupied.


Steven Paul and Colossal Media, Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Ilana Novick

Steven Paul and Colossal Media, Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Ilana Novick


When I saw that Colossal Media had a sign on the mural, I thought it might be an ad, as their murals can be. Turns out, this mural is the painted version of a photograph taken by the 17-year-old Steven Paul of his Edward R. Murrow High School classmate Nina Attal. Paul was one of the winners of the 2014 Scholastic Art and Writing Award. Past winners include Sylvia Plath, Andy Warhol, Truman Capote and Lena Dunham. The mural version of his black and white photograph was part of the prize.




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