Investigating LES Street Art

A couple of weekends ago, on a very cold, but sunny, Saturday morning, I joined Brooklyn Brainery‘s LES street art tour with Saddle Shoe Tours. It was really more of a Lower East Side/East Village/Bowery exploration, as we curved a little above Houston before going south. Although I’m in this area almost every day for work and definitely keep an eye out for strange street art, I’d never known who the artists were, or some of the awesome hidden-yet-visible vibrant works of art. Below are some highlights:

One of the first discoveries was this little space invader, which I’d somehow never spotted myself. Although I do keep a wandering eye for them on my travels. Invader, the street artist who creates and installs the little mosaic grids, is originally from France, but you can find them all around the world. This one in Paris is still my favorite.

Roa paints giant versions of animals in black and white, which are often sleeping or in a state of peace. (Here is a tumblr that lets you see much of Roa’s work.) A rat seems appropriate for just about any section of NYC, as rats are our most prolific mammal wildlife, but you can also see other Roa in other corners of the city, including a squirrel, rabbit, and bird.

The wall at Houston and Bowery has seen a rotation of mural art, including recent works by Kenny Scharf (my photo), Shepard Fairey, and JR. The current piece by Faile used to have a cool prayer wheel component, but it had been stolen by the time of this tour. In 2010, I visited the arcade that the Brooklyn-based Faile collaborated on with Bast. It was kind of a trip.

This pink machine gun was installed by TMNK (which stands for The Man Nobody Knows). This was pretty securely bolted down to the wall, but I walked by this week and saw it had been removed. Even the most industrial of street art is ephemeral.

There were quite a few works by Shepard Fairey (you know him), mostly in the form of stickers. I liked this dove that was soaring up on a tenement.

This building at the corner of Bowery and Spring is absolutely covered in street art (including the above). You might think with all the tags and blocked out windows that the building was abandoned. Alas, it’s worse than that. One family owns it and lives in the massive building like a mansion.

Here are some more photos from the building at Bowery and Spring:

A paste-up collage.

The sinister remains of a paste-up of the Steeplechase Man.

And here’s one last photo from Bowery and Spring: some charming mosaic hummingbirds.

The ASVP posters are created by a collective of graphic designers, except without clients they are able to create whatever crazy future cop riding a koi fish thing they want.

I forget the name of the artist, but these burlesque ladies added some 1940s class to the street.

These dripping jellyfish were pleasing.

This was probably my favorite thing that I saw all day. If you’ve seen Sleep No More, my immersive theatre obsession, you might know why this Peggy Lee reference, “Is that all there is?”, caught my eye. If you haven’t seen Sleep No More or are tired of my incessant rambling about it, appreciate the textural aesthetic of this wall.

This street artist made a band-aid to patch up a crack in the wall.

Kenny Scharf, one of the most visible artists to come out of the NYC scene in the 1980s, recently painted these shutters with his instantly recognizable colorful characters.

I’m not sure what’s going on with the Monopoly Man here.

So there is your quick e-tour version of the LES street art tour! Now that I know what to look for, more street art is catching my eye, and it’s fascinating to watch it change from week to week, a never-ending collaboration between the urban environment and the artists.

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