Just a New York Conversation

Just a New York Conversation My drawing of Russell King's street art. 263 x 397 mm. March 2014.

Just a New York Conversation
My drawing of Russell King’s street art.
263 x 397 mm. March 2014.

When Matt and I were in New York for a week last August, Matt was going through a busy time with work.  He apologized each morning for having long skype meetings and not being able to come out.  I hope I looked suitably sorry about this.  In reality my thoughts were, “So long Sucker, I’m outta here…” as I dashed out the door each day, camera in hand.  “Call my mobile when you’re done!”  I was delighted to be out with my other companion (my camera).  All I wanted to do was explore the immediate neighbourhood…and I really do get the best photographs when I am by myself.

New York was rather overwhelming and big.  Where was the human scale?  In the street art.  I walked, searching out material by street artists.  A term I dislike is “stable of artists”.  Some galleries claim they have “a stable of artists” (thankfully not the gallery I’m with).  I don’t want to be anyone’s performing pony!  But if there ARE such things as stables of artists, then American street artists are unbroken mustangs out on the range.  They put art where they will.  And some of that art is quite beautiful.

I came across this piece on one of my lone morning walks.  I decided to take a line from Lou Reed for its title – “Just a New York Conversation”.  Who are the speakers?  Artist Russell King started the conversation.  A-trak, ASMA and the decomposing piece of paper piped in.  I, the viewer, am the other participant.  I am having an internal dialogue with the art.  I am thinking about the contrast between King’s work and its banal hard edge surroundings.  His piece celebrates the curvaceous seductive female.  She is a flirt and a tease yet her wistful gaze off to the distance suggests melancholy reflection.  The artist whispers to the passer-by, “pause and look” in the midst of a noisy rushing NY street.

I am not turned off by the other three additions on the receptacle’s surface either.  I am fascinated by their randomness and variety.  I wonder if ASMA is just somebody’s tag OR if the person is meaning asthma and is commenting on the pink smoke?  For if you say out loud “asma” it sounds like “asthma”.

Last week I had a brief written exchange with Russell King.  It was easy to find him on the internet since his name is written within the smoke swirls.  I wrote, “I’m drawing a piece of your street art.  I hope you don’t mind”.  Of course, I wondered what I would do if he replied, “Yes, I bloody well do mind!”  However, being a generous fellow-artist, he replied, “Go for it”.  Wasn’t he kind?!  I found an interview with him at www.powderzine.com titled “classic on nyc streets – russell king” which I recommend reading.

I don’t generally like going into dealer galleries.  I find them intimidating and sometimes snooty.  The art world can be so up itself.  Conversely, it is an utter joy to come across art in the open air.  It is one of the delights of life.  Thank you, Street Artists, for your daring and dialogue.  You have my attention, appreciation and admiration.

“Did you see what she did to him/did you hear what they said/just a New York conversation/rattling in my head.”

Related page:  Street art

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14 thoughts on “Just a New York Conversation

  1. Jonathan Beauchamp

    Love this street art stuff, there is a little here in Wellington too, have seen it about for getting on 17 years. I read your other street art peice and it reminded me of all the colour that such work adds to the streets of our wee town. The transient nature of it makes it so special and fragile, and also unique and intimate… as only a select group may ever see it. Last thought… Have you seen “exit through the gift shop”?

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Jonathan, it is neat that we catch up on the blog! Thanks so much for your imput. YES is the answer to your question. I saw Exit Through the Gift Shop several years ago with Matthew. We both loved it. We weren’t quite sure what we were seeing – whether it was a documentary or made up – maybe some of both. It certainly showed the craziness of the art world and how prices could be yanked up out of all proportion if one was really good at marketing.
      What you write about the street art you see reflects my thoughts exactly. Of course, like all art there is good and not-so-good out there in our towns.

  2. anna warren portfolio

    The more I look at this one, the more I like it – the pink is a bit of a shock, but it is right. I think she is dreaming of Russell King, with his name floating above her … or maybe that is what he would like! So few artists would make a signature quite so boldly! You get such a wonderful depth of colour, there is a great solidity to the artwork. Although it is impermanent by its very nature, it looks as though it will be there for a while!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Anna, it HAS been there for a while. Russell King has a facebook page. Just the other day, quite by coincidence, somebody posted a photo of this very site which I was working from. I am assuming that the FB photo was taken recently. Remember that I took my photo for this drawing in August 2013. The photo posted on Russell’s facebook page shows the work pretty much intact. There is some more peripheral stuff including some papers pasted over parts of Russell’s name. But the woman has been respected. The passage of time is one of the things I notice with street art. More gets added – including dirt.
      Russell King incorporates his name, in one way or another, into all his street art.

  3. Barbara moore

    Another good picture Julie. I have been photographing the street art here in Penang for some while, and have often wondered if I could paint them… I was afraid of copyright infringement. What is your take on this aspect?

  4. juliepodstolski Post author

    Hi Barbara, I contact the street artist every time I am able to, ie, if that artist has left his/her name and I can find him or her on the internet. I have contacted past street artists, but Russell is the first ever to reply. If I know the name or a name which the artist goes by I always write what it is. But I think the art is posted out there in the public domain. It is put there illegally in the first place so I think it would be a difficult thing to prosecute another artist for using it for his/her own art. Certainly if you tried to pass it off as your own creation you would be morally in the wrong. In this case, I am clearly showing that I found the street art and it was made by somebody else.

  5. Barbara moore

    Thanks Julie, I quite concur with your reply. Here in Penang, they are making a “tourist attraction” of the murals, so it might be a different situation. But as you say, every effort must be made to contact the original artist for permission, and recognition.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Barbara, so is the art you refer to in Penang, made by street artists or are you referring to murals where the artists have been paid by, say, local government?

  6. Jennifer Rose

    One of the projects I did last year in college was about Public Art, not really street art but it made me become a lot more aware of all of the hidden art that is out there. Most of the stuff in town is just graffiti tags, but there are places around Dundee, and there is a lot of space in Edinburgh to find street art, just wish I was closer to Edinburgh to go on a little hunt for it.

    Its great that you knew of the artist and he had no problem with you using his art in your art 🙂

    the art world can be very um…pretentious :/

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Jennifer, I would LOVE to walk around Edinburgh and Dundee with my camera. I have been to Edinburgh twice in my life. What an awesome city. As to the art world – I 100% agree with you.

  7. elisa ruland

    Julie, I don’t believe your posts are appearing in my reader, a blog reading vehicle I rely on way too much. I’ll bookmark your blog so I can check in more often, sorry to have missed so many wonderful posts!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Oh – Elisa – thanks for telling me. My slow response to you is because I’ve just returned a few hours ago from a New Zealand holiday. Same reason that there haven’t been any blogs from me for about two weeks.


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