Williamsburg

A massive graffiti museum from Seth Rogen and LL Cool J is opening in Williamsburg

See artwork from Keith Haring and Shepard Fairey.

June 19, 2019 Scott Enman
Gajin Fujita shows off his artwork. "The colors here in Brooklyn are so vivid," he said. Eagle photo by Andy Katz

Work from 150 graffiti artists is on display at a new 100,000-square-foot graffiti and street art exhibition opening in Williamsburg on Friday.

Beyond The Streets, on view through August and curated by urban anthropologist Roger Gastman, highlights artists with roots in graffiti who transitioned from the streets to the studio — their creations evolving into highly disciplined work showcased in museums and galleries.

Artwork from Shepard Fairey. Eagle photo by Scott Enman

Stephen Powers, a Brooklyn-based artist who works under the name ESPO, said it’s fitting that the exhibit would return to Williamsburg, once considered the mecca for street art.

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“Williamsburg is the real natural habitat to write and see graffiti,” he said. “It was a graffiti wonderland, because there was nothing over here and nobody was investing in it. It’s funny that’s it’s turned into this extremely densely populated lucrative real estate nexus, but for us it’s always been a place to play.

“There’s such a long history here,” he added. “They can’t film a movie in New York without painting graffiti in the background to make it look authentic.”

A look inside Beyond The Streets. Eagle photo by Scott Enman
A look inside Beyond The Streets. Eagle photo by Scott Enman

In addition to breathtaking murals, the exhibit (presented by Adidas with input from actor Seth Rogen, rapper LL Cool J and Brooklyn actress Rosie Perez) features numerous immersive installations, like a functioning tattoo parlor situated on a porch stoop.

Beyond The Streets was curated by historian and urban anthropologist Roger Gastman. Eagle photo by Andy Katz
Beyond The Streets was curated by historian and urban anthropologist Roger Gastman. Eagle photo by Andy Katz

Gastman told the Brooklyn Eagle that the graffiti boom and the culture surrounding it was born in New York City’s subway, giving artists a public platform to showcase their work to thousands of wandering eyes.

The show strives to shed the stigma of graffiti as low art reserved for mischievous teens, and instead attempts to “elevate the art form and defy conventions,” according to Gastman.

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“This culture has been going on for over 50 years at this point and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon, no matter what laws are changed to make rules even stricter,” he said. “There’s always going to be a new group of young kids that just want to go write on shit.”

The two floor museum encompasses 100,00 square feet. Eagle photo by Scott Enman
The two floor museum encompasses 100,00 square feet. Eagle photo by Scott Enman

Some of the biggest names in the graffiti world will have their work showcased, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Shepard Fairey — who created the iconic Barack Obama hope mural — and Keith Haring, who rose to prominence out of New York’s street culture.

Haring’s iconic chalk outlines of figures were ubiquitous throughout New York City’s 1980s subway system, which the artist called his “laboratory.”

Beyond The Streets takes an expanded look at the role of artist activism. Eagle photo by Scott Enman

Beyond The Streets will also take an expanded look at the role of music and artist activism. The exhibit, which debuted last year in Los Angeles, features a special Beastie Boys installation with mementos from the band’s career, a vinyl record shop and neon signs with political messages like “DEPORT ICE.”

There will also be performances, lectures and films to supplement the art.

Beyond The Streets opens to the public on Friday and will be on view through August at 25 Kent Ave.

Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. $25.

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.


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