Q&A: Brooklyn Artist Aakash Nihalani Talks Designing Mixtape Covers For Das Racist and His New Show, Overlap, Opening at Bose Pacia This Thursday

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All images courtesy Bose Pacia
The young, Queens-born tape artist Aakash Nihalani did the geometrically stoned cover for Das Racist's Shut Up, Dude mixtape. He's had his distinctive, oddly placed, brightly colored tape installations ripped off by everybody from other street artists to Vampire Weekend. And he's got a new, Jeff Koons-pranking solo show up this Thursday at Dumbo gallery Bose Pacia, entitled Overlap. Das Racist, of course, are playing the afterparty at 17 Frost. In advance of Nihalani's solo debut at the gallery, we chatted a bit about the upcoming show and his brushes with various local musicians, both friendly and otherwise.

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Ten Pioneering Pieces Of Hip-Hop Street Art

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Triple Self Portrait. All images courtesy the Eric Firestone Gallery.
Street art has enjoyed a steady resurgence in rap over the last few years, with Kanye West and the Clipse jostling to let KAWS design their album and magazine covers, 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes appearing in music videos featuring the work of Brooklyn's Destroy & Rebuild, and Pharrell Williams starting the online community ARTST. But as a mode of expression, its style and swagger was forged by a wave of pioneering artists who took to New York City's streets and subway lines in the early '70s. That moment is profiled in the current Down By Law: New York's Underground Art Explosion, 1970s-1980s exhibition at the Eric Firestone Gallery, which documents how the subculture successfully moved from the train yards to the corporate world, ingratiating itself with hip-hop music along the way.

Blade and Coco 144 are two of the first-generation graffiti icons profiled in the exhibition. After coming to prominence in the '70s by painting his name on over 5,000 subway trains, Blade is certified graffiti royalty. Along with Andy Warhol, Blade is also the only living artist to have his work appear on the cover of the Sotheby's catalog. Fellow trailblazer Coco 144 made the train yard at Broadway and 137th Street his playground during the same era while also creating the world's first stencil movement--an invention that helped him swiftly spread his name throughout the city. With both artists on hand to offer expert commentary, here are ten pioneering examples of the development of New York City street art.

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Spiritualized's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space Lands on the Bowery

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Last year, O.G. English space-rock collective Spiritualized reissued 1997's dreamy classic Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, and commemorated the occasion by doing a series of ATP-sponsored Don't Look Back shows around the UK, performing the thing in its entirety. The band is doing the album exactly once stateside in 2010 and, lucky us, they're doing it in New York--July 30th at Radio City Music Hall, where J. Spaceman promises to bring along a choir, an eight-piece string section, and horns. Floating In Space is a beautiful record, and so, happily, is Radio City's striking advertising campaign for the show, which hit the Bowery sometime over the weekend. Above, the fancy black-and-white billboard currently towering over Great Jones Street; below, a close-up:

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Questlove Makes a Mighty Fine Stencil

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The Dude Company
175 Varick Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn.

French stencil artist The Dude Company rolled through New York in May for an Orchard Street Public Works Dpt. show and left behind some public works for the rest of us. He's been known to pay homage to unequivocally worthy subjects like the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King, Jr, but his best recent street pieces, technically speaking, come in the form of a few terrifically detailed stencils of Questlove. There's the near-perfect three-color one above, painted on a metal Varick Avenue door in Bushwick, and one on wood in Williamsburg:

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Justin Bieber's Lesbian Haircut Gets Taken to Task in Williamsburg

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Click to enlarge.
We like the idea better than the execution here, but these fictional Office of Blame Accountability bills wheatpasted on Bedford Ave, along McCarren Park, take all sorts of well-known figures task: Bloomberg (for "being a douchebag"), New Yorkers (for "returning to the values of 9-10"), and Steve Jobs (blamed for, uh, "Not enough handjobs"). But the one that's probably the most vaguely amusing, simply because it's posted in Williamsburg and targeted at the nation's most momentarily famous 16-year-old pop-singer and not, say, Grizzly Bear is this one:

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The 'Nirvana Baby' Chasing the Dollar on the Nevermind Cover Works for Shepard Fairey. Fitting, No?

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The last time we saw Spencer Elden, the chubby swimming baby on Nirvana's unforgettable Nevermind cover, he was the 14-year-old side-hatted skater boy above talking about his unwitting role in musical history. Now he's all grown up and living in Los Angeles, where he is working for OBEY. This is not a figure of speech: Shepard Fairey is the Nirvana Baby's boss. Now we're first in line to drum up the backlash to the Fairey backlash: not only is hating on the nation's First Artist so 2002, but dude is, by all accounts, a really good human who helped bridged the gap from REVS to Twist. That said, the fact that the baby chasing the dollar bill on the iconic symbol of '90s "alternative" culture now works for Shepard Fairey, who embodies the 21st-century commodification of underground culture, is, well, rich.

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Roger Waters Now Chumping Up Elliott Smith Murals For Some Reason

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Gustavo Turner
Our fine cohorts at the L.A. Weekly report on the recent, ill-advised street-art exploits of one Roger Waters, who has apparently commissioned folks in both L.A. and NYC to tag a Dwight Eisenhower quote onto various graffiti hot spots to promo his latest tour. Haven't seen evidence of this around here (have you?), but out on the West Coast, the result wound up on an Elliott Smith memorial wall. (Which apparently gets futzed with fairly regularly, but still.) Folks are most displeased. Somebody better be keeping an eye on that Shepherd Fairey mural.

Band of Horses Not Available? Let Les Savy Fav Soundtrack Your Street Art Instead!

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First Shepard Fairey gets up at the Music Hall of Williamsburg to the sweet, sweet strains of Band of Horses, Fugazi, and Metallica; now, it seems, Brooklyn vets Faile and their mysterious buddy Bast are getting in on the random street art-indie rock crossover act. The collective plus one have commissioned Les Savy Fav guitarist Seth Jabour to do the music at Deluxx Fluxx, a functional video arcade "programmed with games using Faile and Bast imagery," according to Gothamist, located at 158 Allen Street. It opens tomorrow, and will stay that way Tuesday through Sunday from 3-11pm until May 27th. Then after that Raymond Pettibon might clear his throat and deign to remind everyone he and Greg Ginn still run this particular niche, and will till the end of time.


When Shepard Fairey Vandalizes the Music Hall of Williamsburg, He Does It While Listening to Band of Horses

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Gregg Greenwood
So, if you're keeping track of Shepard Fairey-related activity around NYC, there is the wall on Houston Street, the Ace Hotel wrap-around, the May Day show at Deitch Projects and, last but not least, a permanent, indoor mural installation at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. That last bit happened over the weekend, when Fairey took to the upstairs bar and, in a kind of a grammatical nightmare of a sentence from the MHOW press release, set to work: "Listening to a playlist including Metallica, Fugazi, and Band of Horses, Fairey's pasted posters feature images demonstrating his disdain for the dysfunctional democracy and the need for campaign finance reform." Which would make those posters the savviest listeners in the history of wheatpasting, but never mind. Also, he disdains campaign finance reform? Bowery Presents, we got copy editors, holler at us.

Photos: Mr. Brainwash Makes Sid Vicious, Jay-Z, Slash of Out of Broken Records in the Meatpacking District

Categories: Photos, Street Art

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Sam Horine, more photos from the show here

You may recall the work of "street artist" Mr. Brainwash a/k/a Thierry Guetta from CMJ 2008: his Kanye and Jim Morrison canvases flanked the stage of the Fader Fort on the Bowery, the Friendly Fires posed in front of his Alfred Hitchcock LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL stencils. But Mr. Brainwash's music-world overlap also includes the Warhol-cribbing cover art of Madonna's Celebration; though lately, he's gotten attention for his involvement in the "Roger & Me"-esque Banksy-affiliated "documentary" that premiered at Sundance last month. In any case, MBW is something of a contentious figure: he's often accused of being a conceptual sham perpetrated by anonymous art-star Banksy. Don't have to dig deep for supporting evidence--nevermind the man's moniker, Mr. Brainwash has built a career out of pop-music-star portraits made of broken records. Such images were also the bulk of his solo show that opened on Valentine's Day in 15,00-square-foot Meatpacking District space; Sam Horine's photographs of the Beatles, Jay-Z, and one giant boombox below.

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