In the past few years, a new breed of street artists have painted Manhattan’s boroughs red. One of the most prominent to arise from this underground movement is an anonymous illustrator known as “Hanksy.” With his brush soaked in pop culture sentiment, one that echoes pop art pioneers like Duchamp, Lichtenstein, and Warhol, the street art satirist kicked off 2014 by putting on a guerilla-style exhibition with the help of 30 of his most talented friends including Ski & 2esae, Icy & Sot, Bishop 203, ELLE, Gilf!, Nicolas Holiber, Alice Mizrachi, FoxxFace, Royce Bannon, Col Wallnuts, ASVP, Tony Depew, Dick Mama, Russell King, CB23, Cosbe, Mata Ruda, Wizard Skull, and more.
Over the period of three days an abandoned and soon to be knocked down building was transformed into an Alphabet City funhouse of emerging talent, curated by the controversial street art star. A month earlier, the building hosted a not-so-typical party, which acted as the catalyst for Hanksy’s group show concept.
Awkwardly leaning against the building’s second floor kitchen counter, in a room completely covered in broken glass, I’m holding out my microphone and trying not to move as Hanksy tells me the story about how he got the idea for the evening’s show. But I can’t keep my feet in one place, with every wiggle of my toes, a piece of ceramic plate or shard of glass cracks beneath me. Hanksy is laughing and asks if I am okay before continuing his tale. “So a month ago I attended a party here, and it was sort of billed as a ‘house destruction party’ and they bashed the shit out of it. I was thinking about it over Christmas break back home in the midwest . . . and I was thinking, ‘Man that would be really cool to decorate the place.’ It kind of heralds back to like 20 years ago in lower Manhattan when there was 50 of these burned out buildings just abandoned, and graf writers and taggers would go up there and do everything and I was like ‘Oh man it’s 2014! Let’s do that!’”
“I emailed a bunch of people, gave some paint dates, like, let’s really get in there, like let’s freakin’ cover this thing from head to toe as much as we can in one week and see where it goes. Everyone really pulled their weight and out-did themselves. I put up a couple pieces, and they’re not even special, I mean everyone else killed it, so I’m stoked.”
We are walking through a staircase lined hallway with most of the banister missing, passing through room after room, as fragments of a previous life litter every inch of the ground. Empty cans of spray paint, illustrations, globs of acrylic, and three dimensional sculptures fill the various bedrooms, bathrooms and halls of the four story walk up. I start to experience this surreal moment. Larger than life Cubism-style portraits drawn on windows and the backs of doors face illustrations of colorful, puffy-faced creatures sandwiched in between sketches of curvy female figures wearing nothing but thigh high tube socks with the words “Yummy Pussy,” scribbled next to them. And yet, there is a connectedness to the exhibit. This feeling of being a part of something special.