What with all this Occupy _______ going on, it's easy to forget the many other messages and demonstrations we pass by on our daily routines.
If you're familiar with the Brooklyn Navy Yards, you've likely seen a funny blue fish head adhered to a tree embedded in the fence. Take a spin around New York City's Financial District and you're enthusiastically implored to "Post Mad Bills" or more forcefully reminded of the dubious fact that "Dolphins Rape People." (Who comes up with these?)
And have you ever noticed cryptic chalk or coal markings on the sides of buildings and other areas frequented by those defined as "migratory workers" or "homeless vagabonds"? You may be observing what's developed into a hobo code used to provide directions, information and warnings to other hobos.
If you've ever looked down, then you're probably well acquainted with Stikman (those cute little robots stuck on the road and crosswalks). If you tend to look up, a Neck Face tag or two has certainly creeped into frame. And let's be honest, if you have eyes, then by now, you know to "Obey."
Mix in an endless variety of murals, tags, stickers, cover-up paint, pop-art posters, 3D installations, ads, movie billboards, road signs, street signs, park signs, mosaics, digital media (and everything in between), and you've got quite the overwhelming pile of visual static!
Bottom line: albeit counter-culture or mainstream, subversive or subservient, overt or obscure, arranged or ad-hoc—whatever your thoughts may be or if you even have any on street art, it's undeniable that messaging and imagery abound.
Refocus on Brooklyn lately, and you may be noticing some curious installations going up in the Brooklyn community. Yes street art is just about everywhere in Williamsburg and Greenpoint—but they were never framed, and certainly never "curated" in a way to help filter the noise.
Here and there, sporadic picture frames have been appearing on building walls. Some big, some small, some tacky and others bourgeois. There's no one style of frame, nor any one theme that seems obvious—but they do seem to have at least two elements in common:
They each frame a pre-existing piece of street art, and
They all have the logo "Who arted?"
And that's the puzzle. What's motivating this small undertaking to curate Brooklyn's visual landscape? Is there some connection between the alien spaceship on Newel, the male spider webbed face on Wythe, and the I Love NY stencil near Meserole that has a spray paint can in place of the heart and even sports a fake art lamp?
One could venture a guess: That, amidst all this murky chaos, these pundits are seeking some definition. Don't we all, as individuals, desire that others know what concerns us and delights us? What we find relevant and humorous, and what we see worth noting? What we cherish and enjoy; and what we rail against when it threatens our day-to-day?
It is worth noting that tacking up frames is technically deemed public vandalism according to New York State law. And while this article doesn't condone the "willful destruction or defacing of property," it does seem at times tolerated in the city...
And in a way, isn't New York known for its street art? Is there any doubt that it adds to the richness and texture we cherish in New York—with its ever-changing backdrop and ever-evolving imagery and experience?
New York has always celebrated its diversity and color and these frames celebrate this in their own way too—by drawing our eyes and calling out the fun and the quirky, the colorful and crazy covering our city surfaces.
But what are we to take away? Is this some counter-establishment commentary? Some kind Dadaism reincarnated or an art project born of a lazy Saturday evening "potluck" that comes in little plastic baggies? Ha!
Is it some conservative attempt to contain and sterilize an otherwise loose and "free" art form? Are these frames meant to control and connote a more sanctioned museum-like quality?
—OR—More intriguingly, is this a fun, yet purposeful recommendation towards a comfortable middle ground; a less combustible space between tension and expression? Interesting indeed.
Whatever way you spin it, it doesn't feel entirely complete. It's still immature in the making and perhaps it's worth waiting it out. What's to lose?
At a minimum, it's amusing. The frame's are largely harmless and if someone's making the effort to highlight the urban pages for me, who am I to complain? Isn't New York your "living room" anyway?
Let's admit this: It is rather clever. After all, not all craft is housed in museums, and not all crap is craft. But try this: Celebrate the frames and appreciate the gesture.
Which leaves just one more question... seriously, Who Arted?