Pebbles Russell and Jonathan Neville saw the perfect opportunity to make their mark on one of their favorite neighborhoods in the city with artwork and proposed the Centre-Fuge Project to the 1st Street Block Association. A few months later they received the go-ahead to reinvent the outside of the 36-foot trailer that is parked on the south east side of 1st Street near 1st Avenue. Their goal: to show that despite the construction that has made the block feel more like a work site than a neighborhood, there is still a thriving community of creative individuals working together.
Created in memory of their friend and local neighbor, Mike Hamm, the duo is calling upon a rotating roster of multimedia artists to re-enliven the neighborhood. Every two months, between two to seven artists at a time will create work on all visible sides of the structure. The first installation includes artists Osvaldo Jiminez, Matt McCormick, Samuel Jojo Ashford, Optimo and Dr. Whom. A re-creation of one of Hamm’s pieces has also been painted by Pebbles and will remain on the east face throughout the year.
The artists, many of who are native New Yorkers, come from a variety of backgrounds. Optimo NYC’s talent adorns the trailer’s west-facing side. Using the two existing barred windows of the trailer, the graffiti artist has created a face with a bandana that reads, “Children have natural ability to cr8. Don’t stop them.” The artist began painting at the age of 12 and can be found sharing his artwork from the streets of Soho to Art Basel. He draws inspiration from Dr. Seuss and Vaughn Bode, and from the work of contemporaries like Toofly and Wolf One.
The south face of the trailer features the work of two artists. The western half is covered with a large black and white wheat-pasted photo by Osvaldo “OJ” Jimenez. The artist hails from Harlem and the LES and after barely escaping a hit and run in Brooklyn, turned to a point and shoot camera to capture his experiences. A street photographer, he brings a unique New Yorker perspective to both his work at home and abroad. The photo titled “Crayons in Cambodia” is from a recent trip to Cambodia.
The second half of the south face provides the base for Matt McCormick’s spray and acrylic painted portrait of a lounging James Dean. Mostly black and white, the piece is representative of McCormick’s tattoo and ink style paintings and drawings. His work fuses Mexican folk art, classical American iconography, and mid-century abstract expressionist portraiture.
On a more whimsical note, the north face features the colorful work of two artists. Dr. Whom uses bold colors to create a crazy scientist scene and a beautiful burner that jump out against the black background. The Chelsea born and raised artist became fascinated with street art at a young age when he would take the 1 train uptown to visit his grandmother. He was especially taken with the colorful walls at 125th Street that had been transformed by some of spray paint’s greatest legends. Today he leaves his own mark in plenty of unexpected places.
The second half of the north face features a softer, playful scene by fellow New Yorker Samuel Jojo Ashford. Using acrylic, latex and oil paint, the Brooklynite’s metal canvas features a baby in a Giants hat connected to his dreams about what the world has to offer. A green cityscape with blue skies provide a background to the huge dream bubble that dominates the frame and floats into Dr. Whom’s work. Within the bubble, childlike drawings of material objects, people and animals float in a pale yellow space. As explained by Centre-Fuge, “Sam’s work is an attempt to make sense where there is none, and bring some nonsense to where there is too much.”
The first set of artwork will be on view until March 10th when a new group of artists will once again transform the public space with their creativity.
All images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat