Jenni Avins

MOM and POPism at Gawker,

After New York’s gallerists and hoteliers, the latest establishment to relegate graffiti to a location other than the city’s streets is none other than Gawker. With MOM and POPism, they’ve elevated the art form to their newly finished rooftop on Elizabeth Street – a pretty privileged place on an August afternoon.

Curator Billi Kid, who got into street art when, in his words, he hit a mid-life crisis and “couldn’t afford the Porsche,” invited artists like Lady Pink, Cycle, and Peru Ana Ana Peru to paint head-high photographs from Karla and James Murray’s book, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York – a full-color ode to old NYC storefronts.
The rooftop result is a miniaturized model of butcher shops, bars, and bakeries that once lined our city’s streets, all decorated (or defaced, depending on your taste) to artists’ delights.

Last week, artists, gawkers, and old-school downtowners populated the diorama for an opening party, which sort of felt like socializing with elephants and hyenas in the Natural History Museum’s Hall of African Mammals.The artist Shiro, visiting from Shizuoka, Japan, kicked her legs in a wicker chair.

“I love New York too, too much,” she chirped, while the evening turned pink over the Soho skyline. “I have more graffiti friends here. In my hometown I am only one graffiti artist, so it’s sooo-ooo boring.”

Most of the artists commented on the camaraderie, and easy joy of rooftop painting as commissioned artists, rather than criminals.

“It beats central booking,” said Cycle.

It was photographing illegal graffiti that led the Murrays to storefronts like Matt Umanov’s guitar shop, which appears in a Bleecker Street panorama. Umanov, who has been in the West Village since 1962, noticed the artists hadn’t tagged the photo of his storefront. Even in graffiti’s Manhattan heyday, Umanov Guitars stayed pretty clean.

“We were insured by Smith and Wesson,” said the silver-haired shopkeeper.

It might be an exhibit of an ecosystem verging on extinction, but from there on Gawker’s rooftop, we were just far enough above Soho to believe the art was still alive.