Street dreams: Giant graffiti exhibition comes to Williamsburg

Street dreams: Giant graffiti exhibition comes to Williamsburg
Martha Cooper

This show will spray it and say it!

A new exhibit in Williamsburg celebrates graffiti artists and rule breakers with a massive display of street art. “Beyond the Streets,” opening on June 21 in a newly built, soon-to-be office building, showcases more than 150 of the world’s most important street artists, with a special focus on the Brooklyn artists who turned spraying paint on the side of a subway car into a global phenomenon, said the show’s curator.

“We have a lot of New York-focused pieces, and a lot of work that is historical,” said Roger Gastman. “There’s a section that is very hip-hop oriented, and there’s a section on activism, highlighting artists that have used street art to draw attention to specific causes.”

The gallery, which will be open for about two months, includes special sections devoted to counter-culture figures, with a tribute to the 30-year career of Shepard Fairey, whose work includes the ubiquitous stickers “Andre the Giant has a posse” and the Barack Obama “Hope” poster. Another installation is devoted to Brooklyn’s own Beastie Boys, featuring never-before-seen artifacts, song lyrics, and artwork inspired by the band.

“There are so many great Beastie Boys surprises that you’ve never seen before,” said Gastman. “We worked really closely with Adam [Ad-Rock] and Mike [Mike D] on the Beastie Boys exhibit. They were in the process of putting out a book, so they went through their archives, and they have saved up a lot of incredible things.”

The two-story exhibit takes up almost as much space as a Manhattan city block, and its sprawling array of paintings, pictures, and immersive installations means that people will likely visit the massive space multiple times, said Gastman.

Tag: Danish street artist Husk Mit Navn contributed this work, titled ‘Partner in Crime,’ to the exhibit in Williamsburg.
Husk Mit Navn

“It’s hard to claim definitively that it’s the biggest street art show ever, but it probably is,” he said. “There’s a lot to see. One visit alone will not give you a view of the whole show.”

Gastman said that Brooklyn provides the perfect backdrop for this expansive look at the medium, because the art is deeply rooted in the city.

“New York is so intertwined with the art form,” he said. “New York City didn’t start graffiti, but it made graffiti famous, so it’s amazing to bring it here and show how huge this culture is.”

Throughout the summer, the gallery will host artist talks and panel discussions on the past and future of street art, according to Gastman, who said the vast endeavour proves the mainstream viability of an art style often dismissed as vandalism.

“This art form is not just a subculture, or a blip in our culture,” he said. “It’s a full-blown art form, and it’s gotten bigger, bolder, and more innovative.”

“Beyond the Streets” at Twenty Five Kent [25 Kent Ave. between N. 12th and N. 13th streets in Williamsburg, (718) 213–8554, www.beyondthestreets.com]. On display June 21–July 31. Wed–Sun, 11 am–8 pm. $25.

Street smarts: The graffiti exhibit “Beyond the Street” features this photo of Lil’ Crazy Legs in Riverside Park during the 1980s.
Martha Cooper

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.