Walls of fame: Take a tour of Bushwick art murals

Walls of fame: Take a tour of Bushwick art murals
Brianna Kudisch

He is taking it to the street!

An art historian has started a weekend tour of Bushwick’s best street art, delivering a museum-style docent’s lecture on the nabe’s graffiti and murals. During his Street Art Pilgrimage tours, Tony Huffman uses his graduate education to help visitors consider the painted figures as serious works of art, he said.

“As an art historian, I try to get people to think about images more critically — to stand in front of the images longer and try to parse them out, sit with the work and ask questions,” said Huffman, who lives in Bushwick. “It’s about trying to take that high caliber museum experience and translate that to the street.”

The $30, 90-minute tours make seven stops in the neighborhood, visiting notable works of street art from both local and international artists. One of Huffman’s favorites — an untitled mural of medieval figures climbing the neck of an enormous giraffe — was painted by Phlegm, a renowned British muralist at the behest of the Bushwick Collective art group. The tour guide said he delights in watching visitors try to make sense of the figures.

“It’s not immediately obvious what this is referencing, what this has to do, what this is symbolizing,” Huffman said. “That’s what’s great about street art — so much of it is rooted in figuration.”

Other works were commissioned by businesses, including the outside of the Brooklyn Cider House, where Huffman’s tour stops to marvel at an untitled mural featuring a robot with part of its skull removed, by Italian artist Pixel Pancho.

Huffman’s must-visit site for street art aficionados is “Red Hot Summer Day,” a mural depicting an astronaut trying to navigate across the surface of an alien planet, by Spanish artists Raoul and Davide Perré. The mural resonates with the neighborhood’s history as a longtime home for immigrants, he said.

“There’s a connection to the history of immigration in Bushwick, and the idea that new territory is kind of comparable to learning how to survive and navigate in a new environment,” Huffman said.

The street art murals are often seen as harbinger of gentrification, but Huffman wants to make the art more accessible for local residents, and he plans to launch half-price tours for locals before the end of the year, he said.

“I think [the art] did provide a lot more enjoyment and revitalization to everyday residents of Bushwick, but then as a consequence many people are being pushed out,” he said. “It’s a double-edged sword.”

Street Art Pilgrimage in Bushwick (start at Wyckoff Avenue and Star Street in Bushwick, www.facebook.com/streetartpilgrim). Fri–Sun; at noon and 7 pm. $30.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
I wanna iguana: Huffman uses his art history background to help people think more deeply about the street art around them.
Tony Huffman