We Own the Night: The Art of Project Underbelly.
Always the cloaked under-dog, street-art and its valiant subculture seem to leave the public privileged and always teeming for more. If this elusive world is half as smart as its trade implores it to be, then the exploding genre will continue to explode in hype, with scant crumbs like a Banksy film or book here and there, to further add fuel to the fire. Yes, the all too business savvy smarts of the street-art world know that their anonymity and mystery only increases intrigue and naturally decreases chances of a scrape with the law.
“A little pearl under the dark sea.”
We Own the Night (Rizzoli) is a book you’d have on your coffee table if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if Bart Simpson ran away from Springfield and hit the streets of New York City. From 2009-2010, street-artists PAC and Workhorse invited 103 of their closest friends and artists to an abandoned New York subway station. Night after night, for 72 weeks, these artists would quietly creep through the streets, manholes, and tunnels, to the walls of a station that would serve as their canvas. We Own the Night: The Art of Project Underbelly is one of those few crumbs these mice have left behind.
“If no one sees it, is it still important?”
With artists from all over the world, We Own the Night: The Art of Project Underbelly, gives readers a taste of the different styles, methods, and materials that go into producing urban murals. Some use stencils, others free hand with cans of paint, and a few paint with brushes. Colorful, abstract strokes by American artist Momo confidently contrast against Swoon’s meticulous monotone stencil work. Lister from Australia paints something like a 12x12 face in under an hour, while M-City from Poland stencils and sprays his way into a three-dimensional sewer-pipe that took over six hours to complete. Curiously, the French have a discerning cartoon-like DIY style that’s seen in works by Ema and Emile Souris while Roa from Belgium kills with an arresting depiction of two giant sewer-rats crouched over a platform staircase.
“…'It was a statement against the commodification of street-art,’ the truth of the matter is that we were just trying to have fun. To create our own tree fort complete with ‘Do Not Enter’ signs like we did when we were kids. The only difference is that our tree fort happened to be four stories underground, could hold 100 of our closest friends, and it looked spectacular.”
Street art and its meta self-reflexivity has been on radars since the 1990’s. With banters and captions reading “creative counter-reformation,” “public conversation,” and “civil well-being,” street-artists have been trying to dissolve the hype of what used to sprout from humble DIY seeds. Underbelly canonizes a vision, a whim, a utopia, shared by over a hundred individuals, by turning a tunnel into a museum and thereby securing a contemporary renaissance’s historical legacy. After all, “if it’s not illegal, it’s not graffiti.”
Artist: REVOK and CEAZE (United States) Completed April 2010
Artist: ROA (Belgium) Completed June 2010
Artist: LISTER (Australia) Completed March 2010
Artist: RIPO (Spain) Completed September 2009 (upper left)/Artist: SURGE (United States) Completed August 2009 (upper right)/Artist: FAILE (United States) Completed October 2009 (bottom)
Artist: TRUSTOCORP (United States) Completed March 2010
Artist: RON ENGLISH (United States) Completed October 2009
Artist: EMILE SOURIS (France) Completed April 2010
Written by: Roxy Satarzadeh