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It’s Not a Tag, It’s Art

It’s certainly not your stereotypical art opening. No stark gallery walls, no awkward classiness, no black-clad intensity, no pretention. A mass of 20-somethings spills from the alley alongside the Ultraviolet Café, bottled beers in hand. More people arrive, and the wine breaks out in the café. People sip cabernet from plastic cups as they peruse the art hanging in the café, in the alley, and—the main attraction—the 40-foot-tall mural that now runs along entire side of the Spectrum 8 Theaters. The mural, Pinstripe Marauder, officially opened Monday night, along with a weeklong art show at the Ultraviolet Café featuring smaller pieces by the mural’s three creators, Mr. Prvrt, Dwell, and oneUnit, three of the Capital Region’s most active and respected graffiti artists. Pinstripe Marauder is the largest project the team has ever taken on.

It’s certainly not your stereotypical graffiti art. Graffiti—it’s one of those wildly encompassing terms that makes some people think of gang tags and sharpie scrawlings on bathroom walls, while others think street art, urban revitalization, public expression. You’ll find no aimless scrawlings here. The mural, commissioned by the Spectrum owners who have long been fans of the trio’s work, is elaborate, intricate and thoroughly planned. A huge, freakish, human monster cowers against the edge of the wall, eyes goggled, sneakers untied, anxious. A flock of crows swoops through the aerial space, detailed down to the ruff of their feathers. A crowd (much like tonight’s) trails the length of the wall, pointing, swatting birds, snapping pictures, the folds of their clothes almost tactile. The overall effect is near-photorealistic, created entirely with stencils and spray paint. The team took hundreds of reference photos, which they broke into gradients on the computer, then hand-drew and -cut the stencils used to spray the mural.

Mr. Prvrt, with a beaming smile, speaks entusiastically about the mural and about graffiti art in general. He believes graffiti art has worked its way into galleries not only because it is omnipresent, but because it is a vibrant, expressive, and connecting form of art. “It has more life than art just made to hang on walls,” He says. “It’s art for the community, art to interact with.” It’s that very sense of interaction that Pinstripe Marauder is created around. Not only are the subjects of the mural all members of the community (a little package of a boy rolls by us on wheelie-sneakers—he’s sprayed on the wall as a tiny policeman), but the people who stop to take in the massive scene become part of it. Like those on the wall, the living crowd walks by, points, snaps pictures. And then there are the crows—thousands of crows roost behind the Spectrum, often swooping by the mural, almost blending in.

In addition to the Spectrum’s Pinstripe Marauder, the Ultraviolet Café is full of smaller pieces by Mr. Prvrt, Dwell and oneUnit. Almost all of them incorporate elements from the mural, including huge crows, tiny squirrels, scrollwork, small-scale versions of the crowd and the monster. The show allows a glimpse of the individual artistic styles of each artist, and how the trio weaves those styles together in the mural.

The debate over the legitimacy of graffiti art may continue indefinitely, but as Monday night demonstrated, so will the art form itself.

—Kathryn Lange

PHOTO: Leif Zurmuhlen

Classy Trash

The 7th annual Discard Avant Garb, the notorious and celebrated “recycled fashion show,” was held Sunday evening at Capitol Repertory Theatre on North Pearl Street in downtown Albany. In addition to the couture made from transformed refuse that adorned the models who stalked the catwalk, there was a variety of entertainment. Poet and performance artist Mary Panza served as master of ceremonies. MotherJudge sang. Ex-Firlefanz Gallery mainstays Ed Atkinson and Cathy Frank staged a puppet production of The Frog Prince, with music by cellist Monica Wilson. And Jeffrey Jene worked his magic.

The sold-out event, which was cosponsored by Tess’ Lark Tavern (where the after-party was held) and Metroland, raised funds for Albany Center Galleries and the Chris Ryan Scholarship Fund. Pictured are a model dressed as, we suppose, a robot, and another model with Discard Avant Garb cofounder Roxanne Storms.



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