Books & Art

A Filipino Photographer Is Capturing Coronavirus-Era Street Art in New York City

Artists present a meditation on New York City street art in the time of coronavirus.
IMAGE Arlu Gomez
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Urban street art distinguishes itself from traditional art forms in that the amount of time it takes to arrive at a finished piece is significantly shorter than, say oil painting or glass sculpture. Street artists also do not necessarily need to kowtow to art world higher ups, giving them a huge amount of flexibility to react quickly and pursue themes that would otherwise be considered too controversial or unpalatable for the typical gallerist, museum or art collector. 

Take, for instance, the celebrated pop artist Keith Haring, who peppered city walls and subways with his distinct line art in the ‘80s. Working quickly and cautiously under the risk of getting arrested for vandalism, Haring boldly tackled the issues of his day, such as drug addiction, gay rights, and the AIDS epidemic, which would later claim Haring’s life in 1990. Untypical of street art, the lifespan of which depends on how long it takes before another artist cover it up or whether it can withstand the next rainstorm, Haring’s iconic mural from 1986, “Crack is Whack,” has withstood the test of time and remains visible today as one drives down FDR Drive in New York City.

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It is in this tradition that contemporary street artists bring society's most pressing issues to light through attention-grabbing visuals and catchy slogans plastered in public spaces, uninvited but nevertheless relentless in their objective to get their views and messages across.

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The pandemic has slashed its way through every fabric of modern living, forcing a sharp evaluation of how one’s lifestyle would need to adapt in order to stay safe and healthy. Almost instantly, New York City street artists planted their collective fingers on the pulse of what it is like to live in a post-corona world, producing a flurry of artwork from the poignant to the optimistic. Clearly, the writing’s on the wall.

Though sharing the same name with the virus that has caused over 400,000 deaths globally, Mexico-brewed Corona Extra led the pack in US beer sales, which jumped 16% in early May. Artwork by @DeGrupo

Photo by Arlu Gomez.
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Social Distancing quickly became the new buzz term for 2020, prompting New York City street artists to incorporate the concept of proxemics in their urban messaging. Artwork by @DeGrupo

Photo by Arlu Gomez.

It is advised to scrub one's hands with soap for a full 20 seconds, which is the time it takes to sing the entire alphabet or, if you're a Lea Salonga fan, a heartfelt chorus of Aladdin's A Whole New World (#LSHandwashTunes)

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Photo by Arlu Gomez.

Artist Libby Shoettle, a.k.a. @PhoebeNewYork, dressed her muse in a mini dress bearing a timely message. With matching Mary Janes, of course, to catch the attention of scurrying pedestrians along Houston Street

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Artist @Jkosart proposes that today's hero not only wears a cape and gloves, but also apparently practices social distancing

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Masks seem to have replaced diamonds as a girl's best friend, at least according to this masked Marilyn. Artist unknown

Photo by Arlu Gomez.
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Reminiscent of Picasso's monumental anti-war masterpiece, Guernica, this Cubist piece by Lecrue Eyebrows (@art_by_eyebrows) brings attention to a new kind of war, this time of a medical-political nature, being fought in a post-Covid world

Photo by Arlu Gomez.

In a myriad of ways, the pandemic has brought about seismic changes in the way we live, radically bringing forth what's now referred to as the new normal. Or, in this case, the new Monday. Multiple artists unknown

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Musician Janeese (@Soulthundre) composed this intriguing collage by appropriating images from aviation and Renaissance art, then fused them with essential Corona accountrement

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Veering from her usual intergalactic themes, artist @MarzipanPhysics takes inspiration from the everyday and the mundane in the spirit of Andy Warhol's Pop Art, begging the question, Are hand sanitizers the new Campbell's Soup Can?

Photo by Arlu Gomez.

Leonardo Da Vinci's Lady with Ermine receives a timely makeover from Alisa Seliverstova (@russian.dollnyc), though as of press time it has yet to be determined whether ermines are prone to contracting Covid19

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Photo by Arlu Gomez.

One is safe to assume that Mona Lisa is maintaining her pleasant countenance underneath that mask, though luxury brands, on the other hand, have lttle to no incentive to smile, given the severe impact of the pandemic on global retail sales. Artwork by Alisa Seliverstova (@russian.dollnyc)

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Photo by Arlu Gomez.

The skull has always been a popular image amongst street artists, and serves as a memento mori for everyone living in the post-corona age. Artist unknown

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Right off Avenue A in NYC's Alphabet City, a valid truth is spelled out clearly in black and gold spray paint by an anonymous tagger

Photo by Arlu Gomez.

How will a world where masks and face covers are the new normal redefine contemporary portraiture? This "Family Portrait" proposes a possible direction. Artwork by @citykittystreet

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Photographer @JR, who installs large-scale black and white portraits in public spaces, focuses his lens on front line workers, such as this striking headshot, displayed strategically in downtown Soho

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A closer look at artist Drew Roth's artwork reveals an intriguing statement about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which have been in extremely high demand since the pandemic started in early 2020

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Artist Con$umr (@consumerart) pays tribute to "New York Tough" Governor Andrew Cuomo, a key figure in the state's handling of the Covid19 crisis, earning admiration -- physical or otherwise -- from people who have come to be known as Cuomosexuals

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Photo by Arlu Gomez.

Artist Sara Lynne (@saralynne.leo) depicts the suffocating nature of confinement as a result of stay-at-home orders, depicted as a trapped firefly which, of course, glows in the dark

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This artwork, spotted along Freeman Alley in the Lower East Side, conveys the overwhelming sense of ennui shared by many as a result of the pandemic. Artist unknown

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Artist Captain Eyeliner (@captain_eyeliner) takes an encouraging view of the pandemic by sending a much-needed affirmation of one's inner strength, both physical and emotional

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Walking around NYC, one will surely spot random messages from @HeartsNY, which exude the same warm and fuzzy feelings as their namesake Valentines candies

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For devout Catholics, artist Straker (@muralist) offers in the East Village an impromptu altar featuring the Madonna and Child in his trademark fluorescent neon style

Photo by Arlu Gomez.

An anonymous tagger only needed three words to convey a message so beautiful in its simplicity

Photo by Arlu Gomez.
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Arlu Gomez
Arlu Gomez
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