It’s not often that New Yorkers get an opportunity to see the art of three international street artists right next to each other. But here in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Hellbent, Aakash Nihalani & Rubin, were commissioned to create their art on huge sections of a protective wall. It stands outside of the renovation project of what was the historic Domino Sugar factory on the shores of the East River. While the artists embrace the abstract, they are so different in technique and form. And each helped me to see and understand something new about the meaning of art. (Click on each image to enlarge.)
Hellbent uses a color-pallet that is rich & vibrant along with a multitude of stenciled effects and patterns—from floral to geometric. He contains the wildness of these patterns and color within evenly spaced chevron styled bands that travel across the surface, giving the work great energy even while it’s controlled. The long row of bands are on either side of a semi-circle which seems to represent the center of the piece. The forms within the semi-circle are also are contained. While they are related to the other patterns & forms, these appear more in motion, going in many different directions—they have an energy all their own.
Aakash uses the geometric form in another way. He creates a space of rectangular shapes which both rise & fall that give a three-dimensional effect. Do they recede or do they come forth? They seem to question both geometry & space itself. While there is control in the use of color; flat blue within each of the forms, and a similar thickness of the black outline, all the shapes are different, and co-exist with a very free-form graffiti. Did the artist find the graffiti on the wall and choose to incorporate it, or was it apart of the original plan? Either way it’s part of the wonder of the piece.
Rubin, with a style reminiscent of Art Deco, gives his dynamic forms of triangles, rectangles, squares, spheres and other forms, an energy that challenges the stillness of the static wall. His use of color and the juxtaposition of these forms seem to put this wall into motion. The forms adhere to a strict geometry, but also move about with energy & grace. Wherever you look there is a sense that the shapes belong, yet you also feel a sense of something random—still in motion. And then there is the surprise of that large circular form. While the only circle in the piece, it contains some of its greatest energy where the lively colorful symmetrical & asymmetrical forms seem to be looking for a place to settle.
After photographing the making of these dramatic murals over a period of time, not only was I affected by the difference of the artistry of each of the pieces, I also was excited to see that each had something wonderful in common that showed a crucial aspect about the meaning of art itself. In his historic 1955 work, “Is Beauty the Making One Of Opposites?” Eli Siegel, critic and founder of Aesthetic Realism, explained the central thing about beauty and art that had never been stated before. In the first of 15 questions about beauty he asks about freedom and order:
FREEDOM AND ORDER DOES every instance of beauty in nature and beauty as the artist presents it have something unrestricted, unexpected, uncontrolled?—and does this beautiful thing in nature or beautiful thing coming from the artist’s mind have, too, something accurate, sensible, logically justifiable, which can be called order?
I believe these works clearly say, Yes! Everywhere you look the opposites of freedom & order are in a friendly and dynamic team. There is so much life to these works it would be impossible to try to fully describe it here. But I hope I’ve put down some thoughts that will encourage you to go to the old Domino Sugar plant, and really enjoy yourself by appreciating the art on the wall. For more photos of these works in progress visit my website: www.harveyspears.com