Outside-In: SoHo’s Plywood Art Goes from Street to Gallery in New Bowery Union Exhibit

Posted on: August 11th, 2020 at 5:06 am by

Photo: Eddie Panta

When the Bowery Union began its Street Art Project on May 10, the local art collective was reacting to artists’ need to share their work, buoyed by the public desire to engage on a physical level. The group envisioned a visceral experience that museums and galleries couldn’t provide amidst the shutdown, when only virtual tours were possible.

Their Street Art Project brought member-created art to the public by wheat-pasting poster reproductions on plywood barriers of shuttered storefronts around SoHo. The endeavor soon expanded and incorporated reproductions of local and international artists who answered a call to submit pieces. For instance, the entire corner storefront of Kate Spade was already boarded up when, on May 21, the Bowery Union transformed the blank plywood into an outdoor gallery.

Photo: Eddie Panta

The reopening of the city then triggered a mad scramble by artists to rescue these public artboards, both from the curb and from collectors who were already eyeing quick profit.

But the hard work by the Bowery Union crew appears to have paid off. The team just launched an indoor version of this new art form, which has gained local and international media attention.

The current exhibit at their Broome Street gallery displays over a dozen boards rescued by the team. While it is seemingly the first to exhibit this hybrid form of street art, it’s likely not the last. Yet it is fitting that the Bowery Union showcase is the first since the collective began, just prior to the Justice for George Floyd protests which served as inspiration for other similar artists groups.

The Bowery Union approach wasn’t a direct reaction to the protest, politics, or the pandemic, but is nevertheless daringly subtle and subversive in comparison to the street art of the moment.

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The Street Gallery Project started in May and we never want to stop. Here’s a Photo gallery timeline of storefronts we put together for you to help share our journey these past months. —— Photos arrange from oldest to newest Each photo is the first photo taken of that store front before they evolved —— Start of Project – May 6th —— May 10th Gentle Monster Wooster and spring —— May 21st Kate Spade Broome Soho ——- May 22nd Prince street store window (George Floyd was killed -May 25th ) Refreshed spots with new posters – June 10th Black Lives Matter murals start being created in soho – June 12th ——- June 15th Mckenzie-Child Spring and West Broadway ——- June 15th Sunglasses Hut Spring and West Broadway. Refreshed QR codes -June 16th-July 20th ——- June 19th Hugo Boss Prince and Broadway Reclaim boards -June 28th McKenzie-Child and Gentle Monster to archive ——— July 4th Crosby Street ——— July 23rd Reopening of the gallery ______ New locations of The Street Gallery Project TBA Every location was special for different reason. When we first started this project and as we continued it we like many other small business owners were struggling to plan for reopening and ontop of that our gallery faced floods in the basement, and other obstacles that we worked hard to overcome, including bullying and hate from our own community members. But we have been persevering, one reason is because of this project. Through out that time not only did the artwork bring a bright light to our neighbors but also to us who enjoyed stepping out of our own problems to share art. It put smiles on our neighbors faces, to the artists, and to ours as well.

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Inside 329 Broome, the boards resemble artifacts of a tragic and historic time rather than finished canvases. And this is what sets the Bowery Union apart from similar collaborative efforts. The boards aren’t dedicated to one artist like a canvas and ideology doesn’t trump aesthetics. The artists were posting the work that had already been created. And now, in retrospect, it’s interesting to see how many of the pieces were prophetic.

Reproduction of painting on plywood by Bowery Union member Danielle Klebes, Photo: Eddie Panta

In this way, the collective transformed the plywood into an ephemeral collage – a community art board of sorts that inspired graffiti writers and even amateurs, who also felt a need to create in the public physical realm after months of isolation.

The results of these collaborations are the highlight of the show.

Marco Villard, a French-born artist new to street art, was on the scene while Bowery Union artists were at work. Villard, who was looking to paint large-scale on an entire board, was not dissuaded from painting over a posted reproduction of one of Bryant Small’s colorfield paintings.

Unplanned collaboration between Marco Villard and Bowey Union member Braynt Small, Photo: Eddie Panta

By the end of the months-long Street Gallery Project, 50 different works were imparted onto boarded-up storefronts. Of those, over a dozen were rescued and preserved by the collective for the show. Artist and spokesperson for the Bowery Union, Amanda Hurn, tells us that none of the works are for sale and that the groups plans to maintain the collection for future exhibitions.

Photo: Eddie Panta

The Bowery Union gallery is located at 329 Broome Street on the Lower East Side. The show has been active for two weeks now but will end with a closing party on August 27.

Photo: Eddie Panta

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