Street art. Is there a more democratic art form? Existing in the public space and free for anyone willing to look, street art is emancipated from the uninspired walls of commercial galleries and mundane institutions. From residents whose daily commutes are brightened by its presence, to visitors just passing through, street art is often a testament to the diverse, vibrant soul of the communities in which it stands.
Through private business commissions, independent works, and those executed in partnership with Mayor Fulop’s JC Mural initiative, Jersey City residents are surrounded by walls hosting an abundance of masterful work by some of the country’s most genuine artists.
Below I’ve highlighted 5 artists whose work you’ve seen around town.
And let us know your favorite street artists and mural designs in the comment section below.
1) Dylan Egon
When I wonder if there are still rock stars in the art world, I remind myself of this guy. Represented by Jonathan Levine Gallery, (a new addition to Mana’s growing roster of independent tenets) Egon’s American-grunge aesthetic hits back at our consumerist tendencies. You can find his wheatpaste designs and a smattering of stickers on the sides of buildings, backs of street signs and currently on the ceiling of Lucky 7’s Tavern downtown.
And you may have seen Dylan Egon cruising around town in one of the vintage cars he’s restored.
2) Mr Mustart
I met Ivan Petrovsky when I drunkenly banged on the door of a studio space close to my apartment not knowing what I’d find. Lucky for me, it was Mustart and he was cool enough to talk to me about what he was working on and where he came from.
Originally from Russia, he moved to the US at 14 and graduated with a BFA from NJCU in 2009. Since then he’s become one of the most popular street artists in the New York City area with his murals ubiquitous on Jersey City’s streets. You can pick out his distinctive work by its colorful swirling style, which often incorporates text sprinkled throughout the composition. The words read like a stream of consciousness diary entry, noting basics like where he’s working or more serious ruminations about creativity, reality, and positive affirmations.
3) Norm Kirby
You know Norman Kirby for his playful designs woven in ribbon on hurricane fences all around Jersey City. Often uplifting, I see these works as daily reminders of life’s small joys. When the darkness that dominates the news cycle seems so hell-bent on making me question human morality, Kirby’s pieces make me want to link arms with my neighbor in a fierce declaration of love. The ephemeral nature of Kirby’s medium means these images don’t last forever. Eventually they are tattered by the city’s elements, only to reemerge in new but familiar forms just when we need them most.
4) Ur New York
If you’ve ever been able to catch your breath at the hectic 5 corners intersection in Journal Square, you’ve seen this epic Jersey City mural by the collaborative URNY. Made up of Fernando Romero and Mike Baca, the duo aim to inspire creativity amongst the nation’s youth. Their Journal Square mural is an homage to all things Jersey City - packed full with recognizable buildings and landmarks. A closer look at the central rendition of the iconic Loew’s Theater reveals text encouraging viewers to BE WHO YOU ARE. A moment of reflection makes me think JC is the place to do it.
Photo provided by Erin Delaney Photography
5) Blair Urban
The downtown stretch of Newark Avenue is a hot bed for street art of all varieties. The waterscape skyline mural by Blair Urban is undoubtedly a standout. Providing a mini oasis on a busy street, Urban’s work has become a Newark Ave landmark. If you continue your journey down Newark to Bay Street, you’ll quickly find yourself at Departed Soles Brewery and face to face with more of Urban’s designs. An interior mural by Urban featuring the Statue of Liberty compliments the brewery’s warehouse aesthetic. While you’re sipping on a poured pint, sneak a peek at the illustrations on the packaged beers. A depart in size from her monumental murals, the striking color schemes and catchy lettering prove Urban is a master of design on any scale.
June Scalia is an art historian and visual artist living and working in Bergen-Lafayette.