Amateur (Art Critic) Hour

It’s been a while since I have complained about terrible “street art”. But since my schedule has forced me to be back in NYC more often these days, I have been relegated to doing some runs through Williamsburg and often cross the Williamsburg Bridge while doing so. For context, Williamsburg has become a bit of a caricature of the most gentrified version of any compound buzzword that starts with “street” or ends with “lifestyle.” So, to say that the Williamsburg Bridge has any bearing on the actual state of street art, or art generally is like saying that Urban Outfitters is an accurate picture of the current state of fashion.

Another slightly hyperbolic metaphor would be to say that, if unsanctioned outdoor art were a ladder, the pedestrian deck of the Wburg Bridge would be the bottom rung the guy holding the ladder. But instead of observing what type of work is being done by the person up on the ladder, or if there is even anyone on the ladder, he is staring down at his phone watching a Tik Tok video by a guy who can whistle through his nose. An example to illustrate my point: While I was snapping photos for this post, I witnessed a Bro-ey looking middle aged dude wearing a Burberry jacket and Supreme backpack carrying around a stack of stickers. Occasionally he would stop to stick one up on the railing or some other solid surface, before backing away to admire it and take a photo with his phone. He nearly knocked over some joggers in the process. I didn’t stop to see the sticker. But I’m sure it was “fire.”

Not Gonna Lie, I Do Like Me Some D*Face

On a typical run, I don’t even bring my phone with me, let alone a proper photographic device. But, as luck (or misfortune, depending on your view) would have it, I found some time over President’s Day weekend to lead myself on a little photo walking tour through the lower intestine of Wburg’s trendiest new outdoor gallery. Based on the sunny and relatively warmer temps that were forecast for the weekend I had planned to do a long run on Sunday and some cycling on Presidents Day. Instead I caught some insanely potent food poisoning Saturday night and was laid up for the entire day Sunday. Still too wiped out to run, I opted to take advantage of the beautiful golden hour light for these snaps on President’s Day.

A Small Sampling of the Various Handstyles Encountered on the Wburg Bridge

For those who have not had the pleasure of walking across the pedestrian walkway of the Williamsburg Bridge in the past 5-7 years, the above image is an example of the scrawl that can be seen by simply looking down. If you didn’t know better, you would think there was a guy at entrance gate handing out rattle cans topped with outliner caps to every person coming through with a mustache and a beanie. When I’m running across the bridge, I can’t help but read it. Some messages are inspirational. Others, less so.

Clint Mario Doesn’t Mind Slumming it on the Wburg Bridge.

I’m going to have to apologize in advance for this. The apology is actually directed to the people who are making the images that we are about to discuss. Any press is good press?


I’m not really sure where to start with this one, except that I dislike it so strongly that I was embarrassed to take a photo of it for fear that someone was going to see me and mistakenly assume that I liked it. I can’t say that I have witnessed a more hamfisted attempt at well, anything. I’d call it Banksified Disney, but that would be too much of a compliment. I get that all art is derivative. Banksy and Nick Walker were ripping off Blek Le Rat’s rat thing (and style, to a large degree). Blek was probably ripping off someone else too. But this is essentially the graf version of “live love laugh” or any other block letter sign that could be seen walking into a midwestern mcmasion in the early 2000s.  I’ll leave alone that fact that there is an Instagram handle with the word “art” included in stencil. Rumor has it that Go4thart is actually in the process of setting up an Esty shop. So if you currently have a “bless this mess” sign that you are looking to replace with something a little less original, they’ve got you covered.

In other news, nearly 10 years after penning this diatribe, I see that the OG scrapbook mom of graf is still out there going strong! Spotted these freshie PYH pieces toward the Brooklyn side of the bridge. I’ll give some props for longevity.

I’m happy to report that not everything I saw out there was as basic and unimaginative as the things I saw painted on the floor of the footpath. There seems to be a correlation between the level of execution and the difficulty of placement for any given piece. For someone who is only willing to use enough effort to bend down and paint something on the ground… well, we’ve covered that. For those who are willing to put in a little more effort to obtain more prominent viewing of their work, let’s talk about some of those. There was plenty of non-Williamsburgy (or, if you prefer, old-Williamsburgy) style work that was also lit up nicely by the evening light that Monday. A couple of quick examples below.

Painted Girders Under the J/M/Z Approaching From the Brooklyn Side

Let’s pause for a moment and admire this one from Scate5-

Even the Moon Peeked Around the Corner to Have a Look at this Scate5 Piece

I wonder why Scate5 doesn’t put his Instagram handle on there, though. Also it is so high up there a lot of people probably don’t even see it. Has Scate5 even heard of Banksy!?!?! JKJKJK I’ll stop (soon).

From the top of the ramp on the LES side (and a close crop)-

To cap this off, I’d like to share one of my favorite Williamsburg public art sculptures. This particular one is not on the bridge, but it is along my running route. It’s on N 14th Street right across from Root Studios, if anyone wants to add it to Google Maps as a tourist attraction for future art walks. It used to just be a regular old porta-potty crammed full of junk. But sometime last November, it was apparently set ablaze and now it looks like this-

“Melted Porta-Potty” 2023, Mixed Media, Artist Unknown (Citibike for Scale)

Notice that this piece is quite obviously art without needing any sort of a corny tag line not-so-subtly containing the word “art”, such as “Protect Yo Blue-dART”. Nor does it have a less-than-cleverly designed Instagram handle of something like “Go4Shart!” And even though it was once used to collect $hit, artistically is is some how less $hitty than 98.9% of the drivel adorning the Wburg bridge, including the ones that say “art” right on them.

In reality, my opinion doesn’t mean anything. Art is one of the most subjective of any topic and could be debated indefinitely. I mean, the “live love laugh” lady was live love laughing her way to the bank for what was probably a solid decade. Maybe it’s Go4thart’s turn.

Posted in Art, News and tagged , , , , , .