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A Night of Street Art at The Vault

Graffiti artists take on a wall erected for the purpose at the Vault. (photo courtesy of Andrea Brough of AJB Photography)

Cuts & Breaks

Turning darkened alleyways, vacant lots, and abandoned factories into more than depressing indicators of economic decline, quality street art brightens and elevates its surroundings. Whether in the form of graffiti, hip-hop, breaking, or experiments à la Banksy, street art rises organically from its urban environment to color and challenge the world around it.

A few feet away from the Theater District stop on the Metro rail line stands the Vault art gallery at 702 Main Street. This Friday (March 4), the Vault will host Cuts & Breaks: A Local Street Art Showcase. With doors opening at 6pm and tickets priced at $10 ($8 advance), the event allows patrons to take part in an immersive experience that captures the most progressive and stunning elements of street culture in Buffalo.

“The Knox or the Burchfield are not going to do anything like this,” says art curator Jeff Mace excitedly.

Cuts & Breaks will ambitiously cover several facets of the street art scene, unveiling visual art in the form of graffiti, wheat pastes, and photography, and adding music and motion through DJs spinning vinly records, inventive rappers, and energized dancers. A unique sound installation dealing with deviant behavior (For a Good Time by Lara Martini) and a giant graffiti wall will be erected especially for the event.

Graffiti artist THIS will be among those featured in a select group of visual artists that includes Tom Holt, Eric Osborne, Brezko, Rek, Gits, Chris P, and Ale. THIS, far from being the flip anarchist some graffiti artists have been labeled, genuinely feels that his work is of benefit to the community. “[Graffiti] makes the West Side look better, I think,” THIS says. “It’s where it belongs. Not all over the place, not over people’s businesses. There’s a lot of kids painting in the city who don’t understand that.”

Vault director Kevin Cain shares THIS’s opinion of graffiti’s potential value and feels that the art form “is being misunderstood and categorized as vagrancy, as disrespectful to property, when in actuality it is in utmost respect to the community which is around that property.”

“You walk through a place and by looking at the graffiti on the wall and looking at the graffiti in the area, you can learn so much about what’s actually shaking down there on a real level,” says Cain. “You learn the way people are communicating, are interacting. Once we decided to do this show, all the graffiti I’ve been seeing around, it was like a Rosetta Stone. It all started making sense to me.”

Instead of a damaging sign of a city’s demise, graffiti may in fact be a part of its rejuvenation. “[Good graffiti] is beautiful,” THIS argues. “It’s better than the blank wall with bullet holes in it.”

“The show is mostly about broadening the view of what art is: what people can appreciate as art and what people can appreciate as expression and what people think of as positive energy,” says Cain. “You’ve got so many people who are trying to take when people are putting up art for free.”

THIS, who has had his creations removed many times, refuses to let this “taking” away of his free art slow him down. “Nothing we do is permanent,” he says. “It’s almost like I use it as a pun, my word THIS, it’s like THIS is forever when I know damn well that tag is not going to be there tomorrow. The act of creating is meditative…You get this real sense of ‘I’m doing something.’ It may or may not matter; who knows? A tag could run for 12 years, it could be gone that night. It doesn’t matter. I was there, I did it. I was with my friends, and that’s it. And you go, and you meditate on that. It’s a good thing. It’s an enlightening thing.”

Whether or not one agrees with THIS’s belief that graffiti is a beneficial activity for both the individual and the community, Jeff Mace feels that the issue should be discussed. “I don’t endorse graffiti. I don’t endorse illegal activities,” Mace says. “We’re endorsing the fact that it’s happening, and someone’s got to talk about the fact that’s it’s happening.”

Graffiti is not, however, Cuts & Breaks’ only focus. Buffalo, as a diverse, at times fragmented city, manifests its creativity in more ways than one.

“The urban art scene is so spread out and really needs to be unified,” says breaker Adam Saur (B-Boy Monkey), who views the Cuts & Breaks show as an opportunity for unification. Saur curates the b-boy aspect of the showcase and will perform on Friday alongside B-Boy Depree and the Differential Flavor Crew from Verve Dance Studio.

Revealing the intensity and precision that goes into hip-hop dance, Saur and company are as much street artists as those who use paint or wheat paste. Their steps and spins stem from the same life force that does battle with oppressive urban decay. Mastering the moving medium of their own physical bodies, breakers emit a vibrancy and joy that burst through their stylized motions.

“It’s more than just a thing,” Saur says. “It’s a philosophy, a way of life and way of thinking. A way of being. We eat, we break. We sleep, we get up, we break. It’s constant training.”

The breakers will be joined by equally driven DJs and MCs. DJ Cutler, DJ Lo Pro, and DJ Reazon will arrange perfect breaks for the b-boys to dance to and provide backing for the ingenious rhymes of local rappers. Jay Redding curates this musical component.

Presale tickets for Cuts & Breaks may be purchased from Café Taza, Spiral Scratch Records, Rust Belt Books, and Allentown Music. Other sponsors of the show include Betty’s Restaurant, Buffalo Car Share, Campus Wheelworks, Sunday, Merge Restaurant, Rick’s Cycle Shop, Cowpok Body Piercing & Tattoos, GoodFellas Barber Shop, and Seneca Blueprint & Copy.

See beyond the controversy and prepare to have your preconceptions about urban art shattered by this wonderful chance to see work that blooms from the streets of Buffalo.

ryan wolf

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