Street Art Moves from the Bronx to the Hamptons

By Jason Lee and Alicia Bermudez

The White Room Gallery in Bridgehampton opened an exhibit on April 2 featuring two international graffiti artists and three award winning photographers.

‘Up on the Roof’ features the work of Kat O’Neill, Guy Pierno and Ann Brandeis, who photographed a series of pieces created by writers YES2 from New York City and CES from the Bronx on Nov. 22. The exhibit blurs the lines between what is considered art and what is considered vandalism.

“There was such a positive response, we had a very well attended opening,” Andrea McCafferty, owner of the White Room Gallery said. CES and YES2 performed live at the opening on Saturday: each produced an aerosol graffiti piece in under an hour.

The finished pieces by CES and YES2 remain at the gallery, and ‘Up on the Roof’ will remain open for public viewing until April 24.

Vinny Pacifico, a graffiti collector for 30 years regularly invites graffiti writers to paint on the roof of his business in the Bronx. Guy Pierno, a friend of Pacifico, had the idea to photograph the writers at work last fall.

“[The graffiti artists] changed my opinion, I didn’t realize how intense their message was,” Pierno said. “The more I got into it the more I saw how people defined the work and I became more interested. Wherever I go now I look what’s on the wall.”

YES2 and CES have very similar backgrounds but Pierno noticed how different they are as artists. “YES2 makes these very bulbous letters that are twisted back, whereas CES his style is thinner, it looks like chinese lettering.”

One of the artists featured in ‘Up on the Roof,’ Kat O’Neill, said she loves photographing industrial things, “By exploring that I came across graffiti,” she said.

When some people think of graffiti they think back to old graffiti like gang tags, but she believes graffiti has evolved into art and that there’s a growing appreciation for it because it represents something else, O’Neill said.

A graffiti piece can take anywhere from four to six hours, but in order to get to the skill level as the artists featured at ‘Up on the Roof’ it would take around 20 years of learning and perfecting the skill, Zach Sieglinger, a visitor at the gallery and a graffiti artist himself said.

“This is people expressing themselves just like any other artists, it is its own unique form of art,” Sieglinger said. He also said he wishes that people would be more open minded about the concept of graffiti art so that these artists can show the public what they’re capable of. “I think people would be impressed,” he said.

In New York State, painting graffiti on property without the owner’s consent is considered defacement or vandalism and is a punishable crime, with significant fines and the possibility of 1-5 years in prison. It’s falls under the category of “criminal mischief” and the penalty depends on how much damage is caused . A person can be charged in the first, second, third or fourth degree, according to a New York Criminal Defense Attorney’s website.

All of the photographs in ‘Up on the Roof’ feature work by YES2 and CES that was legally consented to.

It would be great if one day the Hamptons community would accept having graffiti art at spots in the town; McCafferty said.