Jersey City exhibit asks, ‘Art or graffiti? Self-expression or crime?’

Jersey City street art curator Dylan Evans reached out to us after the Jersey City Artists Studio Tour to tell us about the great exhibit he had, which showcases four street artists. It was tucked away at Moishe’s, which is down the street from my high school, McNair Academic High School.

Their art was displayed alongside some other great stuff, including the Exquisite Corpse Show which I wrote about before the tour.

Reena Rose Sibayan took some awesome pictures, which you can see – along with the article as it originally appeared – here on

Art or graffiti? Self-expression or crime?

When Mad Mad Media founder and street art curator Dylan Evans of Jersey City walks down the street, all he sees is art that can be.

While Evans himself doesn’t create art, he is the brainchild behind walls of art throughout Chilltown – a rooster at Stuyvesant Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard, an aquatic mural at 172 Newark Ave. and more.

Every day, he visualizes what spaces could be, he said, noting that this ability comes in handy at his other job as a TV location scout. It’s finding prime locations for street art and working with building owners to create murals, however that gives him personal joy.

“What drives me personally is contributing something that is going to last for the community. It’s a personal and fulfilling accomplishment.”

His most recent project was a showcase at Moishe’s building, 227 Coles St., which was part of the Jersey City Artists Studio Tour and was displayed alongside other artists’ works, including the Exquisite Corpse Show run by Jersey City sculptor Tina Maneca.

In the installation, four artists – two from Jersey City, one from North Hudson and another from New York City – created art on four walls of the gallery space, showing the many different street art styles Evans likes to bring together.

“A lot of their styles differ. Some work is abstract, some artists are good at realism and some do 3-D, twisted, colorful letters like you see in a lot of graffiti,” said the 15-year Journal Square-area resident.

“I want to show with this installation that not everyone with a can of spray paint is a vandal.”

So far, he said, reception has been positive. Eventually, he hopes to get permission to create on whole alleys and blocks.

“I want murals all over Jersey City, to bring people to walk around and see art,” he said. “You don’t have to be an art major to appreciate it. Street art can turn everyone on to art – the easiest way is putting it out on the street in front of them.”

One of the artists in the show – who goes only by his tag name, “Then One” – is a firm believer in the artist’s freedom of expression and putting his art up for all to see, with or without permission.

“There’s something unique about putting something up without asking,” he said, adding: “The art world is so pretentious.”

Unfortunately, he said, his art is considered illegal, a technicality that has him and other street artists always looking behind their backs.

“They’ll take any opportunity to get a lead on you,” he said of authorities. “It’s art, but it’s considered a crime. It’s a tough balance.”

One of Then One’s fine art pieces, which are framed next to his mural in Evans’s exhibit, reflects the struggle between law and creativity. The pattern reflects a struggle, he says, pointing out that the dark, organic structures in the work resemble limbs sticking out of dust clouds kicked up during Saturday morning cartoon fights.

Then One said he joined Evans’s show hoping to show how spray painting can be more than tags and graffiti.

“I want to be acknowledged for the art I create and for my medium to be respected,” he said, noting that what he does is not “graffiti,” but art.

“Graffiti painting is illegal. Stuff in a gallery is art. They’re two different things,” he said. “The next great movement is graffiti – it’s in museums now.”

He said he will never, however, abandon working on the streets.

“I just need to do it in moderation, like everything in life, there needs to be a balance.”

Evans said he admires artists like Then One for their creativity, originality and freshness.

“These people are really working independently for themselves,” he said. “I admire the purity from their heart and their drive to work on the streets.”

The show is open by appointment and will be on display at Moishe’s, 227 Coles St., until Nov. 12 when a closing party will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. For more information or to set up an appointment, contact Dylan Evans at


About Summer Dawn Hortillosa

Summer Dawn Hortillosa is a journalist specializing in arts and entertainment. Among other things, she is also an award-winning playwright, director, singer-songwriter and actress. Her work has been seen in The Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal and other publications.
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One Response to Jersey City exhibit asks, ‘Art or graffiti? Self-expression or crime?’

  1. Pingback: Year in Arts: favorite art, theater and music for 2011 |

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