Rae McGrath’s SUGAR JUNKIE; a Winnebago turned gallery turned school bus
One of the most enticing legacies of the tradition of writers and their multiple identities as graffiti artists, aerosol artists, street artists, or simply artists, is the spontaneous intensity of a particular type of art making. A certain “Live Art”, in dialogue with the moment. It is precisely this paradigm that Rae McGrath’s Brooklynite Gallery has engaged with for the last 3 years on Malcolm X Boulevard, not far from Fulton Street, in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Now at a crossroads, McGrath is looking to take this living art practice into new territory.
McGrath, an artist in his own right, was the man behind SUGAR JUNKIE, the 1977 Winnebago Motor Home on display in the Wynwood Arts District during Art Basel Miami this past December. Tricked out with art from around the globe, and with artists adding to it every day, SUGAR JUNKIE went on to be donated to a local Miami woman who has a fleet of school buses that help kids get to school. Her chance meeting with McGrath proved to be a wish come true, the obtaining of a van fitted strictly for the arts.
Over the past three years, McGrath has invited a global crew of artists to engage in site-specific installations that spill out onto the street, the gallery’s backyard, and live streaming across the worldwide web. In an effort to continue an un-formulaic “loose approach”, like it happens on the streets, McGrath is deeply involved in thinking about how to change and grow the experience of the urban landscape as an extension of artist practice.
Brooklynite Gallery, Before and After
McGrath says, “I’ve always been interested in technology and the live element of things.” In the near future look for pop-up locations as a tool and an increased live web presence through Brooklynite TV on the gallery website. The Nuart Festival from Norway, a platform to showcase emerging, subversive and groundbreaking art from around the world since 2001, is scheduled to premiere its documentary on the channel in the second half of January 2011.
McGrath also notes, “Music is important to us, and pairing up artists with the right music act.” So far, legends Kool Herc, Prince Paul and Hank Shocklee, a 10 piece 1940s swing band with a dance floor, and local bucket drummer youth, have added to the venues environmental mash-up.
Going forward, Brooklynite Gallery plans to collaborate with artists who are willing to think outside the box and established street art identities. Growing up in Brooklyn in the 1980s among artists without a lot of resources, the immediacy of the art practiced at the street level, where the everyday person is able to walk by, see art and react to it, is something McGrath hopes to preserve. Well aware of the financials involved with running a gallery, being an artist and global branding, McGrath seems to remain highly driven by his first experiences of art and often revisits the question, “As you get older, how do you maintain that type innocence?” A question he engages with in every project incubated and launched via Brooklynite Gallery.