ART
Deep in the Heart of Art

Workhorse and PAC
We Own the Night: The Art of the Underbelly Project
(Rizzoli, 2012)

Danger plus beauty equals glory. Recognize. And these murals, created illegally in the bowels of the New York City transit system, are thrilling. Painted in an abandoned subway station four stories down, they epitomize the potency of the “underground.”

Organized by Workhorse and PAC, the year-long exploit involved 100 artists. The record of this unique feat is remarkable. One can imagine a day when tour guides take visitors to see the Lascaux of our era.

In addition to the artwork reproduced in full plates, we see before-and-after as well as action shots. Some of the artists who participated are legends already, like Ron English, who provided a statement about his motivation and the tangible threat of being arrested or getting hurt in the dark, as did others. Heart-pounding stuff and pretty heroic.

Essentially, we are given entry into a secret, international society. This compendium of street artists offers an incomparable sample of styles and subjects. Strafe, Stash, and Swoon join Bigfoot, Momo, and Asylum.

There are many considerable aspects of this project, foremost of which is the art itself, some beautiful and all of it site-specific by nature. Environmental, political and aesthetic concerns brush shoulders in the shadows. What’s the purpose of creating art no one’s allowed to see? This denial of market control is subversive and liberating. In a word, the Underbelly Project is—historic.

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