June 11th, 2014—Earlier today the scaffolding finally came down from the water tower at the True North Building located at East 13th and 4th Ave in Union Square across from the new Hyatt Hotel. For the last two weeks STIK, the UK Based Street Artist known for his iconic stick figures, has been delicately climbing around 100s of feet in the air, painting the entire exterior surface of a water tower. “Union” is a site specific piece, and features 8 figures holding hands. You’ll have to take the helicopter tour to see the compass painted on top of the tower.
And then, BOOM!, legendary Street Artist LA2 shows up! Apparently he and STIK have been making fast friends, whenever STIK is in town. STIK was last in New York over the winter spell, for his show at Dorian Grey Gallery. For that exhibition the City granted he and Dorian Grey a commission to erect a giant mural on East 9th, at the entrance to Tompkins Square Park. The “Liberty Project” is a tribute to the history of Tompkins Square Park, from its early days as a place of political gathering, and also in the turbulent Dinkins era.
Fast forward back to today’s happening, “Union” is a site specific piece, STIK said that he considers this place ‘the peaceful ground’ in the middle of things. True, Union Square is downtown’s new Times Square, and amidst a muckage of people scattering in and out of subway stations, chain stores and cafes located in City worn drab buildings, you look up to this bright yellow water tower with happy go lucky figures in a definitive stance of unity. Peace, a thing of beauty, is looking down upon you with grace and cheer.
In the midst of the ecstatic buzz, and rooftop hopping to get an up close look from multiple perspectives, STIK and I had a little breather in True North’s storefront space occupied by Martin Klipp’s Billboard 4 pop-up gallery.
It’s been a while, how are you STIK?
I am feeling the love from New York, I made some good friends here and I’ve been hanging with LA2 who is very cool. As part of the LES establishment, I have a lot of respect for him. He has been through a lot, and we are still finding our way of working together
So we can expect a collab between you and LA2?
Yes we are collaborating… its always very difficult for artists to collab, and we’re finding a way to make it work.
What was it like to be making art atop a water tower that’s perched atop a very tall building in Union Square?
This piece was very high, I’ve been up on top of this tower for two weeks. For the first few days it was really scary being so high, and then you get used to it after a few days. Occasionally you look down and it’s just terrifying. But what’s the point of being scared? It’s better to just be careful.
Tell us a bit about the piece
The piece is about unity, it is in Union Square, making the piece site specific. I painted a compass on top (Southwest, Northwest) and there is one figure for each point. 8 figures in total. All of the figures are holding hands, simultaneously facing all directions. The cylindrical shape of the water tower is a unique canvas.
Union represents the peaceful ground in the middle. Have you seen the film The Warriors? At the beginning there is a big meeting of all of the gangs, and I think there was something powerful in that movie. I like that the meeting place was Union Square, neutral ground; a convergent point. “Warriors come out and play!“
I got to meet all of the people in the park, some of the people who live in the park (I don’t want to say their names). I remember the first time I came to New York and visited Union Square, I sat in cafe and the very first person I talked to was a member of a union and was here for a Union Meeting. So the meaning of Union has stuck with me.
(all photos © Douglas Turner)