New York City is known for its collection of unique street art strewn across old  buildings, subway walls, and even cracked sidewalks. While these colorful murals  and graffiti art are always aesthetically engaging and forever up to personal  interpretation, it’s the small pieces of street art that have a much bigger purpose.

Artist Jan Vormann fills in cracks of buildings with Legos (Photo by Kerry Payne)

With hundreds of thousands of buildings in New York City, it’s safe to say that the upkeep of these structures can take a little while (okay, a long while) to maintain. The many cracks and holes in the sides of buildings can be eyesores to passersby and even when the city does fix them up, it doesn’t exactly produce the most exciting difference.

However, over a span of two weeks back in March of 2010, German artist,  Jan Vormann, along with a band of volunteers, swept through New York and filled in some of these crevices with a classic childhood toy — Legos. The whimsical one above in Chelsea captured by Untapped Cities photographer Kerry Payne is one of our favorites, with the fallen pieces a reminder that even Lego interventions are only temporary.

Vormann’s Lego fixtures were a part of his Dispatchwork project, which aimed to seal fissures in broken walls all over the world. According to the Berlin native, he inserted the colorful Plastic Construction Bricks (PCBs) to complete the material compilation in urban constructing and to also add color to the urban greyscales. Although many of the Lego patches in NYC have been removed, there are still known fixtures in walls surrounding Bryant and Central Parks, in a post office entrance in the West Village, on the corner of 32nd  Street and Seventh Avenue, and in the wall of a fast food restaurant across from Penn Station.

The term dead drop is defined as “a prearranged secret spot where one espionage agent leaves a message or material for another agent to pick up.”  While I’m not sure how many 007’s there are in New York, I can tell you that there are dead drops scattered around the city for the public to use. Back in October 2010, Aram Bartholl started inserting USB ports into the walls of buildings so that anyone could hook their laptop up to it and share whatever files are left on it. The Dead Drops project was created to be an anonymous, offline, peer-to-peer file-sharing network for strangers to communicate in a public manner

New York City’s dead drop spots include:

  • 87 3rd  Avenue, Brooklyn, NY (Makerbot)
  • Empire Fulton Ferry Park, Brooklyn, NY (Dumbo)
  • 235 Bowery, NY (New Museum)
  • Union Square, NY (Subway Station 14th  St)
  • 540 West 21st  Street, NY (Eyebeam)

Recently, Bartholl has added a new DVD Dead Drop at the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria. If you insert a blank DVD into the slot in the museum’s outside wall, it will burn onto it a digital art exhibition, collection of media, or other featured content curated on a monthly cycle by Bartholl or other various artists.

“Remember to look both ways before crossing the street!” was always a saying that was ingrained into our minds as little kids by our parents and teachers. However, in a fast-paced city with people constantly rushing while on their smartphones or iPods, it’s easy to disregard the golden rule of crossing the street. This is why Pentagram’s Michael Bierut worked with the New York City Department of Transportation to create the Look! campaign, which uses the simple symbol of the word “LOOK!” to remind pedestrians to be mindful of oncoming traffic before crossing the street. Bierut and his team plastered the five-character graphic on crosswalks as a signal, knowing that many people often glance down when crossing. And with 57 percent of last year’s traffic fatalities being people on foot, the pavement graphic could only help to lessen this number.

LOOK! graphic at the intersection of West End Avenue and 65th Street

The LOOK! Campaign also includes signs and posters of eyes looking each way, which have appeared on buses, subway entrances, and phone kiosks all around the city. Pentagram has even produced a poster that works off of the classic “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke, all to remind the public that looking left and right before taking another step could save your life. You can see the LOOK! Campaign ads and graphics all around the city, including near the intersection of Second Avenue and 42nd  Street, and the intersection of West End Avenue and 65th  Street.

What are some of your favorite street art interventions in New York City and elsewhere?

Images from Google Images

Get in touch with the author @chelspineda