The Suffolk Street Fallout Street 1981Collaborations, Guerilla Art, Political Art, Public Art, Stencils, Street Art
John Fekner & John Crash Matos
John Crash Matos, a graffiti artist, and I collaborated on a project entitled THE SUFFOLK STREET FALLOUT SHELTER. The mural, painted on an abandoned building on the Lower East Side, depicts a nuclear bomb exploding in the New York City. A stenciled warning in English and Spanish reads: IN CASE OF NUCLEAR WAR STEP INSIDE/EN CASO DE GUERRA NULCEAR ENTREN. The irony is that there is no shelter at all; the entrance has been sealed with cinder blocks by the owner preventing anyone from entering the building. The metal staircase is a cul-de-sac; leading into a brick wall at the moment a nuclear bomb is dropped.
The mural draws attention to a typical nonfunctioning building, which the city of New York allows to remain standing as a useless object – a misfit in a city filled with greedy landlords and profiteers. The city should turn these buildings over to the poor, and not to outside speculators. The people who live in the neighborhood should be allowed the opportunity to make the buildings function again.
JF, Dec. 1981
I returned to the mural a little over two weeks after it was completed. I was quite surprised to find it surrounded by a barrier of wooden doors; a usual step in the process of a building about to be demolished. Obviously a reaction to our project; but by whom?
The landlord? The city? One little building among thousands in NYC that for sometime no one had paid attention to. Was this structure already scheduled to be knocked down?
Or, did we turn the building to a page of information too truthful to see? Especially for those who only say they take responsibility and don’t live up to it in our communities?
JF, Jan. 1982
Materials supplied by ABC No Rio