Friday, October 9, 2009


#282, St. Mark's Place, NYC

It's roughly the size of a bottle cap, situated near one's shin, and almost lost amid the swirl of eye candy on a busy, mosaic-clad street pole, but somehow this 282 got my attention. You can find it on the traffic island close to the giant rotating Astor Place cube, where all the disaffected youth hang these days, and I doubt I'd have noticed the tiny number it if it weren't for the traffic light holding me up. Traipsing up and down Manhattan's massive sequential grid is one sure-fire way to find numbers, but it's the unexpected catch like this one that keeps things fresh.

If you've ever taken a stroll through the East Village, then you're probably already familiar with the artwork of Jim "Mosaic Man" Power. Maybe you've stumbled upon one of these colorful lamp post mosaics, too, noticing a sudden patch of beauty in the middle of a harried, ugly commute. He's decorated close to a hundred street poles with his vibrant mosaics along a two mile stretch. Shards of mirrors, chunks of ceramics, wild patterns, and colorful lettering: once you start noticing his pieces, they're impossible to miss.

Power, a Vietnam vet and much-loved figure in the Village, has been steadily beautifying his 'hood shard by shard for over twenty years. And he's still at it. He was spotted at the St. Mark's Block Party just a few weeks ago, adding more bits of colored glass, plates, mesh, marbles, and whatnot to the neighborhood street furniture.

You can read an interview with him here, see some pictures, and learn more about the where the mosaic trail starts and ends. But the best way to see his stuff? Take a walk. And while you're there, be sure to hit St. Mark's Bookshop, which has been steadily emptying my wallet coin by coin for over eight years.


Jackie said...

There is a new apartment complex right across the street from that cube-- a gigantic, modern looking structure with glass windows. I remember so clearly how it wasn't there when I was at NYU-- and then how it WAS there, shortly afterward. I feel such regret when I look at the building, as it so greatly changes the character of a place I love.

I often find such comfort in those East Village mosaics which live in such proximity to this new, more garish building. I don't know why I never thought about the mosaic's origin before. But I am always so grateful for that bit of color, particularly near that island with the strange, paradoxical, (but familiar, homey) cube that you describe.

Therese Cox said...

Did you know that the cube spins? I flipped out the first time I saw it happen. A bunch of Goth kids were pushing on it and the damn thing SPUN. Maybe everyone knows that about the cube, but it was news to me.

I know the new building you mean. Not a fan, but at least the giant Carl Fischer music note is still painted on the wall behind it. When that goes, THEN I'll be sad.

Julie said...

Love to see the carlfisher