Down on the Corner: A Conversation with Snoeman
In Washington Heights, Snoeman is adding a little texture to the neighborhood. Using his signature style, he is painting on bodegas with a sense of color and self-awareness. I came to know Snoeman through his paintings of corner stores and bodegas, and when he told me that he was also literally painting on them himself, I had to ask him more.
Evan Pricco: What got you started on painting storefronts? What was the genesis of the series?
Snoeman: I’ve always been inspired by bodegas and other storefronts. I admire the overload of signage, imagery, bright lights and colors. Its all eye-catching. A lot of my art has been inspired by these stores but during the last year I starting incorporating my art into the stores themselves. I started hand painting graffiti- inspired posters with bright colors and positive messages like “spread love” and “do the right thing” and experimenting with applying them to surfaces with wheat paste. I naturally gravitated toward putting them on bodegas and delis, because they fit in so well with the chaos of signage and colors. These stores are little microcosms and there can be many of them on every block. Thousands of people pass by them every day so the work has very high visibility.
Initially I began strategically placing one or two posters on each storefront. Then I started covering full walls and ice boxes, because that really stood out. Finally, I was painting the stores along with applying the posters. I would cover the entire store using every available surface, from the sidewalk to the awnings to the doors and window frames, and even the interior of the store. In the “AVI Deli” seen in the photos I also hung over 30 small paintings inside the store and had an art show.
Where are most of these storefronts?
Most of the significant ones are in Washington Heights and Harlem but I have done poster installations on storefronts throughout neighborhoods in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.
Did the pandemic play a role?
The pandemic played a role in a few ways. My normal day-to-day routine didn’t exist anymore and that pushed me to create and experiment with new ideas. It was also a dark time for everyone and it was energizing to be able to bring color and positivity into people’s everyday lives with my art. It felt good to do something that everyone can see and appreciate.
(photo by Martha Cooper)
Do these works inform paintings you make later on?
The storefront works have definitely informed some of the new paintings I am making, I use them as the subjects so they go hand in hand. I choose the storefronts I paint/poster by what looks aesthetically pleasing and how I imagine them looking with the art incorporated, their unique characteristics, complimentary or contrasting signage and colors, location, energy, etc. They are public art pieces of their own and also potential subjects of future paintings.
How long do you want to keep up doing these projects?
I don’t have a specific time-frame but I plan to keep evolving the project, staying creative and having fun with it.