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Art on Mars

In Section: NY comPRESSed » Posted In: Art, Nightlife, Manhattan, Culture Posted By: Rebecca Huval
- Mars Bar, the East Village dive bar known for its bum fights and grimy glamor, will get a makeover Dec. 20. But not to worry—featured graffiti artist Grimace told us he's outlawed the painting of rainbow dolphins.

So, why graffiti?

Graffiti is the ear and view to the streets of New York.  It connects the overground with the underground and gives folks not involved in the culture a little dose of what is happening on the other side. Most of the work in the show is influenced by graffiti, but not traditional graffiti, which in my opinion looks best on the streets rather then confined to a canvas.

How did you round up these 20 or so artists?

Myself and my co-curator, Mad-Era, have assembled the fine folks in this show which consist of people we have painted graffiti with (in the distant past, we are all family men now!), collaborated with in past art shows and/or are friends-and-family. Another great place to meet graffiti artists is the Casual Encounters section on Craigslist.

Aren't you afraid that someone will paint an awkward pony and mar your walls?

That is an excellent question.  Everyone collaborating on the show has free reign to paint whatever he or she likes without having to stick to a constricting format, medium or theme. Everything is open game including walls, windows, bathrooms, jukebox and even the ceiling fans. That being said, the only strict policy that I am enforcing, is there will be no ponies, rainbows or multi-colored dolphins painted anywhere on the premises!

Will the artwork change the endearing atmosphere in Mars Bar?

Artwork has always been a very strong element of the look and feel as well as the patrons of Mars Bar.  Throughout its 25-year history, many artists such as Basquiat, Keith Haring and Lee Quinones have spent time here, and today many of the people that hang out here and even the bartenders are artists as well. If you focus your eyes in the dim Marsian light, you can always see a ton of art everywhere in Mars Bar. There are canvases behind the bar, custom paintings on the walls, windows and outside.  This combined with the history of Mars Bar, the Old-New-York feel that is impossible to get almost anywhere in downtown Manhattan, and very special regulars that have been patrons of Mars Bar for years with many stories to tell, along with the raw art, make the entire bar a living, breathing, drinking art piece on it’s own.  This is not something that can ever be re-created in a stuffy Chelsea gallery.

Is this event a scary foreshadowing that the bar will one day become a gallery?

If Mars Bar turns into a gallery one day, that would probably be a good thing as opposed to many of the other incarnations that it could turn into [with] its prime location.

Why paint the walls now?

It’s holiday time, and what better way to celebrate the season of giving and sharing then giving back some fine art to the regulars of Mars and the people of New York City.  This is our Christmas (or Hanukah for the Jewish readers out there) gift to you and we welcome you to come and enjoy it!

What beer would taste best while gawking at graffiti artists?

I personally only like to view graffiti while sipping the finest champagne. When I used to write graffiti, I would usually carry around a bottle of Dom P and a few detachable glasses for myself and crew.  If that doesn’t work, a $4.99%-full glass of scotch courtesy of Mars Bar can.  And buy a drink for Mars’ most famous regular, my man Ray, when you stop in.  You’ll see him at the corner of the bar with the neatly parted silver hair and the black leather jacket with giant American Flag on the back.

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