At an abandoned factory in Queens, the four stories are dripping in Technicolor graffiti, and curbed by people who’ve turned their bodies into a canvas of blue ink and silver piercings. This is 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center. Here in Long Island City, the guerilla artists—and the underrepresented communities they come from—have found a place to put their writing on the proverbial wall. Curator Jonathan Cohen divvies up garage doors, courtyard walls, ventilation ducts (basically anything that can be reached with his 50-foot orange bucket-lift) and reclaims the gallery by thinking outside it.
Exploring this 200,000 square-foot space, your eyes might flicker over apes evolving into mobsters, light bulbs brightened by the color of mischief, or propaganda-style messages proposing peace. While the artists do their best to make a lasting impression, it is the neighborhood that decides how long the 5Pointz graffiti may be displayed. Transition is a fact of life, and they’re all used to it.
This is the epitome of an off the beaten path journey in New York City, where asphalt crumbs lead past shuttered corrugated-metal garage doors, the 7-train rattles overhead, and there’s that uncertainty underneath the overpass that shrouds the street in loneliness. Then the inevitable lift when the sidewalk opens up into a courtyard, and the first thing you notice is how high people have climbed to write their names in “WildStyle”–a signature tangle of letters where one point ends where the other begins.
Dubbed an “institution of higher burnin’” that began in 1996, today 5Pointz is a living museum and walkable gallery whose name symbolizes the place where five boroughs converge. It’s always free, it’s always open, and it always has something new to say. Take your warm coffee and wander over on the weekends from noon to 7pm, when you’re likely to catch an artist in action.
For more spray painted adventures on oM, check out a Self-Guided Brooklyn Graffiti Tour.
How to get there: Take the E, V subways to 23 St/Ely Ave., or the 7 train to 45 Rd/Court House Sq. Use the Hopstop link below for specific directions from your starting point. (5 Pointz, 45-46 Davis St., Long Island City, 317.219.2685, 5ptz.com)