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Brooklyn Rock

Brooklyn Rock, 3015 Stillwell Avenue, in Coney Island. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

“The French have never left,” says Brooklyn Rock brand manager Seth Braunstein when ATZ asks where the year-round tourists who visit his Coney Island shop are coming from. Located across Stillwell Avenue from Nathan’s Famous, which is also open daily regardless of the season or the weather, this one-of-a-kind shop is one of the few places in Coney to buy a souvenir tee in February.

What makes Brooklyn Rock’s tees out of the ordinary, says Braunstein, is that each one of the shirts is hand-dyed in unique colors and hand-printed from hand-drawn designs by artists Chris Smith and Yukiko Wada, the couple who founded the business in 2002. “We start with white American Apparel tees made in the U.S. out of cotton grown in the U.S,” he says. In the afternoon sunlight, the colors are especially vibrant and conjure up summery dreams on a wintry day.

Brooklyn Rock

Paintings of the Elephant Hotel and the Parachute Jump by Yukiko Wada, hand-screened Tees by Wada and husband Chris Smith. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s landmark Cyclone, Wonder Wheel and Parachute Jump feature prominently in the designs along with the magical place names CONEY and BROOKLYN. Among the signature sayings printed on Brooklyn Rock’s tees are “Brooklyn, Entertaining Manhattan since 1646″ and “Keep Brooklyn Offensive.”

Famous faces on their tees include Brooklyn-born comedian and Seinfeld writer Larry David, whose people once bought one for him, Braunstein says with pride. “Tonight, one of our people will be sitting in the third row wearing the Larry David tee at the preview performance of his Broadway show.”

Brooklyn Rock’s tees, hoodies, hats, totes, knapsacks, aprons and other hand-printed items range in price from $15-$60.

One specialty at Brooklyn Rock that you may not expect to find in Coney Island is their book rack, which is stocked with gently read copies of classics by Ayn Rand to Kurt Vonnegut. The used books come from their friends at Williamsburg’s Book Thug Nation and Bushwick’s Human Relations, whom they’ve known since their days as fellow street vendors. Books are priced at $5 and $8.

Hand-Printed Tee at Brooklyn Rock

Sleeveless Hand-printed Coney Tee at Brooklyn Rock in Coney Island. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Before opening their Coney Island store in May 2013, the Brooklyn Rock team wholesaled to children’s shops and Coney Island USA’s gift shop. They set up shop in a street kiosk on Bedford Avenue, a shipping container at the now defunct DeKalb Market, and a store across from Barclays Center, where foot traffic turned out to be slow.

Their Coney Island store is in Thor Equities’ retail building at Surf and Stillwell, where current tenants include It’Sugar, Rainbow Shops, Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co., the Brooklyn Nets Shop, a couple of mini-arcades and the soon-to open Wahlburgers franchise. Only It’Sugar and Brooklyn Rock remain open year round. How did this Bushwick-born Mom and Pop get their foot in the door?

Brooklyn Rock

Hand-printed shirt at Brooklyn Rock on Stillwell Avenue, Coney Island. November 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Brooklyn Rock’s lucky break came when Braunstein saw a news article about space for lease in Thor’s then-vacant new building and sent them a proposal. Thor Equities had sent out a press release that said: “Thor To Add Local Flavor To Coney Island By Leasing Major Surf Avenue Parcels To Local Brooklyn Merchants At Reduced Rents For 2013.”

We remember it well. For ATZ, the biggest surprise of the release was what Thor CEO Joe Sitt had to say about chains vs local businesses: “Coney Island’s popularity has reached record proportions, but we can never forget what got us here – local, ahead-of-their-time business owners who brought flair, hipness and edge to the People’s Playground,” Sitt said. “While it is wonderful that national chains are now coming to Coney, providing needed jobs and year-round revenue to the community, we must always remember the history of this iconic neighborhood.”

Hear, hear!

Brooklyn Rock, 3015 Stillwell Avenue, between Surf Ave and the Bowery, Coney Island, 11224. Winter hours are 12 noon till 7pm.

Hand-printed Tees and Hats at Brooklyn Rock

Hand-printed Tees, Totes and Hats at Brooklyn Rock. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

January 22, 2015: Coney Island Rumor Mill: No Rides But Games, Food & Merch Coming to Thor’s Lot

November 28, 2014: ATZ Previews Coney Island’s Small Business Saturday

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

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World Mark Pimlott

Photo of Coney Island paving stone by BBC journalist Jacqui Maher via Instagram

Coney Island is one of the 750 place names inscribed on the paving stones of World, a permanent installation at BBC’s Broadcasting House in London. Created by artist and architect Mark Pimlott, the pavement art expresses the global dimension of the BBC, whose motto is “Nation shall speak peace unto nation.” World has steel lines of longitude and latitude, small embedded lights and an audio installation linked to broadcasts from the BBC World Service.

ATZ learned about the artwork, which debuted in 2011, via a tweet from a BBC journalist who wondered why Coney Island was part of the piece. We emailed Pimlott to ask how the names were chosen and his association with Coney Island.

The names were arrived at through association with many different events and aspects of historical consciousness. These were not arrived at scientifically, but associatively, in a manner resembling improvisation. There were places of origins, pleasure, religions, catastrophe, atrocity, infamy and fame; rivers, deserts and islands, all of which would strike a user of the square as significant in some way, evoking memories or ideas or connections. In all, walking across the square and reading names would result in a wealth of interrelated thoughts about the world we make and inhabit.

World by Mark Pimlott at BBC Broadcasting House

World by Mark Pimlott at BBC Broadcasting House

‘Coney Island’ is featured in a little cluster of other islands: some remote, others famous. The ‘island’ bit is what bound them together, even just the word ‘island.’ For me, Coney Island appeared because of its evocation of ‘everyman’ relaxation, Luna Park, photographs of the great hordes on the beach made by Weegee, the hot dog eating competition, a particular conception of summer. I visited only once, many years ago, a rather melancholic affair, not uncommon to all seaside ‘resorts.’

Related posts on ATZ…

January 28, 2015: Art of the Day: Takahiro Iwasaki’s Miniature Coney Island at Asia Society

December 13, 2014: Art of the Day: David Levine’s Watercolors of Coney Island

October 4, 2013: Art of the Day: John Dunivant’s Bizarre Midway

September 17, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

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Out of Disorder (Coney Island) 2012 by Takahiro Iwasaki.

Out of Disorder (ConeyIsland) 2012 by Takahiro Iwasaki. Asia Society Museum, thru April 26, 2015

The 150-foot tall steel Wonder Wheel inspired Takahiro Iwasaki’s ethereal ten-inch tall sculpture made of fibers pulled from the beach towels on which it is perched! The miniature landscape also includes neighboring Coney Island landmarks the Parachute Jump and Cyclone.

Created in 2012 during the Hiroshima-based artist’s International Studio and Curatorial Program residency in Brooklyn, “Out of Disorder (Coney Island) 2012″ is among the works on view at Asia Society in the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the U.S. A newly commissioned piece created from kimono fibers takes its inspiration from a pair of 17th century Japanese folding screens from the Asia Society Museum Collection and will be shown alongside the six-panel screens.

Asia Society Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am-6pm and on Friday from 11am– 9pm. General admission is $12, seniors $10, students $7, and admission is free for members and persons under 16. Free admission Friday evenings, 6pm – 9pm.

“Takahiro Iwasaki: In Focus,” January 27 thru April 26, 2015 at Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue New York, NY, 212-288-6400

Related posts on ATZ…

December 13, 2014: Art of the Day: David Levine’s Watercolors of Coney Island

October 4, 2013: Art of the Day: John Dunivant’s Bizarre Midway

May 22, 2013: Art of the Day: Girl to Gorilla Showfront by Lew Stamm

September 17, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

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Step Right UpAfter Hurricane Sandy, Coney Island got lucky when a rare vintage 1940’s Mangels shooting gallery from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park was brought out of storage, restored, and installed at Coney Island USA’s Surf Avenue storefront. As far as we know, it’s the only one of its kind in operation that is open to the public. Since many shooting galleries were sold for scrap iron during World Wars I and II, you’re more likely to come across cast-iron and sheet-metal targets in the shape of birds and beasts, cowboys and Indians, and soldiers and torpedo boats in folk art collections than as a game in an amusement park.

Richard and Valerie Tucker’s passion for collecting figural cast iron began in the`early 1980s with the acquisition of a row of doves from a William F. Mangels’ gallery manufactured in Coney Island. Thirty years later, they own hundreds of shooting gallery targets from a variety of manufacturers. Step Right Up! Classic American Target and Arcade Forms is a sumptuous coffee table art book with more than 225 color images of American and European targets along with a sampling of carnival banners, signs and game pieces. As the first and only book on the subject, the volume is valuable to collectors and of special interest to fans of carnival art and antiques.

In addition to Mangels, the 144-page book has chapters on C.W. Parker of Kansas, William Wurfflein of Philadelphia, the John T. Dickman Company of Los Angeles and Chicago manufacturers Evans, Hoffmann, Mueller, and Smith, as well as miscellaneous targets and a few European targets. Essays by specialists on the manufacturers supplement illustrations from the Tuckers’ archive of catalogs, trade cards and other ephemera which are a great resource since the majority of targets have no trade marks.

Step Right Up! Richard and Valerie Tucker

Card Suits by WF Mangels. Private Collection. Photo: Kimberly Gavin/Kimberly Gavin Photography

One of our favorite target makers is C.W. Parker, who started out as a shooting gallery operator and soon got into the business of supplying traveling carnivals with a wide variety of attractions. Parker had a showman’s flair for borrowing design ideas from his fellow manufacturers and fashioning them into commercially successful shooting galleries and carousels.

No complete Parker galleries are known to exist or even to have been photographed, says Bob Goldsack, a Parker historian who wrote the book’s chapter on the self-proclaimed “Carnival King.” Parker’s highly detailed and mechanized targets included owls and eagles with flapping wings, whippets chasing rabbits, and the now politically incorrect circus animals, Indians, and Lincolnesque figure holding a sign that says “Hit Me” in a gallery advertised as “A New Political Shooting Gallery.”

A lecture and book signing by the authors will be held at the American Folk Art Museum, 2 Lincoln Square, Columbus Ave at 66th St, in Manhattan, on December 18 at 6pm. Admission is free of charge.

Step Right Up! Classic American Target and Arcade Forms by Richard and Valerie Tucker. Schiffer Publishing, 2014. Hardcover, $45

Step Right Up! Richard and Valerie Tucker

Indian by CW Parker. Photo: Kimberly Gavin/Kimberly Gavin Photography

Related posts on ATZ…

September 5, 2013: Photo of the Day: Restored WF Mangels Shooting Gallery

February 28, 2013: Coney Island Shooting Gallery from 1940s Makes Comeback

september 28, 2011: Rare & Vintage: Auction of French Fairground Art

February 25, 2010: Happy Belated Birthday to Coney Island’s William F Mangels

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David Levine Forum Gallery

David Levine at Forum Gallery, Past and Present, 1993, watercolor on paper, 14 13/16 x 10 inches, Collection of The Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA

For this long-time admirer, seeing one of David Levine’s sublime and instantly recognizable watercolors of Coney Island on the cover of Gallery Guide was a joyful moment, knowing it heralded more. From December 12 through January 17, Forum Gallery presents “David Levine: The World He Saw,” the first major exhibition of paintings and drawings by Levine since his passing in 2009. Fifty works are on view including more than 25 of his watercolors of Coney Island, many loaned by private collectors and museums.

Renowned as a caricaturist whose insightful drawings were on the cover of The New York Review of Books for more than 40 years, Brooklyn-born Levine spent his summers painting the bathers on Coney Island beach and the architecture on the boardwalk and adjacent streets. Many of the structures that he painted–pavilions, booths, bathhouses, and amusement rides, have since vanished or were demolished.

David Levine Forum Gallery

David Levine at Forum Gallery, Stauch’s Baths, 1981, watercolor on paper, 10 7/8 x 14 5/8 inches, Private collection, San Francisco, CA

While photographs of Coney’s past attractions tend to put a “then and now” distance between the viewer and the subject, the immediacy of watercolor and Levine’s mastery of the medium makes us see what he saw. Then is now. The ache in the heart upon viewing his watercolors of Stauch’s Baths, the Bank of Coney Island building and the original Thunderbolt roller coaster is akin to phantom pain for a limb that has been lost.

There are also paintings of rides that are thankfully still with us– the Polar Express, the B&B Carousell–and of elderly women whom Levine affectionately referred to as the “Shmata Queens of Coney.”

David Levine Forum Gallery

David Levine at Forum Gallery, Carousel, 1989, watercolor on paper, 11 3/8 x 14 1/4 inches

“Each year they would say: ‘Ya know, lest veek, dere vuss a men chust like you.’ I would patiently tell them that it was me,” Levine wrote. “The ‘shmata,’ or ‘rag,’ not only refers to the head cloth, but also to the bathing suits – faded and misshapen by molding to aged and deformed bodies that have been out under the sun. They are now comfortable with me sketching in their midst and only occasionally ask to see what I do.”

Walter Bernard, a fellow member of the Painting Group, which Levine co-founded with Aaron Shikler in 1958, wrote this remembrance in the New York Times in 2010: “Watching David work was a revelation. He handled watercolors unlike anybody else. He liked to experiment and, as he put it, ‘play.’ He would draw, redraw, ‘schmeer,’ sponge out and paint again. It was not uncommon to see him rub out a work we’d been marveling over, saying, simply, ‘I didn’t get what I was going after.'”

David Levine, Forum Gallery

David Levine at Forum Gallery, End of Youth, 1984 watercolor on paper 14 x 22 1/2 inches, Private collection, New York, NY

Levine often painted the 1925 Thunderbolt, which was SBNO (Standing But Not Operating, in roller coaster parlance) since the early 1980’s. The titles of the works are telling: End of Youth, End of Joy, Goya at Coney, and after it was demolished in 2000, The Past.

One of the stories Levine told about the people he met while painting in Coney is this poignant anecdote about End of Joy: “I was seated on a side street, painting the Tinturn Abbey of joy rides, the Thunderbolt. Black and looming, it stood abandoned. A group of children surrounded me. They had just left the beach. Their chattering stopped as they watched my performance. Then, silently, they moved off as a group. When they had walked a short distance, the smallest, a little girl, turned and ran back to me. Without a word, she placed a quarter on my watercolor, then returned to her friends.”

A 72-page, fully illustrated catalogue, with foreword by author and journalist Pete Hamill, accompanies the exhibition.

David Levine: The World He Saw. December 12, 2014 to January 17, 2015. Forum Gallery, 730 Fifth Avenue 2nd Fl. (between 56th & 57th Streets), New York, NY 10019. 212-355-4545. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 5:30pm

David Levine Forum Gallery

David Levine at Forum Gallery, Untitled (Three Women, Two Umbrellas on beach), 1982, watercolor on paper, 4 1/4 x 13 3/4 inches

Related posts on ATZ…

October 4, 2013: Art of the Day: John Dunivant’s Bizarre Midway

May 22, 2013: Art of the Day: Girl to Gorilla Showfront by Lew Stamm

August 21, 2012: Art of the Day: Out of Disorder (Coney Island) by Takahiro Iwasaki

September 17, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

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It’s summer Down Under but British-Australian artist and illustrator Sarah Beetson is already dreaming of next summer in Coney Island, which she calls “her favourite place of inspiration.” At home in her studio in Gold Coast, Queensland, Beetson has painted dozens of Polaroids that she snapped during a three-month residency in Coney last summer. Now she has assembled them into a lively and inventive new video.

“Sara Beetson’s Coney Island Painted Polaroids” gathers shots of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s painted clown faces (originally in Astroland) and signage and the B&B Carousell’s horses set to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Carousel.” The frame by frame addition of hand-lettered lyrics is delightful and will make you want to sing along: “Lost my heart on the carousel to a circus girl who left my heart in pieces…”

Sarah Beetson

Sarah Beetson with Stanley Fox, and her painting of him, at the Coney Island History Project. June 21, 2014. Photo © Coney Island History Project

Related posts on ATZ...

November 14, 2014: Last Chance to Dance with “Miss Coney Island” This Year

November 3, 2014: Summertime Has Gone Away, Polar Bears Are Here to Stay

December 16, 2013: Video of the Day: Beyoncé’s “XO” Love Letter from Coney Island

January 8, 2011: Music Video: Strange Powers by the Magnetic Fields

Read Full Post »

Expert Tattooing Lithographed Poster

Expert Tattooing Lithographed Poster by Friedlander. Noel Barrett Auctions. December 6, 2014

This vintage Friedlander poster featuring a voluptuous Victorian tattooed lady advertising “EXPERT TATTOOING – DONE HERE” is up for auction today at Noel Barrett’s Fall Antique Auction in New Hope, Penn. Bidding is also available online via live auctioneers.

The 38″ x 24″ lithographed paper poster is mounted on board in a period painted frame. Adolph Friedlander was a prolific German lithographer whose firm printed many circus, vaudeville and magic posters beginning in the late 19th century. Tattoo posters are scarce, according to the auctioneer. Though this one has survived in a distressed state, it remains alluring. An hour before the start of today’s auction, it already has 14 bids.

Related posts on ATZ…

November 24, 2014: Up for Auction: Vintage Sideshow Banners & Carnival Curiosities

March 3, 2013: Up for Auction: Bill Lynch Shows Vintage Carnival Poster

February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

November 4, 2011: Up for Auction: Ringling Bros Circus Side Show Poster

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