If you've spent some time in New York in the past few months, you have probably seen Mitchell Schorr's work, and you might not have even realized it. For the past year Schorr has been creating a massive race around New York's urban streets with his series of car-themed street art works on buildings. The ever-changing pace of the city gains a tangible form in cars that speed up, lag behind and catch up again. In only 13 months Schoor has turned an incredible number of commercial roll-down storeground gates and construction fences into whimsical and immersive events with a create-your-own narrative type effect. Depending on your route, different cars pull ahead and fall behind, creating a continuous visual adventure that refuses to slow down.
Before embarking on this ambitious project, Schorr had a strong background in art and community murals. His murals were featured in "New York, I Love You" with Ethan Hawke, and the impact of his work was discussed in the book "On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City." Authors Janet Braun-Reinitz, Amy Goodman and Jane Weissman explain: "If not community murals in the strictest sense, Schorr's projects, characterized by loose brushwork and high color, invite thousands of New Yorkers into exotic, distant landscapes, far from their everyday concrete reality." With his imaginative race-scapes, Schorr removes concrete from its own reality as well.
We spoke to Schorr about what led him to embark on the project and he referenced the impact Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf had on him with their subway art during a phone interview with The Huffington Post. "I think that is what made the city so vibrant and cool," he said. "When there were just advertisements everywhere I wanted there to be art for just people to see." He then noted the irony that due to the repetition of his work, a continuously evolving scene that appears both different and the same, people often mistake it for an ad.
Schorr's race is more mural than street art, although he conforms to neither category. The main difference is that Schorr most often receives permission before painting on a property, making him more fairy-godfather than vigilante. "Most people think it looks better than an empty gate," he explained. At this point the police are familiar with his project and for the most part don't bother him. "It looks like I'm supposed to be doing whatever I'm doing."
The most unlikely member of the fictitious race is an ice cream truck, which almost serves as a symbol for Schorr's generosity and youthful energy. In 2004, he explained, he did a show all about ice cream trucks and the feelings of pure joy and innocence they evoked. He spoke wistfully of the magical exchange of money (which as a child appeared from a parent's hand as if out of thin air) and a delicious and refreshing sweet. The sound of the musical truck approaching is a comparable experience to catching a glimpse of Schorr's painted world, both an unexpected gift that brings a bit of magic to urban life.
Schorr is hoping to expand his canvas across the entire world eventually, but for now New York is still a challenge. We are looking forward to seeing this race stretch all across the city (and we're rooting for the ice cream truck).
See "Da Race" in the slideshow below, and let us know where you've seen his work in the city.