For generations, ambitious and fascinated artists have flocked to the magnetic field that is New York City, in search of constant inspiration and the big break. The city’s electrifying effect often becomes an active element in the work that is subsequently produced, as evident in many artists on the contemporary art scene. HERCULES UNIVERSAL has selected a few artists who define what it means to be making art in New York today. While in many ways these artists are diverse, all are producing work that speaks of New York’s current artistic climate. How do they navigate and what are their vantage points? And what about their relationship with The City of Skyscrapers? Stay close, and in the next weeks you’ll find out…



From his tucked away Brooklyn studio, multi faceted artist Todd Murphy lets the rich tapestry of New York life seep into his artwork. The city’s accumulating stories are seen as “found art” and become a source of inspiration, which the artist interprets into photography, sculptures and paintings. Murphy, whose work can be found in numerous collections and museums stateside, was born in Chicago and raised in Georgia, where his career started.

How do you relate New York with your work? The aesthetics of New York play into my art to some extent. It’s so rich with history and with layers that you can literally see different eras happening concurrently – stories accumulate as materials, which, when you think about it, is another way to phrase “art.” I think much of what one sees in New York could be characterized as “found art.” I once was sitting on the F train and looked up and saw the word “PRAY” scratched into the wall, and I thought that was absolutely beautiful. My studio space also informs what I do. I have a place here in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I have a great view of both Brooklyn, the city, the water. At the same time, it’s pretty tucked away. Like all studios before it, it is unlike any of the others that I’ve had. I like to work in reconstructed or reused spaces. In Atlanta, for example, I painted in an old mattress factory; and in Charlottesville, Virginia, I worked in the back of an old movie theatre. New York is an extremely dense environment both socially and psychically.  Which one would you say has a larger impact on your work? The social environment of New York is quite stimulating to me, I love the diversity of characters and their interactions. I could probably spend a day or two on the subway just watching people. As a physical environment, I think New York’s mostly interesting when you consider its physical pasts, such as the levelling of the hills when it was first being built. It’s definitely interesting to observe different architectures and colours. Again, I think the subway is a perfect example for this as well because it is a physical infrastructure that invites a really unique social interaction. How has the location you grew up in affected your process, and does this continue to influence your practice today? I grew up in Chicago before I moved to Atlanta at the age of ten. In Atlanta there’s the legacy of slavery and segregation that, in other forms, continues until today. I’m interested in the tension of having white privilege while coming from an immigrant background in this situation. Also, the wildlife and weather of both regions are very interesting to me. Illinois gets tornadoes like no other. Right before they come, the whole sky becomes a murky green colour. What are you currently working on? As always, I’m working on a few projects. I love doing research before art. Lately, I’ve been researching the secret signals that American slaves passed to each other through quilts; the history of salt and Moby Dick.

Portraits by Cameron Krone, text by Sol Marinozzi.