While the soul of New York hip-hop lives in miniature
New York (AFP) – With nimble hands and childlike eyes, Danny Cortes brings to life in miniature the urban conditions of New York, rich in hip-hop culture. A hobby that initially became a source of success among rappers – until Sotheby’s auction house.
“We never stop being children (…) Who doesn’t like toys? Who doesn’t like miniatures?”, smiles the 42-year-old artist, sitting in the middle of restoring all kinds of things in his studio. in the Bushwick district of Brooklyn.
On his desk, a work in progress, a copy of a faded and dirty brick facade. A plastic crate doubles as a basketball hoop hangs next to the brick-clad windows.
“It represents my childhood (…) everything looked like this, abandoned, empty”, “(the neighborhood) had a lot of drugs”, he describes, working with his material, polystyrene.
From 30 to 10,000 dollars
Among his other recent creations is an unassuming Chinese restaurant with a damaged yellow sign and graffiti-adorned purple and red brick walls.
In front of the establishment — the real one — in a round-faced hat and black jacket, Danny Cortes is still smiling and says New York rapper Joel Ortiz, who grew up nearby, totally wants to pay it forward. The price? “$10,000,” replies Danny Cortes. “The first coin I sold was $30 and I was very happy,” he recalls.
The artist creates collections from the most ordinary urban spaces, “those little things we pass by every day” that we forget about, but make up the landscape of the megalopolis.
ice cube cooler
One of his first signatures is a simple ice cube refrigerator, a white piece of furniture with the letters “ICE” across it. This furniture sits on the sidewalks of many grocery stores, often covered in graffiti, stickers, and posters, which it meticulously replicates. brush..
His repertoire also includes the ice cream van that can be seen in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) and whose bell young New Yorkers still know. Typical images fueled by nostalgia, to which he adds images of legendary local rappers such as Notorious BIG or Wu-Tang Clan.
Danny Cortes wasn’t always an artist. But the pandemic changed his life, turning his hobby of selling, building or chaining a man in a homeless shelter into a more laborious activity.
When he exhibited his first creation on social networks, he summarizes it as “it just took off”.
Mass Appeal, the art label fronted by rap legend Nas, commissioned him to model a ghetto-blaster for the cover of DJ Premier’s mini-album (“Hip Hop 50: Volume 1”).
Last March, four of his works were auctioned off at Sotheby’s in a “hip hop” auction, including an ice cream truck that sold for $2,200.
“Dirty and gross”
“He really knows how to capture that gritty, angry vibe that 1990s hip-hop was born in New York,” praises Monica Lynch, former president of Tommy Boy Records and a consultant on the sale.
With his work, Danny Cortes also wants to “document” the “ever-changing” space, especially the Bushwick neighborhood, which today is a luxury home for artists and a symbol of gentrification, which he does not regret.
“I think it’s good, it’s safer. Although Bushwick will always be Bushwick, there are more opportunities,” he said.
His art is not limited to Brooklyn. He also built a miniature replica of the Atlanta restaurant for the owner, rapper 2 Chainz.
© 2022 AFP