Wallpapered City

Discover the areas surrounding these vibrant pieces of community art by exploring on Street View, then click through to see them up close. Thank you to our partner in this exhibit, Wallpapered City.

The Black Cat Alley is an outdoor art gallery located in a private alley on the East Side. This unique street art destination was developed by a group of community members and artists back in 2015-2016 in partnership with Wallpapered City LLC, and sponsored by the East Side BID. It now contains 21 murals by 24 artists from Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Columbus and even Berlin. The next nine murals in this exhibit are in Black Cat Alley or immediately next to it.

"We Are One" by Ken Brown by Ken Brown and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"We Are One"
Ken Brown
Milwaukee, WI

The “We Are One” was installed in an amazing way by artist Ken Brown in the summer of 2018. It’s located over a perilous staircase, and Brown was determined to see it installed, no matter what. So he painted this beautiful, stained-glass-inspired mural by hand using a long stick, with a series of paintbrushes tied to the ends, to make this original artwork possible. This installation was an amazing thing to witness. The metallic paints were specially sourced for the effect he needed.

Ken Brown originally earned his BA from Kentucky State University, but currently is a full-time artist here in Milwaukee, WI. Among his career highlights has been teaching art for over a decade to middle and high school students, which has allowed him to share his passion and love for art to many students and families.

"Godmask" by Adam Hernandez by Adam Hernandez and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

Adam Hernandez
Columbus, OH

In early spring of 2018, Adam Hernandez was passing through Milwaukee from Columbus, Ohio and requested permission to paint one of his “Godmask” series on our walls. The Board granted him his wish and we are so lucky to have this piece in Milwaukee’s mural collection.

In a 2018 article for PBS, Hernandez commented, “In my day to day life, I am an artist and muralist who is very heavily influenced by Mayan art. Especially the reliefs and glyphs of their kings and rulers. I am also very influenced by graffiti and street art. For most people, those two styles are very different and almost uncomparable. I think they are the same. “

Adam Hernandez was born and raised in the Bronx to a family of musicians and performers. As a child, the bravado and vibrancy of the graffiti that covered every surface of his city spoke to him. With the city's inspiration and the encouragement of his oil-painting-grandfather, Hernandez set down an artistic path. Throughout his career Hernandez has also found inspiration in the works of Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, and Paul Cézanne as well as the Abstract Expressionist Movement, the Lowbrow Art Movement, and comic books. Hernandez currently resides in Columbus, Ohio.

"Merlin the Albino Deer" by John Kowalczyk by John Kowalczyk and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"Merlin the Albino Buck"
John Kowalczyk
Chicago, IL

John Kowalczyk, an identical twin himself, frequently features themes of twins/symmetry/doubles in his work. He chose this zig-zag section of wall on the west wall of the Alley to feature this dream-like composition of two albino bucks, facing one another in symmetry. This mural was painted in September 2016 as part of the Black Cat Alley’s very first mural festival.

John Kowalczyk describes his art as "shrine-like, shiny, symmetrical, and seductive figurations that become maps of my mind combining myth, math, and magic." His work is comprised of mixed media paintings and larger than life installations that incorporate vintage fabrics, thrift store treasures, gift wrap, shelf liner, string, ribbon, repurposed drawings, glitter and gold. The collaged elements of his paintings become more than the sum of their parts exhibiting a spiritual nature. Born in Chicago in 1988, John Kowalczyk currently lives and works in Milwaukee, WI as an artist, curator, and educator. Kowalczyk received his BFA in painting from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2010, and began a three year residency with RedLine Milwaukee soon after, where he curated gallery shows and taught workshops. He currently is the Artist in Residence Program Director for Artists Working in Education, where he facilitates and oversees large scale community and public art projects throughout the city of Milwaukee. Kowalczyk’s work has been exhibited at the Sienna Art Institute in Italy, The Charles Allis Art Museum, The Harley Davidson Museum, The Cedarburg Cultural Center, and The Museum of Wisconsin Art along with other galleries across the U.S.

"Heart on a Platter" by Bigshot Robot by Bigshot Robot and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"Heart on a Platter"
Bigshot Robot
Milwaukee, WI

We love this 2017 mural by Bigshot Robot featuring an arrow about to pierce a heart, served up on a platter.

Bigshot Robot (hell, no we're not telling you his real name) is an artist, illustrator and designer based in Milwaukee. He mostly likes eating pizza and being out in the sunshine and wearing floral shirts. But other than that he's known for making all sorts of amazing kinds of media besides murals—video content, graphic design/type, paintings, skateboards, posters—you name it.

"In Full Bloom" by Emma Daisy by Emma Daisy and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"In Full Bloom"
Emma Daisy Gertel
Milwaukee, WI

In April of 2018, Emma Daisy Gertel’s design “In Full Bloom” was chosen from over 25 entries by the Black Cat Alley jury for a special installation on the only north-facing wall of the Alley. This powerful design, full of hope and playfulness, expresses a childlike joy that draws visitors in to the Alley. This mural can be interpreted to celebrate feminine independence, and challenge gender roles, in a time when equality is such an important topic of discourse in American culture.

Emma Daisy Gertel is a maker, illustrator, and designer based in Milwaukee. Daisy loves trying new techniques and exploring ideas resulting in mixed formats and experimentation. She studies the world through her hands with deep curiosity. Her work draws from her experience and education in fashion design, community arts, and cultural development. She worked for over a decade as a creative and executive director for a youth arts nonprofit. Her work has received several accolades and awards, including a Mayor’s Design Award in 2012 for a collaborative public art project with Express Yourself Milwaukee.

"The Hot Seat" by CERA by CERA and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"The Hot Seat"
Philadelphia, PA

Black Cat Alley’s most mysterious and most hard-to-photograph mural: “The Hot Seat.” This surrealist composition suggests business, studying, speaking, reading, all in a moving environment of noise, patterns, and danger. The lioness in the lower left hand corner suggests predation, and the megaphone perhaps brings the possibility that help can be found, if only one can find the courage to seize the mouthpiece and say something. CERA said that at the time of designing this composition in 2016, the US Presidential election filled him with anxiety and acute urgency, and this composition was meant as a study of those feelings.

CERA, aka Janson Rapisarda, is a MIAD graduate and a Milwaukeean, but we found him in Philadelphia—the mural capital of the United States—and flew him home to paint a mural for Black Cat Alley in September of 2016. When he visited us, he was asked, "What does street art mean to you?" He replied, "Street art has a plethora of definitions, typically varying in definition from artist to artist. My own interpretation of street art has also changed over the years. Initially, it represented a more freeing way of producing artwork, or a less restrictive platform for exhibiting artwork. I never wanted to confine myself to a canvas, or a print on paper, because I believe that the most accessible artwork is artwork made on the streets and for the streets. It’s the difference between a painting hanging in a gallery, to be exhibited to a select group of trained artists and critics, and a painting made on site, about the site, and for the site. I believe that this inherently widens the viewing demographic, or provides a more inclusive way of creating artwork."

"Keeper of the Birds" by Bunnie Reiss by Bunnie Reiss and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"Keeper of the Birds"
Bunnie Reiss
Los Angeles, CA

Sponsored by Colectivo, this mural was one of the international features of the 2016 inaugural mural festival at Black Cat Alley. Bunnie Reiss was invited to come here from Los Angeles, where she has made public art professionally for over 20 years. A pioneer of feminine voices in mural-making, Bunnie’s mural “Keeper of the Birds” is over 70 feet high and was designed to work with the palette and textures of the Oriental Theater as she found it in 2016.

Bunnie Reiss was born in Maryland, but raised mostly with the wide-blue skies of Colorado. Having come from a large Polish/Russian family, eating, loud talking and community shaped her life. She was a tiny rebel with a large imagination, knowing at a young age that she quite didn’t fit in and the world was a much bigger place than the quiet suburban landscape that seemed to endlessly surround her. After a small stint in France, and a few other areas around the US, Bunnie relocated to Los Angeles several years ago to pursue larger mural and installation based projects. Her work is heavily influenced by her Eastern European background, with its tradition of folk art, bright colors and community engagement. Her extensive travels have also added an extra layer of conversation, which make her creations unique. She has shown extensively in both the United States and around the world, in galleries, alternative spaces, bookstores, abandoned buildings, fields and forests, or any place that seems to need a little extra magic. Her brightly colored folk murals decorate many countries and can be found all over the world. Los Angeles, Mexico, Italy, Paris, India, Philippines, Detroit, Milwaukee, New York, San Francisco are just a few places you would likely stumble upon one.

"Glitch Frog" by MTO by MTO and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"Glitch Frog"

MTO’s “Glitch Frog” was painted on the south-facing wall of the Oriental Theater in July of 2016, as a kick-off to the installation of what would become Black Cat Alley in September of that year. MTO, an artist well known throughout Europe, was invited by the Black Cat Alley team to create a large-scale, impactful piece that would become an icon in our city for years to come. Do we know why it’s a frog? Eh, it doesn’t matter… As MTO put it, “I’m just a French frog in Milwaukee.”

MTO is a French graffiti and street artist known for his politically-charged black-and-white portraits, located all across Europe and in the US. Between 2006 and 2013 he lived in Berlin; however, his current location is unknown. Like many graffiti and street artists, personal and background information is sparse. MTO painted the no iconic "Glitch Frog" in Milwaukee in July of 2016, marking one of the most significant moments in Milwaukee's street art legacy.

"Crossroads" by KOCTEL by KOCTEL and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"The Unsung Hero" by Case Ma'claim by Case Ma'claim and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"The Leopard" by Stacey Williams-Ng by Stacey Williams-Ng and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"Mother Nature" by Stacey Williams-Ng by Stacey Williams-Ng and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"Joy to the Fishes in the Deep Blue Sea" by Stacey Williams-Ng by Stacey Williams-Ng and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"Looking Sharp (Octopus)" by Stacey Williams-Ng by Stacey Williams-Ng and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"Myth Spinning" by Nykoli Koslow by Nykoli Koslow and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"Chasing the Sweetness" by Eric Ricks by Eric Ricks and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"Roan the Raccoon" by Dan Leonard by Dan Leonard and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"A Life of Gold" by Ivan Roque by Ivan Roque and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

"What Blooms is Us" by Christina Thomas by Christina Thomas and Wallpapered CityImagine MKE

Credits: Story

Photos courtesy Stacey Williams-Ng and Wallpapered City.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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