Vito Rising

Pol art: Warhol-esque posters paper Greenpoint with Vito Lopez’s face
Brooklyn Paper
by Aaron Short
April 24, 2012

State Assemblyman Vito Lopez isn’t just the face of Brooklyn’s Democratic party ­ his face is becoming a Brooklyn street art icon.

Scores of mysterious posters featuring the Bushwick politician’s head and the words “Vito Rises” have been plastered on poles, walls, and lampposts throughout Greenpoint over the past few days.

Residents first noticed the posters, which consist of 35 black-and-white images of Lopez arranged like Andy Warhol’s famous soup cans, on April 16, when neighborhood blogger Miss Heather published images of the graffiti on her website.

Milton Street residents Rolf Carle said he saw a young couple plastering the posters near his home last week, but did not recognize the artists, nor, at first glance, the subject.

“I couldn’t make out the image until later, but they don’t seem flattering,” said Carle, who doesn’t oppose the political art. “My initial thought was, ‘If you got something to say, say it, damn it!’ ”

The printouts have become a common sight around Greenpoint ­ a neighborhood actually represented in Albany by Democratic Assemblyman Joe Lentol. But the Vito-related campaign isn’t limited to the streets.

An anonymous artist registered the Twitter account Vito Rises on April 16 and claimed credit for the artwork, making what might be a veiled reference to the longtime lawmaker’s tumultuous term ­ and a not-so-veiled reference to the indie pop act Sleigh Bells.

“You’ve gotta try a little harder, you’re the comeback kid,” the Twitter user wrote, quoting the chorus of a song by the Brooklyn musical duo.

As both the head of the Assembly housing committee and chairman of the county Democratic Party, Lopez is one of the most powerful politicians in New York State ­ but a comeback of sorts might be in order after the legislator came under fire for his role in a housing and social services nonprofit that federal, state, and city investigators have been probing since 2008.

So far the artist has been coy about the intentions of the works.

“I am the wave of inevitability that exists ad infinitum, and I will always rise!” the poster-maker said on Twitter in response to a question about the purpose of the printouts.

The artwork has gotten Lopez’s attention, but a spokeswoman for the Assemblyman said she has no clue who is behind it.

The party boss’s rivals won’t point fingers, but they claim the posters are a subtle jab at Lopez for running his own candidates against them in elections.

“The artists behind Vito Rises are creatively poking fun and building community awareness about the efforts of Boss Vito to try to defeat progressive, reform-oriented elected officials like myself and Nydia Velazquez in the upcoming elections,” said Democratic district leader Lincoln Restler, who is gearing up for a race against Lopez-backed Community Board 1 chairman Chris Olechowski.

Restler denied authorship of the posters.

Greenpoint artists have noticed them too ­ and they’re not impressed.

“I’m not sure I’d categorize this as pop art, and I’d give the rendering of the portrait image a C+,” said Fowler Arts Collective member Scott Chasse. “It would’ve been a much better image with a lighter background behind his head so he wouldn’t be so lost in the darkness ­ but, hey, they’ve made their point, right?”