Bronx Painter

Unites Borough’s Artists

Daniel Hauben’s work is known internationally, but his newest exhibit is close to home

Dec. 1, 2014 | By Michaela Ross

Daniel Hauben’s paintings of Bronx street scenes have hung in the White House and international galleries. But his first mural of the borough covered his parents’ bedroom wall.

“It was a big cityscape. It’s what I grew up seeing,” said Hauben.

Hauben, 58, is a Bronx-born artist who has always been drawn to urban geometries. He said he works to change the negative perception people have of the borough through his oil paintings. This year he mobilized more than 140 Bronx artists with the same vision to create the Bronx Artist Documentary Project, a photography exhibit that captures Bronx-based visual artists creating work in their borough.

“All this creativity is taking place here,” said Hauben, who graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York in the ‘80s and has lived and worked in the Bronx ever since.

During the past 30 years, Hauben said he has tried to capture a fresh, positive impression of the Bronx. He said his exhibits around the world try to fight the stereotype that the borough is still the gang-infested, destitute area it was in the 1970s.

Many area artists said they are inspired by how Hauben captures their neighborhood in his paintings.

“I grew up here in the Bronx all my life,” said visual artist Dennesa Usher, a participant in the Bronx Artist Documentary Project. “I’m like, wow! Someone has captured the essence of my home here.”

“He is able to capture the beauty in traffic and intersections and sidewalks,” said Alex Mendoza, a visual artist who also participated in the documentary project.

Mendoza said Hauben’s 17-foot panorama “Bronx Vortex” exemplifies his style of capturing reality in a surrealistic way through color and movement. The street scene details the busy Bronx intersection of Fordham Road and Grand Concourse. A replica of the piece now hangs in the borough president’s office.

And Hauben said the artist population in his borough is growing. He started organizing the Bronx Artist Documentary Project in 2013 with his wife, Judith Lane, to help fellow artists and his community become more aware of one another.

“There are a million and a half people in this borough and there are a lot of artists working off in their corners not knowing what everyone else is doing,” said Michael Kamber, curator of the project and founder of the Bronx Documentary Center. “This was the first project to try and connect those people.”

The project recruited 30 Bronx photographers to capture 80 visual artists creating work in the borough. More artists became involved documenting the process through video and written biographies. Hauben, Lane and Kamber worked with artist Jeanine Alfieri to raise more than $50,000 to print the best 100 photographs as the show’s main exhibit. A photo book of the project is also due for release in June 2015.

“It’s been a journey. It’s been insane,” Hauben said.

The photography exhibit was premiered at the historic Andrew Freedman Home this fall and showed again at the Krasdale Foods Art Galleries this winter. Reviews from the artist community reflect Hauben’s hope that the project would paint a new picture of the Bronx.

“The Bronx has a bad reputation from way back in the ‘70s, but when people see the work and creativity here, there is a different side to it,” organizer Michael Kamber said.

“The project has changed the perception of the Bronx compared to other boroughs,” said Dennesa Usher, an artist in the project. “I think a project like this sheds a light on all that hard work and what a bright future the artist community has here.”