Bushwick artist makes giant machetes out of Brooklyn street signs

Bushwick artists Coby Kennedy turns Brooklyn street signs into large blades. He's also making a film about Brooklyn, 400 years in the future. Credit: Aymann Ismail, ANIMAL New York
Bushwick artists Coby Kennedy turns Brooklyn street signs into large blades. He’s also making a film about Brooklyn, 400 years in the future. Credit: Aymann Ismail, ANIMAL New York

In a Bushwick warehouse, surrounded by table saws and welding equipment, Coby Kennedy transforms street signs into large blades.

The artists cuts, sharpens, attaches the blades to staffs wrapped in cloth and distresses the surfaces. In the end, they look like weathered weapons from an alternate future: a Bedford Ave machete; a STOP sign shield; a long, curved warrior’s blade from various No Parking signs.

“I get them where I get them,” Kennedy says about the source of his appropriated street signs. A long time resident of Brooklyn, Kennedy created his series “In Service of a Villain” as an artistic response to the rapid gentrification around him.

“It’s based on a narrative which reflects contemporary situations,” Kennedy explains. “A lot of street signs are from places in Brooklyn that have history and weight, places that are losing that particular culture.”

Kennedy’s narrative is complex and imaginative. His sculptures double as props. The artist is making a film about Brooklyn 400 years into the future, a film influenced by post-Apocalyptic science fiction and colonial history. In this dystopian reality, native Brooklyn residents are forced to defend their remaining territories. The weaponized street signs reflect the heritage and origins of his characters.

“I see the world in camera pans and zoom shots,” Kennedy says. He’s always been a little different. After several years working in Japan as a car designer for Honda and a stint with industrial design in Italy, Kennedy returned home to Brooklyn, unsatisfied with his creative output. He decided to make art. He taught himself to weld using instructional videos from the Internet. “I graduated from the University of YouTube,” he laughs.

Kennedy also makes video works and striking, hyperreal paintings. Once, he put realistic-looking gun vending machines in the street. The installation made from resin, plastic, fiberglass and a video monitor was a metaphor for “the role of corporate business in the perpetuation of urban violence and the practice of social genocide.”

Another Kennedy sculpture titled “Reckoning of the Baller” is a set of explosive Molotov cocktails, poured into gilded bottles of the Ace of Spades Champagne, popularized by rap superstar Jay Z. They are riot weapons but they stand on a regal Catholic-like altar, draped in shimmering fabric. In this piece, the artist asks if it’s possible to be both a pop culture celebrity and a symbol of rebellion. He is fond of paradoxes.

“I’m inspired by everything that I see,” Kennedy says. “The good and the bad.” Unlike most representational objects found in galleries and museums, his art is relevant to the current state of New York City, its flux of gentrification and the personality complexes of its residents, or what the artist refers to as “self-entitlement, self-image,  and self-genocide.” His art has a very unique element of realness. And in the case of his street sign sculptures, they are literally, real weapons.

For more stories like this visit ANIMALNewYork.com.


Grimm choice: Tax fraud trial could dog NY…

Rep. Michael Grimm may be splitting his time between the campaign trail and a courtroom where he is due to face tax evasion charges.


Met Opera, unions extend talks for 72 hours,…

Met Opera agreed to extend negotiations with its labor unions for 72 hours, preventing a threatened lockout, the organization said late Thursday.


MAP: New York City street closures August 2…

Summer Streets, the NYC Triathlon, the Ecuadorian Parade and festivals will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend.


Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.


Interview: Brendan Gleeson on 'Calvary' and his very…

Brendan Gleeson discusses how "Calvary" began over drinks and how his priest character is the opposite of the officer he played in "The Guard."


Interview: Chris O'Dowd does funny and serious in…

Chris O'Dowd talks about "Calvary," an Irish comedy-drama about a priest (Brendan Gleeson) under fire.


'Alive Inside' and 'Code Black' are documentaries with…

Two new documentaries — "Alive Inside" and "Code Black" — portray different issues but suffer from the same problem.


Caught a Ghost catches a soul/rap vibe

Jesse Nolan says Caught a Ghost's sound aims for two things everybody likes: soul music and '90s rap.


Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline


Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…


Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.


Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.


What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.


Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.


Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.


Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…