In late fall, the fiercely independent and inventive multimedia artist Robert Janz died at the age of 88. Since moving to Tribeca several decades ago, he had transformed his neighboring streets into an unconventional open air gallery. Intent on enriching our awareness and appreciation of the ephemeral with his artworks and poems, he quietly raged against consumerism, greed, egotism and human defilement of the environment.
Earlier this year, photographer and artist Allan Molho graced Duane Street — just several steps from where Robert Janz had lived — with the installation pictured above in his honor. What follows is an interview with Allan, along with photos of Robert Janz‘s work that Allan Molho had captured.
When did you first encounter Robert Janz‘s distinct aesthetic in a public space?
Back in 2011, I discovered images of mountains and birds over ads on a construction site.
What initially attracted you to Janz‘s work?
I was attracted to its subversive nature. I liked that Janz wasn’t selling a product. There was nothing commercial about his work. It was pure communication. In addition to ripping up ads to repurpose them as flowers or birds, he also left poems on walls.
You were obviously inspired by him.
Yes, he certainly inspired me He had a serene belief in his work and in his creativity. And as an artist, I know how important this is. I’m also inspired by his resolve to continue getting his message out in public spaces until his late 80’s.
What spurred you to photograph Janz‘s work throughout the past decade?
I wanted to share it with other folks. Janz was a great artist, and his ideas are important. He was unique in many ways.
And what inspired you to install this memorial to him on Duane Street?
Because of the ephemeral nature of Janz‘s public art in this neighborhood, I want to keep his memory alive. It is important that he be remembered.
Have you crafted any other public installations that pay tribute to others?
Yes. Among those whom I’ve honored in public spaces are: Michael Stewart, Timothy Caughman and Covid 19 doctors.
Note: Be sure to check out Allan Molho‘s website — www.memorialsnewyork.com, — for an ongoing documentation of NYC memorials, tributes and commemorations.
Photos: 1 Lois Stavsky; 2-6 Allan Molho