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Hilarie M. Sheets of The Times writes:

How does an unknown artist capture a large audience? “Location, location, location,” said Otis Houston Jr., applying the real estate adage to a strip of sidewalk along the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive in Harlem where it has delighted and puzzled motorists since 1997 with his performances, his banners and his assemblages of found objects.

Having developed a cult along the freeway over the years, Mr. Houston is now represented by Gordon Robichaux and will have a star ride in the gallery booth at Frieze New York, the premier art fair. presented at the Shed from Thursday.

“It feels good. It’s my time,” said Mr. Houston, 67, who works the day as a guard in a Midtown office building and returns to his place on FDR Drive during off-peak hours.

At Gordon Robichaux last month, where her second solo show was on view, the charismatic performer recounted her improbable journey into the art world. He grew up in Greenville, SC, where his father, grandfather and uncle worked as plasterers. After moving to Harlem in 1969 as a teenager, he fell into a bad crowd and was jailed twice, for a total of over seven years in the 1970s and 1980s, for drug trafficking.

[Read more about Mr. Houston and his one-of-a-kind work.]

Living in social housing near East 122nd Street after his release, and seeing from his patio how the freeway traffic slowed down and reduced to one lane before the Triborough Bridge, he spotted his scene.

There, spray painting messages on old towels from a gym where he once worked and arranging paintings of flowers, fruits and toys, he could strike a pose with a book in one hand, a broom in the other and a watermelon rind on his head. . “Knowledge. Work,” Mr. Houston said, hopping to his feet to pantomimize his position. What about the watermelon? “I’m just showing off, it’s good for attention,” he said, laughing heartily.

Mr Houston said police gave him more than 60 tickets, citing things like ‘giving signals to a gang’ and throwing trash, which he managed to get all but two thrown out in court, the one by a judge who, according to the artist, had declared “Art for the love of art! with a hammer blow.



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