Empty the Cages Favorite 



Sep 1 2014



Fifty-six-year-old Dan Witz — who originally hails from Chicago but lives in Brooklyn — has been producing street art in New York since the seventies. And not just any street art. Wondrous works that trick the eye and often elude passersby altogether. Oh, but when one realizes what he or she is seeing, it’s pure revelation.

Much of Witz’s oeuvre pays homage to painting techniques made famous centuries ago, namely trompe l’oeil, chiaroscuro and tenebrism. His richly hued hummingbirds sure are remarkable, but it’s his dimensional magic (morphing 2D into 3D) and play with light and shadow that make Witz a modern day master.

Not surprisingly*, the husband, father, author and vegetarian (all titles he holds, in addition to artist with a capital A) was recently tapped by PETA UK to execute a large scale public project that, in keeping with Witz’s and the nonprofit org’s shared M.O., also happened to be completely illegal. But breaking the law is nothing new for either party and, given the campaign’s mission, no question the threat of arrest was well worth it.

Witz spent the summer preparing pieces for something dubbed “Empty the Cages,” an outdoor installation intended to raise awareness surrounding the plight of animals on factory farms. After ample research and much hemming and hawing about a title that was ultimately upheld, in September Witz traveled to the UK to erect the provocative exhibit over the course of six days. And there it so remains, unless or until someone defaces or removes his compassionate and compelling contributions.

Each artwork was (is) accompanied by a inconspicuous QR code — which apparently people interact with in Europe — that when scanned via one’s smartphone directs curious viewers to a branded landing page**, encouraging them to bear witness to animal abuse and go veg.

In spite of the deeply disturbing realities “Empty the Cages” reveals, Witz is grateful for the opportunity, saying “It was really exciting. It was an adventure.”

-Nell Alk

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