Graffiti as Art in New York City, part 2
[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 6/7/2002, updated 9/11/2004 - www.Littleviews.com ]
>> The huge, graffiti mural you see pictured was created to commemorate the people who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack on The World Trade Center. Its personal, locally-created images stand in contrast to all the ugly, commercial billboards that snuff out the visual uniqueness of our city.
Before I tell you about it, let's review the observations I made in my first article, (Graffiti as Art in New York City, part 1):
- Cities are better served by having buildings with creatively painted and/or decorated exterior walls, than buildings with plain brick, concrete or glass walls.
- When locals make an effort to decoratively use walls for proposes other than billboard advertising, those walls become protected from vandalism.
I am against the vandalism of private property, of which graffiti is a problem! And what you see here is, indeed, illegally painted on private property (although I don't think it's opposed by the owner).
But I'm also against the vandalism of public space by corporations who justify pushing their self-serving logos and advertising pitches in our faces just because they paid someone for the right to do so. That "someone" is not looking out after community interests. Billboards deaden our responses to reality because they make everything everywhere look the same.
OK, with only a bit more rant, if you want to understand a city, you will be greatly aided by seeing the visions produced by people who actually live in it. Go on a trip abroad and what type of pictures do you commonly bring back? I bet that whenever possible, they'll show uniquely painted doorways and architectural ornamentation, all of which reflect a sense of place. I'd be very surprised if you brought back pictures of advertising billboards!
Art like this is what you look for.
With that in mind, pictured above is a 25 foot long by about 15 foot high New York City graffiti mural created on a wall that surrounds the Madison Square Garden Park parking lot near the corner of 29th and 8th Avenue. It expresses what's been on our minds since 9/11.
Who painted it? I don't know. Certainly not a multi-national business. The lot attendant says that a couple of nice kids did it this spring, but he doesn't know their names.
It is difficult to appreciate this large mural through photos. If you want to see it in person, visit after business hours because cars block it during the day. I captured these pictures last week on an early Sunday evening.
Referring to the first photo, you'll see that on the far left is a rendition of the World Trade Center and Statue of Liberty, with the New Jersey shoreline in back. On the far right is a scroll commemorating those who died on 9/11. (DETAIL IN IMAGE 2 AND 4)
Note the lines that go through the painting (image 2). These are actually pipes that deliver various services to the host building, all beautifully painted to blend into the overall display.
Image 3 (cutout circle) shows a portion of the mural that flows past a protrusion on the wall. Notice how the painting not only covers the protrusion, it also neatly camouflages the rough surface of a brick (top, left quadrant).
Also notice the undulating depth to this painting. The flag flows with perspective and shading. The texture is based on graffiti word art and, no, I have no idea what it says.
Parking lots are usually hit with massive amounts of word-oriented graffiti, but some, like this one, attract more expressive forms. I suspect roving art school student gangs rampage around the better looking lots.
Image 4 shows the scroll that expresses what was on these artists' minds. Note the old world look to their statement.
Until around 50 years ago, when building budgets began excluding everything remotely interesting in favor of blank walls (walls that now attract graffiti) decoration was a critical element of exterior design. Even the poorest 100+ year old tenements have beautiful exteriors.
I think it is interesting that the artists featured here cast their statement using symbolism representing a time when artisans were regarded as being vital to the community; as vital as the police and firefighters are today.
God bless them all . . .
SEPTEMBER 11, 2004
I WAS CONTACTED BY ELIMU WHO IDENTIFIED THE ARTISTS AS JAT, MERE, LEIA, BISC, AND ARS, ALL NY NATIVES.
NOTE THAT AS OF SPRING 2004, ALL GRAFFITI IN THIS LOT HAS BEEN WHITEWASHED EXCEPT FOR THE 9/11 TRIBUTE. I'M GLAD THAT THE TRIBUTE IS STILL THERE, BUT THE OTHER WORK IN THAT LOT WAS EXCELLENT. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON GRAFFITI, CHECK OUT www.Graffiti.org.
Questions or comments?
Article and photos by Karen Little. First published on 6/7/2002. All rights reserved by