We’ve elected to use the work of a great artist as reference for another large-scale mural. Public art presents a potential gateway that, if successful, sparks the interest of observers, prompting further investigation. This time the gateways leads to the work of the late Ken Price, an artist whose work lent itself quite well to our process. In 2013 the Albright-Knox exhibited a show of his paintings curated by Douglas Dreishpoon. Price smartly composed deceivingly simple paintings in which colors are given space to breathe and play off of one another’s strengths. His paintings sit comfortably between the natural and the surreal, commanding attention. The experience of viewing these small, vivid paintings is similar to looking into an exotic saltwater fish tank. The exhibit left a strong impression on all of us who worked on the mural.
Our choice to incorporate traditional graffiti was a concerted effort to reach a niche audience that has been part of our independent histories, each in different capacities. Regardless of our varying levels of engagement with graffiti, mine being absolute abstinence at this point, what we do share is an appreciation for work ethic. Graffiti has a reputation of being vulgar, extreme, and haphazardly conducted. Perhaps for some it is, but for us it is a subculture that, though separate and distant from many of our other creative practices, has instilled valuable ideologies that bleed into other facets of life. Anyone can apply paint to a wall, but few understand the language and nuance of it, and still a smaller percentage are willing to work as hard and as long as is necessary to become a master. The same can be said of any and all types of work.
Two of the members of our team are professional house painters with a decade-plus experience under their belts. They specialize in high-end home renovations, but have put in their hours doing the rough stuff as well. The remaining two of our group, myself included, have been working with our hands both professionally and in art practices for the larger part of our lives. We completed this mural during the span of a week during which we all maintained regular full-time hours as day laborers, taking turns between shifts to complete stages of the process. The location is on a building that houses Solid 716, a creative enterprise driven by my friend Jonathan Casey. We sought a location that would give us full creative freedom. To fund the mural we pooled our materials and money. Finding support to facilitate the production of art is a job in and of itself and often comes with conditions or unwanted intrusion. We like privacy. This mural is a statement for us—an example of what we can do on our own, without support from any financial backer and without asking anyone for money. Instead of playing a part in anyone else’s agenda, or even to submit to the constraints and lure of capitalistic gain, we opted to make this on our own. Authenticity is an essential component in a piece of art in order for our community to be receptive of it. As for the rest…great art is often met by the majority with cold indifference, misunderstanding, or outward opposition. However our work may be received, we know what it’s worth.