Monday, April 29, 2013

Local Arts Review: New Graffiti Under Bridge at End of Greenway by the River

This is a review of the new graffiti work that was done sometime during the last couple of weeks. I call it "Hangman" as it is mainly a large, purple paint depiction of a hangman game. It is located by the river under the Greenway bridge. I don't know how long this installation will be up, but as it is in a street level, highly accessible place, I expect the city should manage to obliterate it pretty soon, so if you're interested you'll want to go see it right away.

What I liked about this piece:

One crucial element that "wild" graffiti (as opposed to "sanctioned" graffiti) has is that it is in conversation with danger. Fundamentally it is the danger of being caught that underlies this kind of artwork. A graffiti piece can express this danger in a variety of ways; the extreme physical peril of it's location, the sense of complexity in a piece and thus the implication that the artist must work extraordinarily fast and still stand exposed for a long time, and finally the extreme exposure of painting art in a highly visible and observed (and obviously illegal) location. Anonymous' (anonymous to me!) piece, the purple "Hangman" is a witty play on these issues. While hidden under a bridge it is still in a very active and accessible location, and the implication that our insouciant artist(s?) sat down (so to speak) to a very public game of hangman implies that they give no thought to capture and prosecution, indeed that they are so calm in their peril that they are even bored. Rather that the elegant or ugly hurrying motif of graffiti, they instead find themselves killing time with a game of hangman.

What I didn't like about this piece:

While "Hangman" is a conceptual success, aesthetically it struggles. The purple paint is a nice bold choice and the artist seems to know how to use a spray can. There is even the suggestion of some worthy stylistic cartooning in the actual hangman himself (the 'guesser' appears to have lost this game) and in a side figure (one that has nothing to do with the hangman game and so somewhat dilutes its conceptual power). Unfortunately the whole piece comes off crooked, a bit scatter-shot, and ugly. This sloppy visual sense only fuels our dismissal of the piece and washes out a lot of its considerable narrative power. This piece need not be beautiful, but it is not served by ugliness, and being so near to some of the best graffiti in the cities only makes its weak sense of visual consciousness and wanting skill stand out more.

Should you go see this piece?:

It's worth a look if it's not gone already, but do so on your way to the more completely realized pieces that are nearby, notably "Pretty fly" and "Human power" under the Highway 94 bridge.

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