A Random Walk Down York StreetSeptember 20th, 2013
Eight outdoor walls around DUMBO are now clad, inked, or adorned with monumental murals painted by an international selection of artists. Produced through public and private partnerships DUMBO Walls, the series of murals packs a range of images within a four-block stretch of DUMBO along the BQE. The images are representational, illustrative, typographical, abstract, and architectural.
Participating artists include CAM, DALeast, Eltono, Shepard Fairey, Faith47, MOMO, and SVA faculty members Stefan Sagmeister and Yuko Shimizu.
This extensive project is being presented through the NYC DOT Arterventions program, which produces short term art projects on city assets; DUMBO Walls could appear for up to six months, according to DOT’s published guidelines. Funding was provided by the DUMBO Improvement District and Two Trees Management Co.
Stefan Sagmeister and Yuko Shimizu exchange affirmations under the BQE, with individual, yet coordinated, murals bearing the exclamation, “Yes!” and painted by Coby Kennedy. Sagmeister’s style, like the painted lines on the asphalt, is black, white, and sleekly hard-edged; it unscrolls in a Coca-cola-esque typeface. Shimizu’s “Yes!” unfurls in the long tentacle of an octopus. Cleverly, the artists coordinated their serpentine script, echoing each other’s over-under layering of the lettering. The effect is that the octopus is mimetically voguing the script modeled before it. Cool! (Given the splashy, white-capped waves around the octopus, one wonders what he or she is doing with the other tentacles.)
An emblematic mural by Shepard Fairey presides over the paved surface of Bridge Park 2, just a few blocks from the temporary gallery space where he exhibited his 2007 show, E Pluribus Venom. Fairey’s DUMBO Walls mural features a woman carrying concentric symbols of peace; this image is flanked by the words “Justice” and “Peace.” Fairey told Gothamist: “I’ve incorporated peace and justice in several of my images over the past few years. Having to do something that the city is going to approve and making it pretty with these floral motifs, but incorporating the ‘Peace’ and ‘Justice’ in there, was a way to subtly get to people’s conscious and consciousness.”
Two more murals stand out as bold interventions. One lurks behind trees, but is worth beating back the bush. If you do, you’ll find a phalanx of wide-eyed, colorful owls painted by NYC-based artist CAM. The owls peer from the wall of Bar & Grill Park, painted in a style inspired by stained glass. You can see their preliminary stages here. I think they’ll be exciting to see in winter, without the curtains of leafy trees.
But nothing can conceal the widest mural – at 200 feet long – painted by the American artist MOMO. His is a primary-colored abstraction that features geometric shapes, spectral gradients, and cascading stripes. The mural is a feat of impressive utensil dexterity; indeed, MOMO is known for working with handmade tools.