We Don't Do Windows, after my first visit there. So I was particularly stunned upon my recent arrival to see that one entire wall of the one-story building had been completely transformed by "graffiti."
I say "graffiti" because this type of painting, historically very controversial, has been going through a transition. I have written several stories on the phenomenon. From Unconditional Love on October 8, 2010:
Most see the problem as vandalism, pure and simple… What complicates the matter, however, is that like anything else, there is a spectrum of quality - some of the work is extraordinary. Some of the buildings are in industrial neighborhoods, have stood unoccupied for decades, and are dreadful looking - drab architecture, no exterior maintenance and a dismal setting. And often they are vastly improved by aerosol paint. But, nonetheless, these buildings are not "public" property.
However, many building owners permit the work to be done. This seems to be a growing trend. And, in Long Island City, 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Inc., “The Institute of Higher Burnin’," is an outdoor art exhibit space which is considered to be the world’s premiere “graffiti Mecca,” where aerosol artists from around the globe paint colorful pieces on the walls of a 200,000-square-foot factory building. The founder says, however, that "Graffiti is a label for writers who vandalize. Aerosol art takes hours and days. It's a form of calligraphy."
Certainly cooperation is best for all, allowing more time for better work and even working with the owners for things like incorporation of company signage elements.
The major epicenter of this type of sanctioned aerosol art is the block-long, 200,000-square-foot (19,000 m2) factory building complex in Long Island City, Queens, known as 5 Pointz (includes a link to the photo gallery).
The mural done at Pulse Plastics shown in today's photo was the work of Tats Cru. The artists who form the group and their work are impressive. Some have been commissioned by major international corporations. You can read more about Tats Cru and see their work here.
The owner of Pulse Plastics, Alan Backleman, sanctioned the work on his building and is pleased with the result. He agreed with me that the building-long mural is an improvement and welcome facelift for the previously drab structure. Already, Alan told me that the building has been used as a backdrop for film and commercial work.
It is questionable, of course, whether covering every neglected structure in the five boroughs of New York City with aerosol art would be desirable. Without some sort of cooperation and coordination, the urban landscape could end up looking like a cacophony of circus posters. But we are a long way from that concern.
The Bronx's image has been troubled, however, the borough was not as blighted as it appears today. The period from 1920-1950 was documented in The Beautiful Bronx by historian Lloyd Ultan. The book came out in 1979 two years after President Carter visited the South Bronx, a visit that did much to project a negative image of the borough across the nation.
At one time, the borough used a wastebasket and the slogan "Don't Dump on the Bronx" for their anti-littering campaign. In 2001, the Bronx replaced the image with one of a Day Lily and the slogan "The Beautiful Bronx," inspired by Ultan's book title, as part of a beautification program and effort to improve the Bronx's image.
Unwanted graffiti was a large part of the visual blight that dominated most vistas in the borough. As everyone knows, however, tools can be used for good or bad, and when seen in this light, it is perhaps not so ironic that the aerosol spray demonstrates quite clearly that in times of need, your worst enemy can become Your Best Friend :)
More graffiti and aerosol art: Rattus rattus, Skame, Columbo, Monk and CSI, TMNK, Unguent, Unkindest Etch of All, Scrap Yard, 11 Spring Street, Dumbo Arts Festival, Mars Bar, Totem