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~ City’s First Legal Street Art Roof Mural?
~ Largest Art Piece In The Bushwick Mural District
~ Phase I Of Artsy Bushwick Roof Circles Painted
~ Bushwick, What Huge (Painted) Balls You Have (etc)
(COPYING WHOLE OR IN PART APPROVED –MAY CREDIT “STAFF REPORTS”)
It might be New York City’s first legal street art roof mural. It is the largest art piece in the Bushwick Mural District. The geometric abstract measures around 150 feet by –well– a whole city block. The recently-knighted street artist and fine artist (Sir) Terry Ward (AKA GrumpyVisualArtist) designed the roof mural two years ago at the invitation of Joe Ficalora, who leads The Bushwick Collective: an urban rejuvenation team working with international graffiti artists and street culture figures. Phase I was finished in late June of 2015.
Ward’s design includes spots about 12 feet across (and surprisingly symmetrical for circles painted freehand with a 3-inch brush) mostly in black, with an occasional Calder Orange circle. Orange-painted sparkles also appear, and mirror chips embedded in them occasionally shimmer in the sun.
Painted atop flat commercial roof surfaces, the design will be visible mostly to the aircraft which zoom low overhead, and to viewers of GoogleMaps and other map websites. Viewing without aircraft is challenging since previous owners of 348 Troutman Street and 199 Starr Street had ringed their conjoined rooftops with a two-foot roll of military grade razor wire –back when the area’s streets were more “mean” and less artsy than today. Yet, some tenements and apartments have a view, and the four residents who shouted opinions from windows and neighboring roofs all expressed approval.
Thanks to the organizing efforts of Joe Ficalora (sometimes affectionately called The Curator of Bushwick), an 8-block sector of Brooklyn’s Troutman Street and Starr Street where once blight and deterioration festered –has transformed into world class street art attraction decorated by many artists. Indeed, while Sir Terry and an assistant positioned a two-story ladder to reach their tar “canvas”, a tour group from England was collecting snapshots all down the street. Meanwhile, a busload of art teachers wearing conference name tags took in the sights near a vanload of Michigan tourists. None were notified beforehand about the roof mural activity; rather, it was just a typical day in the Mural District.
Ward said, “my paintings usually are ‘OmniDirectional’ –meaning designed to be hung at any angle: no top, no bottom– and I wanted my mural to be like that too.” Ward added, “and since it is where some residents look down upon it from their windows, well, no monsters or yucky stuff like you see in lots of graffiti –don’t want to wreck it for the working families who pay to live here and will be seeing it every day. I wanted something that transforms the scene though: this bleak expanse of commercial roof, it never took human sensibilities into account –no concern for beauty at all, just mean functionality and ‘screw whoever lives here and has to look at it’ is the usual commercial builder attitude. The giant spots and the twinkles re-contextualize the whole surface and make it a little playful too.”
As for the color scheme, Ward said, “spots in one or two colors are cool, but use many colors and, well, you just made a Wonder Bread bag.” Ward added, "cost was also a factor since I funded the project entirely by myself; the wall murals you see around here usually have paint sponsors –not this one ….and without sponsorships, more colors equals more expense.” Art spots have appeared in the news a lot lately –a spots booth at Freize Art Fair, the Damien Hirst spot paintings at Gagosian– but Ward asserts, “I was using spots as a motif in my paintings ten years ago, so I’m not worried about being called a copycat.” A neighbor called down, “these spots are a mural? That’s awesome!” Ward said, “she’s really affirming, that neighbor, but I never caught her name; since she’s up there way above my height, I think of her as ‘Girl in The Sky’.”
The Mural District lately has attracted some street artists of international fame like Banksy style-mentor Blek Le Rat of Paris, and also the French tile-graffiti artist called Invader. Sir Terry Ward has credentials too, including art in the permanent collections of two museums, one Smithsonian annex site, and a US presidential library. Ward art is also in collections of Al Gore, Cy Twombly, Sally Mann, and Jerry Saltz. The knighthood, however, is more of a lark; Ward said, “it was art-related, but it was by the world’s tiniest country, so actually Queen Elizabeth II was not involved.”
The Mural District core is in Bushwick on Troutman Street between Cypress and Irving avenues; the L-train’s Jefferson Street station provides subway access. The Bushwick Collective is on Facebook (Facebook.com/TheBushwickCollective) and Ward’s art blog is: GrumpyVisualArtist.BlogSpot.com
TAGS: Bushwick, arts, culture, visual art, painting, graffiti, street art, murals, GrumpyVisualArtist, Sir Terry Ward, The Bushwick Collective.