Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wall Read

I really don't mind graffiti so much, it's that so much of it is just meaningless scrawl that you have
to wonder when the point went from individual expression to simply doing damage. I do find it interesting when you can see actual words and phrases forming among the scribbles, like protoplasm crawling from the sea.

This scene from the meat-packing district in May of 1989 is a good example of recognizable chatter rising above the din, although much of the noisy writing could be construed as stylized lettering. I'm not sure what agenda the author is pushing, but he is obviously challenging the reader with the exhortations of daring to be more, along with calls to be prepared. Then dismissing everyone with a cavalier "Next!"

I came across this doorway in Soho in August of 1994. What caught my eye was the fundamentalist phrase among the semi-legible scrawl, a voice from scripture that seemed to be speaking directly to the vandals as they worked. 'Repent or Burn in Hell'. Doesn't seem to have worked.

This is the corner of Greenwich and Desbrosses Street on the lower west side of Manhattan. It was a late summer afternoon, probably closer to early evening that June day in 1986. The shadows were long, and I was attracted to the way they fell on the sidewalks and filled the door pockets and ornamentation of the building. I liked the stark contrast of the picture, the dominating verticals of the building column, the hydrant and the sidewalk slabs. The buildings on the left lead the eye to the center of the picture, with the soft arching of the cars forming an abbreviated vanishing point. I was also intrigued by the two disparate lines of writing at the base of the column: the left-slanting 'Scribe' and the right-leaning 'Missing 1908'.

Finally, from November of 1989 we have the steps of a building somewhere near the Metropolitan Life building on Madison Square. Although I don't know what building it is, thanks to the internet I can tell you what the simple graffiti means.

Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, at the time of this picture, was a revolutionary guerrilla organization engaged in the civil war in El Salvador. It is currently a legal political party there. Here, their monogram either adds to the majesty of the statue, or signals the beginnings of the neighborhood's downward slide. Take your pick.