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Citi Wallz

Mission District Wall Painting –

I spent the most of the ’80s in NYC back in the heyday of the train graffiti. It was such an alive art form; fun, ironic, unashamedly bright, daring and political. Just the way the paint was applied had a living energy. You had to enjoy it in the moment because you might never see it again. Some of it ended up in books and galleries, but most was power-washed away or painted over. You never knew for sure who did it or why. I worked as billboard painter or “wall dog” at the time, which prompted my appreciation of these works of art in progress. There were similarities in the brash, temporary slickness of both mediums and they often competed for real estate.

Unlike more formal painting, walls are constant flux. Nothing lasts, it’s cleaned up, painted over, ‘vandalized’ or simply deteriorates in the elements. These inevitable changes wreaked by time, mischief, and sometimes hope tell a story that is of the moment. They are as fragile, temporary and disposable as flowers. Many signs that I worked on were on old, leaky walls. The chips that would occasionally flake off were like jawbreakers encrusted with layer after layer of different color. And fixed within those layers were King Kong with Faye Ray, Superfly, Rambo, the Bates Hotel and an occasional Dondi.

Wall Imagery is often in direct contradiction to its substrate whether it’s a portrait awkwardly straddling a chimney or psychedelic doors of perception held together by lock and chain, ads for an escort service cavort with Mickey Mouse. Anything can happen when new forces overlay older ones, changing meaning, restoring it, obliterating it. What kind of person puts their sloppy tag over a well-done mural? Who risks life and freedom to paint their name in giant letters? Why did the drunk’s faces fall off first and who was nice enough to come back and redraw the guitar?

© Naomi Pitcairn

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