Murals and Public Opinion

Boston has a reputation for being considered conservative, and this is usually reflected in their public artworks.  Not surprisingly, when the 5,000 square foot mural of a figure in colorful print pants and jacket with a hood was installed over a year ago, there was much public discussion and worry about what it meant – something tied to terrorism?  Why was there a hood over the head and why were the feet bare?  Os Gemeos, a world-renowned group of Brazilian artists were commissioned to paint the mural by the

Photo by Eric Townsend Photography for Queen City Arts
Photo by Eric Townsend Photography for Queen City Arts

in conjunction with the ICA exhibit.  ICA director, Jill Medvedow commented about the work, “Good art gets people talking.”  This is certainly the case when Fox 25 news did a news piece on the mural and a passerby told a reporter that “the painting resembles a terrorist.”  Fox 25 then posted a photo on Facebook and asked for public comments, which turned into an ugly stream of fear and racism.

Os Gemeos painted the mural in spray paint, the typical medium of most graffiti murals and this mural featured a “giant, yellow-colored character in brightly mismatched clothes who appears to have squeezed himself in between the towering buildings that surround him.” Looking at other Os Gemeos murals and artworks it is apparent that the yellow-colored cartoon inspired character is a recurring figure in their work.

A mural was painted in Poughkeepsie, NY during the spring of 2013.  Painted in spray paint, the mural replaced a grey, crumbling boarded-up building on Main Street.  The concept for the mural was a collaboration between four artists.  Rez Ones, also known as TC, was the architect and wanted to ensure that passerby could see a universal message that everyone could connect with.  The message is hard to miss – the middle of the artwork has written, “Style is the message.” Rez Ones commented, “Style is what defines everyone – it is a positive representation of who we all are.”   It is also a reference to Poughkeepsie style – a place of pride that those living in Poughkeepsie can proudly call home. This public art was received with joy by the majority of people living in the immediate vicinity, but there have also been many strong opinions that the mural should be removed.  If good art gets people talking, then this is good art indeed. 

Looking north to Boston, once again, Boston has commissioned a new mural by Matthew Ritchie to replace the Os Gemeos art.  The mural will be installed in September, and this time the work will be abstract – wait, isn’t that the stuff your kid could do?

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