As I wrote in my five-part series on Detroit graffiti a while ago, the city has a significant amount of the colorful wall art. It seems to be everywhere, from abandoned buildings lining well-traveled roads and streets, to the far reaches of the neighborhoods. Once vibrant manufacturing facilities that have been abandoned long ago are hot beds for the street artists, as are buildings and walls found along railroad tracks that crisscross Detroit. The wall paintings come in a variety of forms and styles. Some are simple one line sayings, while others include a couple of colors, and many of the larger pieces can involve multi-colors weaved together like a fine, highly collectible tapestry.
On my bicycle travels I’ve seen lively, bright caricatures and highly stylized, multi-colored names. There are political and street messages scrolled on walls, sides of buildings and other highly visible locations. Many of the large, three-dimensional intricately designed masterpieces are generally found in galleries, which are areas of highly concentrated art of this type, such as the Dequindre Cut near downtown.
One thing I have noticed while bike riding throughout the city over the years is how graffiti evolves and changes, much like multi-layers of mold found on a piece of discarded bread. A case in point is what I saw over a short period of time at the Packard Plant, a haven of graffiti in Detroit. I was there two weeks ago and came across a new, outstanding piece called American Made. The mostly black and white wall painting featured tall, stylized letters highlighted with black slash lines with yellow, blue and red accents. It was a lengthy piece (about thirty feet wide) spreading across the front of an abandoned grocery store on the property.
I returned this past Sunday, exactly one week later, and to my amazement, the art on that wall had changed. Ninety percent of the American Made painting was painted over with two somewhat common Detroit graffiti names: Eater and Yogrt. The two multi-colored, elaborate pieces now covered two major sections of the original American Made piece, basically destroying it.
It’s not uncommon for graffiti writers to go over other’s work. However this cover-up surprised me because of the complexity of the newer pieces and quickness in which they appeared. I’ve seen many quick-hitting, single-colored tags scrolled across plenty of sophisticated graffiti writings on my travels, but nothing quite as dramatic as this. It makes me wonder what other stunning pieces of graffiti are buried beneath the paints on this wall and others near the Packard Plant and elsewhere across Detroit.