Posts Tagged ‘arts’

Over the years, Detroit’s Historic Eastern Market has been a hot spot of colorful wall murals. Much of their visual content builds on the market theme of fruits, vegetables and meats. Others themes have been created by local and international street artists, and they feature a variety of strong graphic elements, dreamy caricatures and cartoonish looking characters. Also found on the walls are murals featuring highly stylized letters and striking abstract designs and illustrations.

Building on the market’s rich heritage of street art, the Eastern Market Corporation (in conjunction with a local art gallery, various sponsors and partners) has created a week-long street art event called Murals in the Market. Over 45 Detroit, out-of-state and international street artists have been invited to paint murals in a range of styles on many of the buildings throughout the market. The event got under way on September 17th and runs through the 25th.

Below are a few early photos I took of some of the incomplete murals while riding throughout the market on my bicycle over the past weekend. Many of the finished wall art pieces will soar 20 to 30 feet, and they’ll be at least that wide. Look for final images of the pieces featured below in an upcoming blog entry.

Nosego Woes_2586

Fel3000 E Mkt_2568

Beau Stanton E Mkt_2572

Outline on white bldg E Mkt_2575

Rick Williams E Mkt_2578

Sydney G Games E Mkt _2579

It was quite interesting to see how the artists worked the walls one small section at a time, and it will be exciting to see how their pieces evolve into the final stage.

Stay tuned!

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There is an 18,000 square foot building in Highland Park that’s full of art. The building is located in a small industrial section of Highland Park, just off Hamilton Avenue north of Oakman Boulevard. It’s a vintage 1920’s building, constructed in the Art Deco style.

The old place has walls of windows with hundreds of panes that extend from about 5’ above the floor to the 30’ ceilings. The windows allow sunlight to flood the interior space creating ideal lighting for artists. The well-built, industrial place is the former home of Lewis Metal Stamping, an early supplier to the once booming auto industry in both Highland Park and Detroit. Some of the windows look out to green, lush fields where other factories once stood but have been torn down over the years. In some ways, it’s almost like being in the country.

Exterior of the Big Factory building located at 333 Midland

Exterior of the Big Factory building – 333 Midland

A couple of outdoor pieces by Nicole Macdonald

A couple of outdoor pieces by Nicole Macdonald

Today the building is used as art studio space where large-scale paintings, (some 20’ tall, others at least 30’ wide or more) fill the vast industrial space. I had the opportunity to tour the studio this past weekend to view the enormous art pieces created by 47 local artists. They were amazing! The huge pieces were painted in a variety of colorful styles that include portraits, abstracts, line drawings, and modern interpretation of religious renaissance paintings.

Interesting portrait by Tylonn Sawyer

“The Devil Finds Work” – Tylonn Sawyer

"Woven Lines" - Bill Dilworth

“Woven Lines” – Bill Dilworth

Renaissance style painting with a modern twist hangs on a tall wall

Renaissance style painting with a modern twist hangs on a tall wall

This large painting seems somewhat small in the large factory

These large paintings seems somewhat small in the large factory

The art is all part of a show called “Big Paintings @ The Factory” that had its public opening a few weeks ago. Currently, reservations must be made to view the art.

I was fortunate to be invited to a private tour of the factory. A big thank you goes out to Bruce Giffin for organizing the tour and extending the invite to me. I appreciate it!

Here is a little more of what I saw.

"Womancrush" - Tead

“Womancrush” – Tead

One of many large scale paintings

One of many large scale paintings. This is called “Spectre” by Betty Brownlee

"I Remember When This Was All Houses" - Chris Zagacki

“I Remember When This Was All Houses” – Chris Zagacki

"In the Garden of Cultural Change" (Integrated Balance) - Diana Alva

“Vita Brevis Longa Ars” – Vito Valdez

"Nightmare in Kitty Land" - Jerome Ferretti

“Nightmare in Kitty Land” – Jerome Ferretti

"I Hate Myself... and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" - NUL

“I Hate Myself… and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” – NUL


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As I’ve written in past blog entries on Detroit’s fading wall signs, many of the city’s old brick structures and other weathered buildings have some incredibly designed wall signs. Many that I’ve spotted while on my bicycle rides look as if they were hand-painted on the sides of buildings sometime in the 1920’s or 30’s. A few look a bit older, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were painted on the brick walls sometime in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.

Check out the swinging doors

Check out the swinging doors

It’s remarkable that they have survived decades and are generally readable despite our somewhat harsh climate. Some of the most interesting wall signs feature fascinating, pastel colored illustrations and decorative letter fonts that one would find in a 100-year-old book or in an old yellowed magazine found in an antique store. Others I’ve seen are simple in design, with nothing more than block letters that advertise a manufacturing company, a specific service, or basic household goods.

Probably a real eye catcher when it was painted

Probably a real eye catcher when it was painted

There may have been a small illustration below the curve of the letters

A small illustration might have been below the curve of the letters

Detroit has plenty of older brick buildings that feature the vintage signs. In many cases, they have been hidden for years on the sides of the older buildings because other structures have been constructed next to them, blocking their view. Once the neighboring buildings were torn down, the classic old signs have been exposed.

This beauty was probably painted around 1920 or earlier

This beauty was probably painted around 1920 or so

As time moves on and the city evolves, many of the old buildings where the signs can be found will be torn down. The fading signs on the sides of buildings that survive the wrecking ball will eventually deteriorate due to the weather and other factors. Unfortunately, they too will slowly fade into the brick they were painted on and be lost forever.

Note how the flow of the letter sizes work together to create the message

Note how the flow of the letter sizes work together to create the message

This sign may have been illuminated at one time

This sign could have been illuminated at one time

This is the third of an occasional blog entry on Detroit’s fading wall signs. To read the earlier entries, click on the headlines below.

Fading Wall Signs

Fading Wall Signs – Part 2

Fading Wall Signs – Part 4

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There is a Detroit Graffiti artist that goes by the name of Malt. He is also known as “Brown Bag Detroit”. His work is colorfully distinct and somewhat eerie and moody. It consists of mind-blowing forest scenes, owlish characters and unusual birdlike heads with eyes that seem to follow our every move. He calls his vibrant work “The Acid Forest”. His recognizable work can be found in many of the city’s hot graffiti galleries along Grand River Avenue, downtown’s Dequindre Cut and midtown’s Lincoln Street Art Park.  Malt’s large scale wall paintings can also be seen on the “Recycle Here” building just around the corner from the Lincoln Street Art Park.

An owl in the Acid Forest on a wall in the Lincoln Street Art Prk

Acid Forest and owl on a wall in the Lincoln Street Art Park

Although I’ve seen his stylized, bubble-letter name spray painted along railroad tracks and elsewhere, his bird-like and owlish paintings are the pieces that really seem to stand out. The unusual oversized characters found in the series feature menacing looking big-eyed, hawkish faces on feathered bodies. They, along with his gnarly woodland murals, look like something from an unknown supernatural world, deep within the acid forest. In some cases, the bodies of the strange mythical-looking creatures are entwined in the dark, moody forest as if they’re one in the same, and feature course feathers which remind me of sharp-edged fish scales found on a freshwater carp.

On a building Grand River Avenue and Canfield Street

On Grand River Ave near Canfield St

This beauty covers the side of a truck trainer

This beauty covers the side of a truck trainer

The owls he paints are similar in style, and they too have a certain distinct edge to the feathers. The large nocturnal bird drawings are simple in design, yet engaging.  They are painted in earth tone shades with hints of pastel colors and seem to be at ease in their urban environment. They also appear to cast a calming, alluring effect as they look down on us through half-open eyes, much like a mysterious Egyptian cat.

Check out the eyes

Check out the eyes

An owl painted on a Recycle Here door

An owl painted on a Recycle Here door

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There is a building at West Warren Avenue at Grand River Avenue that at one time featured some of Detroit’s finest graffiti.  Painted on the walls of that building were large, multi-colored masterpieces put up by graffiti artists Sintex, Deco 23, the TST crew, and other well-known street painters using aerosol paint cans. I’ve seen the eye-catching, engaging art on three sides of the building for well over a year, and I always stop to study the complexity of the pieces when riding my bicycle through that part of town.

The building once featured various graffiti masterpieces

A few months ago, the building was covered with various graffiti masterpieces

I was riding past that building a few weeks ago and didn’t recognize it. All the brilliant wall art found on that outside gallery had been painted over! The art pieces weren’t vandalized by others spraying a quick black and white tag over them, nor were they covered by newer, 3-dimensional appearing graffiti masterpieces. Unfortunately, they were totally gone because the building had been painted a dark brown color from top to bottom.

The same building today

The same building today

Thinking about the intriguing graffiti that was once there and why it may have been painted over, I decided to investigate. So the other day I went by there to see what I could find out. Located right behind the building that once featured the stunning wall art is a business called Architectural Salvage Warehouse. It’s an interesting non-profit organization that sells salvaged artifacts, building materials, etc. from old homes slated to be torn down in Detroit and the surrounding communities. It happened to be open, so I stopped by and asked one of the staff members what happened to the graffiti art on the building in front.

The person I spoke with at the salvage warehouse speculated that the building owner is preparing it for a possible sale. He also thought the owner might be getting sick of looking at the graffiti that once covered his place, even though he allowed the artists to use the building as a pallet for their colorful work. Regardless, the building that was once adorned with some of Detroit’s best graffiti art is now painted dark brown.

Here are a few of the beautiful graffiti art pieces that are found under the brown paint on that building. Some I’ve posted in earlier blog entries.

Deco 23 on the Warren side of the building

Deco 23 art was on the Warren side of the building

I've yet to figure out the name of this engaging piece

I’ve yet to figure out the name or artist of this engaging piece

 This  piece is by Sintex

This piece is by Sintex, one of my favorites

I've yet yet to define this piece, any guesses?

Any guesses on what this spells?

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Many of us have seen the “Get Out of Jail Free” character from the board game Monopoly.  He’s the guy on the game’s Chance card with the little round head and the bushy mustache. Depending on the card, he could be wearing a one-piece, striped prison uniform that was popular in the early years of the 20th century. Or he might be dressed in a tuxedo and top hat, along with other clothes that show wealth. I saw this guy a few days ago while riding my bicycle through Southwest Detroit.  No, he wasn’t walking by or taking a bike ride, he was on a couple of walls.

The wall where I spotted him is part of a major graffiti gallery. It is packed with colorful, 3-dimensional masterpieces in a variety of styles. Within them is a series of simple paintings of the character from the Monopoly game cards. The fat-cat man, or whatever his name is, was strategically spray-painted on the walls in various locations between the large graffiti pieces. It was as if they were guarding them from vandals. The illustrations of the bald man were quite large, almost life-size in scale. Surprisingly, the renderings of the Monopoly character were close to an exact match of those found on the iconic board game cards.

Love the simplicity of the man next to the graffiti masterpieces

Love the simplicity of the man between the graffiti masterpieces

In one illustration, the bald man was standing in a tuxedo next to a sign that read, “pay poor tax $20”. He had a bewildered look on his face and his shoulders were hunched up. His hands were pointed away from his body and turned-upward as if to say, “What the hell?”

Who me? Why?

Who me? Why?

In another rendering, the little man was once again formally dressed. But in this version, he was holding a bag of money with a joyful look on his face that I interpreted as, ”look at me, I finally got the money!”  Of course the “Get Out of Jail Free” version was there too. In that one, he was wearing the traditional prison garb of the time while getting a boot in the rear. The whole piece was outlined in orange.  I forgot what a cool character this guy is.

Look, I have plenty of money!

Look, I have plenty of money!

I'm out of here!

I’m out of here!

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In early December I posted a story on the Man in the City project.  It’s a sculpture installation made of 43” metal orange men placed on various rooftops in midtown and downtown Detroit locations. John Sauve is the artist behind the venture. He started putting it together back in 2008 to, “…activate the skyline, and encourage people to look around”. Not only have the distinct sculptures become part of the Detroit skyline, they have been exhibited in Benton Harbor and Milford in Michigan, as well as New York City and many other locations.

While talking with Sauve about the project, he told me there are 20 of the sculptures in the city of Detroit. On my earlier bike rides I’ve spotted six of the installations. Since writing the original Man in the City blog entry in December, I’ve spotted two more of the figures: one in Detroit’s Historic Eastern Market; the other on the roof of the Woodbridge Pub near midtown Detroit.

One of many Detroit "Man in the City" rooftop sculptures

One of many Detroit “Man in the City” rooftop sculptures

Knowing there are many more throughout the city, I asked readers in the December entry to post locations for those they may have seen in their travels. In addition to the places I posted in that earlier blog entry, readers have spotted them in the Eastern Market area, on a building along Michigan Avenue near Brooklyn Street, the Detroit RiverWalk near the carousel, on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale, and one along I-96 near Milford Road that stands 30’ tall.

However, there are plenty more placed throughout Detroit. Take a look at the map and the RiverWalk piece found within the links below. There you will see where the Man in the City sculptures can be found.

Man in the City – Detroit locations link

Man in the City – RiverWalk location

Remember travelers; look up while in Detroit. You may see a little orange man watching over you!

Click here to read the the original Man in the City blog entry.

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