Posts Tagged ‘graffiti art’

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the fantastic street art wall murals that were being painted on various building in Detroit’s Historic Eastern Market. Over 45 Detroit area, out-of-state and international street and graffiti artists were invited to take part in a week-long outdoor street art event entitled: Murals in the Market. The event ran from September 17th through the 25th.

In my previous blog entry, I presented early renderings of six incomplete murals that were being created by some of the many street artists taking part in the event. I recently revisited the market on my bicycle to check out the final, completed pieces, including those that I featured in my last story.  Simply stated, the huge, colorful murals at the market are fantastic!

Below are photos of the series of early works that I featured in my prior blog along with a final picture of each. I’m always amazed at what the talented street artist can do, especially on such a massive scale. Some of the pieces are sized 30’ tall x 60’ wide. When looking at the photos, keep in mind that much of the work was done with nothing more than spray cans. Think about that. It’s pretty incredible!

Nosego and Woes - early stage

Nosego and Woes (artists names) – early stage

Nosego and; Woes - final

Nosego and Woes – final


Fel3000 - early stage

Fel3000 (artist name) – early stage

Fel3000 - Final

Fel3000 – final


Beau Stanton - early stage

Beau Stanton (artist name) – early stage

Beau Stanton - final

Beau Stanton – final


Zak - early stage

Zak (artist name) – early stage

Zak - final

Zak – final


Naturel and Rick Williams - early stage

Naturel and Rick Williams (artists names) – early stage

Naturel and Rick Williams - final

Naturel and Rick Williams – final


Sydney G James - early stage

Sydney G James (artist name) – early stage

Sidney G. James - Final

Sidney G. James – final

It’s worth a trip to the market to view the beautiful murals I’ve posted above along with the other 40 or so that were painted during the week-long event.  You’ll never know what you may find there, including this dazzling beauty found on a wall just off Gratiot Avenue. It’s one of my favorites!

Miss Van - French Artist

Miss Van (artist name)

Reminder – you can click on any image to view them larger.

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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 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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Most Detroiters know of the abandoned Historic Packard Automotive plant of the city’s eastside. It’s a massive structure that spans about a half mile from end to end. In some sections it stands six-stories tall, with the total footprint encompassing 3.5 million square feet. It was designed by Albert Kahn in the early 1900s. Kahn was Detroit’s premier industrial architect of the early 20th Century. Among other things, he is known for developing the reinforced concrete system of building construction. That system replaced wood timbers that were currently in use at that time. The Packard plant was the first to use the new concrete method, making the factory almost indestructible.

The plant closed in the late 1950s and since then, it has deteriorated beyond repair and is considered unsafe to enter. Scrappers have cut out many of the steel supports and other metals rendering the massive abandoned auto plant a dangerous place to enter. In many sections, it is so structurally unsafe that the Detroit Fire Department will no longer enter the building to fight fires that seem to occur there on a regular basis.  However, that hasn’t stopped urban explorers from checking out the ruins or graffiti artists from creating interesting, eye-popping art within the building.

There is a tremendous amount of colorful graffiti found throughout the derelict facility. Some of it is in areas you’d least expect; behind doors that are barely hanging on their hinges; on cement barriers put in place to keep cars out; and on steep stairway walls. Boats and trucks that have been dumped in the building are covered with it, and many pieces can be seen on the exterior close to the upper reaches of the top floors.

One of many abandoned vehicles within the old plant

One of many abandoned vehicles in the old plant

Within the engaging urban grittiness of the place, which reminds me of the powerful, post-apocalyptic novel and movie “The Road”, there is an incredible array of mind-boggling wall art that graffiti artists have put up. There are also some interesting sayings spray-painted on many of the battered walls. Some make no sense, like ancient hieroglyphics. Others are barely legible and seem to fade into the damp, cement walls. Occasionally, quotes from famous people appear out of nowhere. Here are just a few of the many sayings that I’ve spotted while checking out the place. Looking at them, I wonder why people painted them on the old factory walls.

A definition of Packard visitors

A definition of Packard visitors

Ani DiFranco says...

Ani DiFranco says…

A quote from John Lennon

A quote from John Lennon

An urban message

An urban message about someone’s graffiti

Not sure what the message is all about

Not sure what this message is all about

Remember, click on the photos to enlarge them.

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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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The mile long Dequindre Cut Greenway is a Detroit gem. It runs from the Detroit River north to Gratiot Avenue, where it is fenced off. The below street level Greenway was once a foreboding weed choked abandoned rail line where graffiti artists worked their spray-can magic. It was strewn with trash and was also a place where homeless people had set up camp.

A few years ago, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy received a $3 million grant to convert it to an urban Greenway.  With the funding, the old Dequindre Cut rail line was cleaned out, and a paved landscaped trail was added.  It is now used by bicyclists, roller-blade enthusiasts, runners, skateboarders and casual walkers.

Phase II, a view from above

From what I understand,  funding has recently been secured for development of the second phase of the Dequindre Cut Greenway that will incorporate the half-mile section beyond the Gratiot fence, further north to Mack Avenue. It will include access to Detroit’s Historic Eastern Market.  Like the pre-developed original section, this half-mile long stretch looks a bit seedy from the street overpasses with wild plants, trash and run down, abandoned factories lining a big chunk of it. Having walked the original phase I prior to development, I decided to check out this undeveloped section before work begins.

Path leading into the cut

I pedaled south along the two-track gravel path off Mack into the abandoned railway that gently  slopes downward. Before entering into the cement encased section below ground level, I could spot the old rails shining through the overgrown, dense weeds that have taken over.  In some areas along the path, the rails have been removed leaving perfectly spaced, heavy wooden ties that reminded me of piano keys. Much like the original phase I section, the graffiti artists have worked their colorful, fascinating magic along the barrier walls and on the many bridge overpass supports.  In one area below a crumbling street overpass, there were piles of trash that looked as if someone recently dumped it from above.

The old rails can be found in some sections

Railway ties are perfectly spaced and look like they’ve been there for years

Graffiti is everywhere under the bridges

There a number of streets cross over the undeveloped section of the Dequindre Cut

One of the most striking things about this half-mile section is the architecture of the abandoned manufacturing buildings. Many of them appear to have been built-in the 1920s or 30s and feature some outstanding brick work, especially above the windows. Others are utilitarian in design, perfectly aligned next to each other creating a seamless straight line of brick that stretches quite a ways.

Old warehouses and industrial buildings line the old railway

Nice brick work above the arched windows

Looking at the places, I couldn’t help but think of the many thousands of people that once worked in them and the trains that used the rail line to deliver and pick up raw materials and manufactured goods. It will be interesting to see how the second phase of the Dequindre Cut Greenway development shapes up.

Stay tuned!

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