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Posts Tagged ‘graffiti’

Graffiti Trains

Detroit has plenty of rail lines that reach from one end of the city to the other. The trains that ride upon the rails crisscross vast areas of the city. They haul new cars fresh from assembly lines; various parts to manufacturing plants; and raw materials, liquids, and plenty of other goods. One thing about the trains that is always an eye catcher is the graffiti written on the sides of the cars.

Multi Names Train Graff_0199

Clev Train Graff_0599

Just about every freight hauling car I see while riding my bicycle has some type of graffiti written on it. Some are simple black and white tags, and others are small, interesting images much like a cartoon character. Many I’ve seen on the side of passing railroad cars are intricate, multi-colored pieces of art that flow naturally to the contour of the cars. Other pieces spread along the flat, lower sections of the car. Some trains have well over one hundred cars, and I have spotted some type of graffiti or message sprayed on every one of them as they rolled by.

Skeleton Head and Monster Train Graff_9467

Jasf Train Graff_5731

On rare occasions I do see cars that are completely covered from top to bottom with a single piece of art or huge letters. Those particular painted cars must be difficult to do because of the sheer size of the rail cars. The enormous images I’ve seen created on them appear to be at least 20 feet tall. Reaching the top of the train car with paint must require a ladder, which could be a dangerous proposition for the street artist, considering that the cars could be pulled away at any time. I seldom see a fully painted car on my travels. When I do, I’m always amazed that the artist responsible for the piece was able to get it done.

Alamo Train full Graff_6192Sleepy Train full Graff_6526
 CDC Train full Graff_9729
 Awal Train fullGraff_0230
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There is an old, historic industrial neighborhood on the city’s northeast side called Milwaukee Junction. It was established in the late 1890s as a manufacturing hub. It’s a place where a series of railroad junctions all came together in support of the expanding automobile manufacturing industry. In that area is an old four-story, unassuming, brick factory that has recently gone through a huge change.

The modest, vintage building is now home to some of the city’s best outdoor wall art. One side features an engaging, colorful, collaborative mural by street artists RSK, The YOK, Sheryo, PHYBR, and others. Another wall is home to a work by Malt. It is one of many in his Acid Forest series. One other piece, the largest on the building, was recently completed by one of Australia’s most progressive street artist, David “MEGGS” Hooke. That expansive mural is entitled “Rise Up”

Collaborative mural on an adjoining wall

Collaborative mural on one of the walls

Some of the detail within the piece

Some of the detail within the piece

Malt's Acid Forest

Malt’s Acid Forest

Rise Up is the largest piece of wall art MEGGS he has ever taken on, and it’s probably the largest in the City of Detroit. The amazing, colorful, highly detailed mural covers over 6,000 square feet of wall space. It spreads across four stories of the old factory wall. A major focus point of the artwork is a huge head of a tiger. The head is two stories tall, which equals at least 30’ in height.

Finishedpiece

Finished piece by MEGGS

The tiger head is at least 30' tall

The tiger head is at least 30′ tall

I was fortunate to discover this piece on Russell Street at Trombly while MEGGS was working on it in its early stages. At that time the content was being sketched out on the brick wall. Watching the progress, I was amazed at the speed in which this giant piece of art was created. He managed to sketch it out and complete it in about 10 days. I caught the early stages of the mural around October 17th and was blown away when I saw the final, completed piece on October 27th.

Early stages

Early stages

Close to the finish. Note the hydraulic lift

Close to the finish. Note the hydraulic lift

Another view of the finished mural

Another view of the finished mural

Considering the size of the project and the limited reach offered from a mobile lift MEGGS was working from; the scale, proportion, and use of color are incredible. I don’t understand how the street artists can create something of this magnitude with a few rollers and paint from spray cans, but it is impressive.

I also like the pieces along the base of the wall, just below Rise Up. They are the work of Detroit graffiti artists Tead, Elmer and RAWR.

In a recent social media posting MEGGS describes the Rise Up piece as “an iconic symbol of the city and past glory for over a century, it is now a symbol of future hope; to rise up against great odds”.  Beautiful!

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Graffiti isn’t all one or two-color tags, quick hitting initials or large hard to read letters sprayed on the sides of buildings from fire extinguishers. There is much more to it than that. Scattered across the city of Detroit are some amazing graffiti murals. They have been created in multi-colored designs on large walls throughout many of the city’s neighborhoods and commercial districts.

Talented street artists from Detroit, Los Angeles, the Carolina’s, New York City, and other places use nothing more than spray paint from cans to create the giant, colorful murals. The remarkable works of art are full of detailed imagery and many of the pieces are monumental in scale. It isn’t unusual to see these beautiful works of art completely covering the sides of two-story buildings.

Cowboys E Market_0222

7th letter e mkt_0823

In some cases, the murals don’t last very long on a wall because they are painted over in a relatively short time. Depending on the site, I’ve seen a fresh piece quickly go up and within a few days, it has been painted over with a new piece of art by the same artist, or in some cases, another painter. Some of the murals are so fresh and new that I could smell the distinct odor of enamel paint in the air as I rode up to them on my bicycle.

Hygenic Dress League_0829

Sintex Indian _0852

Vincent Chin_0186

The subject matter of the works of art I’ve seen has a wide array of content. They include portraits, historical figures, monsters, birds, eyeballs, cartoon characters, and plenty of other interesting images. Although there are graffiti murals scattered around the city, there are a few hot spots where much of the wall art can be seen. They include the Lincoln Street Art Park, the Grand River Creative Corridor, a railroad wall along Newark Street and other places such as the historic Eastern Market and the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation building on Trumbull Street.

Gratiot Mural _9595

Monster Steve Bug_0505

Eyeball Mural _0236

Keep your eyes open, because you never know what you’ll see on a wall in Detroit.

Woman w bird hair_0122
Purple Ape_0479Patch Whiskey_9788
 Hamtramck Arabic Lady Painting_9989

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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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Owen Park Sign_8323

There is a park I’ve ridden past hundreds of times on my bicycle rides, but until recently I hadn’t paid much attention to it. It’s a small park, about a quarter-mile deep and 100-yards wide.  It bumps up to East Jefferson Avenue on the north, and from there it extends south to the Detroit River. The little green space, named Owen Park is bordered on the east by an abandoned apartment building and a well-maintained, multi-story apartment building on the west.

Although there are two washed out dirt roads leading into the park, there is really no defined entrance. Cars and vans just hop the curb and take one of two dirt roads to the riverfront.  Spotting a car doing this the other day is what drew my attention to the not so well maintained park. Watching the car slowly work its way across the sidewalk to the riverfront (where fishermen were casually tending to their poles), I decided to take a ride down to the river as well.

Road into Owen Park

Road into Owen Park from Jefferson Avenue

Lamp Post in Owen Park_8325One of things I noticed right away when riding the rutted road to the river, was the lack of trees. There were few of them in the overgrown park, and those few were clustered close to the river. Another thing I noticed was a couple of vintage streetlights standing in a grassy area. I assume that section once had a road winding through it. Although the lights at the top of the beautiful old posts were dangling by their wiring, the old streetlights were in remarkably good shape.

As I approached the small cluster of trees near the river’s edge, I was completely surprised at what I saw within the tiny wooded area. Painted on a mounted piece of plywood that was cut to resemble a house of sorts, were the words “Native American Art Gallery”.  The background of the sign had a Jackson Pollock painted look to it, and the abstract colors were overlaid with paintings of various Native American symbols, including the legendary, iconic Thunderbird.

Art gallery sign found under the trees

Art gallery sign located under the park trees

Just beyond the sign were a series of other painted panels mounted to posts that looked as if they were recently put into the ground. There were approximately 8-10 Native American type paintings mounted to the various poles.  One was a rendering of the State of Michigan, color-coded by the various tribes found throughout the state. The biggest surprise at the outdoor gallery were the panels that featured the work of Sintex, a well-known and respected Detroit graffiti artist whose work is featured on many buildings and walls in the city.

A variety of paintings in the park

A variety of paintings in the park

Rendering of state map color doded by tribes

Rendering of state map, color coded by tribes

A Native American Portrait by graffiti artist Sintex

Native American portrait by graffiti artist Sintex

Thunderbird painting by Sintex

Thunderbird painting by Sintex

Looking around the outdoor gallery, I saw quite a few of the fresh poles. They lined the edge of the treed area and dirt roadway leading to the river, in preparation (I assume) for more painted panels of Native American art. I don’t know what organization or individual(s) is behind this installation.  However, I can guess this little open-air art space under the trees in Owen Park will eventually evolve into an outdoor education center, which will be based on the state’s rich Native American heritage.

Poles in place for future art panels

Poles in place for future art panels

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It is no secret that graffiti and wall murals are widespread throughout the city of Detroit. In many ways it makes sense, considering the sheer amount of abandoned buildings with flat walls that seem to span city blocks. There are also plenty of tall railroad and street overpasses with flat, vertical walls. The large, smooth walls make perfect palettes for the artists, and it shows because they have created some of the best street art in the country.

Large mural by Detroit artist Sintex

Large mural by Detroit artist Sintex

There are other forms of interesting street art that can be found throughout the city in places beyond the underpasses and building walls. The art can be found almost anywhere, on street signs, bathroom walls, busses, store windows, and plenty of other conspicuous locations including within the many large graffiti galleries scattered across Detroit. The widespread art medium is stenciling and stickers. Both formats are quick hitting, highly mobile forms of art.

The stenciled art I’ve spotted are usually one color and made of well-designed cut-outs. The cut-outs are created from various materials (paper, plastic, etc.) in many sizes and shapes, and are temporarily taped to a wall or other surface. Once attached, the artist quickly spray paints over the stencil then peels it off. What’s left is the image created by the cut-out.

Falcon near the top of a tall wall

Stenciled falcon near the top of a tall wall

In an empty electrical box, one of my favorite stenciled piece

In an empty electrical box, one of my favorite stenciled pieces

Various colors using the same stencil

Various colors using the same stencil

Simple, clean stenciled image

Simple, clean stenciled image

Stenciled lizard on a freeway overpass

Stenciled lizard on a freeway overpass

Pre-printed stickers are the quickest type of graffiti for artists and others to spread their message. They are relatively cheap to produce, and easy to carry. Applying them to any surface is fast; just peel and stick. Many are used to promote a political cause while others are used to highlight an artist’s logo, website, or unique colorful image they created in a fast, efficient way.

Poster size sticker

Large, poster size sticker

Traffic signs seem to be a popular spot for stickers

Traffic signs seem to be a popular spot for small stickers

Political sticker

Political sticker

Sticker on Man in the City sculpture

Sticker on a Man in the City sculpture

Quirky black and white stickers on a fence post

Quirky logo stickers on a fence post

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There are plenty of railroad tracks that crisscross the city of Detroit. The long trains carry auto parts, rolls of steel, chemicals, cars from the auto factories, and many other manufactured goods. It’s not unusual to see the trains with two engines chugging along pulling upwards of 100 cars. Judging by the markings and corporate logos on the trains I see rumbling past my front window, they come from all across the country, Canada and Mexico.

Riding around this big city on my bicycle, I noticed that most of the train tracks are elevated above the streets and roads. The tracks are held up by huge cement supports that straddle the centerline of the streets below. The arched supports stand at least 13 feet tall.

There are also smooth, thick cement walls supporting the overhead tracks that flank the sidewalks, and they run the length of the overpass. From what I see, the large flat, horizontal gray walls make perfect canvases for graffiti and street artists.

It seems that every railroad underpass I ride through has some sort of graffiti; whether it is quick hitting simple one-color signature tags, large colorful elaborate “burners”, picturesque murals, or other graffiti types. Three underpasses in Detroit’s midtown area have outstanding wall paintings and are worth seeking out for their unique designs and overall artistic execution.

The first is the Trumbull Street underpass just north of I-94. It features a geometric pattern in an endless array of colors. The well-designed, complex wall painting stretches the length of the underpass. The multi-colored, bright design elements are also incorporated on the center supports. The pattern almost looks three-dimensional.

Outer wall of the Trumbull Street underpass

Outer wall of the Trumbull Street underpass

Colorful supports and wall

Colorful supports and wall

Geometry played a big roll in the design

Geometry played a big roll in the overall design

Arches in contrasting colors

Arches in contrasting colors

One street over from Trumbull is Lincoln.  The railroad underpass walls and supports found there are covered in a variety of eye-catching, intricate graffiti art, stunning wall murals, simple tags, and stenciled images.  Most have been designed and painted by a number of Detroit’s finest street artists: Malt, Stori, Fel3000ft, Tead, and others.

A couple of pieces by graffiti artist fel3000ft

A couple of pieces by graffiti artist fel3000ft

An artist at work on the Lincoln Street underpass

An artist at work on the Lincoln Street underpass

The flooded underpass reflects the art on the arches and outer wall

The flooded underpass reflects the art on the arches and on one of outer walls

Graffito artists Malt and Patch Whiskey collaborated on this piece

Graffito artists Malt and Patch Whiskey collaborated on this Lincoln Street wall mural

A little further to the northeast is the Beaubien Street underpass. The art there consists of simple colors painted in 45-degree angles, much like a pyramid. Depending on the wall or support, the V-shaped angles start at street level and rise to the base of the overpass, or they start at the top and cascade down. The inner arches of the center supports feature red and white bars that remind me of piano keys. The overall theme of the design on this underpass seems to be transportation.

Entering the Beaubien Street underpass

Entering the Beaubien Street underpass

Trains painted on the outer wall as viewed through the arches

Train engines painted on the outer wall as viewed through the arches

Cars painted on the opposite outer wall as viewed through the arches

Cars painted on the opposite outer wall as viewed through the arches

Note the red bars in the arches

Note the red bars in the arches

This is just a sampling of some of the amazing art found on the walls of railroad underpasses in the city of Detroit. Take a look the next time you pass through them.

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