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Layers of Graffiti History

  • Graffiti
July 23, 2014
Asja Nastasijevic is an Art Historian with the major in Modern Art, involved in art writing and criticism for several years now. Art is her passion and writing about it is both work and pleasure.

5Pointz in Long Island City, New York is known as the world’s “graffiti mecca.” The warehouse, a 19,000 m2 structure, was established in 1993 as a formal place for graffiti artists from around the globe to legally showcase their work. The name 5Pointz signifies the five boroughs coming together as one, but famous factory building has in fact united aerosol artists from across the world.

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5Pointz

Not Meant to Be

The founder of 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center and curator of its outdoor gallery, graffiti veteran Jonathan Cohen, best known by his signature tag “Meres One,” hoped to convert the five-story, block-long industrial complex into a graffiti museum but instead the site will soon be turned into luxury housing. Nearly a year ago, the owners of the building Jerry Wolkoff and his brother were granted permission by the New York City Planning Commission to turn the graffiti shrine into condo. The city’s most famous graffiti collection will make a way for a $400 million residential project in just a few weeks time.

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5Pointz before whitewashing

The Urban Archeology

The agony of dying of this monumental graffiti collection that was created day after day, year after year by artists from around the globe began last November. Graffiti mecca was erased overnight. Wolkoff ordered a horrible whitewashing of 5 Pointz saying that he wanted to spare artists and fans future pain. However, layers of graffiti history are still there. They may not be seen at the surface but with a closer examination they can be detected under a layer of paint. The facade still preserves the urban archeology of a culture, all those layers of colors, hues and shades painted one over the other throughout many years. Sadly, we’ll soon talk about it all in the past tense.

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5Pointz after whitewashing

The first step in the building demolition process started in February 2014. In March, upset artists, who were fighting for National Register of Historic Places landmark status for the building, staged a protest by draping a large yellow “Gentrification In Progress” banner around the building. Currently, there’s not much left of the former graffiti mecca other than its morbid outer shell. It’s just standing there, same as the petition for saving the building on the 5Pointz website, waiting for demolition that will begin in mid-August. According to the plan, the building will be completely leveled by October. Property is as sacred as the law of God. There’s nothing more to say.

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5Pointz – Gentrification In Progress

Reportedly, the owners insist that the new condos will allow graffiti writers the freedom to create new masterpieces. The new development will include a public space and a park honoring the site’s artistic past. There will also be art studios and almost 930 square meters of space designated for aerosol art. However, in spite of all these apologetic solutions, with the demolition of the building, one time disappears.

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Layers of Graffiti at 5Pointz – Photo by Jaime Rojo

A place is much more than what can be seen; all the moments and memories embedded in those walls vanish too. A place is never just about the landmark. People make a place giving it a special vibe, and not the other way around. If you want to look at this sacred graffiti place at Jackson Avenue and Davis Street once more, you only have a very short time left to make the pilgrimage.

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Layers of Graffiti at 5Pointz – Photo by Jaime Rojo

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