New Mural, New Banner!

I have just replaced this blog's banner, which was previously the study for the on-campus construction mural, with the photos of the complete one! Ben Butler's Drawing 101 class completed the mural on Tuesday--way to go, it looks so great! One thing that we are thinking about doing is possibly adding some bright pops of red here and there to give it an even more graphic feel--what do you all think of how the mural turned out and what are your thoughts on the red? We'd love to hear from you!

Here are some close-ups of the finished product, but I encourage you to go and see all of the muralists hard work in person!
....remember what the wall looked like before?

And after...


Jeff Unthank: Creating a Colorful History

After our last stop at the Rhodes-Hill mural, on the mural bus tour the other week (see my previous post), the group had the privilege of visiting Jeff Unthank and his amazing, spacious studio, to get a sneak peak of what he has been working on with his studio assistant Molly Riggs. Some of you may recognize Jeff as having done the vibrant mural for the North Frayser Community Center, the overall theme being “the essential support the Center provides to local families by offering a wide range of programs and services which nurture the mind, body and spirit,” as he explains on Urban Art Commission’s website. With the support of Urban Art and the Raleigh-Frayser community, Jeff and Molly are a creating another colorful, historically and culturally rich, and, well, massive mural to be placed in the Raleigh-Frayser area, at James Road and Scenic Highway; oh, and by massive I mean a 100-panel mural, all done on weather-resistant, long-lasting polytab (he has rolls of this stuff!). Each of the 100 panels displays a different theme or topic and each one is completely different from the next—however, they are all unified by the style, color and the social and cultural history of the surrounding Raleigh-Frayser area. After heavily researching the history of the community, Jeff designed the panels to be very specific to the area and to unfold a story as they progress, with a southern narrative quality to them. One of the stylistic approaches Jeff is embracing is breaking the myriad images down in to flat, basic shapes and forms, creating a sort of, as he described it, ‘paint-by-numbers’ feel. He hopes that the different panels is to allow people driving by to be able to focus on one or two panels when they drive by, so that each time they go past it, they will notice a new panel or something that they did not previously see.

Before he even began painting the panels, he designed the layout and exact colors for each of the 100 different panels using small-scale studies. These small paintings, which are really works of art in themselves, allowed Jeff to select the exact colors to be used, and was then able to order these colors pre-mixed to save time and energy in the studio when painting the actual panels. Luckily, Jeff and Molly are able to spread out and work in a very large space when working on these large-scale panels. They both seemed very excited about the project and even more excited to share with us their hard work so far. The duo has already completed over 45 panels and they hope to be ready to begin installing around May! Here’s a look at what they have been working on…

All of the paints...

The rolls of polytab just waiting to be painted on...
The mock-ups...


Touring Memphis Murals

The week when Noni Clemons and Eric Okdeh came to visit for their lecture, CODA sponsored a bus tour to take the class and others to see some of the wonderful murals around Memphis! In addition to most of the Mural Painting class, members of the Urban Studies department, Kinney, Noni and Eric, and fellow muralist and artist Anthony Lee joined as well. So, with a packed bus, we headed to our first stop, the Remed mural on Broad Ave. executed by French artist Guillaume Alby in just two weeks—not only did he do it all himself, but it was also all freehanded with spray paint! This one was great to see because of its extremely bold and graphic quality; it also includes text, which is a major element we used in the construction wall mural to unify the composition.

The next stop was the mural on the side of the High Tone CafĂ© on Poplar, done by Alex Warble about two years ago. This dreamlike, energetic and chaotic mural is packed with information and relies heavily on modern music culture, perfect for the venue it occupies. Juxtaposed to the Remed mural’s large, sharp, geometric shapes, this mural allows for looser, more expressive and colorful brush strokes and gestures.

Similarly, the “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” mural we visited next by Josh Sarantitis at Central High School also has more expressive, energetic brush strokes, and on a very large scale. Measuring around 4,000 sq ft, the mural incorporates a variety of inspiring themes, including ‘interbeing,’ indicated by the text running across the top and the mural’s title deriving from the last public words that were spoke by Dr. King, as well as a number of different methods of executing the mural—mosaic tile and cut glass mosaic are used at the top (an estimated 50,000 tiles used!) and the rest of it was done in acrylic on 36 inch wide panels of polytab (the process of applying this material is further described in my 2/22 post ), with some of the brick remaining exposed. 100 or so students of Central High actually helped in the design and installation process of this mural. Fellow mural-tourist and artist Anthony Lee was very involved in this mural and had a lot of great things to say about it.

We then moved on to Martial Arts to visit Anthony’s own studio and a smaller mural he did right outside of the Martial Arts building to give it a quick sort of facelift. Using vivid colors and graphic elements, Anthony was inspired by the surrounding area. This was the smallest mural, in size, that we saw that day, but it undoubtedly makes a big statement in the area.

Anthony's studio in Martial Arts.

Anthony then led us to South Main where we saw the ‘modern hieroglyphics’ mural, featuring gradating red (to tie in the color of the bricks of the surrounding buildings), non-representational, 21st century symbols, some that do not even make sense. This mural reminds us of the symbols that we are in contact with daily, and invites us to stop and really pay attention to them, such as Mata’s logo or the @ symbol on a keyboard. It is also meant to serve as a gateway into the art district of South Main. Check out this great article on Urban Art's blog about the national recognition and award this mural and Anthony have received! And of course, no mural tour is complete without a pit-stop to the Arcade for lunch...

The last public mural we visited was the Rhodes Hill mural, located on a vacant, five-story high building on 195 Madison Avenue (owned by Wilton “Chick” Hill, a Rhodes trustee), done by Jeff Zimmerman, with the help of Rhodes students and CODA staff. This stunning mural, which surprisingly only took about ten weeks, received much national attention (it was featured in the Today Show!) and as a whole, represents Memphis’s future. Rhodes became very involved with the production of this mural and students engaged in extreamly hands-on project management and collaboration, from putting together a committee and sending out a call for artists, to actually selecting and working with Zimmerman. This huge mural certainly gets a lot of local attention too, as it includes photorealistic portraits of actual members of the surrounding community and overlooks the Memphis Redbirds’ stadium. The more photorealistic style is juxtaposed with bright, graphic elements giving it an undeniably bold and strong look. More information, photos and a great time-lapse video of this mural are provided on the Rhodes website!

The Remed, Rhodes Hill, and Central High murals were all supported by Urban Art Commission. More info and photos of these murals are available on their website.