Saturday, July 11, 2009

I love this mural

Actual LeDroit Park Gate,
looking East down 'T' Street, NW,
5th St. crossing in foreground,
Florida Avenue to my back.
Photo (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

"This is How We Live" Mural detail
(c) Garin Baker

"This is How We Live" mural looking East on Elm Street, NW
Mural (c) Garin Baker, Photo (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

"This is How We Live" mural, a little closer.
Mural (c) Garin Baker. Photo (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

Mural as seen from Howard University Hospital
(thanks, Cecelia).

Mural: (c)Garin Baker
Photo: (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

I dig mural art. Always have. Howard University was briefly graced by some impressive mural art in the late 60s-early 70s: Eugene Edaw's epic Frederick Douglass piece on Cramton Auditorium, James Padgett's muscular red, white, and black pieces at either side of the Fine Arts bldg. and a piece on the side of Ira Aldridge Theater by an artist unknown to me. I think James Phillips may have had an Africobra mural on Cramton too for a time. And of course there was Ron Anderson's mural on the wall of the original Howard University Punch Out restaurant (from his student days before he evolved into Akili Ron Anderson).

Ron Anderson's mural in the original Punch Out restaurant, ca. 1971
Mural (c) Ron Anderson. Photo (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

In DC, the best murals (at least the photo-realistic ones I tend to like) all seem to be the work of G.Byron Peck, particularly his 'U' Street Ellington mural

Duke Ellington Mural on 'U'St. NW across from Lincoln Theater and Ben's Chili Bowl.
Mural (c) G. Byron Peck. Photo (c)Incorrigible Curmudgeon

and his Connecticut Avenue Dupont Circle Fountain Trompe l'oeil mural

Dupont Circle Mural on Connecticutt Avenue just south of Florida Avenue, NW.
Mural (c) G.Byron Peck. Photo (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

above the place where the old lefty-hippie-veggie restaurant 'Food for Thought' used to reside.

The late and lamented Food For Thought Restaurant beneath
G.byron Peck's Dupont Circle Mural.
Mural (c) G. Byron Peck. Photo (c)Incorrigible Curmudgeon

Now I've found a new favorite mural in LeDroit Park at the corner of 3rd and Elm, NW, right up the street from Slowe Hall, the Howard University dormitory where I once lived.

It's the work of artist Garin Baker, a New York artist with a studio called Carriage Art which (according to its website) executes mural art on commission. He works in the tradition of the New York Realists and the depression-era WPA muralists.

This one is called "This Is How We Live," an idyllic photo-realistic scene behind the fairly recently erected LeDroit Park arch at 5th and Florida Avenue, NW, across from the Howard Theatre. His is an idealized vision of the newly gentrified LeDroit Park area just south of Howard University with the U.S. Capitol building in the top center, Howard University's Founders Library imbedded above to the left, and four beautiful Black children smiling beatifically from the upper right, all tied together with the banner imprinted with the title "This Is How We Live."

I like the way Baker breaks up the realism of his work by incorporating squares of intentional simulated pixelization , acknowledging the artifice inherent in any work of photo-realism. This is the only mural of the many displayed on his website in which he does so. Interesting. The piece is copyrighted 2008 but I first happened upon it and photographed it in January 2009. Baker was born in 1961 which makes him a relatively young 48. He's a former illustrator (like Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth) and it shows, which is not a knock on him (or them).

He has created other murals in DC, as well as in New York, Atlanta, and elsewhere throughout the U.S. I also really love the piece he created for the Turkey Thicket Aquatic Center in Brookland Northeast DC. This piece is so kinetic it exudes an almost comic-book sensibility though it fiercely maintains Baker's penchant for hyper photo-realism.

Turkey Thicket pool mural
(c)Garin Baker

1 comment:

Joyce Owens said...

I went to a talk today in Chicago at the South Side Community Art Center where Barbara Jones-Hogu (a member of AfriCobra, a rare female member) showed her recent silk screen print. We were talking about the black mural movement, the goals of AfriCobra and the Wall of Respect that was in Chicago...Think you would have enjoyed the conversation.