SMITHE started the epic piece Monday of last week, but the story of the wall goes back to 2007, when Ali Ha opened Factory Fresh, a gallery focusing on urban art, just around the corner from a derelict alley.
“We found that people were dumping all kinds of things there and shooting up heroin,” Ha said of Vandervoort Place. She realized that transforming the brick wall of a warehouse facing Thames Street into a giant canvas might turn the street around.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 miles away in Mexico City, 25-year-old SMITHE was turning heads with what he describes as “fifties sci-fi” street designs — an aesthetic inspired by comic books from the era that depicted the future, flying cars and all. He dug that the illustrations “look nothing at all like things actually look today,” he told B+B through a translator.
SMITHE arrived in Bushwick through the help of some very enthusiastic fans. Ha was approached by All City Canvas, a Mexico City-based group inspired by the Mexican muralism movement that brings together urban artists from around the world to create big-impact street art projects. They found the perfect conduit to bring SMITHE to Brooklyn with Mex and the City – a website and consulting company based here for Mexican creatives – who were connected to Ha at Factory Fresh. Each party was eager to sign on to get the artist to create his largest mural yet, in which an eagle fights for an apple with a creature wearing multiple masks. The image represents Bushwick’s “merging of cultures,” and the struggle to make the best life in a new home and country.
The wall is part of a larger project to transform the entire block into Bushwick Art Park. Ha guesses the urban mural and sculpture park could take 10 to 15 years to create (this is year five) — and that’s if the City turns over Vandervoort Place to the cause. Hopefully the powers that be will warm to the idea the way Bushwickers have taken to the new wall. “When they first saw the mural, they didn’t understand,” said SMITHE. “But when I started explaining the concept to them, they really connected with it and now they really like it.”
After SMITHE puts the finishing touches on the piece this evening, ACC will host a closing party tomorrow, from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., at Bushwick Art and Shipping.