The Commingling of Color

Saturated with art, the city reflects our creative subconscious. While such art may not be a product of the beholder’s hand, the art influences his hand. The beholder is, essentially, an artifact of his environment. The colorful murals, collages of stickers, busy subway advertisements, scrawled sidewalk sandwich boards, finicky fire escapes, even the heavy medal melody of construction work, infuses the beholder with a sense of self. The self is emboldened by the city, each hour growing increasingly assured. Light refracts off of the city walls, entering the beholder, who in turn emotes energy back into the atmosphere. Take a minute to stop, to observe. Watch one individual, take note if he or she profits from or contributes to the artistic atmosphere of New York.

For the last three months, I hurried up 6th street to make a sharp turn on 2nd Ave. In transit to and from work, I passed Billy the Artist’s mural adorning the concrete wall of Lionsbeerstore. Iced coffee in hand, I instinctively glanced to my right, observing daily the crisp gestural strokes of BTA’s mural. Internalizing the artist’s motto, “create your own reality,” I took a sip of coffee, opened my eyes wider and set out to draw inspiration from my colorful short-term surroundings.

On my nine minute walk to the subway, I drew energy from many natural and artistic urban attributes; yet, I found BTA’s work particularly compelling. Why? The mural distills the key elements of our humanity into a handful of colors and forms. It stares back at its beholders, challenging them to first confront and later come to terms with its colorful absurdities.

The mural quite literally represents us, humans, through a meter of geometric black-lined shapes. Emphasis is placed on two physiological elements: eyes and mouths. Humans are physical beings who are seen, but also oral products of what is said about them. Each human is a unique, colorful product of his surroundings. As seen in BTA’s mural, humans are intrinsically linked. There is no singularity in humanity. Rather, we thrive when our eyes and mouths commingle.

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Art in the City

Nowhere is the intersection of art and culture more prevalent than in New York City. Art is not an accessory to life in the city, but rather it is an integral component. Actively influencing how one perceives his or her surroundings, art influences the human consciousness. Whether housed behind museum walls or exposed to the open air, art shapes the environment of New York. To fully appreciate the wealth of art in New York, one must expand the commonplace definition of what art “is.” Art not necessarily constrained to a canvas or packaged with an aesthetically appealing façade. The geometric precision of construction grids, the ingenuity of street artists, and the spontaneity of tagged wall murals all incorporate the same formal qualities of cohesive line, color, and composition; however, this type of urban art employs different modes to convey both functional and inspirational artistic messages.

Often, one casually stumbles upon art in the city. Taking a roundabout way to my temporary abode, I meandered off Wall Street and headed north. Reveling at the sheer height of the concrete and glass monoliths that surrounded me, I noticed another man-made creation. Nestled between Nassau and William Streets, Group of Four Trees (1969-72) by Jean Dubuffet vertically ascended towards the skyline. Rooted to the ground in front of Chase Manhattan Bank, the sculpture is a monumental amalgamation of amorphous white shapes and strong black lines. The rhythmic intersection of these planes creates a cohesive—yet abstract—representation of trees. While the black and white color palate renders their forms inorganic, the trees nonetheless appear dynamic. As noted by the artist, the trees “manifest the ardent source of the of the enormous intellectual machinery of which the plaza is the core.” The futuristic linkages of the sculpture are concrete representations of the human capability to adapt, connect, and advance. Ironically, when gazing at a Group of Four Trees, the viewer revels upon the universal genius of human intelligence as well as the unique genius of his or herself.