Ever take a close look out your Metro window? If you're on the right line, you'll notice something brighter than most transit landscapes on your morning commute. Colorful, controversial graffiti has come to decorate the fences and walls along the rail tracks, visible from many stations as well as Metro-car windows. The creative designs are especially prominent along the Red Line, for instance, around the Brookland station.
Before anything, check out this gallery of Metro-based D.C. graffiti, which features various photos of the street art around our capital's tracks. You'll see paintings of the Joker, of cartoon characters, of Metro trains themselves, and more, not to mention a half dozen different letter stylings, all featured right by our capital's Metro tracks. The topic pulled me in last night, and I was intrigued to find countless examples of graffiti around the city and, wonderfully, many images publicly available on flickr and elsewhere that I felt compelled to share with OnFoot readers. Credit first and foremost goes to those photographers and the graffiti artists themselves for creating and sharing such public, creative art.
The best news? A documentary on the topic seems to be on the way.
The Red Line D.C. Project has released a trailer and a video clip examining how D.C.'s transit-based graffiti has come to exist and what characterizes it. The crew behind this collaborative effort says its mission is "a multimedia exploration of what happens when public space, public art and public transit collide."
Check out this clip here, which features interviews with what seems to be an omnipresent D.C. graffiti artist known only as Ju. You can find his signature on many of the images among the slideshow of images, from the Joker to Michael Jackson. Who is Ju? Watch.
The psychology of the graffiti artist is compelling, given the various ways people respond to the sight of the spray-painted images. The video already hits at a few of the big questions that come to me about how a person making art like this would feel. "We have people who love it, people who hate it, and people who don't care," Ju says, assessing people's reactions to his work in a matter-of-fact way. He also reveals the reason for his name--"Ju" contains the first two letters of his name. His reasons for doing it come as no surprise. Visual imagery appeals to the artist and a powerful way of communicating with people. Ju also indicates that the number of graffiti artists out there is growing, but feels more than comfortable calling himself a big fish in the pond.
Check out the trailer for the Red Line D.C. Project's film-in-progress here. These clips went live in December 2010, so let's hope we see and hear more from them in 2011.
The trailer captures a few of the central tensions of being a Metro graffiti artist. How do you create that art when it's considered a blight by many public officials? More importantly, how do you successfully create it in such a public space, with so many lights and with so many Metro Transit Police nearby? Creating Metro graffiti is a way of earning respect and visibility, and it's no shock to hear a person call the D.C. Red Line a holy grail for graffiti artists in the trailer.
What's your reaction to the Metro graffiti? Any distinct examples of D.C.'s street stand out to you?