Hotlanta, GA February 2015
I’ve spent the first week of this February 2015 in the neighborhood of Little 5 Points. Atlanta, GA. It’s a large, automobile-centric city with a vivid public arts scene. Apart from the famous Atlanta “Living Walls” project which brought muralists of note from across the country to adorn the city’s underpasses and retaining walls, there is an abundance of mural work on the facades and the sides of private businesses. On my first night here, I went out to a pub in the East Village with “visionary artist” Carl Janes who has worked with Living Walls as well as pursuing private large-scale installations. His notable commercial projects include the colorful facades of the entire “Mellow Mushroom” Pizza Franchise. He labors on his pieces and designs at his studio “The Secret Spot” in the East Village. Carl works in mixed-media, incorporating elements of sculpture (like a statue of Ronald McDonald) and everyday objects (like globes) into his pieces. He also works on traditional canvas, using a collage technique in newsprint, currency, and acrylic. Carl took me around the Village and gave me a tour of the murals there; work by Never, Interezni Kazki, Skie, Merlot, and Rude; all very impressive pieces.
I had been aware of Never’s work before because of his recent residency in Brooklyn, where he paints his iconically distraught owls, however I didn’t know that he’s actually an Atlanta native. He has pieces in spots across the city, including Little 5 and the Atlanta Beltline. Later on in the evening Carl and I stopped into a Heavy-Metal show at a venue called “The Graveyard”, before closing out the night at “The Flatiron Grille”. Before I headed home, I asked Carl about a good spot to paint in the city; he mentioned the famous “Krog St. Tunnel”, a section of Krog St. that runs beneath a CSX Freight Yard that has been turned over to graffiti writers and street artists by the powers that be. He also told me a story about the spot: recently a Masquerade Ball was planned to take place inside the tunnel, traffic would be diverted and revelers would sip adult beverages and have their pictures taken amidst the backdrop of real, hardcore graffiti art; of course, admission would be charged. Word of this party spread to the graffiti writers of Atlanta, who took exception to the fact that they were not offered a portion of the proceeds. So, they all got together, found a whole lot of grey bucket-paint, and buffed-out (painted over) the entire tunnel. Needless to say, the party’s promoters were caught off guard, and found themselves in the position of having to search frantically for new talent to paint the blank walls; they needed to hire “graffiti scabs” if you will. Apparently, they were able to entice some less-experienced writers with the offer of free paint, and the party came off in royal fashion minus the royalties. A couple days after meeting Carl, I stopped through Krog St. and left a silver and blue dead-letter piece for the city to remember me by.
The next day I took a long walk through Little 5 and documented all of the wonderful mural work that’s here. There are a diversity of styles, everything from black+grey, traditional portraiture, pop-art, traditional Japanese illustration to abstract, comic-book illustration, and wildstyle graffiti. Little 5 has pieces by Peter Ferrari, CamsOne, Tare, ClogTwo, RisingRedLotus, Greg Mike, and R. Land. Little 5 is packed tight with tattoo shops, cafes, bars, and salons. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Central Square in Cambridge by this charming little neighborhood. Later on I paid a visit to Master Builder, Designer, and TV personality Bryan Fuller at his Hot Rod Shop in the North end of town. He showed me the wealth of pieces that he has commissioned from local muralist and graffiti veteran Totem. The artwork blends seamlessly with the interior of the shop; murals depicting skulls in fly-away helmets and goggles adorn the sliding doorways and giant steel lockers of the shop with smoldering reds and orange tones. The exterior of the building displays a ’50 X ’20 mural of a character in goggles, a double-can respirator, a helmet, and leather; looking like the dark visage of a post-apocalyptic Hot Rod warrior. Totem has several other prominent pieces in the city; he’s my favorite of the Atlanta school so far.