Friday, September 24, 2010

Time & Space & Mural

The mural on Marin & Bay, according to artist Thomas John Carlson, is finished. I blogged about it here and here. I probably have one maybe two more things coalescing in my mind to comment on but I will settle on some initial thoughts on the completed piece for now.

I can think of murals that invoke the environs in which they are situated—the one on Christopher Columbus twixt Barrow & Grove comes to mind. But this one seemingly purports to replicate its surroundings, although as I pointed here, the artist is playing with perception and reality. Be that as it may, the reproduction aspect is a fun trick of the mine. Glance at the above image. Think of how you see this, the initial glimpse at least as you walk or drive by. For a moment you don’t realize it’s art. Is it live or Memorex (or muralex?)

Both time and space seem to be at play here. One of the perception aspects that Carlson toys with is the fact that while the Light Rail does rumble through the Power House District, the route in the mural is not the route of the train and the tracks that are in the cobblestone are actually part of the freight line stubs that serviced the warehouses and factories, in other words the original purpose of the buildings now being yuppified. Oops, I mean re-purposed. It’s all good. Anyway, one of his finishing touches was the addition of these horse drawn carriages. Or are they buggies? Hansom cabs?

Was this something in the past, an overlap of time lines, or is it something in the future, will there a tourist market in Jersey City for horse drawn site-seeing. At first glance the artistic choice seems inexplicable, but it does prompt the viewer to contemplate when, when is this depiction, what year. Even though it may be a reproduction type work of depiction, it is also invocative. It invokes the surroundings, an industrial district being reborn into a residential and retail neighborhood. The duality of the horse drawn vehicles (notice, no automobiles) alongside the light rail invokes the past and present of this neighborhood, doing so with a fun irony, the present is a train that runs on rail from our industrial past while the past are horse drawn carriages, probably a little too fancy for the immigrant working class inhabitants of this real past. I like the couple and the way the driver leans forward holding the reins.

Last I saw there was only one Light Rail. He added another, accompanied by another horse & buggy, a different couple too. He also added a contemporary electric tower grid, which is probably not the right term. It is the Powerhouse District after all.

Space is invoked by the distance river and a blurred facsimile of the NYC skyline. Yee ole isle of Manhatt. Here is a boat, some kind of industrial boat looks like as opposed to a yacht. I guess. I liked the red lights, a small detail that brings out the entire image. There is a smaller vessel nearby. But look at the lights, they are on. The red lamps are lit. What time of day does this picture take place. You can see it so it really can’t be nighttime and while there are street lamps in the foreground, they don’t seem to be on. I am guessing dusk, but then I realize, because of circumstance, I have only seen this mural right before dusk. I mean it’s the only time that I am most often @ Marin & Bay. Maybe I am projecting that time on the picture because that is the time I am looking at it, does the time change in the picture depending on what time you are looking at the picture? Then again, I only thought about time of day when I noticed the red lights on the ship mast and hull.

Perception is another playful element at work here. See how this building curves, just like the actual edifice. It’s sort of two widths combined into one building. In the illustrative style applied here, the design of the building is replicated, depths of color create the curve. Fantastic effect!

The perception of the viewer of the mural is not the same as the perspective of the painting—whose visual point of view does the actual mural present? I’m not sure yet. The lower foreground of the picture features the rooftops of buildings, the distance the Hudson and NYC skyline, but they are distance, far away, blurry. This picture’s got an angle, I know it does.

This is the right hand side of the painting, notice how the details fade. The outlying buildings have no windows. We see what the artist wants us to see. You have to ignore that encouragement to notice the peripheral, but the peripheral is blurry. We have our field of view, and the mural's field of view. The best one hopes for is a momentary overlap.

A similiar fading occurs on the left hand side. A detailed building exterior, then window glass wihtout window frames. As you continue to scan left after the side of the building all you are left with is the reality of Marin!

If Matisse had a website when he was alive he’d include it too! The Artist signature almost appears as a tag on the water tank. It’s graffiti. I like that he put the year. It doesn’t clarify what year is depicted in the mural, but seeing a year as another component in the piece further complicates the issue of time the artist already is playing with.

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