Paint It Now The L magazine 2011 / by Thomas Buildmore

Given Huge White Wall, Eighteen Street Artists Paint It Now

by Benjamin Sutton


The Fowler Arts Collective, a studio and exhibition space on the second floor of the massive, mostly empty and mid-renovation Greenpoint Terminal Market, seems an appropriate place for a massive collaborative mural by 18 painters and street artists hailing from Brooklyn, Boston and Philadelphia. Yet the clean white walls, black paint and bright gallery lighting set a markedly different tone from, for instance, the nearby India Street Mural Project, something more like Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat's huge, slick collaborative canvases of the mid-80s. As in those pieces, Paint It Now (through July 6) is more compelling as a collaboration than a contest: its best moments come when seemingly incompatible artists manage to combine their styles.

There's a broader encounter in the exhibition, between original, often abstract forms and appropriated pop-culture imagery—like Adam West-era Batman posing with a bloodied Jesus in one corner. Veronica Hanssens' comic-style paintings of vintage cars turn John Skibo's Lichtensteinian approximations of broad abstract brushstrokes into muddy roads. A giant, sickly head by Deeker belches out a rainy cumulus cloud by Darkclouds. Some participants literally apply the mandatory black paint so that it runs down the wall in thin lines; others precisely approximate illustration or even stencils, as in Scott Chase's life-sized Fonzie, Jessica Hess's rooster-headed, stiletto-sporting female nudes, or Nose Go's grimacing cartoon-animal faces.

Participants work on every scale to fill the six massive walls, with areas between bigger pieces often sprouting tiny doodles, abstract organic forms and ornamental patterns. Thomas Buildmore's floor-to-ceiling portrait of a cyclops Alfred E. Neuman and Nineta's eight-foot-tall giraffe, for example, are surrounded by comparatively small paintings like Hess's miniature wild-style pieces, and Royce Bannon's Barry McGee-ish heads. A few areas settle into a stale composition with buffer room around the larger pieces. But for the most part, Paint It Now shows all the dynamism of a well-tagged wall with a great deal 
more clarity.

(Photos courtesy Fowler Arts Collective)