MORE CITY WALLS

by Kevin Walsh

Back in 2016 (and it seems like yesterday even though it’s four years ago as of 2020) I presented some striking, colorful images from NYC’s City Walls project of the 1970s. I obtained them courtesy of my Facebook pal Susan Fensten, who has been taking photos of NYC much longer than I have. These colorful, massive artworks brightened the drab landscape in what was a depressed decade for NYC (which nonetheless produced a number of different artwork schools as well as punk and disco music).

This time around, a Forgotten Fan named Beau Ott passed along some more of these colorful works, a few of which can still be seen in southern Manhattan. The NYC City Walls Project was a not-for-profit organization established in 1967 by muralist Jason Crum and other artists to brighten up otherwise drab NYC locations with bright, lively artworks.

This colorful design by Allan D’Arcangelo could be seen on West 64th Street between Amsterdam and West End Avenues. Looking at Street View today, I don’t believe any of these buildings stands today. Ripley Clothes was founded by J. Moe Newman in 1936.

Jason Crum’s “Haven” can be seen in this 1971 photo at 2nd Avenue and East 29th Street. Street View indicates a small Target store and a high rise apartment complex in this location in 2019.

Mel Pekarsky‘s wall mural at St. Barnabas Mission at East Houston (north side) and Mulberry Streets in 1971. A somewhat drab apartment house/parking garage has replaced it.

1971 mural by Nassos Daphnis (1914-2020) at 620 West 47th Street. When painted it could be readily seen by motorists on the elevated West Side Highway. The building itself is still standing.

“Leverage” by Robert Wiegand is unusual in that it was painted at (but not on) the famed Lever House on Park Avenue and East 53rd Street instead of covering an otherwise drab brick surface. Lever House (built for a soap company) was among the first “glass box” International Style office buildings when it was built in 1952 and designed by designed by Gordon Bunshaft and Natalie de Blois of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. 

This 1970 mural by Tania on West 3rd Street near Mercer is the only remaining City Walls mural, as far as I know, that is still visible in its totality.

Though Todd Williams’ colorful mural on the south side of 240 Livingston Street at Bond in downtown Brooklyn is no longer evident, there’s still ample space for another mural on the same building, which remains exposed to the southeast.

One of the City Walls projects that has remained intact almost continuously since the 1970s is Forrest Meyers’ The Wall at Broadway and West Houston Street. It was installed in 1972 and features 42 iron bars bolted onto 42 iron braces painted green on a blue mural background. After the artwork was removed in 2002 to effect repairs to 599 Broadway, the building’s owners balked at reinstalling it and it took a couple of court cases and rulings in favor of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to get it reinstalled, which occurred in 2007. The owners of 599 Broadway claimed that the space could bring in $600K of advertising annually, but the courts held for the LPC.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”

6/17/20

2 comments

Peter June 17, 2020 - 9:45 am

That one in downtown Brooklyn looks like it had been deliberately painted over. It would be interesting to know why.

Reply
Kronstein June 18, 2020 - 9:03 pm

These are great murals. Astounding. However, don’t they also make you think of that movie where if you have special glasses you can see what the billboards are really showing, subliminally?

Reply

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