I wasn’t originally a huge fan of Os Gemeos’s mural on the Greenway in Boston, but now that I’ve seen pictures of it painted over and a new work of art taking its place, I know I’ll miss it. The summer of 2012 seemed defined by Os Gemeos murals bookmarking my two continents: this one, commissioned by the ICA in my home city of Boston, and, across the ocean, their collaboration with Aryz for Fundacja Urban Forms in Lodz (see below).
The disheartening, Islamophobic reaction to the mural garnered a lot of press, and preemptively ended some conversations that I had hoped this mural would raise: primarily, Boston’s role as a city for street art. I was a bit put off by Os Gemeos’s attitude that they were bringing street art to Boston, which simply isn’t true. But neither is there a widespread embrace of street art in the city, and–from my unscientific survey of social media and personal conversations– responses to this use of Greenway space remain mixed. The new work by Matthew Ritchie is nice enough, but reads as pointedly, disappointingly unconfrontational.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Os Gemeos’s mural in Lodz stands in stark contrast. Lodz, a recovering industrial city, is a paradise for street art. Whereas in Boston, the Greenway Giant was constrained and defined by the size and shape of the ventilation building it’s painted on, the figures in the Lodz mural seem completely unconstrained by the facade on which they were painted. (The photos below are from the work in progress; good images of the finished mural are available here.)
Comparing Boston and Lodz, and their respective urban challenges, is comparing apples and oranges. But these two works nearly sum up each city’s attitude towards public art on an urban landscape.