Ok, just a warning: I'm going to be mean in this blog.
But I assert that anything I say here does not hold a candle to the suffering I feel everyday on my way to work, when I've had to take in a begrudging eyeful of the Monsters of Folk Tour mural.
Yeah, I know, ouch.
Now, I really do appreciate the story behind the mural (our music editor covered this a while back). I love that one of our best Roosevelt Row art galleries, eye lounge, allowed local promoter Charlie Levy to commission an original mural to advertise the exciting arrival of the "Monsters of Folk" tour. The tour only stopped in 16 cities so it's no wonder Levy wanted to celebrate the arrival in Phoenix. The artist, Joe Pagac, is a friend of Levy's and painted this for free on a First Friday, in one night.
Joe Pagac lives in Tucson and has a lot of experience painting murals. And I have to say, the work on his website looks way, way better than what he threw together here.
I was really keeping my fingers crossed that, after the show was over, the mural would disappear.
No such luck.
First, the color scheme is painfully basic. There are big slabs of red, yellow, blue and green on a flat black background. My boyfriend joked that the colors were ripped off from the game of Simon. The organization of the large space is elementary. The four heads are just slapped up without any symmetry in size or styling. Oberst looks like a cartoon character while Mogis looks like there may have been an attempt at realism. The inconsistency isn't playful - it just looks amateur. Then there's the lettering. The quality is laughable. There are paint drips from the letters, the font and size continuously change and the words are crammed into every little ounce of negative space. It looks poorly planned.
And the quality of portraiture? Now, I don't expect this to hold the exact likeness of each subject. But the rendering of Jim James' beard in single strips of curly and straight painted lines look like spaghetti noodles, M. Ward has some seriously enlarged nostrils so he looks like a frog and what is up with Conor Oberst's eyes? Apparently I have no complaint about the rendering of Mike Mogis but, as a whole, the mural is just so...unsettling.
As if those problems weren't enough: a couple weeks ago, someone came along and painted mustaches on all the faces. I thought it was pretty hilarious. But now the mustaches have been painted over in flat, blotches of paint, causing this monstrosity to look even more hideous.
So it's the end of October and I've had enough. I don't want to look at it anymore. And I can't possibly believe I'm the only one who feels this way.
We can all make concessions about the circumstances regarding this mural. But the fact is, it's poorly executed and unsightly. And it sits on the main drag of our monthly downtown Phoenix First Friday artwalk.
I think Phoenix can do better.
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And we have. Not fifty feet away in the alley, I stumbled across a graffiti mural that looks gorgeous by comparison.
And let's not forget that just one street over is another mural on the wall of neighboring coffeehouse, Conspire. They, too, "commissioned" this piece. Conspire's owners provided the paints and local artists (including Lalo Cota) did it for free.
Now, I know this blog is harsh. But if we, as a creative community, are going to promote Phoenix as a city with a noteworthy art scene, we can't let something like this go. It's okay to ask for more. And I think this highly visible mural exposes some low standards.
The Monsters of Folk Tour mural can be seen on the west wall of eye lounge gallery, 419 E. Roosevelt St. in Phoenix.