Something strange and beautiful and a little bit illegal is happening in Albuquerque, New Mexico. An artist calling himself Rainbow Warrior has been creating rainbows in the most unexpected places by spilling paint down the sides of abandoned buildings. Ordinary citizens love them, but the police aren't so happy.
It's understandable that there's controversy around a project that succeeds in blurring the line between graffiti and public art. One of the most visible rainbows is on the Anasazi, a high-rise office building which has been deemed 'unsafe for human occupancy' after construction on the building was halted, with no plans to continue. The artist contends that his work takes urban eyesores like this building and raises them to the level of art:
The building itself is already kind of in a weird standpoint. It was in the news. It's just this ugly, eyesore, half-completed building that's been that way for years. I think because it was already in people's minds, they saw this ugly building with these ugly connections. I chose that one because I've been looking at it since they stopped construction and I knew it was going to be just another building in Albuquerque that was going to sit until it fell apart. I chose it because it already had some attention, and some negative attention, and I wanted to direct that negative attention and show that sometimes something ugly can be beautiful, too.
And he defends his work, and graffiti in general, as something that elevates and enlivens urban landscapes, rather than taking away from them.
Street art really saves a lot of people who are down in their lives and on their luck. This is their one and only outlet. Plus, you get an immediate response from people. A lot of times it's just, look at that graffiti on that freeway wall. But maybe the graffiti on the freeway isn't the ugly thing, maybe that's not what they're angry about. Maybe they're angry about how for the last 10 years you've been driving through this prison freeway with these big ugly gray walls and it just took the graffiti to point out the ugly that was already there.
What do you think? Art? Or graffiti? Or maybe a little of both?
• An interview with the artist from Alibi magazine
• Citizens of Albuquerque respond to the Alibi magazine piece
• More rainbows on Plenty of Colour and the Nuart Art Festival
• Rainbow Warrior's Facebook Page
via Plenty of Colour
(Images: 1. The Fibe Squad via CMYBacon and Nuart Festival, 2. Street Art Utopia)