Art Gallery to introduce new mural
Published: Monday, September 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 01:09
The Tufts University Art Gallery will this week unveil a freestanding mural adjacent to Mayer Campus Center, entitled “Summer in New York” by graffiti artist Abby Andrews, known as ABBY TC-5.
The mural interprets the play “Welcome to Arroyo’s” by Obie Award-winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Kristoffer Diaz, which will be the Department of Drama and Dance’s fall production next month, according to an Art Gallery press release.
Assistant Professor of Drama and Dance Noe Montez, who will direct the Tufts production, explained that ABBY’s work well represents the play’s strong female protagonist.
“One of the lead characters ... is a female graffiti artist who is a tornado of intensity, so we were delighted to find a female graffiti artist who began her career in New York City at a time when women rarely participated in tagging subways, walls and buses,” Montez said.
The play “Welcome to Arroyo’s” centers on the mystery of Reina Rey, a fictitious Puerto Rican rapper and DJ who can perform in English and Spanish and who plays an essential role in the development of hip hop, Montez said. In the show, Reina Rey disappears in 1980 and is never seen again.
“ABBY found Reina to be a powerful figure in her absence and created this mural, which captures different aspects of Reina Rey’s life and artistic legacy, in order to envision the cultural impact of this female Boricua superstar,” Montez said.
According to Director of Galleries and Collections Amy Schlegel, the mural reflects the main themes of the play, especially the role of Latina women in the worlds of hip hop and graffiti. The artwork reads from left to right, mirroring the show’s narrative arc from the past of the Bronx and the birth of the hip-hop movement, to the play’s setting near the bar “Arroyo’s” in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Schlegel said that Montez reached out to her last spring with the idea of collaborating with the Tufts Art Gallery.
“I quickly realized that commissioning a graffiti or street artist to create a mural that would interpret or narrate the main themes of the play would be an exciting and novel way to connect the Gallery’s temporary public art projects series with the curriculum and the performing arts at Tufts,” Schlegel told the Daily in an email.
Both she and Montez felt that a graffiti artist would best represent the “grittiness” of the play, according to Schlegel.
After consulting with graffiti art experts, Montez and Schlegel developed a list of candidates and agreed on ABBY TC-5 to create the mural and contribute to the scenery of the on-stage production, Schlegel added.
The new mural will replace one titled “Merrily...,” installed by artist Raul Gonzalez III in the summer of 2012. Schlegel explained that the murals allow the Art Gallery to collaborate with other parts of the university without being permanently responsible for the works.
“Our temporary public art projects series allow us to both commission new work for specific, perhaps underutilized sites and to extend our mission beyond the Aidekman Arts Center so that more members of the Tufts community can know what we are up to,” she said.
ABBY, who is part of the graffiti collective “The Crazy 5,” holds a degree in graphic design and has designed packaging and promotional work for companies like Sega and Concord Records. She last year lectured at Davidson College on her experience as a female graffiti artist and design professional. ABBY will discuss her work and its relationship with the play in a lunchtime conversation with Montez on Oct. 25 in the Art Gallery.
According to Montez, it is important to showcase ABBY’s work, as it represents an under-appreciated art form.
“In New York City, there have been repeated attempts over the past 40 years to characterize graffiti as pretty vandalism and to dismiss the form too easily without giving thought to the voices and ideas that the from empowers,” he said.
Montez encourages students to stop and appreciate ABBY’s intricate mural.
“I hope that people will take the time to look at ABBY’s piece and see the complexity and details in the lettering, because I think that the piece reinforces the promise of graffiti and street art as a high art form,” he said.