Painted into an East Village Corner

Howl!The epicenter of the second annual Howl! Festival of East Village Arts is directly across the street from my apartment building on East Ninth Street, in Tompkins Square Park. Along the west and south fences on the park perimerter, the festival organizers have hung a series of makeshift canvases, which, starting yesterday, have been hand-painted and decorated by locals. It’s a democratic idea, but it yields perhaps the most clichéd artwork imaginable — a plethora of artistic bombast and political rants, few of them executed with all that much in the way of imagination.

Below right: Making us all suffer for his art. One of the more typical murals outside of Tompkins Square Park. Below left and right: Howlin’ woofs. Probably the best mural, which itself is unfortunately devoid of content.

Here’s a good example: a bare-shirted, balding gentleman painting some sort of organic, fleshy and tri-penised organ, with a cupid-struck heart that itself bears a face at the very center of it. Actually, I have little objection to the content, aside from the fact that it seems to confirm what Williamsburg, Brooklyn residents already condescend when they step off the L train at First Avenue: any cool to which the East Village once may have been able to lay claim has become vanishingly small, if it hasn’t disappeared altogether.

How Mural Number One

It says something too about the public art the East Village is able to make when the best canvas by far is innocuous and virtually without content: this wallpaper-like mural of a dozen or two incredibly cute dogs against an avocado background pattern can be found on the east side fence. It was signed, helpfully, by a Aaron Meshon and Ayako Otoshi, the former an illustrator and the latter a graphic designer. Actually, I really liked this piece a lot; it’s witty, engaging and competently crafted. I just wish it weren’t the only canvas I could get excited about.

Howl Mural