Graffiti History: 5 Pointz

Since the dawn of time, undoubtedly, people have imprin­ted their names on the walls of caves, on rocks, any­where that presen­ted them with a chance to leave a dis­tinct­ive mark. In mod­ern soci­ety, all these years later, this is referred to as ‘tag­ging’ and is often viewed as an act of destruc­tion and van­dal­ism, some­thing thor­oughly dis­ap­proved by the estab­lish­ment. When some think about graf­fiti they pic­ture a ‘gang’ mem­ber mark­ing out their turf, how­ever, 5 Pointz showed us that there was and always will be much more to the art than aggress­ively sprayed messages.5 pointz 4

In Novem­ber of 2013, the all-embra­cing aer­o­sol art on 5 Pointz (New York City) was replaced with noth­ing but white paint. Once cel­eb­rated as the ulti­mate refuge for urb­an artists, The Long Island City struc­ture was demol­ished to make way for extra­vag­ant apartments.

Once con­sidered a mod­ern day “graf­fiti Mecca,” 5 Pointz attrac­ted aer­o­sol artists from across the globe, all arriv­ing with one goal; to express them­selves on the walls of a fact­ory build­ing, all 200,000-square-foot of it. The name itself was sig­ni­fic­ant as it high­lighted the desire to unite the five bor­oughs as one, how­ever, because of its status as graffiti’s “Holy Grail,” the com­plex ended up unit­ing aer­o­sol artists on an inter­na­tion­al scale.

5 ponitzFrom Bel­gi­um to Brazil, Tracy 168 to Cope2, renowned writers have painted on the build­ing walls. Addi­tion­ally, since the early 00’s, 5 Pointz attrac­ted numer­ous hip-hop heavy­weights who came and paid their respects, includ­ing Doug E. Fresh and Mobb Deep, to name just two. The inspir­a­tion­al depic­tions were as diverse as they were strik­ing, from Asi­an con­cu­bines to Picas­so inspired back­drops, per­haps an absorb­ing piece of art that seems to pay homage to Guillermo del Toro “Pan’s Labyrinth” is the most fas­cin­at­ingly beautiful.

Ini­tially named The Phun Fact­ory, 5 Pointz was the brainchild of a New York assemblage known as the Graf­fiti Ter­min­at­ors. The goal was simple; to offer graf­fiti artists an oppor­tun­ity to dis­play their work in one unan­im­ously cap­able vicin­ity, one that provided them with a space to oper­ate and express them­selves artist­ic­ally without wor­ry­ing about the ‘long arm’ of the law. Inter­est­ingly enough; in the early 00’s, The Phun Phactory’s came under scru­tiny because the New York City Police argued that their artist­ic dis­plays encour­aged adoles­cent graf­fiti on a heightened level.

As the site evolved and grew in import­ance, Jonath­an Cohen, a graf­fiti expert, quickly became its illus­tri­ous cur­at­or. A man often referred to as “Meres One,” his sig­na­ture name tag, Cohen’s assumed the iden­tity after enter­ing the world of graf­fiti at the tender age of 13. Rather ideal­ist­ic­ally, the Flush­ing native’s inspir­a­tion came after wit­ness­ing an aer­o­sol-based painted Smurf on a wall, an event that made him run home and start examin­ing the entire cul­ture of graffiti.5 pointz  3

Even at this young age, Cohen was entirely cap­tiv­ated; he knew this was his call­ing. Fast for­ward five years, and after rig­or­ous scout­ing and pre­par­a­tion, The Deadly4Mula (TD4) crew was assembled. The 90s was a hec­tic dec­ade for Meres, ini­tially gradu­at­ing from the Fash­ion Insti­tute of Tech­no­logy, all before evolving his trade from tag­ging and throw-ups to intric­ate piecing. Not con­tent with this expan­sion, the legendary fig­ure then pro­duced count­less aer­o­sol art mur­als through­out New York City and oth­er cit­ies on the East Coast.

Up until a year ago, Meres and oth­er enthu­si­asts ran 5 Pointz with com­pet­ence and pan­ache. If an artist pos­sessed a burn­ing desire to paint a mur­al on the build­ing, then they reques­ted a per­mit from the man him­self. In addi­tion to the applic­a­tion, a voca­tion sample and a blue­print of the poten­tial mur­al were also required if approv­al was sought. The more pro­fi­cient artists were giv­en the more out­stand­ing loc­a­tions; prime spots were reserved for the­or­et­ic­al work that dis­played immensely invent­ive aspects.

D5 pointz 2emoli­tion of a cul­tur­al and his­tor­ic­al land­mark in order to erect some anti-cul­tur­al and insig­ni­fic­ant high-rise lux­ury con­dos was indeed a sad day for the world of art. A phys­ic­al shrine that cel­eb­rated the beauty of hip-hop cul­ture, at five stor­ies high, 5 Pointz offered a gen­i­al, off the wall, visu­al feast, an allur­ing sight that fash­ioned a wel­come dis­trac­tion from the glum­ness across the street, the MoMA PS 1 site.

Up until the white wash of this depict­ive nir­vana, wit­ness­ing the interi­or court­yard of 5 Pointz was like plum­met­ing into a vicari­ously fever­ish rev­er­ie. What star­ted out as a some­what imper­man­ent pro­ject quickly turned into a fantasy boast­ing some of the finest artist­ic dis­plays on the plan­et. It is for this very reas­on that the white­wash­ing of 5 Pointz’s walls was met with such rauc­ous con­sterna­tion. Faces crumpled, heads dropped, people wept.

To replace some­thing so attract­ive with a $400,000,000 mon­stros­ity cer­tainly was­n’t unlaw­ful, nev­er­the­less, it still seems truly unethical.

5 ponitz



Writ­ten By John Glynn 


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