Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Ready to Rock (the Spot)

October 14-16, 2022, talented artists from around the US got together to fill the blank walls in this parking lot with murals:
That's from the current front page of RockTheSpotAZ.com. “The Spot” is the Pueblo Parking Systems lot between Congress and Pennington, just east of Stone.

Our previous blog post — Tucson graffiti art, 1994 — tells some of the story behind Rock the Spot. For instance, Albert Soto of TPAC (a predecessor of today's Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern AZ) arranged a trip to Italy; there are details in the Albert Soto tribute page on the Rock the Spot website). The trip connected Tucson artists with others from around the world.

For a long time, Monty “Ses” Esposito had the idea of muralists painting an area — which later happened in the parking lot now known for Rock the Spot. Ses talked with many people, but the idea never resonated with anyone until he talked with Demo (Joshua Behshad).

Nothing came of Ses’ idea until he helped paint a wall on Grant west of Campbell… see our October, 2021 blog entry Día de Los Muertos on Grant Road. That mural got news attention. A woman approached Ses to say that they had space to paint downtown and showed him the parking lot. Time passed. Ses remembered the parking lot owners (Pueblo Parking Systems); they loved the idea of Rock the Spot. Another important player was Demo, a guy who gets things done, Ses told me. Demo was a big part of Rock the Spot.

A mostly empty lot

On to 2022. Until the painting, there were two murals at opposite ends of the Pueblo Parking Systems lot: Danny Martin's mural at the far right — and, behind the camera, at the northeast end of the parking lot, a mural by Rachel, Tim and Alexandra. Here's a video “tour” of the parking lot before it was painted:

Links to the video above: Sequence 01 (Rock The Spot parking lot) from Joshua Behshad on Vimeo.

Before the lot was painted, the Google Maps Street view shows it mostly empty. These two angles show it first from the south side along Congress, then from the north side along Pennington:

On this blog October 10th, we announced the upcoming event. The post has a promotional ”poster” and overall info: Rock the Spot: Graffiti art festival October 14-16

Parking lot primed

Before artists started working, the walls were painted with dividing lines to show where each artist — or group of artists — could paint:

Thanks to Ses for those four photos.

Another Rock the Spot is planned for this year (2023). The date should be announced in September.

Our next blog post will show photos of the finished murals. Here, I'd like to acknowledge the artists who came to paint in 2022.

The artists

I don't have a complete list of artists. Below are the signatures I could spot when I took photos just as most of the painting had been finished, October 17, 2022. I mostly walked clockwise around the parking lot, starting at the next mural north of Danny Martin's PARKING mural — but not every signature is in order. A lot of the signatures are Instagram account handles (starting with @, like @tucson.art):

(@jeks_nc painted the mural with three views of Linda Ronstadt. If you haven't seen it already, it's in our next post. His Instagram page — click there — shows lots of similar murals.)

Next: The (almost) finished murals

In the next post, you'll see the murals almost done — most of them finished, and leftover equipment etc. around the parking lot.

Update (May 12, 2023): The 30+ finished murals (and a few not finished) are in today's post This Spot (was) Rocked.

Friday, May 05, 2023

Tucson graffiti art, 1994

In October, 2022, Rock the Spot covered the walls of the Pueblo Parking Systems lot with murals. (We'll have two posts next week with lots of photos.) The story started around thirty years ago, though. Let's look back to the 1990s — mostly 1994 — for some of the early graffiti art in Tucson.

I started by talking with Monty “Ses” Esposito, who was one of the main people behind Rock the Spot. He's been in Tucson since at least the 1990s. After talking with Ses, I searched online and found much more.

(Thanks to Graffiti Empire Graffiti Generator for that writing. I made the three words separately, then joined them into one image.)

Albert Soto and ...

As the RockTheSpotAZ.com tribute page explains, Rock the Spot was dedicated to Albert Soto, who helped urban art develop in Tucson and supported the artists. Ses told me the story on May 2nd.

Ses’ story starts back in the 1990s. He was painting without permission in a wash. Eventually he got permits to do that. Lots of guys painted there. Because he's called Ses, they called it the Ses-pool.

Now graffiti art is often called "street art" and graffiti writers are called "street artists". Back in the 1990s, there was no such word. When artists painted, people would be scared and run away. Now, decades later, they roll down their car windows and wave!

(By the way, Rock “CYFI” Martinez — who's now famous around Tucson and has painted around the world — used to teach a murals school in Tucson. He organized an annual graffiti art painting weekend called WintaFresh; artists came from around the US. One example on this blog is from 2016, when WintaFresh was ending: So long, WintaFresh.)

Next, about Albert Soto. He worked at TPAC (the Tucson-Pima Arts Council, a former incarnation of today's Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona). Back then, in the 1990s, people didn't understand how the two words in the term “grafiti art” could go together. It was before the Internet, so people couldn't see examples easily. Albert was one of the few Tucsonans who believed in this art form; he did a lot for local graffiti writers, treated them like artists, and was also a mentor.

Albert spearheaded the Spraycan Art Symposium at Pima Community College and brought some top artists to Tucson. He also helped to create the Spraycan Art show at the Sixth Congress Gallery. There's more on both of those next.

Spraycan Art Show

Around the same time as the Spraycan Art Symposium, the Sixth Congress Gallery held a Spraycan Art show. A May 18, 1994 article in Phoenix New Times titled American GraffitiAerosol Artists Answer Scrawl of the Wild gives an overview of the show and graffiti in Tucson, then covers graffiti in New York City. It's full of fascinating stuff. For instance, the Tucson Police Department actively worked against the Gallery and writers/taggers, even those who did graffiti legally. The show was so controversial that funding for Sixth Congress Gallery dried up and it had to close. And so on. It's a long story but, I think, worth your time if you're interested in this scene!

Three artists — Ses, Sketch, and Demo — were part of a big crowd of artists at 6th & Congress — along with artists who came from New York. The show was the biggest event in Arizona. For instance, Martha Cooper — a photographer who traveled worldwide taking photos of graffiti and murals — was there. She and Henry Chalfant made graffiti famous. Henry also attended the Tucson show. Search online for something like Martha Cooper graffiti or Henry Chalfant subway art — or a mixture of those — to see lots of examples.

Thanks much to a Facebook user named Herm (HermDJ), there's a 15-minute video on Facebook of the Spraycan Art Show at the Sixth Congress Gallery. (Note that there's profanity and other things that might offend some people.) Here's the link; there are details below it:


(At 11:30 — that is, 11 minutes and 30 seconds into the video — you can see the start of the mural that was painted above the Sixth Congress Gallery. At 12:16, 13:19, 14:06, 14:34, and 15:07, it's closer and closer to being finished.)

Next, three screen grabs from near the end of the video Herm posted on Facebook. They show two stages of the mural, and one close-up, painted above the long-gone Sixth Congress Gallery:

In case that video has been removed by the time you read this (for example, Facebook has marked some photos of mine as “not meeting community standards,” even though they were of an inoffensive mural), here's what Herm wrote:
May 1994
Spraycan Art show
Sixth Congress Gallery
Tucson AZ

Way back in 1994, Andy Bernard & David Wright, owners of Sixth Congress Gallery on the corner of 6th Ave & Congress (the building that eventually became Hydra), in conjunction with Pima Community College, put together an art show consisting of works from NY graffiti legends as well as local graffiti stars. Prior to the art show, the legends held court at the Pima [Community College] West auditorium, discussing their history and stories from their fabled careers. It was called Spraycan Symposium and almost every graffiti writer from Tucson, Phoenix and other parts of AZ were in attendance. (In some way or another, almost all of us graffiti writers were in tune with — if not active participants of — each of the "four elements of Hip Hop" back then. Graffiti, B-Boying, rapping & DJing were heavily present at almost every party, jam or get-together.)

As part of the Symposium, the NY graffiti icons painted a mural above Sixth Congress Gallery. Five local graffiti artists were handpicked to work with the NY artists, chosen and paired up according to their individual style & personality. Madcap painted with Lee, Lexx painted with Futura, Such (Phx) painted with Lady Pink, Fyce (Phx) painted with Stash… Chico was the other NY artist but I can't remember who he was paired with.

This relatively short (and admittedly low quality) video I took captures opening night of the Spraycan Art show at the gallery, and some daytime footage of the mural being painted. (I had a video camera and thought it was important to document certain moments back then.) I'll try to tag as many people in this video that I can down in the comments, both here and on Facebook. If you see anybody you recognize, feel free to tag 'em! I've lost touch with some over the years.

What's next?

Next week we'll have photos of the Rock the Spot parking lot before and after the painting, as well as images from BG Boyd Photography showing the work in progress.

Another Rock the Spot is planned for this year (2023). The date should be announced in September.

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Three Sisters / Las Tres Hermanas

On the wall of The Neighborhood DWTN bar is a new mural approximately 50x50 feet in size:
I believe it was finished on April 29, the day I took these photos. It's at the southeast corner of the Pueblo Parking Systems lot — which is lined with murals from the Rock the Spot weekend mural fiesta. (Photos of Rock the Spot are coming ASAP… I have a lot of them!) The next photo shows a little part of the other murals:
A closeup of the three hermanas / sisters:
The bottom of the mural was lined with parked cars when I was there, so I took this photo from the south (right) end:
Artist Mel Melo Dominguez posted a series of photos and videos of the mural in progress on his Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/melodominguez/posts/pfbid02KucSmdAE2KRJsgXxLxXiCo4XERe1ieJLau2kMwf33XewqLRmbwTJEUe1nL7n3JTql. There's more info from the Arzona Daily Star in our April 28, 2023 post, Photos: The Three Sisters/Las Tres Hermanas mural in downtown Tucson .

Friday, April 28, 2023

Three Sisters/Las Tres Hermanas mural coming

On Wednesday, April 26, the Arizona Daily Star took photos of a mural almost finished on the side of The Neighborhood DWTN bar. It's approximately 50x50 feet in size. Tucson.com published it online yesterday:

    Photos: The Three Sisters/Las Tres Hermanas mural in downtown Tucson

The article said it's a collaboration between the University of Arizona’s Confluence Center for Creative Inquiry and Galeria Mitotera (part of Froneridades), and there are four artists: Lead Artist Ruben Moreno, Melo Dominguez, Antonio Lucero, and Gerardo Frias. Ruben aims to have it finished this weekend.

There will be photos in our next post Three Sisters/Las Tres Hermanas.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Let's hope this mural isn't washed away! (Murals being made, part 74)

From February through April, 2023, Jessica Gonzales and Rock "CYFI" Martinez spent more than two months painting a mural along the north bank of the Rillito River. Here it is — from the west, across the river — on April 21, just after it was finished:
As always, you can click on any photo for a slideshow of larger views. But there are close-ups below.

At the right end of the photo above, you can see the pedestrian bridge at the east end of the mural. If you visit from the north bank — along River Road between Country Club and Camino de Boscaje Escondido — cross the bridge, then walk west to get a view of the whole mural. Along the south bank, you might think of parking at the Racquet Club, but I'll bet they won't like that… Instead, park at Rio Vista Natural Resource Park, at the north end of Tucson Blvd. — 3974 N. Tucson Blvd. — and walk about ten minutes east (or ride your bike) along The Loop pedestrian/bicycle path.

This distance sign is at the east side:
At 4,000 square feet, this mural is the largest so far in Pima County's public art collection… for more on public art, see The Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona Public Art page. (Maybe we should start a list of mural sizes in this blog?) Another large mural — which, at the time (July, 2022) was called the biggest — is in our post Another big Joe Pagac mural: Zion City (Murals being made, part 70).

The mural is in two sections, above The Loop path and on the concrete riverbank below the path.

BG Boyd Photography released the video below on April 24th:

Here's a link to click for a larger view in your browser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4313OlU3-84. You can see more of BG's mural videos at https://bgboydphoto.com/videos/Murals

The mural extends along the Rillito River to the west of Country Club. The Google Map below shows the length as 0.1 miles. Using the 50 ft. scale at the lower right, I estimated 650 feet long:
Although we give the address Google Maps assigned to it, it's easier to find with the written directions near the start of this post.

February 14, 2023: Top half being painted

I stopped by on February 14, 2023 (Valentine's Day!), with snow on the Catalinas, while Jessica and CYFI were painting. The bottom half, along the riverbank below The Chuck Huckleberry Loop path, was blank. The top half, along (above) the path, was in progress:
I made two videos of the mural, from left (west) to right (east), while I was walking… so they're jumpy!
  • Left side
  • I skipped the middle part, which is only a foot or two high, because at this time it was mostly all a single color.
  • Right side (not well framed, oops)
(There are a few videos of other murals etc. at the YouTube handle @TucsonArtInfo.)

A bit later, the two muralists and crew arrived:
Here's a closeup (taken from the south bank with a cell phone camera, so it's a bit fuzzy if you click to see a larger view):
They were working next to the wall, in the north (westbound) lane of the path. Notice the flashing safety markers between the lanes. That didn't slow down some bicyclists! I heard that, at this point, there had already been one accident.

April 21, 2023: Both halves finished

As soon as I read that the mural was finished — more than two months after my previous visit — I stopped by with my DSLR camera and a zoom lens. The safety markers had been packed into a corner near the path to River Road, and the path was clear:

Next, 16 photos of the mural from left (west) to right (east):

The view looking west from the pedestrian/bicycle bridge:
Ride (or walk) by!
A note about photos: If you're taking photos, don't stand in the riverbed — unless you don't care if the top and bottom halves of the mural line up. There's a photo below that I took from the riverbed. I ended up coming back with a camera that has a true zoom lens — not the “digital zoom” in phone cameras that can make fuzzy photos — to take the photos above from the south side of the Rillito.