Monday, December 22, 2008

The Romans Had A Word For It

Upside to the construction of all the hotels and luxury condominiums around the studio -the uncloaking of ancient billboards.

There are still remnants of the fur trade on 29th Street, one block north of Asterisk headquarters -just as there are still enough holdout florists on 28th to call it "The Flower District" (not a single piano to be heard down the block, though, au revoir Tin Pan Alley).

The years have begun to reveal the layers of many billboards. One generation furrier marking over the spot of his forefathers -destined to fade as one as long as the building stands.

Here's the only recent painting done on 29th Street.

It's just like a billboard, right?

Well, its marking the public space. That much is true.

Other than distribution point, vandalism and advertising bear little similarity. Advertising is a dialog. It asks the citizen, "Do you know about me? Will you buy me?" At its best, advertising offers individual information about something they need. "Have a headache? This pill will make it go away!" "Need fur? Coch Furrier can help."

Graffiti, on the other hand is a private marking of public space. At best, its a coded language -like the symbols hobos use to mark railyards. Unless we're all hobos, it amounts to little more than private greed encroaching on public space. Eminent domain of hoodlums.

The painted wall has largely been displaced by posters and freestanding billboards.

For the winter season Home Box Office has produced a 21st Century variation on the painted wall.

This is at Sixth Avenue and 24th Street.

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