The Ephemerality of 5 Pointz

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Photo Credit: Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

by Rachel Heidenry

Indeed, it was sad to see — 5 Pointz whitewashed, aerosol struggling to be visible beneath the layers of white. An era symbolically gone.

As a mural scholar and painter, I believe the contribution of artists on the public landscape is huge and vital; that public voices expressed through layers of paint and spray and stencil must be heard; that graffiti is revolutionary.

But I also understand its vulnerability — the position of public walls within the public sphere. The constant debate and dialogue that swarms the air, moving through alley ways and brushing against layers of paint.

5 Pointz lived an exceptional life. It became a mecca. Its illegality lasted. Time tricked us to believe it was ours — that it too was public. But it wasn’t. It never was. Its private nature was blatant — graffiti making permitted, not illicit. It lived under the guise of permanence, though the art was always momentary.

While everyone hoped Mr. Wolkoff wouldn’t. He did. And he had every right to do so.

We can be upset that the site may lose its identity. That New York is becoming sterile. That the city is in danger of forgetting. But we cannot lament that graffiti was painted over. That the inevitable happened. That the art form’s nature prevailed.

Rather than mourn: keep painting. Claim another.

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