Mr.Brainwash Piece, Apartment Building Mural- Rageene Berry
This graffiti piece on 250N 10th Street near Roebling Street is painted on the wall of a new apartment building in Williamsburg. It’s been allowed to stay on the wall of a new building without the artist getting into trouble because it is actually a mural sponsored by the real estate company itself. Williamsburg has seen a lot of changes in the past years, the biggest being gentrification of the neighborhood. During the 1980s, Williamsburg saw a huge influx of artists because of the cheap rent and the abandoned factories and warehouses, which gave the artists a free canvas for street art as well. But lately Williamsburg has become a popular site for gentrification for the same reasons it once became an industrial hub. The reasons being it has easy access to Manhattan, and it is a waterfront location. On May 11, 2005 the New York City Council decided to rezone the North Side of the Neighborhood. The neighborhood is divided into North and South by Grand Street. Due to its proximity to the Subway, especially the L and the G train, the North side is more expensive than the South. The rezoning had a drastic effect on the gentrification of the neighborhood. The waterfront, which was once an industrial and manufacturing area, was rezoned for residential purposes. The rent and price of land in Williamsburg has skyrocketed in the recent years, which has lead to artists and hipsters shifting to other creative communities like Bushwick, Fort Greene, and Red Hook. This mural is a perfect example of how the gentrifiers always feel the need to fit in more in the neighborhood they are moving into. The real estate company sponsored this mural to fit into the local area and also as a marketing stunt to get an upper edge over the rest of the new apartment buildings in the neighborhood. To lend authenticity to the mural, the real estate company got one of the most popular graffiti artists in the world to paint their mural for them. The artist who created this is known by the name of Mr. Brainwash. Mr.Brainwash, who was initially a filmmaker, based in Los Angeles, gained fame from the very popular documentary, Exit Through The Gift Shop. The documentary is about how Thierry Guetta actually turned his obsession with street art into his career and became the very famous graffiti artist that he is today and came to be known as Mr.Brainwash. What made the documentary even more popular was the fact that the world-renowned graffiti artist called Banksy directed it. The mural as you can see has “Life is Beautiful,” signed on it which is actually Mr. Brainwash’s signature. The real estate company did not just stop their efforts to make the graffiti piece more local with just the artist. The mural is actually a tribute to John Augustus Roebling, designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, and his son Charles Roebling, who completed construction on one of the oldest suspension bridges in the US. The designer of the Williamsburg Bridge, Henry Hornbostel, is also included in the piece. Interestingly, opposite to this apartment building are two old buildings that have existed in the neighborhood for a long time. The first being an old abandoned factory with walls full of graffiti on one side and the second being The Rappaport Sons Bottle Co. Inc, which has existed since 1939 and has been in the family for four generations, on the other side. The Rappaport Sons Bottle Co. Inc also let a number of graffiti artists paint pieces across an entire wall of the company. Considering that their apartment building was surrounded by old neighborhood buildings with graffiti art all over them, sponsoring this mural was a very smart move by the real estate company.
The sponsored mural is also a representation of how the themes of the graffiti art and street art have changed over time. Graffiti art has come a long way from being considered as vandalism to slowly turning into an art form, which is accepted by many people today. The wide range of acceptance and appreciation for graffiti art by people has had a huge impact on the themes behind these pieces. Most of the graffiti art or street art pieces initially were made around the theme of freedom of expression and fight for street art. The Kobra graffiti piece on our tour on Bedford Ave and North 9th Street is an example of what most of the graffiti art was like before it started being accepted by people. Today Williamsburg has a huge number of murals sponsored by organizations and companies that unlike Kobra’s piece have a number of different themes to them. The Mr.Brainwash mural, the Dunkin Donuts mural on Bedford Ave, North 7th Street and the “ Live, Work, Create” mural on Bedford Ave, North 8th Street are a few examples of such sponsored murals.