A new multi-colored portrait of the late British pop star David Bowie now overlooks Jersey Avenue, the latest and perhaps most dramatic in Jersey City’s Art Mural program. The 180 foot tall mural is the work of world-famous street artist Eduardo Kobra, and rush hour motorists steering down Jersey Avenue towards Hoboken can look up to see him and his workmen standing on scaffolding as they put on the finishing touches.
Although Kobra has done many large murals of many famous people that include Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan, President Abraham Lincoln, South African activist Nelson Mandela, Indian and religious leader Mahatma Gandhi, and John Lennon of The Beatles, the mercurial Bowie seems very appropriate for a neighborhood on the Jersey City/Hoboken border in transition from its industrial past to a more residential urban future.
Most of Kobra’s art focuses on concepts of acceptance and peace, and all use bright colors and bold lines.
Bowie, an icon of the Glitter Rock movement of the early 1970s who went on to become a performer who seemed to embody urban experience, passed away last January. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
“Jersey City has one of the most diverse and expansive mural arts programs in the country and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome Kobra to contribute to the artistic landscape of our city.” – Mayor Steven Fulop.
“It’s great to see that Jersey City has embraced street art through its mural program and I’m very happy to be part of it,” Kobra said.
Kobra uses a technique of repeating squares and triangles that allows him to bring to life the famous people he depicts in his images. This checkered pattern is filled with different textures, lines, and shading.
Program took off in 2013
Although Jersey City has had a mural program for more than a decade, this was expanded after Mayor Steven Fulop took office, with some costs covered through an anti-litter and graffiti grant.
City officials say the program has used local, national, and international artists. With a few notable exceptions, the murals appear on private property such as the Cast Iron Lofts.
Earlier this year, the program produced a controversial Monopoly Board artwork for the Newark Avenue pedestrian plaza, but was later removed after public outcry over several aspects deemed by some community members as offensive.
The current program has been up and running since 2013 and has resulted in nearly 100 pieces of individual art throughout Jersey City.
Every year, a portion of the grant is allocated to cover paint supplies and small art stipends for artists depending on the size of the wall and the time required to complete the project. The murals aim to speak to the community, tell the history of the city and reflect the culture of the unique and varied neighborhoods of Jersey City.
According to city officials, the mural program is led by a team of managers, artists, and administrators in the mayor’s office, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Public Works, who work directly with neighborhood groups, educational institutions, small businesses, and private property owners to select ideal locations, recommend artists, and help to determine the theme and content of the murals commissioned.
Most the artists reach out to this team with their portfolio and mural proposals, according to city officials, or they are sometimes recommended by residents or business owners.
Artists who have participated in the Jersey City Mural Arts Program include Zed1 and Pixel Pancho from Italy, Fintan McGee from Australia, and Faith47 from South Africa, who completed her second and largest mural for the city this spring. Others were executed by DaveL from Miami and New York’s Queen Andrea.
“Jersey City has one of the most diverse and expansive mural arts programs in the country and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome Kobra to contribute to the artistic landscape of our city,” said Mayor Fulop. “His work is recognized around the world and his Jersey City mural is not only our largest to date but also an iconic image that will draw people here to visit the mural and our entire collection of outdoor art.”
To further integrate the Kobra mural into the Jersey City Artober celebration, a 10,000-square-foot pop-up gallery has opened in the 17th Street retail space of the Cast Iron Lofts building that displays a collection of works from nearly half of the participating artists in Mural Arts Program.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.