This past Friday, a resident informed the community via the Eckington listserv that she had found a postcard, similar to the one pictured above, lying on the ground. The postcard announced that an art exhibition (titled The Consolation of Ruin) would take place over the weekend to celebrate the legacy of "Borf," the work of a juvenile delinquent named John Tsombikos from Great Falls, Virginia, whose artistic graffiti vandalized at least 100 D.C. locations until he was apprehended in 2005. (Washington Post story here.) A visit to the website listed on the postcard revealed that the exhibition would be located in our neighborhood.
Some residents responded to this information that they were "happy there's to be more art in the neighborhood too, as well as more creative youth culture. " Others countered to the tune of "Defacing people’s property isn’t art." I decided to visit the opening night this past Friday myself.
I've posted some pictures of the exhibit on this space (click on photos for a larger view). More than half the exhibit is not graffiti, but hangings, executions, smashed furniture, and a Borf shrine. It is all rather nihilistic and depressing.
I don't believe that the exhibition attenders (approximately 95% of whom were white incidentally, at an exhibit located in a 95% black neighborhood), were there to feel compassion for the residents of D.C., who wake up every morning to the graffiti that has rained down upon their neighborhoods. (More on the current graffiti situation here.)
My conclusion: It's protected free speech, one can argue that it's pretty good art, but it was not a class act to hold the exhibition in our neighborhood. We already have occasional moments of anarchy in our neighborhood, we don't need anarchist art. We need art that uplifts the spirit. For example, why not create art reflecting moments when people of all races and economic backgrounds work together to improve our communities? "Borf" (and his imitators such as "Magic") is about the graffiti artist himself. It's egocentric and it's boring.
The exhibition is located at 1644 North Capitol Street N.W., right next to Savemore supermarket. A resident pointed out to me tonight after the Eckington Civic Association meeting that the Savemore has new graffiti that appeared after the exhibition opened (pictured here to the left). It is ironic; perhaps a local tag artist drew inspiration from the exhibition. I spoke with the owner tonight and he confirmed that the graffiti is new. One resident tonight has a message for all Virginia graffiti artists: "Why don't you go tag McLean?"
For additional photos of the exhibit, this blog has some high quality pics.