As an art form, street art has had a stylistic resurgence during the past decade, but art as the signification of communication over public space is hardly a new idea, especially in Latino communities (Davillla 95). In looking beyond the aesthetic nature of graffiti and public murals, and by looking at its communicative attributes, graffiti and public art space can be analyzed as site-specific literacies that are read and written within the social contexts of the communities that surround them.
Public art has a strong cultural backbone in Latino communities, one that has translated into East Harlem or “El Barrio’s” rich history in public murals. These murals offer a platform for public discourse, and of course, one representation of the mural is the memorial mural that was once a common sight in El Barrio. In Martha Cooper’s and Joseph Sciorra’s book, RIP Memorial Wall Art, they write, “Latino artists play a predominant role in the development of the New York memorial tradition… the strong Latino presence reveals a historic precedent for the memorial tradition. The walls are updated version of roadside crosses” (Cooper and Sciorra 10).
This project is an exploration of the public dialogues that are negotiated by murals in East Harlem, NYC. Data was collected by walking the neighborhood, and by documenting the information as it was laid out for me. By looking at the mural as a mode of negotiated space within the community, and the discrepancies between the dialogues that surround them, one can begin to see the inkling of networks across institutions, places, and personal perceptions and memories that help lay out both the physical landscape of East Harlem, and the perceptions of the community that inhabits it.
Cooper, Martha and Joseph Sciorra. RIP: Memorial Wall Art. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992. Print.
Davila, Arlene. “The Marketable Neighborhood: Commercial Latinidad in New York’s East Harlem”. MediaSpace: place, scale, and culture in a media age. Psychology Press, 2004. Print.