Note: This article is the first in a three part series that discusses how three artists dealt with the topic of histories within their Bushwick Collective murals.
Originally from Venezuela, Mata Ruda drew upon the history of Central America for his first wall in New York City at the Bushwick Collective. Inscribing his images upon the preexisting mural by fellow Open Walls artist Gabriel Specter, the artist combines the context of Specter’s poppy “El Adiós Grocery” with his monochromatic imagery. Using a source photograph of an unknown, undocumented immigrant, this anonymous voice is given an ominous presence within this space. In a city of immigrants, the face of this everyman is accompanied by signage for a store that could exist on any corner in the city, asking us to question our interactions with people and iconography that most New Yorkers would not give a second thought.
Combined with the black and white central portrait are a series of masks that float ominously around him, looming over the grocery’s banner. One of the first Mexican civilizations, the Olmecs were a Mesoamerican culture that now only exists through and is represented by the objects they left behind. The defined faces and hollow eyes of these artifacts have become emblematic of the culture, often called “colossal heads.” By applying traditional imagery from the contemporary figure’s transplanted homeland, Mata Ruda links the importance of a person’s past in their present through the use of historical imagery. The Olmec expression is echoed by the undocumented immigrant, further underlining this message.
Photos by Rhiannon Platt