Last night, over dinner, we were talking with our friends ("the R& R team") about walls. We started by talking about the wall murals in Belfast; it is possible to "see" at least parts of the history of Northern Ireland through the art on its buildings. Then I started thinking: everywhere, walls "talk." Our children came back from a trip to Berlin with portraits of each other taken up against colorful, standing remains of the wall and also were tempted by "pieces of the wall" that were up for sale. The Lascaux caves in France had to be reproduced (right next door) in another "cave" to save the original walls. Cy Twombly's paintings seem to be inspired by the "graffiti" that was scratched into Roman walls and columns and stones and monuments. Jean-Michel Basquiat's work took the figures and the desires and the signature initials and scrawls of the street into the studio and the galleries. Diego Rivera's murals lead to hundreds of later murals: San Francisco's walls are one example. Some walls in cities are set aside for artists to address the space in changing exhibits; sometimes the letters and outlined holes and cracks in the wall and the faces are positively lyrical.
Then, of course, there is the problem of the unwanted street tagging, the pristine wall of a neighborhood or school that is suddenly defaced. Is this a problem of intention (on the artist's part?) or reception (the audience is not amused) or reputation (another audience problem: if we knew the work was by Cy Twombly, we would likely frame it). We do have a Parisian friend who lives proudly behind a graffiti'd door... because "no-one knows" about his beautiful little courtyard behind that door.
That's the outside; then there is the matter of the inside wall. Our restaurant, last night, had held a contest for an artist to paint its back wall. At night, walking or driving through a new town or a new part of a city, I look into windows and I am always surprised at how many white walls I see: not even the posters of a college dorm room, not even dogs playing poker. But many parents put up their children's art -- affectionately called "refrigerator art" -- in their kitchens.We have one from our neighbor; he is nine and he just recently learned to draw a panorama: