Ever notice the 13-story geometric abstract painted on the side of a prewar loft building on West 3rd Street between Mercer Street and Broadway?
It looks like something straight out of the 1970s city, when this part of the Village was a warren of underused loft structures, and landlords didn’t know—or care—what was painted on them.
Here’s the backstory of this curious relic of a less restrictive city. Created in 1970, it was commissioned by a artists’ group called City Walls, Inc. and painted by a cofounder of the group known as Tania.
City Walls apparently went around the city looking for facades to paint, and when they found one, they simply asked the landlord for permission.
Of her “three-dimensional” painting of overlapping pyramid shapes, Tania had this to say in a 1971 New York Times article:
“I want to take art out of the museums and galleries. . . . A wall belongs to everybody; it can’t be traded on the art market.”
Could an arts group paint a public wall today? Probably not without paying a hefty fee for the privilege.
City Walls was also responsible for this mural a few blocks south on Houston Street, titled “Gateway to Soho.”
[Photo, right, by Beyond My Ken]