HOUSTON (AP) - Little about the front of the nondescript 30-year-old commercial building at 2800 San Jacinto suggests the Sistine Chapel.
But a bodacious God is hanging around out back against a backdrop of vibrant green, blue and yellow drips, on a mural that has been declared the largest in Houston: “Preservons La Creation (Let’s Preserve the Creation).”
The Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/1oZ0BQP ) reports the title and imagery riff on Michelangelo’s famous “The Creation of Adam,” a portion of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling that measures a bit more than 9 feet by 19 feet, covering about 172 square feet.
Artist Sebastien “Mr. D” Boileau estimates his Midtown mural is more than 60 feet tall and 180 feet wide, covering nearly 11,000 square feet. Passers-by have been able to see it for weeks. Saturday’s official unveiling includes an art market, music, food, beverages and a gallery show of Boileau’s work.
A trim 41-year-old Frenchman who’s lived in Houston about eight years, Boileau gladly took a break from the punishing work of painting on a gargantuan scale. His brown hair was pulled into a ponytail beneath a porkpie hat, and his hands were paint-splattered. He wore a T-shirt that read, “Been there, bombed that.”
This project is hardly a typical graffiti bombing, although the artist’s “Mr. D” logo does appear, way up in God’s hand. After three months of planning, Boileau and assistants George Holder and Erick Calvio worked through May to realize the piece. They needed two 65-foot boom lifts to apply more than 500 cans of spray paint and 150 gallons of wall paint mixed with two parts water.
“As a former graffiti artist, I don’t want to paint blue skies and bluebonnets,” Boileau said. “I can do it. But if you’re given the opportunity to do something on this scale in such an amazing location, you have to go all out and hope for the best.”
Elia Quiles of Up Art Studio, which represents Boileau, said “Preservons” cost more than $90,000 to make, including in-kind services and donations. (The paint was donated by Sherwin Williams and Liquitex.) Wednesday, Quiles was still trying to raise $5,500 through Power2Give.org to cover event costs and marketing.
“Preservons” is the calling card of a lifetime for Boileau, a self-taught artist who tagged his first walls as a teenager in Paris. The son of a caterer, he moved to Texas in 1998, following a woman. By then he had a business degree from a school in France, but he loved the American lifestyle and graffiti culture. He gradually built a legitimate mural business, Eyeful Art. (His nickname has stuck, although “Mr. D” no longer reflects Boileau’s school grades or a need to conceal his identity from the police.)
Urban real estate developer Adam Brackman, who invited Boileau to paint the building after he bought it about a year and a half ago, wishes he could find more street artists who approach the task as seriously. “He’s an artist first but also a businessman,” Brackman said.
Brackman’s company, Common Ground, invests in Midtown properties with redevelopment potential. He’s enlisted muralists before to bring attention to his buildings and deter crime, also appreciating how street art can temporarily enliven a neighborhood in transition. Most of the buildings he buys and sells eventually will be razed, he reasons, “but in the meantime, let’s make them something.”
The 2800 San Jacinto property, including a large empty lot, is for sale, too, so that building will likely be torn down - and Boileau’s mural with it.
“The highest and best use for that property is higher density. But graffiti brings attention to the beauty that can be there,” Brackman said.
Until now, Brackman’s biggest art project was Daniel Angiulu’s work at the former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority building at 2850 Fannin, across the street from “Preservons.”
Brackman chose Boileau’s design from several ideas the artist proposed because it’s about both creationism and deconstruction, and “tongue in cheek.”
“As a graffiti, urban or street artist, whatever you want to call it, you realize that almost 90 percent of what you’ve done your entire life - if not all of it - is gone,” Boileau said. “I wanted something that would bring this to the conversation: What is going to be left? You can go see Michelangelo’s original that’s 500 years old, but what is going to be left of our generation 500 years from now?”
Not aiming simply to re-create Michelangelo’s oft-copied mural, he’s faced the figure of God to the right, omitted Adam and added sponsor logos.
“You know you’re going to be judged. You have to get it right, but it’s obvious that I’m taking some artistic freedom,” he said. “This piece combines my early surroundings in Europe and techniques that are graffiti-oriented. I thought it would be interesting to bring such a known Renaissance piece into an urban setting.”
Some street artists draw intuitively, directly onto walls, but that wasn’t possible with “Preservons,” Boileau said. “At this scale, you can’t just freehand it. Once you’re up close, you don’t know if you’re doing the knee or the shoulder. Really.”
He’s trademarked his style as “Canpressionism,” he said, because like an Impressionist painting, the picture doesn’t reveal itself close up. It’s figurative but made in an abstract way, stroke by stroke.
The mural’s final layer will be a protective coating. It’s rare for graffiti artists to vandalize each others’ work, but it happens; just a few weeks ago, a commercial job Boileau did for the store Biscuit Home got tagged.
“You always have a few people who try to get some attention,” he said.
Adding to its legitimacy, the mural’s title sponsor is Midtown Management District. More than any other Houston neighborhood, Midtown has embraced and encouraged street artists, especially since 2012, when the state designated it a cultural district.
“We are making sure that designation comes to fruition,” said Eileen J. Morris, who chairs the district’s cultural arts and entertainment committee. Morris said her board also is considering bike racks, crosswalks and underpasses as art assets to be developed.
The Texan-French Alliance for the Arts has offered support through its Open the Door initiative, hoping ticket sales for mural events also will raise funds for an art project with Boileau that would engage sick children at hospitals in Houston and France.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.