Day breaks, and the landscape has changed. Anonymous, sub-cultural ambassadors left calling cards ten feet wide in the middle of the night. Seldom seen in the act, their swagger reads on walls like the proclamation of a boss. And any place can get it. Mops, rattle cans, even backloaded extinguishers; the top dog figures out a way. You can miss them slipping through fences and scaling walls in the strangest of places. One such place, the Market Street Power Plant, is a stunning example. Built in 1905, and abandoned in 1973, this steel mammoth has become the best unknown gallery in New Orleans. A multitude of graffiti styles cover nearly every surface within it. COUCH, ESCAPE, EKSA, YESAH, BEANO, GEYETTO, HYPHE, KELTR, REZNOR, ENOK, DUKY, KONQR, HOER…. These kids get up. And regardless of your overall stance on graffiti, you can’t help but respect the craft.
Within earshot of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the building was purchased for $10 million back in 2007. From there it was tied up in litigation and sold again in 2015. Between the two properties, a 47-acre development has heavy machinery scraping the earth clean by day to prepare for a 1,200-room hotel, 1,400 residential units, and various tourist attractions. You wouldn’t know it by its appearance, but the area known as the Trade District is apparently worth something.
Definitive monetary value is not hard to arrive at when dealing with commodities that are accepted in society. “Experts” in the field establish a bar, and everyone else presumes it to be fact. Words and phrases are repeated, becoming trends, and the sheep will follow. I once saw a program where ten art experts were called in to interpret and rate various works of art by artists whose names would not be revealed to them. The experts spent some time discussing their interpretation of each piece and placing a value on them one by one. The majority were impressed by these works. In the end, it was revealed that every work before them was created by a kindergartener. I could not have been more pleased.
Art is such a personal experience. The artist reveals his or her thoughts and feelings visually. Emotions are conveyed on another plane, through a different language. At the Market Street Power Plant, graffiti artists have graced forgotten halls with secluded synapse. Ten dollars or ten million, the structure itself is a display of how what is accepted and established in society can, and will inevitably be, absolute. In all its magnificence it is still finite. But the culture of graffiti art will never die. And challenging the system is this culture’s life blood. How apropos it is that you find fresh thoughts and feelings plastered across the face of such degraded majesty.
I feel fortunate to have been able to capture these images and share my experience with you. And to those graffiti artists who were kind enough to bomb this shack, THANK YOU!! Neworleansmusicians.net supports you. If any bands out there want a bad ass backdrop for their next music video, contact us and we may be able to put you in touch. And if any of you graffiti artists ever want to do an interview, anonymously of course, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.