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Removal / Exposure

graffiti buffing, silver paint, paint rollers, hazard suits, brooms
Baltimore 2003

In the three levels of action involved – the illegal graffiti, the city reclamation, the silver painting – exists an implicit cycle, a game of tag. Who has the last word? Taking issue with the strategic removal of graffiti, this project set a stage for discussion of the regulation of marginalized public surfaces. The buffing, or covering of graffiti with painted squares and rectangles, holds in itself formal qualities of modernist painting. In Removal / Exposure, the appearance of a working order was adopted. Adhering to the boundaries of the existing geometric shapes, aluminum paint was added. This action at once obeyed and undermined the gray, schematic traces, reflecting what was both in front of and behind these silver panes.

ISOLAND INC, created for the purposes of this project and operating as a deceptive company, provided a shell of corporate justification by dressing the part as city workers. The silver paintings were executed in the guise of hazard suits and logos. Most of the paintings remained untouched for years, as they were not perceived as illegal. Several times during the process, police officers who passed by chance merely said “hello” and went about their business. Located under a bridge, a farmer’s market was used as the host for an exhibition featuring many of the paintings. Publications including texts and a floor plan with the corresponding numbered paintings were provided to the visitors, turning these “neutral” rectangles into billboards to move a marginal matter towards a focal point.