The murals can be visited on their own. See locations in right hand column.
Kayla Welbanks, Consul General of Spain Juan-Ramon Martinez Salazar, Jane Weissman, poet and Lorca scholar Edward Hirsch, translator Electa Arenal, Jules Hollander, Nick Pelafas, Camille Perrottet and Inigo Ramirez de Haro, Consul, Cultural Affairs.
A huge portrait of Federico García Lorca peered out onto Stockholm Street in Bushwick, painted on a drugstore wall alongside verses from “Sleepless City (Brooklyn Bridge Nocturne).”
Out in the sky, no one sleeps. No one, no one.
But out on the sidewalk, one man groused.
“That doesn’t make sense; everybody sleeps under the sky,” said Hector Morales, a retired construction worker. “Maybe that’s something from an older era, but it doesn’t mean anything to young people today. ‘Stay in school. Don’t do drugs.’ That’s what they should have put.”
Out by the wall, two artists — accustomed to the entire gamut of popular reaction evoked by their latest mural — painted their fourth ofthe Spanish poet and playwrightin this Brooklyn neighborhood. The point of community art is to engage people, even those confounded by their proposition (or, like Mr. Morales, confused by prepositions).
“People ask all the time what’s this poem about,” said Jane Weissman, one of the muralists. “I tell them to read it, and visualize the images — like the resurrection of dead butterflies. A lot of them are metaphors for something else. Unfortunately, I don’t know what for. At the end they’ll have all these images and feelings. It seems to work.”
The mural was inspired by García Lorca’s sojourn in New York in 1929 and 1930, when he studied at Columbia University and traversed the city. Brooklyn pops up in his work a few times, said Walter Krochmal, an actor and García Lorca aficionado who helped foundLorca’s Route in New York, an annual event that brings to life words and moments from the poet’s time here.
Those experiences — witnessing the Wall Street crash, segregation, the gap between rich and poor — affected him deeply. It also, Mr. Krochmal said, altered his ideas about poetry.
“His trip to New York blew his entire metric structure apart,” Mr. Krochmal said. “He stopped using Spanish verse and went to an odd internal rhyme.”
Ms. Perrottet was similarly inspired when she first went to Bushwick a few years ago to visit her son, who had recently moved there. Granted, she was a kindred spirit, having devoured García Lorca’s work years ago. And though she had not done a community mural in a while, she thought Bushwick would be a good place to painta series of walls based on “Sleepless City.”
“This is a great neighborhood,” she said. “It is so full of life. It’s full of different communities.”
It is also filled with the kind of striking contrasts that did not go unnoticed by the poet then or the muralists now. A mix of people pass by the work in progress each day, from young hipsters to longtime residents. Most days, a produce truck is parked nearby, with fruits and vegetables arrayed under a small tent.
People walk, stop and read the verses in English or Spanish. Some are puzzled, others are pleased — even if they are not quite sure why. Some have taken to the wall’s participatory angle, where they are invited to put a colored dot on a grid of local streets to show where they live. During last year’s mural project, a local family had its three children help out every day. This year, one passer-by pointed out an incorrectly translated word.
García Lorca would have appreciated the touch of the surreal on the sidewalk. He would have no doubt appreciated the neighborhood, given his progressive political leanings — which cost him his life in 1936 when he was executed by Fascists.
“He had, like the poet, his ear against the wall,” said Electa Arenal, a retired professor at the City University of New York, who will read “Sleepless City” in Spanish during the July 18 walk. “This neighborhood seems to be multicultural, but that does not mean people know about each other. The walls may contribute to them getting to know one another.”
García Lorca met his fate with his back against the wall in Spain. He lives on with his words on a wall in Brooklyn, where they enchanted Asnev Jimenez one recent morning.
“It’s pretty, that poem,” said Ms. Jimenez, a recent immigrant from Mexico. “You should walk around with your eyes open to understand what it means. Every word of that poem signifies something pretty.”
A version of this article appeared in print on July 8, 2013, on pageA17of theNew York editionwith the headline: A Mural of a Spanish Poet, Confounding and Enchanting.
Spanish playwright and poet Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) lived
in New York for nine months from June 1929 through March 1930. Sharing
the loneliness and alienation experienced by immigrants new to New York, he saw
much that was wrong with the city, and his work is filled with surrealistic
images that speak to ills that still exist today: poverty, racism and
violence. Selected for the Brooklyn reference in its title, Sllepless City:
Brooklyn Bridge Noctuyrne has great universality in that it explores modernity
and what it means to be human, to desire. Click here for the English and Spanish versions of the poem.
The four The
Federico Garcia Lorca Murals—the last to be painted in Summer
2013—honor Bushwick’s residents and workers. The murals are located with a 15 square
block area of this neighborhood of long-established and more recent immigrants
as well as newer emerging artists. The
murals are close to the subway and all can be easily be visited on foot.
The Federico Garcia Lorca Murals is a project of Artmakers Inc. which, since 1984, has
worked with community organizations to create high quality public art relevant
to lives and concerns of neighborhood residents and workers.
Starr Street between Wycoff and Irving Avenues, 10’ x95’
The first mural
(2011) is on Starr Street between Wycoff and Irving Avenues. The second and third murals (2012) are on
opposite corners of Himrod Street at the intersection of Knickerbocker
Avenue. The 2013 mural will be on
Stockholm Street at the corner of Knickerbocker.
Each mural includes a
stanza from Lorca’s poem, in both Spanish and English translations, as well as
a feature of the poet’s face—his eyes (to see, Mural #1), his lips (to speak,
Mural #2), an ear (to listen, Mural #3). The final mural in the series will feature
Lorca's entire face.
Himrod Street at Knickerbocker Avenue, 8½’ x 88’
As the artists worked, residents and workers daily passed by the wall,
tracking the progess of the murals. They
not only stopped to read the text and engage the muralits in conversation, they
also contributed to a major design element of each of the murals—a visual
representation of their countries of origin.
This information was collected through conversation or by their writing
down countries and cities on notices taped to the walls.
Himrod Street at Knickerbocker Avenue, 8’ x 60’
On Starr Street, flags representing homelands were painted in the white
stripes of the American flag. On Lorca
#2, cities of origin are represented by dots on a map of the world entitled Bushwick: A World Without Borders. The majority of Himrod Street residents/ families
are from Puerto Rico, many settling in Bushwick at 40 years ago and, on Mural
#3, their towns are represented on a map of the island. A map of Bushwick will be incorporated in
Mural #4 which will indicate the locations of the other murals.
2013: Mural #4. Stockholm Street at Knickerbocker Avenue, 8’