After a few misses trying to get in, I made a couple of calls and figured out how to gain access to the large concrete silos on Ruhlen Court by the Rescue Mission of El Paso.
I had been given a tip to check out the site by Peter Thak. For the last few years The Silos have been host to an underground graffiti art show put together by David “Grave” Herrera and others benefiting the Rescue Mission. His art and work in the local El Paso community is well known and he has even championed a public place where up and comers can legally spray and display their art. I didn’t think that the artwork would still be around but the site is locked up which prevents it from getting tagged or vandalized.
Once you are in, its oddly disorienting. From the outside it appears to be a large rectangle but the building is actually made up of 21 tall concrete silos. The roof has long been removed so there’s lots of available light during the day. The downside to that is the exposure to the elements and the pigeons.
After getting used to the vertigo inducing walls, my friend Vince and I wandered around inside documenting the various works. There was quite a spread in talent and design, no doubt due to the large collection of artists represented.
Historically, graffiti art has been a misunderstood form of artistic expression, in part by being lumped together with gang tagging and vandalism. But if there’s one thing all the excitement over Banksy’s recent New Your residency tells us, its that art is in the eye of the beholder. Many street artists may have started out on the fringes in the murky world of “is it art or destruction of property” but context and prominence need to also be applied to truly understand the aerosol art form.
Our need to get out and breathe clean air brought our time in the tubes to and end. The temporary existence of the works makes the visit worth it though. Given the recycling nature of the space, hopefully future shows here will continue to exhibit the talent willing to lay down paint for the greater good.
The full set can be viewed here: The Silos on Flickr
I got a tip the other day for a site that I should check out. I scouted out the location but couldn’t gain easy access. I’ve put out some feelers to see if I can get in so we shall see. I’m purposing leaving out the details right now to keep it a surprise but it’ll be worth it if I can get in.
This year we’ve been lucky. There’ve been a host of new public art installations put up across the city. If you’re not familiar with downtown El Paso’s layout, there is a set of railroad tracks that run underground parallel to the I-10 freeway. Over several points there are bridges, that for the most part, you would forget about as you pass over.
In the City’s on going effort to revitalize downtown, they have replaced the chain-link with new public art works. Once forgotten dead space is now not just functional fencing but engaging art. Along Campbell street is a cool 3D piece by Art Garcia:
Kansas has another installation that evokes the Franklin mountains by Tom Johnson, Tom Orr and Frances Bagley:
There are a couple more that l’ll try and get better shots of and post up in the future. More info about the ongoing improvements and activities can be found at the City of El Paso’s Public Art Facebook page or website.
On Sunday I headed out to Chalk the Block 2013 to get the boys out of the house for a few hours. Because of the construction in San Jacinto Plaza, the event was moved from the park to the area outside the Convention Center and down the way on Franklin street by the Museum of History.
There were also a bunch of pop-up galleries open for the event and from where we parked we were able to view a few along our walk.
Despite the disjointed nature, due to the construction, it was well attended and there was plenty of great works on display:
As we wound our way around, we were able to view some of the new artistic fencing that replaces the old chain link over the railroad bridges. The El Paso Public Art Program commissioned different artists to create replacement fencing, adding some much needed character to the bridges where the railroad snakes under downtown.
As in the past, the event is also host to lots of alternative art performances and kinetic sculptures by artists from around the USA. You can really spend the whole day and night with musical performances and local food trucks keeping your body and mind fed. After a couple of hours it was time for us to fly home:
Chalk the Block 2013 on Flickr
A while back it was decided to let the Muir building get razed since it was considered “non contributing” and deemed to expensive to restore by the owner. The general gist was that the modifications by the various tenants over the years had removed much of what made it historic. In its last role as a Payless Shoe Store it did look that way.
You can debate that all day long but until you start taking down walls, you don’t really know. There’s a good pic taken by Jim Tolbert at the elpasonaturally blog that shows how much was really left under the facade. Now I’m no engineer, but it looks like there was quite a bit of the original building left that could have been worked with:
Buildings come and buildings go. It’s a tough decision and if the money isn’t there or if its not financially feasible to the owner what are you going to do? You would hope the need to preserve the past would trump the pocketbook but its rare when that actually happens.
I drove by the spot were the Muir sat and if there’s a small silver lining to all of this, its what was hidden behind it:
Its a pretty nifty look at some old building signage that I would guess predates the Muir’s construction. I hope it doesn’t get immediately painted over in favor of white so that the future patrons of this, soon to be parking lot spot, will get to see some history.
Today was one of those days I wish I had had my camera with me. The sunrise had a real nice fire look to it and would have made for a great shot. This trusty camera phone snap will have to do.