Street art mural stirs racial row in Boston
Backlash against bigotry after painting of a boy with jacket wrapped around his head is described as depicting a “terrorist”
By Eric Magnuson. Web only
Published online: 15 August 2012
A mural by the Brazilian street artists Os Gêmeos, installed in Boston as part of their first US solo show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, has drawn some divisive comments and stirred up debate about cultural understanding.
The twin brothers painted the 70-foot-tall mural The Giant of Boston depicting a boy wearing a red jacket wrapped around his head in the city’s high-traffic area of Dewey Square (the figure of a shrouded graffiti tagger is a common motif in the artists’ work). But when the local Fox news affiliate posted an image of the mural on its Facebook page and asked its readers, “What does it look like to you?” some responded with bigoted comments: “terrorist”, “towel head”, “Mooselim protected by Obama!” and “a Muslim woman in a head scarf holding an AK-47 in her hands”. The figure isn’t holding anything in its hands, but the image used by Fox features a crane in front of the mural that could look like a gun.
The responses quickly spread on the internet and led to many new comments in support of the mural, calling for more cultural understanding, including from Boston’s mayor Thomas Menino. Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s director, provided a positive take on the work in a press statement: “This work of art is a joyful addition to Boston’s skyline. With tremendous mastery of scale, painterly skill and vibrant patterning, Os Gêmeos brings urban energy and rich tradition of Brazilian creativity to Dewey Square in Boston. Good art gets people talking.” As far as the brothers are concerned, though, it’s all up in the air. “We don’t really want to explain the meaning of this,” Gustavo Pandolfo told the Boston Phoenix. “We let people imagine things.”
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