Great Wall of Brooklyn

You may have noticed the giant painting on the side of the Chez Lola building, on Myrtle Avenue.  It's the first in a series of public art works aimed at beautifying the commercial strip, engaging local artists, and creating dialog. Per their website, "The Great Wall of Brooklyn is an independent artist-run public art organization that will be launched in the historic Fort Greene neighborhood in Spring 2009. It will feature the work of Brooklyn-based and international artists. Located on the side of a four-story building at the corner of Myrtle and Vanderbilt Avenues, The Great Wall introduces large-scale art made in Brooklyn to the community each quarter."

Works will include painting, sculpture, projection and light projections.  The official "opening" will take place on Saturday, May 9 from 3-6 pm.  The piece will also be a featured stop on the annual SONYA Stroll, May 16-17 (more on that in a separate post!).

The debut painting, Achtung Baby...Here Comes the Next Great Depression, was created by Charlotta Janssen.  Janssen is the owner of both Chez Ozkar and Chez Lola, and her gorgeous works can be found hanging in both restaurants.  CHB asked her a few questions about the project and her history in the neighborhood:

charlotta 1. What inspired you to start the GWOB project?

This big gray wall really needed some color , something to make an  impression, especially when I got the stats from the DOT: around 15 000 vehicles pass this crossing daily on Myrtle and around  7800 pass this crossing via Clermont. Advertising is the obvious,  but I wondered if this wall could have a different meaning. I  brainstormed with friends as to how to make it an art  entity. This  is my first attempt.

2. What kinds of art do you hope to display on the wall in the future?

Art that has a critical edge, that displays an artist's critical  point of view as well as style, that concerns social commentary 3. How can an interested local artist get involved with this project?

We are currently working on the criteria, hoping to have it by the  launch (5.09.09 3-6 pm). These criteria will then be available via  the website or at Chez Lola

4. Tell us about Achtung Baby - what inspired you, and how did you get the piece installed?

I wanted a strong piece - and this feels strong. I may be stating  the obvious with the next great depression, but it is also a  celeberation of the GREAT depression, getting pushed out of one's  comfort zone into the moment. It is a retro image, but I stil think  you can feel the individuals of this family: Jones' Family Car is  the title of the piece.

5. What do you think have been the most successful public art projects in the neighborhood?

SONYA - much respect ... BAM public projects ... Spark and Swoon  (graffitti artists in the hood) ... MARP's window project ... there  is always space for more. 6. You own two very successful restaurants in the neighborhood.  How did you get started?

This is a long and scary tale. In brief I never intended to open a  restaurant, I only decorated, designed and expedited restaurants  till I got fed up with people cutting corners and cutting down on  great ideas for restaurants with atmosphere, they always save on the  decoration - I completely understand business is rough, but I had  all these ideas stuffed in my head.

7. How do you think the current recession will affect artists and the art created?

Very positive and very negative. I think it will make for great art,  but if you need to sell art now, you may not be in luck. Layng low  and painting this GREAT depression away is what I think is the best  to do ... not always doable for some though.

8. How long have you lived in the neighborhood, and what brought you here?

I've been commuting from downtown Manhattan since 1998, wanting to move here since 2000, had a giant space for a great rent, but couldn't stand Manhattan. The moment I lost the lease (2005) - there  was no other place I wanted to be. I do miss going over the bridge  on my bike every day though - the BEST

9. Favorite thing about the neighborhood:

Diversity and characters! Nobody's smooth, everyone has an edge and  a heart and will definitely give you a piece of their mind. So paintworthy. 10. If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be and why?

Oh my, this is the toughest, maybe pistachio? Strange color, yet  edible? A fruity flavored nut?

Great Wall of Brooklyn 387 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205 Tel: 646 290 7253