Modern Wall Art (MWA) has taken a new form in downtown Detroit, creating modern art around a facade of old brick.
In a project called “The Walls,” a mix of wall murals, stencils, and original street art from the mid-1900s and early 1900s, MWA is a collaboration between the City of Detroit, the Detroit Public Library, the Michigan Art Museum, and the Detroit Water & Power.
“The Walls” is an ongoing project in which MWA artists use their own images and the murals of their fellow artists to create a cohesive, and visually stunning, image of Detroit in the 1930s and 1940s.
The murals are digitally altered to reflect their era of day, with the buildings around them.
The city’s own art director, Jennifer Johnson, who oversees the project, said the project was born out of her interest in contemporary urban history.
“[The mural] was actually a way for me to explore the connection between modern art and Detroit in an authentic way,” Johnson told VICE News.
“It’s not just a piece of art that someone took, or someone painted, but a visual experience.”
Johnson and her team of artists were inspired by the city’s architecture, architecture-related architecture, and modern art, including paintings of buildings from the 1900s and the 1940s by Charles Baudelaire, Vincent van Gogh, and Frank Stella.
The project, which includes several murals that span from the 1930’s to the 1970’s, uses an image from one of the mural artists’ own paintings to recreate an area of Detroit.
Johnson said the original painting, “The Red Light District,” was painted in 1911 by painter Thomas Moore.
In order to create an image of a red light district, Moore chose the location of a small intersection to depict the intersection, as well as the building with a sign in the middle of the intersection.
Johnson said she hopes to create murals in Detroit throughout the city.
She said she has also wanted to create images of the Detroit skyline and the city as a whole, but that the city has historically been seen as a rather unfulfilling place.
For Johnson, the “The Wall” project is just one of many ways she hopes the city of Detroit can celebrate its history and identity.
This mural from the “Modern Wall” shows the cityscape of downtown Detroit in 1909.
While it is a unique and artistic work, it does not capture the city in its current form, which is a mix between historic and modern buildings.
When Johnson first came to the city to work on “The MWA,” she saw that there was a lack of modern art in the city and wanted to address that.
“There are so many things missing from the city, and I wanted to make something to do about it,” Johnson said.
“I want to bring a freshness and a fresh perspective to Detroit.”
The MWS are scheduled to close in mid-2018.