Mysterious masterpieces

Unsigned art under the Highway 280 overpass has a strong pull on our consciousness.

Greg Corradini

The area beneath Highway 280 on the University transitway is not an ideal space for displaying art. There are shards of glass and mud slicks. Abandoned cargo containers rest alongside the train yard like rusty corpses.

But someone (or something) has decided to showcase its dissident artwork beneath the highway. Weathered and unclaimed, the works sit in stark contrast to their surroundings.

The most potent pieces of artistic insurgency are seven politically charged collages (3 feet by 4 feet) made from old tree limbs and scraps of plywood.

Outstretched hands, flowers and black crying faces are common themes throughout the works.

African nations’ flags adorn some of them proclaiming “Viva Namibia,” “Viva Zaire” or “Viva Zambia.”

“Men of war will never be forgiven for the terror in Bosnia Boy’s face,” is written beneath a huge crying black face on one collage.

Attached to this collage is a clipped news picture bordered with a wreath of plastic flowers. In the picture a young boy runs alongside a number of dump trucks hauling people away.

In another shocking piece, the charcoaled figure appears full-bodied, waving a huge French flag. Chains are tied around his waist. His shirt is torn and his mouth open to scream. Below him many black hands with grotesque pink fingernails reach upward in supplication.

The sheer nakedness of the works and the artist’s intentions need no explanation. They sit brightly propped against Highway 280’s support columns, a reminder of colonialism, war atrocities and apartheid. This is artwork for public argument and provocation, and it can’t be confined or, in this case, claimed.

Despite the works’ intricate color patterns and elaborate designs, they are nonetheless unsigned.

This kind of abandonment leaves the pieces open to abuse.

One collage in particular has whole sections and pieces that have been kicked and beaten off so that the piece is indecipherable.

But the collages themselves are not the only sign of active artistic insurgency.

Buildings nearby are spray painted with the words “resist” and “resist occupation” accompanied with a picture of a fist balled up in defiance.

Toward the train yards, facing away from the University transitway, a poem is spread among the support columns, two words a piece, reading, “Not far from now a day will come, when the dreamers become the destroyers.”

Regardless of the mystery author’s sentiments, we can only hope for more artwork and less destruction.