Commenting on graffiti’s negative connotation, Meres said, “It is what it is. I don’t get that. I understand there’s some people that write illegally on someone’s property. They don’t like that. For the most part, people come here and love the place.”
If the economy was right and it was something he wanted to do right now, it would be gone. It’s just a matter of time.
The negative stigma is one that has stuck in the art world. Meres explained, “These artists that are successful in the art world don’t want to be labeled as graffiti artists because sometimes there’s a negative stigma attached.”
Famous street artist, Michael De Feo, disagrees with the negativity that surrounds street art. He believes that street art and graffiti are whimsical in their essence. “By the sheer nature of having something in a place that wasn’t there before—and your walking on your way to work or school and bump into something—you’re just like ‘Wow’,” he said. In 2007, Meres asked Michael to paint at 5 Pointz. They have a mutual respect for each other’s work. “I know he likes what I do. That made me feel really good because I value what he does with that building very much,” De Feo said.
Graffiti in the 90’s was largely possessive. According to Christian Cortes, “It was like, I own this block. You own that block.” If someone disregarded the territory lines, things could get violent. 5 Pointz’s mission is to create an open space where artists from all walks of life could contribute and create more complex pieces of craftsmanship. A nonnegative, nonviolent place like 5 Pointz contributes to the evolvement of graffiti’s acceptance as an art form. “That never existed,” Christian continued. “You have people slowly developing a new way of seeing graffiti culture – not seeing it as some dirty, disposable type of art.” Meres is the peacemaker and promoter of the environment where that happens.
Meres is confident that graffiti with eventually gain acceptance in the art realm. “It’s just a matter of when. You wait for some higher up to say ‘Oh, I validate this art’,” Meres said in an overly proper, mocking voice and stiffened posture. “Then it’s in every museum. Every art form takes a while to be accepted.”
With the future demolition of 5 Pointz becoming more imminent, I asked Meres why Jerry Wolkoff has changed his mind in donating the space to graffiti. “There’s no change of heart. He’s just not at the stage where he could develop it yet. If the economy was right and it was something he wanted to do right now, it would be gone. It’s just a matter of time,” Meres answered.
If 5 Pointz were to be demolished, graffiti art would be forced underground again. Buildings and private property would be painted illegally and the community would likely spend more money paying for cleanups instead of just having a space solely dedicated to it. Meres, for one, will not stop his craft. Luis “Zimad” Lamboy, a contributing artist to 5 Pointz who has been painting for 32 years, said Meres, “has a dream and he won’t let anyone stop him from pursuing what he wants.”
When I asked Meres what’s next for him if 5 Pointz closes, he answered, “I will continue doing [graffiti] regardless. Whether I’m doing it here or illegally. The show must go on.”
Zimad was right.