5 Pointz Graffiti Artists Painted a 9/11 Tribute Mural in Brooklyn Today

Meres One, the former curator of 5 Pointz, organized a tribute mural for 9/11.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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After months of wearying legal battles and heartbreaking attempts to save 5 Pointz, New York's graffiti mecca is finally coming down. The community that converted the former factory into a hub of urban culture, however, is not going anywhere. This afternoon, Meres One, the former curator at 5 Pointz, joined a team of graffiti writers to paint a 9/11 tribute in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. 

"We want to honor the FDNY, EMS, and EMTs," said Meres. "They went into that situation not knowing what the outcome would be. A lot of people died, a lot of regular people died, and we want to show them support." 

The mural depicts a vibrant American flag that floats behind a grayscale portrait of Joe Conzo. Conzo, a friend of the 5 Pointz community, is a Bronx-born photographer who documented the history of hip-hop and graffiti and published his work in the seminal book Born in the Bronx. On Sept. 11, 2001, Conzo was one of the first EMTs on the scene of the World Trade Center attacks. He ran into the burning towers to save his partner who had been buried under rubble. 

"I think it's important that he knows—I mean I know he knows—but I want to let him know that I'm honored that he did that, and I want to show him appreciation," said Meres of his decision to focus the mural on Conzo. This is the 14th tribute Meres has organized to memorialize 9/11 since 2001, but it's the first that wasn't painted at 5 Pointz.

When I arrived in Crown Heights, See TF was painting the portrait of Conzo with his headphones taped to his ears. Although See TF is known for his images of big-breasted and scantily clad women, his talent for portraiture also encompasses a tribute to Robin Williams and a painting of Jesus for a church.

"We want to do a memorial for those who passed away, for them and their families, but we also wanted to honor the living heroes that we have now," said See TF. "It's a celebration at one point, but at the same time, it's also a memorial."

See TF was joined by two female artists and longtime collaborators, Danielle Mastrion and Lexi Bella, who were painting police and fire fighter hats on a corner of the mural. "I think Meres was like, 'This is a good time to start a new thing and push forward,' because over the winter and summer it just dragged on with the whole lawsuit," said Lexi. Danielle, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, said that Meres invited the 5 Pointz community to come participate in the mural. "We're all native New Yorkers, so if you're going to ask anyone to do it, it's going to be us," she said.

In many ways, this homegrown tribute is much more powerful than the carefully curated displays at the recently opened September 11th Memorial and Museum. And it puts Mr. Brainwash's souless 9/11 tribute mural on Century 21 to shame. The 5 Pointz artists' mural was born from the community of New York to honor the city's resilience after a tragedy. It simultaneously mourns and celebrates what has been lost, both on Sept. 11, 2001 and on Nov. 19, 2013, when 5 Pointz was sentenced to be demolished.


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