Art is pushing Jacksonville’s Brooklyn neighborhood into the contemporary while showing its roots. This posterized mural was inspired by a 100-year-old photograph of the very land on which it stands. It was completed on March 3, 2015, by David Nackashi, who trained in painting and Fine Arts under Jim Draper at the University of North Florida. Previously the trolley station along the Riverside line, this property is now home to a shopping center that is honoring it’s past. The history of Brooklyn Station is in the trolleys, but where did they go?
The mural is a painted translation of a 1915 photograph on a 4×5 negative. We don’t know much about the image, according to Florida’s archive. In the original photograph stand two men, one wearing a bow tie, one with a long tie, both with motormen hats. They stand in front of Riverside Trolley #167 evidently headed for 11th Street. Windows line the side of the trolley as the scene takes place on a neighborhood road, seen by the stoop on the right side of the image and a chimney poking above the tree line. This photo gives a glimpse into the area from a hundred years ago.
Using only a few paint colors in the final piece, Nackashi began by sketching a grid onto the wall to guide the process and keep his subjects in proportion. He created a rough outline, and at that point, according to the artist, it became a “paint by numbers” piece. But it’s how he’s laying the paint on the wall that gives it style.
The posterization technique that Nackashi uses creates blocks and shapes of colors, similar to ink blots on paper. When viewed from a distance, the blotches blend together to form a cohesive image. Up close, notice the jigsaw-like shapes that each color forms, sub-divided by the harsh horizontal lines of the concrete block wall. When the color values are similar, it creates a more gentle transition of tone – see the man on the left. More abrupt changes in value have a jarring tonal transition, creating higher local contrast and thus becoming a focal point for a viewer.
In his rendering of the photograph, Nakashi uses the points of highest contrast to pull your gaze to the front of the trolley. The stark white of the windshield framing stands out against the dark values of the body of the trolley. Just below, the shadows from the electric cable knob create a strong contrast and also fight for your attention.
The mural could have been created in any visual style Nackashi wanted. He could have taken artistic liberties and moved the men to the other side of the trolley; he could have lowered the contrast, or put more focus on the people in the photo rather than the trolley. He could have used pink tones instead of light blue-ish gray. He could have painted it upside down. But he didn’t. The choices Nackashi made remained true to the original black-and-white photograph, and helped convey the ambiance that branded these buildings, branded the history of the land. Nackashi is using localized high contrast and harsh tonal transitions to identify the trolley itself as the visual subject of this mural, and ultimately the area’s history as the conceptual subject.
So, where are all the trolleys in Jacksonville now? While the Jacksonville Traction Company trolley lines were decommissioned 1936 from the rising popularity of city buses, the remnants of the Jacksonville trolley system are bus-like renditions that operate on limited schedules. The Night Trolley serves patrons of Riverside and Avondale restaurants and bars on the first weekend of the month, and the other connects downtown and Riverside during the weekday lunch rush.
Perhaps by channeling Jacksonville’s history, the artist is channeling a desire to resurrect public transit in the urban core. Maybe this mural is a part of a bigger scheme of revitalizing downtown Jacksonville and the surrounding areas – Downtown is on Fire, perhaps? Quite the opposite of the great fire of 1901 that decimated 146 city blocks of the urban core, it’s a cultural fire, a spark to bring it back to life.
In recent history, the area between downtown and Riverside was seen as negative space. Commercial real estate developer Regency Centers, in coordination with Wingard Creative, are now reviving this area, alongside the construction of the 220 Riverside apartments, with the Fresh Market and surrounding shops including the Corner Bakery (at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Jackson Street). This mural pays tribute to the vibrant community that was photographed here in 1915, and perhaps foretells a reawakening of the neighborhood.
And more is yet to come – there is another mural planned just a couple hundred feet away from this one. Nackashi will pick up where he left off with this Brooklyn Station mural and continue the trend of honoring, even revitalizing, Jacksonville’s past.
View the map below for the exact location of this piece and how it relates to the surrounding area. Use the Street View to get a casual observation of the wall and what’s across the street. Some of the most expensive flat surfaces to display art – or ads – is in direct view of roads, making non-commercial spaces a commodity for artists. The placement of the work is pivotal to it being viewed and understood.
I will be adding this and future works that I will be photographing into an interactive Google Map. This map will serve as a virtual tour of the public art works in Jacksonville.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]