If you ever find yourself walking through Manhattan along Avenue C, make your way down to the corner of Sixth Street and check out an amazing mural. The mural lies in a small East Village of New York City known as Alphabet City. This area got its name from particular streets: Avenues A, B, C, and D, which happen to be the only avenues in Manhattan to be named with a single letter. The mural on the corner of Avenue C and Sixth Street takes a literal approach to the neighborhood’s name by depicting all twenty-six letters of the alphabet through unique graffiti styles. The mural was completed by artists Sheryo and The Yok. Their work is comprised of various elaborate graffiti pieces, but this one in particular stands out to me. To take imagery and stylize it into various letters of the alphabet is a unique, illustrative typographic solution.
What I find extremely neat about this project is that the artists chose to stay true to the nature of the neighborhood while tying in its history. Before the Alphabet City mural, these exact walls were covered with various works of graffiti that often lead to a great deal of controversy. Even the process leading up to the new mural created controversy as the building tenant RCN decided to use an outside mural group instead of choosing an artist form the neighborhood. Many thought in doing so that RCN was trying to “whitewash” the history of the neighborhood, but that was not the case.
The agency, Green Village, ultimately received permission to repaint the walls. The agency’s goal is to find “graffiti-ridden properties and then approach owners to create free public art on them.” Artists Sheryo and The Yok took what they saw on the wall previously before it was repainted and integrated that style into their mural, thus staying true to the neighborhood and its history. In a statement regarding the mural, the artists said, “The mural represents Alphabet City in a more literal way, we painted all 26 letters of the alphabet that wrapped around the block on Ave C. Some of the letters are inspired from the community some are inspired by NYC as a whole, some are the artists personal work twisted into the letter form.”
Overall, Sheryo and The Yok made an extremely interesting work of art solely out of letterforms. They stayed true to the neighborhood and New York City while integrating in their own twists. Each letter tells its own story, and each has the ability to stand alone as an individual work of art while also coming together to act as part of a whole. I think this is a very unique, fun, and beautiful way to integrate type into works of art that people can admire. Doing so through a graffiti approach only makes it that much more relatable to younger generations of today, thus making it a piece that everyone can enjoy, young and old, whether for its history, significance, or style alone. Overall a fantastic way to use letterforms as art!