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Berliner Takes over Factory Fresh Mural

By Terri Ciccone

By Terri Ciccone

There's an alley alongside the Factory Fresh Gallery in Bushwick that is both welcoming and foreboding. If you're not used to the somewhat desolate and industrial area, it shines like a sign that says "walk over here and you're going the right way." It's foreboding in that it looks like a passageway out of Law & Order: SVU. There's a fence on its last legs, broken glass and a forgotten tire every now and then. Jim Avignon took the space and made it as welcoming as a carnival, a bright and happy coat of paint and cast of characters stand on a wall to amuse you and tell you a story.

A cast of characters happily guide you down the alley. Snakes swirling around cracks in the wall, smiling cowboys riding bullets, pink elephants blowing steam at cigar smoking mustached men, colorful houses, boats, teddy bears, crocodiles, skeletons and musical instruments all come to life, interacting with each other down a long brick wall. It's as if these creations are all mingling with each other down a long corridor of a frat party.

The fact that the bright colors make the alley a much happier place did not happen by chance.

"Lots of street art is dark and moody." Jim said to me in a German accent over the phone. And while he admits that some of his characters may have a dark side, he likes to juxtapose their actions with multiple bright colors. "So maybe that's my idea of life. Like you always get the mix of the nice and the not so nice, the good and the bad, and I want to reflect that in my work."

His "ideas of life" can be attributed to his education at what he calls "the school of life." Having no art school experience, Jim attributes his characters' personalities and style -- German expressionism from the 20th century meeting American cartoon  and pop art -- to being an observant artist.

"I really like watching people in the subway on the train, on the street, I think every face tells a story so I like to read in between the lines, simplify the face and see how far I can simplify it to show some character, some mood, and out of the intention to reduce comes the comic characters."

While Jim doesn't usually paint such large murals outside, he said every now and then he gets the craving to fulfill a large project like this. The size and scope of the piece is overwhelming and, if you walk up close enough to it, it's almost like you've entered another world. While this world in part comes from his observations and creative mind, he also attributes them to his experience as a foreigner in the U.S. When he first came to New York, he imagined that it would be pretty similar to the city of Berlin. "But after a while," he clarified, "you find out there are a lot of differences in the mentality. I tried to make a panorama and let all of these aspects of mentality become like characters that appear on the panorama."

It is considered an honor to transform the wall on Factory Fresh’s side street, and Jim seemed to be aware of the great opportunity he was presented with, for even in the past he has always gravitated toward street art’s rebellious qualities in regards to the “art world” and the fact that it is “not made for selling, but displaying and showing," he said.

While in general Jim’s characters are relateable and fun to look at, the best part about the mural is the fact that it is vivid and colorful plays tricks with your mind, making the viewer think twice about the relationship between the mood that often goes with these bright colors juxtaposed with what is actually going on.

You can check out the mural on Vandervoort Place on view until 2012.

It is considered an honor to transform the wall on Factory Fresh’s side street, and Jim seemed to be aware of the great opportunity he was presented with, for even in the past he has always gravitated toward street art’s rebellious qualities in regards to the “art world.”

"It's not made for selling, but displaying and showing," he said of this medium, and seemed the perfect venue for him to abide by his principles of art: “I think when you make the decision to become an artist it should be because you want to express something, you want to tell the world something.” The great thing about this large scale piece is that it has a lot to say, different parts and different characters speaking to different people, giving all different messages and actions to beholders, all in a vivid and wonderful color scheme.

You can check out the mural on Vandervoort Place on view until 2012.

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