Whitewashing Judith Supine

Judith Supine at Havemeyer and Nth 8th Street

Last November, I was delighted to find a number of lovely works by Judith Supine on the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but one image on Havemeyer Street stood out over the rest. The image was arresting and — typical of Supine’s jarring visuals — it freely mixed yellow/green-skinned humans, abstract patterns, and figural collage all on a dark, almost black, background. Like all his figural works, it looked thoroughly contemporary and somewhat hallucinatory — like a black-light collage on an acid trip.

If there is anything that bothers me about Supine’s work it is that it doesn’t react as much to its surrounding as other street art tends to, and his works aren’t as well framed by their context as they could be. He uses the street, in my opinion, more like a notebook rather than a stage — and I tend to prefer work that does the latter rather than the former. Regardless, this work — like many of his creations — acts like a visual black hole that sucks you in, encouraging you to look and look and look.

Whitewashed spot where a Judith Supine used to be.

Sadly, this month I walked by the same spot to find that the work, along with the rather ugly graffiti on the adjacent door, was whitewashed with an unfortunate shade of off-white paint. It was as if a minimalist street artist had a gripe with Supine, though more likely it was a discontent landlord eager to remove the patina of neglect that had accumulated at the spot.

I’m sad that the Supine is no longer there but I don’t mourn it. It’s the nature of the medium, and if the streets don’t talk back in their own particular way, then you’re probably doing something wrong.

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