Don Pedro Pablo did not intend for his grotesque, naked-monster murals to be offensive.
But exposed genitals tend to raise some hackles, even — or especially — when plastered in giant murals on the outside of buildings.
Pablo was one of a handful of street artists who poured their souls — and twisted, outlandish dreams — onto the walls of a Bushwick warehouse turned studio space. The Johnson Avenue artist studio building is owned by Andrew Ohanesian, who has recruited street artist known as Smells to curate a mural to replace one that had been on the building when he bought it two years ago.
“I wanted what you’d think of as a classic ’80s subway car,” said Ohanesian. “I felt like it was time for a change and they went ahead and got it up.”
Most members of the crew, which included Smells, Cash4, Droid907, Goya, and Tony Bones, are better known in the street art scene than Pablo, who doesn’t usually paint on walls.
Still, Pablo’s seminal work, featuring misshapen creatures with as many vaginas, penises, breasts as fat rolls and extra eyes, was the highlight.
“His images are really wild,” said Smells, 32, who curates the artists. “A lot of people do really safe murals, because of, I don’t know, insecurity about nudity. But this is Bushwick. It’s supposed to be an artists’ community.”
Many of the artists who painted the warehouse for this project are known for their illegal and legal murals around Brooklyn. Smells choose to include both graffiti artists, who focus on tags, and street artists, who focus on murals.
Little more than a week later, someone with more delicate sensibilities took some black spray to the piece, and covered up all the crotches with messy scribbles.
Pablo said he was surprised by the cover-up job, since no one had given him any lip on the street. He said he does not get what the controversy is about, especially when the mural is in an industrial part of the neighborhood frequented mostly by workers and hipsters. And, hey, there is even exposed penises on the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel.
“Everyone’s naked under their clothes,” said Pablo, 26. “It’s not even a consideration for me.”
But other artists on the mural say they knew the monsters would draw ire.
“When he was painting it, I told him I’d be surprised if it lasted a week,” said Droid907, who was interviewed while he was sitting in a ditch, waiting to jump a freight train to Baltimore. “It lasted just over a week.”
Smells said a few neighborhood denizens complained to him.
“I had some hipsters tell me they were offended by it,” said Smells. “I told them ‘You are young kids, how are you offended by anything, let alone a mural.’ ”
Despite the graffiti and the apparent anger over his work, Pablo intends to keep it up, and repainted the wall within hours of it being vandalized.
Ohanesian said he is still a little concerned what kind of reaction the work will get, but hopes that most Bushwickians will appreciate the artistry.
“I think people in this neighborhood are open-minded enough to deal with it,” he said.
If you are interested in seeing it in person, the mural is at 604 Johnson Ave. between Gardner and Scott avenues in Bushwick.