Brandan “BMike” Odums has painted murals across New Orleans. His purple-hued portrait of Buddy Bolden’s band faces North Rampart Street, the site of many historic jazz clubs. His Studio BE warehouse space on Royal Street is adorned with his and other artists’ murals, featuring civil rights and cultural leaders and children aspiring to become artists. French soccer star Paul Pogba’s image is on a red wall on North Rocheblave Street near the Lafitte Greenway, where Odums currently is completing a collection of giant portraits on a warehouse on St. Louis Street at North Roman Street.
Odums’ first museum show opened at the Newcomb Art Museum at Tulane University in late January . It’s titled “NOT Supposed 2-Be Here,” which reflects that much of his massive-scale work is in public spaces, many of his murals address overcoming racial oppression and societal barriers, and that — in line with the creed of some graffiti artists — some of his best-known works were begun in places where he didn’t first secure permission to paint, such as his landmark Project BE and Studio BE efforts.
But now, “NOT Supposed 2-Be Here” applies to everyone, as the coronavirus pandemic has ushered in physical distancing restrictions. Odums’ museum show is viewable on the Newcomb website (www.newcombartmuseum.tulane.edu), but locals can view his public works and other murals around the city while maintaining health precautions.
New Orleans has become a city of murals, especially with an explosion of colorful new works created in the last 10 years. There are works of all sorts in public and private spaces, indoors and out, in heavily trafficked and out-of-the-way locations, promoting businesses and protesting issues. There are works celebrating history and culture from traditional and outsider or underground perspectives. There are whimsical images of pets and wildlife, surreal space creatures and massive colorbursts. Some artists double as canvas painters or tattoo artists. Many tag their work with social media handles, so their art is viewable online, even while the artists maintain some degree of anonymity.
Recent mural projects include the NOLA Mural Project (www.nolamuralproject.org), which spun off of a lawsuit that invalidated a city ordinance requiring fees and a permit process for murals. The mural project became a sort of “matchmaker” for artists and people or businesses interested in commissioning them, says founder Neal Morris. The website has a map of its murals and others have been added to it. The Helis Foundation (www.thehelisfoundation.org) created “Unframed,” which includes five large murals in the Warehouse District.
Gambit viewed and compiled a list and photos of more than 120 outdoor murals in public view in Orleans and Jefferson parishes, though there are many more. There also are many other types of public art in the city, including sculpture installations, smaller-scale painted works, murals on food trucks, historic works from Work Projects Administration projects and much more.
Murals have ephemeral existences. The artist Robert Wyland created the massive seascape with blue whales and other creatures on the wall of the Hilton Riverside New Orleans in 1997 and refreshed the faded work in 2019. Some murals are quickly tagged by graffiti artists, sometimes in approval or disapproval of its content or placement.
Artist Henry Lipkis, who moved to New Orleans in 2014 and has painted works across the U.S., Europe and Australia, painted over one of his own murals in collaboration with two other artists to create the “Bounce” mural on a building at Laharpe Street and North Claiborne Avenue (viewable from the parking lot of Circle Food Store).
This photo essay features just a few of the murals available around New Orleans. For photos of more than 120 murals and a map to find them, visit www.bestofneworleans.com.
Read the entire article on Gambit’s website.