Sometime over the Thanksgiving weekend a person or persons, for reasons unknown, painted over the Dox Thrash Tribute mural at 2442 Cecil Be Moore Ave, obliterating the image in one outrageous stroke of vandalism. The Mural Arts Program, which commissioned the mural, learned of the defacement on Monday when the owner of the building on which the mural was painted phoned it in. He was as shocked as the Mural Arts staffers.
“It’s official vandalism,” said Thora Jacobson, Design Review Director at MAP, adding that it seemed obvious it was a professional job. The mural spanned the side of a three-story rowhouse, and the blacked-out area covered almost the entire wall. It was done with paint rollers (not spray paint), said Jacobson.
“We’re frankly stunned at the loss of this iconic mural, and are working to find out who is responsible,” said Jenn McCreary, MAP Director of Communications.
Sometimes murals get painted over officially, as walls get “recycled” with new imagery. And sometimes murals disappear because of development: walls get torn down to make way for new building — or a wall with a mural gets blocked by a building that goes up directly in front of it. But this intentional obliteration of what Jacobson called an educational mural, telling the story of an important African American artist, is unprecedented.
The Dox Thrash Tribute mural (full image here), painted by Eric Okdeh and Cavin Jones, was dedicated in 2001 during a city-wide print festival that coincided with a solo exhibition of Thrash’s works at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Depicted on the mural at 2442 Cecil B. Moore were images of the artist at work in his studio, with his press and his plates, and speaking about his printmaking process. Thrash was an inventor of a printing process known as the carborundum print, which produced an incredibly rich, black image. “It was a totally educational mural,” said Jacobson, adding “It’s maddening.”
This is sad news indeed, that someone had the audacity to take over a building and obliterate an image commemorating the important African American artist. What is the point? You can argue the merits of this mural and that but to take action like this does nothing to foster dialog and everything to create paranoia and a feeling of lawlessness and senselessness that is incivil. I can’t believe this was an art critical action. I can believe that there was a motive, and I hope MAP can figure out what it was.