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Breaking news – Dox Thrash Tribute mural is blacked out by vandals


November 27, 2012   ·   24 Comments

Dox Thrash Tribute mural, blacked-out at 2442 Cecil B. Moore Ave.

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.

Dox Thrash Tribute mural, blacked-out at 2442 Cecil B. Moore Ave.

“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.

Detail from Dox Thrash Tribute mural, vandalized this weekend.

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.

Dox Thrash Tribute mural, dedicated in 2001 to honor the African American artist, is no more

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.

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24 Responses to “Breaking news – Dox Thrash Tribute mural is blacked out by vandals”

  1. Ruth Jensen says:

    How sad.

  2. Kevin says:

    Yo, I go on this website all the time called (LOLadelphia) and they let the Mural Arts Program know about this vandalism almost a month ago on Twitter.

    It’s a straight up disgrace.

  3. roberta says:

    Thanks for adding the link to loladelphia, Kevin–interesting and I’m glad to know about the site. My info is that the vandalism happened more recently, but whenever it happened it is a disgrace, and sad.

  4. Sarah McEneaney says:


  5. roberta says:

    Thanks for the link, Peter. While I am long familiar with the Heretical Society’s position on murals, I don’t think this was a response to some call to arms with rollers. This was a very nice mural. What would the art critical objection be?

  6. Peter says:

    I’m not sure what the beef is about if any…I stumbled upon the article so I am merely speculating. The palimpsest is so… willful; I thought someone was trying to make a point rather than a prank. Who knows?

  7. barbara says:

    This is very upsetting. That the mural was so neatly obliterated makes the incident seem well planned and therefore particularly chilling.

  8. Cindy says:

    This is absurd, and saddens me. Art being destroyed should be a felony. Here in Maryland, I think you need permits for such things, even if you are just prettying up an old building.

  9. Ed says:

    Chilling? Really now? Maybe just a little hyperbolic? They didn’t tear down the Phila Museum of art or do something that the word chilling might apply more aptly, like murder or sneaking into your home while you are asleep and drawing mustaches on your art. Perhaps the whole thing is a carborundum print so all you need to do is get a sheet big enough to run across it and get the “hidden” image. Would it be art or vandalism then? Also, why do you think fostering dialogue is the be-all-end-all? and how can it not be fostering dialogue when so many peole are dia-blogging about it? It seems to have genetrated more talk than in its entire 11 year existence. Besides, the best of us DO THINGS, not talk about them so I say the paint roller has one up on this blogger. Lastly, considering the discrepancies in timelines, the equipment necessary to have done it(a full sized scaffold), maybe questioning the building owner’s involvement may be a place to start. You know, Occam’s Razor and all. The easiest expalnation is the building owner no longer wanted the mural but for some reason didn’t want to be the one who asked to have it taken down so he did it without anyone knowing. An inconsequential act in the face of the wretched poverty that people in this neighborhood live in and an insult to them that the painting over of a transient mural is a bigger concern than the horrible conditions and violence that plague their lives. Keep blogging, it’s changeing the world(or actually go out and do something with yourself)

  10. Peter says:

    Art has the capacity to provoke.
    Roberta, is this the proper forum to discuss the difference between street art and vandalism? Hypothetically it is still a mural. Perhaps its also part performance art or a work in progress. Or perhaps the joke is on me and it was painted by a new owner/neighbor or the neighborhood desired a change. Whichever the case may be, it has gathered attention.

  11. roberta says:

    Apart from your snide tone, Ed, which doesn’t do much for your arguments, what you say about follow the money seems right to me.

  12. Rhonda says:

    It is in a sense encouraging and curious that this deliberate action that subsequently sparked an extremely strong reaction involves an artwork NOT “officially” priceless (a situation that would have automatically “made the news” and raised hairs around the world had it been a piece of artwork in the Louvre or an outdoor sculpture of Henry Moore or Giacometti, for example). So, clearly, people DO recognize and acknowledge the Philadelphia murals as bonafide ARTWORK. The gesture, however–at least in my opinion, is a fairly low-level, superficial and “gimmicky” interpretation of “statement”, void of deep thought process and TOTALLY absent of recognition of the codes of respect and honor so faithfully sworn to by even the most obscure followers and contributors of graffiti art. In short, unoriginal, unthinking, lame and pointless–in other words, “F”, and go straight to jail, if you still have your MONOPOLY board handy…

  13. roberta says:

    I simply can’t believe this is an “art critical” action. I do believe something else is going on, probably with the building itself, which is in HUD foreclosure.

  14. Let me state unequivocally that I had nothing to do with the defacement of the Dox Thrash mural, either in theory or praxis. Any suggestion to the contrary is misinformed, erroneous, slanderous and libelous.
    I didn’t even know that there was a Dox Thrash mural on the 2400 block of Cecil B. Moore Avenue until yesterday and by then it was no longer visible.
    I did find it curious that the photographs in this article showed that the house was boarded up. No one else seemed to notice this salient point until Roberta commented that the building is in foreclosure.
    It seems likely that the mural is the victim of the global economic meltdown rather than an act of vandalism or a critique of the program, “Rogue” or otherwise.
    Although I have called for the dissolution of the boondoggle that is the Mural Arts Program, that critique cannot be mistaken for physical vandalism even by the most myopic and self-interested of observers.
    I have NEVER advocated vandalizing the work of the Mural Arts Program nor would I. 
    I would NEVER advocate the defacement of another artist’s work, regardless of quality or content.
    Vandalism is the provenance of young people that lack the ability to articulate their position another way. 
    I am neither young nor inarticulate.

  15. […] Thrash is a new low in Philly’s simmering War On Murals. Roberta Fallon at the local Art Blog summed it up nicely by saying the destruction of an “educational mural, telling the story of an important African […]

  16. libby says:

    This answer to the question turns out to be no conspiracy, no anti-black sentiment, but perhaps incredible dumbness, bureaucratic bumbling and cultural insensitivity. Read it in, yesterday’s paper–
    The good news is Mural Arts hopes to revive it.

  17. […] Thrash is a new low in Philly’s simmering War On Murals. Roberta Fallon at the local Art Blog summed it up nicely by saying the destruction of an “educational mural, telling the story of an important African […]

  18. […] Thrash is a new low in Philly’s simmering War On Murals. Roberta Fallon at the local Art Blog summed it up nicely by saying the destruction of an “educational mural, telling the story of an important African […]

  19. Rob says:

    My guess is that somebody with an interest in the lot did this so that development wouldn’t be slowed down by protests .

  20. roberta says:

    That is entirely possible, I think.

  21. Pete says:

    I am a route 3 bus driver for septa, I drive past this corner 5 times a day, this has been painted over for the last 8 months.

  22. roberta says:

    Well, that’s news. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Good sleuthing, Roberta!

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