Ghost Writers

Cleveland’s graffiti artists are plenty daring, but are they any good?

Ghost Writers

Page 6 of 8

Urban Wallpaper

Perhaps the best way to look at the pileup of fat letters on Cleveland's most notorious graffiti shrines — namely the Fun Wall, the Carter Rd. "Salt Mine Wall," and along the RTA tracks — is to take them collectively, as what one Cleveland graffiti guru calls a "palimpsesto." The Spanish word refers to a document or canvas that's been written over; it also describes the accumulation of layers over time.

Taken individually, very few graffiti "installations" distinguish themselves from the overwhelming sameness of made-up names spelled out in fat letters, whether or not they're embellished with a vocabulary of shadows, halos, diamonds, and other details.

But considered as a whole, we can be proud of the palimpsesto that is the RTA Red Line — undoubtedly it's the largest public art installation in the state, an unedited grassroots outpouring maintained by volunteers. The crush of one vividly colored piece against another makes something like an urban wallpaper pattern that never repeats, 19 miles visited by more than five million people in a given year, according to RTA ridership figures. That dwarfs the 302,384 who visited the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2009.

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