Sep 12, 2014

Does David Lynch hate psychylustro?

by: RJ Rushmore

Does David Lynch hate the psychylustro? That’s the question Philadelphians are asking today, in response to an interview with the noted artist and filmmaker published by Art in America on Thursday.

The interview with Lynch was conducted on the occasion of his retrospective opening this week with our friends at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). In the interview, Lynch was asked about his thoughts on psychylustro, the project that Katharina Grosse recently undertook with us along the Northeast Rail Corridor. He called it “a travesty,” and that’s become the headline.

The great thing about art is that there’s room for many perspectives and interpretations, and we welcome all kinds of responses to psychylustro. Still, it seems like Lynch may not have seen psychylustro, or particularly the rail corridor before psychylustro, before commenting on the project, and so we would like to take this opportunity to continue the conversation and announce our next psychylustro-related project.

In the interview, just before criticizing Grosse’s work, Lynch mentioned graffiti. He said, “For me, graffiti has pretty much ruined every city. Every bit of beauty of the patina of coal dust or acid rain—all of these things that age these buildings so beautifully, and made a mood of the city, were completely taken away by cheap aluminum storm windows and graffiti.”

His critique of psychylustro then portrays the project as a sort of graffiti, saying, “The walls on railroad lines, they were built so beautifully… They’re sacred things, and you should never deface them.”

At Mural Arts, we were a bit perplexed reading those comments side by side. We agree with Lynch that many of that the structures along the railways are architectural beauties and that was in fact part of the inspiration for psychylustro, and in many ways, the entire project was an effort to use temporary paint to draw people’s eyes back to the amazing but often ignored architectural and natural environments in the Northeast Rail Corridor. Still, the Northeast Rail Corridor was not a pristine place before Grosse’s project. Every structural site Grosse worked at was covered in graffiti before her team began painting. The buildings were already, from Lynch’s perspective, defaced and ruined.

We’ve even been criticized in some circles for painting over so much graffiti in the process of installing psychylustro. However, what most people did not know until now is that we brought the legendary documentary photographer Martha Cooper to Philadelphia just before the installation of psychylustro so that she could document the graffiti along the Northeast Rail Corridor.

Cooper’s photographs, along with Steve Weinik’s photographs of the installation of psychylustro, will be on display next month at our offices for The border is an invitation. The exhibition is an opportunity to see what the Northeast Rail Corridor looked like before, during and after the installation of psychylustro.

We invite you, especially if you’re David Lynch and you’d like a close look at how the Northeast Rail Corridor looked six months ago and just how psychylustro temporarily transformed the space, to come to the opening of The border is an invitation on Thursday, October 2nd. Details below.


Photo Exhibition Reception: The border is an invitation
Thursday, October 2
6 – 8 pm
Mural Arts Philadelphia
1727-29 Mt. Vernon Street

Mural Arts hosts an exhibition of renowned photojournalist Martha Cooper’s photographic preservation of graffiti (curated by Darin Rowland) and Steve Weinik’s documentation of psychylustro by Katharina Grosse. psychylustro is an episodic painting of massive abstract fields of color installed along passages of the Northeast Rail Corridor between Philadelphia’s 30th Street and North Philadelphia Stations, the same passages where Cooper documented graffiti before psychylustro was installed.

Presented in cooperation with Amtrak, psychylustro has been supported by: The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, National Endowment for the Arts, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Fierce Advocacy Fund, PTS Foundation, AT&T, Philadelphia Zoo, Joe and Jane Goldblum, David and Helen Pudlin, halfGenius, and The Beneficial Foundation with support for the exhibition publication from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

Media Partners: WHYY’s, Metro Newspaper.

Photo by Steve Weinik

Last updated: Oct 21, 2021

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