A mammoth piece of art of recent vintage was erased Friday: the murals adorning the former Phoenix apartment complex along Mockingbird Lane. The seven pieces, each 35 feet by 35 feet, were nods to the art deco Dr Pepper plant that once stood at the Greenville Avenue intersection — bright, vibrant portrayals of city life as imagined by muralists Chris Arnold and Jeff Garrison beginning in the summer of 2006.
I was notified of their disappearance by Chris’ wife Kim Held, my classmate, friend and acting partner at Alex W. Spence Middle School too many decades ago. She tagged me on Facebook, in a comment beneath Chris’ lament for two years’ worth of work erased in an afternoon. “Can you help?” she asked. Well, I could ask. But anyone will tell you I am often of little help.
Beige paint covers over what was formerly a mural on the front of the former Phoenix Midtown apartments on Mockingbird on Friday, March 31, 2017, in Dallas. The deco murals painted by artist Chris Arnold in 2008 have been painted over with solid beige. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)
I can’t say I have an overwhelming attachment for the Lempicka-style murals; these aren’t the Eugene Savages in the Great Hall of Fair Park’s Hall of State, after all, or the old Deep Ellum tunnel murals destroyed to clear a path for light rail, or even the brick wall on Forest Lane in my neck of the Great Northwest. I am not trying to make the case they should have been preserved as part of Dallas’ history.
But I did appreciate having them there. I drove by them at least once a week and always shot a quick glance in their direction. They certainly dressed up what had been, since it was built in 1998, a weirdly garish Fair-Park-as-theme-park sprawl next to Burger Street. The murals were additions suggested by architectural firm BOKA Powell — “for you art lovers out there” — during a desperately needed redo more than a decade ago.
The Phoenix, faux deco because of deed restrictions after the Dr Pepper plant’s demise, was a welcome respite from the bland, imposing Soviet Bloc apartment detention centers filling up this city (and I look in your general direction, Alexan on Goat Hill). But in recent years its murals made it, well, special — not only because of their size, but their scope, from the couple speeding off on the Vespa to the jazz band to the woman holding hands over a martini. Dallas footnotes, including the skyline and Pegasus, were also hidden throughout.
It was disappointing to see them gone Friday afternoon. Crews were out there rolling over the murals — which, Chris told me earlier, were “painstakingly produced with this silicate crushed-quartz paint from Germany that’s meant to survive the test of time.” Or not. My son and I watched men on ladders erasing the work; all the color was gone. A few remnants were still there, but they’re scheduled to be adiosed by next week.
“Well,” said the boy, “that sucks.”
“It went from seven original four-story-tall art deco murals to beige,” Arnold said. “BEIGE.”
When I told Kim I’d look into it, Chris rang the office phone immediately. He was furious, but not do-something-about-it furious. He said the murals cost around $500,000 and took two years from start to finish, but, yes, he completely understood the owners could do whatever they wanted; this was private property and never meant to be a forever deal. The 449-unit, said to be close to full in January, just sold to Crow Holdings. A rebranding was inevitable.
“I may be a little too close to it,” Arnold said. “Pieces come and go. But, damn it, Dallas, isn’t there enough beige?”
Hell of a way to kick off Dallas Arts Month, right? By erasing a giant piece of public art from the same men who gave us the adorable kid pulling the wagon on the side of Renaissance Tower in 1994 (called Mass Transit) and the landmark parking-garageThe Storm overlooking the Arts District and the optical illusion in Bishop Arts.
I asked Crow Holdings and Greystar, the leasing company, if someone could explain why they broke out the erasers. Friday night I got a response from 5 Mockingbird Apartments, the Phoenix’s new moniker.
“The community is undergoing a major renovation and rebranding,” said the statement. “As part of the renovation, the exteriors of the buildings are being repainted, and unfortunately the existing murals no longer fit the identity and aesthetic of the new community.”
Which doesn’t feel like a very satisfactory response, when the answer is: beige.
Oh, well. At least one photo of Arnold and Garrison’s Phoenix murals will live forever. It’s the one in the Library of Congress.
Source: Dallas News
By: Robert Wilonsky
1 April 2017