The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), announced late last month the launch of a multipart community mural project co-led by artists-in-residence Rob “Problak” Gibbs and Rob Stull—a key initiative of the MFA’s 150th anniversary that draws inspiration from Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation.
Gibbs has been instrumental in several murals across the South End, and is also a leader in Artists for Humanity.
In collaboration with the City of Boston, Gibbs has begun painting a new outdoor mural—the next production in his Breathe Life series—on the exterior of Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, after engaging teen collaborators in the work’s conception and art direction. Stull has served as creative director and illustrator for a comic book-style brochure that chronicles the project and maps out other murals within walking distance of the MFA—offering readers a path to rich artistic encounters in the Museum’s surrounding neighborhoods. The publication, available for free on mfa.org, is accompanied by Co-Sign, a documentary video created by Beyond MEASURE Productions that explores Gibbs’ and Stull’s influences and considers the core mission of graffiti art and its essential relationship to hip-hop culture.
“We’re honored to welcome Rob and Rob as artists-in-residence and to have them lead the way on a cornerstone project of the MFA’s 150th anniversary, one that is truly of and for Boston. They continue the legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat and his fellow revolutionary artists featured in Writing the Future, and join us in celebrating hip-hop culture in all its forms,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director.
Located a mile from the MFA on the side of Gibbs’ alma mater Madison Park High School, the new mural is expected to be completed over the next month, weather dependent. Gibbs has been a fixture of Boston’s street art scene for more than 20 years, and this new work joins two earlier Breathe Life murals located in Roxbury, the South End and Dorchester.
“Growing up during the golden age of hip-hop, I spent a lot of time venturing between the Lenox Street apartments and the Orchard Park projects of Roxbury. I came across graffiti, which was often labeled as ‘vandalism.’ To me, it was clear that graffiti was an art form, one that had the power to convey culture, history and knowledge,” said Gibbs. “It became my mission to transform the streets of Boston with graffiti art—an art form that is frequently criminalized, undervalued and maligned in mainstream culture. I hope to continue to find new ways to innovate my craft and to mentor others in the art form that changed my life.”
Stull, a comic book and graphic design professional who has worked for Marvel and DC Comics, has created a new series of black-and-white drawings as his own visual response to Writing the Future. Honoring four of the featured artists—Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura, Lady Pink and Rammellzee—as well as Gibbs, his fellow “Boston writer,” Stull’s original works will go on view alongside the exhibition when it opens at the MFA in fall 2020, at a to-be-announced date following the Museum’s ongoing temporary closure.
“Basquiat, Futura, Rammellzee, Lady Pink and others of their era are the catalysts. We recognize them as architects and pioneers of a movement,” said Stull. “As a graduate of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, I’m honored to be an artist-in-residence at the MFA and to participate in the Writing the Future exhibition.”