Alleys & Ruins no. 146, Electric (2014, Portland, OR, 11pm)

Alleys & Ruins no. 146, Electric (2014, Portland, OR, 11pm)


Portland is a city with some odd contrasts. It is one of the hippest, most artsy cities I’ve visited, and yet it has some of the harshest rules against graffiti. There’s a blanket zero-tolerance policy covering the entire city. It is illegal to create a mural on an outside wall even if you have permission (or a commission) from a property owner.

So while Portland is an awesomely cool and progressive city, it tries to keep its exterior squeaky clean. Huge brick walls begging for murals remain free from paint (and inspiration)

Enter the ruins of the Taylor Electric Supply Warehouse, built in 1936, in the Central Eastside Industrial District. After being destroyed by one of Portland‘s largest ever industrial fires, it has become a mecca for the city’s street art. After the 2006 fire, toxic chemicals started to pour out and a thorough clean-up was required, leaving behind huge bare walls that were quickly painted over by graffiti artists.

Every few months the city will paint over the entire structure to discourage graffiti, but all they do is leave behind a fresh, clean canvas for more art.

There are precious few places in the city to see quality graffiti art (as opposed to quick, ugly tags) and the ruins of the Taylor Electric company have sparked debate over whether the space constitutes an artistic gem or a horrible eyesore.

But the land has been sold and is now slated for re-development. The graffiti walls will be torn down and the street artists will have to look elsewhere for inspiration.

Before the shoot, I shot a brief video of the location.

More background, plus lots of images of the building’s graffiti


Since shooting Alley 146, Portland seems to have eased up a bit with mural permits. Since mid 2014, there's been somewhat of a storm brewing with the street art groups and the Portland leaders, creating some anger, but making some headway in allowing public murals.



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