Visual Arts

Miami artist adds colorful swirls to buildings in Little Haiti

Artist Marcus Blake stands in front of a building he was commissioned to paint in Little Haiti.
Artist Marcus Blake stands in front of a building he was commissioned to paint in Little Haiti. cportilla@miamiherald.com

Marcus Blake remembers as a child covering the walls of his mother’s home with vivid swirls.

But now instead of getting scolded he’s getting praise. The walls have also gotten bigger and so has his work.

“I don’t think she let me. I just did it because I had to and she’s like, “What are you doing?” And I was like “I don’t know.” I just had to do it. I have to do it. I don’t know what it is. I can’t explain it. I hope everybody feels this way just to create. Sometimes you have to do it,” Blake said.

A sea of bright orange, yellow and blues with structured white tape lines make up geometric shapes he calls “tapenology.” He’s also taken to a new style. A pattern that resembles paisley depending on how his energy is that morning he said.

In the sea of shapes when he’s doing a tapenology print a cube stands tranquil at its center. He says it’s a symbol. No matter how hectic or crazy life may get, people should always find their center.

“The cube comes after the fact. It just happens to go there. I don’t question it anymore it just flows. The cube is a dual representation; among all the chaos here you are organized and focused. The cube just grounds people. It holds things together.”

His art has been springing up on ice machines, entire buildings, poles and other objects, but he says there’s nothing new about this. Blake, who’s been a creator for as long as he can remember started in fashion, cutting clothes and jeans and then writing on them. Then taking those same words and turning them into sonnets through poetry, he says creativity is part of his essence.

He emerged on the scene eight years ago through parties and promotions and then went on to host “The Imperial,” a spoken-word night that’s changed venues after a couple of displacements but now calls MADE at the Citadel home every Tuesday night.

AC Hotel by Marriott in Miami Beach recently commissioned him to create a “tapenology” piece. Blake said it has given the building a more inviting attitude.

Mohamed Hachem of Moab Enterprises also asked the artist to paint two of his buildings along Northeast Second Avenue in Little Haiti.

“We are thrilled with the artistic talent that is communicated on our building, complementing the transformation of the Little River District. We are committed to the community, and this local masterpiece exemplifies this commitment,” he said.

Blake has witnessed that transformation in Little Haiti and used his poetry to speak about the changes. His delicate velvet voice, large framed glasses, striking style and pearly teeth embody an imaginative mind that has a need for an expression like in his poem Day17.

I guess others do also,

When beauty is in abundance,

Expect strangers to follow,

Expect neighborhoods to get,

Swallowed and become hallow,

In my neighborhood,

Whenever they pave the road,

Buildings get knocked down,

And the land is sold,

In with the new,

Out with the old,

They say it's an improvement project,

So the object,

Is to knock down the projects,

In the name of progress and profit,

Until the only thing left,

Is smaller apartments,

And higher rent,

Blake says he feels a responsibility to give voice to the issues around him and to keep creating while shifting the media he uses to stay inspired.

“I think as a poet, as somebody with a writing ability you can talk about a lot of things. Just being in my neighborhood and seeing what’s going on [my voice] being my microphone you have to speak on it. It’s something in me. I can’t talk about fluffy things I have to speak about what’s happening.”

A couple of weeks ago, a building on Northeast Second Ave and 58th Street gained a new epidermis. The swirls take over the whole building like a vine and gain momentum as the strokes curve and twist.

 

#mdotblake #miami

A photo posted by Marcus Blake (@mdotblake) on

Joseph Hunter, a repair man and Little Haiti resident since 1990, has seen the neighborhood’s makeover throughout the years and is part of the chair army that sits in front of the building —their hangout spot on weeknights.

“With [Marcus] painting the building it’s really changed our attitudes because this building was looking bad and it makes a big difference,” Hunter said. “We hope that there will be a more significant change in our neighborhood, this helps represent our community better than the graffiti.”

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