Fortoul Brothers Unveil Mural at Canco Park
Jersey City Mural Arts Program (JCMAP)
Having just returned to Jersey City after a year and a half outside the country, I sense within all the familiarity… there are giants among us, towering over – not in threat, but communicating (rather intimately for their size) with our most inner-selves. It’s a welcomed invasion (of murals, there’s no monsters, silly), largely thanks to the efforts of JCMAP, “a Mayor’s Office Initiative that links established and emerging local, national and international mural artists with property owners city-wide as part of an innovative beautification program that reduces graffiti, engages local residents and is transforming Jersey City into an outdoor art gallery.” They had already brought plenty of talent (and big names) to the walls of Jersey City before I left, but they. have. been. working! and it shows in monumental ways… So much so that it would take a whole series to cover everything they’ve been doing. So thinking baby steps, we decided to start by checking out a wall currently being painted by the Fortoul Brothers.
The Brothers’ Mural
Walking up to the mural, I can immediately grasp the message in their seamless blend of modern & ancient aesthetics; with bold lines that remind me of traditional American tattoos, it clearly speaks to our connection to nature and with each other, and the faces at the roots tell me in their neutral gaze – we’re all part of the same thing. In a reply to my awkward question on stylistic intentions, Gabriel, the older of the brothers, graciously tells me it’s an “evolution of the original art form my brother and I created as kids.” The Fortoul Brothers, Isaac and Gabriel, have been an integral part of the Phoenix art scene for the past 15 years, but their beginnings are rooted in Union City, where the duo first explored their creativity together. After their first five years in Arizona putting their stamp on the scene, they returned to live in Downtown Jersey City (they apparently have a mural in downtown, although “it’s from a different time”), where they furthered their work in the community here and in NYC, which they refer to as “the city,” confirming their legitimacy as North Jersey locals. After seven years of exploration in the area, they would return to Arizona with “this incarnation” of their art together. “What has been shown to us is that we should simplify the work, and in doing so, make it stronger, bolder, create something that can be understood by everyone.”
The Perfect Match
Canco Park sits a block outside of Journal Square, around the block from Mana Contemporary at the corner of Dey & Senate. With the aim to create & maintain a community green space in a part of the city that severely lacks it, the team at Canco Park Conservancy has been stretching this small passive space to house eco projects, community programs and events for the past three years. During their tenure, the north face of 25 Senate Place Apartments had been staring down at them, an obvious candidate for a mural project, but only as an idea on the backburner. Until one day, Dawn (Giambalvo, President of Canco Park Conservancy), happened to pass by a piece of work by the Fortoul brothers on their father’s storefront window in Union City. It made an immediate impression and upon looking them up online, she “fell in love with their work completely” and cold-called them from outside their father’s store to discuss their work and the potential of putting something up over the park.
The Fortoul brothers, stationed out in Arizona but frequenting the area to see family in Union City, were able to accommodate a meeting at the park, and after listening to the Conservancy’s message on the need for more public green space and their mission of providing such a space for people of all backgrounds to share & enjoy, they found a common ground for their work. “We grow a lot of trees on our property in Phoenix,” Gabriel shared with us during a short break off the wall, “…this time that we’re in right now is a time of great significance in that we’re tittering, and there’s a bit of imbalance. So the idea is to create some harmony & equilibrium, and one way to do it is to grow things… which is a bit revolutionary, and to teach and to educate.”
So much art, so little time…
If you happen to come see the Fortoul Brothers’ work (25 Senate Place), here are a couple of other beautiful installations new to the area. Looking for more murals, check out the Jersey City mural arts map:
Dan Kitchener (88 Wallis Ave)
Jessie Unterhalter & Katey Truhn (Van Wagenen Footbridge)