I was asleep nearly the entire red eye. So after a shuttle bus and a subway ride, I found myself in the middle of New York City, pre-dawn, enveloped by the towering skyscrapers. I walked a few avenues over, watching and listening to the city wake up. The muted dark grey of the concrete buildings gradually crescendoed into sparkly metallics reflecting a bright, rising sun.
It was only on my flight out did I get to appreciate the entirety of the city. Peering down from my window seat, those same towering skyscrapers, now miniature forms, like neatly arranged Legos. The afternoon sun beating down on the city, turning its grey tones into a yellowy, almost reddish glow.
At 143 Berry in Williamsburg, you’ll find yourself a similar experience. Standing on the sidewalk, looking up directly at the freshly painted mural, you’re enveloped in its starkness. A bright white washing over you, bordered by large black forms. You may not know what you’re looking at because you’re in it, letting the hues wash over you.
It’s only when you walk across the street, do you gain perspective. Seeing the mural from afar, you see just how the contrasting shapes piece together — there’s a depth to the mural, the impression that it’s actively rising from the ground, expanding to the outer barriers of its confines.
The piece, entitled Horizon, is a site-specific work by artist and prolific muralist, Tofer Chin. It’s an install intended to be viewed many times over, at different times of the day, from varying points of the street. Your perspective, both physical and intellectual, shifts at each point.
“With my murals, my aim is to open up this seemingly flat plane of the wall and shift one's perspective with their experience either walking by the piece or looking at it,” Chin says. “This was in New York so I wanted to address the light within the city."
Chin “backlit” the black and white forms with a custom grey paint that changes tone depending on light, time of the day, even the season.
“That wall has a lot of sun on it late in the morning, early afternoon. As the sun moves throughout the day, the mood of the piece changes. This is something I'm giving a lot of attention to and addressing in my public works, and this one in particular.”
Though his work is shown internationally, the majority of his pieces can be found in his hometown and current residence of Los Angeles, including a large scale mural at LAX Airport, a permanent sculpture installation in front of Netflix's new Hollywood Headquarters, and an immersive mural installation at the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex in Crenshaw. He often creates pieces for the city itself, involving the community or mentoring a local artist in the process of the given project.
Throughout our conversation, the idea of perspective and belonging are brought up at various points. But I gravitate towards “belonging” – how you can feel it in yourself or project it onto others, even entities, like say, a mural. How can something, foreign by definition, feel like it belongs? In the context of his mural, the notion that this piece “belongs” to the wall, the day, the season, the city.
“With my public mural installations, I’m hoping to activate and open up space. I want it to feel like it belongs there, not something that’s arbitrarily placed. And for it to provoke a unique shifting dialogue with each viewer.”