Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada advocates against child trafficking and slavery creating the biggest mural in New York City.
Photo credit: Just a spectator
The colossal piece that rises in the Westin NY Grand Central Hotel facade in Manhattan was curated by ONG Street Art For Mankind in collaboration with the International Labour Organization of the United Nations for its 100 years anniversary
– The total size of the mural is 2.290 sqm. 44 m high x 52 m wide.
– 210 liters between liquid and spray paint were used during the realization of the piece.
– It has been seen/reached by over 100.000 people.
– It took more than 1 month to complete the artwork.
Photo credit: Jaime Rojo / Brooklyn Street Art
The #ILO100Murals were created to commemorate a historic moment: the 100 years of the International Labour Organization. The ILO was established in 1919, after the First World War, on the understanding that universal and lasting peace would not be achieved without social justice.
– Street Art For Mankind is a non-profit organization working with prominent street artists from all around the world to raise awareness on child slavery through the power of art.
– There’s over a hundred million children that are in slavery nowadays.
– More than 22.000 kids die every year due to work exploitation.
Photo credit: Just a spectator
Jorge Rodiguez-Gerada: This was one of the projects that came to me through a contact of a friend where these people were looking for an artist that was already working on social themes and could do a very, very large scale piece.
The fact that the project was based on child labor and child slavery was something that was actually very, very important to me. It’s the kind of project that I want to be involved in, so I was very excited with that.
I wanted to find a way where I can do multiple layers of children and I figured that the best way to do this was to do a portrait that was so large that the eyes would give an iris area (that would be about 1,5 metres, 6 feet from side to side) to be able to paint within the iris the images of other children . So, we have this one child which is a white caucasian child and then we have other children from the 3rd world who were actually photographed in the moment when they were rescued. So, we have different layers to this situation. We have one child who is probably safe, but there’s actually child trafficking going on in NY city as we speak. We can’t assume that it’s just a problem from somewhere else, there’s also a problem in our own backyards. I think that’s how the final design came. The idea of the green, the grass and the flowers is this uthopic idea of what childhood should be and the fact that this isn’t always the case. And I like the fact that was a juxtaposition to the concrete jungle, to all the brick and cement in the city.
This was definitely a very, very difficult project. I think that was unfortunate that it was done in a month when it rains so much, but I understood that it had to do with the fact it was to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ILO, so I sort of dealt with that weather project. It made the piece much more complicated that it should be, but I’m happy with the result in the end.
I think that the solitude you feel when you are doing such a large scale piece and there’s sections that no one else can help you on, you just basically become one with the piece. You are just so busy focusing on the project that you don’t really worry about if you are alone.
I think it’s a beautiful way to come back to NY city. This is a wonderful piece to create for me. Now everybody is talking about the fact that is the largest mural in Manhattan and that’s a wonderful thing. But, I think more important for me is coming back to Manhattan and doing it right. It’s the kind of artwork I wanted to come back to Manhattan to do, so I’m very, very happy about that.
Literally, I had people in the morning that while they were going to work they were screaming: ‘Good morning Jorge!, great job!’, like every morning. People were bringing me coffee, juices, shakes… It was really, really sweet.
Photo credit: Just a spectator
One with the things I was very, very happy with SAM is that they are actually raising funds to actively raid and rescue. I mean: think about that. That’s not just talking. That’s direct action. They are raiding places and saving children. It’s a major issue. I’m very happy to be a part of it.
I can just imagine those poor parents trying to do something good for their children and their children disappearing and being sex slaves or being forced to work to death in horrific conditions. It’s a terrible reality.
My personal view on street art comes from my beginnings in NY city as a culture jammer and that has never changed. Though I would love to rip the benefits of just focusing on an artistic style that I would repeat over and over again, lots of painting and lots of prints and things like this, I feel is my duty as an artist to do more with my ability and that’s why I’m focused on more social things. I also have a major problem with the gentrification that occurs with the now ubiquitous mural festivals.
Photo credit: Raphael Gonzalez
“If there was a Golden Globe for Street Art, I believe this mural would get the performance of the year for the quality, size, impact, meaning and performance done by Jorge. It is NYC, it is the biggest, it is very meaningful, it is very visible… and it is creative, elegant and beautiful.” Thibault Decker, SAM co-founder.
One night, I’m working late, I’m by myself and the small scissor lift started failing. I was stuck all way at full extension which meant that I’m too high to climb down. There was no way to pull me down. And, at the same moment, a fire truck came to an adjacent building due to a false alarm. Then a friend of mine who I made that takes out the garbage every night from the building across the street, comes out and I said to him: ‘Hey, do me a favour: can you get the firemen for me?’ So, one of the firemen comes over and says: ’What’s going on?’ I say: ‘I’m stuck’. He says: ‘ah, ok’. So, they bring the truck over, bring up the ladder, in 5 minutes they bring me down, we are taking selfies…so, I’m like ‘What? Should I do a report?’ He says: ‘No, no: you didn’t call 911, so this doesn’t even register’. So, it was like this funny wonderful thing that they did. They liked being the good guys and I was really happy, because if not I was gonna be on a very cold lift for a loooong time.
Photo credit: Anuvat Thitibordin
Thank you for the share, Audrey Garcia.
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