By James Duffy, news correspondent
Across the street from Fenway Park, in a garage off Yawkey Way, two Bostonians faced off against two New Yorkers in an artistic showdown, both sides armed with nothing but black paint and 6-by-14-foot blank, white canvases.
Dana Woulfe and Percy Fortini-Wright represented Boston, while Greg Mishka and L’Amour Suprim came from New York. Each team worked side-by-side in front of a crowd of nearly 120 people on Nov. 19. For 90 minutes, the artists crafted designs using streaks of spray paint, intricate brush strokes and smudges from hand towels to earn bragging rights and a win from two judges.
Wolfe said this type of environment forced him to step out of his comfort zone.
“I’ve done a lot of live painting, but this is different,” he said. “It’s more constricted…and we’ll have to try and roll with the mistakes.”
Fortini-Wright, who was more at ease in this atmosphere, reflected on his early days as a young graffiti artist.
“I grew up in this kind of environment, on this competitive style,” he said.
As the artists began their initial sketches, the contest of cities would take shape on the canvases. Fortini-Wright commented on the different artistic styles of the two towns that would be on display.
“We’re very loose and expressive,” he said, while he compared the New York team to tattoo artists.
Secret Walls – described as the “fight club of the art scene” – hosts graffiti battles across the country. Since 2006, Secret Walls has created a niche in the arts scene by turning a typically collaborative form into a competitive one, a perfect fit for the New York and Boston rivalry.
Despite hailing from the Big Apple, Mishka and Suprim decided to pay homage to the history of the city they were visiting, specifically sports icons. Spectators shouted out the names of the players when they could identify them.
“That’s Wally!” someone shouted as the Red Sox mascot came to shape, or “It’s Bobby Orr!” when the former Bruins great formed with a massive bear at his side.
Amid the faces of Boston sports icons were quotes from those depicted to fill the blank spaces.
Woulfe and Fortini-Wright took a more free approach to their canvas. David Ortiz’s face took hold as the centerpiece, with a Red Sox cap on his head and a distorted Yawkey Way over his shoulder.
The pair said their goal was to speak to the city directly. They hoped creating the face of a Boston legend paired with a “Yankees Suck” sprawled across a small banner subtly got the message across.
The rest of the canvas was covered by varying shades of black and abstract shapes, with a huge graffiti “B” to the left of Ortiz’s face.
The crowd and artists fed off one another’s energy. At the urging of the DJ, people broke out in dance battles in front of the painters, adding to the freestyle artistry of the night.
After the judges came to a split decision on who won the competition, the final vote came down to the fans. The crowd was told to shout for which side deserved the victory, and in the end, New York won by just a few decibels.
Despite the contest being settled, Woulfe found some heat in the rivalry to defend his city.
“I’m definitely glad that I’m from [Boston] and not from [New York],” he said.
Photo by Robert Smith