Culture Magazine

FDR 2: War and Peace

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
Continuing commentary on politics at FDR SK8park in Philly.
FDR 2: War and Peace
Stylistically, it's a roller. That is, the paint was applied with rollers rather than aerosol. This style is common and is used for large dramatic letters, as here.
I don’t know what “SFO” stands for, but the “O” takes the form of a sign that is generally known as the peace sign. I was first introduced to it in the anti-war movement back in the 1960s, but it is about a decade older than that. It originated in Great Britain in the nuclear disarmament movement and consists of the semaphore (signal flag) signals for “N” and “D” (nuclear disarmament). I’ve seen it at a number of graffiti sites in Jersey City. There’s nothing particularly interesting about it showing up at FDR; in fact, I’d almost be surprised if it weren’t here.
But let’s look at something a bit more interesting. Consider the skull and helmet at the center of this photos:
FDR 2: War and Peace
There’s a lot happening on that surface. It appears to me that the skull was painted along with the background of flames as a single image. Someone went over it with a yellow throw-up on the left and someone else put a white throw-up on the right. Both of those violate and norm the requires that, when you go over someone else’s work, you go over it with something better. But that’s not what interests me.
I’m interested in the lettering on the helmet. Here’s a close-up.
FDR 2: War and Peace
I detect at least four hands at work plus who knows what else. First we have the hand that did the flames, skull, and helmet. That doesn’t look like aerosol; it looks like paint and brush. Our first hand. I’m guessing that the green and white we see at the bottom edge of the helmet is from whatever is beneath it.
Then we have the letters in white aerosol. Our second hand. “WAR” is obvious. If we look beneath the black “NO” – our third hand – we can see “TO”. So, after the skull and helmet was painted someone came along and sprayed “TO WAR” on the helmet. Am I certain of that; am I sure that “TO WAR” isn’t the work of the original artist. “Sure?” No, I’m not sure. But I doubt they’re the same hand. Why would the original artist have switched from paint and brush to aerosol? No, chances are that someone else sprayed “TO WAR” on the held and then a third person cancelled out the white “TO” with a black “NO”.
And then a fourth person came along and sprayed “BE KIND [heart]” in light green on top of the rest. At least two other people made comments by placing stickers on it, a green on in the center and a purple and yellow on at the upper right. They came along before the green painter as his words go over those stickers.
What about the dark red we see? I simply don’t know. It may well be lettering, but I can make it out; it’s too obscured. If you look closely at some of the edges it looks like it may be paint-and-brush work. Perhaps it was part of the original image. We just can’t say.
Now look at this, which is a close-up of the end of some support structure, quite possibly a cinder block wall:
FDR 2: War and Peace
We’ve got two stickers, a symbol at the bottom and a photo at the center left. We’ve can see “ZEMBO” at the bottom of the sticker and some kind of emblem above it. I googled “ZEMBO” and found the Zembo Shrine Center in Harrisburg, PA, along with an emblem that looks like the one on the sticker. What is a Shriner’s sticker doing at FDR?
But that’s a digression. Look at the writing in white. At the top we have “RIDE IN PEACE”, which may have been on there twice, with one copy covered by the Shriner’s sticker. My guess is that “ride in peace” is a different sentiment from “no war”, but rather closer to “be kind.” The latter two are sentiments/injunctions about personal behavior while “no war” (like “to war”) is a collective injunction, albeit one without any explicit target. The United States is involved in a number of wars at the moment. Are these sentiments directed at any of them, all of them? There’s no way to tell. They’re just dangling sentiments if you will, as is that peace sign.
* * * * *
Going back to that slope with the skull-and-helmet, you may have been struck by the black man at the left, set against a background of black and white lettering. Who’s he?
I assumed that he was some particular person, but not one I recognized. Here’s a better shot:
FDR 2: War and Peace
Let’s look at the three sets of largest letters, the only ones you can make out. Notice the light green outlines around the first letters in each of those three sets. Was that done by the original artist or is it a later addition by a second hand? I don’t know.
I read the two words on the column as “STATE PROPERTY” and the one to the right as “SINATRZ”. Google tells me that State Property is a Philadelphia-based rap crew that has just reunited for a new tour. It’s headed by Beanie Sigel; that’s his image we see.
And Sinatrz? It’s obviously a play on “Sinatra”, presumably Frank Sinatra. And it’s the Instagram handle of Raymond James, who is linked with Ethik Clothing Co. He’s involved with merchandise for State Property.
So, however this got there, whoever painted it, it is in effect an advertisement. (And it's right next to a palimpsest statement about war. But then the whole skate park functions as one giant palimpsestic bulletin board.)
That’s not what I expected when I went googling. I expected some political figure. And, who knows, maybe State Property is all woke and political.
Whatever, whoever, however, it’s on the wall at FDR. How long will it last?

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