“At a time when my people cannot breathe, I’m asking us to always ‘Breathe Life,'” Boston artist Rob “ProBlak” Gibbs says of his latest “Breathe Life” mural, which he’s painting at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. “I created the ‘Breathe Life’ series because I wanted to create a gift for our city and leave a bold visual representation that matters. I want this mural to deliver a positive message that solidifies the powerful value of the community that I was raised in.”
Gibbs conceived the artwork with students from Madison Park High School and Artists for Humanity, the arts nonprofit that Gibbs co-founded in 1991. The project is part of the Community Mural Initiative from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, where he’s an artist-in-residence, and funded in part by a grant from the city of Boston’s Transformative Public Art Program.
“Growing up during the golden age of hip-hop, I spent a lot of time venturing between the Lenox Street apartments and the Orchard Park projects of Roxbury. I came across graffiti, which was often labeled as ‘vandalism.’ To me, it was clear that graffiti was an art form, one that had the power to convey culture, history and knowledge,” Gibbs says in the museum’s press release. “It became my mission to transform the streets of Boston with graffiti art—an art form that is frequently criminalized, undervalued and maligned in mainstream culture. I hope to continue to find new ways to innovate my craft and to mentor others in the art form that changed my life.”
Gibbs began his “Breathe Life” series in 2017 with a mural of a young boy at the UCERM Empowerment Center at 324 Blue Hill Ave. in Dorchester’s Grove Hall neighborhood.
“Being Boston-raised, I wanted to pay respect and homage to areas that made me the artist I am today,” Gibbs said in 2017. “I wanted to ‘Breathe Life’ back into the neighborhood that helped me launch my gift into the universe.”
Last year, with support from Now + There, he painted the second mural at 808 Tremont St. in Roxbury, depicting the boy lifting up his sister.
Gibbs’s new “Breathe Life” mural depicts the same young girl blowing bubbles and, according to the MFA, “surrounded by ideas and knowledge from artists that came before her, in the form of books emanating from her backpack.”
“I just hope people will take the time to walk around and see all the ‘Breathe Lives’ and see the beauty in the neighbors,” Gibbs tells me. “I’m representing everybody that lives in the neighborhoods that I’m doing the murals at.”
May 31, 2019: First Look At Rob ‘ProBlak’ Gibbs’ New Roxbury Mural ‘Breathe Life 3’
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