HOW—AND WHY—THE ARTIST CHEN DONGFAN TRANSFORMED CHINATOWN’S DOYERS STREET INTO A FLOWERY, FRIENDLY DRAGON, artnet

THE ARTIST CHEN DONGFAN TRANSFORMED CHINATOWN’S DOYERS STREET INTO A FLOWERY, FRIENDLY DRAGON

HOW—AND WHY—THE ARTIST CHEN DONGFAN TRANSFORMED CHINATOWN’S DOYERS STREET INTO A FLOWERY, FRIENDLY DRAGON, artnet

The piece of literal street art, which fills a historic corridor in New York’s Chinatown, has become a popular attraction.

Chen Dongfan, a painter trained in mainland China but now living mostly in New York City, has painted a 200-foot-long mural on the asphalt floor of Doyers Street, a gently curving lane connecting Pell Street with the Bowery. One of the first streets to form what is today known as Chinatown, it has a post office that was just named for Mable Lee, the first Chinese woman to receive a doctorate in economics from Columbia University, and who later became a staunch proponent of the culture and rights of Chinese-Americans. The street is dotted with restaurants, hair salons, and other local shops—it’s a microcosm, with historical weight, of a Chinatown increasingly threatened by gentrification, mostly in the form of condo buildings.

Chen’s notion with his project—creating a dragon-like form on the street that is clearly visible from the sidewalk, but more so from the buildings that rise above—was to assert Chinatown as a district of both action and power. The dragon is meant to symbolize Chinese energy, ambition, and purpose—qualities of immigrant life important still to the community—while the street itself is covered with abstract-seeming flower patterns (flowers are central to Chinese painting and culture) and suffused with the lyric, living power of nature itself (a belief central to Chinese thinking). According to Echo He, owner and director of Fou Gallery in Bed-Stuy, which represents the artist and facilitated the Doyers Street project, Chen used only 15 and a half gallons of paint to cover the street, even though the imagery is built from five layers of paint. The result brims over with vitality.

View the full article: Art World