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Massive New Mural Depicting Mark Twain and John Lewis Set to Begin on Hertel Avenue

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Buffalo, NY – The Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s Public Art Initiative recently began work on a new mural by artist Eduardo Kobra (Brazilian, born 1976) at 1188 Hertel Avenue. The location is on the east side of a building owned and operated by People Inc., adjacent to Ristorante Lombardo.

Street art is one of the most celebrated forms of art in São Paulo, Brazil. One of the artists at the forefront of the metropolis’s stunning contemporary art scene is Eduardo Kobra, best known for his massive, brightly colored murals infused with bold lines. His famous photorealistic works often depict portraits of iconic historical figures. His work is a combination of various techniques including painting with a mix of brushes, airbrush, and aerosol cans. Kobra has completed hundreds of murals in Brazil, painted in seventeen countries, and most recently completed a residency in New York City during which he produced eighteen murals, making him arguably one of the most well-known muralists in the world. 

Kobra often draws on the history of the region in which he is painting to inform his work. When starting discussions about working in Buffalo, he identified the area’s storied history with Mark Twain as his subject, and specifically has focused on Twain’s relationship with John Lewis.

Twain lived in Buffalo at 472 Delaware Avenue from 1869 to 1871 when he was an editor at the Buffalo Express. In 1877, Twain made the acquaintance of John Lewis as a result of Lewis’s swift and heroic action to stop a runaway horse and buggy that was carrying Twain’s sister-in-law and her daughter to almost certain death. The two would become great friends for the rest of their lives. Some scholars believe that the character of Jim in Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is based at least in part on John Lewis. The two men are buried next to each other in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York.

“Eduardo Kobra is one of the most well-known muralists in the world, and I am thrilled his work will be on Hertel Avenue for many years to come,” said Councilmember Joel Feroleto. “This large, colorful, and historically relevant piece will certainly add to the area’s wonderful existing murals.”

“We are thrilled to be bringing such a world-renowned artist to Buffalo for this massive mural,” said Albright-Knox Curator of Public Art Aaron Ott. “Councilmember Feroleto has been instrumental in getting the artist here, and we are incredibly thankful for his passion and understanding of the many benefits of public art.” 

Leaves from the original handwritten manuscript of Huckleberry Finn are on display in the Mark Twain Room at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library Central Library thanks to a gift made possible by public and private funding, including a significant grant from The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation in 1995.

The Albright-Knox’s Public Art Initiative is an innovative partnership between the museum and the County of Erie established in 2013 to enhance our shared sense of place and cultural identity in the urban and suburban landscapes of Western New York. The City of Buffalo joined the partnership in 2014. The goal of the initiative is to create spaces of dialogue where diverse communities have the ability to socially engage with, actively respond to, and cooperatively produce great public art that is capable of empowering individuals, creating stronger neighborhoods, and establishing Western New York as a critical cultural center.

Other recent Albright-Knox Public Art Initiative projects include Felipe Pantone’s Optichromie—BUF mural on the back of Town Ballroom; Muhammad Zaman’s mural Our Colors Make Us Beautiful at 1131 Broadway; Louise Jones’s mural Wildflowers for Buffalo at 465 Washington Street; Robert Indiana’s ONE through ZERO (The Ten Numbers) sculptures at Wilkeson Pointe; White Bicycle’s mural We Are Here at 1260 Hertel Avenue; Chuck Tingley and Matt Grote’s mural weego at 1503 Hertel Avenue; Otecki’s (Wojciech Kołacz) mural Work and Play at 617 Fillmore Avenue; The Freedom Wall, completed by artists John Baker, Julia Bottoms, Chuck Tingley, and Edreys Wajed at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and East Ferry Street; Betsy Casañas’s mural Patria, Será Porque Quisiera Que Vueles, Que Sigue Siendo Tuyo Mi Vuelo (Homeland, Perhaps It Is Because I Wish to See You Fly, That My Flight Continues to Be Yours) at 585 Niagara Street; Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez’s mural Welcome Wall at 751 Fillmore Avenue; Bunnie Reiss's mural Magic Buffalo at 1322 Hertel Avenue; Shantell Martin’s mural Dance Everyday at 537 East Delavan Avenue; Daniel Galas’s mural 72 Jewett at 74 Jewett Avenue; Amanda Browder’sSpectral Locus installation at three separate locations throughout Buffalo; Alice Mizrachi’s mural Dream Keepers at the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology; Roberley Bell’s Locus Amoenus installation at the Tifft Nature Preserve; Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn’s mural Noodle in the Northern Lights at Shea’s 710 Theatre; Kaarina Kaikkonen’s installation We Share a Dream at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport; Jenny Kendler’s Milkweed Dispersal Balloons and ReWilding New York (Community Seed Stations), a two-fold work that took place over the summer of 2015; Shayne Dark’s 2015 exhibition Natural Conditions and residency at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens; Jaume Plensa’s Silent Poets at Canalside; Casey Riordan’s Shark Girl at Canalside; Tape Art’s Buffalo Caverns, a massive, temporary mural made with low-adhesive drawing tape on the north wall of the Central Library branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library; a billboard- and sticker-based iteration of Matthew Hoffman’s You Are Beautiful project, made possible in part through a partnership with Lamar Advertising; and Charles Clough’s collaboratively produced Hamburg Arena Painting, which is installed at the Hamburg Public Library. The Public Art Initiative has also distributed 30,000 art kits to students throughout Erie County.

The Public Art Initiative was established and is supported by leadership funding from the County of Erie and the City of Buffalo.