From time to time in your career, if you are around long enough, you get to work on one of those projects that goes beyond the original purpose. The Royce Apartments is one of those projects. As you will read the developer believed that even those who live in low income housing could have an uplifting environment.
Graphic Image Flooring, as you will be able to read, was able to recreate paintings for 21 elevator lobby floors so that every time you step off an elevator you are greeted with a bright, colorful and happy landing.
It was indeed truly an honor to work with the team and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Tim Wirtz - Founder & CEO
ART FOR A GOOD CAUSE
I met Royce Mulholland of The Mulholland Group (TMG) socially during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign. Royce was a generous donor for the Democratic Party and I was working on an art project in my capacity as Eliot Spitzer’s campaign photographer. In a fortuitous, unexpected way we also discovered that he and I shared a love for, and had mutual interest in public art and its purposeful vision. In 2015, Royce approached me about utilizing public art as a means to “...provide the highest quality of affordable housing across the nation.” TMG wanted to include visual art into the renovation of their affordable housing property at 550 South Clinton Street, in Syracuse, NY, as a means to enrich the lives of its tenants. Although the area around the buildings had been positively transitioning with the establishment of new cultural facilities and culinary establishments, the forty-five year-old towers at the site had fallen into disrepair over the years and crime had become a problem. The opportunity to create a positive impact on this community through contemporary art was reciprocally valued between us and I was excited to help.
Our biggest challenge was not only to mount a permanent public installation, but one that could also then be augmented periodically by local artists’ work as well as the work of graduating art students from Syracuse University. Around that time, I knew that Bill was working on a series of paintings on large canvases. Although I was unaware of how many he had completed, I thought that the vibrancy and thoughtfulness of his abstract works would be a perfect fit for the project. Bill loved the idea and we soon embarked on the collaboration with TMG.
There was only one “small” problem. The building had twenty-one floors in need of one painting each and Bill had finished painting only fourteen canvases in the new series. Furthermore, site specific imperatives like damage-proof, graffiti-proof, and accident-proof, to name a few, pretty much ruled-out the feasibility of mounting actual paintings in a public space. I approached Bill, and to satisfy all of the demands, I suggested that his work should be an integral part of the building’s construction. He agreed, and we decided to enlarge the paintings digitally and then print the images on linoleum flooring, one for every elevator floor landing. The planning and production jumped into action overnight with the arrivals of Hasting-on- Hudson-based master printer and digital artist Ben Diep, and Minneapolis-based Tim Wirtz of Graphic Image Flooring. Bill and Ben worked together for two months to translate fourteen paintings into mega size digital art files, in addition to creating seven new digital paintings exclusively for this series. In Ben’s own words “The critical part was Bill Conlon sitting by the screen and directing me to refine the color and begin new compositions from the original ones that he had envisioned. We began by using some parts of the original fourteen paintings, then we cut out, distorted and reshaped them into new images, completely modifying them so they would not appear as ‘cut and paste’ copies. They were completely new images but keeping the abstraction and the design directed by Bill, as if he was painting on the monitor. Recreating the texture surfaces and matching the color of the original paintings on a new digital surface was the primary challenge. We spent many hours readjusting the colors to the spectrum range that Bill desired. It was an amazing project from an impossible to a possible one.” Tim printed the files on twenty-one adhesive-backed linoleum sheets each measuring 10 feet by 13 feet, that are currently installed in every elevator lobby at Royce Residences in Syracuse.
Sadly, Royce passed away in March 2017, a couple of months before the completion of the newly christened Royce Residences. However, the words describing his dedication to “make people feel better about their home” survive in print, in the TMG brochure. “The Mulholland Group Introduces the Vertical Gallery The Mulholland Group President and CEO Royce Mulholland continues his commitment to enrich culturally TMG’s residential properties. Royce strongly believes that one’s economic situation should not be a burden for [enjoying] the fine things in life. Working with Marius Muresanu they developed the vertical gallery at two New York properties. Calling on several national and international artists and photographers, they created two Vertical Galleries containing 73 pieces of art work for the enjoyment of TMG residents and the beautification of their communities.”
This exhibition is dedicated to Royce’s memory and his dream of bringing the joy of art to the 550 South Clinton Street residents. I am grateful to Bill for his extraordinary work and for being a part of our shared belief in the importance of art in public spaces. To Ben, thanks for working closely with Bill to give life to the concept. To Tim, thanks for his dedication to fashion concrete forms from an artistic idea, and last but not least, to Royce, “Love you more!”
Each painting used for each floor was personally selected by artist William Conlon.
After years of painting works on canvas, this project was something exciting and different for me. It was an opportunity to create twenty-one paintings in a unique way for a new audience, the tenants of the Royce Residences, a large affordable housing complex located in downtown Syracuse, NY. The Royce Residences underwent a $20 million renovation in 2016-2017, under new ownership by the Mulholland Group, led by developer Royce Mulholland. Now that all the work has been installed and put to good use, I look back on this project as a giant printmaking edition conceived in collaboration with artist-turned-curator Marius Muresanu (in charge of the Public Art program for the property), Ben Diep, master printer and digital tech whiz, and Tim Wirtz of Graphic Image Flooring, the Minnesota company that did the beautiful vinyl flooring printing.
Ben and I spent three plus weeks in the spring of 2016, sitting in front of his large computer screens, and creating digital files inspired from high resolution photographs of fourteen original recent paintings of mine. All of the twenty-one files that emerged are original designs, not copies of the paintings -- and seven of the digital files were created from scratch, using bits and pieces from the source paintings. About four months later the paintings, printed on vinyl flooring, each measuring 10’ x 13’, were installed in the elevator landings at the 550 South Clinton Street site. It is my hope that the tenants of the Royce Towers will enjoy these special works of art.