Graffiti Alley 2017

By Lily Hennessy

On Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, nestled in between Central Kitchen and an empty building, is Modica Way, also referred to as Graffiti Alley. This easy-access, cut-through alley gets its name from the walls covered in graffiti, hence the nickname. 

Photo by Lily Hennessy.

You can see the layers of painting peeling off of the old brick wall. Under that peeling paint lies even more vibrant paint. Layers and layers of spray paint have continually been added to this alley’s walls in Cambridge. The alley is continuously evolving. New and returning spray paint artists often come to the alley to paint. And it is all legal street art, which is awesome! Cambridge Central has a lot of eye-catching, often culturally influenced street art, unlike other nearby areas. 

Graffiti Alley has many parallels to the Paleolithic, Chauvet Cave in France.

Chauvet Cave. Ardeche Region of Southern France. 

Chauvet Cave. Ardeche Region of Southern France. 

Graffiti Alley. Photo by Lily Hennessy.

Prehistoric art lines the walls of Chauvet Cave in the south of France. Cave-men from the Old Stone Age painted, etched, or used charcoal to draw forms onto the walls of caves through southern France and northern Spain. These forms were mostly of animals native to the era, like wholly rhinoceros and horses. Art historians are unsure of why these cave-men drew these intense scenes on the dark, dimly-lit and bumpy walls of caves. However it is most likely that they drew them solely as a form of expression. 

These men (or perhaps women) drew over one another’s artwork and it resulted in an intense, eye-catching collaboration of art, just like Cambridge's Graffiti Alley. Because of the overlapping art there is a seamless, flowing quality about the walls. It's almost like the walls of the Chauvet Cave are dancing; they have a rhythmic quality about them. 

Graffiti Alley has many artistic similarities to the Chauvet Cave. The artists spray paint over one another's art causing this overlapping collaborative piece with dynamic, rhythmic motions. Prehistoric art can often look like graffiti because both are just basic forms of human expression and the need to capture what is around oneself, often projected through symbols. 

Graffiti Alley. Photo by Lily Hennessy. 

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LIGHTING

The intense lighting casted by the yellow, blue, and red-ish pink (primary colors) glass allows for graffiti artists to play with color along with their work. In different lights the personality of the alley changes. On dull days the alley can be seem morbid and mundane, but on bright sunny days the alley has a distinct movement to it. It's playful and exciting. Unlike Chauvet Cave which was always dimly lit and very mundane. 

Photo by Lily Hennessy.

In the wet snow, Graffiti Alley looks similar to a cave. 

Cambridge Central's very own neolithic cave!

Graffiti Alley in the snow. By Will Wisnieski.

Graffiti Alley in the snow. By Will Wisnieski.