In the light of day they all make perfect sense: A three-eyed warrior straddling a lion. Captain America’s severed mechanical head. A zombie robot dog. The Richmond mural project is a splash of millennial creativity on the drab brick buildings of historic Shockoe Bottom. They are the colorful conformation of a rejuvenated neighborhood in a modern city. Parking lots downtown are now open-air galleries and back alleys have never looked so inviting.
In the daylight it’s easy to appreciate the artists’ creativity and individual style. The city wears the murals well and Richmonders seem pleased with the makeover. Murals are now as much a part of Richmond’s identity as Hollywood Cemetery. Rush hour traffic inches past them, heads down, content just to know they’re their. In the day time murals blend in, but at night they change their colors.
Yet at night the murals are transformed. They leap around dark corners; their eyes follow your every move. Their mismatched shapes contrast sharply with the straight lines of warehouses and office buildings. Street lights cast a yellow light over the art, white becomes gold and blue becomes green. The color shift can change the entire meaning of a piece. What appears to be an angry panda in the day is quite clearly an anguished panda at night. In the day each mural shares the sound of the city. At night some murals sound like birds others sound like 90s rock another sounds like a train. In the dark the artists’ creativity is less obvious than their irrationality. The murals look unnatural in the dark, it makes them come alive.