From the front, the Michigan Paper Dye building is a clichéd stereotype of Detroit: desolate and forgotten. The back of the building, however, is covered with a geometric pattern of intricately woven graffiti onto blocks of lavender, chartreuse and turquoise.
Located next to the ramp for I-94, countless drivers pass the wall every day.
The building is part of Cedric Tai’s latest project: “Brixels.”
Created in March, makebrixels.com is the creative collaboration of Tai, 25, and Dan Marchwinski. The website allows users to create virtual tesselations — elaborate patterns utilizing basic geometric shapes — and Tai chooses a pattern and creates it on a brick wall somewhere in Detroit.
“Anywhere I can get permission is good, but, sort of like a graffiti, it’s all about location,” Tai said.
After graduating with a bachelor’s in art education from Michigan State University, Tai moved to Detroit and won a Kresge Artist Fellowship Award in 2009. He is planning to go to graduate school in Scotland, but until then, he is engaged in a constant “conversation” with graffiti artists.
Enamored with the power of reaction, Tai challenges himself by constantly working with and interpreting different materials. As a result, the outcome can be surprising and unexpected, he said, much to his delight.
“Within the first week after the mural was created, it got tagged with graffiti,” Tai said giddily.
So in the spirit of “pure reaction,” Tai responded by reinterpreting the brixel and incorporating the graffiti. After several “reinterpretations,” the result is multidimensional and surreal.
“I love the idea of people looking at it and wondering, ‘Are all these guys working together?’” he said. “There are so many people helping me out, and now there are even more styles and perspectives involved.”
Tai is drawn to the creative community that has emerged as an indirect result of his final product — something that will sustain itself as long as there are people willing to care.
“There’s always the chance that it could all be covered or destroyed, but this art is alive,” he said, and that’s a good thing. It’s a risk you have to take.”