Posted by Curt on 5 December, 2019 at 12:25 pm. 1 comment.


“I think mankind is doomed to extinction,” Andrés Petroselli, better known as ‘Cobre’, told me.

Petroselli, an Argentinian muralist, has traveled around the United States of America putting up giant murals of famous people. There’s a giant Quincy Jones mural in Chicago, Frank Sinatra’s big blue eyes dominate a Brooklyn street, a mournful Robin Williams used to peer into San Diego, before being demolished, and a leering Michael Jackson is splashed across a storefront in Los Angeles.

Even though he’s put up murals from his native Argentina, where giant Gandhis and Frida Kahlos look down on passerby, to Lafayette, Indiana, and across Spain, he’s deeply concerned about global warming.

That’s why he spent seven days working on a giant eight story mural of Greta Thunberg in San Francisco.

The location of the mural in the 94102 zip code has a more obvious environmental problem with over 23,800 cases of human waste reported in that zip code. But nobody is going to paint a mural about that. Instead, the San Francisco mural is meant to call attention to a greater global catastrophe. And how better than do so than with a lot of paint. Especially while safely in the air and away from the ground.

“The sprays I use are eco-friendly, and most of the paint is hand-painted with a roller,” Petroselli told The Art Newspaper. Based on his Instagram account, the Argentinian artist has a preference for Montana Colors’ aerosol cans. The Spanish company manufactures its paints in a European factory before shipping them to America. It’s hard to think of a less environmentally efficient way to get paint.

Montana Colors is loved for its vivid colors, but it’s a boutique company founded by graffiti artists that boasts of filling and sealing each can by hand. The Argentinian muralist could have used a local and lower quality paint, but that would have gotten in the way of his technique and hyper-realistic style.

According to Petroselli, the Thunberg mural used “about 5 gallons of acrylic and about 80 spray cans.”

A gallon of paint is estimated to emit 29 kilograms of CO2. That would make for 145 CO2e in emissions from the Thunberg mural. The impact of the spray cans can be trickier to estimate. But sizable.

Petroselli however claims that the spray cans will be recycled into an environmentalist sculpture.

The paint alone is the equivalent of driving for 183 miles or 70 kilowatt hours from a coal plant. But it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the airline travel that’s needed to accomplish all this. A mere 350-mile airline trip would be the mural’s equivalent. And none of that accounts for the other technical and more routinely human needs of working for 100 hours on a mural rising high up over San Francisco.

And yet, the muralist insisted to Front Page Magazine that, “The climate crisis doesn’t affect my work, it affects my life and the future of my son.”

He wants to amplify Greta’s message, but his technique is to splash paint across eight stories of mid-rise building near Union Square. But did amplifying her message really require layer after layer, the hyper-realistic rendering of each curl of parted hair and the points of texture in her sweater?

“I think mankind is doomed to extinction, what we’re doing to the world is just sad,” Petroselli told me.

But, it’s also what Petroselli is doing. The giant mural of Greta allows him to do what he loves, while signaling his climate virtue. The mural wasn’t his brainchild, but that of One Atmosphere, a San Francisco environmentalist group which urges people to ‘StopShop’ and refrain from buying new clothes, and then offers to send them a ‘StopShop’ patch to wear.

The Greta Thunberg mural is promoting many things, but saving the planet isn’t one of them.

One Atmosphere has been raising money to fund “art celebrating climate activists”. The Thunberg mural is meant to be the first of a number of paintings of environmentalists. This project to glamorize environmentalists at the cost of what they claim to be the environment is inherently hypocritical.

The eight-story image of Greta Thunberg (though some San Francisco locals have claimed that it really resembles Vladimir Putin in braids) went up on the Native Sons building which houses the August Hall nightclub. The dedication was accompanied by a rendition of Fanfare for Greta for Symphonic Brass and Timpani by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Brass Ensemble.

If you really believe that every car trip is risking the destruction of the planet, why would you transport a brass band around San Francisco’s clogged streets to commemorate the occasion of a giant mural?

Does the apocalypse really need a brass band?

“Climate change is real,” Petroselli told the San Francisco Chronicle. Meanwhile he, like Thunberg, flies around the country and the world.

Mankind is doomed to extinction. Might as well paint some murals, invite a brass band, and enjoy the decline. If you really believe that the planet is doomed, why not cash in, and throw a party?

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