In less than 20 hours this week, two well-known artists teamed up to turn the blank wall of a Strip District superfood market into a canvas for superheroes to show their strength.
It took nearly 150 cans of spray paint, including lots of green paint, to portray Marvel’s The Hulk and Wolverine. The comic book duo found a home on Penn Avenue on the side of Heirloom Superfood Market in a project that “came together last second,” Pittsburgh-based artist Jeremy M. Raymer told The Incline.
When his friend Matt Gondek, the Los Angeles-based internationally known artist, mentioned he was coming home to Pittsburgh to visit family and friends, Raymer immediately asked if they could paint together.
“I was half kidding when I initially asked him because I know he’s crazy busy, but we both like to do art and especially both in Pittsburgh. He got his start in Lawrenceville, and I got my start in Lawrenceville,” Raymer said.
Gondek agreed and changed his flight to stay in Pittsburgh a few extra days, while Raymer quickly secured permission to turn the large wall at Heirloom Superfood Market into a canvas and picked up the necessary supplies.
In just a couple of days, the artists turned a blank yellow wall into a clash of Marvel comic book superheroes. The intense Magneto lurks just a few blocks away, another Raymer creation.
“We wanted to do our own individual things but in a collaborative style,” Raymer said. “I had been wanting to paint Hulk for awhile, and he was keen on the idea.”
Raymer has painted about 50 murals around town known for what he describes as “melancholic beauty.” Shades of purples and reds often show up in his work, but green — The Hulk’s signature color — is a rarity.
“I think I used 70 different greens and like 10 tans. I used a lot of colors for this one,” Raymer said. “Fortunately, the yellow hues lended perfectly for the color palette I was using.”
Meanwhile, Gondek is known for his deconstrutive pop art.
Their work fits like a puzzle, but each artist employs very different styles — a fascinating artistic comparison that’s made more evident when their work is on view side-by-side.
“I build up base tones. I probably used a total of 110 or 120 cans of paint — different colors,” Raymer said. “And Matt probably used 20ish maybe. We use the exact same kind of paint — technique and approach are totally different.”
Gondek draws on his background in illustration with bold, contrasting colors.
Though Gondek doesn’t typically do collaborations, the two previously paired up to paint a mural for Sunkist in Lawrenceville, so they knew they could work well together.
Gondek likens the mash-up to seeing two bands at a concert. Maybe you know the headliner but not the opener, but you hear the other band and like their music, too. For Pittsburghers, they may know Raymer’s work but not Gondek’s — “that’s the benefits of the collaboration there.”
If you want to see more of Gondek’s work, look for his Homer Simpson mural at 54th and Dresden Way in Lawrenceville. (Raymer also did a Homer mural in the neighborhood.)
The collaboration all hinged on the wall, so Raymer pitched the concept to Naomi Homison, an owner at newly opened Heirloom Superfood Market.
“Seeing how excited he was about this mural and how passionate about what he was doing and working with Matt Gondek gave me a good feeling,” she said. “We’re so glad that we have it on our building. It’s a green Hulk. They’re superheroes. We have superfoods at the market. So there’s some kind of symbolism that works together.”