Public Artist Livens Up Detroit’s Madison Building with Giant Mural


tAfter nearly three weeks of sometimes 12-hour days, artist Alex Brewer — known professionally as HENSE — will officially unveil his six-story, 10,000-square-foot mural gracing the south wall of the Madison Building on Monday in downtown Detroit.

t“(HENSE) changes the perception and dialogue of the urban landscape with the regular suburban or urban city dweller who interacts with the city and its architecture in a boring daily, habitual, commuter way,” says Matt Eaton, co-owner and curator of Library Street Collective, which curated the work that was commissioned by Detroit-based Bedrock Real Estate Services. “The way he works adds something amazingly engaging and colorful to the landscape. It’s hard to miss.”

tThe internationally recognized artist, whose portfolio includes commissioned work for The ISIL Institute in Lima, Peru and The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, says he’s used more than 100 gallons of paint, which he says should be complete — or nearly complete — by Sunday evening.

t“I generally work with a bit of a spontaneous process, but being that (the Madison Building) is such a massive scale, I definitely selected colors ahead of time and had a little bit of an idea of what direction I wanted to go in,” Brewer says. “All of my work is purely abstract and nonrepresentational so it’s not intended to have any kind of meaning other than the form, line, color, and composition.”

tHe describes the mural as something that fits into the architecture of the building but also “sort of hits you in the face when you drive by or see it in person.”

tThis is HENSE’s third wall mural in Detroit, but his second large-scale public art project in the city. He also contributed two works to The Z, a parking garage and retail center Broadway and East Grand River, which opened earlier this year.

t“The Z lot was perfectly primed, brand new concrete, so I literally just applied (paint to the wall,” Brewer says. “(With the Madison), we really had no other choice than to go with it at paint sprayers for the first week. So this project has been a bit more challenging, but a lot more fun. You’re up almost 100 feet, so I’m able to get a really good view of the downtown and can interact with the people working in the building.”

tBedrock and Library Street Collective will host an unveiling of the mural from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday in the Madison Building parking lot, across Broadway from the Detroit Opera House.