A giant mural from Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada has been created in New York. The piece features the seemingly innocent face of a child, the eyes of which look upwards and reflect scenes of child labour and explotation.
Standing over 42 metres high and 52 metres wide it sits on the facade of the Westin Grand Central Hotel in Manhattan. It commemorates the 100th year anniversary of the International Labour Organisation of the United Nations.
Gerada is known for his large scale pieces. Explaining this one he said that “the fact that the project was based on child labour and child slavery was something that was actually very, very important to me”. Curated by the non-profit ‘Street Art for Mankind‘. It’s an organisation who work with artists to raise awareness of child slavery. One harrowing statistic is that more than 22,000 kids die every year as a result of work exploitation.
“We have this one child which is a white caucasian child” says Gerada. “Then we have other children from the 3rd world who were actually photographed in the moment when they were rescued.” Those children are painted in the irises of the caucasian child. That though doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. “We have one child who is probably safe, but there’s actually child trafficking going on in New York city as we speak. We can’t assume that it’s just a problem from somewhere else. There’s also a problem in our own backyards.”
Around the mural there is nature. Green shoots leap up from behind and around. “The idea of the green, the grass and the flowers is this utopic idea of what childhood should be and the fact that this isn’t always the case” says Gerada. “And I like the fact that was a juxtaposition to the concrete jungle, to all the brick and cement in the city.”
The giant mural from Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada can be found on the Westin New York Grand Central Hotel facade. It was curated by Street Art Mankind and painted over one month in April 2019. A Cuban American artist. Gerada is American based, but he also for some time lived in Barcelona and we previously featured a significant mural from him in our guide to the Poblenou area here.