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Artprize 2011: Erkfitz's part of Schematic in Two Parts

Interview with Artist Erwin Erkfitz, co-creator of a collaborative mural in the Heartside district.

/Kristin Comstock

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Artwork the artist enjoys

“There is a fine line between a pretty picture and a meaningful picture and I like to drift between those two.” 

It would be hard to miss the brightly colored mural "Schematic in Two Parts" on the corner of Commerce and Oakes street, located alongside The Pyramid Scheme and created by Grand Rapid's own Erwin Erkfitz. Collaborating with Erkfitz is his partner Jeff Vandenberg who owns The Pyramid Scheme, which, Erkfitz notes, the title of their 2011 Artprize is a reference to. The mural measures 8 feet tall by 36 feet wide and was created with marker and latex paint. "Schematic in Two Parts" shows two connecting murals with vibrant colors that portray references of Hinduism and spiritual cultures. Erkfitz’s part of the piece is called "Vision of Compromise." Erkfitz had an Artprize piece the first year on Cherry and Division showing a large plant with a blue heart, and last year a four person collaboration that was displayed at Stella’s Lounge. “Jeff approached me and wanted to do something on the side of the building and saw Artprize as a deadline with hopes of it to stay, so we tried bringing a couple styles together,” says Erkfitz.

 The mural shows vines which Erkfitz calls “hyper vines,” that can be found in some of his other artwork. “I did a lot of research and referenced older cultures such as Ancient African, Egyptian, Mezzo American and how they portray humans and the different patterns they used." All of the detailed lines on the mural are references of renaissance paintings and Christian ideals, that he intertwines together to create the "Schematic."

As a graduate of Kendall College in 2004 with a degree in visual communications; Erwin Erkfitz has worked for the Grand Rapids Art Museum where he was an art handler/installer for four years and has also worked for Dwelling place, Avenue for the Arts, and All City Kicks. Working with multimedia, website/promotional, video editing, and print design, Erkfitz does it all. He currently owns a graphic arts company EECO, but for his collaborative mural he calls it JVBXEECO for Jeff Vandenberg and Erwin Erkfitz Company. Erkfitz says he would describe himself as a graphic artist or studio artist. He tries to have standards set for himself, with his artwork and murals you can see direct references to graphic design composition. “I’m only on this planet for a small period of time, I want to share my ideas with people,” says Erkfitz. He is fascinated by people and their religions and us as a race. “I’m always paying attention, watching through time and looking back at history and all the explanations of civilizations” he explains.  

 Erkfitz grew up reading comic books and drawing out of them. He enjoys instrumental rock, video games, and science fiction movies, which is what influences his art. “Art moves through time, and moves through people, it crosses boundaries of race and sex, and I have invested my life in art and the creative spectrum from everything that I do.” When assessing art and other Artprize artists, Erkfitz says he looks at a lot of technique and content. “There is a fine line between a pretty picture and a meaningful picture and I like to drift between those two.” He feels that being a screen printer, he has to look at all the technical aspects of other art, and is attracted to art that is most like his own, but he can go outside of that box and view the ability that someone used to make their art.

“I wanted to do a mural that brought together the multiple styles of my large colorful mural work that isn’t as hard and graphic as my fine artwork.” Erkfitz wants to bring compromise through his piece and references “let’s meet in the middle” to different religions. He says “Slow down, pay attention, be open and don’t be so concrete in your ways.” Erkfitz says he was recently asked ‘Why do you paint on buildings?’ He says his audience isn’t closed; he doesn’t have art museum doors, in the way of him communicating with the public. He wants his art work to be seen and rather “in your face”, but also wants to depict a meaning that will have an effect on individuals.

It’s incredibly likely that you can look forward to Erkfitz’s large animated murals every year in Artprize, or along the Heartside district of Grand Rapids. You can find Erkfitz working part time at the Grand Rapids Art Museum as an art handler, and full time at his Graphic Arts Company EECO. 

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