Seeing the Big Picture
By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 14, 1997; Page B1 Forget rats, roaches and rampant potholes. The real threat to our fair city is from an artist with the villainous-sounding name of G. Byron Peck.
Slowly, inexorably, over the past decade, the 43-year-old painter has been taking over the District one wall at a time with dozens and dozens of his slick trompe l'oeil murals. Although the artist estimates that he has by now covered more than 300,000 square feet of Washington walls with his Pop-inspired eye candy, so far no one has sounded the alarm. Soon there won't be any room left for Peck's low-tech graffiti rival, the notorious Cool Disco Dan.
Peck's signature style is unmistakable: hyper-realistic, high-buff painted collages incorporating faux photography, architectural details and brightly patterned backgrounds. And they are everywhere. There's one looking down on the CVS drugstore on Columbia Road in Adams-Morgan. And another on the side of the restaurant Asia Nora at 2213 M St. NW (his first large-scale outdoor work, dating from 1986). Frederick Douglass stakes out a parking lot at 12th and Massachusetts. A piece called "The Black Family Reunion" adorns the corner of 14th and Florida. You can't even drink or shoot pool in peace anymore since Peck infiltrated Chief Ike's Mambo Room and Bedrock Billiards in Adams-Morgan, along with other bars and restaurants too numerous to mention, from Capitol Hill to Georgetown to Dupont Circle.
Since early July Peck's latest work, a 24-by-32-foot mural celebrating Duke Ellington, has been taking shape in the plaza at the entrance to the U Street-Cardozo Metro station. It is being produced with financial support from local business and Mobil Oil Corp. and the assistance of a team of student painters hired under the city's summer jobs program and from D.C. Artworks, a community nonprofit group.
Peck says his crew expects to finish the work next week, and a dedication ceremony is in the planning stages for early fall. Next on Peck's agenda: a mural competition for the Chinatown Metro station, for which one of his designs is a finalist.
But lest there be any feelings of sour grapes from competing muralists, Peck says there are still plenty of walls to go around. "Every time I drive down a street a new way," he explains, "I notice a spot I haven't seen before. I'm always searching."
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company