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Andrew Reid
Andrew Reid'sself portrait

Muralist Andrew Reid has gotten the jump on the current South Florida mural craze, preceding Wynwood and WPB’s CANVAS Mural Project project by a good 20 years. With major commissions still up in various restaurants in South Beach, stores such as Banana Republic, and buildings he painted in the 1990s, the New Zealand born Reid continues to produce and propose radical new designs for public and private spaces.

One of his most prominent designs is in the West Palm Beach Police Headquarters, the big pink building spanning the block between Clematis and Banyan, which houses a grand mural inside the station Andrew Reid created in 1995. He tagged along with the officers and learned about the different jobs and facets of the department before designing the large work, painted on canvas in his studio and then installed in the station’s lobby. His style is influenced by the WPA murals that give an exhaustive narrative, as well as Thomas Hart Benton, Russian propaganda muralists, Picasso and Diego Rivera.

“Propaganda – both good and bad – started with muralists around the world,“ Reid says from his studio, surrounded by works in progress ranging from paintings to tables to wall screens. “It’s meant to tell a story with a certain point of view. I get very involved with the community when I do these murals and by the time I start there is only one truth.”

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The Police mural shows officers both male and female, black and white, along with police dogs, officers at desks, a grinning child doffing an officers cap, and even cops on an airboat – a uniquely Florida form of police transport.

Andrew Reid has another mural proposal in the works for the Police Headquarters – a radiating mandala shape studded with police emblems with a defiant fist clutching a badge in the middle. There is another large public work along Atlantic Avenue in Delray, an ode to the area farmers painted on large tiles. He is particularly proud of a large job he did for a modern library in Belle Glade, where he did extensive research into the local community and the translated his findings into elaborate murals.

Murals Some by Andrew Reid

“I found some amazing thing out in Belle Glade,” he says. “A lot of NFL football players come from there which is unreal as it is such a small rural place. It’s a big farming community, during season there are lots of immigrants that pass through to do the work, they even pay to sleep under residents mobile homes. There’s an enormous energy, sadness and beauty out there. This was a long project, as I got the job a good three years before the construction on the library even started, so I had to work alongside the architects and designers and got to see the new structures and plans as it was being built. Any proposal I make will be changed along the way, it’s a process at every step. I need to tell a story about the past and the future. I went around asking the people there what do you like most about this place? They said the beauty and simplicity. What do you like least? The ash in the smoke from the cane fields. The answers surprised me.”

The resulting murals are a lush wild collage of workers with their faces wrapped in kerchiefs, overflowing baskets with corn and celery and crops, laborers cutting cane, kids reading at a community center, flying crop dusters, factories belching smoke and even Seminole Indians – the original inhabitants – in full costume navigating a canoe full of produce. “The stories I tell in the murals are narrative but they are beyond reality. I want to change some of the history I learn about to create an optimistic view of society, though I’m not out to create a revisionist theory. It has to be a positive spin on negative history,” he says.

Andrew Reid is originally from New Zealand, he went to New York in the 1980s hoping to get work with Interview Magazine and ended up doing illustration work for ad agencies. He created some beautiful album cover designs for the likes of Bryan Ferry.  In 1991 he moved to Miami Beach and plunged into the emerging artist community starting to make some local visual noise. His sophisticated, evolved style quickly caught on as he was hired to produce large scale work for the new stores and restaurants opening up in the Art Deco District.

Another cool arsenal of his iconography is his secret nod to the Maori Indians of his native New Zealand, whose graphic tribal tattoos designs that they etch into their faces appear in mischievous ways in his art – on a drink coaster, forming the lines of a mandala, on the designs of a dress.

His work is usually about some form of “indulgence” as he calls it, whether it’s people that are overly beautiful or greedy or heroic. Animals are huge and mythic, with wild boars making frequent appearances. A recent mural for an an anti-AIDS message landed on a junkyard wall. He’s also at work on a graphic novel, whose page spanning crazed graphics turn the story inside out. He can work small, but he likes it big.

“Yes, scale is an understatement,” Andrew Reid says. “Monumental is a better word. It’s a rebellion against the commercial trappings of the desk.” A game changer has been the digital revolution, where Reid can create a full sized building mural on his computer and then have it printed on a vinyl wrap that is adhered to the building with a heat process. It’s quicker, easier than spending months in blazing sun painting outdoors, and the colors on the wrap last for a good ten years with no fading.

“I like this process a lot,” Reid says. “It’s so versatile and quick, and if you don’t like it you can just rip it off, print out a new one and attach it.”

Some of the vinyl wrap artwork he’s done includes bright strong graphic grid like patterns for a building in Little Haiti, and wraps that make a building look like wood grain. “Projects can take years, so I keep busy with several at once. I like to think I’m a Public Artist, not a Street Artist, and I have a lot more planned for the near future.”

For more of Andrew Reid’s work, visit www.she-D.com 

Sandra-Schulman Sandra Schulman is an arts writer, music and film producer. Born in Miami, her work has appeared in Billboard, Variety, Rolling Stone, Ocean Drive, Country Music Magazine, The New York Daily News, News From Indian Country, and Entertainment Weekly. She was an entertainment columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for 8 years. She has authored three books on pop culture. She currently lives in West Palm Beach with her blue eyed whippet. Sandra Schulman’s column appears weekly. Contact her at sandraslink@gmail.com.