Ace Artist Ricardo Roig Serves Up Mural of Hoboken Native/Tennis Legend Michael Chang
(ABOVE: Ricardo Roig, wife Michelle and son Ricardo pose in front of “Michael Chang, Hoboken Hero”—photo by Terry Stavoe)
Renowned Hoboken artist Ricardo Roig proudly unveiled his latest creation—“Michael Chang, Hoboken Hero”—a hand-cut and stencil spray-painted mural overlooking the tennis courts at Columbus Park, near Hoboken High School.
The mural depicting Chang—the Hoboken-born professional tennis player and winner of the 1989 French Open—was funded via Hoboken’s public arts fund. Mayor Ravi Bhalla also announced the launch of an advisory arts commission made up of residents and local artists, to help choose various public art projects to be funded through the new public arts fund.
“Michael Chang exemplifies Hoboken the spirit of firsts, as the first Asian-American to win a Grand Slam tournament,” said Mayor Bhalla. “His grit and determination on the tennis court is artfully depicted by Ricardo, whose work is a source of pride and inspiration for our City. I thank Ricardo for initiating this mural, and his contributions which reflect the diversity of our community. I am proud of the many talented artists in Hoboken, and look forward to working the newly formed Arts Advisory Committee to further beautify our City.”
We spoke with Ricardo about this piece, the challenges of mural work, and his own tennis game…
hMAG: What is it about Michael Chang that inspired you to paint this mural?
Ricardo Roig: The mural depicts Chang making a great return shot from a hard to reach serve. I like how Michael Chang was not the biggest guy out there but that his effort and stamina allowed him to leverage physical height and reach. If you put in the extra effort and go the extra mile it makes all the difference in victory and success. If you want something badly enough and you’ve prepared—trained, worked hard at it—I believe your passion will find a way to get your goal. This mural was a huge undertaking, but I didn’t give up—and my wife wouldn’t let me give up on myself either : ) I think I kind of channeled some Michael Chang effort reaching to the wall and working through all the challenges.
h: How challenging is mural work, compared to other mediums?
RR: Mural work is extremely challenging on a lot of levels and that’s why I am really obsessed with it now. My process for mural making has definitely evolved with each one. In the studio to create artwork I’m alone, my time and investment in materials is manageable and I don’t need to seek anyone’s official approval on the artwork I make. No one sees my mistakes and my process… unless I post them on IG : ) If you don’t get out of your comfort zone and force yourself to switch things up you don’t grow as an artist- or as a person. Murals are like taking a trip to a new place and growing to learn about the world and yourself.
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Some challenges for murals…. you need to rent an expensive scissor lift for tall ones like this 40′ one and the Napoli’s 25′ one. You need funding and you need patience for the process because you’re so motivated to paint but there’s so much time spent in approvals before that happens.. You need help so you have to find someone who is willing, skilled, detail oriented and trustworthy when you’re 40′ in the air. For this mural and every mural I’ve painted, my lifelong friend Matt from High School is my right hang man and my wife Michelle was up there with me too helping work through it. I also have my friend Jersey Dave whose helped with the Amazon & Napoli’s mural, but couldn’t help for this one. So scheduling can be a challenge : ) You need insurance for these helpers too and making sure your paperwork is good. Mile Square Insurance really expedited this for us at last minute and was super helpful.
Measuring is a big challenge for murals because of distortion. To make the portrait you are staring at a 4′ x 4′ area while you paint but when your on the ground it all blends and makes it look smaller… so you kind of have to envision the whole while you are painting in the small parts. Similar to the hand cut prints I make, just in a grand scale. Weather was a big challenge for this- can’t paint in the rain and can’t have your electrical lift exposed to it either. Working with the City of Hoboken was pretty smooth because Vijay [Chaudhuri—City Spokesperson] who communicates with the Mayor’s office was just a phone call or text away and would stay in touch through emails as well to keep the progress going. Sometimes working with townships or government can be challenging but this wasn’t. The City Council were really responsive in emails and showing their support with encouraging words. The County was also super responsive to help with granting permission to access the courts and Russel with the County Parks and Freeholder Romano gave me plenty of calls to assist and check in. Having the tennis court fence peeled back twice to put in the lift and take out the lift was all done with their help. Working with others and organizing everyone is a challenge for me in general because its not my skill set, but I really appreciate everyone working together with me to make this happen- makes it more special this way. In the future as things grow I’ll probably have to hire someone for a ‘mural manager ‘who will connect all the dots and leave me with more time to create and paint more murals but for now its nice to learn new things and skills as this ‘organizer’.
Specific challenges for this mural was that I basically had 5 days from time of approval to create it because the tennis courts were set to be re-paved/painted on May 1st. So I had to move fast, but it was all the better for it- the mural shows more genuine art effort and its not overworked. You can overcook art and burn it and this mural is far from that- more about pure brushstrokes and imagination.
To create this mural I basically printed out a super blurry photo of Michael Chang. I had a graphic designer (my roommate from Art School : ) break up this photo into 3 feet x 3 feet squares. I then spray the back of each of them with temporary glue and attach to the wall. I then abstract the pixelated photo into color shapes. This just happens in my artistic mind- its how I see the world all the time so this is the natural process. I cut the shapes I see with an exacto blade right on the wall and then spray in the shape. Matt measures out the wall into the grid and helps to glue and hand me things- keeps me going and task oriented so I can leave my mind at play with creating while him and Michelle handles the reality of things…. like keeping me aware that we are 40 feet up in the air! The problem with this mural or actually the success maybe was that the stencils wouldn’t stick because the wall was crusty… so I had to adapt. The wind was blowing the stencils away and I basically just used the hard edge of cardboard to spray and create the shapes. So it was like a freestyle instead of going from the image and I think it turned out to be as whimsical as the whole experience. The art really speaks the the life of the experience.
I guess the last challenges to speak of that I can think of is you really put youself out there for all to see and you hope people in the community like it because you are making it for them. Also another big challenge for this one is that I’m scared of heights or mostly scared of falling from them… but you got to do what you got to do and facing this fear really made me overcome and grow as artist and an adult.
h: How’s your tennis game???
RR: I’m trying to get a County vs City Charity 80’s Themed Tennis Tournament … want to be my doubles partner and you can find out for yourself? Spoiler alert: I’m terrible at tennis.
To learn more about Ricardo Roig and his work, visit RoigCollection.com.