Sky's the limit / 200 x 180 cm / 1983
This fragment of New York’s urban landscape is fascinating. It captivates us, leaves us speechless. And for good reason, since "Sky’s the limit", from American artist Bill Blast, was the most important work of the hip hop movement during the 80s.
As such, "Sky’s the limit", before being painted on a canvas, was a wall fresco, gigantic and legendary. So, how did Bill Blast manage to make a mark on every mind of a generation with this work, and why did he choose to paint it on a canvas a few years later?
For starters, let’s jump into this work. We are in uptown New York in the early 80s, precisely at the corner of 99th street and Amsterdam. There lies a park in which a sports field is used as a meeting point for breakdance battles and ball games by trendy young people.This is where Bill Blast, a frequent visitor, chooses the park’s largest wall to paint "Sky’s the limit". The artist is naturally inspired by his universe and its symbols and decides to illustrate the famous World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty, obvious references of New York City. The painting’s composition is wisely elaborate. On the left side, the universe of power and success. On the right side, nightlife and parties.
What separates these two worlds is this road at our feet, that leads to the vanishing point. On the sidewalks, bare footprints that symbolize our life decisions, these choices that lead us here instead of there. Life is just a succession of decisions that influence our future. These footprints seem to be guided by a melody coming out of a ghetto blaster, a must-have at the time. The frequency is set on "W.Bill", a radio on which Bill Blast provides his musical selection and his DJ talents. We can hear the tune "Keep On", by D Train. Enlightened by the street lamp, the music score rises to the sky and it is at sunset that the magic happens. The flames coming from the statue amalgamates with the music, giving birth to the work’s title: "Sky’s the limit", that then echoes like a chorus.
This is an invitation to keep a free mind and to believe in one’s dreams, because here, everything is possible. In the background, the Bronx Bridge offers prospects of changing destiny. Through this work, Bill Blast delivered a message of hope for the future to a whole generation facing violence, drugs and diseases. Despite the fame and the respect for this fresco, it was quickly vandalized by other artists. Bill Blast thus took up a new challenge and, in 1983, decided to reproduce his work on a canvas. Today, the fresco has vanished but the painting still testifies: there are no limits to our dreams.
© Speerstra Gallery / Marie Bourtayre / translation and voice: Yann Marguet