Saturday, February 21, 2009

The other bit of publicity about Shepard Fairey had to do not with where he got his inspiration but where his work was located. It had to do with his controversial identity as a street artist. He was recently arrested (and released) for his street art in what appears to me to be a "what was the real story behind this action?" publicity seeking staged situation not by him (although, who knows) but by the police or by the police at the request of.... who? I don't know enough about it to have an opinion on it pinned down, but it seemed sort of fishy to me.

ANYHOO, I tell you about this to ask you another question -

What do you think of street art?

The beginning of the Wikipedia definition for street art:

Street art is any art developed in public spaces — that is, "in the streets" — though the term usually refers to art of an illicit nature, as opposed to government sponsored initiatives. The term can include traditional graffiti artwork, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheatpasting and street poster art, video projection, art intervention, guerrilla art, flash mobbing and street installations. Typically, the term Street Art or the more specific Post-Graffiti is used to distinguish contemporary public-space artwork from territorial graffiti, vandalism, and corporate art.

So in the broadest definition, this could be considered "street art" -

Maybe this is more "river art"? Hehe.

Okay, here's another version that's definitely near a street. A very busy one.

But I'm using the term in it's more specific meaning, of art that is displayed on or across or in front of public or private property, usually (although not always) without permission.

I'm not talking about out and out graffiti either. Although even graffiti pleases me in the right location. I don't want to see it on someone's personal property, or done to destroy the beauty of a building. But as part of the story of a large city, maybe it has it's place - along hidden railroad corriders, cave art inside dark subway tunnels. Sometimes I admire the color and vibrancy of some of this even when I know the territorial signifigance of it. My Hubby never agrees. Already two different ways to look at things.

It's hard to decide just where the art lays on a spectrum - tagging on one end, political, cultural, or artistically meaningful work in the middle, and commercial or publicly sponsored street art on the other end. Tagging can me dangerous and ugly. Or it might make one think of larger issues and move you. Posters for a commercial product or event might be annoying or overpowering, or they might be posted in an artistically pleasing manner, or left to weather until the composite end result is artistic even if it's not intentional.

These photos were left in the window of a well loved but abandoned old establishment.

Even just these nails left from illegally posted Lost Puppy and Garage Sale flyers on an electrical pole have a beauty all their own.

This writing could be defined as graffiti. Or it could be considered a collective art project. It's erased, and reborn, changing and ever new for many decades. It is photographed almost daily. It's part of a long series of surfaces along the front of the famous Abbey Road location made famous by the Beatles.

This is a commercial building and I got the impression that the word montage was specific to the purpose of the building. I'm not sure, but it's still obviously there with permission. And yet it's artsy regardless.

This isn't a famous location, nor is it along a hidden stretch of track. It's a low spot along a bridge just off of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. It's a hodge podge of intentional and legal and abandoned and illegal. The commercial sign in the corner, the art cow (part of a city wide art challenge), the old peeling paint and the colorful tagging all blend together to make this one of my favorite images from all the ones I took on this particular trip.

But here's an example, finally, of the type of street art that I think falls in the middle of the definition. Public art, highly unlikely to be put there with any permission. These particular pieces look like the artist's purpose was for creative exposure and not some political or cultural cause.

Here's some local street art on a small stream bridge wall that goes under Main Street near the high school. A odd little bird man and a memorial to a teen that died tragically in our community last year. Can anyone begrudge this expression of loss and compassion?

I drove by this local old burner for years before I realized what it said. And then for even more years I drove by it almost every day appreciating the small reminder of an important message. It says "Let Go" in large black letters and then in smaller white letters it continues "of all your fear and weakness".

And then about a year ago, someone did this to it. It makes me sad and angry almost every time I drive by it now. Both grafitti was illegal. But one was uplifting and inspiring. The other was mean and little.

Some street art is more ephemeral than others. Here's a small piece of art my son "painted" on the steamy window of an Italian restaurant. I doubt anyone would object to his artistic expression.

This chalk piece was done in a busy public square. It's certainly beautiful. Is it legal? I don't know. I know it would be considered illegal in some communities, not sure of this particular location. Would it matter if it was on a public or private wall instead of a walkway? Would it matter if it was done in paint instead of chalk? Do artist's have a right to get their art into the public eye in ways that aren't typical? Do artistic venues have the right to constrain artists to work through a middle man? Is purpose important? Is it more okay if there's an important message attached to the art - Save the Rainforest! or Free Political Prisoners! or Art Belongs to the People! - does the ends justify the means?

Walking home yesterday I walked by a popular swimming and jumping spot along the river. (Also a popular place for people to do everything from find a reason for a nice set of surgical stitches (ahem, my son) to becoming a paraplegic. But I digress) I looked down and was surprised at the new wall art.

Kilroy! Sometimes written as "Kilroy was here". I haven't seen him since I was a young kid. I didn't know the origins of Kilroy when I was little, but he was still around enough for me to recognize him whenever I saw him. I always liked the little guy. It made me smile to see him again.

I don't live in a big city, where I suspect there are more street artist's lurking about creating controversy, so my photos here weren't as representative of the type of street art that I was really pondering over, but I think they were at least a trigger for thought. How do you feel about street artists? Have you ever had any experiences good or bad? Have you ever done a bit of guerilla art yourself?


Sarah said...

I love all these images Laume. I love the Edinburgh one so much I have saved it as this weeks background on my desktop! Thanks.

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