Growing up in Philadelphia, I was exposed to graffiti and thought that it was destructive and ugly. I didn’t know the nuances of the tags – the street names, the gangs, etc. I just knew that it was, for the most part, black spray paint as either puffy letters or scribble affected most of the city back in the 70’s/80’s. Then the Anti-Graffiti Network started to combat the graffiti – this program eventually morphed into the world renowned Mural Arts program. Philadelphia is now awash in art throughout the former graffiti locations (you really need to do one of the many awesome tours). This doesn’t mean graffiti doesn’t exist anymore (it does) but now there are large scale art pieces throughout the city, welcomed by neighbors and changing the view of street art. More recently, the program has invited famous artists (see this NYTimes article about the Amtrak Northeast Corridor art) that I’ve seen in Paris, London, etc. to create new works in the city – this is an exciting change to see how the art is evolving.
For this week’s FriFotos, I want to share some of the street art that I’ve encountered in the past year of my travels – art that is hidden, art that screams at you to look at it and art that makes you think about graffiti and art differently. For me the fleeting nature of the art and the styles used around the world are so very fascinating, especially as I can barely draw a stick figure! I have hundreds of photos of street art and am working on posts from each city but for now, here are a few highlights. I hope you see street art in a new light and seek it out on your travels throughout the world.
Despite the rain, I booked a Street Art tour as Melbourne has made street art, including what we might think of as graffiti, legal in certain alleyways and streets. By providing a legal canvas, artists have the freedom to create as well as destroy the art. Many pieces are fleeting so each visit you can encounter something new. For me, the two week gap between my arrival and departure from Melbourne, highlighted this as my camera captured a moment in time, one that no longer existed. Much of the street art I saw felt closer to it’s graffiti roots and the style is one I rarely see here in the U.S. anymore. It seems quite old school to me – do you agree?
With my mind on art overload from Melbourne, I was excited to book the Paris Street Art tour to see more. Walking around in Belleville, I was thrilled to see how the art scene is thriving outside of the museums. Seeing this side of Paris, far from the normal tourist beat was a real treat. Many of the street artists we would see are evolving into the galleries and becoming superstars in the art world. A bit of controversy as well – street artists moving into the world of commissions and respectability.
Despite years of travels to London, it wasn’t until last month that I was finally able to do a Street Art Tour in Shoreditch. I am working on a post and not to give too much away, we did view two original Banksy pieces. Walking through Brick Lane and the surrounding area, gives you a glimpse into the creativity and again the fleeting nature of the art.
This surprised me on my visit to Portland as I walked past the parking lot and did a double take. There was art on the wall but no organized street art that I was aware of. Again, you never know where the art will be, it’s just another reason to keep your eyes open.
So no matter what your opinion on graffiti and/or street art, I think you will agree that there is talent all around us and sometimes the best works are in the hands of the people, out on the streets, living among us. The art doesn’t need a gallery or museum stamp of approval – public opinion is important to get people to react, to think, to discuss – how awesome is that? To discover street art has been a joy this past year and one that I hope you’ll discover too.