Archives for category: gràcia

While the political chaos swirls around me, and daily life gets into the mix, it’s easy to forget that the show most certainly does go one. And street art is no exception.

I was reminded of this just a few days ago when I received, via twitter, the news that Spotted by locals, a website and app that serves as a guide to more than 65 cities worldwide, had chosen this blog to be on their list of the best of Barcelona. Be sure to take a look at the list here, as I’m in some excellent company.

As for the photos in this post, they range pretty much from the middle of July to just last week, and are from various locations, hence the title of this post. Many of them are from the murs lliures project in Poblenou, and have probably been replaced a few times over. Others are small shots from here in Gràcia, or the old city center. I have a small hunting expedition planned for the bank holiday coming up this week, so expect more in the next week or two!

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The last few months have been turbulent ones here in Catalonia, and it’s been nearly impossible not to get caught up in the action, hence the lack of publications during this time.

While the independence issue has been at the forefront for the last 7 years or so, since the Spanish government moved to decimate the “estatut” agreement which gave the Catalans more autonomy, and recognition of their cultural identity, it’s only this summer that things really began to heat up.

The president of Catalonia since 2015, Carles Puigdemont is a lifelong believer in the independence movement, in contrast to his predecessor Artur Mas, who was a fairly recent convert. In June, Puigdemont and the independence-minded majority of the Parliament decided to fulfill their election promise and call a binding referendum on the declaration of an independent Catalan Republic. There had been a vote in November of 2014, but it was largely symbolic, and mostly ignored by Madrid. This time, however, Madrid started using every weapon in its arsenal to prevent the referendum, which was slated for the 1st of October.

Over the summer, there was much back-and-forth between Madrid and Barcelona, which culminated in Spanish Civil Guard (paramilitary police, which evoke images for the Franco dictatorship for many) forcing their way into various Catalan government offices, in search of referendum-related materials. This was accompanied by the takedown (and re-birth) of referendum websites, the prohibition of referendum advertising on Catalan public media. There was also police intervention in public meetings to discuss the referendum. Needless to say, none of this sat well with the Catalan people, and massive street demonstrations, beginning on the 20th of September resulted in the imprisonment, without bail or trial, of two leading independence activists known as the “Jordis” for their share first name, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez.

Adding more fuel to the fire, the Spanish government decided to deploy 18,000 National riot police officers and Civil Guard, who were put up in cruise ships near the port.

The days leading up to the referendum were about as tense as I can remember having experienced since coming to live here, with all manner of threats being lobbed from Madrid toward Catalan leaders, citizens and media. The evening before the vote, people occupied the schools where the voting was to take place, organizing games, classes, workshops, and other activities to pass the time, and protect their polling places. The morning of the 1st was a rainy one, but people began to gather outside polling stations before sunrise, waiting to cast their votes, under the constant threat that the police moored at the port could appear at any time. The police did appear at some polling places, and exercised the restraint one would expect from a saber-rattling Madrid–some reports cite nearly 1000 injured, while others claim numbers in the single digits. The photo and video evidence which is abundant online seems to support the former numbers.

During these last few months, the citizen mobilization in the streets has been an impressive exercise in democracy which, whatever one’s feelings might be on the independence issue, has been unique for its lack of violence. A big part of those mobilizations has been the amount of postering and wheatpasting that has been done all over the city. As a street art blog, I felt it necessary to document some of it for you.

The annual Festa Major de Gràcia, which takes place in mid-August, began as all the others I’ve witnessed here over the years: the week or two of frenetic preparations, the blocking of streets, the quiet buzz before the tsunami of tourists and locals that would descend upon our normally tranquil little village. However, on the 17th, which was the third day of festivities, the Rambla attacks took place, and cast a shadow on the remaining days of the festival. The Spanish president declared three days of mourning, and all the more raucous night time activities, such as concerts, were cancelled. The decorations stayed up, and the daytime, family-oriented activities continued as usual, but from Thursday evening on, there was an eerie calm in the crowds.

People still came, but the crowds were noticeably thinner, though as the initial shock wore off, more people began to make their way up.

The themes this year were varied, from the Petit Principe, to demons and devils, to rock and roll, to The Neverending Story, Ghostbusters, and the Bolshevik Revolution, to my personal favorite of any theme so far, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, complete with a giant figure of Divine as herself, the “Filthiest Person Alive”.

This year’s winning entry was themed after a ski resort in the Pyrenees, complete with falling snow.

 

Italian artist TVBoy, who has gained notoriety for portraits of the Pope and Donald Trump, Messi and Cristiano, and just yesterday an embrace between deadlocked politicians Mariano Rajoy and Carles Puigdemont. My shots are decidedly less contraversial in nature, portraits of modernized masters Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, reimagined as street artists. I’ve also decided to include two photos of myself with the masters. This dynamic duo (minus me) can be found on the Carrer de Santa Tecla, near Corsega, in Gràcia.

Just after the point where my street changes names from Bruniquer to Terol–it actually does so 4 times before finally ending–there is a dead end street/alleyway where you can find a blue doorway which has been decorated, and over-decorated constantly during the time I’ve had this blog. Saturday morning, I noticed that the artist TVboy had pasted up a giant image of Frida Kahlo dressed as a tourist, complete with an I ♥ BCN t-shirt. I snapped a quick photo, but as is often the case in sunny Barcelona, the time of day left a heavy shadow. On my way back home just two hours later, the sun had changed position , and I was hoping to get a better shadow-free shot. It wasn’t to be, however, as someone had come by and sprayed an orange cover over Frida, leaving just her eyes free. While I was a bit dismayed at not having been able to get my photo, I don’t personally see this as an act of destruction. I prefer to see it as part of the natural process, albeit quite accelerated, of what happens to art that is in the street, unprotected by vigilant museum security, alarms, glass casing, or velvet ropes.

Something similar happened to another piece by TvBoy which gained international media attention. The artist had pasted up an image of international football superstars Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo locked in a passionate kiss, just before one of the famous “Clasico” matches that take place between eternal rivals Barça and Real Madrid. It was near Plaça Catalunya, one of the most highly-traversed points in the Catalan capital. I won’t include a photo here, as my personal policy for this blog is that all photos must be taken by me, and in this case, I missed my opportunity, as not only did someone remove the image, but the entire abandoned petrol kiosk which hosted the image was removed. A bit overdramatic, in my opinion. In any case, here is a link to the Ronaldo-Messi photo, and another that was placed in Italy near the Vatican just this week of  Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump.

frida before after

I had to dig back in the archives as far as May to get a few of these shots–a difficult task as my dropbox photo cloud approaches 6,00 photos. It was worth the effort though, as I was able to find th photo I was looking for, as well as a few extras that hadn’t made it to the blog. All of this post’s images are of famous people, some of them real celebrities, while two others are famous characters from the small screen. The two fictional faces come from two of the most popular series on TV, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. They come to us from artist Axe Colours, who was previously featured for his portrait of Walter White from another popular TV show, Breaking Bad. In the third image you can see the artist at work. The other three are pop culture icons in real life, Annie Lennox, Anthony Perkins, and Amy Winehouse–with who I think might be Rihanna in the lower right corner. Another image shows a curious mashup of Mickey Mouse and a scowling Madonna.

The majority of the shots in this post (including the first-ever shot of myself) are the work of the urban pop artist TVBOY. They are part of a series of famous artists from the past with touches of the present, including a Frida Kahlo Iphone selfie–the shot in which I couldn’t resist joining the famous Mexican artist for a rare narcissistic arm’s length self-portrait. The shot of Serge Gainsbourg comes from the artist Valerie Maho, and the great Muhammad Ali in stencil was created by RAF Urban. The other image (from sm172) which I’ve included is a darker reflection on our pop-selfie culture and is a statement on the voyeuristic bystander syndrome which seems to be a side effect of all of us being able to record and photograph all that we see, while forgetting to experience it, or get involved when necessary.

This year’s Festa Major de Gràcia featured a new entry into the decorated streets: la Plaza del Poble Rumaní, the theme of which was one of the biggest cultural contributions from Gràcia’s vibrant gypsy community: la Rumba Catalana. While the decorations themselves had a difficult time competing with the more experienced streets, one feature which stood out from the rest was a huge mural which was painted on the wall of a neighboring school.

The mural is a collaboration between local schools, the local gypsy community, and the organization acidH (Catalan Association for Integration and Human Development). The three artists who participated are well-known in the Barcelona street art scene and this blog: Xupet Negre, Caesar Baetulo (sm172), and konair.

The images on the mural are a mix of the artists’ trademark characters and icons of Catalan culture.

 

The phrase “operación retorno” refers to the slow, but steady reverse exodus back to the cities (and reality) after the August holidays. I’m fortunate to start off with a fairly abbreviated schedule in order to ease myself back into the routine. To close off the month of August, and the lazy, hazy summer of 2016, I present to you the second installment of the photo highlights from the Festa Major of Gràcia.

Just yesterday, the annual Festa Major of Gràcia came to a fiery end with the Correfocs (fire runners) spreading sparks through the narrow streets of the neighborhood. The sea (including lots and lots of my favorite animal, the jellyfish) was a recurring theme in the decorated streets this year. Indeed, this year’s first prize winner was a brilliant under-the-sea motif featuring a giant fisherman, whose feet became the victims of vandals later in the week. In case you’re curious, here is a list of this year’s winners (in Catalan). Worth noting is that habitual winner Verdi has fallen to 7th position, with a California/Holywood-themed decor. Other themes included theatre, birthday party, a fantasy plant world, a commemoration of 20 years of participation, and women’s history.

Without further ado, here is the first installment of shots from this year’s grand festival.