Archives for category: Protest art

Last week, I made one of my twice-yearly trips to the US, with a focus on NYC and later heading to Westchester in order to attend my 20th university reunion. I stayed in my usual area, that is to say Chinatown/LES, but the walking tour I decided to try was the Williamsburg Street Art Tour, given by the great organization Free Tours by Foot. Due to the overcast, chilly weather, and the fact that the L train was unexpectedly out of service, our group was fairly small, less than 10, and usually-bustling streets of Williamsburg were relatively quiet. This made the tour better, as overcast days, in my opinion, make for better amateur picture-taking, and less activity on the streets meant we weren’t in everyone’s way as we listened to our guide.

The tour was also an interesting lesson in the history of the area, from its humble, industrial origins to the hip, gentrified neighbourhood that it is today. This is my second year in a row taking a tour with this company, and I would definitely recommend them, as the guide also gave us some pointers on other places to find interesting art Brooklyn, NYC’s biggest borough.

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

The shots from this entry are from early to mid March and come from the “Tres Xemeneies”, or Three Chimneys park, just off Parallel Avenue. This is a part of the “free walls” project, and a popular destination for Barcelona’s active skater scene, as well as a favorite spot to get pictures for this blog. Most of these are gone, as the image turnover on this popular painting site increases as the weather gets better. I’ve tried to include the three chimneys in the photos for a bit of perspective.

At the end of January, I took a long weekend in London to visit some friends who live between there and Barcelona. I’d only been to the city twice before, once in 2012 for an 8 hour layover, which allowed me a short overnight stay in an airbnb near Paddington Station, and once in 2003 on another short weekend during which I coincided with the global Iraq War protests. Neither visit has permitted me the time I would have needed to get a good feel for the city and, of course, its art.

In this most recent visit I was blessed with fine weather, though chilly by Barcelona standards, and a slight overcast sky, which is always better for getting pictures.

As for the art that I saw, I had heard and seen much about the scene in London, and I wasn’t disappointed. The hotspots of Shoreditch and Brick Lane is where most of the shots on this post were taken. I found quite a bit of politically-motivated work, much of it lampooning Brexit PM Theresa May and her equally-adored ally President Donald Trump (still feels strange to type those three words), as well as some work from familiar artists such as C215.

I was also introduced to a well-known London street artist named Nathan Bowen, whose online shop you can find here.

As with any city the size of London, I didn’t get to nearly enough, but the ease, convenience and price mean that I can get away whenever I have a three, or four day mini-holiday.

PS: If you look carefully, you’ll find a rare shot of this blogger among the pics.

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.

 

Having a dog is a great excuse to get out and explore new areas of the city. My latest trips have taken me uphill, where the views of the city and the sea are marvelous, and there is also some nice street art hiding in the steep hills above the city.

The first few pictures come from the area near the Bunkers del Carmel, which served as the city’s defenses from fascist aerial attacks during the Spanish Civil War. The views are spectacular, and if you go during the week, you might be able to recapture some of the secluded off-the-beaten-track appeal. At the top of the hill you can find some walls which are painted with some murals, including one of the famous literary figure Don Quixote.

The rest of the photos are from the Vallcarca neighbourhood, which lies just next to Park Güell. This area is worth exploring as there are some interesting buildings and plazas, as well as some spectacular views of Barcelona spreading out toward the Mediterranean.

The dog days of summer are probably not the best time to explore this area as the sun seems to beat down a bit harder the higher you get, but a cloudy day in early autumn would be perfect for a climb, and besides, the pictures come out shadow-free on cloudy days.

Post number two of my NYC trip is dedicated to the street art tour I decided to take on a chilly Saturday morning. The tour was run by an outfit called Free Tours By Foot, and they run tours on all different types of themes in cities all over.

It definitely felt a bit odd, to be walking with a tour group in a city which I had called home for so many years. But considering that my interest in street art didn’t start until well after I had left NYC, it was a really great way see the city for the first time. The tour guide was a great source of information, being an artist himself, and put a lot of time and research to make the tour as educational as possible. I definitely learned a lot, and don’t feel quite so much as a layman as I did before.

The tour took us through SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, and scraped the Lower East Side, all areas which were a part of my regular stomping grounds when I lived there, so it was a great experience to see such familiar streets from a different point of view. The tour finishes off on Mulberry street in the slightly tacky heart of Little Italy, so I didn’t linger around for too long. Though I couldn’t resist grabbing a cannoli before moving on.

Needless to say, I definitely recommend this tour next time you’re in NYC. There are also tours of Bushwick, Astoria, and Williamsburg available. Here’s the link.

Today’s shots come from the free walls at Tres Xemeneies, near Avinguda Paral·lel, some random wanderings through the neighbouring Raval, and a new location (at least for me): the Jardins de Walter Benjamin, which are just near the Port, and mark the last frontier before the city gives way to Montjuic Park. As suggested in the title, the “gardens” themselves are nothing to marvel at, but the walls, which separate them from the playground of a local school, are the main attraction.

The Raval was full of tributes to famous faces, among them Debbie Harry, Kafka, Dennis Rodman, the late Prince, Jesus Christ (by artist sm172), and Football Club Barcelona’s favourite tax-dodging wunderkind, Neymar Jr.

As my geo-tagging feature on my camera app has become a bit unpredictable with the latest android update, my locations aren’t quite a precise as before. That said, a good wander round the Raval/Poble Sec area does a body good!

 

For my second May post (which is actually hitting in June) I’ve decided to return to Gràcia, as I haven’t posted much from the surrounding area lately. Most of these shots come from strolls around the vila over the last three or four weeks. As suggested in the title, one of the more interesting ones is a portrait of tourists as paella-wielding, selfie-sticked zombie hordes who come to invade our quiet little neighbourhood nearly year-round. This sentiment can be seen in occasional graffiti which read “tourists go home”. As a foreigner who first came as a tourist, I’m a bit torn; while I recognize that tourism is vital to our local economy, and that a good majority of tourists are well-behaved and civilized, I also know as a resident what a putada it can be having the area so constantly crowded. On balance, I’m in favour of tourism, but I think that we need to start moving toward a more sustainable model. This is what the current city administration (in theory) is going for–a city planned and built for its residents, but also welcoming for tourists. A difficult happy medium to achieve, but a noble objective, in my humble opinion.

The other shots are rather random and generally political in nature, along with some anthropomorphized popsicles from konair, and some paste ups which have been appearing with increasing frequency.