These are some shots from around the Poblenou neighbourhood, taken around the first week of March. The majority come from the “Free Walls” project, but there are also a few from around the Glories area, and an abandoned building site which had a hole in its fence.
Some interesting details worth noting are the now-customary anti-Trump art, along with a small mural with legs, in front of which you can see a shopping cart. That shopping cart is not abandoned, and is actually used by the African migrants who use them to wander the city gathering scrap metal, and who’ve made a home in a nearby encampment. These encampments are very similar to the ones built up by the Roma people, who also make their living on scrap metal and recycling, though some Roma are fortunate enough to have large vans to transport their cargo.
As the warmer weather approaches, I expect to see more turnover of the work on the free walls, so I’ll post as often as possible. The free walls can be found here. Some of the other works can be seen here (approximately), near Poblenou Park.
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.
As cathedrals go in Barcelona, the undisputed champion would be, of course, the Sagrada Familia. You won’t find any pictures of it here, not because I don’t love it, but because a google search will yield hundreds of thousands of photos that would be much better taken than anything I could manage with my modest mobile photography skills. But I digress…
There are a number of other cathedrals worth checking out, most notably the Cathedral of Barcelona and the bustling plaza which surrounds it. My favourite, however, is in the Born neighbourhood, and a bit closer to the sea, hence the name: Santa Maria del Mar. I won’t post any pictures either, as I would hardly do it justice–but I definitely recommend it.
While you’re there, after you’ve marveled at majestic Basilica, take a turn onto a small side street called Mirallers, marked on the map here, and start walking along this street till the end. You should also be careful not to miss the surrounding streets, especially carrer d’en Rosic and carrer de Grunyí. Be on the lookout for some of the huge, old doors that have been covered in stickers, pasteups and all different sorts of images. With all signs pointing to the disappearance of the Galeria Magdalena to make room for a new construction project, this may be one of the only outdoor galleries we have left, aside from the free walls.
I generally enjoy focusing on close-ups in order to capture the most detail possible of smaller images, but as I take more and more photos of bigger murals, I find my attitude changing a bit. Last week I decided to retrace my steps and take some wider angle shots. If you’ve been a loyal reader of this blog you will certainly recognize some of the images from previous posts. By capturing the entire door or wall, it puts the images in a sort of context.
As a sometime translator I know the importance of context in understanding a message, and I don’t see why the case of street art should be any different. In fact, as the context is constantly changing, perhaps it’s even more important, and perhaps can change the meaning of each of the little pieces as the collage evolves. I don’t know if the artists have this in mind as they work, but it’s something that has changed the way I appreciate the urban art landscape.
One of the teachers who had the most impact on me in my years as a university student was Ilja Wachs, who taught a course on 19th century fiction. He was a chain-smoker, constantly bumming cigarettes from me during our bi-weekly conferences in his office where we would talk about the personal project work I was doing in addition to the class assignments.
My project second term was the novel The Brothers Karamazov, which I dutifully read and prepared a well-detailed outline which would culminate in an analysis of the main character’s motivations as well as his relationship with the world around him, careful to include details from the novel, to show that I’d really read the book. After I’d presented my outline, Ilja stubbed his cigarette out on the sole of his shoe, took my 5 page pre-magnum opus and tore it into little pieces over his tiny, grey wastebasket, overflowing with small coffee cups and what I can only imagine were the outlines of my classmates.
“That’s bullshit,” he told me. “Go back and read it again. And re-read it. You’ll find something new every time. Then we can REALLY talk about this book.” So I did re-read it. Not twice, but 1 1/2 times. And some passages dozens of times. Which is pretty good considering the number of books I’d bought and never opened. And he was right. The re-read always revealed something new, as if Doestoevsky had secretly changed something around while the book sat on my desk between reads. The paper that I wrote is long lost, but still remains one of the most meaningful pieces of work I’ve ever done in my life. Without an outline and not a single citation of the text. Just my impressions as I strolled, and re-strolled the side streets and alleys carved out by Dostoyevsky.
In case you’re interested, here’s a video of Ilja in action.
I try to take the same approach when I walk through the streets looking for my shots. Barcelona is geographically a small city, so the possibilities of finding completely new images every trip through are finite. As I’ve stated in previous entries and in my “about” page, part of my objective in this blog is also to re-visit certain favourite places and watch them change with time, an opportunity we don’t have in a museum with their scolding security guards and multi-million-dollar works protected by glass and laser alarms.
Here are a few re-visit shots, in various states of flux and decay.
This image comes from my most recent trip through the Raval-Ciutat Vella and includes a stencil by artist SM 172, a regular on this blog. Above we can also find two images which bear a striking resemblance to the famous 60s-70s model, Twiggy. Not sure if it’s actually her, but it certainly did bring back memories of my very early childhood when she was considered the (extremely skinny) peak of feminine beauty. Finally, a red, stenciled hand (or splotch?) seems to punctuate the entire scene pointing to something just off frame, as Twiggy stares up and off into the sky, which is quite difficult to see from these narrow Raval side streets…
I seem to remember using an image of a girl in a green fog to announce a previous out-of-town excursion, so I thought I’d keep things consistent with this recent find from sm172.
On to the holiday. This year’s destination is Amsterdam, my first visit in about 10 years; I think it was the winter of 2003, the weekend that Bush and Co. started dropping bombs on Iraq, or were making the case for war. I remember it clearly because the other leg of that trip was London, and I visited Hyde Park the day of the huge anti-war demonstration.
Amsterdam in winter was a bone-penetrating humid cold, and the eternally greyish sky went dark around 4 in the afternoon.
I also visited Amsterdam in summer, 12 years ago, early August, just over a month before 9/11. Marvellous sunny skies and an after-10 sunset. So I’m looking forward to a week off from the stifling mugginess that is August in Barcelona.
I will have my small portable computer with me and a new camera, so I will try to post any interesting gems I stumble across on the streets of the Dutch capital. Tot ziens!
Just a few hundred metres from my favorite cathedral in Barcelona, the Santa Maria del Mar, and behind the Fossar de les Moreres there’s a small alley that can be used as a shortcut to Barceloneta and the sea. There’s little of great interest, other than some of splotchy tags that can be found in any small Barcelona alleyway, except this little piece, which I think comes from sm172. I think she captures perfectly the feeling we have here in Barcelona when the seasons stop hesitating, and spring finally decides that it’s here to stay.