Archives for category: sticker art

This morning, at 8 am sharp, a number of loud explosions marked, as they do every year, the beginning of the week-long Festa Major de Gràcia, which is the neighborhood bash in which streets are decorated and crowds come to drink, dance, and celebrate the summer. It’s a noisy departure from the quiet which usually reigns in Barcelona in August, which is traditionally the time when many Europeans take their legally-mandated month of vacation, and the Catalans are no exception.

Because my next entry (or two) will very likely be dominated by shots of the decorated streets, I’ve decided to post what I’ve taken around the city so far this summer, starting from mid-June, to now. Most of the pics are from the Poblenou area, as well as the “three chimneys” park near Paral.lel.

As the title suggests, I’m also including a link below to a podcast interview which I did earlier this spring as a part of a project called “All the Brians”, where Brian Alexander travels around the world interviewing all the Brians he can find. In my interview I talk about life in Barcelona, street art, the ongoing conflict between Catalonia and the Spanish State, as well as what it’s like to live as a Brian in Barcelona. It’s long, but I think it’s worth the listen. Here is the link.

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These shots come from my (now) annual trip to the US just before and after Memorial Day, in which I spend about 7 of those days roaming NYC in search of anything interesting that may have popped up since my last visit during the subzero cold snap at the end of December. New York never disappoints, and I found some fantastic street art. In fact, I’ll have to divide the post into three parts: Manhattan, Jersey City, and Brooklyn.

The photos in this entry come mostly from the Lower East Side and East Village, though there are a few shots from Harlem as well.

Here are a few shots from the latest visit to the 3 Chimneys park near just off Paral·lel Avenue. While the work I find is sometimes hit or miss, I like the way the park itself has evolved into a sort of street art oasis in the middle of the city. It also seems to be attracting more and more tourists with increasingly professional photography gear, though much of it is being used to make skate videos.

The other shots come from the interior of the old city centre, where new work continues to become increasingly rare. I can only hope the summer will bring some surprises.

The photos here come from my twice-yearly pilgrimage to the US, this one just around the Christmas holiday. Almost all of these shots come from the Lower East Side and East Village, and were taken, as the title indicates, during one of the coldest cold snaps in recent history. I found myself having to wear three or four layers just to spend an hour or two walking the streets of lower Manhattan. I wasn’t able to make it out to Brooklyn, as my time in NYC was less than 24 hours, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed. My favorites would be the double vision Mickey mouse, the mailbox Basquiat, and the Debbie Harry mural. I also tried to get various shots of large scale work, mostly on Allen Street on the Lower East Side.

 

Tomorrow, the 21st of December is the day that Catalans go to the polls in one of the tensest, most polarized election cycles since Spain’s return to democracy in the late 70’s. There are various parties involved, but really there are only two blocs: the independence bloc, and the so-called constitutionalist bloc, which consists of parties who in one way or another supported the Madrid central government’s seizing control of the Catalan regional government, dissolving the parliament, and calling snap elections. The idea behind the elections would be for non-independence forces to win and form pacts in order to, as Spanish president Rajoy put it, “restore normalcy”. Polls seem neck in neck, and debates have been tense, and no one really seems sure of what will happen, from the paid experts to the man (or woman) on the street.

Italian artist TVBoy has risen to the challenge and during the night slapped up some work which portrays the politicians from the pro-union parties engaged in passionate embraces, which would symbolize the post-election pact magic they would need in order to restore that holy grail of Madrid-style “normalcy”. I rushed downtown as soon as I heard about them, as such political art would likely become victim of the city cleaning squads, or angry citizens who feel their political idols are being mocked.

Added bonus: a rare selfie of your favorite blogger!

 

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.