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.
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.
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.
Today’s post features just a single image–well, two views of a single image–which I captured while wandering the streets of Bushwick, which has become one of the hippest neighborhoods in the hippest borough of New York City. Indeed, the streets of 2016 Bushwick were a stark contrast to the Bushwick I first encountered in 1995, when I was offered a small, ground-floor studio apartment. Had you told me then, when I paid for my soda and chips through a plexi-glass partition at the bodega that these same streets would one day be home to gastropub-cinemas and sidewalk cafés offering fair trade lattés and vegan pastries, I would have spit my Mountain Dew all over the potholed street.
Bushwick has also become well-known as a haven for some fantastic street art, which will be featured in a future post.
Today’s image is a pasteup of a young boy with his hands up, and below him the caption “don’t shoot”. It seems to be a reference to the phrase “hands up, don’t shoot”, which has become the mantra of many protests by groups such as the Black Lives Matter movement. It is perhaps for this reason it quickly became the first photo ever on my Instagram feed to reach 100 likes. I consider this quite a milestone, as I’ve had the Instagram account for around the same amount of time as I’ve been keeping this blog, for just over 4 years.
Speaking of my instagram account, it’s a great place to check out some of the street shots that didn’t make it on to the blog, along with other non-street art related images I find along the way. My instagram name is @tbri001. Be sure to check it out!
As a teacher here in Barcelona, I generally get holidays around the same time as schools and universities. One of the more important ones is the Holy Week break, which is basically spring break, culminating in Easter. This year I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and book a short trip to my old stomping ground, New York City. I had a few bureaucratic issues to take care of, but I was also quite interested in rediscovering and reconnecting with the place I had called home for so long. My departure from NYC predates my interest in street art, so exploring the streets of Gotham became one of my main objectives. I was able to snap nearly 800 shots, way too much to put into a single post.
Instead, I’ll be spreading it out over a series of posts.
This first one will be rather small, and just a small teaser.
These first shots of the late Amy Winehouse and the great Jerry Seinfeld were both found on the same East Village alleyway, while the larger than life mural in memory of David Bowie was found on Kenmare Street, on the Lower East Side.These photos are quite special to me as they highlight one of the peculiarities of living in New York: the possibility of seeing some of the most famous faces in the world going about their daily business. Any true New Yorker, outwardly, wouldn’t bat an eye at sharing an aisle at Whole Foods with Madonna, but of course we all notice, and tell our friends about it later. I suspect with the advent of mobile technology some will even dare a discreet photo.
The other three photos are also quite significant as they are two political figures which have managed to inspire more passion and engaged more people politically than I can remember. The figures are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Both very different ideologically, but equally passion-inspiring to their followers (and detractors). Which one do I prefer? Shouldn’t be too difficult to guess…
PS: check the captions for locations
Amy Winehouse and Jerry Seinfeld by SacSix
Trump the turd by hansky
David Bowie the graffiti room
Near Suffok and Rivington
Kenmare and Mott Sts
Freeman Alley, off Rivington
Freeman Alley off Rivington
Orchard off Canal
Longtime readers may remember a post from just over two years ago which featured an outdoor public art installation called the Galeria de la Magda. It wasfound just at the end of the Via Laetana at the corner of an empty lot. As rumors of a new real estate/property bubble loom and rents being to rise once again, the walls of this lot have been fenced off by what looks like the typical materials of a construction project. It is in a prime area of town, just between the old city centre and the beach, so I’m actually quite surprised the lot remained empty for as long as it did. A bit sad, but in a vibrant, international city like Barcelona, the only thing that’s really constant is change. There was a bit of wall left outside the fenced-in area where artists such as sm 172 have used the space to artistically air their grievances.
Today’s post features a single image, and appears to be the work of Brooklyn-based Iranian artists Icy and Sot. Much of their art is heavily political, and as the title suggests, their work focuses on the plight of refugees and other oppressed peoples. I really love how the power of people is captured within the body of the lone demonstrator–a really significant image for anyone who’s been living here since the famous “crisis” began and was able to witness the birth of the now-famous 15-M movement. I haven’t posted a single image in quite a while, but this one really had an impact on me when I stumbled upon it a few months back, and was probably one of the best shots that day.
On the shoulder of this profile, you can also see a horse figure, which is the work of Francisco de Pájaro, aka El Arte es Basura (Art is trash), and whose work and installations can be seen in Barcelona, along with many other cities.
This image was found in the Raval on Carrer Princep de Viana, just off the Plaça del Dubte.
Ever since the city council began its crackdown on antisocial behavior in 2006, finding examples of urban art in Barcelona has become increasingly difficult–to the point where nowadays when I go out wandering the city, it’s nearly impossible to find new work outside of the permitted places.
These shots come from one of those morning meanderings through the Raval and the Old City Centre. Finding a silver lining in this situation is about as difficult as the hunt for new art, but if I suppose the scarcity means that it’s much more satisfying when I do find something interesting.
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.