photos by Love Squalor
Graffiti is usually removed (or "buffed") from walls and buildings within one or two days of being put up. Many graffitit artists pride themselves in "staying up" or not being "buffed". In many cases artists combat buffers by shear volume, they drown the city with "throwies" which are quick representations of their artwork. These less detailed versions are much more plane but the number of them ensures the artists some recognition. This plan of attack leaves the streets, walls, light poles, post boxes, and windows pocked with hundreds of rolled over "buff" spots. The city or property owner tries, in vain, to match the original wall paint, always leaving a patch of wall that is discolored.
One creative and persistant artist in Albuquerque has decided to capitalize on this sea of patchwork paintings. One un-named artist has taken to outlining these patches of utilitarian anti-art with a can of spray-paint. In the most ironic form of graffiti he has managed to cover the city of Albuquerque with simple outlines of off-color graffiti removal attempts. every where I go, I see another one of his outlines, sometimes with spraypaint, six feet across, or on a bench with a marker, two inches across. This legend of Albuquerque stays up for ever, no one thinks to buff the "buff-outliner" his art is under the radar, he art is non-threatening and humorous. I enjoy the constant hunt for his outlines. He adds character to the walls that were supposedly graffiti free, when infact the patches left behind are like ugly markers, reminding us that not all art is appreciated.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The Kimo (the top image) theater in downtown Albuquerque is decorated with tile mosiacs, forming what would now be considered a pixilated motif. In recent years artists such as Chuck Close have gone back to the idea of enlarging the color regions of an image, hardening the transition between shades. Many street artists, video game enthusiasts, and architects have relied on the same break down of imagery.
Early Greek mosiacs in the palace of Knossos show this simplistic approach to conveying an image. It is a pre-impressionist example of looking at something with your mind and not just your eyes. To dissect these representations of form until they can only be read as a series of colored squares is a huge step towards modern art in galleries and the streets as well.
In more recent years a street artist has been digitizing mosaic art and referencing early video games and the characters associated with them. He goes by the name "Space Invader" (the bottom picture) which is a play on words of course, as he invades peoples space with his street art, and his principal design is based on an Atari game of the same name.
The most facinating aspect of these representations is the reasons behind them, for some it is a choice. For the Greeks, they chose to pixilate the Dolphins of Knossos, for "Space Invader" he chose this as well. For Chuck Close and the early Atari games it is more based on limitations. Atari was limited by the most advanced bit rate availible to video game programmers at the time. Chuck Close was suddenly paralyzed as an adult and can no longer paint phot realistic imagages, so he opted for a compromise, he chose to use his mind to discover the blocks of colors that make up a face.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
For centuries the art of building has been, to the dismay of some, coupled with the art of unbuilding. The Romans re-used stones for roads and other buildings in order to spare themselves the laborious task of cutting new stone. To many this is ingenious as it reduces waste and it forces creativity and ingenuity. When materials were "pilfered" from the great pyramid of Giza in order to build mosques by an Arab Sultan in AD 1356, many complained. The original limestone casing on the great Pyramid was a valuable commodity. This seems like a natural opportunity to rebuild, for this Sultan it was the perfect chance to reinvent Egypt, and build what is now Cairo. To this day many of the beautiful and historic structures of Cairo are made from pilfered materials.
Centuries will pass, and the structures, the materials, and the context of the world will change meaning. Everything changes, an old vacuum is trash to me but to an avant garde artist it is an opportunity to represent something, a sort of iconographic translation of material. What once encased a great Pharaohs tomb, would soon become the dome of a mosque, or the floor of a fortress. This is the same contextual shift. Art and Architecture are subject to the test of time, and sometimes the self-destructive cycle of creation.
Object orange is a project that involves painting decaying homes in Detroit hoping to get the homes demolished by the city in order to beautify. This is a predecessor to a much older organization known as, the Heidelberg project. The Heidelberg project reclaims homes and changes their context, rather than painting them an intense color to call negative attention, they paint the house crazy colors in order to change their souls. These homes are transformed with everyday objects, strange collages of life. What was a home in the 1950's would be viewed by many as a disaster in the present, Heidelberg chose to change the context of these homes, turning them into the focal point of the communities that they reside in. Each home is completely unique, some bedecked with old television sets on the porch and roof, others plastered with old dolls, in every case, the homes speak a new language.
Art and Architecture change every second, people die, children are born, and with this comes the new ideas and the dead concepts. So much can be said for the reinvention of building and creating, but what can we say for the destruction of otherwise beautiful art? Is the unbuilding justified?
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
There are a million ways in which old art is destroyed not only to make space for new art, but to make room for new ideas. A large number of artists and architects find it necessary to annihilate the forms that precede them, making way for new creation. In Japan the great Frank Lloyd Wright created a beautiful structure, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. In spite of surviving a 7.9 earthquake the building was later demolished to make way for a new building. In relatively recent times, I have come across a similar issue in art.
Around the same time that Frank Lloyd Wright was building the Imperial Hotel, the Dadaist movement was in full swing. These were a group of anti-artists. The idea that art, architecture, and the bourgeoisie collide was the focal point of their protest. Frank Lloyd Wright is probably just the type of person who would be loathed by the dadaist brigade. In looking back at these artists, Hans Richter, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray, many young artists, and street artists model their ideas on these early and influential artists.
In recent blogging days there has been an upset over the anti-art statements made by an anonymous person or group in New York City. This statement seems to be focused on street art, especially the art of a few artists, Sheppard Fairey, Swoon, Cheekz, Banksy, and probably more. These street artists have been gracing the world with incredible wheat pastes, stencils, paintings, and installations all over the world. This anonymous group of self professed dadaists has picked these street artists as a means to convey their statement. What better art to splash paint on than the art of these mass culture, mass consumer artists? The new dadaists have been pegged as anti-art and as destroyers of creativity, but I have to say that what they are doing is just like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
I love the art of Banksy, and Swoon, and I appreciate what they are saying to us as pedestrians and artists. We are walking in galleries everyday because of these street artists. I love the imagery and the life that is breathed into these walls. In contrast I also love the destruction of that art. Street art is so temporary and exposed. Street walls have no guards, no docents, and no protective glass. This art is subject to the elements of nature and of man. The new dadaesque movement of splashing paint on street art is an invitation to re-think, and create something new. If these artists got together they could find a way to turn this so called destruction into something amazing. a new challenge. They have a new enemy, it is not the police that force them to use their imagination anymore. Now fellow artists have issued a challenge. I say that these new splashes should be considered the first stroke in a masterpiece.
The first Photograph is a stencil of a urinal turned on it's side, it is a classic Dada representation of anti-art originally created by Marcel Duchamp. The fact that a street artist created this image is evidence of the influence that Dadaism may have on street art culture. The second image is yet another Dada representation in street art, this time a more controversial version, that shows the splashed paint on a Swoon wheat paste of a Woman from Oaxaca, Mexico.
Friday, February 2, 2007
As I look around me I see more of the beautiful flaws in the streets of the United States. Some of the wonderfully horrible art, the seering graffiti, and the failing buildings that they adorn. I really begin to notice the effect of the imagery whether it be positive or negative.
Recently I happened upon a post on the Wooster Collective that made so much sense to me. It is a seemingly simple artistic statement but it really goes beyond tagging a few walls. In an effort to change the urban landscape a group of artists, going by the name "Object Orange", has undertaken a nearly impossible task. With Paint rollers on massive extensions and buckets of bright orange paint they have set out to make the streets of Detroit safer for the children and cleaner for the world. Over night these skeletal homes become glowing celebrities, everyone stops to wonder and the flash bulbs immortalize their new orange coats. Object Orange is successful everytime a frame of film is developed, revealing the now obvious sore thumbs in what could be beautiful neighborhoods. These houses, once painted, will no longer be a safe haven for drugs and they will no longer be a danger to curious children. In many cases the city has demolished the day glow disasters soon after they were painted. Object Orange takes graffiti to an almost ironic level. In most cases graffiti is buffed in order to clean up the wall or building it is residing on, in the case of the orange houses, the walls of the building are taken down to clean up the graffiti, thus cleaning up the city.