Category Archives: Street Art

ColdK is Lame

ColdK is Lame I was rather disappointed when I saw this faded ColdK ghost last weekend. It was on a brick wall of a beautiful old building on Capitol Hill, around 10th and Roy. I’m sure any more aggressive cleaning of the tag would begin to damage the brick. Some street art can be beautiful, but ColdK’s prolific ghost tags have long since become an eyesore around Seattle. I think there’s some distinction between tagging and street art, and it’s mostly subjective. Who’s to say what the intent is, except maybe the artist himself. Unfortunately, the defense and explanation of his work doesn’t exactly inspire. My advice? Exercise a bit more restraint and tact in your urban doodling. Some of the most memorable street art I’ve seen, I’ve only noticed once or twice in obscure locations, not necessarily dozens of times on everything including shop signage, garage doors, air conditioners, and windows. It sure is a lot of practice you’ve been doing, and so far I haven’t seen any improvement. Take it back to the sketchbook, please.

Andre the Giant Walks the Line

In my last post I mentioend the popular street artist turned fashion designer, Shepard Fairey, in a sell-out sort of context (I’ve always hated calling creative people sell-outs, regardless of their actions. I’ll have to return to this thought in another post). Well, checking out the trailer for the upcoming film, Walk the Line about the life of Johnny Cash, I noticed the art credit on the promotional graphics was none other than Mr. Shepard Fairey. Alex may have said it best with, “Huh, he can actually do something other than Andre the Giant.” Indeed, the promotional graphics include a poster, desktop image, stencils, stickers, and the essential AIM buddy icon, all based on the same stylized image of Cash and his guitar. I like the design and style, and the movie itself looks quite good (Joaquin Phoenix learned to play guitar, and sings all his own songs, and sounds dead-on in the trailer).

But… and there’s always a “but,” stencils as part of movie promotion? I doubt even the king of viral stencil design himself can pull that off. I do think it’s a good sign that movie studios are getting more experimental, at least with their marketing, but they’re still a few years behind. I see it as similar to the “virals” that advertisers have attempted. The very nature of a meme or viral in this sense is almost that it’s accidental. Trying to create one from scratch is oxymoronic. I don’t think we’ll be seeing too many of these Johnny Cash stencils around, Shepard Fairey designed or not.

Banksy Strikes the Holy Land

Banksy BalloonThe UK’s artist, Banksy just finished a trip to Palestine, where he tackled the blank canvas that is the West Bank barrier between Israel and Palestine. Wooster Collective has a gallery of photos of some of his work. Truly striking. The Guardian has a brief article about his trip, and a gallery with a few additional photos. Wired magazine also just recently came out with an article on Banksy, highlighting some of his work.

I think he’s truly a brilliant artist, and every new piece he comes up with is as thought-provoking as the last. Unfortunately I’m a bit disappointed that he is never referred to as an artist without adding numerous qualifying adjectives to the word. “Guerilla graffiti artist,” “Spray can prankster,” “hacking the art world,” and the worst yet, “a self-described ‘art terrorist.'” Why would you descsribe yourself as an “art terrorist”? Does he think this helps his cause? No, I certainly doubt it. Does it make him more provocative? Sure. How will we see Banksy in 5, 10, 20 years? Will he be seen as an artist ahead of his times, such as a Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, or (the obvious parallel) a Jean-Michel Basquiat? Can he achieve this coveted status of famous (and famously misunderstood) artist without some sort of tragedy such as an untimely death, or repeated arrests for his illegal work? What if he just grows old, and his art and ideas go downhill until he dies of natural causes? My guess is he’d just be forgotten as yet another “spray-can prankster” who could never move beyond the shock-value tactics of youth. I’m really curious what direction he’ll go. He claims to be anti-corporate and has refused offers from Nike, but Banksy is already heading in the direction of other street-art icons, such as Shepard Fairey, selling books of his work (may be sold by an un-related third party, I’m not sure). Maybe a Banksy clothing line is next, without compromising his precious status as an “art-terrorist,” “hacking the art world,” of course.

On a few lighter notes

After two morbid posts in a row, I thought I’d go a little more light-hearted in this one…

Unused Audio Commentary by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, for the Return of the King DVD

Banksy installs paintings in NY City museums (posted by Wooster Collective, and disseminated by kottke)

Stereogum posts the hilarious Ashton Kutcher as Kevin Federline underwear commercial from SNL.

I haven’t even watched it yet, but I already give it my official stamp of amusement to the trailer for, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalo.

Monkey Stickers

This is one of the newest street art sticker memes hitting Capitol Hill in Seattle, and I really like it. It isn’t as omnipresent as the bald man or the coldkillr ghost (I’ll rant on why I dislike the ghost soon), but the monkey stickers are spreading fast around the neighborhood and their variety is their strong point. Here’s a sampling (click for a larger version with the monkey in context)…

New Street Art Mystery

A while back I posted a couple entries wondering about this painted girl that I'd been seeing around, and it turns out it's not a girl afterall. Two weeks ago, the Stranger had this cover image where I immediately recognized the style of the kids. It's a local artist Parskid (the big headed kid) who does a bunch of stuff around the city.

The next mystery is this guy…

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One other sighting so far on a large yellow sign on the freeway. Definitely some difficult locations for these, but who is he?

Street Art in Spain

I took more than 300 photos while I was in Spain, so I'll be posting a lot as I get done sorting them.

First up is the collection of photos of street art that I took. Almost every free wall or alley-way in Barcelona had some sort of tag, grafitti, stencil, poster, or elaborate mural covering it. I could have taken more than 300 photos of street art alone. There must not be nearly the penalties for grafitti there that there are here, and there are also signs up in certain areas saying something along the lines of “Grafitti OK area”, where a lot of the more elaborate work showed up. Sevilla and Cordoba were much cleaner, and had less of a raw urban feel in areas, so there was very little street art. Granada had a good mix of urban and old-city feel, plus a ton of alleys winding through the hills, so there was more art that showed up there. The last 6 photos are all from Granada. Take a look at the art.

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Andre and the Pixelated Face Stencil

I remember seeing the original Andre the Giant stickers all over Providence for some time, before I finally heard it was a RISD kid down the street who started it all. Having seen a huge number of the “Obey” Giant stickers around, I decided to do a little research into it, and lo and behold, it is still his work that is spreading.

I've been noticing more and more guerilla art around the neighborhood lately, especially the spray-paint stencils. My question is who the pixelated stencil guy is. He's subtle and he's creepy, and I like him, but I can't figure out who he's supposed to be (if anyone). Since I haven't been able to identify the face, I've been interpreting it as a sort of Big Brother representation. He's been showing up more and more around the neighborhood, and in some strange places.

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stencils2.jpg Here's another stencil that's been popping up here and there. Not quite as subtle as the face, but quick to read and recognize. StencilArchive.org has got a massive gallery of stencil images, broken up by US region and San Francisco neighborhood. Lots of great images.