Over the past two years, the beauty and talent that is involved in street art has been a growing interest. Some of the most gorgeous works are found on walls and sidewalks around the globe. What makes them more impressive is that the artists rely solely on an aerosol can and maybe some specialty caps that are now manufactured to assist in refining details or enhancing shading for these painters.
Very recently some of the artists who attracted me are incredibly political in their work. Banksy, Mear One and Shepard Fairey are names some may find familiar. The people of Berlin or tourists who have toured “the wall” have seen Noir and Bouchet’s work.
“The Establishment,” “The Man,” whatever you want to call the ruling body, do use ‘art’ in their controlling of the masses. Within the church (Catholic), especially during the Renaissance, artists were patronized to provide “us” with advertisements of their product…Christianity. White holy families and supernatural beings that were more human than biblical depictions were the approved material. Today popular media, advertising and entertainment are all cheap knock offs of real art. This art is garish, loud and usually pretty cheap looking. However, corporations, governments and religious groups will spend large sums to marketing and PR firms and nervous designers will happily accept their wages justifying that they need to to actually pay their bills through their art.
Real art is characterized as subversive by mainline society…as well it should be. Parents teach their children that the arts are not viable occupations despite one’s aptitude/talent. We are constantly fed the premise of the “starving artists.” Why? Because they speak the truth? Most likely. A great painter, playwright, dancer or musician will speak of pain, suffering, darkness, strife and division. In times of rebellion, uprising, outcries for justice and accountability, artists will externalize those emotions and people will be drawn to it, create community and mobilize to create change.
In highly charged situations where things move quickly, there seem to be two distinct forms of sprayed art. The first is images created using stencils. A prominent one right now in Turkey is of penguins in reference to the state television network showing a penguin documentary instead of news about the protests in Istanbul. These taggers don’t have time to create a full mural before being the victims of tear gas and high-powered water cannons. The other is sprayed literary art-actually word messages, statements about the conflict and its participants. Most would say this is not art per se as there is nothing of visual artistic merit. But these are tomes, poems and haiku by writers who don’t have time to find an agent and a publisher and hope people who share their opinion of the situation find it in six months, a year, 5 years. These are words that need to be read now. These are feeling “in the moment.”
Where street artists have the time, there are full paintings that speak out against some source of oppression real or assumed. Some name names. Others shine a light on what they believe to be lurking in the shadows. Some remain in place long enough for at least a few people to get their messages.
In 2011 I learned through L.A. artist friends about a Kickstarter for what would become L.A. vs War-Art For Peace. The event took place on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and addressed that event along with wars and violence in general. There were teach-ins to talk about issues and how to improve situations. There was no lack of material to meet the theme and curators had to pour through submissions from around the world to choose those that would be displayed at the exhibit. Walls were covered in art. Live artists painted throughout the show and silk screeners created t-shirts. Yet, this was just a merely an introduction to people of all the politically motivated art that is out there.
Over the past week there have been some major political moments just in the U.S. We watched as, on one side of the country, a brave woman showed not only her state legislature but the nation how a filibuster is supposed to work while in the nation’s capitol nine judges gutted the rights of all Americans to vote freely. The next morning SCOTUS turned attention away from that decision by finally ruling DOMA to be unconstitutional and therefore leaving no precedent for the next thing on their docket-Prop 8. Californians once again had equal marriage rights. It will be interesting to see what art is inspired just by these three headlines. Already we have seen various rainbows in the forms of flags, buntings, and clothing. There have been some political cartoons about the TX situation. Considering how charged all of these are on both sides and the fact that all of them are just being observed by “The Man” watch for serious artistic expression of all the sides of the “us” on these topics. And wherever you go, look around. Watch for art and then really look and find the message in it. Brushes and spray cans are weapons of the revolution.
L.A. Art vs War
Accounts to follow on Instagram
Street Art In Los Angeles
— Kathy Creighton | @Mama_Kath