In search of street art

 

 

I am fortunate to be living & working in the 13th arrondisement of Paris – an epicenter for street art in the city. Why is this the case? I was told that the mayor of our district is a fan of street art. [Each of the 20 Paris arrondisements have a mayor, associated town hall  & services etc., as well as having a mayor & town hall for Paris overall.] Indeed, there is a formal initiative for street art in the 13th where major works in the form of murals have been commissioned from 22 very well-known street artists [see http://www.streetart13.fr/], including Shepard Fairey.  Fairey actually has 3 works here. [I know his Cincinnatti street art & also saw a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Contemporary Art Center (CAC) in Cincinnati a few years ago. [http://www.contemporaryartscenter.org/]

Street art in the 13th is larger than life – huge murals on the sides of apartment buildings are typical. I was particularly struck by one work & that started my odyssey of actively searching out the various works in our district. We were at a Japanese restaurant with a nice outdoor terrace on a beautiful sunny day & I had a really good view of this one particular mural. My gaze kept returning to it many times, because it elicited an overwhelming feeling of familiarity – but I had no idea why. After I got back to work I looked it up & discovered it was a work by Fairey! What a lovely surprise. The image at left below is the work & at right is another Fairey’s other artistic offerings in the 13th.

 

So ever since that afternoon I have been dashing around the arrondisement either on weekends or on the walk home from work to find the various works. Indeed, there is even a work on the grounds of our Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital!

Most of the works tend to be on the eastern side of the district – this is typically where the new apartment buildings are. There are also some in the south part – again where newer apartment blocks are. [The part of the district I live in has older buildings, that typically have elaborate decorations. These do not provide the blank canvases that these larger than life murals need.] It is really nice to be looking at these works of street art now: trees are blossoming & complement the works very nicely.

 

Some of the works are more subtle than others & are nestled in in locations where they might not be seen at first glance. You have to hunt for them & that is part of the fun.

 

The themes are varied & many. They can include natural subjects & whimsical, if not somewhat twisted, views on human relationships…

 

Another interesting thing about this arts project is that there is also a permanent gallery space that features temporary exhibitions of these artists’ work. It is entitled Galerie Itinerrance [http://itinerrance.fr/]. Currently, the work of D*Face is featured in the gallery & I have to say that I find his work somewhat unsettling. But that is the power of art – it can make us react & think…

The presence of these large pieces of art have encouraged others to try their hand at street art – albeit on a smaller scale. As I understand it, these works are non-commissioned. There are some pretty talented people around, to be sure… here are a few nice examples.

 

StreetArt_Additional01

The cool part about the alley wall in the above photo is that new images are added to it from time to time, so I keep checking it every now and again. Someone recently added an artwork on the opposite wall of the alley. It is right across from the other images. I like the whimsy here.

StreetArt_Additional04

As I already mentioned, artists aim to get a reaction out of their viewers. Well I certainly reacted to the one below as I walked past it. I just saw it out of the corner of my eye & automatically crossed to the other side of the footpath without knowing why! Then I took a closer look…

StreetArt_Additional_12

…clearly my Aussie Huntsman spider template is pretty much still intact even after not living there for many years. 🙂

So which are my favorite pieces of street art? There are 50 commissioned works in total, so I may well change my mind when I see more of them. But here are my 2 faves so far. I really like how the image on the left has taken total ownership of the building. I also find the color pallette appealing & this is also why I like the image on the right as well. The image at right is on a smaller building & I like that it brings the art closer to the viewer. The detail on the black & white geometric patterns is also great [although you don’t see it so well in this photo].

 

Do you have street art in your neighborhood? Chances are that you do. Sometimes it can be tricky to spot…

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