Art Taken to the Streets

Street Art

Graffiti has been around for years and years.  First appearing in the 1920s in New York, graffiti was the work of gangs and often appeared on trains and walls (Maric, 2016).  After the 1960s, when the post modern era was starting to take affect, street art really took off.  Graffiti was often used to express anyone’s opinion, not just famous artists, and let their feelings about political topics show (Maric, 2016).  The post modern era took place when there were a lot of political movements happening and this was a time when people made sure that their opinions were heard loud and clear.

Street art was a form of deconstruction art.  Deconstruction was a style of art that occurred during the post modern era and embodied the idea that everyone who looks at what the artists created, the audience is free to interpret the art any way that they want to.  Although deconstruction was mostly portrayed through architecture, a lot of the art that was created during the post modern time frame was considered to be deconstruction art because the art pieces shared the common theory of letting everyone interpret the art the way that they want to, as well as the idea of portraying some historical/political theme (Boundless, 2015).  A lot of street artists created images based on what they were seeing around them or what was popular, some of those artists were Julian Beever and Kurt Wenner.

Julian Beever

Beever is probably one of the most famous street artists that is still creating pieces today.  His art roots took hold in Europe after attending an art school (Dutoit, 2012).  Julian Beever started his street art career when he observed a spot of pavement where an old garden had been in Germany (Dutoit, 2012).  His pavement art was people that were pretty famous and would therefore be recognizable, then he moved onto creating 3-D illusions, which eventually led to Beever being dubbed as the “Pavement Picasso” (Dutoit, 2012).  The effect that this artist uses in his pieces is known as anamorphosis, which is essentially creating an image that is distorted to the point where it appears to be 3-D when looking at the image from a certain vantage point (Brooks, 2012).  Julian Beever still creates his amazing 3-D scenes today and is in very high demand to create these images.

Politicians Meeting Their End by Julian Beever, England C. 1997

The image to the left is one of many pieces created by Beever.  This piece was created for the 1997 general election in England and shows the end of some politicians (Tom, 2010).   The way that the hole in the ground was drawn is a well-done optical illusion because the shading makes it appear as if you were going to join the falling politicians and fight to keep from falling into the depths of this hole.  If you look closely at the ridges of the “stones” forming the circular border of the hole, you can see that those “stones” are given depth and the geometric shape of these “stones” is kept in proportion with the shape often seen in stones around a circular object.  I really enjoy looking at this piece because the image looks so realistic.  I think what really catches my eye is how the shading really affects how the image appears to passerby’s and how everything is kept in nice proportions.  Also, shadowing is something that can be really hard to create since shadows kind of have distorted proportions in the sense that the object’s shadow is stretched or shrunken.  The shadows in Politicians Meeting Their End is mostly around the politicians hands and facial expressions.

 

Placing The Orders by Julian Beever, location unknown C. 2007

Placing The Orders was drawn around Christmas time and is one of those pieces that Julian Beever created which is totally interactive.  The lighting depicted in the piece gives the effect that Santa is really sitting underground and catching every letter that was addressed to him.  I like the light-hearted feeling that this drawing gives off, bringing the Christmas feeling to those who see the image.  There are many aspects that draw my eye to the piece, one of them being the ladder that is at the far left side of the image.  Even though the piece looks a little more on the cartoonish side, the ladder adds the sense that you could climb down it and join Santa in his task of reading letters.  The fact that you can interact with the piece, however, is probably one of my most favorite part of this art piece.  This is because you are doing more than just looking at what someone drew, you get to have fun with the art and this piece is most likely going to leave you with a smile on your face.

Explosion in Paris by Julian Beever, Montparnasse, Paris C. 2011

The drawing created by Beever in the above image represents the tenth anniversary of an explosion that occurred at the AZF Factory in Toulouse.  In the drawing, the debris cluttering the sides of the circular depression is what gives the drawing its essence because if there were not any debris, then the art would just look like a spot where a crater hit.  This is another one of Beever’s pieces where the shadowing plays a key role in creating the effect of the spot of impact.  Looking at the edge of the circle, the shading and shadowing makes it appear as if the the pavement is raised up and, as the distance from the impact spot increases, the pavement goes back to looking more flat.  The crater-like spot has shading that is consistent to what the lighting would look like during a certain time of day because half of the circle is really dark and the other half proceeds to get lighter.  Not only does that shading occur in the impact spot, it also occurs in the border around the circle, except that the lip of the circle on the side where the impact spot is dark is a light border and opposite on the other side of the circle.  I like the contrast that this shading shows because that strengthens the illusion.  Also, there are objects, like a doll in the bottom left corner or a show in the bottom right corner, that reminds audiences that the explosion affected the people that were nearby when it occurred.

In all of Beever’s creations, the shading and shadows play a crucial element in making a strong optical illusion because the different shades is what gives the art pieces the 3-D effect.  Also, all of his pieces seem to be interactive, which I really like because that means that the audience looking at the piece gets to have fun and most likely end up walking away from Beever’s art with a smile on their face.

Kurt Wenner

Wenner is another very notable street artist who often portrays images of classical-type art.  He pursued his art dream by attending an art school in the US and then starting a career with NASA as a space illustrator (Wenner, 2016).  Kurt Wenner eventually left his job with NASA to move to Italy and explore his love for classic art (Wenner, 2016).  He took his drawings of statues to the street to create elaborate images.

Dies Irae
Dies Irae by Kurt Wenner, Mantua, Italy C. 2011-2016

Dies Irae is an interesting piece to look at for a couple of reasons: Wenner seemed to have kept the consistent shapes of the stones of the surrounding pavement, and the piece seems to have some historical significance.  The piece, shown right, is named after a medieval Latin hymn often sung in masses on the Day of Judgement (Martin, year unknown).  The art makes the theme very clear: those souls who did not perform good duties were cast away from heaven (Martin, year unknown).  The coloration within the whole piece, as well as the positions of the bodies, give the sense of dread and shows the pain that these souls must be in for being cast away.  I like the shading and how realistic the bodies look because there is not one spot in this drawing that is the same as another spot.  This variation, I think, makes the piece interesting to look at in the sense that your eyes are not really drawn to just one spot of the piece, you get the chance to take in creation in its entirety.

Door to the Caribbean
Door to the Caribbean by Kurt Wenner, Manhattan, New York C. 2011-2016

The art creation in the picture to the left is one that puzzles me, but in a good way.  The reason as to why the piece is puzzling me is because it looks so realistic.  I am having a hard time determining if the people in the forefront are part of the drawing or if they are simply interacting with Door to the Caribbean.  What makes me think that at least the lady in the hammock is a part of the drawing is the shadowing underneath her.  Her shadow looks as if it belongs to her based on the size, shape and the positioning of it.  Unless Wenner made a general shadow, then that would mean that the woman in the hammock is a part of the piece.  The other part of the mystery is the woman wearing a red coat.  She does not appear to have a shadow that is consistent with the time of day that is depicted in the drawing.  Despite that puzzle, even though the piece appears to be used for advertising, you still get the sense that if you were to step in this artificial world, that you would be transported to the warm Caribbean on a cruise.  What I think makes the piece is the detail: the texture of the chair at the very front of the piece, the laptop appearing to have a reflective screen and all of its keys, the shape of the flowers which could lead to the identification as to which species they are, and countless other details.  Door to the Caribbean looks as if someone took a scene from a cruise ship and placed it in the middle of Manhattan.

 

LeBron James
LeBron James by Kurt Wenner, Shanghai, China C. 2011-2016

If I were walking along the street and approached this art, I would feel as I would fall down and join the basketball game occurring beneath the street.  I like how I can look at LeBron James, pictured to the right, and want to see what happens in the basketball game.  Looking closely, Wenner showed almost every wrinkle on the hands reaching for the ball.  He also made the cracks in the pavement appear to be worn and played on a lot.  Also, the poster that depicts LeBron James seems to just be a poster pasted on the wall with the shape of the bricks showing through the paper of the poster.

Like Julian Beever, Kurt Wenner made use of his shadows and shading to make the image come to life.  However, Wenner seemed to focus more on historical events and promotional/advertising pieces that did not seem to be as nearly as interactive as Beever’s art.  Either way, both of these artists created street art that gave optical illusions to the people viewing them.  These artists, and other street artists, looked past creating graffiti and took street art to another level.  Although these artists did not seem to have portfolios focused on political movements, they did create their art to represent something and to amaze audiences worldwide.

Literature Cited

Boundless. “Deconstructivism.” Boundless Art History. Boundless, 21 Jul. 2015. Retrieved 21 Mar. 2016. <https://www.boundless.com/art-history/textbooks/boundless-art-history-textbook/global-art-since-1950-ce-37/the-nineties-238/deconstructivism-850-10854/>.

Brooks, Katherine. “Street Artist Julian Beever Creates 3D Chalk Illusions (PHOTOS).” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 2012. Web. 21 Mar. 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/12/street-artist-julian-beev_n_1668616.html>.

Dutoit, Nancy. “Julian Beever | Official Website.” Julian Beever | Official Website. 2012. Web. 21 Mar. 2016. <http://www.julianbeever.net/index.php?option=com_content>.

Maric, Bojan. “The History of Street Art.” WideWalls. 2016. Web. 21 Mar. 2016. <http://www.widewalls.ch/the-history-of-street-art/>.
Martin, Michael. “Dies Irae.” Dies Irae. Web. 21 Mar. 2016. <http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Hymni/DiesIrae.html>.
Wenner, Kurt. “Statement and Biography |.” Kurt Wenner Master Artist. 2016. Web. 21 Mar. 2016. <http://kurtwenner.com/blog/artists-statement/>.

 

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One thought on “Art Taken to the Streets

  1. A very well written piece. Thank you for sharing. I am intrigued by the street art you have chosen. This is more then common graffiti, you can see the attention to detail that characterizes fine art, the use of shading and proportion that lends the 3D effect. Every time I see this type of street art, I am reminded of sand mandala (http://www.mysticalartsoftibet.org/Mandala.htm). The color, the attention to details and the time invested in the piece. Way better then the sidewalk art I do with my grandchildren.

    Like

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