As I have mentioned on previous occasions, the global street art movement has significantly changed in the last few years. For many, artists as well as spectators, it is always difficult to disassociate the graffiti phenomenon from the current movement of public art. Although both continue to manifest themselves, they do not always have a direct relationship.
As a result, I’d like to recommend a selection of five street art books, which accurately explain the context of the movement; the current transition that artists are taking to new formats, and, lastly, the new experimentation they’re creating in the galleries.
Edited by several artists, Trespass. A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art recapitulates the history of urban art on a global scale; it relives great historical and transgressive pieces in the public space that artists created, in a tone of protest, at the mercy of the spectator’s urban landscape.
The book begins with a prologue by Banksy. It includes unpublished photographs of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, pioneers of the movement in early eighties New York.
Other artists that the book reviews are JR, Spencer Tunick, Os Gemeos, Jenny Holzer, Sam3, Barry McGee, Gordon Matta-Clark, Shepard Fairey, Blu, Billboard Liberation Front, Guerrilla Girls, among many others.
Hence, this book is a must in the personal library of any urban art aficionado.
Walls & Frames Fine Art from the Streets is an excellent documentation work of the current transition of the urban art movement to the galleries. The book shows the work of several young artists; they have managed to successfully bring their proposal to the galleries, without losing their connection to the public space. Appropriating more traditional formats and experimenting with new techniques, consequently this new generation of artists is finding a place in the global art market.
Speaking of format experimentation, this is one of my favorite books this year. Race Flag by Felipe Pantone, a visual artist who started in graffiti. Henceforth, he has taken his visual proposal to places like the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and the studio of the father of kinetic art, Carlos Cruz Diez, in Panama. He created this art book in collaboration with Omar Quiñones, also an artist, photographer, and a great friend of Felipe’s.
The book is an interesting visual conversation between the artists, As a result, words are entirely replaced by images. As a result, it gives the reader freedom of interpretation. Felipe and Omar establish an insightful game where the first asks a question in a characteristic format of his work, and the other respond with a photograph related to an abstraction, thus both create a unique meaning that refers to their art.
The Argentine urban artist Elian Chali surprised us all a couple of months ago by publishing this book; in it, he does not exhibit his characteristic geometric abstractions, but a narrative through photographs that he has taken throughout his various trips in last few years.
Self-defined as a conceptual book, Elian finds in Habitat a space to discuss the socio-cultural phenomenon of cities, consequently, trying to understand how human beings unfold, coexist and develop in them.
The book includes three essays, 143 photographs, as well as a prologue by renowned American photographer Martha Cooper, one of the most important documentalist of the graffiti movement and urban art since its beginnings.
I want to end with this recommendation. There is no better way of doing it than with this piece by one of the main representatives of the urban art movement worldwide, Alexandre Farto, also known as Vhils.
Entropy, which comes from the Greek “to transform,” is an autobiography of some sorts and documents the artist’s latest work. Vhils is known for creating through destruction, and most of his pieces are found in the main capitals of the world; mostly on walls, giving them a second life and depicting portraits of ordinary citizens; little by little, they have been displaced as a result of the rise of globalization.
As a result, the artist invites us to value the interconnection that exists between the inhabitants of cities and the public spaces where his work is found. Vhils delivers an excellent critique from an artistic piece in favor of humans and their place in society.
Originally published in: Hootbook, volume 23. (September – November 2016). http://hotbook.com.mx/street-art/
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