A roundup today for the Nuart street art/mural festival in Norway with images of the final walls by this year's artists. Now celebrating its 15th year, the mid-sized fjord-facing city of Stavanger has played host to a selection of international and local artists directly or indirectly related to the evolving scene we know as street art.
Again this year the selection of invited participants is varied, potent, and occasionally a smack upside the head -- with punk rock graphic designer Jamie Reid leading the way in spirit and on walls. Reid's inspiration dates to the radical hippie politics and Situationist practices of the 1950s and '60s but he is best known for formation of the Sex Pistols anti-monarchial slash and burn visual identity and for penning their pivotal recording "Anarchy in the UK" -- a history discussed in Carlo McCormick's presentation during the Nuart Plus program.
In tandem with his paste-ups around town and installation at the formal gallery show was the lesser-known street photography of very-well-known graffiti photographer and ethnographer Martha Cooper, who displayed a selection of five decades of children playing on the streets with improvised toys and games -- via an automated slide show -- as well as an additional one she narrated during our panel on this year's theme "Play" at Nuart Plus.
While neither Reid nor Cooper are thought of as street artists per se, their choice as participants gave grounding to the proceedings and is emblematic of director Martyn Reed's holistic approach to an eclectic programming that mixes up the tributaries and the river in such a way that observers may better have tools to measure the creative flow that we are all witnessing on city walls across the globe today.
As we mark the halfway point of this decade and see the institutional discussions of Street Art taking form while academics try to place it in the canon of art-making and decide upon the nature of its impact, they do it with the knowledge that gallery shows, museum exhibitions, high-profile auctions, individual collecting, lifestyle marketers, and public festivals of many configurations and aspirations are already embracing its relevance. No one can possibly gauge this story in all of its complexity but some will capture its spirit. Being on the street helps.
One way to get a pulse on the present is to attend shows like Nuart and witness the diverse stratagems that artists are using to engage their audiences and judge if they are successful at realizing their intentions. With a deliberately mixed bag of thinkers, feelers, documentors, aesthetes, and pranksters culled together for your edification, this show stokes the discussions.
Others may say that the headliners of this year's Nuart were the French couple Ella & Pitr, whose record-setting 21,000 square meter mural of a young woman in running shorts lying in a semi-fetal position could only be viewed by helicopter across the roofs of a large construction company complex.
You could say that Stavanger streets were commanded with greater effect by the simple addition of Spain's Isaac Cordal and his handmade concrete (or resin) bald businessmen, fifty or so of which he glued into crevices and upon ledges and structural fissures on buildings throughout town. Their sad existential conundrums are ours, even though we are guilting them with all the corrupt actions we are at least a little complicit in.
Arguably the greatest metamorphosis took place with the collection and assembly of local detritus -- broken car pieces, old bicycles, tires, even ship buoys. Before you roll your eyes and think of homey craft-inspired planters on front lawns, the likenesses of animals that Bordalo II can evoke with his sculptures is uncanny and a little spooky.
His "stag" deer is meant as a commentary on the loss of natural habitat of the animals at the hands of what we call "development." The companion piece of a whale overwhelmed by environmental poisoning in the Tou Scene gallery installation proves equally compelling and tragic.
Harmen de Hoop invited a top economist to perform his installation purely with chalk and a 30-minute lecture on the streets of Stavanger on the subject of option pricing, Dolk bravely experimented with a new abstractionist, reductivist approach that ran counter to the style he is known for, and brothers Icy & Sot were the most currently topical with their portrait of a girl whose distorted visage is that of a refugee boat crammed with people. If Nuart at times feels like a laboratory it may be the perfect analogy for the street experience in cities everywhere.
Have a look at many of the finished walls at Nuart this year. See our essay marking their 15th anniversary HERE.
Futura. Nuart 2015. Stavanger, Norway. See his indoor installation video here. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bordalo II. The artist preps the wall in the background. Trash collected from near by empty lots sits in the foreground to serve as the raw material for his work. Nuart 2015. Stavanger, Norway. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Harmen De Hoop "Permanent Education" from NUART
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