Color and Cities
When most of us think of the ‘great artist’, it’s no surprise that most of us free-associate with figures like, Monet, Picasso, Matisse; Gris, Michelangelo… a lot of folk turn to the undeniable assurance of the ancient paint- the stuff hung or standing in famous museums and what we deem now as historical monuments. These are characters that, to us, help define a generation. The Romantics, the Renaissance- God, even lasting monochrome tracings of hands on the wall, dating far back to ancient times, is ogled at by intellectuals and historians.
But what about the art of now? It’s no great mystery that during his day Van Gogh was considered a dredge on society- a social pariah and, well…let’s face it…a ginger. And one would be fooling themselves if they thought Pablo P. spent his days in sunbeams of praise for all of the risks he took with his Dora Maar au Chat (1941) or bizarre Guernica (1937). It’s all Ironic, and scholars, art critics, and historians all explore the marvel that very few great artists were truly realized for their greatness until far after the fact. What of the evolution of the artistic nude? What of impressionism? Both were greeted with a plethora of adversity and criticism…and what one can see by looking back over the lives of these revolutionary characters is one rather universally realized truth: history truly does repeat itself.
We live in the chaotic and ground-breaking era of Post Modernism, and the definition of ‘what is art’ has never been more ambiguous. I recently watched a video I stumbled upon online titled: “Woman in Tight Dress Slips on Butter for Twenty Minutes, Calls it Art”, and if anyone has seen a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball by Martin Creed or knows who Sniffy the Rat is…I rest my case. Needless to say, a lot of the ‘art’ nowadays (and I put the word in quotations not out of sarcasm but to leave the word up for debate) has been received by, at risk of repeating myself… a plethora of adversity and criticism. Once again our wonderful species is sticking a wrench in culture; mixing up the pot and causing a bit of chaos.
And what boggles MY mind? Alright, so I suppose I can understand one’s confusion, even as a twenty one year old arts student living in Vancouver, when it comes to people decorating toilet bowls with Christmas tinsel or, more to my point, spray painting their trademark hastily in black paint against someone’s garage door and calling it art. And I won’t even get into Sniffy. But it truly does grind my gears when people are so blindsided by the ridiculousness of our time that they are unable to see through the noise and notice something beautiful. Spray paint may be spray paint, and the negative connotation may be there, but some of the street art I’ve seen in cities across the world is some of the most beautiful art I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing, and I’ve been to my share of art museums.
When placed a) appropriately and b) legally, street art has the potential to truly illuminate our streets, brighten our communities, and speak to every echelon of societal life. If you’re not familiar with Banksy or Blu or Frank Shepard Fairey, you should be, because people WILL be in fifty years. It will be revolutionary artists like these ones who are shaping the twenty first century. And if I want to make any difference at all where tactile art is concerned, as I’m not an artist myself, it’s for more people to realize the absolute gifts artists have the potential to give if utilized correctly. Optimistic, colorful murals on the sides of schools, landscapes on parks, walls of stores decorated with something that will hungrily catch the eye of anyone walking past. I have seen far too many grey cities, and know or know of far too many brilliant artists eager to have their paint feel the outside air.
If you’re not convinced, just take a long look at the Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park. People stop by it every day, laying flowers in the stunning circle and taking moments out of the day to remember, or ponder, or think. It’s things like these that bring us together, and art like this that people will look back on in times to come when they try to define who we were as a society. Let’s let that definition flourish, and make sure the photos they show of us aren’t in black and white.
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