Madrid isn’t internationally renowned for its public art scene, but there’s a certain creative spontaneity wafting through its corridors that keeps me hot on the scent of evolving expression. The second half of this two-part photo series focuses on Madrid’s colorful imagination as expressed through alternative mediums, such as paste-ups, scratch art, photography, and accidental beauty. The first half can be found over at the blog of Tripping.com, where I did a guest post regarding some of my favorite painted discoveries throughout the city.
Paste-ups are a versatile street art strategy, allowing for off-site assembly and quick placement. Designs are previously printed, drawn, or constructed on thin sheets of paper, then affixed to the designated surface using a mixture of cornflour and water, similar in composition to walpaper paste. It’s the same stuff you see workers using to put up advertisements around town, repurposed in the name of public art. This shawled figure and her bird guard over calle Lavapiés.
This small piece’s retro-cartoon flair is complemented by the tattered out-of-use door in barrio La Latina.
Paste-ups tend to be way-up, keeping their vulnerable edges away from grabby fingers. As such, they frequently perch high and dry for lengthy periods of time.
However, sometimes even the most high and mighty take a nosedive.
Stencils are another frequent strategy to rapidly transfer art into the public sphere. For whatever reason, most stencil work I see in Madrid tends to be radically political in nature; this battleaxe wielding woman proclaims “Critical Cunt” (a word which is a million times milder in Spanish, by the way).
Someone’s indignation that “Japan kidnaps children” is foiled by Iñaki’s sharpie’d response that he kidnaps Italian girls.
These scuffed frames in southern La Latina are unique as far as I know, a striking series of modern antiquity. Each one holds a yellowing print showcasing aspects of Olde Europe.
Disregarding the rainbow “cerrajero” (locksmith) melange seemingly coating each and every metal pole in the city, stickers are a common, low-risk strategy used to quickly spread an artist’s style. The duck head is absolutely everywhere; I’m pretty sure I even spotted it during my recent foray to Berlin.
This series of four is the only instance I’ve come across of printed photographs as street expression. Based on my experience in the darkroom, I doubt they weather moisture too gallantly; not too sure that they’ll fare well through the winter.
Scratching away bits from swaths of solid color to reveal image in negative is a way to achieve striking, detailed results. The concept is the same as those multi-hued sheets of paper covered in black wax that you doodled on as a kid; in the hands of an expert, this kind of quietly stunning work is the result.
Scratch artists often choose human faces as subject, coaxing unbelievably realistic textures out of nothing at all.
Combining techniques here beckons a shy woman’s visage to peer out from surrounding chaos.
Not sure what the original approach was here, but I like it. An eye, tucked in a Lavapiés nook, that doesn’t seem to care whether it sees anything or not.
Some of Madrid’s advertisements traipse all over the line between the tainted world of commercialism and pure imagination. These two are hidden down an alley in that no-man’s-land of wholesale shops between La Latina and Tirso de Molina. The style totally kicks; the alley totally stinks. Madrid is due for some serious rain, and soon.
Occasionally the ads need just a little push in the right direction. This begoggled beauty is near Antón Martín.
Seen here are further stickers, plus a pair of parodic public service announcements. Madrid’s been running ads for some months now proclaiming, “Respetemos y apoyemos a nuestros profesores” (Let’s respect and support our teachers), evidently in response to an investigation that revealed that professors were regularly insulted in 74% of high schools, taking it as far as physical aggression in 13%. Yikes and yikes.
Recent educational reforms have meant budget cuts across the board, resulting in mass firings and subsequent enormous class sizes (among other things, but that’s perhaps for a seperate post). A good green-shirted portion of the city’s up in arms in a tidal wave response, including the above-pictured parody: “Despidamos y humillemos a nuestros profesores” (Let’s fire and humiliate our teachers).
Is accidental art a genre? How might it interact with found art? At what point does it become “art”? Does it have more value in being so recognized?
Good questions. Don’t know. Don’t think the sexy dog knows.
For more, take a gander at Part One of the Public Art in Madrid series, a guest post I did for Tripping.com, wherein I explore Madrid’s public spaces awash in the more traditional expressive medium of paint.