There is something about street art images being set behind bars that cracks me up.
If you want to read into it – then it could represent an unacceptable constraint upon artistic vision. Or the bars may simply be imposing a conceptual challenge upon the execution of a piece of art.
Street art is still in an awkward phase, either being considered a public nuisance or being monetized as a tourist-driven cultural asset.
The work of renowned urban artists such as, Faith47, Guerrilla Girls, Ms Van, Blu, mrcenzone, Pang, HeraKut, Ben Eine, Borondo, Mr. Brainwash and Swoon are often seen in these areas, and they have morphed into the sought after stars that headline the international bus and walking tours of the world. These “behind bars” pieces can also be considered symbolic of the ongoing threat of the legal prosecution of such luminaries as Shepard Fairey, Girafa, and Invader.
Street art also heralds the disappearance of the urban canvas, as these areas, rich in street art, quickly become the flashpoint for gentrification.
If the work itself lacks the necessary star power, or the subject matter is judged as inflammatory or offensive, then, like Russian Roulette, the artist can easily be criminalized as a menace and jailed for defacing public property.
Nonetheless, artists still rise to the challenge of working with what they’ve got. The concepts and the underlying humour, along with the skill and the mindset to imagine and execute these pieces, simply buoy the human spirit.
Due to the competition for wall space, artists anticipate the short shelf-life of their work. The subject matter is often a timely paste-up of a punchline to a quick joke or in protest to an aggravating political situation. So catching a photograph of their artwork before it disappears feels like the good luck of being at the ‘right-place’ at the ‘right-time’.
Tramping around cities and finding these treasures has broadened my knowledge of urban areas and also makes me very aware that following these artists is like stepping into a river, we all tend to pop up at the next port.
There are countless pieces of art by artists whose names are unknown to me, so please feel free to leave a note about the identity of any of the artists in this article.
But if we reveal their names, does it put us in the duplicitous position of – damned by the artist if we do (divulge) and maybe tortured behind bars if we don’t?
But it’s hard to keep a good artist behind bars! Isn’t it?