When I lived in Chicago my neighborhood was wallpapered in street art—and I loved it. I loved that I started to recognize the style of certain artists and could identify their work, even if I didn’t know their names. While I was disappointed to see some of my favorite pieces disappear, I understood and appreciated the transient nature of this medium. Sometimes other artists covered over pieces, sometimes the city removed pieces, or property owners painted over these works, or time and weather just took over. I loved the nooks and crannies artists carved out for their pieces—sometimes sneaking in at night to do large scale pieces in highly trafficked areas, sometimes finding a lonely corner of a building or a park bench as the perfect spot. As a suburban dweller now, I keep up with some current street art on blogs and social media and that’s where I found the work of SWIV.
I picked a few images because, while any one of these can stand on their own, what I love about street art is the continuity of style of each artist almost as a means of establishing a brand. While the pieces are beautiful, interesting and thought provoking, what hits me most is that they are recognizable as a theme or a series. And while I could go on about how I love these pieces formally, I think it’s so interesting that, apart from whatever message SWIV is bringing to the public, he/she does so with this brand and repetition in mind. The common link between the pieces I encountered was the face of a man wearing glasses with a mask over with mouth. In some pieces, he’s morphed into a whole man, dancing with a beheaded mannequin, both dressed fancy. In others, his glasses have a spiral form on each lens and his eyes are “x”ed out (I’m not sure if the photographer was being clever when he/she took the photo, but I like that McDonald’s is the focus of the clearly toxic stare). And in other pieces, SWIV has collaged his/her signature image smartly over another street artist’s work.
I wish I could say I walked the streets and found these cool pieces, but I relied on the blogs and it got me thinking about how important it really is to have blogs/virtual records of these pieces. I think of blogs and photographs on social media that catalogue street art almost as a virtual museum, since most of these pieces won’t, and by design, can’t stand the test of time. Though it is rare that I get to the city anymore, I was thinking that I would like to see some of these pieces (if they still exist) and I wondered why the photographer doesn’t include addresses or intersections. Very quickly I realized by revealing the location the photographer would be offering a road map for those who view street art as vandalism and these pieces would disappear even faster than usual. And then I thought about what I used to love most about these pieces, that they kind of snuck up on you—they found you, you didn’t find them. An errand in the neighborhood turned into an art experience just by chance—and that is the true beauty for me. Having a road map to the pieces may be convenient, but would ultimately take away the surprise/ambush aspect that, I think, becomes part of the piece.
- Is street art an expression of true art or a subversive criminal activity? Why?
- If you were a street artist, would you create art to beautify, inspire discussion, provoke controversy? Why?
- Why do you think there is less street art in the suburbs?
- Have you experienced any street art you really liked?
- What do you think these pieces mean?
Here’s a link to a cool article on street art.
If you are on facebook, please “like” Chicago Street Art.
Amy Brandolino Kakkuri