Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, a Brooklyn-based painter and illustrator, responds to street harassment by creating dialogues through art in public places. Stop Telling Women To Smile, a series of portraits depict strong willed women responding to catcalls or inappropriate comments.
This series, which has been fostering solid conversations since it’s 2012 NY inception, is simple in its assertion, yet complex in the response. Madison Carlson of Feminspire addresses some male reactions the work has evoked, one of which involved a penis being drawn on the woman’s face. The New York Times additionally notes: “Andrés Carlos, 50, stood by the freshly pasted posters on Tompkins Avenue. ‘A woman likes nothing more than being told she is beautiful,’ he said. ‘For me, this is ridiculous.’”
But, Fazlalizadeh and Carlson disagree with Carlos. This is not about beauty, but control. Carlson asserts, “Yelling or whistling at a woman on the street like she’s a dog who will come when you call, or telling a woman to ‘Smile. It can’t be that bad. You’d be so much prettier if you smiled,’ dehumanizes her. It reduces her purpose to pleasing the male gaze. The posters, answering that reduction with confrontation, are meant to show street harassers that they are not entitled to women’s smiles or any other part of them.”
The work of the street artist known as 108 is much like his pseudonym: simple and mysterious. Often large black masses of abstract street art inhabit walls. Devoid of most or any detail, these masses are frequently punctuated by bursts of color. In a way the colorful abstractions feel like offshoots or biological growths on the larger black masses. There is a larger flow to his murals that are somehow familiar. The shapes, the way interact with their surfaces, and the way in interacts with itself feels organic. 108 explains this idea in a 2006 interview saying:
“Usually I work in public spaces, you know, and the background is the most important thing. I must find a good shapes for that place, usually I prefer old walls and abandoned places, and my “thing” grow by it self, as a tree or moss did, but I know nature do that really better than me! It’s very hard for me to work on a blank white surface… in that situations I must find a good inspiration elsewhere, maybe in another work I did before or working with a good friend with good ideas.”
Other times his abstract murals almost hint at an iconography, symbols, or recognizable shapes. Like much abstraction there is a lot of room for interpretation. Still, he goes on to say:
“Most of my works come from my unconscious and are totally irrational. You can see the abstract, soft and gloomy shapes… My works are also very symbolic. The same old example of the wheel, I found it in my unconscious, it was a big fixation for me… usually I have drawn it with 8 rays inside… In fact it was the sun wheel, one of the most important symbol in ancient Indoeuropean cultures (you can find it in a lot of Indian and Celtic stuff). This is just one example.”
Favio Martinez, better known on the street as Curiot, is a street artist based in Mexico City. His murals and paintings are especially colorful and complex. Curiot has a well-known and easily distinguishable style. Strange creatures populate his compositions. While each creature is definitely alien, Curiot creates them using familiar animal-like components. Often, these creatures are seen being worshiped by comparably tiny people giving the murals. In a way, this pulls Curiot’s work out of science fiction and places it more as a meditation and variations on Mexican Culture. The gallery statement from a recent solo exhibit at FFDG further explains Curiot’s inspiration:
“Curiot’s colorful paintings, featuring mythical half-animal half-human figures and scenes, which allude to Mexican traditions (geometric designs, Day of the Dead styles, myths and legends, tribal elements), are rendered in precise detail with a mixture of highly vibrant yet complementary colors. “Growing up in the States sort of gave me a diluted Mexican culture, I had no clue what I was missing out on until I moved back 10 years ago”, says Curiot. “The bright colors, folklore, ancient cultures and the beautiful handcrafts are some of the things that I embraced and which influence my work deeply”. The 11 new paintings in “Age of Omuktlans” tell the story of man’s distance from his natural path as he focuses his energy on satisfying his material pleasures and the dystopia this creates.”
Single-perspective installations have been extremely popular for the past several years, with the best examples making their rounds instantly on the usual social media platforms. The real shame of this mass exposure is that viewers rarely experience the tactile joy of these illusions, viewing the photographs but never seeing them first-hand. This is especially true with the work of Georges Rousse, a French artist who has been creating his painted perspective installations in abandoned and soon-to-be demolished buildings since the 1980′s.
Finding influence from Land Art as well as specific works like Suprametist painter Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, Rousse pre-dates the modern trends of illusionistic installation, having perfected his trademark geometric style and his fondness for desolate locations decades ago. According to his site’s bio, Rousse considers himself a painter, sculptor, architect, and ultimately a photographer, but considers his raw material to be his great inspiration: Space. Upon selecting a site, Rousse goes about creating a unique angular perspective, that when photographed, compels the viewer to re-analyze their own surroundings, possibilities, transformations, and ultimately, Space.
Rousse explains, “The convergence of these spaces goes beyond a visual game: Like a hall of mirrors, enigmatic and dizzying, it questions the role of photography as a faithful reproduction of reality; it probes the distances between perception and reality, between imaginary and concrete.” (via My Modern Met)
Italian street artist Agostino Iacurci is one prolific muralist. His signature style has popped up around the globe in unique locations. The first image, one of the largest murals I’ve ever seen, dominates the side of a skyscraper in Taiwan. Consider the second set of photographs which can be found inside the walls of a maximum security prison near Rome. The third set is over 985 feet long and on a school in the Western Sahara. Iacurci’s singular narrative-like style has seen exhibitions and walls both small and large is a story told globally.
Perhaps more so than any other form of art, street art has the capacity to engage with the neighborhood its found in. The work of artist Ernest Zacharevic, also known simply as ZACH, takes this to a literal extent. ZACH’s murals are often found interacting with features of the building or objects nearby. A bike leaning against the wall becomes a vehicle for a spray painted child or dock posts become giant pencils. ZACH highlights the life of the city in a way by actually making it come alive. The walls seem poised to interact with passersby, and encourage engagement.
The street artist Basik has a singular style. Though often sparse in color, his murals don’t lack in detail. The compositions seem extensively planned. No component is set without intention as if its precise creation were some sort of ritual. Basik’s extreme attention to line is rare in the aerosol can wielding medium. He says of his work:
“I found human and animal bodies, especially hands and weird face expressions, very captivating. I started a research about lines, shapes and solid aspects of the colours. Subjects painted are often idealized and slightly surreal. Strokes become bones, while paint’s matter turns into flesh. I love to make my works on useless and broken items. Painting becomes more intense and dramatic whilst the support gets a whole new dimension and dignity.”
The photographic murals of Mike Hewson don’t exactly decorate the buildings they inhabit. Rather, the murals create surreal optical illusions, highlighting the buildings by nearly making them disappear. Hewson, creatively uses perspective to erase walls or even entire structures. In some of his work this reveals the buildings inside – its purpose being put to use. Other times, his work interacts with the building in order to recall an empty space or a space’s potential. Hewson’s murals hints not only at structures that we’d often take for granted, but our often overlooked relationships with them.