I personally don't contribute to the street art scene, but the architecture I'm interested in and the photographs I enjoy taking are intertwined with it, as most of the photos on this blog have shown over the years.
There are plenty of people who sneak around abandoned buildings, subways, tunnels, etc. but the largest (and most vocal) two groups are those who are there to take photos, and those who are there for graffiti. For whatever reason, almost everyone who falls into one of those two categories thinks very poorly of anyone who's in opposite category. Personally, I don't care. Abandoned buildings are supposed to have graffiti, just as they're supposed to be slowly decaying. Sure, some of the graffiti stinks, but some of it is good, and all of it together is beautiful:
This leads us, though, to another development that's taken shape over the last few years: mainstream street art. More commonly known as sellouts, mainstream street artists are those who you've probably heard of. Shepard Fairey is the first name that comes to mind. Fortunately I never got to see his work pop up around Cincy a few months ago (because I've been living in New York since then), but our friends at Queen City Disco had an excellent review of it. More recently, people have been in tears over the mysterious (or not so mysterious) disappearance of a few of his "murals."
What strikes me most about this is the extreme double standard shown by not only the public and the media (which I've come to terms with), but by the world of artists, critics, etc. Fairey's work is met with acclaim for its "street art roots," and "social commentary," meanwhile actual street art is met with the exact opposite. The public and the media are up in arms if it isn't painted over.
While it's strictly a matter of opinion, there's more art on any given wall of the Crosley Building than there is on any Cincinnati wall Fairey has touched. Sure, some of it is bad and simply a product of punk kids, but some is intriguing and attractive. In comparison, Fairey's work is mass produced, often times by crews of employees, rather than himself. It's the McDonald's of street art. People only like it because they know what they're going to get. Sure, it can be a little bit risqué here and there, but for the most part the Adobe Illustrator graphics pasted up are repetitive, lack originality, and have absolutely nothing to do with their surroundings. A city full of Fairey murals is like any suburban cul-de-sac in America.
To rationalize this post (because it's unlike anything else I've posted before), what originally got me thinking about this topic was something I heard from a few friends here in NYC, and have since read about online. Essentially, a wall that had been the product of decade's worth of street art was covered up and replaced with a typical Fairey mural. The New York Times has written a reaction about the event. The article is wrong on a few accounts, however. There is some type of unwritten code to leave other peoples work alone, but the Times fails to note that it is based upon respect; a respect that is most often mutual. There is no respect in covering up decade's worth of work, hiring a security guard to watch over your hours worth of work, and then arrogantly whining about it afterward (Shephard Fairey's reaction to the ordeal: "I think I’m a target for a lot of narrow-minded people who just aren’t comfortable with my multiplatform approach.") I'm sure he (with his very open mind) considered and dismissed the multitude of other reasons his work could have been covered up, only to arrive at the one that held himself in the highest regard.
A touched-up Fairey mural on Canal St. in New York, courtesy 12 oz. Prophet.
To conclude, I take photos of places I find to be appealing. I'll stop short of calling them beautiful, but they attract the gaze of myself, and plenty of others. The street art found in these places is one of the aspects that contributes to the ambiguous aura they possess. I'll finish with a few photos, and hope someone can explain to me the double standard the world has regarding street art.