Archives for category: political art

August this year turned out to be a lot busier than the last, work-wise, which means I wasn’t able to make my annual trip to the Sants Festival, which takes place just after the one here in Gràcia.

However, I did have some great shots from an outing in July, where I found, among other things, a TVBOY pasteup of the Barça star Coutinho, and a crazy stoned version of the Trix Rabbit.

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I’ll end this month with another spectacular work from TV BOY, who has once again made headlines in the local and Spanish press with his artistic take on the political gridlock which has once again paralyzed the central Spanish government. This time, it’s between Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias. Sanchez won the most votes in the election and the most seats in the Parliament, however he falls short of a majority to be named president. He would need the support of left-wing Podemos and its leader Pablo Iglesias. Iglesias’ support doesn’t come without a price, and so far it’s a price that Sanchez isn’t willing to pay. Sanchez has failed in two rounds of voting and has a final chance in September before a repeat in elections. Most polls point to important gains for Sanchez and the socialists, but a weary and bitter electorate could prove to be unpredictable. An especially dangerous situation with the ultra-right wing populist VOX party waiting to pounce. Only time will tell what happens, but I’m sure TV BOY will have something to say, whatever the result.

This work was a pasted just off the Plaça Sant Jaume, where both the Barcelona City Hall and the Catalan National Government Building are located, so it got plenty of attention.

pedropablo

It’s been nearly a month since the last post, as this year I found myself bogged down between playing catch-up after a short trip to NYC, wrapping up two new university courses, and taking on some extra Cambridge examining. The images from this entry are from just that trip, which has become an annual pre- or post- Memorial day trip to New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

These pasteups all come from Freeman alley, a very easy-to-miss hidden gem, just off lower Manhattan’s Bowery.

The pasteups themselves come mostly from well-known artists The Postman (Warhol and Basquiat) and Sacsix (Danny Devito). I’m not sure of the artist of the partially-gone Kurt Cobain, but I’ll be sure to provide an update.

Next time you find yourself in lower Manhattan, I’d recommend you swing by the alley, as it’s always full of some interesting art.

For this month’s second entry, I’ve decided to once again cross the pond, and highlight one of my favourite stops when in NYC. These photos are from the First Street Green Art Park, which as the name suggests is on East first street, near Houston (pronounced HOWS-ton), just on the border with the Lower East Side. It’s a community effort, and features new art nearly every time I visit. I enjoy this space, because many of the murals, in addition to being quite beautiful, also convey positive, optimistic messages. Something in short supply these days. There aren’t too many concentrated spots for street art in this part of the city; it is plentiful, but scattered. Here is the space’s twitter account, so you can keep up with any goings-on.

La Modelo was a prison located in the central Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona, and was home to many political prisoners during the Franco dictatorship, and also the site of many executions, among them the killing of anarchist Salvador Puig Antich in 1974.

I used to live just across the street and it was always an imposing structure, though usually strangely quiet, except for the occasional karaoke nights that would echo out from over the walls, which occupied an entire city block.

The prison shut down definitively in 2017, after 113 years in operation. It is now an open space, and is used for tours, civic events, and most notably its walls now serve as canvases for urban art. Below you’ll find a selection from a recent trip I made to the area, which is located here.

 

I had heard and seen photos around the net of some mural work at the Nau Bostik, a cultural center which is a converted factory at the edge of the Poble Nou area, the old industrial center of Barcelona. Due to time constraints, I hadn’t been able to make it until just before Christmas. I definitely recommend the trip, as they regularly have art markets and concerts along with other special events. Below you’ll find some of the art I encountered that day, including a character from Game of Thrones by well-known Barcelona artist Axe Colours.

 

After an absence of six years, from 2005-2011, I now make twice yearly pilgrimages back to the east coast of the US, mostly to visit family and friends, but also to reconnect with NYC. During these visits I generally stay in Airbnb flats in the East Village or Lower East Side. I do this mainly because I enjoy the atmosphere of those two neighborhoods, but also because they are both areas in which I am guaranteed to find a few hidden gems of street art.

Just near my Airbnb, on East 12th street, I found a mural that I had seen a few times on my Instagram feed, a huge portrait of young and older Michael Jackson. Doing a bit of research, I discovered that the artist was Brazilian Eduardo Kobra, and that he had made a trip to NYC and left 18 murals, some of them several stories in height all around the city. Here is a link to an article which also has a map showing the locations of all 18 murals.

I didn’t make it to all 18 sites, and most of the photos here are of murals in lower Manhattan. However the one of the firefighter and Einstein on a bike required me to make a trip (and no, my nose didn’t bleed) all the way up to East 50th St. But it was definitely worth the trek, as these two murals are immense, perhaps the biggest I’ve seen. The firefighter mural seems to attract the most attention from tourists. In fact, I was able to play tour guide to a group of Portuguese travellers, to whom I explained that the number “343” on the firefighter’s helmet was a tribute to the number of firefighters lost on the day of the 9/11 attacks. Of course I also encouraged them to head down to the East Village instead of Times Square, as the former is much more NYC than dirty Elmos and the M&M store will ever be. I wonder if they heeded my advice.

 

I have promised myself numerous times, and have even stated in an interview, that I would post twice a month, no more, no less. That said, I have decided that this January 2019, I will make an exception and post three times. One of the reasons for this is that I have quite an archive of worthy images that is backing up in my cloud storage, impatiently waiting like planes on a runway, to take off into the blogosphere. So, without further ado, here are some images that come from a session in early November, a mix of locations including the Poblenou neighborhood and the more central Paral·lel area. The images speak for themselves, and I’ll save lengthy commentary for the following posts, which will come from this December/January’s visit to New York City. Happy New Year!

As the winter weather sets in, I took a look back to my holidays in September, which took me to the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula, the seaside town of Tarifa. It is indeed a special place, where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet. In the midst of such beauty and tranquility, it would be easy to miss the murals and street art that punctuate the walls along the sea walk. Most of my walks were around sunset, and admittedly, most of my gaze was consumed by each evening’s unique sunset. Below are the shots that managed to distract me from the setting sun.

Barcelona-based Italian artist TVBoy has struck again, this time in three different locations in the center of Barcelona, for his paste-up series entitled “The Monsters of Politics”. The three “monsters” include three of the biggest names in Spanish politics: President and leader of the PSOE (socialist) party Pedro Sanchez, leader of the Ciudadanos (Citizen’s) party Albert Rivera, and leader of the Partido Popular (People’s Party) Pablo Casado. All three are relatively young, charming, and eager to lead Spain out of the current constitutional conflict with Catalonia. All three are also plagued with their own problems, which are depicted in TVBoy’s portraits.

Pedro Sanchez, who became president after a no-confidence vote ousted previous president Mariano Rajoy due to rampant corruption within his Partido Popular, is depicted as a superman, who has the flag of the Second Spanish Republic, rather than the normal “S” for superman. It seems to suggest that while Sanchez is ostensibly a strong figure, he also represents the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), which is traditionally anti-monarchist. Sanchez, however, much to the chagrin of many party fundamentalists, and many Catalans, seems to be quite comfortable with the current status quo of the constitutional monarchy. He’s also a superhero whose strength depends on some very tenuous coalitions, especially those with Catalan parties in favor of self-determination, a red line that if crossed would be political suicide.

Albert Rivera is the leader of the C’s party, which is the youngest of the three political formations. The C’s party started in Barcelona around 2006-7 and seemed to me as a newcomer to be an answer to the rising tide of self-determination sentiments among the population of Catalonia. The party represents itself neither left nor right, and is a member of the neo-liberal ALDE alliance. So, on the surface, they would most likely be considered center-right. However, they are also one of the parties who have come out strongest against the idea of Catalan independence, and as a result have attracted many followers who could best be compared with the alt-right ideology in the US. They have organized several pro-unity rallies in Barcelona, and while the majority of attendees are peaceful, there is almost always a notable presence of alt-right and pro-Franco groups, complete with flags from the Franco dictatorship. Cs have also encouraged followers to “clean” the public space of symbols such as the yellow ribbon, which has become the emblem for freedom for the Catalan leaders who remain in prison without a trial for having organized last October’s independence referendum. Many of the clean up squads have been prone toward violence and confrontation, hence the portrayal of Rivera with the aviator jacket and black boots which is common apparel for the far-right in Spain and other places.

The other character is Pablo Casado, who was recently elected the leader of the People’s Party, which is the establishment center-right party which has formed a part of the two-party system with the socialists since the restoration of democracy after the death of Franco. Casado has inherited a party in crisis, which has been plagued by corruption scandals and is often seen by many as having been too soft on Catalonia during the aforementioned crisis. Casado rose to power by taking a much harder line against Catalonia, a contrast to the softer tone of his predecessor, the ousted Rajoy. However, Casado has two big problems: the PP holds only four seats in the Catalan Parliament, which is not enough to even form their own group, and looks set to lose even more, as conservative voters flee to the “clean” Cs party. The other problem is that Casado has been embroiled in a wider scandal which saw a major Spanish public university “gifting” Master’s degrees to various politicians, and others (including current president Pedro Sanchez) inflating their CVs with weekend seminars which turned into Phds. Casado seems to be in the clear for the moment, but the stain on his image remains, hence TVBoy’s having dressed him in the cap and gown. The fistful of cash would be a nod to the millions in dark money the party is rumored to have paid leaders under the table over the last forty years.

No one really knows how the current crisis will play out, but with the trials of the imprisoned leaders set to start early next year, tensions promise to escalate once again. My personal opinion is that the EU should get involved and mediate a solution, however I doubt that will happen unless things come to a critical boiling point, which is still pretty far off.

It’s unlikely that the paste-ups will last too long. In fact, someone had already attempted to remove the image of Albert Rivera, only hours after being pasted up. But just in case you’re curious:

Pedro Sanchez as Superman is at the intersection of Gran Via and Passeig de Gràcia.

Pablo Casado is on a doorway at Carrer d’en Perot lo Lladre.

Albert Rivera (most likely gone) is on Carrer Canuda.