Street World

Urban Art and Culture from Five Continents by Roger Gastman et al. [$35.00]

by Karen Zarker

20 November 2007


For those who see a thousand words in a single image, we recommend these two books:

Scrawled graffiti, crafted murals / bright ads in the windows of mom & pop stores, fake ads with real political commentary / sub-culture sleaze, pop culture sharp / fashions that last, fads that die / artists, assholes / sophisticated, down and low / serious danger, perceived fear / the quite silly, the deadly serious / the real thing, a riff on the real—all the expressions of life, expressive life, seen at street level in a scene captured in the eyeball/camera lens of a paid pro, a perceptive amateur—whatever—an astute observer no matter her/his status, no matter her/his location in the world, only the perception and the things captured matter. This is a gorgeous montage of hundreds of single images capturing thousands of stories, diverse and unified, clashing and blending—ignorant and aware, but the one with the lens knows. Those who get what I’m saying will ‘get’ this book.  It’s hefty.  It’s visual, it’s emotional, with some astute text for context.  The rest is up for interpretation.  Just like life, lived. [Amazon]

Street Art and the War on Terror: How the World’s Best Graffiti Artists Said NO to the Iraq War by Xavier Tapies [$35.00]

Graffiti of a political nature must be smart, pointed and fast—fast for the artist is on the run, fast enough to get the message through at a glance, and prepared for a fast death, as the piece may not be standing / may be covered over before the end of the day. Street level political commentary, anti-Iraq war particularly, is captured throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and the Far East in these pages, and its poignant stuff. The criteria for the “World’s Best Graffiti Artists” is not fame, although you’ll find Banksy and his ilk among these pages, but the ‘fastness’ of the message, if you will, the power in the punch. Plenty of “unknown” artists’ messages are included, here. Feel free to glance at the commentary for the works’ locale, at the minimum, and ignore the editors’ interpretation of an image for your own (again, I think the messages come through free and clear, without the static of such narration), or indulge in the brief commentary at your choosing. [Amazon]

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