Exploring The Abstract Murals Of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


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“Art should not be segregated in museums; it needs to live free among us”- Isaiah Zagar

While most travelers to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, spend time exploring rich history, colonial architecture and delicious cheese steaks, there’s another facet to the city worth getting to know: its detailed murals.

Walking down the streets of the city, it will immediately become clear Philly has a creative side. One major reason for this is the existence of the Mural Arts Program, which “unites artists and communities through a collaborative process, rooted in the traditions of mural-making, to create art that transforms public spaces and individual lives.” One of their most successful projects is the “Mural Mile,” which showcases Philadelphia’s most iconic murals along a walking route in the downtown area. Additionally, they put on a “Restorative Justice Program,” which incorporates the concept of justice into the art process and gives inmates, juvenile delinquents and ex-offenders a chance to do something good in the community. My favorite way to explore mural work in Philly, however, is through the work of local artist Isaiah Zagar.

%Gallery-167758%Isaiah Zagar’s work can be found on more than 120 public walls in Philadelphia. At 19, he discovered the world of art in outdoor environments, and was inspired. After receiving a B.A. in Painting & Graphics from Pratt Institute in New York City and completing the Peace Corps in Peru, he went back to his home city and settled down on South Street. From here, he turned the area into his own outdoor mural museum, and opened one of the most creative spaces in Philly, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG).

Open seven days a week, this creative and colorful space features gallery-style rooms as well as an outdoor mural mosaic labyrinth. It’s a place where the community can access and interpret the artist’s mosaic art and public murals. The works are bizarre creations from Zagar’s fantasies, with poems, bottles, cycle tires, paintings, glass and more. Along with putting on creative programming, like mosaic workshops and music and mosaic concerts, PMG incorporates the work of other locals artists into their exhibits and murals for a collaborative experience. The labyrinth is the most exciting part, as you walk through narrow tiled halls, down shiny steps and abstract twists and turns to immerse yourself in a world of avant-garde mosaic art.

For a more visual idea of Isaiah Zagar’s mosaic murals at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, check out the gallery above. Click here to see a map of where else you can find Zagar’s work on the streets of Philly.

[All images via Jessie on a Journey]

Madrid Street Art Old And New

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Madrid is filled with art. From world-famous museums to cutting-edge indie galleries, this city has it all.

You don’t have to go to a museum or gallery to see art, though. The streets are filled with it. This photo shows a mural at the intersection of Calle de San Andrés and Calle de Espiritu Santo, just south of the popular Plaza Dos de Mayo. The mural stretches across an entire building and is slowly being defaced by taggers. That charming sentiment about the police wasn’t part of the original design.

There seems to be a war going on between the muralists and the taggers. This mural replaced an earlier one that graced the building for several years until some idiot spray-painted a blue line across its entire length. The muralists haven’t given up, though, and their work can be found on buildings and the shutters of shops. They’re often paid by shop owners to put something on the shutters to attract attention to their business even when it’s closed.

Madrid has a long tradition of decorated shops. Some of the older businesses in town have painted tiles, either in abstract designs inspired by Arab art or showing pictures related to the business. These, too, are being defaced by taggers. Unlike the murals, the older decorations are generally not being replaced.

Not all Spanish taggers deface other people’s art. Some respect an existing work and find another place to put their tags. Not surprisingly, their tags tend to be more artistic and show creativity and thought.

Check out the gallery for some Madrid street art spanning from a century ago and last month. For more images, check out the excellent blog Madrid Street Art.

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Kelburn Castle To Lose Psychedelic Art, Going Old School

Kelburn Castle
Kelburn Castle isn’t your typical 13th century Scottish castle and aristocratic estate. It’s an example of some of the best street art in the world.

As you can see, it’s pretty trippy, the product of a group of Brazilian street artists in 2007. It was allowed by the local council on the understanding that it would be up for no more than three years. Generally, there are strict rules in the UK about changing the appearance of historic buildings.

Despite this, the castle’s owner, the Earl of Glasgow, has been fighting to keep it. Now it looks like the mural will have to go. It turns out the layer of cement that the mural is painted on is damaging the original medieval walls.

Being a modern sort of aristocrat, the Earl of Glasgow has launched a Facebook page to save the mural. So far it’s attracted more than 4,000 likes.

[Photo courtesy Iain and Sarah]

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Somali murals: funky advertising in the Horn of Africa

SomaliOne of the fun parts of travel is discovering the street art of a new place. Whether it’s the elaborate graffiti of New York or Madrid, the political murals of Mexico, or the current craze of Yarn Bombing, there’s always something cool happening on the street.

In the Horn of Africa, street art takes the form of murals. I believe this is a Somali development, because I’ve seen it much more in Somaliland and the Somali region of Ethiopia than I have anywhere else. There’s a fair number of murals in Harar, Ethiopia, but that has always had close trade connections with the Somali region.

Some are simple, like this ad for a dentist in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. I don’t know why this guy jumped into the frame and bared his teeth but hey, it made for a better picture so I’m not complaining.

Then there’s this mural inside a bakery in Harar. It shows the founder, an Greek expat who opened the most modern bakery in town. One day I met his aged widow, who still presides over the family business. She treated me to tea and regaled me with tales of the old days. She was very proud of the mural and in fact that’s what drew me inside in the first place. Another example of art bringing people together.

Check out the gallery below for more images from Ethiopia and Somaliland.

What kind of street art did you discover in your last trip? Tell us about it in the comments section!

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The colorful murals of San Francisco’s Mission District

San Francisco’s Mission District is a neighborhood with a number of faces. It is at once gritty and unique, increasingly filled with shiny new businesses yet still retaining the vibrant Latino immigrant culture and scruffy charm for which it has always been known. As one walks the area, it’s easy to get a feel for these differences – pungent taquerias and Quinceanera dress shops increasingly back up against indie booksellers and sleek furniture stores.

No matter the changes, The Mission remains the center of a thriving community of Mexican and Central American immigrants, which continues to give the neighborhood a distinctly south-of-the-border flair. This is especially true of The Mission’s vibrant street murals, a tradition that is evident just about anywhere you look.

Murals have a long tradition in Mexican art, particularly in the context of the Chicano movement, which represented the struggles of Mexican Americans for social and politcal rights. Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera played a large role in the movement, painting large scale public art in cities such as San Francisco which depicted a variety of social and political themes.

Though Diego Rivera is long gone, the legacy of his work lives on to this day in The Mission. The casual visitor will find the streets bordered by 16th to 24th and Mission to Valencia are packed with an assortment of wildly colorful murals. While some are strongly tied to the traditions of Mexican mural painting, others are thoroughly modern in scope, referencing themes as diverse as video games, 60′s Psychedelia, Hip-Hop and modern New York graffiti tagging.

During a recent visit to San Francisco we took a closer look at some of the many public murals dotting the area. Take a look at the gallery below for a tour of the murals of the Mission District.

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