Photo Of The Day: End Of The Line

Public art can take many forms: a mural, a street performer, even a tank as “sculpture.” Then there is the many forms of graffiti. How do you differentiate between art and vandalism? This photo of a broken down Muni bus was taken by Flickr user JRodmanJr in San Francisco‘s Dogpatch neighborhood, presumably in the junkyard. It’s hard to say when the bus acquired all of its “artwork,” perhaps some of it while in service and the rest after it reached the end of the line. Do you think it’s art, or just some spray paint?

Share your artistic travel shots with us for the Photo of the Day. Just add them to the Gadling Flickr pool or share on Instagram with @gadlingtravel and #gadling.

[Photo credit: JRodmanJr]

New York City Street Art

Living in a small town gave me an affinity for any and every sign of urbanity as a child. I didn’t care what it was so long as it signaled that many people from many different places were living within one area and generating ideas together, or at least in the midst of one another. Having been born in Baltimore and raised in the country in Ohio, my family took frequent trips back to the East Coast while I was growing up. I always knew we were in the city when I saw graffiti. And sometimes I was lucky and spotted more than just graffiti – bona fide street art. Street art has appealed to me in this nostalgic way ever since. And because we don’t necessarily expect it to be good, it takes us especially by surprise when it is.

%Gallery-187109%The art form has always been poignant to me, representing a phenomenon that I envied lustfully while growing up: the city. When I moved to New York City at age 18, street art was one of the few things I would stop and look at almost every single time, so long as I had the time. You can’t make allowances like these often while living in NYC. If you were to stop and reflect on every creative, cool or crazy thing on the streets of this city, your path would form a constellation of zero destinations; a spider web of unfulfilled plans and missed meetings.

The first few years I spent in NYC were captured only with spontaneous disposable cameras containing film, which I didn’t always develop. When I got my first digital camera, I carried it around with me everywhere I went. But it was clunky and inconvenient and most certainly not always in my hands. I didn’t truly begin documenting the art I see on the streets of NYC until the last year or so, thanks to finally having an iPhone. I’ve been back in New York since October now and without even consciously meaning to, I’ve collected images of exposed public art, some blatantly advanced and others simply iconic. It always amazes me, the way creativity oozes out of every brick on every corner here; the dark of alleyways or unsuspecting buildings. Vandalism and general destruction of property are not things that I condone. Needless to say, these expressions more often than not come at the expense of another person or company, but there’s more to a discussion on street art than its legality.

There’s something special about a job well done, executed with expertise and available for all to see for a limited time only. Street art is fleeting and maybe that’s one of the things I like most about it. When you come across something great covering the walls of some otherwise unmemorable building, it’s difficult to feel as if you hadn’t just had an intimate moment with the place and the artist. The art is painted over or removed; there’s never any promise that any one image will become permanent public domain. Beautiful street art exists as a moment in time – not the past, not the future. It is what it is and it only is for now, just like the rest of us. It helps us to see the cracks in societies, the cracks in buildings. I don’t know what it is that inspires some artists to take to the streets instead of canvas, but no matter the reason, every once in a while I feel overfilled with gratitude for the opportunity to see art for the sake of itself, without a name or price tag attached. It exists for itself in this way while still managing to exist for all of us who are interested enough to stop and look.

[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]

The Best Cities For Street Art Around The World

I’ve always loved a good art gallery but I know not everyone feels the same way. I get it. Looking at still life oil-on-canvases isn’t for everyone. But the good news is that some of the coolest art in the world isn’t locked away in stuffy art galleries or museums – there are plenty of creative paintings and murals on the sides of buildings, along fences and across public walls.

Graffiti has been around since ancient times but what has really changed is way the many people now perceive the public scribblings. From a mark of gang culture and vandalism to a political statement to genuine artistic expression, graffiti has evolved with the times and is now accepted as “street art” in cities all over the world. Here are a handful of places known for their vibrant street art culture across Europe, South America and The Pacific.

Valparaiso, Chile

This city located close to the Chilean capital is famous for the colorful houses and murals, which line its steeply hilled streets. The extreme incline between one part of town and the next created the need for lots and lots of staircases, many of which have now been turned into richly hued works of art.

Graffiti took off in this city back in the ’70s as a way to protest the Pinochet regime and was initially frowned upon but as the years progressed, the city decided to let the street art flourish. As a visitor to Valparaiso, you cannot only wander the colorful laneways, you can get your hands dirty too. The city runs tours where you can actually hit the streets and create some graffiti with the aid of local artists who help you design your own unique stencils.

London, England

London might be home to some of the most celebrated art galleries in the world, but the city is quickly making a name for itself as a street art hub as well. Parts of the city that were once rundown and off the tourist radar have now been regenerated and have become prime places to view colorful murals.

East End is one of the off-the-beaten-track neighborhoods where many street artists have flocked. While some of the artwork in the area is done furtively, a surprising number of artists are commissioned to put their mark on the city’s public spaces. A few artist’s work to keep an eye out for include “Stik,” so named because he draws stick men across the city; Christiaan Nagel, who leaves colorful sculpted mushrooms on the rooftops of buildings; and Pablo Delgado, who creates miniature “paste up” images all over East London.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is a street art lover’s paradise with both historical graffiti and a thriving present-day art scene to take in. Graffiti really took off here in the ’80s with those on the west side of the Berlin Wall expressing their beliefs and frustrations with the aid of spray cans. After the fall of the wall, graffiti spread throughout Berlin, and although large chunks of the wall are now gone, you can still see many murals left over from times past.

There are also a new crop of street artists that have made a name for themselves leaving their signature artwork on the sides of buildings across the city. While street art is technically illegal in Berlin, it’s such a draw card for visitors that the city still promotes it.

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne has long been Australia’s artistic capital and there’s as much to see out on the streets as there is in the galleries. Graffiti got its start here in the ’70s and ’80s and there has always been a heavy focus on what’s known as “stencil art.”

In more recent years, the street art has evolved to include other techniques, including street installations, woodblocking and reverse graffiti – a method, which involves carving an image out of dirt (like you might do on a car window). Over the past decade, Melbourne has also held a number of stencil festivals where the public can watch live demonstrations, listen to debate about graffiti, take part in workshops and more.

[Photo credits: Flickr users szeke, Gabriel White, bobaliciouslondon, Gianni Dominici, m.a.r.c.]

Free Art: Exploring The Graffiti Of Barcelona

You could go to Barcelona and see Sagrada Familia, and the contemporary art museum and all of the Gaudi houses, but if you head to the capital of Catalonia and don’t take some time to simply peruse the streets and check out the graffiti, you’ll miss out on some of the best art and creative inspiration that the city has to offer.

I, for one, am not usually a fan of graffiti, but done well, it’s a form of public art. In fact, graffiti in Barcelona is as ubiquitous as spots to drink an outdoor cortado. Walking one day I noticed a huge art supply store, their main window display a collection of cans of spray paint.

Barcelona graffiti is funky, recognizable and oozing with a creative spirit that you are hard pressed to find anywhere else – well, except maybe Berlin. Make your way down any alleyway and it’s almost like you’re in a modern art gallery; plus, I don’t need to remind you that it’s free. Here, art is democratized, and you can see it on almost every street if you just look.

The best time to go graffiti scouting is outside of business hours, when stores have their shutters – common canvases on the Bracelona graffiti scene – pulled down. Granted, not everyone is a fan; a couple of years ago the city cracked down on businesses that were commissioning graffiti artists to paint on their shutters. Eventually, those works were even deemed illegal, and the scene moved to the suburbs. But there’s plenty of good graffiti to be found all around, and if you’re a fan of the independent art scene, and like a different way to get a feel for a city, plan for an afternoon or two of wandering the streets and seeing what works you can track down.


[Photo Credit: Anna Brones]

Iraq Street Art: Beautifying The Blast Walls

One of the first things you notice when traveling in Iraq are the blast walls. These giant concrete barriers are everywhere – in front of government buildings, schools, mosques and dividing Shia from Sunni neighborhoods. They remind me of the “peace walls” put up in Northern Ireland to keep opposing sides from killing each other.

Like the Irish peace walls, they’re ugly, and some locals have decided to beautify them. Iraqi street art has its own distinctive flavor. This Banksy style example in Baghdad sends a message any Iraqi can empathize with. Others are simple graffiti. Many more are officially sanctioned and proclaim the importance of education or rebuilding.

There are even some at the ubiquitous checkpoints, showing happy soldiers being nice to people. Some of the troops have even decorated the checkpoints with plastic flowers in a desperate and ultimately futile attempt to change the vibe. The plastic flowers are nice, but you’re still being stopped by Kalashnikov-toting guys searching for suicide bombers.

%Gallery-171121%I prefer the civilian art, especially the one shown below, showing a weird TV-headed figure balancing a heart and a gun. Check out the gallery for more!

Don’t miss the rest of my series, “Destination: Iraq,” chronicling my 17-day journey across this strife-ridden country in search of adventure, archaeology, and AK-47s.

Coming up next: “Ten Minutes Of Terror In Iraq!”

[Photos by Sean McLachlan]