Art 3 – Street Art and Social Commentary – Due 4/23



1. Look at the following article and video. Post a comment about the similarities and differences between the art in Iran that makes social commentary and the street beautification art in the video. How does the graffiti art in the final segment of the video fit in to your conclusions? Or, is it different than the other 2 types?

 Street Art of Tehran

2. Read the following, paying particular attention to how he uses stencils and a “tatoo style” influence. Explain how he cleverly uses images rather than words to make his point. Are they visual metaphors, puns, image inversions….? How would you describe his system and visual strategy? (When you have time, if you are interested, you may want to watch the film Exit Through the Gift Shop.)

The Story Behind Banksy

3. Note how the following mural by Blu is both humorous and political. No comment is necessary but think about his visual strategy.

Blue in Belgrade, Serbia

4. Does this street art animation by Blu make a political or social commentary? Explain.


7 responses »

  1. I think that the art in the video on Iran is definitely leaning towards beautification. The point of the street art produced outside of government sanctioned work is to critique society. I don’t think that one is necessarily better than the other, but politically and socially charged art definitely has a different reception.

    Banksy uses a lot of word and image play to create a somewhat sardonic and very thoughtful array of work. I think he really thinks about his work and the idea behind it before he actually tries to create something. Or, at the very least, does a series of drafts beforehand.

    I think that imposing a social or political implication on the Blu video would be a bit of a stretch. That doesn’t seem to be the goal. Rather the goal seems to be fun with videos and the creativity that comes out of contemporary technology.

  2. I think that the quality of the social commentary street art and the beautification street art is similar but the goal behind the two types of art is different. For the first type of street artists, the main goal is to portray a message about society, politics, or both. For artists involved in the beautification projects, the main purpose for creating the art is for the pictures’ aesthetic qualities. At the same time, many of the images conveying a social and/or political message can also act as a means of beautification (depending on the image).

    Banksy paints evocative imagery (sometimes accompanied by words) that encourages the viewer to ponder the social or political message that his artwork conveys. Because his artwork is original and eye-catching, it serves as an effective medium for urging people around the world to think about social and political injustices.

    Blu may have created the street art animation with a social or political message in mind but it is unclear to me what that might be. It is possible that the message can be left up to the viewer’s interpretation.

    • I think sometimes Blu is overtly political like in the image in Belgrade but at other times, as in the animation, he is giving us an alternative to the mainstream or status quo by vitalizing the decaying city.

  3. I think that the political street art in Iran differs from the beautification murals mainly in it’s political and emotional value. A large mural of a house with colors and beauty might be nice and make the city or the highways a lot nicer, but I don’t think it really carries any sort of anger or emotional weight that something like the image of the two American soldiers carrying a peace sign does. I like the graffiti at the end of the video because it shows how even an art form that is illegal and in some ways looked down upon can communicate important and personal messages. Even though the graffiti is similar to the political murals in it’s ability to convey rebellious emotion, it is different and I don’t think holds the political weight, or quite the artistic value.

    The article on Banksy was interesting and I really enjoy his style. I think his use of stencils is really cool less because of the visual outcome, but because of how it was conceptualized, hiding from the police and having oil drip on your head, looking up at some stenciled letters on the bottom of a train. I think it speaks less to the originality of Banksy and more to the importance of going out and doing work, painting and drawing whether you feel like it or not, because great ideas rarely come from incredibly deep thought, they usually come from sudden realizations and experimentation. I enjoy his use of recognizable images to create interesting works with obvious, and yet in some ways very deep, meaning. The image of the protester about to throw what should be a molotov cocktail, and is instead a bouquet of flowers, is very interesting to me, because it is something that is clearly peace driven, and yet conveys very violent emotions of protest and rebellion.

    I would describe Banksy’s system as quick and crisp, and his visual ideas as being extremely obvious while still containing interesting levels of depth and creativity. His work and ideas are often seemingly obvious, almost cliché, and yet they are unique because regardless of how easy they are to understand, they haven’t really been done before.

    I think the murals by Blu are not really social or political necessarily, I just think they are looking at interesting emotions and visual techniques.

  4. Comment for the first part on Sedem’s computer.
    Banksy is an interesting and unique artist, and I really like his style. Unlike the Iranian artists who focus more on the visual effect of their graffiti, Banksy keeps his art as straightforward and recognizable as possible–like enhanced photographs. Therefore instead of spending time sorting out from abstract patterns and vague purposes, it’s easy for people to understand what he’s trying to express. Banksy also uses a lot famous paintings as well as some symbolic public figure for recreation, such as the British queen and Mona Lisa, theses recognizable images make his purpose obvious, but encourage people to dig out deeper meanings behind them.

    I believe Blu’s mural art makes a political or social commentary, I can somehow sense that when seeing the person eats and swallows his wings. But I don’t know how exactly it is socio-political-relevant. Maybe I would have a better understanding if I can watch that a couple more times. I think it is amazing to produce such a video, it’s a lot of work. But honestly, his art is weird not too pleasant to watch, and I don’t know if he has ever cleaned up the mess he left there. That’s what I don’t like about contemporary art…a lot of them don’t have a good balance between “black humor” and being “dark”. Maybe I’m narrow-minded.. I don’t know, I just can’t appreciate art that makes me feel uncomfortable. I think what differs art from reality is, even when showing the ugly side of life, art is more implicit and still contains a sense of beauty.

  5. They are all very colorful and the artists try to appeal to a broader audience with their art. Graffiti and street art in Iran seems more positive. People embrace them as a way to connect the people to one another instead of an individual expressing their own personal views. That is what I would consider to be different from American street art and Iranian street art. It really demonstrates well how street art and graffiti can have a pleasant impact on the community and society.

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