As the weather turns warmer, activities on the streets become more fevered, energetic, free.
Graffiti writers burst out of the doors to their apartments and houses with backpacks filled with markers and cans, looking for opportunities to express themselves, to claim space, to be seen. Last week in Spain, a crew of the most actively known writers in Catalonia got together for a graffiti jam on the embankments of the Rio Congost a few miles from Barcelona. BSA contributor and photographer Lluis Olive took a day trip to the area to document and share the results of the jam with our readers.
These wheat pastes have been appearing on the streets of Barcelona after about two years of hiatus. The author (is it a collective or a single individual?) calls themselves Casa De Balneario and they are back with spiced bon mots for the passersby: clever drawings executed in a DIY style that make them approachable, quizzical, and a favorite in the streets of Barcelona.
Dryly hand-written and accompanied by stiffly simple renderings recalling mid century ads or propaganda posters, these are gentle critiques of our self-deceptions, our pop-consumer culture bromides, our willingness to overlook the unpleasant truth of our slowly warming pot of water. They look at assumptions regarding surveillance, work conditions, civil liberty, and our economic shift downward and pose a question indirectly: How did we settle for this?
Welcome to BSA Images of the Week. The outcry over the Russian invasion of Ukraine has overwhelmed all other news “coverage”.
In his State of the Union speech this week Biden even conflated sanctions with domestic inflation – but it was already 7.5% annually for a full year before the Ukraine invasion. Using that logic, Putin is also the reason you have no Medicare for All, and the reason there is no student loan debt forgiveness.
New York has so many beautiful communities and we value our Russian and Ukrainian neighbors. We refuse to demonize a whole community collectively, and hopefully you do too.
However repugnant the idea, let’s look for a diplomatic solution on the world stage to this crisis if it is all possible. We all have too much to lose if we don’t try in this incredibly difficult moment in history.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: Pear, Subway Doodle, Txemy, Calicho Art, V Ballentine, Under Wave Walls, Mike Raz, Tony Tuan Luong, Manuel Alejandro, Smetsky Art, Deborah Kass, Lady Vday, Sage Gallon, and Michael Neff.
Today we go to Polinyà, about 45 km from Barcelona, Spain, to visit the site of a historic summer country house. Built during the 1900s, “within the so-called Catalan modernism,” says Lluis Olive, the home was inhabited by the Marti family in this municipality of 8,389 until about 10 years ago when it became a restaurant. According to a description in Wikipedia, “The façades have, within Italianate lines, symmetry and consistency in the design of openings and moldings used for framing balconies and windows at the top.”
Unfortunately, the restaurant venture didn’t succeed for long and the property became empty. You KNOW what happens next in this story. However, you may not guess that the artist Fullet Original hoped to help find a new buyer by filling all the rooms of the house with graffiti and mural art.
According to Olive, who shares his photos with BSA readers here today, Fullet carried “out a project that he had dreamed of many times.” His friend has purchased the property, plans to hold an alternative market in it, and “last weekend about 15 artists were painting practically all of the spaces,” says Olive. The rooms were flooded with light and aerosol and lively conversation as the former farmhouse came alive in January with so many artists and friends.
The cross-section of styles are indicative of tastes of the moment in Spain and should be finished within a week or two. Which is good timing because “the opening of the market is scheduled for March.”
It’s their 5th annual street art festival, Torrefarrera, although you may more accurately call it a mural festival. For a small village of less than 5,000, they have about 40 murals now, and an interactive map online to help you find them, even fund them if you like. Deeply rooted in history and regional pride this northern town is convenient to the A-2 motorway which connects Barcelona and Zaragoza.
A municipality in the province of Lleida and an autonomous community of Catalonia, Spain, their festival has been drawing people out into the street and into the community in a way that appears to be gratifying to many in the community. They even frame it as an inclusive competition to garner most votes for favorite and present awards at a public ceremony. Sponsored by the municipality, local institutions, and a paint company, you’re unlikely to find transgressive, or even disagreeable themes – but possibly educational.
Photographer Lluís Olivé Bulbena took a drive a few hours north of his home recently to capture some of the new walls that went up during the September festival. Looks like he captured many of this years locally-sourced artistic participants who range from former graffiti writers to commercial artists, including Gasic Painter (from Tarragona), Dil (Lleida), Folk & Miedo (València and Alacant), Nauni 69 & Dank (Almeria), Txus Montejano (Lleida), and Saiko 134 (Terres de l’Ebre).
A true graffiti jam is still possible. This location in Barcelona, the Plaza de las 3 Chimeneas, is a platform for an ever-changing collection of works by new and established practitioners of graffiti, street art, and urban art. How many times have visited a local ‘Wall of Fame’ to find many of the same artists again and again, as if they are hand-picked by ‘kingmakers-queenmakers’?
Over the last decade we have featured this unique venue many times on many different occasions, thanks to photographer and BSA collaborator Lluis Olive Bulbena.
We’re happy to discover the democratic spirit applied to admissions of artists and writers time and again; to see new and emerging styles, political screeds, memoriums, handstyles, portraits, illustrations, text treatments – the gamut of voices that are all part of the greater Barcelona scene and beyond. It is reassuring to see that a scene that can be rebellious against institutional classism and clubby corruptive influences is also not falling prey to them.
This jam was organized by the Periferia Beat Festival, Lluis tells us. “They brought together a group of about 40 artists for a day of art, painting, and sharing stories among old friends.”
Stencils, wheat-pastes, and fevered texts by hand – they all are speaking to you in Valencia. Here in Spain, the pandemic has canceled Pamplona’s bull-running festival and Seville’s Holy Week procession. This month Valencia’s Fallas festival was held in the strictest of rules.
In a bit of cynical irony on the street, creative director/UX designer Mikel Parera teams up with this cluster of graffiti/street artists in Barcelona to parody the grey lines between using art as activism and merely imitating styles to push content. This new collection of graffiti styles are completely divorced from any contribution to or critique of society. The advertising “Creative” is portrayed little more than pre-meditated aesthetic manipulation – in service of a brand.
Roughly translated, here is his wall screed – naturally followed by Instagram handles.
“Who has not ever enjoyed seeing good graffiti? But there is a problem: – Everybody steps on everybody – General discomfort and confusion. – That shouldn’t be like that. It doesn’t seem fair to us either. That is why we make graffiti useful for people. Take a look at our work, contact us and start a project. Use graffiti to create quality content in your projects. Write us today! Refuse dishonest solutions. Don’t hurt your brand or your audience. Get original work and have an excellent experience. Go from feeling disoriented to standing out, being a benchmark in your sector.”
We return for Part 2 of this nearly incandescent display space in the northern woods of Catalonia discovered this month by photographer Lluis Olive Bulbena.
Such an idyllic light and quiet sanctuary for aerosol paintings are on offer for anyone making the effort to investigate. Here you can see the latest trends alongside classic styles of writing for this part of Europe, where lo-fi is as welcome as high-gloss and wild styling.
During a recent graffiti shooting outing the Spanish photographer and BSA contributor Lluis Olive Bulbena ventured into the woods of a remote region in the North of Catalonia.
When he finally found the site, he felt like he was rewarded for his efforts.
Graffiti writers are known to seek out of the way, abandoned and neglected buildings to practice their skills and otherwise “get up”. This complex of buildings once housed a textile factory in a region famous for its textile industry – an industry that was later decimated by floods.
While the architectural details of the buildings date to the beginning of the XIX century, existing documentation tracks this site as far back as the XVII century where the factories were employed in the manufacture of gunpowder. The following century, the records show that it was processing cotton. Now this not-so-secret site is an open gallery for the curious, hidden from the general public – but open to those who know where to look.
Enjoy our first installment of two – new images from a very old place:
It’s been a struggle to mount art events in the last year and a half for many reasons. That includes the 6th edition of GarGar Murals and Rural Art Festival in Penelles, Spain.
Instead of grouping all the artists and events and fans together for one short period of high activity, the organizers this year decided “to progressively invite the artists in smaller numbers so they could paint more confidently and feel protected from the virus.”
Now that all the 2021 murals have been painted, BSA collaborator Lluis Olive-Bulbena traveled an hour and a half from Barcelona to capture fresh paint! We thank him and we invite you to enjoy GarGar!
School is out, unemployment is higher than they’re reporting, and your younger sister is driving you crazy. Time to take off with some friends to the local abandoned building for some summer spray-cation!
Maybe you’ll finally do that masterpiece, maybe you’ll just spray some genitalia or extremely large breasts. Since they are on your mind anyway, why not? These are the last days of July, you might as well carry on what has become a modern tradition for many urban youths over the years.
Who has a speaker we can plug into a phone? I want to hear my jam!
Thank you for these Barcelonian hidden jewels from Lluis Olivas.