Ernest Pignon-Ernest, Jacques Villegle, Blek le Rat, Miss Tic, Jef Aerosol. Each of these important French Street Artists can rightly claim their mantel in the history of this movement. The one who is more often associated as being one of the first, if not the first Street Artist is Gérard Zlotykamien (Zloty).
His silhouettes or “Ephemeres” predate both Philadelphia’s Cornbread and New York’s Taki183 by a couple of years, so the argument goes, but due to the illegal nature of the practice and the fondness for the anonymity of graffiti writers, we may never know the answer. One thing is for sure, very few Street Artists from the 1960s are climbing 20 meters up a wall in Paris today, spray can in hand, to complete a new fresco.
Pushing 80 years old, Mr. Zlotykamien has been active since 1963 – a serious career of whimsical, funny and possibly frightening stick figures rendered with a quivering can and dislocated appendages afloat. Using the negative space as well, the elements gather as cells in a petri dish, scattered with meaning, an inner calculation. It’s childlike, subconscious, surreal, a cousin to Miró, perhaps, now looming above your head on this wall in a cozy neighborhood. We thought it may represent a man strolling with his walking stick.
After standing in the shadows of massive photorealistic and lushly illustrated murals of more recent vintage in cities around the world, the simplicity and purity of Zloty’s new work is frankly refreshing, and it reverberates. He says that he presented three options to members of this community, and this one was the one that was chosen. Now working here with Mathgoth Gallery, Zloty’s legal work is taking a grand scale.
Long Live Zloty!
This project was realized by the Mathgoth gallery, with special thanks for the support of Paris Habitat and APY’ART paintings.