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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Column: Davis is too clean

In 1971, French artist Ben Vautier popularized the saying “L’art est inutile, rentrez chez vous,” which translated means, art is useless, go home. Today, prejudices against certain forms of art have been treated with just that kind of mentality.

I’m talking about a specific form of art – one that is raw and exposes the human soul to find beauty in the most unrecognizable places. Materials like cardboard, scraps of wood, cans of paint, bare walls and found objects serve important functions in building the artwork itself.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I am referring to graffiti and street art.

Street art has been defined in our society as a form of vandalism, or perhaps in a much harsher note, defacement.

But despite all regulations to keep them hidden from our eyes, these “public” works continue to emerge in various locations in streets corners, overpasses and neighborhoods all around us. Why is that?

Well, you might say that some people out there don’t have anything better to do. For me, however, I like to think of it being art that was painted specifically for me – the passerby, the common citizen. It’s art that is unglorified and stripped of the four-walls of a gallery setting. And for this, I appreciate it.

In 2006, Dutch street artists Jeroen Haas and Dre Hahn teamed up in Rio De Janiero’s (Brazil) most infamous slum called Villa Cruzeiro to create the Favela Painting. The project turned 34 houses (7,000 square meters of property) into a vibrant spectrum of color. From a distance, it looks as though the housing blocks are melding together like a mixture of colorful clay.

If only we could do this to every town in the world.

But of course, it’s impossible to talk about street art and not talk about England-based graffiti artist Banksy. Ironically, in a lot of ways, Banksy has “popularized” urban art around the world.

Banksy has been known to stir up a lot of controversy over his pieces. On a concrete wall in Deptford, London, Banksy spray-painted the words “Eat The Rich” and in small letters below it, he stenciled:”*with our new 2 for 1 offer including a choice of wine”. The piece is very minimal. There’s nothing but those words on the walls. Yet, it speaks so clearly to its viewers in a comical but very serious kind of way. It makes a statement and serves a purpose.

Banksy’s piece was painted over and is no longer there today.

Davis is a place that I’ve fallen in love with. If I was a romantic or Baroque painter, I would have no trouble seeking out a scenic landscape to paint. But once in a while, I wonder, why aren’t there more public art? When I see a blank wall, I think that it’s a missed opportunity for great art.

Maybe, one day, street art won’t be an act of secrecy created in the hidden time of day. Perhaps, eventually cities around the world will provide more conducive spaces for artists to express themselves.

These are some street artists that have captured my eyes for quite some time: Roa, Vhils, Esif, Phlegm, Blu and JR. They will they will blow your mind away.

UYEN CAO would like to know if you’ve seen any hidden art around campus that you like best. Let her know by e-mailing arts@theaggie.org.


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