Artists are finding new and exciting ways to capture our imaginations thanks to the proliferation of street art around the world. Street art engages the public, public space, multimedia concepts, and can indulge in the boundarylessness of the city streets, sprawling just as the architecture of the urban jungle does. These street artists show how the art form is growing, not only in popularity and acceptance, but also in size. After spotting a new piece from French street artist JR that made the cover of the New York Times Magazine (featured, below), we explored other large-scale street art works that use painting, installation, performance, and sculpture to play with scale and perception.
French street artist JR, known for his Times Square installation that involved pasting thousands of portraits of locals and tourists on the concrete, has created another massive New York City street art work. This time, JR created a large-scale pasting in the triangle below the Flatiron Building for the Walking New York issue of the New York Times Magazine. We first spotted it on Cool Hunting. The image is of 20-year-old Elmar Aliyev, who immigrated to the United States from Azerbaijan.
UK creative agency Mother got in touch with their inner Ron Mueck for a campaign promoting the Discovery Channel reality show London Ink. Like the Australian hyperrealist who creates uncanny figures, Mother placed a large-scale sculpture of a sleeping woman with her head hidden inside a photo booth at the Victoria Station Tube concourse.
During the international art fair Art Market Budapest, artist Ervin Hervé-Lóránth placed a giant man who appeared to be crawling out of the earth right in the middle of Széchenyi Square in the capital city. Titled Feltépve, which means “ripping” in Hungarian, the installation was made from polystyrene. Art Market Budapest hosts over 20 countries and audiences of over 20,000 during the festival, so Hervé-Lóránth’s giant would have been quite the centerpiece.
Identical twin street artists Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, known as Os Gêmeos (“the twins”), have been creating public art since the ‘80s. They combine their Brazilian-influenced graffiti style with fantastical imagery and bold colors. Read about the debates surrounding this striking mural in Washington’s Dewey Square on the Boston Globe:
The Os Gemeos mural is not that kind of public art. Measuring 70-by-70 feet, in bright blues and greens and reds, it dominates Dewey Square. It’s not simply that you can’t miss it: You must look at it. Aside from the colorful patterning, the depicted figure itself commands the city-scape: a pajama-clad boy, huddled amidst the surrounding towers, peering out at us with eyes masked by a hood.
That hood provoked an evil stew of controversy last year, stoked by the folks at Fox 25. Following a TV segment on the piece, the news station asked on its Facebook page, “What does this look like to you?”, inciting a slew of nasty, racist invective. Even more moderate commentators wondered if a masked figure was the best image to place near the city’s major railway station.
Henk Hofstra fried some oversized eggs on the Zaailand in Leeuwarden. Set in the largest city square in the Netherlands, the Dutch artist’s eggs each measured 100 feet wide. My Modern Met spoke briefly with Hofstra who explained the inspiration behind the work:
There’s a Dutch expression: “To lay down the first egg, you have to start with the first egg.” In the city of Leeuwarden people talked a lot about what to do with Zaailand. It’s one of the biggest city squares in Holland. There were a lot of plans for it, but nobody started. That’s why I started with the first egg (and several more) and made them huge.
Belgian-based artist David Mesguich looked to his personal history for his street sculpture Pressure 1.0. As Ignant explains, the piece “tells a story of people who are on the fence, of people in-between worlds, ‘those who are both inside and outside.’ His inspiration came from a family history that steeped him in a violent, carceral universe during his youth and the ten years he spent trespassing with graffiti.”
Louise Bourgeois also looked to her personal traumas to create visceral, emotional works about womanhood, anxiety, and isolation. The French artist was best known for her large spider sculpture called Maman (or “mother”), which was installed in various cities around the world. Made of bronze, stainless steel, and marble, Maman is a long-legged spider that measures 30 feet high and over 33 feet wide. It contains a sac of marble eggs. “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend,” Bourgeois once said. “Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.”
Erik Johansson is a master of illusion. His large-scale street paintings toy with the viewer’s perception and sense of space. His hyperrealistic style makes the optical illusion more convincing and invites passersby to interact with the piece — despite usually depicting dangerous situations.
Artists Wolfgang Krug and Maria Luján took to the streets of Berlin with their larger-than-life cardboard knife for a series of performance-style installations, in which the duo created comical crime scenes that made the public do a double take.
Chicago-based artist Tony Tasset installed a 30-foot-tall eyeball in the gardens of Dallas’ Joule Hotel. Website Co.Design reported on the eye-catching artwork:
“I just wanted to make something awesome,” says Tasset, who points out that it is important to him for his public works to be as widely understood as possible, as well as to totally transform the space they are in. Not only is the eye a universal icon, seen everywhere from the Masonic eye on the dollar bill to the flaming eye of an Ed Hardy tattoo, but there aren’t many spaces a gigantic, bloodshot retina can’t utterly transfigure.