Alright, we’re here in Times Square, New York City, and here they are … lots more fresh photos, including close-ups, of the massive, epic street art building-takeover and billboard by French artist JR. The the giant-eye billboard artwork is the crowning touch on a project that’s been in the works the past few weeks. The images of people faces on the building itself has been a work in progress in since early May, when the artist set up a photo-booth and studio truck in Times Square and then pasted images of volunteer models on the sidewalk and building nearby. The giant eye on the billboard can be seen from quite far away, as photos below and in our previous post show.
French street artist JR he has put the finishing touches on and unveiled another massive eye image, part of the Inside Out Project, on a billboard atop a building in Times Square. Pictures below. JR has been taking photos of people and pasting these to the sidewalk and around a building there for the past few weeks. We’re heading over to Times Square on our bike now to take close-up pictures. We’ll be live-blogging from Times Square and posting more photos in a few minutes.
We were pleasantly surprised to find this massive street-art mural by the American artist and street-art rockstar Alec (a.k.a., “Alec Monopoly”) in the lobby of the outrageously epic and luxurious W Hotel in Seminyak, Bali, in Indonesia. The artwork includes many of the iconic characters and celebrities Alec has included in many of his street artworks over the years, including actor Jack Nicholson, 1960s fashion model Twiggy, and Rich “Uncle” Pennybags (sometimes called “Monopoly Man”), the character from the Monopoly board game and the image Alec is most associated with.
This recent street art (pictures below) by the street artist “WhIsBe” in New York City is charged with provocative imagery and is a striking piece of commentary on corporate brands and the military. The artwork is a mash-up of the McDonald’s corporation’s red-headed clown mascot Ronald McDonald and its branding with fascist militaristic images (Hitler moustache, Nazi salute and uniform). This is one of the more exciting, fresher pieces of street art we’ve seen in a long time. If this wheat-paste street artwork is still up, you can find it on a wall on Thompson Street between Spring and Broome streets in SoHo.
It’s important to note art history has a long track record of artwork and artists being misunderstood and controversial. Or, to be more precise, of artists and their artwork being interpreted in multiple, vastly different ways by its audience. Especially public art and street art, which lacks the institutional context of the museum or gallery and the curatorial background that context provides to viewer. Street art imposes itself on the landscape and thus the audience. (Whereas viewing art at a museum or gallery is by and large an exercise in the audience opting in to the experience.)
WhisBe’s mash-up of military imagery and a global corporate brand to create the “McDictator” is a way of vividly, boldly taking well-known visual references and using these to make a powerful, critical and thought-provoking comment on a specific brand and corporation: McDonald’s. That’s one read. Another read is that it’s a comment on the dangers of fascism and totalitarianism, especially when these are promoted behind a cheery, charming disguise (a happy clown).
There is no explicit using of Nazi symbols in the artwork, but the figure’s pose is with little doubt derived from an archival photo of a Nazi solider (possibly Hitler) and the infamous salute, and anybody familiar with 20th Century history will recognize it as such. While some of the symbolic imagery is offensive in and of itself, it would be a misreading to think the artwork is condoning or trying to paint a positive face on the evils of fascism or Nazism and its horrors.
The imagery is a piece of visual shorthand. When this visual grammar is re-configured, re-contextualized, juxtaposed and mashed up with the McDonald’s imagery, it’s making an entirely different artistic statement than, say, if someone were to put up unadulterated photos of Hitler himself.
But like all art — in all its forms — it is the individual in the audience to make of the art what they will, to derive what meaning there may be in the work, and arrive at some understanding of it after critical thought.
See more examples of WhisBe’s street art on Global Graphica.
The big sound board set up at the Bowery Ballroom in New York always looks so nice lit up in the darkness of the club. If we could, we’d buy one of these and mount it on the wall of our office as a piece of ready-made art and at night we’d turn off the office lights just to see the sound board it in its light-emitting glory.