Like a vintage wine, some street art ages remarkably well. Others not so well.
Take for example most wheat-paste street art posters like the one pictured here in Venice, Los Angeles, by artist Shepard Fairey (see all Shepard Fairey posts). It’s classic Fairey.
But it’s showing its age. It’s worn, fading, and a little tattered from the elements. Although the physical integrity of artwork has degraded, it’s actually made the poster more interesting in a way that’s similar to the way patination on a bronze statue gives it more character or the way a pair of Japanese RPM selvedge denim jeans develop a distinct shape, fade and crease when worn everyday and left unwashed for a year.
Part of street art’s magic is that it’s ephemeral. It comes and goes. It disappears. And part of that ephemerality is seeing it age, bearing witness to its slow destruction.
As Fairey’s Venice Beach poster continues to come apart and fade, it’s takes on a new aesthetic. It becomes more beautiful as it degrades and loses the perfection of it’s original state. The artwork is humbled by the elements and by time. Yet it remains a remarkable image and retains the unconventional nature inherent in art that’s “in the streets.”
Looking at it this way is like the Japanese concept of wabi sabi. And yet the core image persists on the landscape, provoking thought , remaining a subject of appreciation.
Japan has a long-established, globally recognized and highly-developed sense of aesthetics, especially when it come to design and graphic communications like advertising. This large indoor billboard poster for Coca-Cola at Ark Hills Tokyo references the Japanese summer tradition of hanabi (massive fireworks displays) as beautiful flat, abstract graphics.
Can design be unintentional? Consider this house on Roma Court in Marina Del Rey, in Los Angeles. It’s wrapped in what appears to be a giant fumigation cover, and, within the context of the surrounding homes and adjacent bridge, it seems to work. But it works in a strange, unexpected way. It’s aesthetically pleasing, simple and temporary. It’s surprising how much you actually notice when you’re receptive to encountering the unexpected. The language of design can speak to us in many ways. – RB