Tag Archives: modern architecture


Street art is anti-modernist – consider it from this angle.

I & the Other(s), paper cut, Flinders Lane, 2012

Street art is a significant post-modern art movement. It rejects the art gallery defined art object, exemplified by Duchamp’s readymades, for art that is identifiable amongst the bins in a back alley. It is site-specific. It is follows other post-modern, contemporary art trends but often take this further than the gallery art.

Modernism rejected humanizing decorative elements in architecture and street art decorates those bare concrete walls. In architectural terms (not that street art should be reduced to an architectural art form regardless of the number of walls involved) street art cannot be reduced to eclecticism, kitsch or “featurism”. These terms are meaningless outside of a modernist context, where theoretically a style can be debased. There was no kitsch in the Renaissance and, likewise, the term “kitsch” is meaningless in street art. Tattoo style and comic book art are part of the street art mix not in appropriation or when converted to art but as an equal part. Other contemporary post-modern artist have also rejected the modernist high culture and popular art distinctions and tried to create synthesis.

Melina M., Hosier Lane, 2012

Street art rejects the modernist (fascist) hierarchy of styles; the hierarchy is based on the same faulty reasoning that lead to the fascist hierarchy of races. There is no pure art, no more than racial purity. For street art is practiced without economic or political stimulus that places the patrons at the top of any hierarchy; it is often practiced in defiance of the plutocrats.

In rejecting the traditional system of patronage, street art subverted the modernist aesthetically sterile gallery and the creation high-end commodity art objects in favour of free art often in multiple editions. Instant fame on the street subverted the traditional media filters.

Street art rejects the modern art education system, many street artists are self-taught coming from various backgrounds. If they do have an arts eduction a street artist is more likely to have studied design rather than fine art. On the street artists have created a master and apprentice system and crews operate a quasi-guild system.

Detail of Napier Faces, various artists, 2009

Many street artists collaborate on large projects and this is a change to the modern artist’s identity as a unique creative genius. Collaborative work has a significant presence in post-modern art with artists like Gilbert and George, Brown and Green, Warhol and Basquiat. Collaborative art uses the merging of ideas and identity rather the modernist unique creator, the heroic artist. Street art has a different kind of hero artist, the trickster and prankster, who defies the authorities with a spray of his can.

Street art is a rebellion and not another modern revolution. Rebels seek to alter something in the present; a revolution wants to change everything in the future.

Unknown paste-up, Geelong, 2012


Street Art & Architecture

Street art considers the aesthetics of the urban landscape. The modernist shunning of decoration in preference for raw unadorned planes has been rejected and decoration has been embraced again. The modernist architectural raw concrete planes have become surfaces to spray paint.

Melbourne artist Jay Walker’s  street inspired aerosol art was combined with gardening in Rick Eckersley’s gold medal Small Garden at the 2008 Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show. (Australian House & Garden, May, 2008) Jay Walker’s curvy abstract aerosol work in a restrained palette of browns is the backdrop for a small formal garden. Jay Walker specialize in creating pieces that fit into architecture, providing that street inspired wall for the stylish contemporary home. The use of street inspired aerosol art in architectural or garden design is a natural progression as street art is a response to urban architecture.

Street artists respond to the found architecture of the location, sometime with very creative results. This is, in contemporary art terms, ‘site specific art’, as opposed to art that can be moved from site to site. There are pieces that comment on their location, like the figure of Batman opposite Batman station, or images of trains beside a train line. There are pieces that respond to the architecture. Painted door flamesDoors, especially the roller-shutters used by shops for security, are an obvious location because doors frame a piece and, in the case of roller-shutters can be rolled away. This creates differences between the after-hours and opening hours look of many locations, like Centre Place in Melbourne’s CBD. Other architectural divisions in buildings are used to divide and frame different pieces of aerosol art.

CollingwoodStreet art forces the personal into the modern planned urban landscape that has no place for the individual human. The bodies that these spaces are created for are corporations and not humans. So some of the city looks like it was designed by daleks and cylons, alien constructions of steel, glass and concrete. Street art attempts to humanize this modern alien environment by appropriating it and decorating it.

Here are some more examples of street art responding to architecture around Melbourne.

Wave wall
Maxcat Brunswick


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