Paris street art: Le Marais
Yes, a third post in a row about street art. If I were staying here longer than just another month, or my usual slice of California had a street art scene going on (other than endless boring monochrome tags), this blog would be in serious danger of becoming specifically a street art blog… but I am only here another month, and I have a stock of Serious Posts (and Food Posts) I haven’t written yet. In other words, I’ll go back to other topics soon. (Side note, be warned: this post is very long, but is almost entirely photos.)
This post is happening because I spent a few hours today in the Marais, the artsy neighborhood overlapping the 3rd and 4th which contains the Queer neighborhood and the historically Jewish quarter. I discovered that the Marais is, if possible, even more covered in street art than the 11th; I took something like 200 photos in the space of about an hour and a half of wandering just a few streets. Some artists were among those I knew already: Invader with his ubiquitous space invaders, Fred le Chevalier (see last post), le soldat inconnu (ditto), gz’up (whose plywood cartoon octopii I haven’t posted photos of yet) and Thoma Vuille of M. CHAT fame (see my next to last post).
But first things first: a mystery solved! I have figured out the foetus paintings mentioned in my previous posts. They have nothing to do with abortion. They are part of a project called “Areuuh” (the sound a baby makes, in French) by Sébastien Lecca. See this and this (both in French; the latter site sells knick-knacks based on the artwork). According to Lecca on the second site, “cette performance invite chacun à se poser la question “D’où venons-nous ? Que faisons-nous ? Où allons-nous ?” [This performance invites each of us to ask ourselves the question “Where do we come from? What are we doing? Where are we going?”] Make of that what you will.
But now on to the PICTURES. First, the new artists whose work I found. Some of the most striking work was by a guy who goes by the name Gregos and who puts painted mask-like sculptures of faces up (usually quite high up) all over Paris. I saw three, all very different from one another.
This last is probably my favorite, though I like all three quite a lot. After seeing the first two (these are posted in the order I encountered them), and especially the beatific smile of the second (purplish) one, it was jarring to see one cut in half, twisted in apparent agony.
This face was up on a corner in a place called la Cour du Centre Culturel Suisse (literally “the courtyard of the Swiss Cultural Center”), a small courtyard off the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the 4ème. It was fascinating. The side of the courtyard that houses the actual cultural center has a pristine wall – freshly painted, no graffiti or posters of any kind, nothing. The other side of the courtyard, ten or fifteen feet away, is absolutely covered in layers of street art. The face, for instance, was accompanied by le soldat inconnu (who I’d just seen further up the road):
Notice the smaller, much more abstract cartoon on the right of the soldier and look back up at the picture of the third of Gregos’ faces; there’s another cartoon by what looks like the same unknown artist. I almost didn’t catch them, but a third graced the wall underneath the pink soldier, above a painting of a woman’s head tagged with something like JM or JIM:
These two in turn were right above a really cool bird by an artist I just learned about named Goliath, who seems to specialize in animal paste-ups:
This in turn was to the left of a rather nifty monster, artist unknown:
Then to the right of that we had one of my favorite pieces today, this image of a photographer (my friend JM says it’s Serge Gainsbourg, which I should’ve known, sigh) by Bust Art (or Art of Bust; their website is pretty cool):
Notice the small paste-up cartoon of an exclamation point to the left of the monster, and then the cartoon of a pen and an exclamation point to the left of the Bustart; obviously the same artist who did the more elaborate cartoons next to le soldat inconnu and above the woman’s face (I haven’t been able to figure out who the artist is despite internet searches). There were perhaps eight or ten exclamation mark cartoons in the Cour. Notice also the sheer amount of stuff going on on this wall – the image of the old 1 franc coin from 1942, the spray-painted cursive “Paris,” the layers of tags and collage (set upon which a photographer seems a particularly apt image)… But wait! There was more!
The above picture goes to show that if you’re just going to tag a name/word, you should do it in bright combinations of colors, preferably with a wicked little demon grinning over the top. This next one, though possibly (probably?) not a tag — I can’t tell if there are letters, though part of it is a monster’s head and tentacles) — was going on too, to the right of everything else:
Notice the detail of the stylized woman’s face, overlain on the left:
Then to the right of that, continuing along the wall:
And finally, to the right of that:
Seriously, if you’re going to “just” tag, do it in bright colors with eye-catching designs that required actual care; don’t just scrawl a few mostly-incomprehensible letters in black or red across every surface in sight.
Anyway, back to stuff that’s not so much in the realm of tagging. Here was an interesting grouping of layers in the Cour:
We’ve got a woman in a chador, or a youth in a hoodie, layered over “life is not a catwalk” such that it looks like s/he’s painting it her/himself, and it seems possible that someone added the bunny ears (and her hand, if that’s meant to be a hand?) later. The whole courtyard, as I said, had an unbelievable amount of layering going on; it was often impossible to tell where one artist started and another stopped, which was undoubtedly part of the point for at least some of the people involved.
There was also a “21ème arrondissement” fake “plaque” (street placard), a photo of one of which I put up in my first post on street art. Here was the one in the Cour:
After doing some research on various street art sites and blogs (listed at the end of this post), I realized the 21ème arrondissement poster/placards are a collaboration between Fred le Chevalier and a much less well known artist named Radak. Fred le Chevalier was quite present in the Marais; I didn’t even photograph every version I saw of Fred’s gender-ambiguous quasi-bobble-headed figures.
I got pictures of this closer up – the figure is missing its left leg (to our right), ripped or peeled off – but I like this photo because it looks like he’s springing out from behind the car. A fascinating element of street art is how it interacts with the day to day goings-on of the street, after all.
As you can see, Fred’s figures – I assume because of all the white space – are popular canvases for tagging.
I soon came upon a piece that has apparently (according to friends) been in its spot on the Rue des Hospitalières St. Gervais for at least three to five years: “Nature’s Revenge,” featuring a couple of tigers by Mosko et Associés over a sort of humanimal man-snake figure by another artist whose name I’ve not yet managed to track down. I was unable to get far enough away (there were a lot of people) to get a shot of the entire thing, but here’s the largest tiger:
And here is its companion tiger, to its (or rather our) left:
I absolutely love this. You can see a good picture of the full painting, plus the drawing of Marylin below it, here (copyright flickr user kredit535).
Am I done? No. The other coolest thing I saw today was this actual painting (as opposed to a post-up or stencil) by Difuz:
A search of the internet/flickr leads me to believe this is new or quasi-new, as it’s been photographed this week but not commented on at any length. I think I like it so very much in part because it looks like a panel from a comic book, because the colors rock (I feel like the green shouldn’t work, for some reason, but it does anyway) – and because painting it would have required enormous care, attention and skill. It’s quite large – more than life-sized – and I’d love to know how Difuz managed to paint this on one of the busiest side streets I’ve seen in Paris – a street I know is well-populated even at night, given the sheer number of clubs in the Marais. Well done, sir/madam.
Then there was an unusually colorless M. CHAT:
Why isn’t it M. CHAT’s usual bright yellow? I’ve never even seen a photo of M. CHAT not filled in. Was Vuille caught, or about to get caught? Does he work in bits, over time? I’ll probably never know, but I’m curious.
And now for the Everything Else I Saw of Vague Interest part. First, two of Gz’up’s octopii, a very common sight around Paris:
Aaaand as for the rest:
[ETA 12-25-12: The exclamation point cartoon is by Maxime Aum – see this post – and the jigsaw puzzle is by Béa Pyl (see same post).]
ETA 11-20-12: The good people at Streetlove tell me, via their fb page, that this is by an artist named Rubbish Cube. A quick tour of his blog does not reveal the work in the following pic, but the styles really do seem similar. Streetlove said in their message that each of these works of his takes 100 or more hours to make, which doesn’t surprise me; the great care is evident. There are pics of him putting up this particular piece in the August section of his blog.
And to end it (oof): links! I found some really great street art links! Some have been put in my sidebar, but I shall repeat them here anyway. All have pics (so they’re worth checking out even if they’re French-language and you don’t speak French), and most have articles:
Roman Photo sur Seine, street art section – the best Parisian street art blog I’ve come across yet. In French. Detailed blog posts on individual artists.
Love on the Wall – Excellent French-language street art site; lots of interviews with and profiles of artists.
Streetlove, a “graffiti showcase.” In English, though (mostly) about France. You can download an associated iPhone app (or just upload pics to their flick stream) and take part in their documenting project.
Street Art Paris – Current events in Paris street art. Looks good. In English.
fatcap.org – A site about global street art. A bit bare-bones but has pics from around the world. English and French versions.
AlternativeParis – “Street art, graffiti, and culture.” In English.
All City Blog – “Graffiti news France.” In French.