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.

Face by Gregos (zoomed in; it is very high up). Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Paris 4ème. 18 Nov ’12.

Another face by Gregos, further down the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Paris 4ème. Nov 18 2012.

Gregos. Cour du Centre Culturel Suisse, off the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois. Paris 4ème. 18 Nov 2012.

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):

Pink soldat inconnu with his graffiti equipment, accompanied by a smaller cartoon by an artist I haven’t been able to track down. (Gregos’ face is out of frame to the left.) Paris 4ème, 18 Nov. ’12.

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:

Another of the small abstract cartoons, above a woman’s head done by someone called jm or jim. Cour du Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris 4ème, 18 Nov 2012.

[ETA 12/22/12: The woman is clearly by JPM – see here for more from me about him – and the exclamation mark cartoons are by Maxime Aum.]

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:

Bird by Goliath. Cour du C.C. Suisse, Paris 4ème. 18 Nov 2012.

This in turn was to the left of a rather nifty monster, artist unknown:

A monster of unknown origin, Cour du C.C. Suisse, Paris 4ème. 18 Nov 2012.

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):

Gainsbourg by Bustart, accompanied (upper left) by a cartoon (artist unknown) of a pen. Paris 4ème, Nov 18 2012.

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!

Someone was jacking Invader’s style, unless Invader suddenly decided to work in paint rather than tile. Paris 4ème, 18 Nov 2012.

Another exclamation point in the Cour, Paris 4ème. Whose are these?

From hell, plus tag (may or may not be related). Paris 4ème, 18 Nov 2012.

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:

More brilliant colors – abstract, or words, or both? Cour du C.C. Suisse, 4ème. 18 Nov 2012.

Notice the detail of the stylized woman’s face, overlain on the left:

Woman’s head and torso, presumably by someone named Lou. Paris 4ème, 18 Nov 2012.

Then to the right of that, continuing along the wall:

I think this says “Horfé,” judging by the tag in red on the bottom.

And finally, to the right of that:

Zoner. Cour du C.C. Suisse, Paris 4ème. 18 Nov 2012.

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:

Life is not a catwalk, Paris 4ème. 18 Novembre 2012.

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:

“Impasse le méssage” fake “plaque,” apparently done by Fred le Chevalier and Radak (no way to be sure who the figure is by). Paris 4ème.

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.

Person with flowerpot by Fred le Chevalier. Rue du Marché des Blancs Manteaux, Paris 4ème.

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.

Another version of Fred’s kissing figures, Rue du Marché des Blancs Manteaux, 4ème. 18 Nov 2012.

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:

“Nature’s Revenge,” Mosko et associés and unknown artist. Paris 4ème, Rue des Hospitalières St. Gervais.

And here is its companion tiger, to its (or rather our) left:

“Nature’s Revenge,” by Mosko et Associés and unknown artist. Paris 4ème.

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:

Figure by Difuz. Rue des Rosiers, Paris 4ème. 18 Novembre 2012.

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:

Thoma Vuille, M. CHAT. Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Paris 4ème. 18 Nov 2012.

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:

A gz’up octopus, a little worse for wear, accompanied by small post-ups from someone I can’t track down who seems to’ve signed “wayfa rerone.” Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 4ème, Nov 18 ’12.

Another gz’up octopus, Rue des Rosiers, 4ème. Braaaains! As you can see, sometimes he paints directly on walls and other surfaces rather than painting the octopii on plywood and then attaching them. Nov 18 ’12.

Aaaand as for the rest:

This looked confusing and piecemeal at best to me, but apparently FKDL is an artist of some repute. Cour du Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris 4ème.

Figure by Paddy, Rue des Hospitalières St. Gervais, 4ème. Seems derivative of miss.tic, and less interesting, but I do find the reference to people’s bathroom self-photographs amusing.

The exclamation point again, along with a jigsaw piece of love high up on a corner. Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 4ème. Nov 18 ’12.

[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).]

Rue des Hospitalières St. Gervais, 4ème, 18 Nov ’12. I quite like this one, so I’m making it bigger. ETA: Artist is Rubbish Cube.

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.

Possibly by Rubbish Cube? Cour du Centre Culturel Suisse, 4ème. 18 Nov ’12.

Obligatory pic of the diamonds you see on streetcorners everywhere. Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 4ème. I assume the boat – a reference to Paris’ heraldic arms (still used as a symbol) – is by someone named Salcön, which is a quite vulgar punnish name. I see the boats a lot.

I saw these large books marked “PTM” in a couple of different places, but an internet search turned up nothing. Cour du Centre Culturel Suisse, 4ème (also spotted Rue des Rosiers). 18 Nov ’12.

Colorful abstract water-pipe decor signed Bulee. Cour du C.C. Suisse, 4ème. 18 Nov ’12.

I hate it when people try to destroy the space invaders! And whatever cement he uses obviously makes it almost impossible. Give up trying, haters. Rue Vielle du Temple, 4ème.

Space Invader, Rue des Hospitalières St. Gervais.

Rue des Rosiers, 4ème. Obviously by the same person who did the Tupac photo in my last post. I know I should recognize this person. Help?

Vote Dark Side! Artist unknown. Rue des Rosiers, 4ème (also spotted Rue des Francs-Bourgeois).

And finally, a samurai-cat I’d never noticed 2 doors from my apartment on a side street near the Faubourg St Antoine, 11ème. Artist unknown.

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. – 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.