What is it about street art that calls our attention? Is it the free creativity that ranges in a wild variety of styles—from stencil graffiti and paint bombing to murals and mosaics—is it self-expression or vandalism?
Lord K2 (David Sharabani), the London-born stencil graffiti artist and photographer traveled to Latin America to explore and document stencil graffiti. When he arrived in Santiago, Chile, he anticipated to stay for a short visit, but through his meanderings of the different barrios of the city, he discovered its progressive and vibrant street art.
Street Art Santiago (Schiffer Publishing, June 28, 2015) is the result of Lord K2’s conversations with the street artists and watching them create it in an urban landscape. He writes of how he envisioned the book’s content, setting a new standard that fuses the “images and ideas of Santiago street artists, combining sketchbooks, art, urban landscape, and text.”
Graffiti in Santiago is considered to be one of the richest and authentic, due in part, to its isolation and connection with the rest of the world. During the Allende years, street art consisted of ideological images and symbols that conveyed the Popular Unity’s message. When Pinochet came to power, murals became a weapon of resistance of the lower classes that were repressed by the military and intelligence organizations. With the return of Democracy in the 1990s, Chile opened up to cultural influences from North America and Europe that led to creating its unique identity.
Lord K2 interviewed some the street artists, providing readers with insights into their art. Among the most vocal of the street artists is Jony, who tells him, “Everything that we question is seen in the work that we do. There are many times when we don’t create for the sake of being artists, but rather for the act of transgression and bypassing the law. This is what graffiti is, it’s a mix of desires to overcome authority and laws, and when one questions whether something is or isn’t graffiti, we simply continue painting and scribbling to make our point.”
Many of the interview center on the definition of what is art and the need to communicate the various messages and how they translate on a wall. Street artist Naira comments, “There is a need to communicate something to the audience. The wall succeeds in transmitting content in conjunction with the artist’s commitment to the skill and a search of for enjoyment each time he or she takes on a project. The latter is the most important factor during the painting process as it’s during this time the message of the piece I created: Experiences, passerby, neighbors, the day itself, and the feeling are what is captured on the wall.”
With more than 200 images and 80 interviews, Street Art Santiago is an exciting and eye-popping tribute to the artists behind the paint cans and spray paint.