Street Sketchbook: Journeys, Reviewed
Thames and Hudson (UK) cover on left, Chronicle (US) on right
Bristol, England-based author and designer Tristan Manco is back with a followup to his 2007 original book Street Sketchbook, which opened up the sketchbooks of several international artists working most visibly in the street. This followup, Street Sketchbook: Journeys, does much the same but offers a greater scope of work by each of the artists profiled.
Mexico is the starring country this time around, and a partial list of of the book’s featured artists includes Daniel Berman, Daniel Acosta, Uriel Marin, Rene Almanza, Blast, Lastrescalaveras, Losdelaefe, Saner, Sego and Neuzz of Mexico; Bastardilla and Stinkfish of Colombia; Charquipunk and Basco Vazco of Chile; Interesni Kazki of Ukraine; Roa of Belgium; Run from Italy/U.K.; and Sam3 from Spain.
In many ways, Street Sketchbook: Journeys actually feels like a followup to Manco’s 2005 book Graffiti Brasil, which primarily highlighted São Paulo artists Os Gemeos, Vitche, Nina, Herbert, Nunca, Onesto, and Titi Freak, who also is featured in the new book. (Full disclosure: I co-wrote Graffiti Brasil with Tristan Manco.)
Looking through Street Sketchbook: Journeys, it’s striking to see the influence that this cadre of Brazilian street stars has had on their peers around the world, especially those elsewhere in Latin America. São Paulo’s endemic pixação (see a Print Jan/Feb 2006 article of mine for more, if interested) graffiti has had its fonts and styles reworked extensively by many of these artists. The use of woodcut prints, long a Latin American street staple, takes on new applications here as well. Lettering, the core of the graffiti gift as it spread from New York, is often abandoned in favor of figurative work, and the simplest of Brazilian street painting innovations—using latex paint with small rollers for the brunt of filling in, with more expensive spray paint rationed out for the details—is everywhere.
From where I sit, it’s a blast to look through this volume to see how new generations of artists in unexpected places are making innovative work. My favorites for now are the Ukrainian duo of AEC and Waone—together called Interesni Kazki, or “an interesting tale.” I recently had the chance to see these two in person in Seville; they’re really good, and it should be only a matter of time before their work is much better known. Their large murals have a clear Eastern European aesthetic, yet their compositions and technique were certainly influenced by the work of the Brazilian superstar twin brothers Os Gemeos, with tiny outlines, distorted figures, and allegorical, magical realist narratives.
It’s those paths of inspiration, which, in the case of Interesni Kazki, traces from the New York subway to the Brazilian megacity to Eastern European capital in its first rush of a new historical era, that makes these ‘Journeys’ all the more interesting, and certainly more important than the past decade’s rush of hype and attention on all things street art.
Bastardilla and Stinkfish