Friday, February 13, 2009

an earlier chapter

the krah, of 101ers crew

i wasn't always so sure that i wanted to work in the arts. when i was a kid i wanted to be a dinosaur. then it was a forensic psychologist, and then a chef... and so on. by the time i was applying for colleges, i KNEW for SURE that i wanted to be a writer, so when i got into u of o, i immediately signed up for the journalism school. three weeks into my first term, my elective art history class had swept me off my feet. it was my professor, james hurwitt, that sealed the deal. one of the world's foremost experts on the athenian acropolis, his stirring lectures on ancient antiquities transformed him into an arresting indiana jones figure, and from day one, i could see myself in his shoes. i went to the registrar and changed my major to art history with a focus on greek and minoan antiquities. 

by my second semester i had submersed myself in art history. i still took antiquities courses, but i branched out into contemporary as well. a stoic academic in my school life, i still spent my evenings on filthy couches in flop houses surrounded by graffiti. i had always loved the aesthetics of graffiti, but i didn't consider my fascination with it to be academic until i took an introductory anthropology course that centered on a research project about a type of folk art. reading over the prospectus i realized that graffiti art worked perfectly for the definition given of an folk art: done with the hands, taught through apprenticeship and oral tradition, etc. this gave me an academic framework to research graffiti with, and i took to the task immediately. it took hundreds of photos in eugene and portland, and was really pleased with the resulting project. so much so that i decided to shift the focus of my art history research to international street art (international because i needed an excuse to travel). to my surprise i found that a lot of my more classically minded professors supported my direction and passion for the project. i got a lot of help in terms of finding the right academic framework. 

athens, greece, view from lycabettus hill

when i started looking into study abroad i initially wanted to go somewhere that would have a dense concentration of street art. i thought london, paris, barcelona... but then i found a pamphlet on a program in athens, greece. the photo on the cover was sunset over the acropolis and it reminded me of the time in my life when i had first chosen to dedicate my life to art. though i knew very little about the street art scene in athens, i signed up for the program, hoping to be able to bridge the gap between my old school love of greek and minoan antiquities and my passion for street art. 

athens, greece

when i got to athens and got settled i was pleased to find that it had a thriving street art scene. the antiquities were a given. everywhere you go in athens there are monumental reminders of the city's rich history. my apartment was directly across the street from the city's first cemetery, hundreds of years old, with rows upon rows of mausoleums from various eras. my balcony had a unbeatable view of the acropolis. it was very close, and we were at an almost identical elevation, so from my hill it looked like you could reach out and touch it. sometimes i would wake up before dawn just to watch the sun rise behind the temple ruins, and the light spilling off across the city all the way down to the aegean ocean. from the rooftop of our school (a tiny academy, with a creaky, wrought iron staircase to the roof that had folding chairs and rows of billowing laundry) you could look down on the original athenean olympic track. 

alley off ermou, near pandelis melissinos, the poet sandal maker's shop

the first couple weeks i walked for miles and miles everyday, camera at the ready, and while i loved the exercise and the fresh air, athens is HOT and VERY BIG. i wasn't really getting much further than the south side of ermou, so i took to the trains. greece has a thriving native street art scene with superbly talented artists such as zoe zillion, b., qbrick, lifo, impe, woozy and several other roaming the streets of athens, and other major greek metropolises. 

ruins in the train yard at monistiraki

one of my most beloved discoveries was a huge warehouse that had been painted on all size by an impressive line-up of greek and international street artists, including os gemeos, nina, besok, stormy, bizare and woozy. a plaque in greek let me know that the project was called carpe-diem (the only part of the writing i could decipher) and when I got home and accessed the internet i was giddy to discover that the building was an artifact of a 2002 greek cultural project called carpe-diem: chromopolis. the team of street artists visited 10 greek cities and painted large scale walls, along with doing talks and hosting forums about art and graffiti. i cried a little knowing that i missed the chance to meet the speakers by a couple years, but I was happy to see that their artistic endeavors remained around the city unmolested. below are some shots of the warehouse (that i think housed an indoor bmx track):

north side of building, i'm not sure the artist. 

panorama of wall with pieces by nina and os gemeos

character amidst the os gemeos mural, maybe by same 


one of my favorite artists that i saw all over athens was an artist who wrote b. these pieces are so fun and comical. they remind me a playmobil toys, that aesthetic, and the characters b. draws remind me of those toys. 

loved this piece, this shot is extremely zoomed in, the building is actually in an empty lot surrounded by hurricane fence.


krah on the left and b. on the right

b. mermaid

zoe zillion was prolific AND extremely talented. i loved her characters so much. i hunted around for her work everyday, and every time i found a new piece my heart fluttered. she often does pieces with b. 

b. and zoe zillion

b. and zoe zillion

athens local qbrick's shit was epically tight. i found this whole series of this dead bride in a neighborhood near my apartment. as i walked the streets the dead bride became more and more pregnant until in an alcove, her fetus emerged. mad creepy cool. the last piece in the series was on the same block as the b. and zoe zillion piece with the diving girl and the squid, the os gemeos molotov piece (below) and across the street was a favorite norjin piece. a very vivid city block. 

i was extremely excited to see that there were not only active female street artists in athens, keeping up with the boys, and in some case schooling them, but that athenian art was much more figurative than what i'm used to, and the woman loving greeks saw fit to depict the female form in a myriad of interesting ways. zoe zillion and norjin both had tons of great, strong female characters. 

molotov cocktail, os gemeos


athens had a surprisingly diverse and active street art scene. just writing this post and putting up these pictures makes me miss it so bad. i would love to go back in the next couple years and see how things have developed and what remains and what has grown in its place. 


tiger said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.

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