The most spellbinding urban exploration I ever experienced in an doomed place…walking down the streets of this town, the heavy silence all around you, and all the amazing art everywhere on the walls trying to bring back to life the so desperately abandoned and empty houses… Doel is a small town close to Antwerp, in Belgium. Despite a rich history build over several centuries, the government decided in the 1970’s to erase Doel from the map in order to make way for the extension and widening of Antwerp’s port. Despite decades of protests, the residents had no choice but to leave their homes. Some residents proudly continue to resist, but you can presume that the game is over. It’s this mix between human tragedy and beauty of art that made this place so attractive to me. I had a vague idea of the art I would find in the streets, Doel is now an urban art legend, but I never expected to be affected like this! And even if the most of the art has suffered from the passage of time and vandalism, it has been a blast! Here is the work of ROA, Santos, Resto, Psoman, Rotti, Koekoes, Asep, Lastplak, Jiem, 0331c, Show, Bue, Amigo, Reab, Topo, Steaz, Wacks. And more from Doel here.
The small town of La Louvière, in Belgium is host to a brilliant Urban Art exhibition being held at “Centre de la Gravure et de’limage imprimée” (The Center for Engraving and the Printed Image). Showing through September 2, 2012, “Vues sur Murs” (Wallscapes: Prints in Street Art) features an impressive list of international artists, many making new work specifically for this exhibit and also hitting the town with huge pieces.
Invader, C215, Jef Aérosol, EVOL, Ludo, Denis Meyers, Obêtre, Muga, Doctor-H, Sten & Lex, Swoon and OBEY (Shepard Fairey) are all featured in this show which spans three floors of the gallery. The show’s curator, Marie Van Bosterhaut, had the seed of the idea in 2009 after seeing an OBEY print at the home of a collector. She contacted Fairey’s people for what was initially planned to be an OBEY retrospective…
“But then it appeared it might be more interesting to invite more artists using printing techniques in street art,” said Bosterhaut of the project’s evolution. “It was really great to have all these artists working inside the museum, and also outside. There was like a great energy.”
While some of the artists knew each other, others met for the first time. “This created some small surprises,” said Bosterhaut. Evidence of this is seen in one of the exhibition’s highlights located on the top floor. There, Berlin-based EVOL has transformed several structural columns, which protrude at various levels into the exhibition space. They now appear as EVOL’s signature-style buildings and “artists like Denis (Meyers) & Ludo made some tiny stencils or billboards, creating a kind of interaction between the artists,” Bosterhaut said.
Another highlight of the show is Brussels-based artist Denis Meyers. Mostly known for the large faces he paints, he also prints unique stickers and uses hand-made woodcuts and rubber stamps to produce a wide variety of work which all screams out with his signature style. Many of his sketchbooks are also on display as well as other elements which offer a peek into the artist’s process.
Long-time French favorite Jef Aérosol‘s large iconic work greets you at the entrance of the exhibit but some of his smaller, printed images are framed on the sides and offer a more intimate experience with the artist. Jef also hit the town, painting a three-story-tall face of rocker Jimi Hendrix.
In addition to his brilliant mini-billboard, the Paris-based paste-up master Ludo and his unmistakable green paint occupy a notable section of the top floor, including a full-scale bus shelter (crappy tags included.) For the real experience though, pick up the map supplied at the front desk and follow it to the various “treasures” left by artists around the city. Ludo has posted three large pieces out on the town.
A favorite of mine is “C215” (Christian Guémy.) The Parisian stencil artist painted a large mural for the show. There are also many photographs of his stencil works, and several other painted “objects,” including three mailboxes, a shoeshine box, and a metal sign among other things.
The pioneering Italian artistic duo of Sten & Lex display some of their strong, black & white portrait posters, but the real treat from them requires a 10 minute walk to a parking lot down the road a bit. There, a dramatic and elaborate composition of black & white zig-zagging lines reveal a face that fills the wall and towers over the cars and shopping carts.
Of course the anchor of the exhibition is an extensive collection of OBEY works by American artist Shepard Fairey. In addition to a short documentary video, the display spans his career from his quirky beginnings making “Andre the Giant has a posse” stickers, to the slick, celebrity and political-themed posters pumped out by the Obey Giant Worldwide Propaganda factory today. There are dozens of his limited-edition prints with their graphically-pleasing imagery, and even a trio of OBEY skateboard decks. A definite treat for any Fairey fan.
The show concentrates on the printing aspects of urban art but there’s a ton of other multi-media work to see there as well. Too much art to mention in this article, including great stuff by Invader, Obêtre, Muga, Doctor-H & Swoon.
IF YOU GO: Smack-dab in-between Paris & Cologne, La Louviere is about a two and-a-half hour drive from each, and just 45 minutes south of Brussels. Definitely worth the trip. But remember, it’s only showing through September 2, 2012 – so get going!
Photos by Lance Aram Rothstein (many of these photographs were shot with Film Cameras. Long Live Film!)
Okay so I’ll be first to admit that I’m not the best with geography or world cities, but have you ever heard of Ghent? Apparently it’s quite a bit city in the Flemish half of Belgium. In Belgium, I’ve only ever been to Brussels and Waterloo.
Well, apparently street art fans should have heard of Ghent due to the large amount of street art to be found there. Extremely dedicated street art photographer _Kriebel_ has just posted pages and pages of work from the city, so here’s a couple of highlights. Do check out the rest of his flickr photostream though. Lots of really talented Belgian street artists who don’t get enough credit.