Street art, public art, as it has been coined lately, is a concept that undoubtedly inherited the view of the early twentieth century Avant-garde artists according to which the place of art is not necessarily in a museum, and the physical form of art is not necessarily the canvass or the brush. The example of Marcel Duchamp`s urinal installation in 1917, called Fountain, is telling.
Apart from the irrelevance of the place of display, as well as the ambiguity of the content, the third feature of street art is its intrinsic connection with a specific message. The idea of art with a message has its roots in poster art, which in turn relies heavily on the interwar modernist movements like cubism and futurism. The peak of this trend was recorded during WWII when the war propaganda required new forms of artistic expression that would convey the message in the most effective way possible. The persuasive qualities of art increased even more in the years after the war when the economic boom of Western Europe and Northern America meant that the multitude of products and services needed consumers, whereas the demand in products and services led to increased offers. This economic cycle of capitalism was translated in the art by post-war realism, and at the level of everyday life by raising commodity to the level of art (e.g. the image of a Tiffany lamp bearing the Coca-Cola logo on it became iconic). These dynamics were satirised by Pop Art, precisely what has been seen as the excessively commercial side of everyday life, in which spiritual side was replaced by petty topics approached via aggressive messages like the slogan of `better and more`. Yet, as a side note, the representatives of Pop Art movement often forgot that the petty topics like the human and his everyday needs were not an invention of post-war consumer society, but rather a much older tendency, familiar to European art since the age of Biedermeier, at least (e.g. the family scenes that focused on kids and pets).
Having emphasized the roots of the notion of street art, it is also important to state that, today, the existence of art with a message inspired from our daily routine answers the challenges of living in a community, of which the shifting identities of people is perhaps the most important. This happens for two main reasons. The initial one is related to the tendency of beautifying the banality of life, whereas the second one has the mission of addressing the complex reality of living in the modern, technological, and multicultural society. Technology nurtures freedom of expression but also isolates people who do not have the means to possess them; multiculturalism bridges the cultural cleavages but does not manage to eliminate social inequalities. These phenomena result in a constant re-definition of what is identity. One of the most powerful artistic illustrations of this idea of the shifting identities is the installation of Nari Ward, We the People, a wall sculpture that was displayed in several museums across America. One of these is The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, an artistic enterprise based in North Western Arkansas.
Here, in this area, the concept of public art finds nice illustrations, from private buildings and enterprises designed by local artists who gave them provocative twists, to murals with social and cultural messages or artistic representations of the connection existing between life in the city and the natural habitat of fish and other creatures living in the creeks of the area. Fayetteville is the artistic hub of North Western Arkansas and it has to offer a lot of objects, installations, arrangements that can be considered public art. Enjoy the photos!
Raluca Goleșteanu (text) & Rod Jacobs (photos)
The story of the tree house: https://www.archdaily.com/207857/towerhouse-marlon-blackwell-architect
About public art in Fayetteville: http://www.experiencefayetteville.com/experience/art/item/88-public-art-in-fayetteville
The story of the Amp House: https://www.facebook.com/BuildingHome/videos/1622718407837422/UzpfSTEwMDAwMjE1ODAwODY1NjoxODk4NDgyMjkzNTY3MDE5/
About Nari Ward`s We the People installation https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/apr/07/crystal-bridge-s-art-installation-a-tea/