Graffiti: Art or Crime? It's been the subject of many an overheated editorial or radio call-in show over the years, with nary a definitive answer to be found. What was once clearly the latter - a prosecutable criminal act - street art has now evolved to the point of appropriation by all manner of media. The recent furor
over Sony's use of graffiti artists in a strongly street-art-themed advertising campaign powerfully underscores how deeply street art has moved into our everyday existence. Heck, even stodgy ol' Time
did a story
on the art form. All of this is to say that Street Art
could not be better timed.
Louis Bou's book is an excellent, handsomely printed overview of the international Street Art scene, attempting to provide helpful genres of classification for the myriad of types of representations to be found in cities around the world. From Stencils to Stickers to City Textures, the book lovingly documents each style with chapters filled with beautifully laid-out photos of prime examples of each. Louis Bou, a Barcelona-based graphic designer by trade, is not only the author of the book, he also took all of the photographs inside and did all of the design and layout work for the tome as well.
Within each chapter describing a separate genre of street art, Bou includes a short profile (or "Spray File") of a famous practitioner of it. Filling out fields such as "Spray Enemies" ("The Police" or "Rain, wind and cold"), "Your Definition of Street Art" (Red blood grey cl[a]y
dirty hands twenty thousand years ago animals on the clay walls
still today") and "Survival Kit" ("Well, my kit is never without stickers, felt-tip markers, sprays, and beer!!") the reader gets a snapshot of how each artist works and at least some idea of what drives them to do it.
, the artist who famously
hung one of his pieces in London's Tate gallery, to Milan's unsettling Microbo
and the Japanese-culture-influenced work of Barcelona's Btoy
, the reader is treated to hundreds of exquisite examples from dozens of artists. Bou is clearly a gifted photographer with a great feel for the environments where the art is created. The reader is spirited from the streets of Bilbao to the alleys of Paris to the sidewalks of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean to see the various pieces.
Balancing the desire to have the Street Art educate and entertain both street art fans and the uninitiated, Bou has struck upon a great format, giving the reader a modicum of information without giving so much as to take away from the examples of the work itself. This work makes a perfect addition to anyone's art book collection or will be a great primer for anyone who wants to know more about this art form before the stink of commodification overwhelms the sweet smell of spray paint.