When you are a renowned graffiti writer living 25 minutes outside of Marrakech at an artists compound and painting in your studio to prepare for an upcoming exhibition on canvas, sometimes you still are activated by wanderlust to go out and catch a tag. Or something more elaborate.
Jardin Rouge has hosted some of best known American and European graffiti writers such as members of Tats Cru, Daze, Ceet, Jace and Tilt as well as Street/Mural Artists like Kashink, Mad C and Hendrick Beikirch (ECB) over the past few years, inviting them to paint and sculpt new works in roomy quiet studios and on the buildings of the property itself.
As you leave the compound and take a long walk or motorcycle ride up the lonely and narrow dusty roads and gaze through ruddy fields past lines of olive trees you’ll discover bubbled and colorful aerosol works on dilapidated structures, half walls, and cratered remnants of buildings that rise just above the rich red soil.
Suddenly the visual language of the inner city overflows the margins into agrarian areas, this time by way of a fervent patronage of this painting practice as art form. The distinction happens more often these days with festivals, galleries, museums, brands, collectors, fans inviting urban artists to suburban or ex-urban oasis to create their signature work very far removed from its original context.
Until now most of the fiery debates about graffiti and Street Art moving into the mainstream have focused on whether it belongs in institutions, or needs to be studied in academia, or if it ceases to be graffiti or street art when it is made for the gallery canvas or brought into the gallery directly from the street. Here, it is going anywhere but mainstream.
What do we call graffiti writing or characters from one city when it is introduced to another city, as has happened for decades thanks to the nomadic nature of couch-surfing artists and the adventurous practices of the graffiti tribe. And what happens when it goes for a hike further afield?
What do you call it when artists like Yok & Sheryo are on perpetual spraycation in places like Ethiopia or Mexico or when ROA is spraying his monochromatic animals in fields of Latin America or when New York graffiti icons are providing a backdrop to livestock that are chewing their cud and flipping their tales at flies?
Is the graffiti and Street Art practice intrinsically tied to location or citizenship or local identity? Is is somehow made new by its audience?
There is much concern expressed today about graffiti and Street Artists losing their “street cred” (ibility) or authenticity by painting permissioned murals in their home cities or at festivals they have been invited to.
In many countries and regions there are no norms regarding aerosol art, so none are violated when an artist decides to spray a multicolored bubble tag on an old milk house next to a collapsed dairy barn.
One wonders how to contemplate the work of artists whose culture has often been marginalized when the work itself keeps appearing in unexplored margins.
As usual, the movement of these art forms and their various practices are in flux, continuously on the morph. At the very least the new context draws the work into strong relief, allowing a new way to regard its aesthetics.
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