Hey, Could You Please Block My View of This Mural?

by Bruce Goldstone on May 12, 2014

Mural in Buenos Aires, Argentina, illustrating how street art appreciation thrives on interactions with the public. (Image © Bruce Goldstone)

Thumbing his nose at the rules of art appreciation?
© Bruce Goldstone

Obstructions and Street Art Appreciation

Like many photographers, my eye is constantly drawn to vibrant murals and colorful street art. I often stake out a spot in front of an exuberant wall and wait for the perfect, pristine moment to capture the image.

Art appreciation guidelines suggest that the artist’s message is best interpreted with as little interference as possible between you and the art.

I’ve spent plenty of time waiting for everyone to get out of the way so I can snap the perfect picture, free of unplanned interlopers. But now I’m not so sure that’s really the best way to catch the spirit and meaning of art created on public surfaces.

It’s Alive!

More and more often lately, I’ve stopped waiting for everyone to clear out. I just snap away.

Mural in Buenos Aires, Argentina, illustrating how street art appreciation thrives on interactions with the public. (Image © Bruce Goldstone)

An addled face responds to the rhythms of street traffic.
© Bruce Goldstone

When I go back through my photos, I find that the shots with people in front of them often capture the sensation of viewing street art much better than the pristine gallery shot.

An “Oh, I see” moment came when I was trying to choose the best picture of a mural in San Telmo, Buenos Aires. The shot I took of only the artwork was a fine, clear record.

Mural in Buenos Aires, Argentina, illustrating how street art appreciation thrives on interactions with the public. (Image © Bruce Goldstone)

Nice pic, but something’s missing,
© Bruce Goldstone

But the photos with people passing by the mural do a much better job of capturing the playful way the giant apes interact with their close-kin cousins on the street.

Three photos of a mural in Buenos Aires, Argentina, illustrating how street art appreciation thrives on interactions with the public. (Image © Bruce Goldstone)

Add a few more primates and a hidden energy springs to life.
© Bruce Goldstone

I’ve come to realize that the interaction between the passersby and the art is an important part of the message in street art.

Random Acts of Finesse

The more photos I take of people in front of murals, the more instances I find of happy accidents and lively synchronicities. Of course, these visual events happen whether or not a camera’s there to record them. They’re a built-in part of the street art experience.

Mural in Buenos Aires, Argentina, illustrating how street art appreciation thrives on interactions with the public. (Image © Bruce Goldstone)

Follow the bouncing arrow
© Bruce Goldstone

A rubbery arrow seems to push this woman along the sidewalk.

Mural in Buenos Aires, Argentina, illustrating how street art appreciation thrives on interactions with the public. (Image © Bruce Goldstone)

A passing red jacket adds a vibrant burst to the color palette.
© Bruce Goldstone

Colors recombine in surprising and appealing ways, turning people—and their clothing—into part of the design.

Mural in Buenos Aires, Argentina, illustrating how street art appreciation thrives on interactions with the public. (Image © Bruce Goldstone)

Waiting for the game to start
© Bruce Goldstone

Contrasting energies create tension and interest. A young soccer player waits for friends to arrive, while the wall in front of him is already in full play mode.

Part of the Art

Even though it seems contradictory, I now believe that street art looks best when you can’t see everything clearly. Obstructions are constructive.

Mural in Buenos Aires, Argentina, illustrating how street art appreciation thrives on interactions with the public. (Image © Bruce Goldstone)

Blending in and adding dimension
Bruce Goldstone

It’s the reason that gallery shows of street are are so often disappointing. The sterile viewing conditions of a museum don’t enhance our view of street art—they limit it.

Mural in Buenos Aires, Argentina, illustrating how street art appreciation thrives on interactions with the public. (Image © Bruce Goldstone)

Visual overload can be a good thing.
Bruce Goldstone

Of course, murals and other street art are best viewed in person, surrounded by the pulsing action in which they were created.

But since I can’t curb the desire to capture this energy in photos, I’ve adjusted my street art appreciation to include the web of people, pets, and other features that I once thought of as unwanted obstacles. Now I see them as part of the art.

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.

 
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