Random (Acts of) Art

I enjoy art in random places, therefore, I assume others also enjoy the sometimes surprising beauty that occurs everyday, the small creative flourishes that make mundane objects special, and the sporadic but powerful occasions of purposeful art in public places.
Everyone kind of expects Ansel Adams’ sunlight dappled vistas to be stunning but the application of light can make even make otherwise grim scenes beautiful. I’ve always really enjoyed the visual impact of sunlight steaming through the steel beams that support the El in Upper Darby, PA (SW of Philadelphia) as well as the panoramic scenes of that city from the rooftops and overpasses that contain not only the grandeur but also the decay. Some examples of brutally beatific everyday scenes include the photography of Ascher Fellig a.k.a. Weegee who photographed New York City crime scenes, car wrecks, and various other street drama.*
A week or two ago I blogged about greeting cards after an explosion of examples of oddold, and unique Christmas cards occurred online, or at least in MY information feeds, and greeting cards are an excellent example of random art as are other mundane objects such as t-shirts, food, and tattoos. I’m considering them random because you don’t really go to the supermarket wanting or expecting to see a really attractive tattoo but while you are in the soup aisle you see a tattoo that, if it weren’t already attached to some other person, you would want for yourself. At one point, approximately two decades ago, I had a t-shirt that was a leafless tree composed of small, bending and twisting, female nudes. It was a beautiful image and, in an aisle of the grocery store, a random piece of art for the other patrons.
Then there is street art – graffiti, Banksy, and all of those types of sporadic pieces of purposeful art. It may be political, irreverent, a personal expression of power or joy or repression but it is art and typically illegal throughout the world. It should come as no surprise that I like street art however, there is a certain amount of perverse joy in and admiration for the work of street artists who make art that doesn’t require tools and solvents to remove. An opportunity, a idea, and some ecologically gentle material combine to make artwork that can be blown away in a moderate wind or washed away in a sudden spring shower. Hope and fatalism, birth and death; it would be easy to get all philosophical about it but I’d rather just look at the chalk drawings of David Zinn.
*For more exceptional black and white photography of urban scenes check out Stanley Kubrick’s photography as well as Mary Ellen Mark, Helen Levitt, and Frederick Wilfred.)
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