February 6, 2012

Street Art in Valencia: Escif, Hyuro, and others...

Just in case you think the only art in Valencia are fallas, I'll mention another very different kind of art you can find on the streets of Valencia during Fallas: street art. Thanks in large part to two incredibly talented, very witty, and oh-so-cool Valencian street artists, Escif (no, not the European Spinal Cord Injury Federation) and Hyuro, Valencia is experiencing something of a Renaissance in street art.

Before I begin my love-fest over Escif and Hyuro's art, I should first say that there is a lot of good street art around central Valencia which I imagine, suppose, or suspect is actual by other equally talented artists. Not being an expert myself in differentiating the subtleties of their different styles and works, I hope you (and they) will forgive me for putting here some other works that I've run across around town but couldn't say who their maker is… 

You can find this amazing little building just off the Plaça de Tossal in El Carmen.
The mural, by Fasim, is called the "Stop War Victim's Wall".

Saw this mural on Carrer de Quart.

Not far from one of my favorite Escif murals (paella, shown below), this
funny mural shows the meat repentance of Lisa Simpson.

Though to my untrained eye it kinda looks like Escif,
I don't think this is by him. This mural appeared in the same spot
as this next one shown below used to be.

I took this a while ago and I think it's no longer there. Apparently
 it's by Valencian street artist Hyuro. I'm mostly certain this was opposite
the Santa Catalina church in a plaza not far from Plaza de la Reina.

Dear street artists, please forgive me my ignorance. I love your work, but don't have time to follow it closely enough to do it full justice in a blog entry. Please feel free to post comments and clarifications to the further enrichment of me and all my readers. (Thank yous so far: Escrito en la Pared)

Fairey with copies of his most famous work, "Hope".
In case you have been living under a rock were unaware, in the last twenty years there has been a revolution in street art. It is no longer just teenage delinquents graffiti tagging their code names on empty shop or metro stop walls. There is a new class of artists who have sought to elevate graffiti to the level of an art and, for some, a social message about modern living. My personal favorite street artist (that is, before I discovered Escif) was Shepard Fairey and his Obey Giant project, made famous by his Obama "Hope" poster. Recently, the most (in)famous of street artists is probably Banksy, the subject of various highly publicized stunts, an alleged street artist war, and an interesting documentary (Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)) that itself generated some controversy. This kind of grandstanding and flamboyant egotism seems to be a trade weakness, but you can kind of forgive them… not only because their art works are often incredible and brilliantly provocative. But also because graffiti art can be so transient, add it to that class of "art ephemera", given the nature of their canvases ("private property") and less-than-pleased officials or building owners who often quickly cover them up with wall paint. Public recognition is pretty much these artists' only coin, and while not all deserve recognition, those who do _really_ deserve it.

I snapped this photo of a Shepard Fairey Obey "product" on a billboard a few years
ago in the North End of Boston. Look carefully throughout the US, they're all over the place.

Which brings us to Escif. I can't say I know a lot about him (or is it her?) beyond what I've gleaned from all the other gushing fans slash bloggers who've discovered his work. ("Escif… so hot right now… Escif.") He got started back in 1997, though probably didn't really get going until the early 2000s. He currently seems to be on some kind of international tour, since his works are popping up in cities around the world, including Brazil. I first learned about Escif from Hola Valencia back in 2009 right around when I returned to Valencia. Other bloggers and art-savvy writers periodically mention him, always impressed by his keen sense of visual irony. The very cool Spanish blog Escrito en la pared ("written on the wall") first took notice of some of his work in 2009, and then did a follow-up post on him in 2010. The online magazine Complex has covered his recent street murals in Spain as well as some excellent entries he did spoofing the collapse of the euro for the 2011 Fame Festival in Italy. The Nuart Street Art Festival's blog has posted visual updates on his work.                                        

A video of Escif working a large sidewall of an abandoned building.
You can find more of his work video documented here.

In an interview for the Unurth Street Art website, Escif mentions some other Valencian street artists to keep an eye out for: "On_ly (as well with other members of XLF), [...] DOCS (Graffilia), and recently [...] Hyuro." While I know less about Hyuro than Escif, I can say that she (he? it?) has also contributed substantially to transforming Valencia's streets into one of the most incredible, thought-provoking open-air, public art exhibits. Keep an eye out for Hyuro's work, its unsettling and yet simultaneously beautiful.

So far as I know, Escif is not implicated in any of the grandstanding behavior or public scrutiny surrounding Banksy and Fairy. Indeed, by Escif's own admission his graffiti work (in contrast with more public exhibits by "graphics artists" like Shepard Fairey) could never become high art in the conventional gallery sense of the term: 
"What gets put in museums, galleries, magazines and press releases is not graffiti. Graffiti as a concept implies transgression of “public” space, and because of this its institutional adaptation ceases to have value. What makes graffiti graffiti is not its aesthetic qualities, nor the distress under which it was executed. What transforms graffiti into graffiti is precisely the conditions under which its engagement is made. A graffiti writer can exhibit his work in museums and galleries, but this does not transform his work into graffiti. Graffiti is on the street, in its natural condition, where it will die."
Still (or maybe because of this) his work is quite amazing and particularly brilliant in its thought-provoking provocation. When we are in an art gallery, we are in one frame of mind about what we expect to see. When you are walking through the windy alleys of a city, especially a rundown neighborhood, you are in another mindset. His art inhabits that second mindset, not seeking to be admired out-of-context or "on its own merits", but rather in a context where it is arguing with other street symbols and visual cues, maybe even annoying you.

You might recognize this from my recent Paella entry, this mural
can be found on Carrer de Baix in El Carmen. NOT ESCIF!
Escrito en la pared has informed me that this "Rabbit and Cock"
is by Erica il cane. This mural has always been one of my favorites!!!

For those of you who still might think such art is best lumped together with the other graffiti tag that gives urban spaces that run down negligent look, please think again. Escif provides a strong argument for such street art in a profile he provided for Textura, Valencia: Street Art (2009), a book that I'm still hoping I'll get as a present one of these days:
"I see graffiti as a necessary symptom of life in contemporary cities. A painted wall represents a way of using the city that is not thought about socially (though it becomes more so every day). It seems very interesting to me that people that live in a city do not settle for using it according to imposed rules; they invent new ways of utilizing it."
In some respects we are still recovering from a Modern movement, of quite simple and austere building facades. We look at dead Roman ruins and forget that those dull stone columns were often painted bright, vibrant colors. Escif and his peers are calling us (back) to a new, more vibrant urban future. A world where building walls are loaded with visual content that is constantly changing and constantly calling into question the fixedness of our surroundings and the authority of those surroundings' owners.

That Escif and Hyuro are home-grown in Valencia I consider a real "lujo" (luxury) of living in my adopted city, because their works add one more element of pleasant surprise as you wander the streets here. Scouting for their art in El Carmen, which is the highest density zone for his and others' graffiti artworks, has become a game for me that I highly recommend to all of you who live here, or who plan to visit. You never know when you're going to turn the corner of some alley you haven't been down before, and suddenly find one of their murals. (How many times have I beat myself up for not carrying the camera!)

Here is a selection of the photos I've taken over the last couple of years:

Two impressive murals located on Plaça de Tossal in the heart of El Carmen,
the one on the left clearly Escif, the one on the right showing Moses with "€"
and "$" Commandments in hand is by Italian street artist Blu.

This Escif piece, the people with ladder in the middle, was on Carrer de Baix in between
the Paella and Lisa Simpson ones shown above. According to Escrito en la Pared, the street artist "Blast"
is the author of the upside down headless man on the right.

Another Escif whose location right opposite of Valencia's main
Cathedral means it's likely you will see it if you are alert.

UPDATE (Feb. 2013): The above work by Escif was painted over, and now you will find
this interesting, disturbing street art by Cere, in the alleyway opposite the Valencia Cathedral...
morcilla head?

I saw this Escif on Calle de Roteros as I was walking east from
the Torres de Serranos into the heart of El Carmen.

I discovered this image by "Rosh" on Calle del Conde de Montornés (not far from the Fundación Bancaja)...

... followed closely by this mural...

... and this one, too ...

... and then I turned around and looked up, and discovered the massive mural
by Escif which you'll recognize from his video embedded above.

Please feel free to email me any photos that you've taken of Valencian street art, and if possible the location where you found it. I'll add them to this entry with periodic updates. Thanks!

________________ADDENDUM: THE VIEWER'S CHOICE________________

Escif murals harvested from Escrito en la Pared:

You might have seen this Escif painting opposite the San Martín church
on a small street in between Plaza de la Reina and Plaza del Ayuntamiento

This Escif is deep in the heart of Escif territory,
on Carrer de Quart in El Carmen

Thank yous to Gerry Blackwell for emailing me these beautiful additions for this post on Valencian street art:

Valencian mural found near the IVAM, photo by Gerry Blackwell

Valencian mural found near the IVAM, photo by Gerry Blackwell

Valencian mural found in El Carmen, photo by Gerry Blackwell

Series of Valencian murals located on or near Calle de Moro Zeit, photo by Gerry Blackwell

Side-angle shot on two incredible murals found in El Carmen
not far from Torres de Quart, photo by Gerry Blackwell

One of those murals shown just above, found in El Carmen
not far from Torres de Quart, photo by Gerry Blackwell

Chic Soufflé took this instagram in a small plaza not far from the Mercat Central,
and tweeted it on her account here.

A reader, DonCampeon, made this very nice video compilation 
of photos he took of Valencia street art. You might want to
check out his Flickr Street Art Collections here, too.

More Escif street murals discovered by a reader, Duncan, on his
recent visit to Valencia... more of his graffiti photos can be found
at his Flickr feed here.

Many thank yous Duncan for sharing!

My friends from For 91 Days snapped this street-art photo on
Carrer de L'Alt in El Carmen. 

I took this photo near the Plaza Redonda, on my way to the Mercat Central.
Now that my new cell phone is a smart phone, with a good camera,
it's easier for me to snap shots of street art on-the-go!

Saw this thought-provoking street art by Hyuro on one of the pedestrian walkways
just west of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

And in the same area was another Hyuro. I'm beginning to think I like
Hyuro's street art as much as or more than Escif's. Though it's no competition.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have both so active in Valencia.

Another street art pic (by Hyuro) snapped by my friends from For 91 Days

Puzzling over this #streetart mural in Extramurs neighbourhood in Valencia
(next to excellent Mexican restaurant, la Venganza de Malinche).
Don't know what it means, but I like it.

This mural, of Jimi Hendrix, was right next to it. Groovy!

Ah, yes. One of life's great questions: Nomadism or Sedentarism?
Found this Valencia street art near the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

One of my facebook followers shared this picture of another
of Hyuro's street artworks around Valencia.

I've always liked this Escif street art in Valencia (found near Plaza del Patriarca).
Reminds me of Shepard Fairey's "Obey Giant" subversive message.

This street art (I found near Tres Forques in Valencia) is trippy!
Not sure what artist did this street art mural, but I like it!
(Found near Pont de Fusta in Valencia)
More brilliant Valencian street art by Escif (near Plaza del Patriarca):
"El señor presidente recibe a los mercados".
Seems of relevance to the whole Bárcenas affair in Spain.

Found this cool Escif mural opposite the Jardín Botánico:"Panoptico".

This ape street art, "Vanidad Banal" is by Mankey, and was in El Carmen on Calle de Murillo.

"Café como forma de la vida"... who true! Saw this in El Carmen.
Nice placement of street art in walled up balcony window.

Another cool work by Mankey in El Carmen, Valencia: "Crashed bottle".

More street art in Valencia's El Carmen. Is this an Escif collaboration with Julieta?

I discovered this truly epic street art mural in the Tres Forques area of Valencia.
Go ahead, click on it! It's worth a closer look!

Love this street art by La nena wapa wapa in El Carmen, it's got many levels – corset cage & crow. 

Saw this beautiful street art mural, with pulpo and peacock,
by Julieta the other day on the tour of El Carmen in Valencia (Calle Calatrava).

I recently rounded up all the pictures I had taken of Julieta, and realized I'd collected over a dozen! So here are some more works by this amazing artist with a beautiful, adorable signature style:

What I particularly like about Julieta is how she(?) collaborates with other street artists,
like with Lolo in this mural next to Plaza del Carmen. 

"Detenidas por Alegres" :)


Escrito en la pared said...

Thanks for your words on Escrito... I can see you took some images from there too. About the works after "Here is a selection of the photos I've taken over the last couple of years:", there's Blu (Moses), Erica Il Cane (rat and cock), Blast (next to the ladder one), Hyuro (by the motorcycle), or Rosh (black haired girl). Just in case you didn't know already.

Keep it up!

An American Spaniard said...

Escrito, thank you so much! I've updated the entry to reflect your comments.

I'm guilty as charged on pirating those two Escif pics in the middle. I hope there are no hard feelings. Turn around is fairplay. I purposely do not put a watermark signature in my photos (which in this entry are the first 5+ and the last 9) so that others can borrow and disseminate as they like.

An American Spaniard said...

Oh man, egg on my face. Apparently only two weeks before this post, Erin @ La Tortuga Viajera wrote this excellent post for Off Track Planet, very nicely explaining Valencian street art... for your reference:


Erin from La Tortuga Viajera said...

Love this post and all the info you pulled together on Escif (as a fellow fan, I'm sure you can imagine my excitement when I came across his work in SF!). I had a rough time researching, so I had to couple everything together with interviews, reading websites, watching videos - it was a lot of work! In the process, I also became pretty fascinated by Luce, and the way that he does rather unconventional street art - simple block letters, and even installations. Very, very cool stuff.

PS - you might want to check out this documentary I found on Valencia street art. It's slightly dated, but still quite fascinating. http://vimeo.com/849566?pg=embed&sec=849566

An American Spaniard said...

Thanks Erin! Your article for Off Track Planet has a virtue which I'm short on, brief and to the point. I think it is a better intro than mine here. This is more of a long-winded gush.

Great share on the video!

Cat said...

I was just in Valencia and noticed a lot of these on a night walk around the city. Interesting piece!

An American Spaniard said...

Thanks Cat! I saw your "Valencia Nocturna" entry on Sunshine and Siestas, and loved it. I posted it on my facebook page.

The bat symbol (Lo rat penat) is interesting. Valencia has a lot of bats, which you can see at night if you wander around the river park area. For me personally, the bat symbol is special/hilarious/serendipitous since my hometown's symbol back in the States is also a bat... something I'm sure to write an entry on at some point in the future.

Maria Klokow said...

Hey man,
I'm writing you a comment just in case the e-mail I sent u went into your spam folder.
Me and my team from veganiac.com would love to use your Lisa-Simpson-Graffiti photo as our header image on our website and on Facebook.
Just let us know if we're allowed to take it. You will be mentioned and credited in the photo of course. We would also link to your blog :)

Greetings from Germany,


An American Spaniard said...

Hi Maria,

I didn't get your email so it must have been filtered. I'm glad you posted here. Yes, please use the photo "to your heart's delight"!

While I myself am not a vegan or vegetarian, I very much support it. (I was a vegetarian for a couple of years... though lapsed.) It is, in my opinion, an ethically better path (and probably healthier, too). It is too bad that it is such a difficult lifestyle to maintain in this meat-saturated world. (Though perhaps less so in Germany than in Spain.)

So, again, please do use it, and my best to you and your team on the web project.

Take care,

Maria Klokow said...

Thanks Man!

You just made my day :)

By the way, I really enjoy reading your blog! Never been to Valencia before but to Spain.

Are you actually doing fine there right now? Everything the news tell us here at the moment is, how the unemployment rate is increasing in Spain. Although you might be doing better as an American living in Spain.

An American Spaniard said...

No problem! I'm doing okay here in Valencia. The news coverage of Spain abroad greatly exaggerates how dire things are here. Things _are_ tough, certainly, though mostly for those who work in construction or those under the age of 30 without a lot of work experience. (It is possible things will get tough for public sector people soon, given the current government's slash-and-burn policies.)

I was in the USA for a month this summer, and what I noticed about the news coverage of Spain there was that they only report the bad news right now... which is a serious distortion. There is good news, too. There are plenty of people who are finding jobs and creating businesses. (Zara, for example, is doing well.) The unfortunate thing about this negative press is that it becomes a "self-fulfilling prophecy". These are the kinds of filters in the media that one has to be skeptical of.

Oh dear! You got me in a rant. My apologies. Here's the short answer: living in Valencia is lovely!!!

DonCampeon said...

Nice conversation going on here.. El Carmen is an oasis of street art with international names often stopping by to do a few walls. The photos Gerry Blackwell put up "near Torres Quarts" are from one of the best streets for street art (Calle de Carniceros) which connects to El Carmen. The artists are a couple of famous international artists Charquipunk, Inti & LRM (from Chile) and Neutra. I lived in this area for a number of years and if you want to see what the scene has been since 2005, then turn to my Valencia collections at http://www.flickr.com/photos/doncampeon/collections/72157631385369824/or tune it to the slides on Youtube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3oaCLSxBR4 - there should be about 7 of the. Now back in London I follow this scene instead...

An American Spaniard said...

Thanks for sharing, DonCampeon! I've added the video to the "Viewer's Choice" section, along with linkbacks to your youtube and Flickr pages. (I've also tweeted the video clip on Twitter, to let old followers know about the update.) Very nice photos!

I regularly visit London, so I'll be sure to scout out your videos of street art there before my next trip. Again, thanks! This is really appreciated.

Duncan said...

Brilliant article, I was in Valencia a few weeks ago and photographed much of the same graffiti (which I'm starting to drip-feed onto Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/duncan/sets/72157631750346635/)

An American Spaniard said...

Hi Duncan! Thanks for reading, and great pictures yourself! If you don't mind, I'm going to add a few of your graffiti pictures to my "Viewer's Choice" wall here, with proper credits and linkback to your Flickr feed, of course.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful feast of art for the eyes.

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Unknown said...

That looks an awesome place. I'm gonna try to visit it. I'm pretty sure me and my friends are going to love it. Check out the Street art in Manila, you'll love it too. Anyway, Thanks for sharing!

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