It is hard to have a global discussion on the topic of street art without Banksy being mentioned. The world's most infamous graffiti artist has become a household name, having his work featured everywhere over the past decade from internationally renowned art galleries to video games - even in his own Academy-Award nominated film, 2010's Exit Through the Gift Shop. While New Orleanians may be best acquainted with his now nearly extinct 2008 exhibition across post-Katrina 's then-abandoned residences, most of the stencil vandal's canvases cover the public spaces of his native home of England and its neighboring Western European countries.
I was hoping to stumble across some of Banksy's work during a recent European vacation. To my surprise, I discovered that not only is street art much more prevalent overseas, it is also more prolific, featuring artists who look beyond a spray can and a stencil to realize their vision. Below are what must be two of the hardest working uncommissioned (i.e., illegal) artists of this kind that seemed inescapable during my trip.
As a huge fan of vintage videogames, I particularly enjoyed Invader's work: small mosaics composed of colored glass squares organized in the image of pixilated video game mascots from the 8- and 16-bit era. Though not a familiar player in the states, Invader is especially active across Europe, with reportedly more than 1,000 signature images across Paris, his home. Invader is methodical about his world wide "Invasions," publishing maps and guides on his website detailing the locations of his work from each city he visits. Suitably, he released a phone game last year, Flash Invaders, where fans take photos of his works, building points for each spotting. Images must be captured within the app, similar to Snapchat, preventing me from uploading any of the images below.
It's hard to walk the streets of Italy without encountering the mischief of Clet Abraham. Originally from France, the Florence-based street artist specializes in rethinking street signs. Abraham's illustrations playfully work around the iconic instructions imprinted on these public calls-to-action, drawing attention to what he believes have become nothing more than background noise to the people who pass them. Not only did I discover Abraham's art during this trip, but I was also fortunate to come across his studio in Florence, featuring reproductions of some of his more popular works for sale.