by Frank Lewis
This video is like a flippie book. Thanks to my friend Jason, for showing it to me. You’ve seen flippie books, and probably even made them yourself. You draw and re-draw a picture dozens, maybe hundreds, or even thousands of times. You flip through the pages, and your stick figure seems to run and then jump into a hole and then disappear, or whatever. It’s a great use for notebooks and virgin post-it pads.
This video is like a flippie book, but it just happens to be the size of a city block. An Italian street artist who goes by the name “Blu” made this in Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can see the ghost lines of previous drawings as he painted over them in white and re-drew the same figure in slightly different position. On a building, a city wall, and spilling onto a sidewalk and underground, he painted a constantly morphing human figure, his head unfolding into a cascade of building blocks, his chest opening to have other versions of himself come out, his body collapsing into a pile of lines, and seeming to bloom as it re-grows. This involved days and days of work. You can see the shadows and light change as the days go by. This involved paint rollers on long poles, and, if other links to Blu’s work are any indication, the use of a scissor lift, or one of those cherry pickers the tree trimmers use.
Cleveland has a lot of terrific street art, partly because the city has a lot of walls that aren’t used very much: abandoned buildings, highway overpasses and abutments, and above all, the Red Line, the largest public art installation in the state. But Cleveland doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of innovation when it comes to street art. Plenty of writers have highly developed skills in terms of color and line in their lettering, but it remains for the most part just that: lettering, fat and exaggerated, proclaiming the writer’s name, or whatever it is that the writer writes.
Blu and plenty of others around the world take the form to a level that simply does not exist here. Not yet, at least. — Michael Gill