Thursday, 24 March 2011

Brassai - Graffiti

The wall,
safe haven for what is forbidden, gives a voice to all those who would, without it, 
be condemned to silence

(Poem by Brassai)

Botticelli, who loathed landscapes, said one day that "by merely throwing a sponge soaked in a variety of colours at a wall it would leave a stain in which could be seen a beautiful landscape". (Leonardo da Vinci quoting the artist in his book Treatise on Painting).

His words are almost prophetic, graffiti and street art ignored and ridiculed at the beginning of the 20th century has now made its way into galleries and museums - in a single generation they have been transformed into prestigious works of art in their own right. 

This would not have been possible without the forerunners of modern artists such as Picasso, Gauguin and Van Gogh with their love for the simple, childlike and tribal art and their desire to begin anew and look at the world through new eyes.  Indeed Brassai was a contemporary of these artists and his pictures would have been discussed among them, he believed that graffiti was a pure art form in who's simplicity he found a stunning modernity.  In the foreword to the book Brassai: Graffiti, Gilberte Brassai states:  

"Brassai was convinced that these manifestations "of so little importance," were in fact an emination of the dream world, a true essence of reality."  
Picasso too saw great worth in the study of graffiti and often copied it when he was young. Brassai kept details of his discussions with Picasso and this extract from Wednedsay, November 27, 1946 gives an idea of how excited he was by them:
(Brassai has just given him some photographs of his latest series of graffiti) "These graffiti are really astonishing! What phenomenal inventiveness you find in them sometimes.  When I see kids drawing in the street, on the pavement or the wall, I will always stop to look.  It's surprising what comes out of their hands.  They often teach me something." (Graffiti:137)

Images from Brassai Graffit

Brassai: Graffiti (2002) Flammarion, France

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