Thursday, March 3, 2011

Meet the Street

I’ve been stalking an individual quite by accident.  I didn’t set out to be obsessed; it just followed naturally.  First I took notice, then I started taking photographs, discreetly at first, then more planned and executed.  Then I found out the name of my subject was just an Alias.

You can see the works of street artist ‘Alias’ all over Berlin.  His works are fresh but familiar, political without being arrogant, and invasive while still within the context of the environment.  If you’ve lived in Berlin for a while you may have seen his works.  I’ve even used some shots of his work in previous blogs when I’ve run out of pics of donuts or beer.

I’ve always been fascinated by urban decay.  I’ve taken so many pictures of cracking walls, peeling paint, chipped bricks and rusty metal to completely reconstruct a 20th century city completely from my images.  I’m drawn to the way that the Earth takes it all back in spite of the best construction materials we can stack in stony rows.  In the midst of all of this decay, some no-talent kids like to steal a spray can or two and leave their mark—like dogs pissing on each wall they pass.  Others make it a point to beautify their environment, to cover the corrosion with the bright colors of a vivid imagination.  These people are street artists, and should in no way be associated with common taggers and vandals.  A street artist uses the cityscape as his gallery, effectively bypassing the entire nepotistic and ego driven ‘what is art’ gallery world largely run by elitists.

Alias is one such street artist.  He works with stencils based on photographs; he applies these stencils and paper stickers in amusing locations and vanishes.  The image can be of a boy sitting on a bomb, a boy morphing into a cat or—one of my favorites: a screaming woman with the words ‘Don’t be afraid, it’s only gentrification!’

A while back I went to the opening night of an Alias exhibition of new paintings entitled ‘My Belly Is Mumbling.'  Apparently when he is not spraying and pasting up city walls, Alias plies his trade in more tried and true venues.  At the show I wondered if Alias would show his face, since the legal status of street art is dubious at best.  At the West Side Gallery, I was pleased to see a variety of well-executed Alias pieces committed to canvas, wood and rusty metal doors.  This gave the effect of viewing pieces which were ripped from the city walls and brought into the gallery.

The place was abuzz with the usual art people and fashion victims.  We sat and wondered if Alias was lying low, incognito in the midst of his audience, hiding just stage left of the spotlight.  Maybe it’s the guy with all the girls and booze around him seated on the couch.  Perhaps it’s the quiet dude with the paint-spattered pants leaning on a pillar.  We went to the gallery mini bar for a drink and plied the barman for information.  “Is Alias here?  Do you know him?”

To which the barman replied, “No…um…maybe….ummm…would you like a drink?”

For info on the upcoming Alias show:

A Flickr Alias group with more Alias art than you can shake a stick at:

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I like the idea of artists' renderings as a way of sprucing up the city streets, especially covering ruins. Even though ruins have their own beauty....

    This Alias person certainly has others protecting his identity....