Las Calles Hablan (“The Streets Talk”) is a new exhibition and documentary film at the Embassy of Spain that explores Barcelona’s street art. The exhibition’s 52-minute film examines the art, its history, motivation, politics and artists.
This exhibition considers street art, how it impacts and compels a community as a visual discussion tool. Featured are original artworks from Barcelona street artists who are known by their nicknames. They include SM172, Bombing Art, Nineta, Balu, RICE, Konair and Vegan Bunnies. A Barcelona native, Marc Medina, did the photography.
The documentary examines the art form and shows how it transforms over time. Often work created by unknown or anonymous artists will be followed by younger generations of artists who work around or over the older works.
Katrine Knauer, the exhibition’s curator, explains how the emergence of the graffiti scene in Barcelona was rooted in the 1970’s when the arrival of democracy resulted in the reemergence of the city’s cultural and free spirit. The exhibition reveals a hidden subculture and the struggle between an artistic community painting for freedom of expression and an increasingly restrictive dogmatic government.
The 1980’s brought influences from the Paris street scene and the 1990’s, an influx of MTV and American hip-hop culture, with ties to the NYC graffiti scene, Knauer observes. “All these ideas poured in, blending with this bohemian artistic city, creating a unique fusion of local and international, claiming the streets, allowing them to burst with color.”
The documentary “was made with zero budget, a lot of dedication and admiration for the street art scene in Barcelona,” Knauer said. “We continue to be amazed at the response to this project,” she added.
Her group’s team in Barcelona includes Justin Donlon, Silvia Vidal and Ian Currie. They are “honored to have been so warmly welcomed in D.C. by the Embassy of Spain and SPAIN Arts & Culture,” Knauer said.
“Since Barcelona’s golden age of street art in the early 2000’s, things have been changing,” she said. “I thought that, if the world knew that the scene was declining due to stricter laws and higher fines, the documentary could act as a catalyst for change.”
Not all street art is illegal graffiti, she notes. This blog discusses the difference among the related art forms.
Knauer has had one prior exhibition in Washington, D.C., her hometown. She and fellow Corcoran graphic design students launched a D.C. art magazine, Artcade, in Logan Circle with local artists. Shortly thereafter, she says she moved to Barcelona where she began to work at the Gracia Arts Project and became involved in the art scene. Knauer curated art exhibitions, organized music events, and for a year, managed an American-spoken word artist, Oliver Grimball.
The Gracia Arts Project is owned by Donlon who later produced the Las Calles Hablan documentary.
Las Calles Hablan will remain at the Embassy of Spain through Nov. 10, as part of the FotoWeekDC 2013 festival. Visiting hours are Monday through Thursday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The embassy is at 2375 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
The exhibition will travel next to Palm Desert, then to Buenos Aires, New York City and perhaps elsewhere.