An exhibition about maps and the city by graffiti and street artists really should have been quite a treat, but I admit I was disappointed with this exhibition as soon as I was handed the map, which unfolds to A2 size with cluttered text and confusing squiggles. It was very ‘art school’ and the exhibition continued very much in this way. I’m still not actually sure where all the contributors came from, whether there were some art school alongside professional, but it certainly felt that way.
There were some pieces that really stood out, including Shepard Fairey’s Berlin Tower, 2001, which I was drawn to before realising who had made it (Shepard Fairey is well known for his Obey and Obama Hope ‘street art’ works) or that it was Berlin (a city I love) as it was simply better than a lot of the other work in there. In fact it took a lot of perseverance with the exhibition map to finally work out which piece of text referred to this piece of work and who had made it.
The second piece that stood out was by Swoon, I have no idea who she is, but wikipedia tells me she is a street artist, and from the looks of the work in this exhibition and what I’ve just looked up online, she is a very talented and interesting one.
All of the work is loosley based around mapping the city, some of this is very literal such as Will Sweeney’s Cabot Square, Canary Wharf, 2014, which is a fantasy map of Cabot Square, accurately depicting the architecture with imagined added extras such as a Viking style boat and sci-fi themes. Others are much less literal, such as 3TT Man’s Syncretism, 2015, which is actually a collection of cement casts made using a children’s sand castle bucket and stacked into a pyramid.
There is some interesting stuff here, but there’s also a lot that I could hardly give more than a glance to and the ridiculous exhibition map didn’t help either as you had to fight through some incredible garbage to get to any meaning behind the works, such as the description for the sand castle pyramid that begins “Syncretism in its literal sense, means the combining of seemingly contradictory beliefs. 3TT Man’s sculptural work examines this concept through its antithesis”. What it actually then goes on to explain about the sculpture is quite interesting, but trying to get through that type of language for 50 pieces of work was way beyond me,
Thankfully it was a free exhibition and if you’re passing do drop in a have a quick look as you might come across something you find really interesting. But perhaps street art and graffiti is just a lot better in its natural setting away from exhibition spaces.
Mapping The City – Contemporary cartographic art by international street and graffiti artists
New Wing, Somerset House, London WC2R 1LA
Until 15 February 2015