Monday, September 18, 2006
The Rise of the Radical Stencil
There is graffiti all over my neighborhood; some is of the generic gang-related variety but most of it is pretty creative and gives our apartment blocks a lot of character. The neighborhood is mostly Latin American and the mural traditions of Mexico and Nicaragua are also all over this corner of Detroit. The logo of the Farmworkers Union pops up on buildings constantly, and images of Zapata and 'la raza unidad' can be found too.
But I was still startled to see a large, detailed portrait of Noam Chomsky on the dumpster at the end of my street. Nothing really prepares you for that oddity. I walked over to it and discovered it was a stencil painting. Within weeks I had seen stencils, many expressing anti-militarist or anti-capitalist ideas, in a dozen locations and when I brought it up to friends on the coasts or in other cities they confirmed that leftwing stencil art had indeed invaded their neighborhood, too.
And really it's so brilliant I can't figure out why activists didn't start doing this ages ago.
I mean even the best poster-weatpasting can't weather a northern winter-- but paint has a lifespan! And according to the DIY guides you can find on the internet, making a decent stencil is pretty damn easy. --Brad
Glasgow, Scotland and London, England (above and left), Canberra, Australia (right)
Dublin, Ireland and Santiago, Chile
San Fransisco, California and Rome, Italy