Amsterdam. Romantic canals, medieval trading houses, coffee shops leaking smoke and offering contact highs. A red-light district with voluptuous — or maybe voluminous — women seated in oddly-lit windows, looking bored and listless and occasionally interested. Bicycles. Tulips. Van Gogh. Art museums.
But street art?
Amsterdam Street Art, a Newfound Appreciation
As we took yet another wrong turn in Amsterdam on a recent visit (we get lost ALL the time and now refer to this as an art), we discovered that among all those Amsterdam icons were pockets of striking graffiti and sociopolitical street art.
One street in particular was flush with brick wall sprays, cut-outs, icons, streaks, and electric hues — much of which was packed with symbolism and message. A few years ago I wouldn’t really have taken note, or perhaps I would have thought “vandalism” instead of urban artistic expression. Now our eyes are attuned to it, we search for it, we take note, we make notes.
Why the change of heart? Perhaps it's the impermanence of street art that appeals to me now — it's here today, but it could well be gone tomorrow. It’s a moment captured in time — a slice of the zeitgeist or manifest fragment of a young disgruntled artist's mind, and it reads like a visual history book cataloguing the hot button social and political issues of the time.
Particularly as cultural evolution takes its course, world cultures are homogenized and aesthetic converges, street art, in all its modernity seems to cuts through that wave with its localization of artistic style. Local culture is reflected in the issues spoken to, the subjects chosen, the colors used, and how images are woven together. No matter how similar street art the world over may appear to us, no two styles of street art are quite the same. And this is cool.
Stepping back from my own navel, I just enjoy gazing at walls of street art these days. They are collage-y, and to me they appear to me a life-sized creativity or inspiration canvas. I think possibility; I often leave them with more questions than when I first took notice. And sometimes there's just curiosity in their wake, the local context having been lost on me. Regardless, I'm always inspired — inspired to try, to think, to create, to execute — and to do it all just a little bit differently. That is the beauty of the collision of inspiration and personal expression.
Take a stroll down Spuistraat Street in Amsterdam with me. What we'll find next time, nobody knows.
Instagramming Amsterdam's Street Art
Note: All photos below were originally posted to our Instagram account with an iPhone 4s. Artistic credit goes to my talented husband, Dan.
Street art — a modern art form, vandalism, or a bit of both? What do you think?