Street Art In Madrid, Spain

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Street Art In Madrid, Spain

“Don’t have much to say that wouldn’t look better on a wall.”BiP

 The urban art scene in Madrid  has a very cool street vibe. What better way to see it then with “the point of view” of Javiar Garcia of Cool Tours Spain.  

A lot of the street art in Madrid seems to be created around annual street art festivals.

Local and international artists are invited to paint in some of the neighborhood around the city. 

We walked  around the neighborhoods of Lavapiés and Malasaña,

Gentrification is everywhere in these once rundown neighborhoods. Most of the city’s street art can be found here.

Street art is diverse and includes paste-ups, murals, stencils, sculpture, tags, bubble letters and more. The artists are influenced and inspired by a multitude of cultures and styles, resulting in a wide and expansive body of urban art. 

Graffiti and street art has always had a history of being influenced by the present political and social issues.

A lot of people have painted and pasted on the walls and buildings in their cities as a form of anonymous political protest.

As Europe struggles to respond to the refugee crisis, street artists in Madrid have their own protest. 

La Tabacalera  is an old tobacco factory where a lot of street artists have their workshops.

This former factory is a 30,000-square-foot museum filled with graffiti and street art.

It is a much cooler gallery space than the sometimes snobby art world.

I could have easily spent the whole day here examining every wall. 

 The street art world is all inclusive and made up of artists, art lovers and people passing by.

Javier’s comprehensive tour and commentary made me feel that Madrid  can be just as wildly creative as NY or London. You can contact him at https://www.cooltourspain.com. Don’t miss it when you are in Madrid.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Thirty-Six Hours In Madrid

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Thirty-Six Hours In Madrid

“I love thee as I love all that we have fought for. I love thee as I love liberty and dignity and the rights of all men to work and not be hungry. I love thee as I love Madrid that we have defended and as I love all my comrades that have died.” Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Check into Hotel Urso – a boutique hotel in the center of Madrid in the trendy Chueca district.

Have dinner at Media Racion – the delicious restaurant at the hotel.

Breakfast  -Urso’s continental breakfast in the  lobby bar did not disappoint. I had toast with tomato and oil, fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee – not a bad way to start my first day in Spain.

Street Art Tour of Madrid . It is always my favorite thing to do in a city (more later.)

Lunch at the Reina Sofia

Visit Picasso’s Guernica at the Reina Sofia. The visually stunning Guernica is the favorite painting of my childhood from the  Museum Of Modern Art in New York.  It was returned to Spain in 1980 when I moved to California. At first glance, the painting looks like chaos – all hard lines, blunt angles, and cartoonish scenes of animals and people. But when you look at the details, you begin to see more. Here’s a woman, grieving for the child in her arms. There’s a fallen man, his broken sword lying beside him. The painting depicts the bombing of Guernica (in Basque Spain) during the Spanish Civil War. The Guernica takes up nearly an entire wall of the museum, and at eleven feet tall and nearly twenty-seven feet wide, it is simply massive – especially to a child. The painting always has the same emotional effect on me. I visited the city of Gernika (Basque spelling) in the Basque region on this trip. It was a peaceful quiet city and of course was nothing like the painting. But it was strangely poetic to be standing there. 

Visit the Spanish Paintings at the Prado. No museum in the world comes close to matching the Prado’s collection of Velazquez, Goya and El Greco. Velazquez spent most of his life in Madrid as a court painter and is considered the greatest Spanish painter of all time. Las Meninas is one of the great Spanish paintings. There are eighty works by Velazquez in the Prado. There are over nine hundred paintings by Goya there as well.

Follow his trajectory from his early portraits, light and full of life, through to the dark intensity of his final works.There’s nothing quite like the Black Paintings. Painted directly on the walls of his house in the outskirts of Madrid towards the end of Goya’s life, they reveal the inner life of an artist disillusioned by politics and society, losing his health (and possibly his mind), and confronting his own death. These are dark, twisted scenes which stay with you long after you leave the museum.

Churros and Chocolate at San Gines  One of the great customs in Madrid for either breakfast or afternoon is a sweet pick me up. It’s the smell of the  intoxicating blend of hot oil, fried dough, and melted chocolate that lures everyone in. Hot chocolate in Spain bears little resemblance to its counterpart in America. Spanish chocolate is designed for dipping, so it has the consistency of something  like a warm, soft pudding. Those long, sugary sticks of dough sold at Disneyland or  Costco bear little resemblance to the authentic Spanish article. Churros must be eaten fresh from the fryer, are almost more savory than sweet, and are considerably shorter than their American imitations.

The spa at Hotel Urso uses the Natura Bisse Spanish products that I use at home. I am eager to try some treatments and spend the evening having a decadent facial, massage and body treatment. I take advantage of the steam and whirlpool facilities. It is an excellent experience to unwind and get rid of the jet lag.

In the morning, I leave for Bilbao – after I eat my new favorite tomato and olive oil on toast .

Fly safe,

JAZ

Street Art In Krakow, Poland

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Street Art In Krakow, Poland

“Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse

 The first thing I did in Poland was a private street art tour. I was told to meet the guide at Ghetto Heroes Square.The Ghetto Heroes Square is in the center of the old Krakow Ghetto.This square was called the Umschlagplatz by the Nazis. it was the place where the Jews had to assemble before being transported to the Belzec death camp, Auschwitz- Birkenau or the Plasnow Forced Labor Camp just outside the city. Iron and and bronze empty chairs commemorate this place. It is a holiday and the square is eerily empty.  It is a deeply moving memorial.

 I meet up with Joanna Switala who explains the memorial. She knows a lot about the area and the artists. 

Street art in Poland and other ex Soviet countries derives from the spirit of protest. In the last several years, there is trend to improve the quality of public spaces with commissioned  street art murals. Street art is the uncensored, unofficial, egalitarian voice of the people.

In the districts of Podgorze and Kazimierz, public art is both encouraged and controlled, and street artists are often invited to create elaborate works of art that celebrate the city’s history, culture and revitalization.

 The Jewish Cultural Festival invited one of Israel’s most famous street artists, Pil Peled, to create an image to watch over the district. Entitled ‘Judah’, the mural is said to represent both the vulnerability of the Jews and their strength to overcome.

This black and white mural was created by the Israeli group, Broken Fingaz was for the same festival to honor the memory of the Bosak Family, who lived in this area for four hundred years until World War ll .

The woman in the painting is Irene Sendlar. .In 1941, .Irene Sendlar was recruited to head the Underground Council to Aid Jews, which was credited for protecting children by working with orphanages and welfare agencies to change their identities. They also smuggled an estimated eight to ten children out of the ghetto monthly by hiding them in suitcases, packages, and sometimes even coffins. Approximately 2,500 children were saved .

This mural was created by Marcin Wierzchowski, and is visible on the wall of the Galicia Jewish Museum. It represents pre-war Kraków and modern Jerusalem.

101 Murals for Krakow was put together by Krakow street artists who created the mural by bringing together multi-format paintings and connecting them with urban, historical, and architectural contexts of the different districts of the city in Kazimierz and Podgórze.

 City officials are forever trying to erase the playful and political stencils of  street artist Kuba .

 Mythical murals are painted across many of the city’s abandoned buildings by Mikolaj Rejs.

The mural at Joseph Street shows various people that are associated with the district: King Kazimierz the Great and his Jewish lover, Esterka; Prince Joseph II, who became the patron of this area during Austrian times; the architect of the district, Karol Knaus; and Helena Rubinstein, the Jewish queen of cosmetics who lived in Kazimierz before WWII.

 Though i didn’t see it that day, we talked about the internal feuding culture of football graffiti in Poland which might more accurately reflect some of the views here. Patriotic white-and-red colors, swastikas, Celtic crosses, football club emblems, Stars of David hanging from gallows, fans who died in fights with rival supporters and the Fighting Poland symbol are found on walls throughout Poland. 

The city-sponsored  ArtBoom festival invited Bolognese artist Blu to create this giant mural called  Ding Dong Dum.

 Street art as a form of protest remains, even in the publically sanctioned events. When the street artist Pikaso was invited to paint a mural as part of the 2012 ArtBoom festival the authorities refused to allow him to create his original design. Instead, he painted the giant and symbolic mural “For God’s Sake the Censorship is Everywhere.”

The dark history of Poland is always there but maybe the urban culture of street art in a country that didn’t have that freedom before, shows that change is possible.

Thanks Joanna for making my first day, interesting, informative, fun and full of art. I highly recommend her street art tour in Krakow. guideskrakow@gmail.com

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Things That I Want To Do In Poland

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Ten Thing That I Want To Do  In Poland

“It was a small room with dim light coming in the window, reminiscent of old Polish films.” Haruki Murakami

Choosing to visit Poland. is not an easy decision for me. There are many places in Poland where horrific events took place during World War Two. I’m trying to combine those with seeing what the country is like now. I want to have an open mind but racism seems to be under new management again in Poland.

Since I love street art, I will be taking a Krakow Street Art Tour. I haven’t done one in Eastern Europe before so it will be interesting to see if it has an activist, protest quality. Poster Art has been a tradition in Poland so it was probably be a natural transition to street art.

Krakow is one of the most fascinating medieval cities in Europe and one of the few that escaped destruction in World War II. Today it’s famed for its soaring Gothic church spires and cobblestone streets, while its Old Town is a UNESCO heritage site, it is also known for having one of the liveliest after dark scenes on the continent.

The story of Oskar Schindler and his employees is one which has been well-known. It was made famous by Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List (which was shot almost entirely in Kraków). The factory has been turned into a museum about his story and the occupation of Poland.

A visit to Auschwitz is a test in humanity that not everybody is prepared to take, One can hardly call it a tourist attraction. The three million victims of the largest of Nazi Germany’s concentration camps don’t need high attendance records. What they need is a moment of reflection on what happened and what should be done so that this tragedy never happens again.

You wouldn’t imagine that a museum dedicated to people digging for salt would become a popular tourist draw, but that’s exactly what Wieliczka Salt Mine is. It is an easy day trip from Krakow. The mine was in operation from the thirteenth century till 2007 .Now it sees over a million visitors a year, who take the tiny elevator down into the depths and explore the “buildings” inside, which include chapels, statues, and even a whole cathedral carved out from the rock.

There are various ways to explore the music of Frédéric Chopin, Poland’s famous composer. While walking through the city there are many black benches with buttons on them. Simply press the buttons at any time and they play the music of Chopin. Chopin concerts are held regularly in venues throughout Warsaw, To understand all about the man himself and see his last piano, head to the Chopin Museum.

Before World War ll, Warsaw had the largest Jewish community in Europe.The WarsawGhetto was the largest ghetto set up by the Nazi’s during the war. Over seventy years ago, the area of Jewish residents (which numbered up to one million) was sealed off from the rest of the city. It was enclosed by a wall that was over 10 feet high, topped with barbed wire, and closely guarded to prevent movement between the ghetto and the rest of Warsaw. Life deteriorated quickly.  The world already knows the terrible history of the Jews in the ghetto. There are memorials and museums dedicated to remembering the victims. The Warsaw Ghetto was the location of the Warsaw Uprising where the Jews fought back from Mila 18 street.

Warsaw’s central Old Town neighborhood is one of the city’s most popular areas and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This historic district, which was rebuilt after bombings from World War II destroyed most of it, is filled with restaurants, art galleries, shops and cafes housed in structures designed to replicate the region’s former fourteenth to eighteenth century buildings.

The market square in Wroclaw is one of the largest in Europe with two town halls. Piwnica Swidnicka located on the square is the oldest restaurant in Europe. It is always crowded and fun.

Łódź’s Museum Of Modern Art (Muzeum Sztuki) is one of the oldest museums of Modern Art (ha) in the world and holds the largest collection of world art from the 20th and 21st centuries in Poland.

Recently, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki caused an uproar when he said that there were “Jewish perpetrators” in the Holocaust, along with Polish and Russian ones. Is it how everyone feels or is it like Trump saying ”There are are good people on both sides which means some good Nazis?”

I believe travel is one of the ways we can educate humanity about our similarities. It is how I learn that I am not so different from you. Since I have this opportunity to be there, it is my responsibility to see what is going on for myself and figure out the truth. I have to challenge my assumptions and not judge the people I meet based on history and the media.

Fly safe,

JAZ

The Street Is Your Gallery – Urban Art In Tel Aviv

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The Street Is Your Gallery – Urban Art In Tel Aviv

“The words  of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls” Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

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The gentrified  Florentin neighborhood is the area to go to find amazing street art and graffiti in Tel Aviv. 

The crumbling walls of Florentin will soon turn into high rises so go before that happens.

The person to go with is Guy Sharett who does an urban street tour.  You can sign up on his website Streetwise Hebrew http://www.streetwisehebrew.com.  It’s very popular.  I’ve tried to get on this tour twice before so book in advance. The tour is in English and my  group of twelve was international. He weaves some Hebrew, history, humor and insight into the one and half hour tour.

There is a major difference between Guy’s tour and other street art tours. He focuses on the street words to teach Hebrew and Israeli Culture.

We begin with a piece by Muriel Street Art.

We see a few of her pieces throughout the tour. Muriel Street Art wants us to think.

SENED creates Figures known as “kufsonim” (mini boxes) They are ready-made stencils that are spread all over the city. The characters were developed from an abstract of a cube.

missK is an eastern european artist who lives in Israel. Apparently some of the local artists do not like the growing number of graffiti tourists. 

We see a lot of her work in Florentin.

Ometz (Hebrew for bravery) writes street poetry. He is a religious scholar by day and street artist by night.

Dede is one of Israel’s most prominent street artists and the only one I knew of so I was glad to see pieces of his.

Solomon Souza is a British Israeli artist who is best known for painting faces on the shutters in the Mahane Yehudi market in Jerusalem.

It is only visible on Saturdays when the market is closed.

Frenemy creates colorful characters in chaotic environments.

Tiny Tiny Gallery on Florentin 18 shows slut machine until August 6.

 The “27 club” is a group of influential rock musicians that died at the young age of 27 of drug and alcohol abuse. Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Amy Winehouse  are part of this group. Some say the blank face is the artist Kis-Lev.

.In Hebrew you can decipher each letter from the bottom.

In Arabic you can do it from the top. This word is a combination of toda and shukraan. It means thank you in both languages. The message is clear.

Tel Aviv is the most liberal city in the Middle East and attracts both local and worldwide street artists. There weren’t as many large-scale polished murals in Florentin as in other areas but smaller and rougher with different styles and materials.

  You will see amazing street art through out the city. Yes President Trump, Israel is the Middle East.

Fly safe,

JAZ 

 

Twenty-Five Things That I Want To Do In 2018

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Twenty-Five That I Want to Do In 2018

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ursula Le Guin

Mediate every day. Maybe if I write it first I will have more luck.

Do More Yoga. Maybe if I write it second……

Go to Auschwitz.

Go To Poland.

Do a street art tour in Kraków.

See the Schindler factory.

Go to the Galápagos..

Read at least twenty books.

Follow a healthy diet.

Spend some time in London.

Peace in the house.

Go to the Warsaw Ghetto.

Go somewhere in Scandinavia.

Go To Israel.

Pay it forward.

Cook something besides eggs.

Work on being fearless.

See the sunset on the beach every day when I am home.

Sail through Peruvian or Ecuadorian Amazon.

Go to beaches of Los Organos and Vichayito, Peru.

Walk my dog every day.

Be more politically active.

Spend time with my god-daughter in Tel Aviv.

Do the Graffiti tour of Tel Aviv.

Go to Garachico, Tenerife.

Happy New Year and Fly Safe,

JAZ

 

Street Art In Valpo (Valparaiso, Chile)

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Street Art In Valpo.

“I laugh at the way some people think graffiti is all selfish tagging and vandalism. Thoughtful street art is like good fiction – it speaks out on behalf of everyone, for us all to see.” Carla H Krueger

This picturesque port city of Valparaiso or Valpo as it is called to locals attracts artists from all over the world who proudly come to leave their mark on its walls.

The city has become internationally known as an open canvas for the creative urban artists.

You can visit Valparaíso and discover plenty of magnificent art on your own. But, for those low on time, and high on interest, I recommend taking the street art tour with Al Ramirez.

Al is a graffiti artist.

Graffiti has gained recognition from the art world more and more as a legitimate form of art.


While tags are probably the most popular forms of stylized writing, graffiti art is much more than that.

It can mean a colorful mural with a message or a black and white stencil piece. In each case, graffiti art makes a statement.

The tour includes all kinds of street art.

“We are not Hippies, We are Happies” might just be the most popular piece of street art in all of Valparaíso. It was painted by Art + Believe, an English creative duo based in Brighton, UK and is located on one of Valparaíso’s most central streets. You may have to fight your way through the crowds to get a picture as it’s always packed with photo-happy tourists.

The most famous Valpo born artists is INTI. INTI’s murals are massive, his work literally demanding attention. It’s impossible to walk by one his monumental paintings without taking notice. He’s become quite the legend among street artists in Chile and has left his mark in almost every corner of the globe.

I learned on the tour that Pablo Neruda (Valparaiso’s most famous resident) invited artists to get creative in his city.

Consider it the social media of the day – as politicians now tweet their latest opinions to the masses, the street artists would spread their political messages via art.

Under the Pinochet dictatorship, street art in Chile emerged as a form of protest. It is still a form of protest today.

Street art is about communication, whether it is a beautiful mural, or fancy bubble letters.

I read everything. I’m a huge fan of walls that tell a story. (or stairs)

Thanks Al for a great day. http://www.ValpoStreetArt.com

Fly safe,
JAZ