Art in Translation: Canvassing the streets of Paris for art

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Adjacent from an old cathedral in Paris is well-known French street artist Jean-François Perroy’s composition of a bewildered man.
Adjacent from an old cathedral in Paris is well-known French street artist Jean-François Perroy’s composition of a bewildered man.

Bonjour from Paris!

I barely had time to write this post. I’ve been ducking in and out of art museums and eating and drinking to my heart’s content, but no need to worry about my health — I’ve walked so much I can’t feel my feet.

I had my hesitations about Paris. I have always dreamed of coming here and I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype. Wrong. Without sounding like every other girl on the planet — I am absolutely in love with everything about it.

While the amount of art here is making my heart swell (My favorite sculpture, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, is literally two blocks away from my family’s apartment at the Centre Pompidou!), I am always captivated by the way such old cities embrace cultural innovation.

Until now, when I thought about the juxtaposition between classic and contemporary, my mind always went to New York City. However, after seeing such large-scale street art immersed throughout Paris, I may have to change my mind.

I have seen so much art, but as I have left my handy copyright guide in the states and my Internet connection is sparse, I will be sharing my thoughts on the very first piece of art I saw upon arrival. Brace yourselves; Today, we’re looking at street art.

This unnamed piece is actually by a well-known urban stencil artist named Jean-François Perroy, who tags his work ‘Jef Aerosol.’ Starting in the early ‘80s, he became an integral player in the first generation of street artists who elevated the style to a higher art. In other words, this isn’t just another neighborhood tag.

I love this piece first for its scale. I don’t have exact measurements but the thing must be at least 50 feet tall. It struck me most because it is adjacent to an old cathedral, giving the piece a fascinating contrast between this bold, contemporary statement and the traditional French architectural landscape.

A cropped black and white profile of man’s face, with a finger to his lips and his eyes bulging, forefronts a rainbow backdrop of splattering spots. His bulging eyes and their haunting expression are what draw you — equal parts cautionary and anxious. A red arrow pointing to the eye closest to the viewer suggests the viewer should focus on the emotion coming out of the eye.

Street art is meant to be seen while on the go. The artist does not often expect people to stop and ponder the piece for long periods of time.

Though this art style has been utilized internationally for several decades now, many people still don’t see it as art. That’s why it is so refreshing to see a city as old and historically rich as Paris protecting (and sometimes fencing off) such innovative creative works alongside their iconic classic treasures.

Has any street art caught your eye?

Until next time, au revoir! (I can barely pronounce that — did I mention I don’t speak any French at all?)