These days, Banksy isn’t the only stealth artist around. More than a few art projects are sneaking into view and teasing the eye of the beholder. Here are a few of the tricksters in Brooklyn and beyond whose urban interventions provoke a double take.
This summer—on July 22 to be exact, the Brooklyn Bridge raised the white flag. Passersby (and the police) were baffled for weeks when they noticed that the American flags atop the bridge had been replaced with blank white ones. Some defined the gesture as a political statement, others considered it a prank, and the rest of us proclaimed it art. The mystery monopolized the media and several political groups took credit, though none were taken seriously until two German artists, Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermk, provided evidence to the New York Times two days ago. The pair had taken video and photos to prove that they were responsible for the daring performance that marked this public space and paid homage to the bridge’s German engineer, John Roebling. They aimed to spotlight a bridge that people cross everyday but don’t always notice.
New York artist Trina Merry stages nude photographs that involve painting the bodies of her subjects so that they disappear into different views of the New York skyline. Like the white flags, Merry’s work could be seen as political, since the length of time it takes to prepare for the photo shoot is long enough to cause a stir and draw police attention. After a location is chosen, Merry paints her models in situ, blending their bodies into the surrounding environment. The resulting photographs allow the women to be the focus of the composition even as they are camouflaged.
If you’re riding on the Q or B train from Brooklyn to Manhattan, you can take a break from carefully avoiding eye contact with your fellow commuters and take a look out the right side windows as you leave the DeKalb Ave station and cross the bridge to Canal St. Blink and you might miss the optical illusion of Masstransiscope, a vivid mural created by Bill Brand in 1980 in the subway tunnel leading past the defunct Myrtle Street station.
In France, two architects, Marion Moustey and Alexandre Arcens suspended a row of lanterns along the Grand Motte Harbor. The movement of this enigmatic installation emulates the undulations of a curvaceous female figure.
In Norway, a man riding a dinosaur bike is a daily encounter. As he zooms by, pedestrians must be scratching their heads. Is it art, or just the tinkering of a madman? Probably a little bit of both. Artist activist Markus Moestue carved this beastly bicycle out of Styrofoam and is riding it across the country’s bible belt to question the prehistoric (read: dogmatic) approach to educating children in these communities.
Be they of fabric, flesh, paper or Styrofoam, we like that these works renew the question of what art is. The simple, often camouflaged constructions of whimsy and imagination capture our attention, making us wonder what other creative acts might lie hidden along the path of our daily routine, waiting to be discovered.
Next week’s Fresh Talk: Unsettled Landscapes, features Cuban artist Glenda León’s delicate trompe l’oeil intervention, Esperanza (Out of Season).