Setting the bar for legendary paella and ridiculous week-long fire fiestas, Valencia now adds street art to its list of claims to fame. Politically charged and creativity infested, Spain’s third largest city is gaining some serious street cred as an urban art capital worth hitting up.
Spain has always been a little late to the pop culture party, and graffiti’s arrival to the lazy beach-city of Valencia was no different. In the mid-late 80s, small groups of young Spaniards finally got on the graffiti and hip-hop bandwagon (i.e. they started break dancing and wearing gold chains). Fortunately, regulatory controls also lagged, so with free reign of the town, Valencian grafiteros tagged the city walls like coloring books.
With little access to outside techniques and fancier paint, the street art scene was snail slow to evolve. Graffiti fans had to depend on movies, random skater magazines and trips to larger cities for both supplies and inspiration. But in the mid-late 90s, the scene changed – supplies grew, and then, of course, there was that little thing called the Internet. Now, withbigger cities like Barcelona cracking down hardcore on the controversial vandalism, Valencia is becoming a rising star for street murals and outdoor artistic expression.
Artists You Should Know
Like many a Spanish artist, XLF Crew member Escif keeps it surreal with his deeper-meaning murals that make you go “hmmmm.” Standing out among the flashy tags and bling twinkles, you can’t miss the Valencia native’s often wall-sized masterpieces filled with black-and-white animals and twiggy-figured people. Less about technique and more about the message, expect his creepy-cool style to keep things interesting.
Holding down the fort for the ladies, Julieta is also part of the XLF Crew. You can spot her signature kawaii style with its cartoonish Japanese influence throughout the city. Think rainbows, butterflies and dollies, all lost in a sea of 90s rap-CD cover art. Get in touch with your girly side – shit’s kinda cute.
Luce says fuck it to bubble letters and bright colors. Instead, the innovative artist keeps it simple with retro block letters that are more MOMA and less subway. These days Luce – also known as Lucky – thinks outside of the spray-can box by creating versions of his tag out of wood rather than paint. Then, he attaches them to doors, walls and every other random surface available.
Further blurring the lines for US foreigners between Latin American and Spanish culture is XLF Crew member Sr. Marmota and his often Mexican wrestler-infused artwork. A fan of muscle cars and other manly things like guns and porn actresses, expect an almost 50s Americana twist to his collection of oddball subjects.
Deih sprays up some gnarly cartoon-like creations that would scare the crap out of Julieta’s cutesy counterparts. Another XLF Crew member, Deih’s characters walk the line between modern comic art and classic graffiti goodness.
Sam3, from nearby Murcia, covers walls and some serious ground – from San Francisco to Bethlehem, to be exact. With only a handful of artwork in Valencia, his black-silhouette characters are worth staking out. He also dabbles in other seriously trippy stuff beyond street art, like video animations with evaporating water and Roman-style statues dancing to “Pump Up the Jam”.
Finding Street Art
Valencia’s undisputed street art spray spot is El Carmen. The oldest neighborhood of the city has as many gargantuan wall murals and spray-painted garages as it does hipster haircuts and punk boutique shops. With fewer uptight police officers controlling the outlawed pastime, skilledgrafiteros regularly make store shutters, garage doors and vacant building walls their canvases.
Calle En Gordo in the Xerea barrio is where street art virgins pop their graffiti cherries. In the surrounding areas, you can also spot pieces by more established artists such as Escif, Sam3 and Hyuro. Just be sure to keep an eye on your stuff while you get all urban philosophical – the sketchy hood is graffitied-up for a reason (and it’s not because it’s full of friendly people who want to hold hands and chat about the weather).
If you’re too fidgety for a siesta, or when a lump of paella calories are sitting in the gut, take to the Valencia streets for a little stroll through some of Spain’s most interesting urban art.
“Guide to Street Art: Valencia” by www.offtrackplanet.com