Paste Up Street Art; Graffiti’s Nerdy Brother
Graffiti is always going to be seen as cooler than paste up street art. Bombing spray paint on the side of a New York Subway car is infinitely more interesting than carrying a bucket of wheat paste, a brush and your posters around. The art form may be a bit less bad ass than graffiti but you shouldn’t count it out. Some of the best art around is paste up, it’s got an interesting history of its own and brings some things to the table that graffiti can’t match.
A History of Paste Up
People have been writing their names on things as long as we’ve had written language so graffiti isn’t a new art form. Modern graffiti though, exploded after the invention of aerosol paint cans. The world of paste ups hasn’t had as important of technological breakthroughs so it’s easier to see it in the context of its history.
One of the earlier examples of paste ups being seen controversially as both an art form and a menace is in the work of Toulouse-Lautrec. Mainly remembered as a more traditional artist in his painting and printmaking, his work was pretty divisive at the time. He designed posters for the Paris ballroom Le Moulin Rouge and other, equally seedy places, that were posted up around the city. The posters were undeniable smut and people loved them. Fans took down and collected the posters. It was so popular that newspaper articles were printed instructing people on how to take the posters down without damaging them.
Once printmaking made it easier to get as many posters as you needed, they could be found pasted up in every major city. Religious or political proclamations, advertisements and art were everywhere. Like the growth of graffiti with spray paint, wheatpaste posters got a reaction when they started becoming a common sight.
Now paste up has been around long enough that it doesn’t raise eyebrows as much as graffiti. Then again, graffiti isn’t quite as out there as it once was. As far as art forms go, nothing stays cool very long.
There are some great artists working in Paste Up Street Art
As great as the graffiti out there is, there are some artists working in paste up who are doing work that’s just as solid.
Judith Supine is one artist experimenting with the medium to great success. Frankensteined pieces that combine different styles, taking pieces from discarded magazines and comics or advertisement.
The historically inspired pieces by Brooklyn artist Swoon illustrate how well you can use paste up street art to combine stylistic influences.
Paste Up has some advantages over graffiti
Graffiti has a bunch of advantages over paste up; it’s fast and light to carry and work with spray cans. You can find a canvas for a tag a lot easier than a paste up too. It isn’t without its limitations though.
Paste up street art has the advantage of allowing you more time to prepare. Once you bring your piece out to stick it up, most of the work is already done. You get your work out there without the pressure of spending so much time creating your piece out on the street.
Some artistic choices are easier to achieve when using paste ups too. Being able to print and incorporate photographs into your work sets a foundation for your piece. This is great if you want your focus on the more abstract elements of what you’re working on. Judith Supine’s pieces are a perfect example of that. Taking images and putting them together in a paste up is one step. Changing and abstracting those images is another.
Both styles have their advantages and disadvantages. While paste up street art is a bit more under the radar, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. What’s your preferred style? Let us know in the comments.