Puzzling Street Art

Earlier this summer I posted about a pack of graffiti ghosts that were haunting the greater Kenmore area. Regrettably, no more ever appeared, and all but the purple tag along Storrow Drive have been removed. Lately, however, a new batch of street art has captured my attention: a trio of tiny relief sculptures resembling puzzle pieces.

My favorite piece is also the one closest to my apartment. You can find this turquoise relief at the corner of Mountfort and Saint Mary's streets, overlooking the Mass Pike.

My favorite piece is also the one closest to my apartment. You can find this turquoise relief at the corner of Mountfort and Saint Mary's streets, overlooking the Mass Pike.

Much like the subtle interventions of another Boston-area street artist Nate Swain, these anonymous, jewel-like miniatures only reveal themselves to those who are sensitive to their surroundings, or introverts who keep their eyes low to the ground. They do not announce themselves, but instead function as cryptic punctuation marks framing normally overlooked architectures. As such, they intervene in our experience of the cityscape, prompting us to move through the streets in new ways. 

Not only is this the biggest and brightest of the reliefs I've found, it's also placed higher from the ground (at waist level). It's located at the intersection of Carlton Street and Comm Ave. 

Not only is this the biggest and brightest of the reliefs I've found, it's also placed higher from the ground (at waist level). It's located at the intersection of Carlton Street and Comm Ave. 

In comparison to the more common street medium of spray paint, three-dimensional reliefs are rare but not unprecedented: check out Luna Park's photo essay on Hyperallergic rounding up the best of New York's street sculpture from a few years ago. Their three-dimensionality allows these works to establish a close formal dialogue with their surroundings that would be unachievable in paint alone. For example, I love how the blockiness of the turquoise relief chimes with the raised bolts alongside it. The red cutout also creates a mirror image of the discolored concrete to its right. The forms themselves are quite unique; their closest art historical relatives may be the cartoonish contours of graffiti artist Keith Haring's personnages and the abstract, linear matrices they inhabit. Last but not least, the visible, goopy adhesive keeps these gemlike objects from appearing too precious. 

This coral cutout reminds me of a dinosaur. It's outside Boston University's 808 Gallery on Comm Ave., so despite my affection for this body of work, I obviously can't endorse the artist's illegal defacement of school property (or, for that matter, private and public property in general). Art belongs  INSIDE  the gallery, people!

This coral cutout reminds me of a dinosaur. It's outside Boston University's 808 Gallery on Comm Ave., so despite my affection for this body of work, I obviously can't endorse the artist's illegal defacement of school property (or, for that matter, private and public property in general). Art belongs INSIDE the gallery, people!

My search for these street sculptures coincides with the recent craze for Pokémon Go - maybe you've heard of it?! This app fascinates me for the way that fantastical creatures populate familiar landscapes to render them foreign, leading players on unanticipated paths that run tangentially to their everyday routes and routines. Whereas Pokémon Go accomplishes this goal through a novel fusion of the real and virtual, the BU street sculptures reassert the physical, embodied space that they share with their architectural substrates as well as their viewers. I "gotta catch 'em all!" Will you help me? As many of us return to campus this fall, I hope you'll keep your eyes peeled so we can solve this puzzle together. 

Happy Hunting!
Sarah