As part of his recent Outings Project, French artist Julien de Casabianca has taken to wheatpasting famous visages onto buildings in an urban environment. These offer us the chance to think of the important of art and its context.
Liberation is a key aspect of his work and emancipating the figures from their frames grants them a freedom that they'd normally not have. Despite these protagonists being two-dimensional renderings, when they are taken out of context, in both era, style and location - they come across as a more profound statement about the power of historical art when viewed from a contemporary perspective.
Most recently, in October this year, Julien de Casabianca created a seven-storey mural in Tennessee's Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. The neoclassical figure is taken from William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Au pied de la falaise - a piece that is a part of the museum's exhibition.
The character is a melancholic little girl, faithfully depicted in sumptuous detail, cross-legged and staring hopelessly into the ether. The sense that she is removed from something makes her appearance ever more forlorn. As an advert, it's a way to entice people into the museum, offering them a chance to likewise see the power that all these unknown characters behold.
There are a handful of works of art that are globally recognised, even by people with little more than a passing interest in art. Mona Lisa may be one, Michelangelo's David another. Besides those few pieces, there are thousands that remain vastly unknown. Art is more accessible than people imagine and that's what de Casabianca is saying when he takes them out of the museum or gallery and into the urban environment.
It's an idea that has caught on. He began several years ago and has since been invited all around the world to give famous works a similar treatment. It's not only entire facades covered with these artworks though, others are better hidden in more playful environments. Curiosity is one of the feelings that they pander to. It's innate within us all to want to understand the world around us. If something seems somewhat out of place, then our attention is piqued enough for us to seek more information.
By doing this, de Casabianca gives these nameless characters a name. We're used to seeing people on walls that may be homeless, dead, imprisoned or similarly worthy of attention being focussed on them. The cognitive dissonance that occurs seeing a piece of fine-art on the street leads us to consider the value of the people in them and consider that they too, at one point in history, were just normal people immortalised by an artist's hand.
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