I was on tour in Italy last week and noticed a new trend (although I really should have seen this before, I am few months late it seems). I was walking my group from the Vatican to the Pantheon and decided to head along via dei Coronari, a lovely narrow street which is lined with antique stores and the like. As we walked along one of the students made a comment about someone carrying a piece of wood on a road sign. The comment didn’t make sense to me. As I looked at the next ‘No Entry’ road sign I saw what he meant.
It appears someone has decided to liven up these traffic signs. A person has been silhouetted in against the sign to make it look as if they are carrying a large piece of wood (the white bar of the no entry sign). It transpires that this is the genius work of Clet Abraham and his team of devotees. The tour moved on to Paris and I saw the same work again, this time at the crossing from the Hotel de Ville leading to Notre Dame.
Back in Rome, the road signs became more obvious as I started to look out for them. The next sighting came the following day as we were approaching the Colosseum. We passed a road sign for traffic to filter either side of an island, the sign had been decorated to make the downward facing arrows into legs for a devil which had been illustrated on the top part of the sign. Wonderful, creative stuff. Vandalism? I am not sure. I always feel the need to have the graffiti discussion with my groups as we enter Rome. The city seems to have more tagging than most others I have been to in Europe. It is no indicator of the type of neighborhood, some of the more up market residential areas are just as covered in graffiti as other places. To me, the continued existance of the graffiti can be reduced to what sort of city do people want to live in, if locals tend to accept the fact that graffiti is so widespread then they get used to it and, quite possibly, it is only those of us visiting who really notice it.
I find these pieces creative for sure and certainly of interest to my group as they were on the lookout for new and unique pieces as they went around Rome, Florence and Paris. As you can see from the photo with this piece, the style has made it to London as well. So, back to my question, is it vandalism? Well, it is certainly against the law (no great surprise there) but we do enter into a possible grey area. I am not taken by repeated tagging along a wall but I do like the modification of these road signs. One other factor needs to be considered; these pieces are stuck on and the adhesive is easily peeled off. So, this is not permanent marking.
If you want to know more about the work of the French born artist then you can read some info, see his works and enjoy an interview with Clet Abraham.