Leake St., London – Its Rise and Fall

August 29, 2010

Leake Street before the blight.

I remember a book from the 1970s where some “learned person” decided that graffiti was “art” and should be embraced.  The type of graffiti showcased in that book was little more than vandalism on the sides of public buildings and train and subway cars.  Although graphically interesting, the sameness left a question regarding artistic value.   However, there are a few gifted people who have taken to the streets, especially in London, to use art as the springboard for social commentary as well as some just great visual puns.  Is it still vandalism?  Yes, but it’s not mindless vandalism.   In fact, I have been told that shopkeepers often ask for paintings on their security gates or walls to promote their shops.  This is especially true with Banksy.  Like the bubble figures of Keith Haring, Banksy’s grayscale images are immediately recognizable.

Back to Leake Street which is a strange, partially underground access road that runs off of York Road in London.  When the Eurostar (which has been dubbed by some pessimists as “The World’s Longest Crematorium”) used to leave from Waterloo Station, this road was the hub for cabs to pick-up and drop-off travelers.  When the Eurostar moved to King’s Cross / St. Pancras, it shut down.  Now, there’s only a hand car wash underneath this “tunnel.”  At times, it can be a little frightening to walk through, but it’s the fastest route from the London Eye to the shops on Lower Marsh. 

When it first became redundant, the usual vandalism occurred, but shortly after that, something wonderful happened.  Street artists moved in and brought some interesting visuals to the walls.  It became an interesting place to walk through; a chance to see what topics were important to the artists.  Of course, there were simply some very good “pieces” on the walls, but some of them really worked towards statements as can be seen in some of the pictures below which were taken in June of 2008. 

To be honest, I was amazed by the dexterity shown and the product delivered by the people who were using only spray cans as tools.  I eagerly looked forward to going through this new gallery on subsequent trips.   Sadly, the blight moved in, and the vandals who were celebrated in the aforementioned book took over.  Much like the rest of the world, if someone should try to add something of merit to this “urban fresco,” another is ready to deface it.  Often with an unintelligible scribble as if to say that an image of a name, whether readable or not, is more important than anything else.   The “self” wins again.  I believe that this is the problem facing the world today: individuals are being brought up to believe that their importance stems simply from who they are, not what they achieve or create.  Right, wrong, or ludicrous, a person’s beliefs wants and beliefs should be glorified and respected.  No one needs to earn respect today; it’s guaranteed – as long as those ideas stay in line with “the majority.” 

I’m sorry; I digress.  I don’t know why I was so taken with something that I normally dislike.  I am against defacing buildings and the property of others.  I can only believe that I enjoyed this because this was an otherwise dark and somewhat derelict spot that had been reclaimed by artists.  It could not be seen from the street; it did not detract from the surroundings.  Because it was a closed in spot, it did seem that this was a new form of gallery.  It almost felt like one of the social movement I remember from the 1960’s.  Now, sadly, it’s mostly an eyesore.  At least, I still have the pictures since all of these pieces are now under several layers of paint.

I really loved this one for some strange reason.

This one used damages in the bricks for relief.

...What superb commentary.For some reason, I found this haunting.

 

 

 

I can only think that this is a personal statement regarding the artist's beliefs. In any event, it is a strong image.

 

 

I know they probably used stencils, but the results are still startling.

These were on station emergency exit doors.

 

 

I found this incredibly intriguing...

 If any of the artists represented here would like me to remove their image(s), please e-mail me.   Conversely, if I can credit you for your work, I will happily include your name with a piece as long as you can send me proof of your ownership.

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One Response to “Leake St., London – Its Rise and Fall”

  1. Bob Frank said

    I enjoyed your blog on “true” street art and the 2008 photos. Really enjoy your weekly program too, it deserves to be syndicated!
    Bob F.

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