Street art: As political battles remain to be waged, graffiti is still Under Pressure
Using the city’s surfaces as a canvas, graffiti is an inherently urban art form that first surfaced in the ‘70s and still generates controversy today, raising questions about private and public space (and illegal acts of creative expression). While spray paint wielding street artists from Basquiat to Banksy have conquered the art world and graffiti’s aesthetic has permeated mainstream culture, the battle over Montreal’s streets (and walls) continues at city hall.
“This summer, the hot topic of discussion is going to be the ban on selling spray paint to minors, ” says Sterling Downey, organizer of the Under Pressure International Graffiti Convention, which has been bringing together local and international graffiti artists alongside DJs, MCs and breakdancers to celebrate the art form for 16 years now. “It’s an issue that needs to be addressed and discussed in a positive way.”
While city officials are waging war on teenage taggers, Under Pressure is proof positive that the local community – both individuals and businesses – value graffiti culture. Under Pressure is entirely funded by donations and staffed by volunteers, and it was Faubourg St-Laurent that approached Downey about closing Sainte-Catherine Street for the event, as well as creating a special off-road project. “They recognize the value of the event and its place in the community,” says Downey. “ Most serious graffiti writers are adults, ” says Downey, now in his mid-30s, adding that he knows lawyers and moms who are writers. “People make a living off of this or have professional jobs and do it as a hobby.” Graffiti’s audience and artists have matured ; history has accumulated, even while the form (perhaps due to its often illicit and adventurous nature) has stayed fresh and exciting enough to attract newcomers with each generation.
Under Pressure takes place August 13 and 14 on Sainte-Catherine Street between St-Laurent and Berri. Alongside the aerosol art for big kids there will be crayons and colouring for the little ones.
August 13-14 | underpressure.ca