Review: Untitled III – This is Street Art

Review: Untitled III – This is Street Art

By Arden de Raaij

It’s already been two years since the first Untitled hit the shelves. In 2008 we had ‘Street art in the counter culture’ and in 2009 they gave us ‘The Beautiful Renaissance’. We found them to be the most impressive street art books up to date. Now it’s 2010 and Christmas came early, because Untitled III – This is Street art is laying in front of me, pretty as can be. That there even is a part 3 can only mean that street art is still as exciting (or even more) as it was two years ago. Of course I’m asking myself, can Untitled III live up to the expectation that 1 and 2 set? In movies this seems to be impossible. Even Coppola couldn’t pull it off with Godfather 3. In books, I don’t know. Honestly I haven’t read too much lately. And is there something that sets #3 apart from #1 and 2 or is it just awfully consistent? Let’s get to it…

Intellectual property

What I like about the Untitled series, is that most of these images come from the (online) community. From the Steve Irwin type of graffiti hunters ‘we’ all came to know and love, like Jeremy Gibbs, Lois Stavsky, Dug da Bug, etc. The people who spend their days traveling, hunting for new graffiti to display up their blogs and flickr accounts like trophies. They’re a great part of what is happening in street art today and there is a certain importance to the fact that they’re part of this book.

Collaborate and create

Because, let’s face it: Digital images are as ephemeral as the works they contain. There might be a day where the street art community on the interwebs has thinned out and you won’t be able to find all your favorite images on Flickr anymore. Now you can right-click->save as all you want but a folder with cryptically named images (even if it would survive all the crashes and reinstalls) does not has the shine of a pretty book now, does it? You’ll be happy having something like Untitled on the shelves 20 years from now, when it all has fallen apart.

It’s also part of the questions that Untitled III raises. How will this go down in history? Assuming all of this goes down in history at all. And this is where the untitled series truly shines and sets itself apart from all the other street art books: The text, written by Patrick Potter is clever, funny, provocative and raises questions that no one has a satisfying answer to. It’s impossible to talk art without sounding pretentious, let alone analyzing the state it is in. Still he manages to get away with it, even better, he makes me feel smart because it’s written with so much charisma that I can’t help agreeing with everything.

Now I’m lucky enough to have part I and II here as well, and I read through both again to find if there is something that sets ‘This is Street Art’ apart from its predecessors, except the obvious of course. I’m happy to inform you that there isn’t. They found the perfect formula to document and question what is happening, and to provoke the mind. It’s not the time to change that formula yet. Actually, we hope that time never comes because if it does, street art probably became something dull, commercialized or something else dark and it is time for a best of/greatest hits, much like your favorite -now washed up- band/singer/director from when you were young.

Since 2008 the dust might have settled a bit and the herd of artists is being thinned out. Yet we don’t have street art defined or pinpointed to a few terms. In an interview in Untitled III, Angelo from the Fame Festival sais about street art: “I’ve never liked the term and it was too much linked to ‘urban culture’ and ‘young cool things’ good for Vice Magazine and shit like that.”. Lovely…

So you see, Untitled III continues where part II has left us in a way that is as natural as that 2010 continues where 2009 had left us. Of course it beautifully documents the works of your favorite artists like C215, Banksy, Mark Jenkins, Gaia, Michael de Feo, Blu, Dolk, Zezao, Roa and some nice features on projects from the past year.

Street art is exciting. We know that but we might be so deep in it, that we forget it every once in a while. Untitled III reminds us. It also reminds us that we’re far from there yet. Wherever there might be. To take some words from the book: Street art is ill defined, street art is a thin line between good and evil, street art is the occasional stroke of genius. And to quote: “This is Street Art. Make up your own Mind”.

Untitled. III – This is Street Art
ISBN: 0955912156
192 pages