by Riikka Kuittinen. Thames & Hudson, February 2015. 224 p. ill. ISBN 9780500517840 (cl.), $29.95.
Reviewed July 2015
Jessica Pigza, Assistant Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, New York Public Library, email@example.com
In Street Craft, Riikka Kuittinen presents twenty-eight artists working today who install uncommissioned works of art in public spaces, without the permission of authorities. Kuittinen is a curator and writer whose previous work includes the Victoria and Albert Museum's exhibition catalog, Street Art: Contemporary Prints (2010). In this new book, she shifts her focus to explore the great variety of three-dimensional techniques—knitting, paper sculpting, gardening, stitching, and more—found in street art today.
Street Craft opens with a short, readable introduction to some of the complexities at play within the fluid genre of street art today, including artist anonymity, the global art market's growing interest in street art, and the complicated role these artists play in urban renewal efforts. Their installations often make gritty urban spaces more inviting and draw attention to the sites, but the artists' work is done without the legal blessing of authorities who oversee the spaces where works appear.
Following this essay are twenty-eight chapters, each offering a profile of a particular artist or artist collective. Represented in the book are ten artists based in the United States, six from the United Kingdom, four from Germany, three from Spain, and one each from France, Poland, South Africa, Denmark, and Greece. Each profile contains a brief introduction by Kuittinen, a statement by the artist, and a series of full color photographic illustrations of the artist's work. While the artists' essays vary in length and focus, most address their motivations in creating street art, the place it holds in their creative life, the process of selecting sites for their work, their relationships with authorities, their means of connecting (or not) with their audiences, and their approaches to the ephemeral nature of their creations.
The photographic illustrations offer glimpses of the art in situ: in building crevices and potholes, covering signposts and vehicles, locked to or stitched on park benches, and more. Because the works themselves are often ephemeral and vulnerable to human intervention and weather, the photographs become the lasting document of their installation and its meaning.
Street Craft contains no bibliographies or suggested resources beyond a list of artists' websites, but it is recommended for students and artists starting to explore the expanding world of fleeting, site-specific, sculptural street art. From mosses and folded paper sculpture murals to textile-covered monuments and cyanotype insect swarms, the featured artworks as well as the first-person accounts of artists who incorporate craft techniques into their street art offer an inspiring introduction to this genre.