Words by Jess Zimmerman:

Michael de Feo feels just as much at home getting in trouble with the cops in Amsterdam as he does dishing out the art world jargon. This multifaceted artist —part street, part gallery—manages to walk a fine line between the hoity toity art world and the comparatively unaffected urban scene.

De Feo comes to Paris with a mission he’s repeated literally countless times before: he’s here to paint flowers. This should come as little surprise for an artist working under the moniker “Flower Guy”, and he’s been at it for a mind boggling twenty-two years.

Does this warrant our respect or should we question his mental health? The real question is whether the sight of his now iconic imagery makes him want to hurl his daisies? Fat chance. This New Yorker is staying true to the perennial that brought him fame.

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Jorge Pomar art exhibition Paris street art graffiti interview Le MUR Oberkampf. Photo by Demian Smith copyright 2014

Naively painted animals toting guns on a public wall in Paris? Chatting with Argentinian artist Jorge Pomar (AMOR), reveals he experiences little anxiety over the potential clash of such imagery.

In Paris to paint at Le M.U.R. – the three by eight metre billboard in Paris’ 11th Arrondissement, set aside by the city council for the purpose of promoting urban art – his latest painting, above, is child-like and colourful, but actually serves as a vehicle for a much darker message, not so dissimilar to his 2013 exhibition at Belleville’s project space, La Friche.

You may be drawn in by Pomar’s work at Le M.U.R. with its chipper rays of sunshine, but this mural is certainly no wallflower. Be prepared for a cold hard dose of social reality to go with it.

An interview with Pomar follows:

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Nelio street artist paints Le M.U.R. XIII, Paris 13th Arrondissement graffiti mural wall

Nelio was in Buenos Aires until recently. He’d been living and working there for five months: learning Spanish, collaborating with local artists, and not being cold in Northern Europe. He’s just finished painting at the Le M.U.R. XIII project, in Paris’ 13th Arrondissement, pictured above, the second ephemeral art space of its kind in the city.

Here’s an interview we made with him in Buenos Aires, in which he discusses his artistic background and influences, his experience painting in South America and Australia, how the internet has made it possible for him to make a living as professional artist, and about a street art discourse.

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Miss Van exhibition at Parisian street art project Le M.U.R. - Photo by Demian Smith (1)

Miss Van, also known by her real name, Vanessa Alice Bensimon, a native of Toulouse, in the south of France, is now one of the 140 plus artists to make their mark at the Le M.U.R. project, pictured above.

The eight by three metre former advertising billboard, which every two weeks plays host to a different graffiti-street artist – and in keeping with the ephemeral spirit intrinsic to street art discards every work to make room for the next invitee – is managed by the not-for-profit association, Le M.U.R., founded by street artists in 2007, who had been previously involved in systematically and illegally hijacking the space with artwork.

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Cleon Peterson Palais de Tokyo Lasco Project Paris street art graffiti exhibition - Photo: Demian Smith IMG_4171

In the same week Google announces the French launch of its virtual street art documentary project at the Palais de Tokyo, a similarly impressive and graffiti-related event takes place within the same venue – a body of work presented on walls in the museum’s basement, which unlike the former, can be viewed in reality, and as far as we know, free of any rights infringement issues.

The exhibition is set in the underground and forgotten entrails of this, one might say, bourgeoise art establishment – imitating the true place of graffiti art in European cultural life - and is a continuation of the project instigated by French graffiti artists, Lek & Sowat, a couple of years ago, which we reported on, here.

A play on the name of the caves at Lascaux, known for their wall-painted prehistoric art, the Palais de Tokyo’s Lasco Project, third edition – curated by the elusive Hugo Vitrani – is, perhaps, the best yet, including work by among others, early New York graffiti artist, Futura 2000 and UK graffiti pioneer, Mode 2. Other artists included in this edition are as follows: Cleon Peterson (USA), Horfée (France), Ken Sortais (France), Evol (Germany), Vhils (Portugal), Cokney (France).

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Sambre - Magda Danysz - Les Bains Douches - Paris graffuturism street art Photo by Espinozr

The first time we met he pointed me to the illegal and ephemeral exhibition organised by his crew, 1984, due to take place at a secret location the day of the 2012 French Presidential election.

The twelve strong crew infiltrated a former electricity company headquarters close to Parc de Buttes Chaumont (19éme) to produce Le Musee Imaginaire.

Once installed, security guards stalked the premises indisposed. Crowds had already arrived informed that morning by Facebook of Paris’ latest art squat, wives and girlfriends of the artists selling cake and juice for voluntary donations.

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Mygalo artist Paris truck graffiti street art - "l'amour" basse graffiti van. Photo: Mygalo

Mygalo 2000 interview Paris street art graffiti skull art José Guadalupe Posada. Photo: Mygalo

Not street art, usually, graffiti on Parisian trucks: a new middle area. Skeletons and skulls, graphic in the way of typo-graffiti, but carrying messages tied to death, love, twerking - too intellectual to be merely called ‘graff’.

Truck graffiti culture in Paris is the most sophisticated of its kind anywhere in the world, “base street graff’”, by the likes of Horfé and the Peace And Love (PAL) crew, for example, often done on trucks and vans as random acts of dissent and invasion of people’s private property, but generally there’s not much going on with it past the initial emotional and colourful thrust.

Due to its cartoonish presentation – and my own ignorance of turn of the nineteenth century Mexican political cartoons – only once I dug deeper (!) into this cohesive body (!) of new truck art, and unearthed (!) the identity of its author, did my senses truly get brought to life as to the brilliance of Mygalo 2000.

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Tour Paris 13 exposition art La Sablière (1)

Paris, the 13th arrondissement, nine floors, one hundred artists, these are the numbers that introduce us to the story of La Tour Paris 13, an ephemeral exhibition.

An old apartment building to be torn down in less than a month, which has been painted inside and out by an international set of artists recognised in the fields of graffiti and street art, the project is the brainchild of gallerist Mehdi Ben Cheikh, director of the Parisian, Gallery Itinerrance, in association with the  Mairie du 13e (townhall of the 13th arrondissment).

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Sydney street art pioneers ZAP and JUMBO Paris street art (27)

Walking up the rue Dénoyez, I’m confronted by two Australians wanting to know good places to paint.

ZAP and JUMBO from Sydney, and I ,walk from Belleville to Ménilmontant to Oberkampf. I show them walls, shutters and a truck. We part ways.

The next day I return to one of the spots to find JUMBO spraying up an illustration: a circus, people chopped in half bleeding green bubbles, a dog lizard head, orbs, all done symmetrically. People walk by and smile as he paints the side of this fruit and vegetable shop. No-one realises that he’s not been invited, or, perhaps, no-one cares. The guy from the shop working out back likes the work. He certainly doesn’t care.

ZAP is up the street and has taken a van owned by the Chinese tailors. The manageress gave him permission. She is enthusiastic about having him paint the sides. ZAP wanted a bigger canvas though, and tried the market at Blvd de Belleville. The Arab truck owners weren’t so enthusiastic. 

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Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix church Ménilmontant Paris street art Belleville wheatpaste (2) (1)

When street art is done on an abandoned dilapidated building, ok, fine. When street art is done on the monumental staircase of a neo-Romanesque-cum-neo-Gothic nineteenth century church, in a working class neighbourhood, man, what the f#!*.

At witnessing an artwork stuck to the steps of Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix church at Ménilmontant, at first, I’m surprised at such audacity.  Parisian graffiti artists have codes which dictate that churches are left alone. Moreover, my education at Holy Trinity (Church of England) primary school in London, and years involved with the Scout Association, served to ennoble me with a sense of religious morality, and respect and fear of God and his less ethereal manifestations in the form of vicar, bishop, church, cathedral, all of which I’m certain allow no room for illegal art interventions of any kind.

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