Street Trash Art: Beyond the Spray


Ever since the first ‘Kilroy Was Here’ tags appeared during the II world war, the street art movement has been growing at a steady pace. The boom of graffiti in the 80’s, as part of the Hip Hop movement took street art to a whole new level and graffiti tags started popping up worldwide. Nonetheless, the whole movement was still considered a vandalistic one.

In the end of the 90’s and beginning of the 2000’s, street art began winning the favor of the public sphere. The movement started gaining followers inside the fine art realm. Soon enough, street art could be found in art galleries and art fairs. The once coined ‘vandals’ were now considered renowned artists that were selling their pieces on the auction markets in the high thousands, or low millions. Basquiat, Keith Haring or Shepard Fairey ‘Obey’ are great examples of renowned artists whose careers started on the streets. Others like Banksy, despite their anonymity, have become the highest selling street artists on the auction floors.

But the gamut of street art goes far beyond spray paint and stencils. Using the city as a canvas has also meant using anything that could be found around the streets for the purpose of art. Nowadays, there is a stream of street or urban artists that are using discarded objects to create a special kind of Trash Art that ends up placed in the streets of cities for bystanders to admire.

Today we bring you a selected list of some of the best waste urban art projects, art projects that bring Trash Art back to the streets where they came from. We hope you enjoy it.

"Big Trash Animals" by Bordalo II

Bordalo II - Big Trash Animals-Upcycled Street Art-5

As this Portuguese artist explains, “I create, recreate, assemble and develop ideas with end-of-life material and try to relate it to sustainability, ecological and social awareness.” In our opinion, he does more than just trying. Bordalo II’s street trash art work is an original and elaborate critique to modern consumerism. His most famous series, “Big Trash Animals” depicts animals made from waste. Using damaged bumpers, old tires, broken appliances or any object that can be found on a dumpster, Bordalo II creates monumental 3D paintings of animals. His work tries to depict different species, while incising on the materials that cause their extinction. Among other appearances, Bordalo II was an invited artist to the Life is Beautiful Festival  in Las Vegas in 2015 and will probably be present in the Vision Art Festival 2016 in Switzerland.

Photo Source: Bordalo II

"Eat Me" by Lor-K

The streets of Paris are filled with home-ware waste. Couches, lamps, chairs, tables, there isn’t many things you can’t find discarded on certain days of the week. Most of these objects end up being re-used by college students who tend to salvage them in hopes of re-decorating their homes in a cheap and easy way. Other objects, like mattresses, are normally abandoned without much hope of getting a second chance, until Lor-K appeared. This French artist uses discarded mattresses found on the streets of Paris and converts them into oversized ‘Street Food’ representations. The trash art ‘dishes’ are made on the spot and are inspired by the moment, neighborhood or surroundings in which they are found. The aim of the project, as many of Lor-K’s projects, aims to attract attention on the waste that is left behind by people, and to show the possibilities it truly has beyond its so-called ‘useful life’. The fantastic ‘Eat Me’ project by Lor-K has granted her the appearance in several publications and attracted worldwide attention for its freshness and powerful message.

Photo Source: Lor-K 

"Pneumàtic" by Iago Buceta, OOSS and Mateu Targa

Pneumatic-Upcycled Street Art-6

 As a part of the Ús Barcelona Festival, which aims to redecorate overlooked parts of the city of Barcelona, this trio of artists showed their creativity with an object that is often overlooked, highly pollutant and nonetheless necessary, the tire. The Pneumàtic project takes discarded tires to create a series of trash art installations around the “Tomato District” of Barcelona. The cut-up tires are implanted onto walls, stairways and ramps, creating new spaces that didn’t exist before. Strategically placed, they create a playful integration that invents new forms and shapes that transcend the formal limits of architecture while playing with the geometry and spaces of the city. The beautiful and decorative interventions show the possibilities that abandoned tires can have, while creating a solution for discarded materials with apparently worthless value.

Photo Source: Pneumatic on Behance

"Art is Trash" by Francisco de Pajaro

More than one single project, ‘Art is Trash’ is the motto of Francisco de Pajaro. For this Spanish artist, the city, and all that is in it (including the trash) is his canvas. Francisco de Pajaro creates animated caricature-like creatures from any type of waste or trash that can be found on the streets. As the artist describes, “painting on trash serves as a form of expression in an ephemeral and ruthless way, as a way of manifesting that one can do art wherever, with liberty and without censorship. […] Art is Trash exists to respond, not to like. It’s done to provoque and not to bore people.” Earlier this year, Converse did a collaboration with Francisco de Pajaro in which the artist visited an abandoned hotel in Croatia. 500 liters of paint, and 133 ‘guests’ later, the result is an enjoyable and thought-provoking video.

Photo Source: Francisco de Pajaro

"The Forest" by Phlegm

A world-known cartoonist and illustrator, Phlegm is a British artist that is known for having a very characteristic style with comic-like characters painted in black and white. Last year he decided to do a full month project on a forest. The project, entitled ‘The Forest’, used construction leftovers and general waste found on the streets as the materials for his creations. All were strategically placed around the forest as a way of bringing urban and rural contexts together through art. Phlegm documented his experience, with the ups and the downs. Some might argue that Phlegm’s project actually brought trash into a natural space like a forest, the reality is that most of the pieces disappeared soon after they created, we don’t know if they were taken down by admirers, or by himself.  Regardless of that, the project is very refreshing and the artworks that were created during this time are all very inspiring.

Photo Source: Phlegm

"Crisis" by SpY

SpY- Crisis - Upcycled Street Art-1

Yeah, we know, coins are not trash, but how often do we all just overlook the copper coins that end up filling up mason jars in a dark corner of our home? Artist SpY knows this is a worldwide reality, and how money often ends up being treated as waste. In a country like Spain that has been severely hit by recession and economic crisis, this “trash art” intervention has even more power. Using 1000€ worth of 2 cent coins, SpY wrote CRISIS in a centric wall in the city of Bilbao. The coins lasted less than 24 hours on the wall before people started taking them.

Photo Source: SpY Urban Art

"Happy City Birds" by Thomas Dambo

Thomas Dambo- Happy Bird Houses -Upcycled Street Art-2

Thomas Dambo is a Danish artist that specializes in making trash art and other products using waste. His project, ‘Happy City Birds’ started with the idea of creating Street Art that everyone could understand, even his grandmother. Since 2006 Thomas Dambo has created more than 3500 birdhouses. All of them are made from recycled materials and scrap wood and have even been painted with wrongfully toned paint that was going to be thrown away but was donated instead. Although the ‘Happy City Birds’ Project includes a lot of different sub-projects of all sizes and styles, we wanted to highlight the ‘Camouflaged Birdhouses’ sub-project, that features 52 hidden bird houses scattered around the city of Arken in Denmark.

Photo Source: Thomas Dambo

"Billboards" by Alexandre Farto aka Vhils

VHILS-Billboard-Upcycled Street Art-7

Alexandre Farto aka Vhils is a very prolific artist. His portraits carved out of walls, wood and other materials have become famous around the world for their extremely elaborate and unique style. Nonetheless, today we want to talk to you about Vhils’ ‘Billboard Project’.
We’ve all seen how old billboards start corrugating when several layers are glued one upon another. Using them as his medium, Vhils has created a series of pieces that have been placed both on the streets and in art galleries. The discarded billboards have been painted and cut out to depict portraits of people or urban scenes, a clear example of how the limits of trash art are endless.

Photo Source: Vhils

What's your take in Street Trash Art?

What’s your favorite Street “Trash Art” Project? Let us know in the comments below!

Founder of Offcyclers + Overall Sustainable Design geek. When Diego isn't scouting for the most incredible Sustainable Design & Art, he is probably trotting the globe, photographing or filming any story he thinks needs to be told.

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