Memphis is known as a major cultural destination when it comes to music, especially R&B and the early stages of rock 'n' roll, but visual arts hasn't been as big a focus in the city that gave the world Elvis and B.B. King. But that perception has recently started to change when the city's streets started taking on a new look, courtesy of giant murals posted on homes and buildings.
The urban transformation of the Tennessee metropolis comes courtesy of artist Julien de Casabianca, as part of his international outings project, which since 2014, has converted structure walls into mural canvases. So far, Casabianca has applied his take on street art in Paris, Geneva, Hong Kong, Brussels, and dozens of other cities applying his take on urban street art on any surface worth altering.
Unlike a French photographer who answers to the moniker of J.R., who creates murals out of people who occupy the cities where he posters, Casabianca prefers to take a more classical approach. In this case, classic meant Casabianca scouring through the art images stored in the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and selecting items he thought could be blown up to be larger than life. It's almost like he converted part of the city's surroundings into a giant outdoor replica of attractions in the museum.
It's a painstaking process of picking the art, replicating the images tile-like onto paper and then making sure they're plastered in the proper sequence on the walls. He was particularly choosy about the images of people and the buildings that would serve as a backdrop; once the work was done, the effect was like the images were part of the structure since day one.
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Case in point is, an 1886 painting of a girl by William-Adolphe Bouguereau called Au pied de la falaise (At the Foot of the Cliff), in which the child meshes perfectly with the bricks, windows, and even the fire escape of one building. Another work by Memphis painter Carroll Cloar has been replicated into mural form and makes the subjects almost monumental as if floating in mid-air.
How long these works will last is another question altogether, since the paper and the plaster used to mount them will degrade over time. But the hope is they'll still be up by November.