These 10 Artists Are Challenging Our Idea of What Street Art Can Be

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Bordalo II

Artur Bordalo, a Lisbon-born street artist, utilizes train tracks to activate his illustrations, whose colorfulness often belie more cynical takeaways. (He goes by Bordalo II in an ode to his grandfather, who had also painted the streets of Lisbon.) Using a palette of bright neons, Bordalo depicts imaged impending collisions of objects, affixing tongue-in-cheek titles. His railway series uses the train tracks as an inspiration and a guide; they become a musical score for swirling treble clefs in Music Online or, in The Game of Life, an enormous tic-tac-toe board filled with dollar and peace signs.

Michael Pederson

After trying his hand at painting and film, Sydney native and street artist Michael Pederson made what he calls a “slow journey” to street art. Incorporating image and text or noise and motion in humorous and often interactive public displays, Pederson’s witticisms subvert expectations by appropriating the look of standard urban signage. It’s “an opportunity to play with space in an unpredictable way,” he says, and a sure way to guarantee a chuckle (or dumbfounded confusion) from unwitting passerby.

He might install a museum-style velvet rope and a “Please Do Not Touch” sign before a single dandelion, or a place an EXIT sign pointing to a hole in shrubbery. Occasionally, his mimicry of official signage is so artful that the public simply assumes his work is legitimate. “A security guard once caught me installing a piece, and simply gave me the thumbs up before walking away,” Pederson recalls. Whether warning of a height restriction for entering “the void” (an old pipeline for sewage) or commemorating a four-minute, 32-second awkward silence on a park bench, Pederson’s quips interrupt the daily routine, and question the very idea of authority.

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