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Urban Illusions

Street artists use the city as their canvas



The life of our city is rich in poetic and marvelous subjects. We are enveloped and steeped as though in an atmosphere of the marvelous; but we do not notice it. —Charles Baudelaire, 1846

Urban landscapes are embodiments of human aspirations and dreams. They represent the spirit of an age and personify the minds and hearts of the people who inhabit them. Archaeological excavations of ancient cities, such as the magnificently preserved ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, bring to life our distant past. If we could peer into the future, we would want to know what our cities will look like to understand who we will become.

Cities capture our imagination in fascinating ways. Art and folklore are chock-full of mythical and imaginary cities, from the sunken lost city of Atlantis and El Dorado's city of gold to Fritz Lang's dystopian film Metropolis and, more recently, the Escheresque architecture of the folding cityscapes in the movie Inception. Yet we need not turn to fiction or travel far in space or time to experience the wonder. Even the most desolately functional urban environments can be sprinkled with nuggets of magic and surprise, with illusion “Easter eggs” that challenge our perception of what's real.

Our everyday cities are not all that they may seem. Oftentimes it's a matter of perspective.

Further Reading
Felice Varini: Point of View. Edited by Lars Müller. Text by Fabiola López-Durán. Lars Müller Publishers, 2004.

Pavement Chalk Artist: The Three-Dimensional Drawings of Julian Beever. Julian Beever. Firefly Books, 2010.

3D Street Art. Birgit Krols. Tectum Publishers, 2011.

Asphalt Renaissance: The Pavement Art and 3-D Illusions of Kurt Wenner. Kurt Wenner. Sterling Signature, 2011.

Sidewalk Canvas: Chalk Pavement Art at Your Feet. Julie Kirk-Purcell. Fox Chapel Publishing, 2011.

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