The Evolution of Graffiti and Visual Kidnapping (Zevs)

Most of my favorite artists lead very non-traditional lives, and, consequently, they go through frequent artistic phases. If you have ever taken an art history course, or are at the very least a fan of Van Gogh or Picasso, then you can probably sympathize with my fascination with creative stages. I believe that when artists change the manner in which they create art, it is a signal that they have experienced some profound milestone in their lives. Of course, milestones are not always positive in nature. But one thing is for sure– they make for great conversation topics. This morning I discovered an anonymous French street artist, who has clearly undergone several creative milestones. Please meet Zevs! He will surely give you a lot to talk about.

Zevs was an early and active tagger in Paris in the 1990s, and since then he has evolved as a pioneer of the French street art scene. He named himself after a regional train, Zeus, which nearly ran him over during childhood. If that isn’t a profound milestone, then I don’t know what is! Zevs’s work has been widely debated in France because of its flirtation with the fine line between vandalism and art. Some of Zevs’s pieces do cross that line, but that is precisely why he is driven to change his style so often. Below is a short summation of four of Zevs’s [many] controversial artistic phases.

1 The liquidated logos phase

‘Anti-commercial’ is a recurring theme in Zevs’s work, with which he primarily tests the power of visual effects. In one of Zevs’s most notorious artistic phases, he drip-painted logos in their natural colors, “liquidating” them both literally and figuratively. You can imagine the frenzy that these pieces caused within established brand development and public relations circles. I think it is a neat concept, either way. If you like these liquidated logos, or in any way sympathize with their message, you should also check out Zevs’ very cool website. It is a highly original platform for showcasing his work. Bravo!

2 The electric shadows phase

I am not sure I would appreciate Zevs’ work from this phase in person as much as I do through these photographs. In early 2008, the elusive artist began drawing these ‘electric shadows’ on colorful urban-lit streets at night. He also did similar work in the Netherlands in 2007, where he used ‘invisible spraypaint’ to arrest unassuming street-goers and steal their shadows. Eek! I am not sure that I would want to be one of those people.

3 The visual kidnapping phase

Visual kidnapping was without a question one of Zevs’s most controversial artistic phases. In 2002 he cut a model out of a Lavazza billboard at Alexanderplatz in Berlin. Above the hole he wrote: Visual Kidnapping- Pay Now! This ballsy act struck a chord with art enthusiasts in and around Germany, and it also inspired several political activists. To be honest, I am not really fan of this aesthetic. I suppose art is art, though. Right?

4 The proper clean graffiti phase

This phase that Zevs calls “proper graffiti” reminded me of the Reverse Graffiti Project that we showcased a few months ago on Aliveasart. Zevs explains it best in this meaty interview with Kopenhagen:

I’ve been making ‘proper graffiti’ since the beginning of the 2000’s. I got the idea at a time when tags were being removed throughout Paris. Face to face with walls blackened by pollution and weathered by time, I make graffiti by cleaning these surfaces in a creative way using a high-pressure jet. When I’m done, I have created a bolt of lightning and a cloud in the dirt. In this way, I circumvent the law and avoid any accusation of vandalism. By reappropriating the traditional social codes, I turn the situation to my advantage and bring the administration responsible for the cleanliness of the city in an embarrassing situation. I “graffiti clean your city!”

About the author

Yolanda Muchnik is the Founder of Aliveasart. A working professional with a passion for the visual and performing arts, she's got a soft spot for all things creative. In addition to ten years of formal dance training, Yolanda has experience as a graphic artist, a management and strategy consultant, and digital marketer.

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