art & design travel

a weekend in Reykjavík, Ísland : part 1

June 19, 2012

I recently made a weekend trip to Reykjavík, Ísland with my wife and two close friends. We departed from Boston on a red-eye flight Thursday evening and returned home early Sunday evening. The following is a series of short blogs about our long weekend abroad in Iceland. Rather than try and hastily cram two and a half days of observations into one entry I have decided to parse out the journey into short palatable doses.

Unfortunately for you, the reader, my Icelandic travel blog will read like a Quentin Tarintino screenplay. (Without the piece of brain on the windshield.) Specifically, there will be no chronological order to this. I hope you enjoy!

Icelandic Street Art

It’s hard not to immediately notice the city of Reykjavík’s commitment to street art. I use the word commitment because not only is the city’s street art ubiquitous, but it also seems curated and particularly well thought out. I don’t know if the city of Reykjavík requires sketches, permits, plans… maybe they don’t. Regardless, it’s impossible to think that gestalt of this nature just happens… or maybe it does?

Our bus from the Blue Lagoon, Icelandic’s most famous and visited thermal hot springs, took us from the outskirts of Reykjavík into the city center. I couldn’t help observe as we approached closer to the center of Reykjavík the quality of street art progressed from sloppy tags to three-story high conceptual narratives.

Upon returning home to Boston I kind of wanted to know more about Iceland’s street art. Oddly, after some web searches not very much (current) content turned up. Icelandic art, in general, seems strangely absent online especially considering this paltry wikipedia article.

I did come across this site Judging from my brief stay in Iceland this blog definitely sums up the modern Icelandic aesthetic. Make sure to click on the design category, also the friday candy has some great entries.

Coming from Boston it’s refreshing to see street art that not only transcends medium (spray paint) but place (walls). We’ve probably all seen mirrored plastic mosaic used to achieve a watery effect (think a Wisconsin Dells billboard). To see this material repurposed “dripping” down an old brick building is as equally fun as the automobile that, once parked, becomes an integral fitted piece into a visual jigsaw puzzle.

It’s quite possible that these trends exist in New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta; however, I don’t know if I have ever been to a city where street art is a city’s (intentional?) demand of one’s periphery. It would be impossible to look in any one direction in Reykjavík and not see something fantastical contrasting with the city’s corrugated steel-sided architecture. In this way it reminds me of a visit to Toulouse, France where street art is accepted rather than simply tolerated. In this sense the art doesn’t feel subversive, underground, sneaky… it feels liberated, free and deserving.

One web search I executed on Icelandic street art that did yield high results was that of the visual. Image search “Icelandic street art” on flickr or google.

Maybe that’s the idea–pictures are worth a thousand words. If this is the case, you will immediately “get” this city with one quick glance in any direction.

Up next: Icelandic food

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