The beginning of what has come to be known as street art, sidewalk art, pavement art, anamorphic art, one-point perspective painting, and a thousand other things is loosely traced back to the 16th century, when paved or cobblestone streets began to replace dirt tracks in many cities. Some say it started in England, where civilization and therefore industrialization boomed, providing the canvas. Others posit that it came from Italy, where art has always flourished.
Whatever the genesis, it has taken on ever more complicated forms as time has gone on and changed the way art is experienced.
Art of the Masses
Pavement art is more than just beautiful pieces, though it is that as well. It takes art out of stuffy galleries where the intent is to be exclusionary and brings it back where art belongs: among the people. The pieces made by the artists below have no cover charge, can’t be bought, and are intended to be experienced by every passer-by, rather than hung in a millionaire’s private study for the enjoyment of one.
Mind-bending and increasingly incredible, here’s some of the most striking pieces of 3D sidewalk art ever made by 10 of the most talented people ever to chalk a walk.
Tracy Lee Stum
Not only is Tracy one of the few female artists to choose this medium, she’s also the only one to begin making 4D augmented reality paintings that add new depth and challenge to our perception. Her education and resume are impressive, as she’s served as a cultural ambassador and was honored by The Guinness World Record for making the largest street painting by an individual. She’s curated the first annual DO/AC 3D Chalk Festival, and creates works that are passionate, inspiring, relevant, and manages to meld art and commerce seamlessly by making corporate pieces that are no less arresting than her independent work.
Plus, she has hair that would make Pam Grier proud.
Enigmatic and prolific, Rolero is largely considered the Salvador Dali of the 3D sidewalk art world. His pieces range from outright hysterical, to darkly satirical, to utterly macabre. The work stands alone, but many pieces are built specifically to allow interaction with individuals, adding a playful interactivity that is often secondary in works of this type.
Originally from Argentina but currently living in Spain, Rolero is as private as his works are public, often shunning the public eye.
Wenner doesn’t lack for confidence, with a blog that declares him the “inventory of 3D pavement art.” While that title is quaint, if inaccurate, he certainly has a style that defines the medium. Kurt uses a lot of classical styles, borrowing heavily from every era and spanning multiple genres, with inspiration both contemporary and traditional.
Sometimes scathing, sometimes gently humorous, his representations of both the real and the fanciful run the gamut. He clearly draws much of his influence from Renaissance paintings, often honoring them in style, if not content.
While German engineering is known the world over, German artwork tends to fall largely by the wayside. Müller comes from the bucolic town of Straelen where he began capturing the pastoral wonder around him in art. At 16, he found a calling for street art and has been making it ever since.
Müller is probably the best known of all 3D sidewalk artists, as even those who have never heard the name have likely seen some of his strikingly large, and incredibly engaging pieces online. The social media world is riddled with people posing over his breathtaking landscapes, which invite posing and give lots of opportunity for humor as much as “wish you were here” showboating.
Poppy, modern, and fun, Joe Hill’s portfolio is rife with engaging pieces that have an almost cartoon quality to them, like a child begging you to play. His work pops in and out of the sidewalk, wall, floor, or ceiling in a way that invites you to engage with it, and makes you feel like part of the experience.
The accessibility of Joe’s work is, by in large, what makes it good for the most casual fan. Most of his 3D work isn’t intended to be profound, which isn’t to diminish it in the least. Rather than being overburdened with layers, it’s pleasurable for everyone and a nice starting point for younger viewers or those who previously had little interest in visual works.
Born in the hinterlands of Russia and educated at the Pedagogic Artist College, Arndt has a clear love of the natural world which he brings to each piece placed, ironically, within the most urban of atmospheres. Animals play a central role in his work, which often captures the style of rich oil paintings, though done on concrete. Striking colors abound as this artist-turned-teacher proves that there’s always something new to learn. Unlike many 3D street artists, his will come out as much as go in, adding to the immersive feeling of creating a whole other world beneath your feet.
A former busker who learned to ply his trade on the mean streets of the UK, Beever is a self-taught master of the medium. He has a sense of whimsy and self-awareness that is often not present in the 3D world, and his style of anamorphic drawing perpetually challenges the status quo. While many others will apply and reimagine the tools of past artistic eras, Beever is on the bleeding edge, whether he means to be or not. An experiential learner, Beever truly likes to do work for its own sake, though he’ll happily take a check for it with a wink and a smile.
‘Chalk God’ Mr. Hou
China is not often kind to artists who go outside of the state-approved lines, but Mr. Hou, the rebellious figure known as the “Chalk God” has managed to still capture the attention of the world, by his ingenious use of mathematics and geometry in his drawings. Rather than using the environment as his canvas, Hou manages to create optical illusions with his work that makes it seem a part of the landscape, and begs the eye to try to follow his clever lines.
Warhol has nothing on the pop artist Leon Keer, who borrows from every piece of contemporary culture to devise relevant and striking artwork that refuses to be ignored. Riddled with bright colors, it’s clear that Keer started his life as a billboard and media painter, because each work is as bold as brass, yet has a familiarity that makes you feel right at home.
Trained at the prestigious Städelschule school in Frankfurt, Stader could spend his days making glorious masterpieces, but instead he chooses to make oddly realistic masterpieces that have a frolicsome sensibility. His power is to make the ordinary somehow magical by devising works that capture everyday items, but making them larger than life and sometimes a bit too believable.