Entertaining look at street art

Jamie D. Baird

Street art will stop you in your tracks, for a long moment or two. This book risks soaking up much more of your time. It’s a photographic survey of Wellington’s street art from the past 40-odd years, covering everything from low tagging to the celebrated artistry of commissioned walls. Baird began documenting hip-hop inspired street art in the ’80s and just kept going. The book collects his photographs together in somewhat idiosyncratic style and, for the most part, there’s little or no attempt to identify the artists involved — that would, in many cases, be telling, but provenance is overrated. Here you get to decode the context for yourself. It’s history as it happened, and a longer-run essay in pictures on the taming and commodification of the spray can. It’s an armchair experience of the aesthetics and politics of our streets — from chalk and wool to more permanent materials — and thoroughly entertaining.