Monsieur Chat

Article excerpt

Monsieur Chat--known in the US as, simply, (C)--is a French graffitist and founder of the artists' collective CHAT (Harmonious Community of Taciturn Artists). Since 1997, the group has painted its signature yellow cat on buildings throughout Europe and more recently New York, garnering coverage in numerous publications, including Liberation and Le Monde. The phenomenon is the subject of French filmmaker Chris Marker's 2004 documentary, Chats Perches (The Case of the Grinning Cat), which received its US premiere at New York's Tribeca Film Festival in April and will open across the country this fall.

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1 FRENCH POST-GRAFFITI Personally, I don't really enjoy conventional art spaces. Gallerists tend to treat their artists as novelties at best, so I prefer art in the form of traces of human activity that I find while walking the streets. People have long used urban surfaces as canvases, but today's post-graffitists--most notably the French artists I single out here--utilize stencils, stickers, and other graphic modes to expand the nature of tagging. Culture shouldn't be a matter of education or abstract concepts--I appreciate the simple things.

2 CHRIS MARKER It seems appropriate that I mention Chris Marker, since he has made me his latest subject. But also because the inspiration goes both ways--I've been a fan of Marker's ever since I saw the 1962 classic La Jetee, his film about a man haunted by a violent image from his childhood (which turns out to be a prophetic vision of his own death), not to mention Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys (1995), a postapocalyptic reimagining of Marker's movie.

3 KOURTRAJME This collective--founded in 1995 by directors Kim Chapiron and Romain Gavras--of some 130 young Parisian filmmakers and artists has recently put out a self-titled DVD compilation of short films. The group's collaborative efforts have led to some impressive exposure for its members, including Chapiron, whose debut feature, a horror flick titled Sheitan, was produced by Kourtrajme and was shown in this year's Tribeca Film Festival.

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4 SPACE INVADER The most well-known and most original of France's post-graffiti artists is probably Space Invader. He revolutionized street art with one basic tactic: He zeros in on the characters from the cult video game that inspired his alias and translates their pixels into tiled mosaics. Since 1998 he has unleashed approximately two thousand of these bitmapped creatures across thirty-four cities around the world, and has hit everything from the Hollywood sign to the Jiulong public pier in Hong Kong.

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5 ALEXONE A French-born, Brussels-based graffitist, illustrator, and artist, Alexone has an inimitable style that is always full of humor, whether he is working on city walls or on canvases. In addition to his letter-based tags--created under the name Oedipe and looking like the work of well-known abstract painters--Alexone makes murals of comically grotesque humans and animals engaging in such bizarre activities as fighting jam-packed in a wrestling ring or riding what look like inflatable horses. …