WYNWOOD ARTS DISTRICT – The tropical midday sun emerges from some scattered clouds and blazes down on these streets just north of Downtown Miami. I am on a walking tour of the neighborhood, an urban safari with my intrepid DP Miguel Galindo trailing me, loaded down with camera gear, and our local guide Ryan "The Wheelbarrow." We are on assignment here in this once blighted area; the former province of crackheads and gang-bangers is now Hipsterville, bustling with trendy restaurants, clubs, and boutiques. But that's not why we're here. We're searching for art, and in Wynwood art is everywhere. And I do mean ... EVERYWHERE.
"The cops actually protect the art here," says Ryan, pointing out a black-and-white Miami PD cruiser passing by. "They're just trying to keep the bums out." We shake our heads incredulously and venture on.
Despite its mass audience appeal and solid position in the popular culture, street art – more precisely, graffiti – remains a crime punishable by fines and jail time in most states. It is considered vandalism, destruction of property, and a "quality of life" issue. In Los Angeles, the city's Office of Community Beautification spends $7.5 million a year on graffiti removal from more than 600,000 locations (according to the LA Times), while in New York the "Graffiti-Free NYC" program scours the five boroughs, removing over 10 million square feet of graffiti each year. Cities all across the U.S. have some sort of "graffiti abatement" program, including report hotlines, removal squads, and, increasingly, the application of anti-graffiti products.
As we trek down 24th Street, we come upon an amazing piece in progress featuring two women staring at us seductively. Ryan informs us that this is the work of Montreal-based artist Fluke. We move in for a closer look.
Fluke (né Kris Wilk) steps down off a tall ladder and agrees to give us an interview. A street art lifer, he has been tagging since he was 9 years old, developing his chops under the tutelage of the pioneers of the Montreal graffiti scene. He is the founder of A'Shop, a crew of artists that specializes in highly innovative and experimental techniques and provides this work (custom murals and the like) for an impressive array of corporate clients.
As our eyes scan the wall, taking in his piece called "Sola & Luna," we notice the work is composed of multiple layers of detailed muraling. It is a technique we can't comprehend. We ask him to elaborate.
"I came across this idea when the City started applying an anti-graffiti product on poles and on walls to prevent graffiti," Fluke says. "And what I noticed is that this product would repel spray paint very easily. It was very effective. So I decided to apply that same solution in my mural."
Mind blown. Somewhere Marshall McLuhan is spinning in his grave.
For at least forty years, part of the subculture of graffiti has included a tricky cat-and-mouse game with the authorities. The Man will come up with some new strategy to thwart the "vandals," then in short order the artists will figure out a way around it and The Man will come up with something else. Back and forth it goes. It's like squeezing a balloon. But rarely, if ever, do you see an artist actually turn the government's weapons against it, using them as a tool to push the boundaries of the art form.
In an exclusive video for Magnetic, Fluke discloses for the first time the fundamentals of this revolutionary new "removal" technique.