One of the most common forms of street art is wheat paste posters. If you’re not familiar: wheat paste is a form of homemade glue very similar to wallpaper adhesive. You can use this paste to place posters on walls, street signs, construction sites, etc. Often times, wheat paste posters are statement-driven, and are more abstract than graffiti tags. In many cases, they are fueled by political opinions or ideas.
Wheat paste was popularized in the 90’s and early 2000’s by street artists in New York and Los Angeles who plastered their posters all over the city. This art form quickly gained notoriety, and artists who were early on the scene started to get recognized worldwide for their artworks. Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and Swoon all got their claim to fame from making wheat paste posters and plastering them all over the place, legal or not.
One famous street artist known for his unique approach to wheat paste is Vhils. Vhils, who hails from Lisbon, Portugal, has been a big name in the street art community for years due to his different approach to traditional wheat paste posters. His technique involves taking a huge base layer of different colors – a collage of sorts – and then covering it with another layer, then chipping away at the top layer to reveal a picture (often a portrait).
A lot of his other techniques involve destroying, or the use of destruction to create something – Vhils believes that destruction is a true form of construction. Aside from his famous wheat paste projects, he is also known for his relief portraits. These portraits are made by chiseling and chipping away at walls and, in some cases, using explosives to create an extremely detailed portrait.
These approaches hadn’t been seen before, and got the attention of lots of people, including the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, who invited Vhils to Philly in the summer of 2013. They had Vhils partner with a mural arts class from YESPhilly, and they worked on a mural together at 13th and Drury, right next to McGillin’s Bar. Vhils used his famous technique of taking a multi-layer wheat paste poster and chipping away at it to reveal a portrait. This portrait actually ended up being of one of the students that was working on this project with him.
Vhils style is still popular and wheat paste is gaining even more popularity here in Philadelphia. There are many artists on the rise for their work with wheat paste such as Amberella who blew up from her power hearts project that consisted of heart-shaped wheat paste posters featuring positive messages.
Unfortunately, this piece is not still intact, but if you saw the pictures – you know it was rad.
Want to collaborate on something as epic as this Vhils mural? “Paste” your info here.