Paintings Underfoot by Petr Volf
Jan Kaláb’s painted sidewalks are probably the least well-known, yet trailblazing part of his practice. With them he touches the very essence of street art, selecting places reserved for pedestrians. In 2005, he let himself be inspired by the sidewalk’s cracked and heavily patchworked tarmac surface, interlaced with grooves left by the many attempts to repair it. Ordinary pedestrians are not aware of the surface they are walking on, paying no attention to it because it’s not even worth a look – until they accidently trip over a bulge, or a hole. Kaláb began painting the spaces between the grooves, connecting them into planar compositions using different color tones. When he was caught at it, he was questioned by the police and had to give a statement at the police station, but wasn’t sanctioned in any way. After that he started wearing an orange Day-Glo vest and while he was working he was simply regarded as a laborer just doing his job. People regarded the finished, painted sidewalks in the same way as other mysteries such as crop circles, thought to have been made by extraterrestrials. Pedestrians looked down in surprise at what they were about to walk on. In the meantime, he experimented with puddles, coloring the water with powder pigments so that when frost came they would freeze forming an interesting-looking crust of ice. Using a similar approach, in spring 2006 he used bright colors to paint a pile of granite paving stones – resembling ammunition – that were to be used for repairing the sidewalk. He was inspired by the traditional decoration of Easter eggs, but with the difference that the fragile eggshells had been replaced by shaped chunks of rock. Kids who lived in buildings near the installations were fascinated by the transformation. An ordinary day became a festive holiday.
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