The Review: Little People in the City: The Street Art of Slinkachu

"Overpowered," by Slinkachu

It’s a bit of a challenge trying to pin down what, exactly, Slinkachu does. You could classify him as an installation artist, photographer, gentle provocateur, or even philosopher; each would be accurate in its own way, but even all of them, taken together, still somehow miss the whole that’s bigger than all those parts.

The method’s deceptively simple: take a miniature figurine (most of them look to be about HO scale), paint it, and then place it somewhere in the city, perhaps to be happened on by chance, and perhaps not. But then, installation art is not unlike real estate: it’s got (nearly) everything to do with location. Part of Slinkachu’s simple genius is putting his little people in very specific places to echo very specific predicaments faced by the world at large on a daily basis.

Little People in the City: The Street Art of Slinkachu documents several of the artist’s installations. The book, like the art, works on several levels, wherein lies a lot of its appeal. On the one hand, you can skim the book, as I did the first time, getting chuckles from photos that seem to have taken some¬†visual cues from¬†Gary Larson (filtered, at times, through a sense of melancholy that could easily have been borrowed from Edward Hopper). But there’s so much more than that.

For one thing, if it were just for the humor, the concept and the book itself would both wear pretty thin, pretty quickly. Taken as pure “surface,” it’s a pretty shallow artistic conceit. But then, on a second or third viewing, you realize there’s something else going on here. These installations, and the resultant photos, aren’t just of something, they’re also about something.

They’re also useful, for two reasons. First, it’s a much-needed reminder that it doesn’t need to be serious to be art. Humor is a vital part not just of life, but also of the creative process. Sometimes it’s useful as pure comic relief, and sometimes as a lure, or foil… something to draw you into a deeper meaning that lurks behind the laugh, or something to throw a bit of sadness or melancholy into sharper relief. Slinkachu does both here.

The second bit is the photography. There are a number of lessons you can draw from the photos, from exposure to many elements of good composition (such as paying attention to your backgrounds, or including something in the frame that gives a sense of scale to your photo).

The verdict? If you’re of a certain frame of mind (and sense of humor), this book’s worth checking out, or even owning. As to the artwork itself? I won’t belabor you with my interpretations of any of this stuff, or the feelings certain pieces did or didn’t arouse in me; that would, frankly, be the least interesting part of the whole enterprise, especially when the point is to crack open the pages and find your own experience and interpretations. Try it, and enjoy it.

Explore further: a link to Slinkachu’s main page, which in turn links to his website and blog.

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