Hundreds of people who walked through Northeastern’s Krentzman Quad on Tuesday were treated to a performance of street art in action. Parisian graffiti artists Greg Astro and Walter Javier Lopez Bartesaghui painted on 8-by-8 wood canvases with a style that was as much dancing as painting.
Astro and Bartesaghui, who goes by the name “Burns,” each created a piece of art indicative of their individual styles. Astro, known for his perspective-bending street art, created what looks like a three-dimensional sphere floating inside a concave cube. Surrounding it are freeform lines and shapes that sometimes come together to form human features such as eyes.
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Bartesaghui, a master with lettering, splashed the phrase “Boston summer” diagonally across his canvas with an old-school flair and bright, tropical colors of teal, red, orange, pink, and blue.
When they started out Tuesday morning, neither artist knew exactly what he was going to paint.
“I had this idea many years ago, and today feels like a good day to do it,” Astro said while sketching out his design in gray spray paint. Bartesaghui was deciding among a few different designs up to the moment they started painting.
The pair came to the Boston campus from France as part of President Joseph E. Aoun’s Public Art Initiative, which provides a platform for artists to brighten Northeastern with their work. Astro, with help from Bartesaghui, recently completed a larger work atop Burstein Hall. The two pieces they expected to finish Tuesday were donated to the university and will become part of its permanent collection.
The artists seemed to get their entire bodies involved in the work. Sometimes Astro would stand with his right arm folded behind his back, the way a schoolteacher might stand before his students, while his left worked steadily to create tight, thin lines of paint. Sometimes he would swing his arms wildly, covering huge swaths of the canvas in paint. At points he held his nose close to the wood; other times he’d skip backward to take in the whole piece from afar, cocking his head from one side to the other.
“For this one, I’m thinking about architecture,” he explained in English. “The shapes. I just go with it.”
People who walked by would offer compliments or stop to take in the artwork for a moment.
“What do you think?” Astro would ask onlookers. When they nodded in appreciation, he said, “Yeah, it’s not bad, right?”