Big cities can often feel overwhelming and alienating, with their faceless and nameless buildings, imposing walls adorned with blank windows, and the presence of mundane elements such as vents and exterior heating and cooling equipment. A lot of these components can seem even ugly, detracting from what could be beautiful buildings and spaces.
Art can be one way to beautify such ambivalent urban spaces. We’ve seen many different examples of street artists working to improve the urban landscape—either by painting fantastical murals, or perhaps by creating art installations or new forms of urban furniture.
But these options are only the beginning. For Italian artist Peeta (also known as Manuel de Rita), those blank and boring building walls are more than a mere flat surface to make a mark; in fact, they can be transformed into mind-bending three-dimensional artworks that seem to pop right off the edifice, inviting us to step in and take part of a different kind of urban space.
Born and based out of Venice, Peeta got his start as a graffiti writer at the tender age of thirteen, after being “shocked and excited” by the large murals he saw on a trip to Barcelona, Spain. He went on to study art and product design at university, as well as participating in different street artist crews, which has influenced his creative path for the last couple of decades.
Since then, Peeta—a tag name that derives from his childhood nickname “Pita,” only made more interesting with the double “ee”—has developed his own highly distinctive style of three-dimensional lettering, which has evolved to experimenting with architectural elements in striking anamorphic compositions.
Part of what makes his works so mind-blowing is how well they seem to integrate into the urban environment, while at the same time creating an extraordinary experience. As Peeta explains to Treehugger:
“I try to create a ‘suspension from normality’ meaning I try to smoothly mingle my pieces with the surrounding environment but at the same time to provide a different perception of familiar spaces altering the original structure of buildings through anamorphism.”
When seen from a particular angle, Peeta’s large-scale artworks often seem to achieve the impossible. Walls and windows seem to dissolve, blending into some alternative universe, as seen in this interesting combination of trompe oeil and anamorphic wizardry, painted in Neuenkirchen, Germany.
Other works, like this mural in Padua, dress up the mundane aspect of a building. Take this covered staircase for instance, which has been transformed into something much more interesting to look at, and climb.
This mural in Grenoble, France, has this drab apartment block look like it’s deconstructing progressively to reveal a bit of blue sky behind.
Continuing with that same idea, this massive mural is painted in a way that makes it appear like the corridors are floating in the sky.
Besides creating exceptional murals, Peeta has now branched out to creating abstract sculptures and paintings in his signature style—essentially pushing the creative envelope even further, after years of studying painting and improving his techniques.
What began as Peeta’s exploration of three-dimensional lettering of graffiti writing has now become a full-blown experiment with how these bits of visual sleight-of-hand can transfigure the city and our relationship to it. As he tells us, art is important in our public spaces because:
“[Art in public spaces] creates an inclusive and enjoyable environment for the community crossing and living them. I try to do it with my art. Indeed, my attempt is to transform public spaces not only into something pleasant but into something stimulating and inspirational, able to turn on people’s emotions and imagination.”