If you wander the roads of Philadelphia, there is plenty of street art to discover among the boarded windows, cinder block facades and bridge underpasses. Anyone who keeps an eye peeled for this sort of thing knows the lay of the land a little bit. So when strong, new art starts taking up spaces around the city, it becomes fairly evident. In the case of Harlequinade, it is as if some sorcerer has been wandering the city to imbue magic in all of the nooks and crannies.
The enigmatic Harlequinade may have a lot to say, but instead of doing the talking, this artist does a lot of revealing. The wheat pasted and spray painted symbols are all based somewhere between fantastical and mystical concepts, making some streets feel like an encounter out of Dungeons and Dragons. There is a lot more going on here than dice, however. These artworks are more like runes, bestowing areas with certain energy and a loose narrative.
Most recently the images that have been appearing are gargoyle like “guardians” which take their qualities from one of the four elements. As with most of Harlequinade’s designs, they are detailed and intricately patterned. From the eyelike feathers in the wings of the air elemental, to the hair and flowing cloth garments of the earth guardian, one thing that is immediately noticeable about Harlequinade’s work is its attention to detail. A mysterious mask floats above wings and clawed talons, appearing light and swift like the wind that often whips around Philly’s far-flung corners. The earth element, of course, is more weighty and depicted as a spade wielding bison with a septum piercing in its nose.
Black and white is generally the palette of the artist, although some of the older work in spray paint includes hints of red or gold. One of the more macabre pieces from months past is “Mystére Royale.” This character is more the symbol of death or foreboding, and seems like someone you wouldn’t particularly want to meet. While he is an intense individual, his tag line also confidently reminds us that, frightening or not, “you can’t bring your shit with you.” This rejection of materialism for the world of mysticism and the good fight makes this figure a worthwhile anti-hero on the walls around Philadelphia.
Meandering patterns and fantasies from the days of yore are taking to the streets in Philly courtesy Harlequinade, and for that we are thankful. Instead of the traditional “graffiti” works with sprawling letters, tags and boomboxes, Harlequinade instead leaves magic around the city for those who know what to look for.