Berlin has become the epicenter of Europe's vibrant street art scene since the reunification of Germany in 1989. And it's no wonder why artists are drawn here -- with cheap rent, urban decay that inspires and serves as a canvas and fairly lax laws regarding these public spaces, Berlin has allowed artists to explore in a medium that is accessible and espouses anti-capitalist and activist sentiments.
French artist MTO makes movie icons into larger than life street-art symbols -- set on the crumbling backdrop of Berlin's city streets. Judging from his Flickr page though, it seems the artist is getting a few commissions for his portraits, as one image shows a smug Jean-Paul Belmondo as Jo Cavalier in L'as des as, looming over a video store's display cases. While MTO has painted other lesser-known cult icons, he has also paid tribute to the more popular ones including a stunning "triptych" of Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining -- complete with his own can of MTO brand spray paint! Hannibal Lecter's menacing mouth guard, coupled with the traditional graffiti backdrop, creates an odd visual dichotomy -- he's one part cannibal killer, one part street-level gangbanger. And Travis Bickle's lunatic expression and guns poised make for a terrifying meeting around a Berlin street corner. The artist uses black and white paint (often outlined in red), which is simple but effective and surprisingly eye-popping, adding a timeless quality to the work. His juxtaposition of images and setting is thoughtful and shows a sense of humor, as in this pic of the legendary Jimi Hendrix where a black gazebo-like top serves as filler for the artists' Afro.
Check out more of MTO's work in the gallery below and on his Flickr page. There's also a short and amusing video after the jump, which does a nice job of setting the scene for one of the artist's creations.