History Of Graffiti Street Art: And How The Culture Spawned
It has pretty much become sensus that street art originated out of the graffiti art scene. Although graffiti is believed to date back as far as ancent Rome, where it was used as a premitive social media of sorts. Artfull wise guys (i'm mean smart asses not mobsters, afterall this is ancent rome right. Oww) used it as a way to lambaste there local potilticans or aristacrats, boost of sexual prowes or even champion there favorite gladiator.
But graffiti as we know it today, gained rise in the 60s and 70s. The impact of this subversive culture was imparted by artist looking for new places to make art, while reacting and rebelling against society's rules.
Lets think about it for a sec, When does vandalism become art? For some, it’s when a doodle in a bathroom stall makes them smile; for others, it’s the moment they encounter a large-scale painting on an unlikely street corner. Street art has a long and controversial history, but in recent years it has evolved and been reinvented as a high art form. More and more, artists who appropriate public space are also harnessing market forces for their own gain.
What is graffiti exactly? “graffiti” often refers to guerrilla artwork on inner city walls and train lines. One of the earliest forms of graffiti was “tagging,” or the use of elaborate typography to encode the painter’s name on the sides of buildings or subway cars. Artists got extra points for tagging instantly inaccessible locations, often at great heights, and taggers competed to out do their competitors. This insular group determined skill by evaluating control of the spray paint and developing their unique typographical marks.
From the beginning, this art form was meant to be transgressive: in a world dominated by global branding, graffiti alienated the power of commercialism and government infrastructure. Street art was often viewed negatively by politicians and more affluent communities because it was associated with gang culture, but as in ancient Rome, the artwork served as a way for disenfranchised groups to express their dissatisfaction with society.
Street art was also closely tied to hip hop culture. Because of this, many of the artists began working in New York, but the medium rapidly expanded to urban centers across the United States. Rap legend Fab 5 Freddy was intimately tied to the graffiti community through artists including Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Keith Haring, who in younger years drew hundreds of chalk images in the NYC subway in the 1980s, His style was distinct – he was known for bold outlines, vivid colors and his signature “radiant baby” motif. Like many street artists, Haring’s work was inseparable from his activism. He was influenced by the AIDS crisis to create work that sent a message to society about the danger of prejudice.
Haring’s friend and now posthumanly infamous, Jean-Michel Basquiat, began his career by spray-painting enigmatic epigrams on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1970s. By the 1980s, he had befriended fellow artist Andy Warhol, and the two became frequent collaborators. Underscoring the significance of the street art movement, the Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of Basquiat’s work in 1992. Today, his pieces reside in the collections of nearly every major institution and in the private stashes of many prominent collectors. But street art is defiantly not just a ?NYC thing, as graffiti spread it's wings each city developed their own hometown heros. In Washington, D.C. it was Taki 183, a moniker that combined his nickname and the number of the street where he lived. Now, Taki 183’s canvases sell for thousands at auction.
Renowned contemporary artist Barry McGee is considered to be one of the most pivotal members of the street art movement. Born and raised in San Francisco, McGee’s work is inspired by the bold, cartoon-like forms. He uses his pieces to draw attention to the large homeless population in the Bay Area.
His wife, fellow artist Margaret Kilgallen, was also a strong voice in the street art community before her death in 2001 and is one of the few female artists recognized in the field. Street art continued to branch out and spread across the world, some artists began using stencils to create more elaborate works including portraits and landscapes, while others continued using spray paint to put up murals around their cities.
In the early 1980s Blek le Rat pioneered stencil art in Paris. The artist’s rat stencils alluded to the controlling nature of state power in the French capital and served as a way to bring art out of the traditional gallery setting. His use of ready-made stencils let him work quickly and move out before the cops showed.
In Britain, street art has become synonymous with one name, Banksy. The inigmatic artist, who's identy to this day is vurtally unknown, was directly influenced by Blek le Rat to create politically-charged stencils and installation pieces. Banksy began to create his pieces in Bristol in the 1990s but now travels all around the world in looking of shocking new backdrops for his work.
Far from his humble beginnings, Banksy was recetly the subject of critically-acclaimed documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and has a prolific line of "made-for-sale" works now circulate the secondary market. If you haven't seen the documentary, its a really good watch, but part of the film covered the now precarious position much of the infamous street artist's work finds it self in. Turns out, some shop owners could give a rat's ass how famous the graffiti on the side of their building was, to them it was still graffiti.
Art fans were horrified to learn that works of art were being powerwashed down the street gutter. I mean, imagan if the Mona Lisa had been painted on the side of a city highrise, whe along comes a landlord who says, uh uh, fuck you lenardo di venci, this is vandalisim. This brings us back to the delima that has surrounded street art from day one, yes it is art and yes it can be expressively brilliant, but yes, it is also vandalism in a manner of speaking. Some have even gone as far as paying to have Baksy's work carved from the substrate in which it sits. A process that the documentary explains is both pricey and questionable.
Brazilian twins Os Gemeos discovered graffiti through hip hop and were greatly inspired by Barry McGee, whom they met while he was visiting Brazil in 1993. Their large-scale murals have appeared at Art Basel in Miami, Tate Modern, and at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Today Street art and graffiti continues to evolve. Artists like KAWS, who designs vinyl toys, clothing, and various other medium, Began gaining popularity a few years back.
In fact, Many artists working today have achieved mainstream success, like American artist Shepard Fairey and French artist Invader. Fairey first gained international attention during the 2008 U.S. presidential election with his now iconic “Hope” poster, which features then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. Just eight years later, his work is now featured in the permanent collections at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and in the V&A in London.
Invader’s pixelated video game-like installations have appeared in over 65 cities, in major gallery exhibitions, and at auction. Despite this success, these artists and their contemporaries still find themselves on the wrong side of the law for their sometimes unsanctioned public displays. And in Fairey's case, having your chops busted even after being sanctioned. Check out Obey Giant for in dept on that, another great art documentary.
While still divisive in its treatment of urban architecture, street art has nonetheless become an economically viable form of art. In 2014, Phillips sold Banksy’s Submerged Phone Booth (2006) for £722,500, then the third most expensive Banksy sold at auction and the artist’s highest priced sculpture ever offered. In that same year, Sotheby’s auctioned an untitled Keith Haring canvas from 1986 for $4,869,000. These top-dollar examples demonstrate that what emerged as a grassroots movement has evolved into an internationally-recognized art that collectors will continue to compete for at the highest level.
But This is not just a story about graffiti. Although street art owes a part of its glory to this kind of artistic expression, it is a marvelous art form in its own right and it's amazing to follow the evolution and diversity of street art in the 21st century.
It has changed the way we view and view art, before only 2 mediums were respected in the art world. Oil Paint and sculpture. Now we have spray paint, stencils, graphic art and much more. The street art movement has really done a lot to gain admiration for various other art forms, and I for one can't wait to see where it takes us going forward.
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