Street art and graffiti are a form of expression held in high regard for capturing the ever-changing thoughts, opinions, and current events during their respective times. The artists behind this type of art strive to bring about change with their work by challenging the general public's way of thinking. It is easy to argue that street art has helped shape history by making people aware of how fickle society is [and] how opinions can change in an instant.
What is street art?
Street art is a type of public visual art. It is often controversial and illegal, but that doesn't stop people from enjoying it. But what is street art?
Street art can be loosely defined as any visual or audio media created on, in, or around a public space. Street artists have used paint, chalk, crayons, stickers...you name it! This form of art is usually anonymous and executed without permission. However, more recently street artists have been commissioned to create murals (such as the ones seen in the Mission District of San Francisco).
The history of street art
In the last 50 years, a new movement in art has grown to prominence. Sometimes called “post-graffiti” art, it has gone by many names including street art, urban art and contemporary public art. These terms all describe a diverse set of artistic styles that use the city landscape as both a canvas and medium for artistic expression.
While this new movement is often associated with the rise of hip hop culture in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s, it draws from and reflects an even longer history of graffiti dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. In fact, some researchers have found evidence of graffiti as old as 10,000 years. While some early writing systems such as hieroglyphics or cuneiform have been studied for millennia or have been widely deciphered (as was the case for Linear B), many ancient forms are still not well understood today. Graffiti provides a unique window into these lost cultures because they allow us to glimpse non-literate societies by studying what people wrote on walls when no one was watching. By examining these ancient forms of graffiti, we can start to gain insight into how different cultures think about their relationship with each other and the natural world around them in ways that other aspects of material culture cannot convey.
Street artists during the 21st century
- Shepard Fairey
- Space Invader
- Miss Van
- Keith Haring
- Blek le Rat
Street art today
Street art as it's commonly known today encompasses a wide variety of approaches, strategies and media. There's no single way that street art has to look or be made, just as there's no one way to create art in general. Graffiti-based works have been around the longest and are most closely tied to the public perception of street art—but other forms, like community murals and public installations (like sculptures or light shows) can also qualify as an example of this type of work. The term "street artist" is also a very broad category and can refer to anyone from activists who make political posters to rebellious teens with spraypaint cans and poor aim.
The perceived illegality of street art gives it a subversive element that makes it seem thrilling for some observers. However, the relationship between law enforcement and those who create graffiti-style works is more complicated than simple opposition: cities may approach vandalism differently depending on the aesthetic value of the work itself (for instance, if you cover a wall in swirly, colorful paint instead of ugly barbed wire).
Street art can be exciting, artistic and provocative. Or it can just plain make you laugh.
In the early days of street art, artists were able to create their work without public attention. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of communism brought many street artists into conflict with the governments they lived under. These artists were seen as a threat to society and a danger to national security. They were arrested, beaten and even killed by police officers who saw them as criminals. Many of these artists fled to countries such as America and France which offered them more freedom than their home countries did. As time went on, street art became more accepted but still remained controversial in some areas of society.
In the last decade or so, street art has become much more widespread throughout cities around the world including here in New York City where it can be seen on subway platforms, train cars and even bridges across town! As mentioned earlier this type of artwork is often created with stencils which makes it easier for an artist to replicate multiple copies without having any training in painting techniques like brush strokes or shading techniques like blending colors together well enough so it looks realistic instead just one solid color."