The Ins and Outs of Street Art
When you think of street art, please don't think of the large unreadable spray paint spirals on the side of your local abandoned building. Street art is not to be confused with graffiti or vandalism. While it can be done with spray paint, street art usually has a point besides adorning the side of a building with the artist's name. Street artists aim to reclaim public spaces by creating outdoor, situational art in them. It can take the form of graffiti, stenciling, street posters, or basically any sort of outdoor installation. In the end, though, most street art can be grouped by its attempt to take an ordinary place and give in it an element of surprise, beauty, or thoughtfulness that one wouldn't normally encounter in a public space.
While people have been scratching on their surroundings since the beginning of time, street art really got its start in the rise of counterculture of the '60's and '70's. Graffiti seemed to go along naturally with the radical political movements and rock and roll music that were springing up at the time. New York subways were crucial to the movement: subway cars bedecked with tags and spray paint scrawls were the ground zero for street art development. In the 70's, "Dick Nixon Before He Dicks You," was a popular tag with those upset with the current president.
The '80's and the rise of hip hop brought graffiti into the mainstream. Films such as Wild Style and the PBS documentary Style Wars captured hip hop culture and its use of graffiti as a means of expression. As the consciousness of graffiti in the popular psyche increased, graffiti began to come up in movies, video games, and other media.
Street Art as High Art
In recent years, street art has come to be more accepted as a legitimate art form. Banksy, a famous street artist from the United Kingdom, has become so accepted that the city of London allows his art to adorn public buildings. Banksy also represents a new type of street artist; he not only does street art, but also indoor art and films. His Andy Warhol-esque screenprint of Kate Moss sold for over £50,000 in 2006. His film Exit Through the Gift Shop, which bills itself as "the world's first street art disaster movie," premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year.
5 Great Street Art Blogs
Here's a roundup of five blogs that capture examples of various types of street art.
Banksy: Banksy is probably the world's most famous street artist. Based in the UK, his outdoor stencil designs are often satirical or tongue-in-cheek political statements. A particularly good one is this stencil of a kid on the outside of a torn down Detroit building proclaiming, "I remember when all this was trees."
Wooster Collective: This blog showcases street art from around the world. From paint to sculpture, all sorts of installations are collected here. This one comments on the current immigration laws bouncing around in the Arizona courts.
Posterchild's Blade Diary: Posterchild is a Canadian street artist who does both stencil artwork and other types of installations. His works are fun and politically-minded, and he makes them by taking discarded items and returning them to the city in the form of art. A personal favorite of mine are the urban planters made from recycled wood.
Little People: Street art depends on the surprise and excitement that passers-by experience when they come upon it. In this project, tiny hand-painted people are left around London and photographed, and they are surprisingly good at making you question your surroundings.
Special thanks to
Special thanks to
Joy Henry and the the editor of