It has pretty much become census that street art originated out of the graffiti art scene. Although graffiti is believed to date back as far as ancient Rome, where it was used as a primitive social media of sorts. Artfull wise guys (i'm mean smart asses not mobsters, after all this is ancient Rome right. Oww) used it as a way to lambaste there local politicians or aristocrats, boost of prows 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 street 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 post humanly 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 hero. 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.