In recent years street art has become more daring, more ornate, more sophisticated and, in many cases, more acceptable.
Traditionally graffiti artists directed their messages to other individuals marking the urban space with similar symbols. Street artists instead took the ideas and tools associated with graffiti and started using them to make aesthetically pleasing art which sometimes sends a message and provokes discussion. Despite all of this, unofficial public art remains the problematic son of cultural expression, the last outlaw discipline of visual communication, but has also become a successful global phenomenon.
But if we try to trace the origins of the so-called “street-art”, now a term in vogue, we will find a couple of publications that help us delineate an amazing genealogy. In 1985 curator Allan Schwartzman published “Street Art” an essential book to understand the origins of current urban art, and to learn about the pioneering works of well-known artists such as Jenny Holzer, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura 2000 or Richard Hambleton which fill the pages of this book whose title has perhaps served to name one of the most popular artistic movements of the early 21st century.
Another interesting book is “Soho Walls: Beyond Graffiti“, published in 1990, which documents how in the 80s art was everywhere in the New York neighborhood of Soho. The paradigm shift from text graffiti (related to hip-hop aesthetics) to more visual interventions is shown extensively in this book through the photos of David Robinson. An urban rebellion was happening on the walls of this cool neighborhood where wall inscriptions, collages, broken posters, “stencils”, and pictograms of abstract shapes overlapped creating a chaotic and creative visual landscape.
As stated in the article “The Emergence of Real Pop Art: Jeffrey Deitch & Street Art” some famous gallery owners have now realized that there is a new and youthful public willing to digest art, just as they do with fashion or music, and therefore they are trying to adapt their offer to these “new” languages required by contemporary young generations which have been raised with a strong visual education through the likes of punk, skateaboarding, rave or internet culture.
We must accept that there is a new alternative art market which does not function with the same dynamics as museums anchored in old highbrow structures. Street art is a global reality not only understood as a youth movement, but as the logical social evolution of the what artistic activity has become: a discipline now available to all kind of citizens without the imperative need to go through elitist art centers or great teachers…
*(Picture: Mural by french artist Remed & Keith Haring in action).