Street Art

What is Street Art?

Street art, more specifically urban street art, has gained recognition and attention from individuals worldwide. The reasoning behind the newfound adoration for this style of art is not complex and actually quite understandable. This article will cover the basics of how urban street art became a worldwide attraction. The vague definition of street art is: an undefined style of art displayed for the public eye to see in public locations. Street art is displayed, normally in cities (urban setting), on streets, urban walls, parks, pavement, and other public spaces. Street art has evolved from graffiti and vandalism to creative works of art to brighten up a community. Recognition was gained during the late 1970s in New York City. An artist by the name of Keith Haring created a bright and lively mural on the intersection of the Bowery and Houston Street, resulting in the common nickname of “The Bowery Mural”. This mural began a domino effect on New York City. many artists began transforming unwanted and tacky graffiti vandalism into street art. SOHO, NYC was one of the first districts to gain recognition for their street art. Soon, urban street art transitioned into commercial street art. This style of art is the money-making industry- artists who involve themselves in this industry end up making money for their street art. Street art is an extremely broad topic that branches out into many subcategories, genres, classifications, and styles of art.

Some of the earliest expressions of street art were made using a technique called graffiti, which started showing up on the sides of trains and cars. This was the work of many gangs during the period 1920 to 1930 . However, the impact of street art was only fully felt during the 1970s and 1980s. During this time period, there was a significant change in street art. Younger generations used street art as a way to create a movement, they took the “battle for meaning” into their own hands. Not long after, this phenomenon started to gain respect and attention from the older generations. From what began as what some considered “destruction to property”, it had taken a form of true artistic expression. What was known as an “illegal activity”, a process of creation through destruction began its evolution into numerous forms of artistic expression, making its way into global art markets and galleries.

Throughout the many decades, street art has gained an enormous audience. The increase in attention is due to many various reasons, including diversity. Street art is incredibly diverse, there are many types, paste-ups, murals, stencils, tags, and much more. In almost every country there are many street artists, each street artist is inspired by a plenitude of cultures and styles. This results in a wide range of urban art that can be found all around the world. There are also no rules that street artists have to abide by when creating their pieces, they are free to create whatever they would like, which adds to the meaningful aspect of the art. New pieces of art are made by the second while others are erased. An ongoing cycle that keeps street art alive! Another reason why street art is so popular is because of the mystery behind each piece of art. When first approaching the pieces, many questions begin to invade your thoughts. Who did it? What does it mean? Why did someone put this work there? This mystery intrigues the audience and draws them into street art. Street art has also grown in popularity due to its political perspective. Graffiti has always been influenced by ongoing political and social issues. Political street art is usually very controversial, scrawled prominently in various countries for a wide range of purposes. Many people have pasted and painted on building walls as a form of anonymous protest towards ongoing political situations. During the Greek economic crisis, angry sentiments from artists living there were showing up on walls to express the artist’s hostility towards the situation. Throughout time, ongoing political and social situations have worsened, which leads to an increase in street art with political meanings behind them. These pieces of art have gained more viewers’ attention, 4 therefore, those forms of street art have also gained popularity. Lastly, street art is all about creativity, expression, and freedom. It's a way for the underdog to take a stand for their beliefs, no matter their social or economic class. To create street art, the artists do not have to have many fans or a huge social media following. Artists can just create their own work wherever and whenever they would like to. There is freedom within putting work on the street, the idea of being able to create without any limits has drawn potential artists, which adds to the popularity of this particular type of art.

Street art can be found in many cities and suburbs around the world, but to go into detail as to where exactly the most street art resides, here is a chart showing exactly that. From the map above, it is clear to see that the popularity of street art is growing. Many parts of the map are colored showing that street art is being created in many places around the world (red being extremely populated with street art, orange being populated and grey being not populated).

Street art commonly is transferred into the category of propaganda art- a style of street art that is used to benefit a cause and act as a voice: provoking an idea or statement. Barbara Kruger, an urban street artist known for her propaganda pieces made from printmaking, has gained recognition worldwide. She is best known for her usage of direct, powerful, motivational, and aggressive slogans plastered over black and white photographs.

As quoted by Kruger herself, “Do you know why language manifests itself the way it does in my work? It’s because I understand short attention spans.” Kruger works to prioritize the audience’s attention directly to the words in her art. This explains the use of bold, Comic Sans text with a fire red highlight around the text. As concluded in a psychology study by the ERP, the color red evokes different emotions, ranging from the highest highs (love, happiness, and comfort) to the lowest lows (anger, and danger). Red is a personalized color, it is extremely attention-grabbing, for this reason. The human eye is naturally more attracted to warm than cool colors, but red is the most attractive color of them all. This is due to the aforementioned evoked emotions individuals relate to this color.

One specific art piece created by Kruger was made for the Women's March on Washington in 1989. Her intention was to support the idea of reproductive freedom, therefore resulting in this piece being an extreme controversy. Barbara Kruger is influencing those against the idea of reproductive freedom in women to take a look at how women are affected. The 5 words stating, “Your body is a battleground” represent how political leaders are protesting (or fighting) for an issue outside of a woman’s body when it directly affects the woman’s body. Those 5 words are powerful and attention-grabbing because the representations may be slightly altered, depending on the person receiving the slogan, however, the bold white text and red highlights will force the slogan into their mind, resulting in the individual thinking about the meaning and understanding women’s perspective. Every woman’s body is the battleground, the fighting scene, for the campaigns against their freedom. Kruger’s words are not only conveying to the audience but include impactful metaphors, relating real-life issues and topics to everyday scenes- in this case, a battleground.

Kruger’s techniques are commonly used amongst many street artists. The idea of using vibrant and fluorescent colors to capture the audience’s eyes is a theme, or a common trend, found in many street art compositions. If one were to search “Urban Street Art”, the color red is incorporated into almost every image of street art.

In short, street art has made a major impact on the art industry in today’s world, this type of art is the beginning of a new era, it is an opportunity for new artists to display what they are capable of creating. As street artists grow and develop over the years so has its audience. The diversity, mystery, and freedom that street art incorporates has been drawing in a large audience and is continuing to draw in more and more art lovers. From pavements to parks, street art adds a pop of color to the originally bland streets that we roam. Art in the street makes people happy, it makes the people’s day and community much more intriguing. Art makes people feel alive and joyful, waking people up. It is inspiring, motivating, and provides food for thought. Street art takes the bare minimum and makes it a thousand times more interesting.