The history of graffiti street art is fascinating, from the journey that it has been on to what it is viewed as today. From a frowned-upon act of crime to an admired and colourful enhancement to an area.
In this blog, we will take a look into the history of graffiti, how it all began, and the graffiti street art we know today. So read on to learn more.
Introduction to Graffiti Street Art – What Is It?
Graffiti street art is artwork that is performed and located in public locations. You can often find graffiti on walls, bridges, the sides of buildings, billboards, and other various flat surfaces or objects that are located in public spaces and that can be easily viewed.
Street art can also be referred to as urban art or graffiti and can be used to advertise or spread messages, particularly of a political nature. Street art can be used effectively to liven up spaces, bringing colour and brightness to an environment and thus making it more interesting.
Famous street artists have emerged from once creating art in the street to becoming household names in the art industry. Names like Banksy and Keith Haring were originally street artists; now their work can be found in a whole range of places, with collaboration deals with a range of different brands and labels. These names are widely recognised and are now considered mainstream when it comes to street art.
Stony’s artwork shows ties to street art, including the wording of personal quotes and mantras. Stony’s work was also a form of self-expression as he struggled to express himself with words due to his struggles with autism and dyslexia. The work of Stony ties heavily in with graffiti and street art because of the uniqueness of his art, along with the words and imagery being his self-expression to the world.
Graffiti vs Street Art – What’s the Difference?
The term ‘graffiti’ is usually referred to as a negative term when used singularly. It is also often word-based and done illegally without permission. Street art, on the other hand, is mainly image-based, can be a whole mural, and often includes lots of colours and images while being more figurative than graffiti.
However, most people often use the terms graffiti and street art interchangeably, with the middle wording being ‘graffiti street art’ or ‘graffiti art’, which basically refers to street art and not the illegal kind of graffiti.
Street art is intended for public viewing and, more often than not, conveys a message to the public, therefore making it engaging.
The Different Types of Street Art
Traditionally, street art was created using aerosol spray paint cans. Larger-scale street art today is created with the help of a cherry picker or scaffolding.
The History of Graffiti Street Art
It is hard to know just when graffiti started, as paintings were marked on walls back in the caveman days, dating back to 7000 BC, while modern-day graffiti street art has become an extremely popular way of creating art across many cities and urban locations.
Below we will discuss some of the key moments in street art history that helped define and shape the history and what graffiti street art is today.
Cornbread Starting the Tagging Movement
Some of the oldest graffiti-style art was created in the 1960s and 1970s by artist Darryl McCray, otherwise known as ‘Cornbread’ – his tagging name. It has been agreed that graffiti-style art was popularised in this era with the help of Cornbread’s work. This nickname came from his love for his grandmother’s cornbread.
The graffiti artist began his life in Philadelphia, and his work was found here and in New York City. He claimed to be the only person who would write his name on walls for the purpose of establishing a reputation for himself.
The tagging of Cornbread’s name continued to pop up throughout the city. One of the craziest places that he managed to graffiti was on the side of a real elephant at the Philadelphia Zoo. This stunt, unsurprisingly, landed him in prison but made him a known figure for years to come.
This sparked the pattern of more tagging popping up around neighbourhoods in New York City. Taki 183 was another artist who pioneered contemporary graffiti.
These two big names in the street art scene are responsible for shaping the street art movement, helping it become what it is today.
Vandalism and the 1980’s
The 1980s had to deal with an influx of crime and learn how to deal with it. New York City began to crack down on smaller crimes, such as graffiti. They recognised that if smaller crimes existed in an area, it encouraged more crimes to take place. Graffiti from this point in time until a few years later received a negative reputation.
However, this did not stop graffiti artists, it just encouraged more arrests due to the vandalism. It also prompted more people to create their work in the middle of the night to avoid being caught.
Modern Street Art Movement
Graffiti became popular due to a shift in the 1990s and early 2000s. This is when graffiti stopped being seen as an act of vandalism and began to be viewed as art and embraced by the public.
We have Keith Haring and Banksy to thank for a lot of this change. Haring’s work is instantly recognisable and has helped bridge the gap between street art and the public. The work of Keith Haring helped to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic, and people began to see the potential in street art due to its power to bring about change.
Jean-Michel Basquiat was another famous artist who received commissions to cover the sides of buildings with his work, bringing boldness and colour to urban spaces.
This change that was happening with graffiti street art over this time period meant it was not long before famous pieces were found in galleries across the world.
Modern-Day Street Art
Graffiti can be found in many cities around the world today. Some of the most famous street art that can be found today and is popular for tourists to view is located in:
- New York
- Los Angeles
These are just some of the locations where you can find inspiring and eye-catching graffiti and street art. Showcasing history, artists’ work, politics, culture, and tags.
There are certainly many locations where you can find some amazing street art, from local to internationally famous artists. One thing is for sure, we definitely have the history of graffiti and street art evolution to thank for the inspiring and strongly messaged graffiti street art that exists and that we can view publicly today.
The beauty of street art is that it was always intended to be viewed publicly, whether it was to establish authority over an area, establish a presence, or send a message to others. This public nature of street art still exists today, enjoyed by communities and visitors everywhere and enhancing an area. This is the beauty of graffiti street art, is that it is accessible to all.