The Rise of Street Art

The Rise of Street Art

The Rise of Street Art

Whether making a political gesture of subversion, or a brave rebellion against institutionalized art, the street art movement has undoubtedly made a provocative presence in the urban landscape over the past thirty years. Street art has been around for decades. It was first introduced in the American street culture in the 1970s, and is arguably the largest and longest evolving art trend.

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Part of the Elevate 2012 project started to embrace street art in Atlanta

By definition, street art is an umbrella term for “art and acts of art in public spaces,” usually illegally produced. Street art is not just graffiti, it encompasses many different forms including LED art, mosaic tiling, stencil art, wheat pasting, video projection mapping, murals and yarn bombing. The artist”s main purpose is not to deface public property, but to make strong social and political statements for the public to see.

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Shepard Fairey's wheatpasting on the side of a building promoting nonviolence.

The movement is popularly misunderstood as territorial gang “tagging” and vandalism. While some gang violence does occur from different members marking their dominions in various cities, it is seldom. The sole purpose of the movement is to bring art to the masses in the streets instead of limiting art”s visibility through skewed corporate perspectives such as advertising.

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Mural by Spanish street artist, Borondo

Street Art Vs. Public Art: From Graffiti to Galleries

One of the main reasons the street art movement has become more socially acceptable in recent years comes down to how one defines “street art.” The main difference between street art and public art is that “street art is illegal in practice, whereas public art is commissioned by cities or property owners and is considered not only enriching but socially acceptable” according to Atlanta street artist, Peter Ferrari. This allows the artist to go public with their art instead of concealing their identity with a tag name over fear of being arrested.

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Street Art by Banksy

While graffiti has wreaked havoc in some neighborhoods in the past, in many cities, especially in recent recession years, street art has actually resuscitated many foreclosed neighborhoods.  By unleashing art from the hushed confines of galleries and taking it directly to people”s back yards, street art can resurrect areas that were once desolate.

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Street art by Greg Mike in Decatur, Georgia's Kirkwood neighborhood

Many artists such as famed Brit, Banksy, have come under fire for showcasing their work in contemporary galleries instead of keeping it on the streets. While many view it as “selling-out,” other artists believe that by utilizing public art, it creates an avenue to bring aerosol-inspired artwork to a larger audience while gaining appreciation for the movement instead of vilifying it.

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Tree trunks painted electric blue in a Seattle park bring awareness to global deforestation.

Art in the Streets was the first exhibit of its kind in the U.S. to showcase street art in a positive light. Debuting at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles last April, the exhibit traced the development of graffiti and street art from the 1970s to the global movement it is today. For more information on the exhibit, click here.

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An example of yarn bombing in a city street

From the streets of East London to Miami”s Wynwood Walls, after thousands of arrests and years of public abhorrence towards the very premise of street art, it is finally being embraced by the widespread global community. While the largest art movement in 20th century history has evolved from back alleys to gallery walls, it is inherently clear, now more than ever, this is just the beginning of the rise of street art.

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Artwork by Banksy

Check out the gallery below for more amazing street art.

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