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Whether street art, urban art or graffiti, these new artistic trends have been established for several decades now in all major cities: from New York to Paris or from London to Tokyo via Rio. of Janeiro. First of all, the use of the word "Street art" is relatively recent. It dates from the 2000s. It was used in 2006 during the first art auctions representing works from this artistic movement. In 2008 the "street art" exhibition at the Tate Modern in London imposed this term to describe this new singular artistic movement characterized by a great diversity of style (graffiti, collages, stencils, installations, frescoes, mosaics, stickers...)
You could say it's a global art movement that started in the 1960s and is still alive today. The diversity of media used, styles, techniques and the freedom to create in the public space. It's a new movement that has entered the history of art.
Who created street art?
Traces of art have been found on the walls since time immemorial. Whether it is parietal art in the caves of Lascaux, or names found on the walls of Pompeii, the art of drawing and graffiti in the public space is found at all times. What is called street art today is therefore not totally new.
In France in the 1930s, the artist Brassaï, interested in graffiti, decided to photograph them to memorize them in photos. In the 1950s, Jacques Villeglé (1926-) and Raymond Hains recovered posters from the street in order to recreate a work of art with these lacerated pieces of poster. They thus laid the first foundations of what would later become street art. At the same time Gérard Zlotykamien (1940-), in 1963, he began to paint black and red silhouettes in the street that he would call “ephemera”. He will continue to paint his silhouettes for several years.
This theme of silhouettes and the use of spray paint are also important in the work of Ernest Pignon-Ernest (1942-). His stencil-cut silhouettes and drawn on the walls are his signature. He will invade certain places and walls with his creations like today's graffiti artists.
At the end of the 1960s, in Philadelphia (United States), the first of the "graphers" was the artist Cornbread, who wrote his signature everywhere. This is the birth of the first tags: Capital letters made with an aerosol spray. Many young people follow their example and will tag their name on the walls.
In 1969 Julio 204, in New York is one of the first to tag in the city, he is also the first to add his street number to his signature. Phenomenon that will become the marker of the New York movement. Taki 183 is truly the first tagger to become known in the city, covering walls and subway trains with his signatures.
Faced with the increase in the number of graffiti artists, artists are beginning to seek to differentiate themselves. Stay High 149 is the first to add graphic elements to its signature by doubling its tag and adding the halo visible in the Le Saint series. Following this many graffiti artists will follow his example and the style will become more and more inventive. Phase 2 is the outstanding artist who will modify the tag by creating ever more original letter shapes and ending its composition with an arrow.
The late 1970s prolific artist Seen produced works in bright, contrasting colors while Blade worked on perspective and geometry in his work. He is one of the first artists to be spotted by a gallery and to have his first exhibition.
The street art phenomenon is spreading all over the world
The style is evolving more and more, sometimes moving away from the original graffiti. The real hunt led by the authorities against the artists who tag the doors and subway cars intensifies, the artists are forced to redouble their ingenuity to work by being more and more rapid in their work and in creativity to be able to stand out from other artists. This will also lead to a change of place for their work and the increase of walls as a support for their achievements. The evolution of their work tool the aerosol can evolves. Many colors appear and the spray tips allow artists a variety of line thickness.
Artists Futura, Dondi White, Rammellzee or A-One were the leading artists of the late 1979s and early 1980s in the USA. They are also the first to give a more or less political message to their work. Since 1979 art venues and alternative galleries have been interested in and exhibited street art artists. The success became international and from the 1980s the artists Blade, Futura or Seen exhibited in numerous exhibitions in Europe. European museums such as the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam will acquire street art works. With the exhibitions and the discovery of street art through travel, from 1983 and 1984, the phenomenon spread in Europe (France, Italy, Germany...)
In Paris, the first known graffiti artist is Bando who imports graffiti in France and joins the artists Blek le Rat and Jérôme Mesnager who make stencils in artists using urban supports.
The stammering beginnings of Parisian graffiti are concentrated on the banks of the Seine between the Pont Neuf and the Pont de la Concorde. Exchanges between European artists are intensifying. The English artist Mode 2 will thus work in Paris with Bando who will then collaborate with the Dutchman Sho. The exchanges are also intensifying with North American artists like JonOne who met Bando in New York, he is going to show him what is being done in Paris. JonOne then comes to Paris, he then joins the Bad Boy Crew (BBC) and ends up staying permanently in the French capital. JonOne will differentiate himself from other artists by focusing on movement rather than lettering. In the early 1990s, the BBC exhibited throughout Europe.
What is the message of street art?
If until now street art was essentially a tagging technique, from the 1990s urban art will experience a small revolution. Some artists will replace the signature with representations of faces, portraits...- like Shepard Fairey alias Obey. Still a student in 1989, he created an icon “André the Giant Has a Posse” and made a sticker out of it that he distributed to his friends asking them to stick it everywhere. Its objective is to make us aware that the images we see all have a meaning and that it is important to understand it.
The new generation will no longer use only the aerosol can to invade the urban space, but will use stickers, collage, mosaic, stencil...
The French Space Invider will invade public space by sticking mosaic tesserae on the walls to create visuals inspired by the 1978 arcade game Space Invaders. Invader has installed over 3000 parts in over 60 cities around the world.
In reaction to the visual pollution created by commercial communication in the public space, the artist Zevs will divert the logos of major brands by liquefying them on the facades of department stores after dark. He will also create shadows of street furniture objects by painting the shadows of these objects on the sidewalks.
Over the years, the artist Banksy will use his art to denounce the failings of society with humour, poetry and shocking visuals, in particular using the stencil technique. His simple and refined scenes astonish and mark the minds. He quickly became one of the most famous artists. Other French artists will use this technique like Miss.Tic, Blek le Rat, Jef Aérosol or C215.
Street art is constantly evolving. From the simple graffiti of his beginnings to the graffiti of Seen or JonOne, the techniques are diversifying. Graffiti artists continue to use spray cans to create their works. But they also use new techniques and supports such as mosaic, stencil, sticker, installations, sculpture or video projection.
Some famous street art artists
Artist who managed to keep his identity a secret from the media. His works made mainly in stencil initially in the streets of London before invading the streets of the whole world.
His satirical and subversive work is carried out with the aim of highlighting a different way of thinking than the ambient one. Especially the mass media. His work focuses on strong political and social demands.
The 2010 documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop" was nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar.
Born in 1970, he is a contemporary artist known for his graphic serigraphs. Known first for his stickers, his work became famous thanks to his poster of Barrack Obama during the US presidential election in 2008.
His work is in the collections of many museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Artist born in 1957. He is one of the pioneers of street art in France in the early 1980s. Stencil artist, he creates portraits of personalities such as Elvis Presley, Lennon, Basquiat... but also anonymous people such as children , passers-by or beggars.
Street art artist quotes
"Graffiti is one of the few avenues available to you when you have next to nothing. And while you can't cure poverty in this world with a picture, at least you can make someone smile while they piss".
"The greatest crimes are not committed by those who break the rules but by people who obey orders. They are the ones who drop bombs and massacre villages."
"Creation is a disease, an anomaly from which I have no intention of curing!"
What are the biggest street art festivals?
Many street art and urban art festivals take place all over the world:
- In France, the Grenoble Street Art Fest, the Underground effect in Paris la Défense, the Zoo Art Show in Lyon.
- In Great Britain, the Bristol's Upfest
- In Norway, NuArt
- In Canada the Montreal's Mural
- In Spain, the Asalto, Zaragoza, Bloop Festival, Ibiza, Arco Madrid, Miau Fanzara
- In the USA, Wynwood Miami, The Jersey City Mural Arts Program, Detroit - Murals In The Market, Hawaii Kaka'ako - Pow! Wow!, Sacramento - Wide Open Walls, Atlanta - Living Walls
- In Belgium, Ostend - The Crystal Ship
- In Switzerland, Art Basel
- In Poland, Lodz - Urban Forms
- In China, Hong Kong – Hkwalls
What are the films to see on street art?
- Get to the Wall: A Banksy Documentary
- Chats perchés: A documentary on M Chat
- Out directed by French street artist JR.
- Downtown 81 – Jean-Michel Basquiat: film returns to the beginning of Basquiat's career.
- Stations of the Elevated: a documentary on New York graffiti.
- Wild Style, a film from the 1980s: documentary on American urban culture and graffiti.
- Writers 1983-2003, 20 years of graffiti in Paris
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