Most people dismiss street art as vandalism and hold conceptions that the artists responsible are mindless delinquents. However—if you are truly looking—street art can be both beautiful and brilliant.
To be clear, I do not consider the thoughtless vandalism you see everyday on the side of railroad boxcars or school buildings to be street art. It’s unfortunate the majority of graffiti is done by the bored youth as a tool to “tag” their name and deface public property at the same time. It’s ugly and the only thought it provokes to those who pass by is, “Clearly no one cares about this place.”
But with the help of influential artists such as Blek le Rat, Banksy, and BLU, the public has fostered a new appreciation for the street art that reshapes the way we see the world. These are the artists that desire to “create”—rather than “destroy”— and put the beauty back into places where it was once taken away.
“Smart vandalism” often serves as an outlet to critique and comment on socially relevant themes using public spaces. It’s a way for artists to take a conceptual thought or vision and bring it to life for the broad population to see (rather than be viewed by the few that visit galleries).
Street art is as subjective and varied as the artists themselves. And most beautiful street art can be hard to see, unless you are really looking. So, we’ve compiled some of our favorite pieces from several talented street artists that will undoubtedly leave an impression.
Learn more about Banksy here.
A Mix from Various Artists
Graffiti Moves its Way into Modern Mainstream
Shepard Fairey was a cult graphic artist best known for plastering city landscapes with his “obey” stickers, featuring the mug of wrestler Andre the Giant. Today…he is recognized as the artist behind the iconic “HOPE” portrait supporting Barack Obama’s 2008 candidacy for President of the United States.
The success of artists like Fairey—who made the transition from anonymous street rebel to being commissioned by big name clients including Pepsi, Hasbro and Netscape—thrust the once underground movement into a popular culture phenomenon. Today, you can find prestigious galleries putting on street art exhibits.
Banksy is another artist who has received international acclaim, selling his work for astronomical sums of money. He went on to direct the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into urban street culture. The Oscar nominated film calls into question the hype surrounding street art and what it means to be an artist in the first place. Highly entertaining, and revealing—if you haven’t seen it already, I suggest you do.
While more and more graffiti artists are migrating their work from the streets into mainstream media, the spray paint medium is being used as a stepping-stone for artists hoping to find commercial success. Does this mean street art is losing its “authenticity?” Maybe. But that’s up to the public to decide.