As you walk through the major parts of any city you will notice a common theme among their buildings that does not lie in their architecture, but what is being placed on them. Downtowns across the nation are scattered with scribbles, symbols and varying other works of graffiti sprawled around just any possible place that someone can access.
Now the topic has been much debated on whether or not this is any type of art that should be taken seriously, but it cannot be avoided. Look outside; tell me how long it takes you to find a form of graffiti, maybe it’s a sticker on the stop sign, a sprayed tag on wall, a large poster pasted up, or even just some writing in the bathroom stall. What do these things mean? Well most people have no clue, but there is a serious culture of people behind this phenomenon.
Graffiti has become an ugly word to those who partake in creating art in public space; these people prefer to use the term “street art,” and have formed a serious subculture that people are not typically aware of. City officials have often told their people that graffiti was a cause of gangs and a sign of violence or marking of territory. While this has been true, a majority of this artwork has been misunderstood and confused with something more evil than it is.
The street artist today comes in all varieties of people, and has little restriction on age or ethnicity. It gained popularity in the 1960’s as something of a creative and a bit destructive outlet for the youth. As time progressed so did the abilities of the artists, and with the advent of the spray can began a new revolution of street art.
In the past, the majority of street art was done alone but as the size, complexity, and safety concerns of the artists motivated them to form associations that they would call “crews.” A crew varies in size depending on the location and members can be associated or “down with” multiple crews, but typically affiliating their work with one crew. A crew is headed by a “king” or “queen” who is seen as the most experienced or talented artist in the group and to join one must show a unique style and ability that would be beneficial to the crew’s name.
“This may all sound very gang like to the outsider,” said local artist (who wishes not to be named) “but it’s similar to being part of a club or sports team.” He went on to say that the crew often helps each other out and is a great support system within street art and even their personal lives. The crew allows each other to spread their art in a more effective manner.
“It’s similar to sports, we have rivals and we often have quarrels but it is within our art that we express these things.” He said with some confidence. When asked about the meaning of street art he pondered for some time coming up with a plethora of reasons. It doesn’t have to be negative, street art has become an outlet for someone’s thoughts, feelings and ideas to come to life. There is a thrill associated with doing this type of art.
Whether you see it as graffiti or street art is up the viewer, but it cannot be denied that this art form is growing in popularity. It can be seen almost everywhere and has taken meaning to serious artists. Today more and more artists are taking to the streets to showcase political messages, and artists like Banksy are becoming world renowned for curating street art that is provocative to the mind and fueled by politics.