Graffiti has existed for decades as simple gang tags on street corners, illegible writing on subway cars, or bathroom stall words of wisdom on penis size and/or who to call for a good time. But in recent years, graffiti has entered the world of art, and the street has become it’s gallery. Instead of just territorial markings or vulgar scrawls, it can now be a showcase of virtuosic talent, biting social commentary, humor, and incredible imagination… and sometimes all four. It’s grown in scope from just spray paint to include everything from sidewalk chalk to laser beams to only soap and water. Here are some of the artists and installations that have transformed graffiti into true Street Art.
Banksy is far and away the most famous street artist working today. He’s nearly a household name, though miraculously, his true identity remains a mystery. His work has sold upwards of $155,000 dollars at auction, and he was the subject of the popular documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” He’s even directed an opening sequence for The Simpsons. Characterized by humor, whimsy, and dark social commentary, his works appear overnight and become almost instant sensations, though incredibly, they are often still painted over by landlords and the authorities.
JR is another street artist that has become a premier name in the art world. His pieces are based on photography, and applied in places that the world rarely takes a closer look at. His work (and his philosophy) is inspiring, so much so that in early 2011 he received the coveted and highly-respected TED Prize.
Even the best street art has a caveat–it’s technically still vandalism. No matter how you cut it, unauthorized application of paint to private or public property is a crime. However, there’s a loophole–if an artist created an image by removing dirt or grime from a surface, the authorities would have no legal grounds of recourse. And lo, Reverse Graffiti was born. A dirty tunnel wall can become a canvas with only a little soap and water.
Sometimes walls and tunnels aren’t the only canvases for street art. Seriously upping the ante from “Wash Me” is artist Scott Wade, who uses dirty car windshields to produce incredible interpretations of famous classical paintings.
Graffiti has moved beyond aerosol paints into different mediums as well–including light. Powerful laser projectors can turn the side of a building into a dynamic art piece, as this video shows.
Sometimes the most satisfying street art is not by a big name or written large on the side of a billboard, but the simple transformation of something ordinary. Whether it’s a drain pipe or a circuit box, someone will see artistic possibility.
Have you spotted some amazing street art on the web? Feel free to share the link with us in the comments below.