Concrete Canvas Our streets and city walls proving our worth
Everyone has seen the tags on subway walls, and throw-ups of aspiring artists in Seattle. Those tags on the wall have an influence on the way people think, and how they vote. These prints and pictures have been on our walls since the Stone Age, with new messages and meanings everyday. Artists like Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and Mr. Brainwash demonstrate the influences we get from our daily life. Shepard Fairey and his largest project in what he calls phenomenology is an Andre the Giant sticker showing his face in black and white, and was meant to inspire people to question their surroundings. The following slogan to go along with this sticker, OBEY, was also meant to have people question authority. Banksy is known for his overly controversial art and suprising “prank” antics. In fact, at an art show, one of Banksy’s works was put up for auction,and after being sold, the frame that was apparently an ‘integral part of the picture’ had shredded half of the artist’s rendition of a little girl chasing a heart-shaped balloon. The auctioneer of the art show has been reported saying, “it appears we have just been Banksy’d”.
All these people portray a bigger picture of the poor and unheard striving to make a difference, showing that street art is one of the biggest modifiers of our community. These direct messages affect people everyday. There are portraits of people of culture, and murals bringing out the beauty of the streets around us. Street art is more than art, it is a movement, and graffiti and other forms of street art should be publicly embraced, rather than frowned upon. For years, artists in the street have been struggling to tell people their dream, and to show their message. In this day in age, a traditional artist has to establish a reputation, then find a dealer who attaches them to a gallery. Once fully established, only then can their work go to auction. In the last decade artists have reclaimed their personal worth by sending their art to the streets. They are publicly recognised and could use the internet to disperse the art one has made. Art should belong to the people, to all people no matter who the artist is or where they came from.
In Seattle there is a mural of one of Shepherd’s works. It displays the face of a Middle Eastern woman wearing a hijab, with most of the hair around her neck and face showing as she looks into the distance. This mural can be seen, taking the ferry to Seattle, where before entering the dock, the picture of an islamic revolutionary looks out in a mural of Fairey’s work. This is reminiscent of another one of Fairey’s works, the HOPE poster. This was a red, white, and blue collage picture of Barack Obama looking up with the bold letters of ‘HOPE’ across the bottom.
Street art has not just been used to raise awareness of social and political issues, but simply to beautify places. In Águeda, Averio, Portugal there is what’s called the “Umbrella Sky Project”. It holds dozens of brightly coloured umbrellas across buildings, creating an arch almost like a hallway. held up by string, On the walls of this place, under the mesmerizing shadows of the umbrellas, are giant sea turtles swimming around. This piece of art demonstrates the importance and impact of street art. The purpose of this project is to make people smile and have a better day through art. In places like Bristol, in England street and graffiti art are forcing the law to re-evaluate what is right and wrong, challenging the institutional confines of the law. In Bristol there has been an uproar in tagging and illegal graffiti, and to compete with this, Bristol police and council have set up an ‘operation block’ to keep the problem under control. Though the same council is protecting the works of Banksy, Inkie and other contemporary street artists, encouraging more art. To date, there is still no legal distinction between illegal graffiti and ‘formal’ street art.
In Melbourne, Australia, Hosier lane is possibly one of The most densely populated areas for graffiti, mostly because it is one of the only graffiti-tolerated areas. There is a beautiful collaboration of artwork here, all of these places are demonstrative of a natural evolution of a separate movement from street art. Historically this could be contextualized as“post-street art” because it is largely created within the confines of the law, unlike its predecessor which spawned from graffiti art and put up works illegally. Though to expect that this fits into the confines of anything is to misunderstand what sets this apart from all other art movements. The purpose of street art is to continuously move forward, evolve, and grow stronger in their voice, whatever that may be.