Street artists should be celebrated for their expressions of creativity that have beautified cities but also brought to light serious issues.
Sometimes, graffiti is an extremely misunderstood form of art; because of this, it is also the most vandalized form of expression. The difference between graffiti and “street art” is that graffiti involves scribbling, scratching, scrawling messages (tags), gang symbols, or names of crews, while street art is murals hand-painted by artists.
A Brief History of Street Art
The first decade of the 21st century has seen street art become more accepted by society, as it is now being used to raise awareness about important issues. Although street art is becoming more popular, it has actually been around since ancient times; the difference between ancient graffiti and modern street art is that there were no rules about which surfaces were off-limits. The ancient cave paintings of Lascaux and Chauvet in southern France (circa 17,000 – 9000 BC) and rock carvings in Bhimbetka, India (circa 30,000 BC) are among the earliest examples of street art.
Different styles soon began to develop. The ancient Greeks used wall paintings in their homes and on their pottery; Pompeii had an abundance of frescoes that still remain preserved today. These paintings were created by using different types of ground minerals or crushed limestone and added natural pigments for color.
Street art reached another golden age in Renaissance Italy when artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo began creating frescoes and murals on the walls of churches and other buildings throughout the region. However, this period also saw a general movement away from traditional wall paintings toward canvases that were hung on the walls of homes, palaces, and churches.
Street art has seen many revivals since its introduction to Europe. The early 20th century saw the beginning of the Dada movement, which used street art as a way of protesting World War I. Many people believe that graffiti is an extension of this movement because it evolved from the Dada use of ephemeral materials to convey simple messages.
Street art was not considered a form of fine art during the first few decades of the 20th century because it primarily involved scribbling or scratching names on surfaces. However, this did not stop artists such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros from creating murals on public buildings throughout Mexico. In 1933, German artist Kurt Schwitters began painting on streets in Hanover, which was later coined “Merz.” By the 1960s, tagging had become common practice for graffiti artists.
Tagging refers to scratching or spraying an individual’s signature on a surface to announce their presence and claim ownership of the space. Although tagging is often simply used as a method of recognition, graffiti artists began doing it in protests against the commercialization and industrialization of public spaces.
Many famous street artists have claimed that their practice is about more than just creating art, but actually represents a form of social activism. For example, Banksy claims that his work exists to send “underground” messages to the public about political or social problems.
Many artists began creating street art because they believed that gallery spaces were elitist and unwelcoming, which is why they chose to express themselves in public spaces. For example, Yoko Ono stated that she wanted her art to be accessible to everyone everywhere, not just at museums.
Street art is especially popular among youth, who see it as a form of self-expression that has the ability to reach many people in different ways. Graffiti and street artists often try to communicate with audiences about social issues such as war, race relations, gender roles, consumerism, class struggles, poverty, globalization, and gentrification through their works.
Many of the most famous street artists have become successful for their ability to communicate such messages through pieces that are more than just aesthetically pleasing; they also express a viewpoint and achieve social change. Therefore, in pandemic times, from Buenos Aires to Berlin, street artists are using their talents to spread awareness about the pandemic and encourage people to take precautions.
These are just a few examples of the amazing street art being created around the world in response to the pandemic. Street artists have always been at the forefront of public activism and this pandemic is no exception. Their art is helping to spread awareness and keep people safe. We should all be grateful for their work.