From humble beginnings in the 1920s and 1930s, when disgruntled gangs started expressing their frustration on the side of trains and on walls, through to the once considered subversive graffiti culture of the 1970s and 1980s, street art has come a long way and is now a mostly much beloved form of contemporary art. Though mostly unsanctioned and by some still considered to be vandalism, street art has earned a place in the hearts and minds of most people all over the world. Street art is considered to be one of the core elements of contemporary art and plays an important role in the promotion and preservation of art in the minds of the public.
As a now respected art form and with all its elements of social consciousness and political revolution, street art has been enjoying warm attention and serious recognition.
The Line Between Vandalism, Graffiti and Street Art
Though most street art is unsanctioned as such strictly speaking represents an act of vandalism, most people today take a somewhat milder stance on this art form. This represents a huge shift from the views of most people in the 1970s and 1980s, when graffiti artists were condemned as vandals and nothing else. The lines remain blurred and it is often difficult to distinguish between street art as an acceptable form of artistic expression and graffiti as an illegal defacement of a public place.
The bottom line remains: with permission, street art is art and without permission, street art or graffiti is a criminal offense.
An Act of Rebellion and a Socio-Political Movement
Perhaps much more so than any other art from, street art emerged from social discontent and carries political undertones through to today. Various artists and groups expressed their rebellious spirits through their art, often at night and illegally and constructed a permanent statement of dissatisfaction with prevalent social, political and economic circumstances. Such artistic expressions were much frowned upon in the 1980s, an era you might call the age of the yuppies, however one could also argue that on one hand graffiti artists set art itself free from the confinement of galleries and on the other hand found a way of expressing and highlighting disapproval of social, political and economic oppression.
To this day, street art is often political and critical of governments and societies alike. Street art is about much more than adding color to a dull and grey city and artists still seek to make important political statements. Naturally, there are also those who do vandalize public places, but they ultimately have nothing in common with true street or graffiti artists.
The Turning Point
During the 21st century, well respected artists started creating poignant and provocative but mostly just stunning street art and embraced graffiti as a valid art form. The nuisance factor waned and the beauty of some to the art by well-known as well as completely unknown artists won the hearts of the public. Soon, the world of business and politics embraced street art and started commissioning works of street art. Gallery directors praised the bravery and innovation of street artists and began to value their role in the promotion of art. It was recognized that street art was to be a permanent and significant element of art and was no longer the black sheep of the arts family.
Street Art Today
Street art has been growing and thriving in many parts of the world and many artists have expanded this art form to incorporate photography, video, stencilling and other methods. Many places worldwide proudly promote street art, support artists and make art space available. This is a very positive phenomenon as it brings art out onto the street and straight into the lives of many who would never set foot in an art gallery.
Community of Traveling Street Artists
There is a considerable number of street artists traveling the world and creating both temporary and permanent pieces of art, often socio-critical and always moving and beautiful.
The vibrance and energy street art brings to any cityscape cannot be underestimated as it inspires, questions, argues, astounds and brings a happy smile to the face of many a passerby.