Saturday, June 2, 2012

Street Art vs Graffiti

Street Art vs Graffiti logo

Evaluations, debates and comparisons between “Street Art” and “Graffiti” have been waiting for a long time to be explored. In this article I’m going to try and examine the main difference between Street Art and Graffiti, both as art forms and as communities of artists and viewers. Now, when talking about ‘Street Art’ I’m referring to a new movement of outsider art that has risen in prominence over the last decade. It’s more of a heterogeneous movement than Graffiti (which has come to be defined fairly narrowly), and includes a few mediums and styles - stencil Graffiti, sticker art, wheatpasting / street poster art, and street installations (often together). The term ‘Street Art’ is typically used to differentiate this new movement from Graffiti, vandalism, and corporate art.

From the position of Graffiti artists, there has been a lot of apprehension towards Street Art. In one sense it is disappointing to have this perception of dichotomy between ’Street Art’ and ‘Graffiti.’ However the differences between these styles and the tribal politics of Graffiti have rendered some level of competition inevitable. It is very important to recognizse that these differences are major, and that behind them is a vast difference in ideas, aesthetic approaches, culture and history. As far as this blog is concerned, the mystique and techniques behind Graffiti cannot be competed with by any other contemporary art form.
Street Art vs Graffiti

Yet there actually is a high amount of cross over between the two forms. I’ve seen wheatpastes and stencils from Graffiti crews, and tags from Street Artists. In fact it was Graffiti writers in the 90s (and maybe earlier) who pioneered the use of hand written stickers as a form of tagging – a form now taken on by Street Artists. Many Street Artists are writers who have turned their efforts from Graffiti to Street Art. This cross over in medium is natural for anyone who’s going to be placing any kind of art up in as public domain as the streets: visibility, durability, striking colors, mind-grabbing images and direct text. Ultimately Graffiti is just one particular art form and culture, and it was never expected to appeal to everyone anyway: the streets and trains are big enough to hold more paint. Whether through Graffiti or Street Art, it’s awesome that so many people are able to find a way to express themselves through illegal public art.

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