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Graffiti writing and street art are often confused with one another. Both are subversive art movements where work is displayed in public rather than a gallery setting. While graffiti artists place their work in public, generally speaking they are not interested in the public understanding their work; they want to speak to other graffiti artists.
Street artists want everyone to view and be engaged by their work. They are trying to make a statement. Graffiti writing and street art are closely related contemporary art movements, however, they differ in terms of technique, function and intent.
Graffiti is as old as human civilization. It is usually done with spray paint or markers. According to the U. The major types include: The tag is the core of graffiti writing. Street art is a subset of graffiti writing.
Although there is a distinct difference between the two, they are closely related and there is a great deal of crossover between the genres. Because they are conceptual Fashion versus function, street artists want the general public to not just see their work, but to interact, understand what they are seeing and have an emotional response.
Their artwork may contain their tag name, but it is not usually the focus of the artwork. If a tag is used, it is more like a signature at the bottom of a painting or a form of branding.
Street artists generally focus on iconic visual symbols, rather than tags. Because of this use of symbolic imagery, it is fairly easy to visually differentiate street art from a tag.
In addition to symbolic language, the materials and techniques that are commonly associated with street artists also help them stand apart from graffiti writers. In an ironic twist, street art and graffiti writing has made its way into the mainstream by the recent appropriation of the style by films, advertising, music packaging, fashion and media without people really understanding what they are looking at Lewisohn Like taggers, street artists are also fond of placing their work in difficult locations.
Banksy is a street artist from Bristol, England and is known for his often humorous, absurdist concepts. Because of the intended audience, this piece is in stark contrast to graffiti writing. Here, Banksy seeks to engage the common zoo visitor and contribute a bit of humor with empathy for the caged animals.
Shepard Fairey is a legendary street artist and graphic designer best known for his iconic image of Barak Obama for the U. He sent stickers all across the country to friends and distributed them locally in Rhode Island where he was attending school. He not only gained recognition, he also went onto gain national attention for his sticker concept.
Like stickers, stencils provide a street artist with convenience because they can be quickly painted onto a surface with a tidy final result. Blek le Ratwho has been stenciling walls in Paris since the s, chose to work primarily with stencils because he could produce the design at home with no rush or risk of interruption.
Advertising and marketing companies have recently employed the use of street-art inspired stencils to promote products in both traditional and guerilla marketing campaigns. Discovery is a very important part of both graffiti writing and street art.
Other times locations are chosen for their associations or demographic.
For example, the Wynwood Arts District in Miami now has a large concentration of graffiti writing and street art primarily because of the fact that people who appreciate art populate that area.
Wynwood, however did not start out that way. Years ago it was a warehouse district next to a massive train yard, which is now the colossal Mid-Town complex.
As rail shipping disappeared, the area became blighted, and subsequently was an attractive venue for graffiti artists. Eventually, the more savvy artists, namely Primary Flightgot permission from property owners to create legal murals. Today, Wynwood has one of the largest concentration of graffiti and street art murals in the world.
Graffiti writing and street art are very similar to other types of self-expressive artwork with the exception that what graffiti writers and street artists do in public, unless sanctioned by a property owner, is illegal.
Whereas graffiti writing functions as a code for other writers, street art is more about communicating with the general public. As noted by street art collective Faile: Some street artists work similarly to traditional artists, creating something beautiful, conceptual or stylistically intriguing, the only difference is that they want to display their artwork outside the gallery setting and in the public eye.
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