Too Cool For School: A Brief Explanation of Street Art

Everyone knows that the summer is the best time to be outside. It’s hot, it’s sunny, and everyone wants to prove a point, whether that means taking a stand on issues you believe in, or simply standing up and finding your own voice.  Summer means late nights, late mornings, and a new kind of energy in the streets, especially the city streets. One important factor of city summers, of course, is the street art to look at.

Image via Tokidoki

Image via Tokidoki

    In the past, there was a negative connotation attached to the word ‘Graffiti’, which simply means to paint or write on a surface. The word derived from the Greeks, from the word graffito before taking on a whole new meaning in modern society. Giant murals, tags, portraits, you name it; Street art certainly has come a long way since it got its start. It is said to have started with two men that went by the name of Cool Earl and Cornbread sometime around the 1960s in Philadelphia. In 1967 the Chicago Mural movement got its start, people came together to paint a giant collaborative piece depicting famous African Americans. However, that was just the tipping point.

    Gaining popularity thanks to its founding fathers, the concept of tagging and graffiti moved from Philadelphia to the streets of New York City. Not too long after, gangs started using tags to mark their territory in the city.

Image via Design Boom

Image via Design Boom

    During the early seventies, street art took on a new wave of creativity. Artists started putting borders around tags, even having style wars. Artists then began fighting for a better street rep and more space to create. Also, during this time period, the style of throw up art became very popular as well as a layered style which involved artists using artist use two different colors to make images pop out and look more realistic.

    In 1982 the surge of street art began to slow down when, the laws and punishments for being caught in the act of tagging or otherwise became harsher, including but not limiting to jail time.

So, what does this mean for the future of street art? Some of us might be familiar with the man that helped popularize the street art scene, Shepard Fairey. Fairey’s giant murals and stickers became a leader in not just the street art world, but also the political world.

Image via LA Times

Image via LA Times

    During an interview with Stephen Heller, a writer for the professional association for design, the icon himself admitted that he never knew that his art would have such an effect on the world. He even said that he assumed that the Obey project itself would just a couple of weeks, running around and making art. Of course, that was only the start.

    Even though street art is still considered just a small portion of the giant and ever-changing world of art, there is still something to be said about the way that it has done more than develop and alter over time. Looking closely at how important the entire scene is when looking at what really happened. Most importantly, taking a closer, longer look at this incredible movement and how came to be. 

Image via Huffington Post

Image via Huffington Post

    Street art is not just tagging your name with a can of spray paint and running through the dark streets in the middle of the night. There is more meaning behind it than anyone could have ever imagined. Whether it’s a statement focused on political unrest, social injustice, or even just a message for the humans of the world, street art changed the meaning of the world of art. It has also provided artists with a new, larger voice that can be broadcasted for an entire population. Just a moment stop and think about the world.

- Josie Griffith 


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