I have so much to say about street art. I’m seriously going to have to keep myself in check to make sure this post won’t take you 8 hours to read. I promise to make this post one of several on the topic, so I will spread the information out a bit. First, a little history.
Street art can take a variety of forms, and has evolved a ton since its inception in the 60s. It began as simple graffiti in New York. But as street art grew as a form of expression through the 70s and 80s, so its content and reach. There is way more to the history of graffiti and street art, and the internet is filled with great resources detailing the vast and storied history of street art (going way farther back than the 60s), but my time is quickly ticking away (click through to the links for more history).
My own history with street art began in Van Nuys, CA. My generation (and my own life) was heavily impacted by hip hop culture. When I was ten years old, I listened, almost exclusively, to the likes of Tupac, Dre, Snoop, Nas, Biggie, Cube, and countless others. I lived in a neighborhood where gang activity was fairly common, and graffiti was everywhere. Most of it marked territory, and by ten I had already learned the names of local gangs and the more active taggers, sometimes the hard way (another story for another day). For now, take a look at some of the incredible street art in Munich.
I used to draw street art inspired pictures similar to the two images above, though certainly not as well-rendered. I used to write my name and other things in large bubbly letters like those below, or sharp, geometric, difficult to read words like the image below that. I was fascinated…and hooked.
So as we travel, it is my goal to see and capture as much street art as I can. One thing that I love about street art is how universal the art feels, while still being location specific, often serving as a commentary on some local issue. Likely the most famous street artist in the world, Banksy is famous for creating images that serve to shine a light on some greater social issues. More on this below. For now, some more amazing art.
As you can see, there is so much to this form of art. One of the things I love the most about it is that it is created for anyone and everyone who happens across the art. Sometimes it’s hidden, like an easter egg hidden in the real world for people who know where to look, like these small mosaics in Paris by Space Invader. Or they can by massive and overwhelming, like some of the larger scale work many other artists. Because it’s for everyone, and it’s free, and it’s unique and offers a clear voice, one that is often reflective and funny and even sarcastic, and because it’s done for its own sake – often only existing for a few years, I think of street art as perhaps the purest form of art. It is art for arts sake. It’s untainted by external pressures and the artist need answer only to him or herself (and sometimes the authorities).
This wall in Prague is living and ever-changing. Artists are constantly adding to the wall. You could visit right now and see a completely different iteration than we saw only three months ago. I think there’s something special about that. And beautiful. And powerful.
There is a “documentary” about street art that I would almost demand that you see. If you are interested in this at all, or if you like things that make you think about this idea of what art is and how it should exist, or if you just like good documentaries, you should check it out. Check out “Exit Through the Gift Shop” (it’s on Netflix streaming). Then you can come back and we can talk about why I put the word documentary in quotes to start this paragraph. It’s thought provoking to say the least. Go have your thoughts provoked. And when you travel, keep your eyes peeled for the beauty that exists all around you. It may be the last time you are able to see that particular piece of art. And that alone makes it special – makes it magic.