Street art, the influence of street art on graphic design

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Décimo Séptima Edición Diciembre 2017
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Department of Media Systems Technology, Kharkov National University of Radio Electronics, Ukraine

This article represents the definition of street art, its main benefits and impact on the sphere of graphic design. The most important periods and representatives of street art history had been analyzed to show the process of its development.

Keywords: graphic design, street art, visual communication, graffiti, murals, Banksy

When people think about art basically, they usually imagine some beautifully framed canvas, that is hanging in the gallery, attracting attention of the visitors with the sophisticated technics and the master’s perception. However, the changing of the art history showed, that it’s useless to keep oeuvre under the strict rules, because the powerful flows of art would anyway splash out to the streets.

Street art is a kind of unsanctioned visual art movement, that is presented in public settings and primarily based on the notion of repetition. The main forms of street art are stencil graffiti, wheat-pasted poster art or sticker art, and street installation or sculpture. This kind of art is also named as "urban art", "guerrilla art", "post-graffiti" and “neo-graffiti”.

It’s possible to admit, that street art is closely connected with the appearing of the graffiti and vandalism, but using painting technology urban artists have reincarnated a new ideology of bringing powerful messages on social, environmental and political topics across to the citizens. Thus famous street-artists were only inspired with a graffiti technique, however the substance of street art was born on the foreground of so-called Muralismo – an artistic movement, that was born in 1920s in Mexico (exactly Diego Rivera was one of the acclaimed muralists). It aimed to create visual messages or murals on walls of the public spaces on humanitarian, social, and political themes.

Graffiti gradually was often used as a kind of protest, e. g. well-know Berlin Wall problem in 1980s or Buenos Aires strike against the military junta, where stencils came in handy as the art had to be done quite quickly to avoid arrest.

 By 80s street art became interesting to the world of commerce and investment, that gave a push to the careers of a lot of artists, such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and others [2].

One of the key point of the street art development was also the birth of stencil art in the beginning of 80s in Paris. Among the main artists was Blek le Rat, whose intriguing black rats appeared all over the city. His stencils’ blend of dark humor and political commentary had impacted on scores of artists, including Banksy and gilf! [1].

The modern archetype of street art moved from its birthplace on the East Coast of the United States to the countless destinations around the world. Exactly New York is those city, that produced and nurtured leading artists in the Independent Public Art such as: Espo (pic. 1) – more famously known as Steve Powers, engaged in creating emotional advertisement using typography and advertising to make spray paint and installation; HOW & NOSM (Raoul and Davide Perr) are twins, who create symbolic figurative graffiti with the use of minimal palette; MOMO (pic. 2) focuses upon the randomness, shapes, kinesis and creates a kind of non-figurative graffiti, collages, sculptures, installations world and more. FAILE is also a unique collective of artists. Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller create a multi-layered, collagist style of production using wheatpasting and stenciling techniques and work with a vast array of materials, from wooden boxes and window pallets to more traditional canvas, prints, sculptures, stencils, installation, and prayer wheels.

San Francisco has produced its own distinctive form of Independent Public Art too. One of the most famous artists are Barry McGee (or Twist), who is probably the most accomplished and respected artist to have emerged from the graffiti underground in the whole of North America and also one of the first ones from the region to move from a textually based graffiti practice into a more iconic or figurative sphere (pic. 3). Los Angeles has also a set of world-known artists – Augustine Kofie, who connects geometrical abstraction, retrofuturistic aesthetics, and architectural renderings, playing with form, line, balance, and depth, twisting and manipulating his murals, illustrations, and compositions; El Mac is the master of the stunning realistic portrays mixed with calligraphy and patterns; Shepard Fairley is one of the most prolific artist known for his André the Giant has a Posse sticker campaign and the work during the 2008 United States Presidential Election, especially his Barack Obama Hope poster [1],[3].

The Street Art of Northern Europe also amazes with its diversity of styles and versatile technics. For example, London is the city, that has one of the biggest and best collections of uncommissioned street art in the world. Local and international artists have decorated the streets with a staggering array of creative works.

Eine is one of the globally acclaimed artists from London, who experiments with typography – hundreds of fonts incorporated into his works, forming increasingly complex compositions with multiple types, backgrounds and lettering. He has produced numerous lettering styles including shutter, circus, neon, elton, vandalism, wendy and formed his own specific approach to coloring.

Stik appeared to be also a peculiar painter who’s made simplified black and white characters. The artist’s created the community of stick men, women and children reside throughout London’s streetscape (pic. 4). Each location is carefully considered and many are regularly revisited and maintained. Stik uses only the body language of the imageries to convey a definite emotion. As he explains, his characters become a type of emotional shorthand to reflect how he feels. They’re silent and therefore have no mouths, and are meant only to observe. The murals depicts people’s relationships with their home and strength of the local community [4].

Banksy is the most notoriously secretive English-born stencil artist, graffiti master, painter, activist, filmmaker and all-purpose provocateur. He refuses to reveal his identity to protect himself from prosecution. His work seems to be everywhere, but the artist himself remains as elusive as ever. They captures vision with the satirical slogans and installations that unveils the truth and connects with the main problems of society such as political themes, satirically critiquing war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed (pic 5). Common subjects include rats, apes, policemen, children and members of the royal family. Banksy’s works are in such high demand, that people will cut them out off walls and offer them at auctions. By doing so, they actually make his outdoor work suitable for indoors. Local authorities, that are usually very busy with removal of graffiti, are now protecting his work with plexiglass. Banksy is now called as a king of street art, like Andy Warhol was of Pop Art. In the past two years. The most famous works: “Ballon Girl”, “Mobile Lovers”, “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”, “The Son of a Migrant from Syria” and etc.

As the graffiti in the capital of France scene was born long before New York-style graffiti, Parisians are well accustomed to the growing diversity of urban art and actions in the city’s territory. One of the widely recognized artists in this city is the Space Invader. He puts up iconic installations based on popular 8-bit video games from the 1970s and 80s. Inspired by the early video arcade game Space Invaders, the artist has cemented thousands of tessellated figures around the world during more than a decade’s almost constant work. The Space Invader design was chosen by Invader as a “symbol of our era, the birth of modern technology” and thus came to figuratively and literally define his practice.

Ox - also satirically acclaimed as incorporating his minimalist, humorous imagery into billboards, which acted like his canvas. He developed the distinctively minimalist and humorous visual language, e. g. series of works called Affichages. The main feature of his work is that the artist makes the billboards more “invisible” in the environment using blending effects, optical illusions and colors that mimic the already existing patterns in the billboard or its surroundings. The main Ox’s instruments are prevalently paper cut outs, roller, and glue, in order to turn aggressive or boring ads into creative and colorful artworks. During his career OX has made a huge number of public interventions in Paris as well as in other major metropolitan areas.

Ekta is a Swedish artist with a pretty individual style – huge fields of colors, often not separated by outlines, making obscure and mysterious, furthermore particularly abstract forms. His earliest works (e. g. LifeStructure) depicts the characters through objects in a complex system, but the more he improved his skills the more simplified his murals became an extraordinary color and form composition.

BLU is a talented street artist from Bologna, Italy. He makes massive murals all over the world. In doing what he loves, BLU tries as much as possible, to emphasize the message he’s sending. Art is important, not recognition. A name is nothing in comparison to the artistic value of a painted wall. Many of his murals were never signed, many of them were destroyed by the artist himself, but his integrity is incorruptible. He believes in freedom of information and stands firmly on his system of open source beliefs. Larger formats helped BLU to increase the intensity and impact of the message he wants to send.

Organized geographically by country and city, more than 100 of today’s most important street artists – Os Gêmeos in Brazil, and Anthony Lister in Australia – are profiled [1].

Street art is also popular in Ukraine. Especially, it thrives in Kiev and Kharkiv. For instance, the Interesni Kazki (a name meaning “Interesting Tales”) – a team of two artists from Kiev – Aleksei and Vladimir. Inspired with the work of world art geniuses such as Salvador Dalí and Jean Giraud aka Möebius mixed with Ukrainian fairy tales they strive to bring the spiritual and the mystical into the everyday (pic 6).  The most unexpected combinations of objects, bright colors and smooth gradients combined with literally paradoxical situations and surrealistic atmosphere creates some kind of magical impression. The team usually travel around the globe, leaving their magnificent murals.

Among all of the talented artists there is only one, who reveals the peculiarity of our city’s streets. His name is Hamlet Zinkovskyi. He works with paintings, drawings, photography, installation and performance, but each citizen of the city knows him for the vast amount of murals. They impress with the scales, ambiguous phrases and drawings full of philosophical context (pic. 7). Also, a monochrome color palette and a unique technic adds some significance of sense. His most well-known works are “For Those, Who Have No Light”, “It Seems, That I Have Found Myself…” and etc.

Consequently, this kind of art has a vast impact on graphic designers. It shows completely different and extraordinary approach to the technical solution of the work: unveils new types of fonts and their interactions, shapes, colors combinations, composition shows the work with the new materials. It reveals the power of art, its diversity and inspires for pondering and changing. One may conclude that street art has a vast influence that connects millions of ideas, spreads art and transforms the meaning of art into a new level. It creates the unique visual language of the city. And as the British artist Stik said: “Street art is really an important medium because it’s completely uncensored. It’s an environmental medium. Actually, you are using your environment. You are using the city as your medium. The street art scene is dialogue. It’s more than dialogue; it’s a whole forum for a discussion. And it has feedback. It’s the blueprint that social networking was based on writing on your wall” [4].

 

References

1.    Schacter, R. (2013). “The World Atlas Of Street And Graffiti”. Retrieved from https://ediblesymbolism.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/docfoc-com-world-atlas-of-street-art-and-graffiti-the-schacter-rafael.pdf

2.    Opera Gallery Group. (2012). “Urban Masters”. Retrieved from http://www.operagallery.com/media/172.pdfhttps://www.widewalls.ch

3.    Widewalls, Urban & Contemporary Art Resourse. (2013-2017). BLU. Retrieved from https://www.widewalls.ch/artist/blu/

4.    Widewalls, Urban & Contemporary Art Resourse. (2013-2017). Stik. Retrieved from https://www.widewalls.ch/artist/stik/

Holly Cushing, Jaimie D’Cruz, James Gay-Rees(Producer), Banksy (Director). (2010). The Exit Through the Gift Shop. United Kindom: Paranoid Pictures.