What Is Street Art and What Is It Good For?

 Street art is the language of the city dwellers.
  • Street Art is the expression of an urban sensibility.
  • Street Artist view the city as a living canvas, blank spaces that call for their individual expression, there for one main and meaningful cultural reason: the communication of ideas, the propagation of ideals and denunciation of social injustices.
  • Street Art is the social commentary plastered by the individual on the walls of city the living city. A visual projection of the many voices narrating its evolving story.
  • Street Art opens the door to a dialogue between the surfaces of the city and the people who walk on, drive through and exist in it.
In the monotonous and anonymous every day of the city dwellers, Street Art forces people to stop, look and engage with their spaces. This engagement comes in different shapes and forms. While some murals are thought provoking pieces that reflect a conscious depiction of social or cultural identity, others bring up negative emotions and are associated with vandalism, destruction of private property, ugliness and decadence.
For a while, I have been toying with the idea of writing a series of short stories based on street art. I want to develop original narratives based solely on my own reactions, thoughts and emotions.
One day, something caught my attention at a local coffee shop, a flyer about an exhibition of contemporary murals; I had to go.
The pieces had been on display for over a month at the Museum of The Americas, @ Old San Juan, PR.
I went, curious about Muralis, the murals and their creator, Puerto Rican artist David Zayas (& collaborators).

The murals were colorful, thought provoking and grandiose in scale. Inside the cool and cold space of the museum, like so many other pieces of culture and history, they felt in the right and the wrong place at the same time; somehow void of their true life and purpose.

I wonder if…

  • Taken from the context of the city, the walls of buildings and the unexpected corners, does street art ceases to be street art?
  • Is it its destiny to become absorbed by culture and presented as elevated art?
  • Without being part of the city, does the mural stops being a manifestation of the subculture and loses some of its intrinsic rebellious appeal?
As an admirer, I can appreciate the vision and technical level of difficulty street artists and muralists can achieve. I’m excited about the future of contemporary street art. Now, more than ever, the street artist has the social tools to connect with the masses, influence and speak to larger audiences, gain a recognizable voice, and make an impact.
I’m glad museums and their curators are developing new sensibilities and given their proper space to Street Art. However, I would love to have seen those murals out in the open, as part of the street and calling forth its many narratives; inside forgotten callejones, around the next corner or doting that abandoned building with new purpose and new life.
To society’s eyes not all street art is created equal.
Some people don’t know or simply chose to ignore the fact that from cave walls to city streets, humans have an intrinsic need to leave tangible evidence of our existence. Every pictorial representation of the pre-historic men/women is a symbolic act of identity asserting itself, as much as any graffiti in our street today. The main difference is the valuation and significance given by society.
Ancient people had street artists leaving their own mark. Years after they are physically gone, we rely heavily on the images and writings left behind to reconstruct the collective lives of those ancient peoples, and the individual nature of the artists who made them. History also tells us that the ancient man in charge back then was not happy about this disruptions of the norm either; orthodox society has not changed that much.
As humans we have so much we want and need to communicate. One surface, one tool and one medium has never been enough, and I dare to predict that it never will be.
Mural: any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface. The architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated.
Graffiti: writings or drawings that have being scribbled, scratched or painted on a wall or other surface, often in a public place. They have existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.
Street Art: visual art created in public locations, usually unsanctioned artwork executed outside of the context of traditional art venues. Stencil graffiti, wheat pasted poster art or sticker art, pop up art and sculpture are common forms of contemporary street art.
Interested in street art? These are some terms your work and yourself might be associated with, (also great concepts to get inspiration from): “urban art”, “guerrilla art”, “post-graffiti” and “neo-graffiti”.
I want to see a piece of street art that’s intrigued you lately!
Challenge: Send me a pic of a mural, graffiti or an interesting visual on a wall in your city.

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