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  • History of Urban Art - Eden Gallery

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    History of Urban Art

    Urban art is as multifaceted and broad as it is interesting. It encompasses graffiti, street art, and murals, among other media. Graffiti emerged as one of the four pillars of hip hop. It was essential to the culture and was a deep-rooted, meaningful mode of expression for artists. 

    What is Urban Art? 

    Urban Art includes graffiti, street art, and murals, among other art forms usually decorating cities. Most urban art appears on the sides of buildings or on street corners. Graffiti, one of the main types of urban art, is perhaps the most common association that people make with urban art. 

    Historically, graffiti has ancient roots. The term “graffiti” comes from the Greek word “graphein,” which means “to scratch, draw, or write.” This means that graffiti has a broad definition and can be thought of as many things. It involves the use of spray paint, usually bold and bright colors, and was most commonly seen decorating the sides of buildings and subway cars. It is also used so that graffiti artists can have their own “tag,” which is a way to announce or mark their territory, a type of “I was here.”

    Street art is a general term encompassing any kind of art that is created and displayed out in the streets of cities. Street artists use the streets as their canvas in order to communicate with a larger audience than at a museum. While street art is mostly associated with graffiti, it can also include wheat posters (when a poster is adhered to a wall using a paste made of starch and water), murals, and in-person installations. 

    Murals are massive artworks that span the majority of a facade of a building or any other city wall. They are often meant to inspire pedestrians and anyone who might catch a glimpse, and communicate a certain message or story–whether a personal, political or cultural commentary. Murals can be painted with a “fresco” technique, which is an italian technique in which powdered pigments are laid on top of a plaster wall by combining them with water. The plaster and the pigments become merged together, becoming one with the wall.


    Where did Urban Art originate?

    Modern-day graffiti stems from the origins of hip hop culture in 1970’s NYC, in the Bronx. Graffiti was one of the four pillars of hip hop, the other three of which were breakdancing, rapping, and deejaying. During the era when hip hop became more well-integrated into mainstream culture, graffiti was a way for people to spread messages with the public and challenge the norms of what was considered art. Graffiti was not made for museums, and therefore experimented with a new form of exhibition, with the streets being its main home. Graffiti artists also marked their territory through their own tags. In New York, an artist named Taki183 slowly but surely stamped his identity on subway cars all around the city, one of the first to do so. Kids around New York caught wind of this phenomenon, and also wanted a way to express themselves, for their names to be recognized in the subways that millions of people rode every day. It also became a form of resistance and expressiveness; as problems in black communities continued to be ignored by authorities, this was their way of protest, and of cultural expression. 

    How has Urban Art evolved? 

    After its first few years in uptown Manhattan and the Bronx, graffiti slowly but surely made its way to the established downtown arts scene, as it became an increasingly accepted and legitimate form of visual art. Major artists of the downtown scene, including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, popularized graffiti during its explosion into popular culture. 

    Fab 5 Freddy was one of the bridges between the uptown and downtown scenes; he became instantly immortalized when Blondie mentioned him in their rap hit, “Rapture,” with the line “Fab 5 Freddy told me everybody’s fly…”. “Rapture” was Blondie’s way of capturing the energy band members Debbie Harry and Chris Stein experienced by traveling up to the Bronx for a hip-hop party, where they met new people and experienced a new kind of party. The track was very well received among the hip-hop community. 

    Graffiti has spread all over the world since its initial explosion in NYC and serves many purposes. It is still used as a catalyst for social change, a way to express oneself, a way to spread ideas and a way to make cultural commentary. It is also a symbol of rebellion

    Nowadays, “street art” is usually commissioned, whereas graffiti is usually done in the spur of the moment. Graffiti and murals can be found in nearly all cities around the world. Some mainstream graffiti artists that have received acclaim include Banksy, Os Gemeos, Iz The Wiz, Seen, Blade, Lee, and countless others.

     

    Urban Art at Eden Gallery

    At Eden Gallery, artists Alec Monopoly and Eduardo Kobra are best known for their urban artistic styles. While different from each other, they have both received massive international acclaim. Eduardo Kobra is known for his vibrant wall murals that decorate sides of buildings in cities worldwide, and Alec Monopoly is known for his graffiti-style artworks depicting Monopoly characters such as Richie Rich, Scrooge, and Uncle Pennybags. Both artists have the intention of stirring a reaction in the viewer and sparking thought and conversation. 

    You can browse more works by Eden Gallery artists here, or visit a gallery near to you. 

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