Sub-Genres of Urban Art
Urban Art is a form of visual art describing urban life, being inspired by its architecture or originated within urban areas. The word itself is from urbs meaning city. It has evolved greatly since it first gained popularity in the late 20th century. Back then it was mainly associated with Graffiti and street art and considered to be underground subculture not validated or accepted as mainstream sophisticated genre. Much has changed since then after the recognition from the major auction houses and involvement of creative expressionist artists. Today it’s a prominent mainstream culture widely praised for its brave influential work from internationally acclaimed artists.
Urban Art has many forms and sub genres. For much of the initial era of evolution, Graffiti was considered one of the only art forms within this subculture. Although graffiti itself has been present for much longer rooting back to Ancient Greece and Roman Empire. It is still most commonly associated with urban art as a primary form mainly because of its presence on modern architecture and other public spaces. Any writing or drawing scribbled, scratched or painted on such public locations is considered graffiti. As time progressed new techniques and material are used for the purpose including marker pens and spray paints. Due to its presence in public spaces it has always been a very controversial form and punishable in many countries. But despite the controversy its popularity has never decreased and it has generated many acclaimed artists throughout the world. Part of the reason is the accessibility and relevancy to the common person. It contains socio-political statements and critical satires which are instantly relative and thought provoking. As the time progressed graffiti has been transferred from street to canvas and has gained the approval and respect within the art community. During Renaissance, popular artists such as Pinturicchio, Michelangelo and Raphael displayed urban art when they descended into the ruins of Nero’s Domus Aurea. Later on in 1980s modern urban art saw a widespread recognition through graffiti where popular artists such as Blek Le Ret created art pieces in Paris. Other documented examples are present from that time in New York, Sydney and Melbourne. Modern Street art gained further international exposure through the film Beat Street where hugely popular artist PHASE 2 was consulted for the urban art.
Street Art & Graffiti
Street art is another main constituent of urban art along with graffiti. It is similar to Graffiti in the sense that it is a visual art displayed in public spaces and mostly contains socio-political satires but it differs in a way that it is imagery rather than writing. John Fekner, who is an iconic name in street art, defines street art as “all art on the street that’s not graffiti”. Street art utilizes many other media techniques apart from traditional aerosol paints which are typical for graffiti. Prominent among them are murals, stencils, wheatpasting, mosaic tiling etc. There are multiple motives behind street art. Due to the bold colors and expressionist style, urban art has attracted people to take special interest in it. People decorate their walls with peculiar and beautiful art which gives bold and attractive look to their house walls. Metal Wall Art is one such example. There is a rise in demand and people actively look for and desire metal wall art for their homes. In common street art or urban wall art there is also an undercurrent of activism and subversion. The artists tend to make a strong statement through their work which is intended to make people think. That is one of the main reasons behind the usage of public spaces in urban art that it reaches out to public in a more widespread way than auctions and galleries. Due to the popularity of this art form many artists have gained international success in present day. Street art has slowly been transferred to museums and gallery exhibitions. Washington Project for the Arts held an exhibition for Street Art where many famous artists showed their street work. In 2008 Tate Modern in England held an exhibition for the Street Art including the work of Fekner.
Today street art has earned the popularity and respect from art culture and exposure from streets to exhibitions. The fame of street art is global and practically all large cities in the world hold exhibitions for urban art where international and national artists show their work. In Egypt, urban art played an influential part in raising the awareness and voice against oppression during the time of Mubarak. Street artists played their part actively in displaying their talent on streets voicing their opinion which resulted in the overthrow of Mubarak’s regime. Due to its impact and popularity, Cairo has emerged as the street art capital of the Middle East. America has a very deep street art culture of its own. Numerous exhibitions and projects run throughout the year. San Francisco’s Mission District is densely packed with street art and is a renowned urban art hub. Miami holds an outdoor mural exhibition which attracts world’s most renowned street artists to showcase their talent. New York City is still a centre of street art in US where this particular art form has thrived for years from 60s and 70s popular culture of subway graffiti to present day art of Brooklyn streets. Modern urban art has evolved tremendously and has seen many transitions from streets to exhibitions and museums to walls of modern architecture.