Humans have been looking for ways to express themselves since our earliest ancestors wrote on cave walls. With the advent of language and writing, communication between each other became a tool to found our communities and society at large.
Art is no exception to this. For the things that are best not put into words, art has a way of transcending the barriers of language and time to spread all types of messages.
Since the late 1900s, graffiti and murals have been the way artists with messages to amplify their voices. Considering every country has inspiration for rebellion, there is a plethora of places for you to find street art.
New York City, New York
Boosted by the invention of aerosol paint and its association with hip-hop culture, street art made its original home in New York City. Young kids with a need for a creative outlet to express circumstances and the world around them carried the bulk of the culture in the beginning.
Later as hip-hop and rap music gained popularity, street art received a second wind. Musical artists in this genre would often feature graffiti works in the background on their videos which increased its visibility.
Today, there are numerous professional mural artists who were cultivated in this art form and left their mark. Phase 2, Kenny Scharf, and Blade are three you should have on your radar if you’re in town.
Phase 2, often credited with the invention of bubble letters graffiti, was an important founder of the art form. From his humble beginnings tagging NYC subways to having his work cross over into the music world, the impact of his creativity is undeniable.
Kenny Scharf is another Brooklyn artist who found a way to stand early in the scene. His most recognizable pieces are associated with the Lowbrow movement, which brought pop and surreal art together in a way that had not been done before.
Though his name is simple, his presence and influence on the art form would be difficult to ignore. Also known as the King of Graffiti, he is credited with popularizing and developing many classic styles you can find today.
Perhaps better known for its classical art and fine dining, Paris is also home to galleries and public displays of street art. France itself is no stranger to graffiti due to the revolutionary spirit that has seemed to reside there throughout its history. There are different types, techniques, and artists for you to discover when you visit!
The best art is often critical, and Miss Tic’s work is no exception. Her utilization of stencil black and white female characters and aphorisms set her apart from her peers. As part of Paris’ first generation of graffiti artists, her work has gone from the walls of the city to the halls of museums, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the MUCEM.
Though her home is in Paris, KASHINK’s artwork is inspired by some of the people and cultures she has encountered in her travels across the world. Her activism and desire to challenge ideas about sexuality, gender, and identity shines through along with her talent. You don’t even need four eyes to see it!
Following the theme of activism, this “photograffeur” used his talent and creativity to guide otherwise tuned-out eyes to the struggles of different marginalized groups. Unsurprisingly, his work earned himself recognition as an artist as well as an activist.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
What New York is to street art in the United States, Rio de Janeiro is to the culture in Brazil. The difference is Brazil was a pioneer for an art form called Pixação, or “wall writings.” Though this style of tagging was certainly political and driven by young people like NYC’s movement, it was also rather cryptic.
Since the decriminalization of street art in March of 2009, artists have enjoyed the freedom of expressing themselves throughout the city.
One of these artists is Eduardo Kobra of São Paulo. He developed his talent on the city walls of his hometown which eventually garnered international attention. Not only will his signature 3D realist street art catch your eye, but it may even make you agree that he is one of the greatest muralists in the world. You can find one of his “larger than life” works in the center of Rio.
One of the pioneers of the street art scene in Rio, ACME had a somewhat unique opportunity to change public opinion about the art form. His work began as a way to uplift his community in the streets of the city, but today, his work is recognized globablly.
There are many ways to consume art, and it is created to serve different purposes as well. So, the next time you make the decision to travel to a new place, take the time to discover the messages behind its street art.