Concrete Canvas: 5 Street Artists You Don't Want to Miss
I think we’re all quite used to the rather banal definition of what a street artist is: someone who creates art in public spaces. But what are they really? Street artists are daring creators who force us to look up from our phones in unexpected spaces. They’re manifestors of remarkable feats of scale who stroke, spray, and chisel some of the most thought-provoking art in the modern world–art that captures us and forces us to pause in the midst of surfing the mundane, shaking us out of our slumber and challenging us to question our role in the machine.
Once looked down upon as graffiti, street art has garnered a rather fortunate level of admiration leading to displays in many of the world’s esteemed institutions, as well as competition for more permanent residence in private collections. So, who exactly are the street artists that have captivated us to the extent that we’re now personally investing in their art instead of scoffing at it as a public nuisance? The answer is, there are many…but in the interest of digestibility, here are our top 5 street artist recommendations:
Banksy is a British artist who is practically a household name in the world of street art. As one of the most famous and influential master provocateurs, Banksy’s distinctive stencil approach to graffiti has appeared on walls around the globe. You’re probably quite familiar with Girl with Balloon, which depicts a child in black and grey reaching toward a vibrant red heart-shaped balloon as it’s whisked away by the wind. While this particular work no longer exists in the wild (as tends to be the fleeting life of street art), Banksy’s canvas version of this stunning work made a lasting impression when it self-destructed at auction the very moment the gavel fell–and an irreverent nod to the impermanence of it all and a reminder for the rest of us who wish to observe the all too brief existence of these works of art. Catch a glimpse yourself before Banksy’s next disappearing act.
Darryl McCray, aka “Cornbread,” is one of the first modern graffiti artists and a leader of the street art movement. His unique tagging style was established across the city of Philadelphia during the 1960’s, with a signature style that would leave its mark in New York City and eventually make its way to Europe during the 1980’s. During the mid-sixties, McCray found himself in a juvenile corrections facility where he adopted the name Cornbread, a reclamation of his identity within the “white bread” status-quo system that imprisoned him. This experience no doubt informed McCray’s artistic perspective and he now operates as an activist and mentor with The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
Chris “Daze” Ellis began his street art career painting subway cars in New York City during the 1970’s. As one of the few artists transitioning from the streets to the studio, Daze’s paintings have been featured in exhibitions alongside the works Basquiat and Keith Haring. His creations are also held in permanent collections and exhibitions around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, and the Ludwig Museum in Aachen, Germany. Notably, Eric Clapton, Natalie Imbruglia, and Madonna have acquired Daze’s works for their own private collections. Immerse yourself in the works of Daze via one of the many exhibitions running throughout the year.
4. LADY PINK
Harkening from Equador, Lady Pink’s surrealist voice depicting the merging of the natural world with the urban landscape is a refreshing departure in the heavily masculine universe of street art. The primal rewilding of stone and steel featured in Lady Pink’s rich acrylic paintings impart a unique illustrative lens with a distinctly feminine feel, and challenges us to remember the interconnectedness of our environment with our own human nature. Much like fellow street artist Daze, Lady Pink began her career by painting subway cars in the late 1970’s. She was just 15 years of age at this time and quickly garnered a cult following with her unique perspective and her ability to hold her own among the boys of graffiti subculture. Lady Pink continues to share her vision through workshops, lectures, and special exhibitions.
Note: May want to include: https://berkshires.org/events/mass-moca-lady-pink-exhibition/ because the link from the brief is not current. Also, this company should consider having a listing of events on their own website, so traffic is being driven there and just as a value add.
5. Jean-Michel Basquiat
Congruent with the reputation of Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of the most famous names to know in the modern street art movement. Originally oprating under the name of SAMO, Basquiat entered the street art scene with his signature style of political/poetical grafitti and handpainted postcards. His life was cut short at the age of 27, however, over the course of his brief existence he left an indelible mark through his raucous juxtapositions and signature nonconformist flair. The family of Jean-Michel Basquiat carries on his legacy in the 200 piece King Pleasure exhibition, precisely curated with rare and never-before-seen artifacts that provide an intimate perspective into the intersection of his personal life, influences, and the period in which he lived.
How can you support street artists?
The ability to witness street art, up close, in real life (particularly from the masters) is a transformative experience but often a difficult feat. Street art is still considered “underground” with limited access for even the most steadfast of concrete canvas connoisseurs–many artists only deliver the location of their exhibition right before the show. Beyond The Streets brings art typically only seen in the wild into a curated space and provides resources for deep dives on all the movers and shakers of the modern street art movement. And, while we don’t have a self-destructing Banksy on hand, we do have a substantial collection of accessible pieces in our shop featuring the works of your favorite street artists. We can’t guarantee they won’t do their own disappearing act so…you know what to do next.