Now that public space is awash with more street art and graffiti than ever before, two areas which are extensively emerging on the scene of late are that of abstract graffiti and muralism. With the owners of many walls from houses to institutions happy to allow or even requesting the work of a street artist, larger spaces and more time for properly thought-out (and mapped out) spray painting mean street artists are increasingly exploring both concepts.
Cedar Lewisohn points out in his latest book, ‘Abstract Graffiti’ that abstraction in graffiti has been around for a while – “artists such as French artist, Daniel Buren were using hard-edged abstraction as early as the 1960s” – but many artists today are now “producing a more playful, remixed version of abstraction.” And then of course, there are more legal walls around today than in the 60s. Public art author Tristan Manco also acknowledges today’s “trends towards abstraction” which some artists have coined as ‘post-graffiti’ whilst interestingly, an interview which artist Juice126 did with Graffuturism confirms that abstraction in graffiti is heavily influenced by and linked to abstract artists in contemporary art: “Once you discover artists like Pollock, you start to read about other artists, like Cy Twombly and deKooning.” He also points out the big connection between Kandinsky and street artist Futura in the interview.
It is perhaps surprising that out of all the strands of art practices found outside gallery walls, that it’s a sub-division of graffiti that has been influenced so intensely by the heavyweights of institutionalised contemporary art. Whilst much of street art often focuses on being simple, funny or making anti-authoritarian statements, abstract graffiti is increasingly starting to be as much about the aesthetics and the theory of the work as the visual work itself. This can be seen in works by artists such as Delta, LoKiss, Jay One and Part2.
Below is a selection of prime examples of recent abstract graffiti by Delta, Sago, Juice126, Armo and Kaso…
Murals on the streets or in urban art domains – specifically in public spaces – have recently stepped in to the public art spotlight, also dispelling preconceived ideas that street artists still only use spray cans and stencils to create their work with. Acceptance of certain types of art in public spaces by the public and local authorities has also allowed artists to be more experimental and has allowed them to make work legally. Muralism has also contributed to the idea of the street as a gallery for one and all. And due to the public’s delight at many of these murals – many of them connect with a wider audience because of their large scale as well as their content – collaborations between artists and authorities (such as Steve ESPO Powers ‘A Love Letter For You‘) have occurred, as well as commissions with commercial brands.
This isn’t always seen as a plus side; most street artists (and increasingly ‘Joe Public’) think we have enough printed advertising on billboards flashed at us on a daily basis without global brands honing in on gifted street artists and using their talents as a tool to pimp out their own latest product at us. Many artists resist the big bucks offered by these big brands for these types of projects, but the side effect of our joint public acceptance of muralism and other street art has certainly – and quickly – been chewed over and acted swiftly upon by said big brands.
Phlegm, Steve ESPO Powers, BEZT, José Parlá and street art legend, Blu have all created individually inspiring murals…