Kids with spray cans and lots of free time started writing their names on the wall, as the conventional wisdom goes, back in the late 60s. It started in Philidelphia and spread through New York before taking the world by storm.
The Public Broadcasting Service’s report on The History of American Graffiti by Caleb Neelson and Roger Gastman explains that "the first modern graffiti writer is widely considered to be … a high school student from Philadelphia, who in 1967 started tagging city walls to get the attention of a girl." Others find parallel roots in East Los Angeles gangs and West Coast surfer life, and the artistic evolution that came with both cultures.
And graffiti is huge now. WikiCollections puts Banksy’s highest auction price at £208,100, or $316,957.11 USD. Others claim that "Banksy [set] an auction record in 2007 of more than $1.8 million for a single painting."
What does all of this have to do with anything? Well isn’t it obvious? Graffiti has arrived, baby. It’s here. And with arrival means the onus of influence. Folks are biting and borrowing and paying homage to and using the techniques and characteristics of graffiti (and its stepchild, Street Art).
So here it is, people, your list of five famous (even if you’ve never heard of them) artists influenced by graffiti.
Here’s a duo you should know, combined here due to their relationship and collaborative work. Basquiat began as one of the early graffiti artists in late 1970s NYC, and "evolved into an acclaimed Neo-expressionist and Primitivist painter by the 1980s." Warhol was a famed Pop artist of the 1970s and 80s and, through his friendship with Basquiat, took major influences from graffiti. Warhol himself believed much of their collaborative work was better than that work he produced alone.
Unfortunately for Basquat, the big time came with addiction to heroin and scene life, and he died in August 1988 of a heroin overdose in his New York apartment. A lot of blame is given to Warhol for Basquiat's passing, mostly because his "art factory" was a den of sex and drugs. Warhol passed in February 1988 of an apparent, and anticlimactic, heart attack
2. Shepard Fairey:
Known in the streets for his large-scale murals and Obey Giant stencils, Shepard makes quite the living off of his art school fine art poster making creds. I’m sure you’ve seen his iconic Obama campaign "Hope" poster. He was also commissioned by Time Magazine to do "The Protester" for their People of the Year cover. I’m not saying he’s a tool, but some folks have choice words for this guy. I for one do not hope he falls off a ladder or gets beat up by hardcore graffiti kids.
3. Keith Haring:
Haring began his career in Pittsburgh before quitting art school and moving to New York where he was a total baller at absorbing the "thriving alternative art community that was developing outside the gallery and museum system, in the downtown streets, the subways and spaces in clubs and former dance halls." Also a contemporary of Basquiat, Warhol, Christo, and Alechinsky, Haring’s work evolved to include AIDS awareness, a disease which took his life in February 1990.
Formed in 2004, the German based creative team of Jasmin Siddiqui (AKA Hera) and Falk Lehman (AKA Akut), paint using traditional and graffiti inspired techniques. They're currently working on the Giant Story Book Project, which is "part of an ongoing mural series that introduces a set of characters for a future children’s book."
5. Zvi Belling:
An architect at ITN Architects whose studies took him from Swaziland to South Africa to Australia's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (for a Bachelor of Architecture) and to the Victorian College of the Arts (for a Bachelor of Music), Belling worked for ITN Architects between 1996 and 2012, completing what is arguably the first graffiti-themed apartment building.
HI Consuption says, "Fusing street art with modern architecture, the graffiti inspired Hive Apartment is the perfect example of a unique concept implemented flawlessly." It was designed in concert with "a respected old school Melbourne graffiti artist."
The art world is massive. Luckily, I spend a lot of time checking artists, art groups, and art pages for new stuff. Much love to Cherie Strong and David Archer (art friends) for some of the suggestions, many of which will be included in the next installment. Stay with me to get your graffiti/urban/street art fix. I got you.
Check with me next week for five more graffiti influenced artists who you probably don’t know but should.