What Is Urban Art? The History Of Urban Art

What Is Urban Art? The History Of Urban Art

The term "urban art" refers to a style of public artwork that emerged in urban cities and is frequently characterized by a focus on strong, graphic designs and bright colors.

The graffiti movement of the 1960s and 1970s is considered to be the beginning of urban art when artists first started using the walls of urban buildings as their canvas.

Popular all across the globe, urban art has emerged as a significant cultural and aesthetic movement in recent decades. This style of art not only serves as an outlet for creative expression but also as a political and social commentary on contemporary urban life and the problems it raises.

What exactly is urban art?

The word "urban art," which is synonymous with "street art," refers to works of visual art that are produced in public spaces, such as city streets, sidewalks, and building walls. It's a form of self-expression through visual media that frequently incorporates characteristics of graffiti, mural painting, and street culture into a unified whole.

Spray-painted murals, stickers, paste-ups, installations, and other mediums all fall under the umbrella term "urban art." It is easily identifiable by its use of striking visuals and primary colors.

Artists have long used urban art as a platform from which to voice their thoughts and feelings on a variety of political, social, and cultural problems. Urban art might be used as a statement against unjust political systems, or a critique of rampant materialism and gentrification.

Since urban art may be created by anyone, regardless of their financial means or educational attainment, it is often considered a viable alternative to more exclusive types of fine art.

As a result, many artists who seek a broader audience and a more egalitarian aesthetic have turned to this mode of expression. Many cities now feature street art festivals and galleries solely devoted to displaying urban art, despite the frequently unorthodox and rebellious nature of this form of expression.

The history of urban art

Artists have been using the walls of urban buildings as a canvas since the early days of graffiti in the 1960s and 1970s. Many inner-city districts were experiencing fast development and urban deterioration at the time, and graffiti gave artists an opportunity to reclaim public space and make their voices heard.

In the 1980s, when graffiti artists began to try out new methods like airbrushing, hand-painting, and stickering, the art form began to mature into a more sophisticated and stylized form.

The history of urban art can be traced back to this time period. As more and more artists began exploring the medium, urban art became increasingly popular in the 1990s and 2000s.

Artists from all around the world participated in the rise of urban art by making pieces that addressed the political and cultural climates of their own cities and regions. In 1984, authors Cedar Lewisohn and Henry Chalfant published "Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution," a seminal work in the development of urban art.

One of the first to do so, this book chronicled the nascent street art movement and brought it to the attention of a larger public. Urban art has spread from its early manifestations in graffiti and street culture to become an international phenomenon that influences and is influenced by artists all over the world.

Urban artists

Urban artists are an eclectic and skilled bunch that utilize their craft as a means of self-expression and social commentary. They have played a significant role in the development of the urban art scene and continue to do so. Below are some famous urban artists:


Banksy is one of the most famous urban artists, and his work is generally politically charged and critiques topics like war, capitalism, and consumerism.

Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey is another well-known figure in the urban art world; his "Obey Giant" mural campaign and the "Hope" poster he designed for Barack Obama are both instantly recognizable.

Types of urban art

Every subgenre of urban art has its own distinct look, methods, and personality traits. Examples of popular urban artwork include:


By writing or sketching with spray paint or markers on walls, buildings, or other public locations, graffiti is a type of urban art. Graffiti originated in the 1970s hip-hop scene and is frequently linked to protest and change.


Murals are a popular method of sprucing up and brightening up cities, and they also have the potential to serve as an outlet for expression, a way to bring people together, and a statement of social consciousness.

Stencil art

The use of stencils to paint murals or intricate patterns on public buildings and streets is known as stencil art. As a subgenre of urban art, this practice stands out for its ability to convey strong statements through visuals in a short amount of time.

Light art

Light art refers to a subgenre of visual art in which light is used to create aesthetically pleasing works of public art. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs), projection mapping, and other cutting-edge techniques are frequently used in this type of urban art.

Street art stickers

Street art stickers are small, sticky graphics that are affixed to walls, signage, and other public surfaces. Everything from straightforward logos and icons to elaborately detailed paintings and designs is fair game.


Large, pre-made graphics called "paste-ups" are a popular kind of street art that are pasted onto walls and other surfaces in public areas. They are commonly made by printing or photocopying pictures and then pasting them to the wall.

The importance of urban art

Urban art has many vital benefits and functions, and it plays a significant part in the cultural landscape of cities. There are many crucial elements to urban art, but some of the most crucial are:

An improvement in aesthetics

Urban art has the power to transform dull and lifeless public spaces into dynamic and interesting places to spend time.

Social and political activism

Urban art is often employed as a form of social and political activism, giving a voice to underrepresented communities and highlighting concerns like gentrification, injustice, and environmental protection.

The preservation of cultural traditions

Urban art frequently draws inspiration from the history and everyday life of the neighborhoods in which it is developed. Urban artists play an important role in conserving and passing on cultural traditions from their neighborhoods through the works they create.

Economic development

Adding to the city's value, urban art may also help spur economic growth. The city's economy can benefit from visitors brought in by street art tours, and these excursions can help rejuvenate blighted areas.

In conclusion

Urban art serves a variety of purposes and contributes significantly to the cultural environment of cities.

Inspiring creative thought and critical analysis of the world around us, urban art has the potential to educate and motivate its viewers about pressing cultural, social, and political issues of the day.

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