What is Urban Art? Who are the main artists?

O que é Arte Urbana? Quais são os principais artistas?

Urban Art or Street Art
In the second part of the 20th century, we see the explosion of urban art ( street art ) , as a form of expression and communication of a message or brand through images, illustrations or symbols in public space. This practice began insistently in the seventies, in New York, with protagonists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat , who began to express their thoughts in street actions. The African-American artist, under the name SAMO, at the time, linked his own observations in vigorous text messages to buildings in the urban environment. It was on the streets that the basis for his initial artistic production was formed, Jean-Michel Basquiat projected his perceptions of the outside world through his creative acts, through a single word, a short phrase or a simple image referring to a person, recent event or observation. The practice of graffiti grew, initially in New York, but quickly spread firmly in other contemporary cities, thus challenging the prevailing canons of artistic practices. Find out in this article which were the two Portuguese artists who distinguished themselves in this medium.

Basquiat | P55 Magazine | P55.ART

Urban culture, namely graffiti, prematurely fascinated the artist Alexandre Farto. Born in Lisbon in 1987, from an early age he began to paint the streets of Seixal, where he grew up, signing them under the pseudonym Vhils . In urban culture, each writer (term used for painter or graffiti artist) creates his tag corresponding to his signature, thus marking his authorship, identity and own style, in addition to marking spots of interest for future murals. A tag that initially had no meaning ends up becoming the name by which Alexandre Farto continues to sign, and by which he is known nationally and internationally. In an interview with Notícias Maganize, he confessed: “They were the lyrics that I liked to do the most and that I did the fastest.”

Vhils | P55 Magazine | P55.ART

Like Keith Haring , who became famous for turning the New York subway system into his own canvas, with or alone, Vhils began by interfering with walls and trains. He quickly realized that despite graffiti still living in a very closed circle of people, the street was the place with the greatest potential for communication. From the spray can to the stencil, Alexandre Farto thus explores new techniques, in a phase of transition and evolution that leads him to experiment with other supports. He used advertising posters that piled up in layers on billboards, painted them white and excavated the layers by sculpting faces. The objective revealed to Notícias Magazine, in the same interview mentioned above, was: “To reflect on the identity and influence of the consumer society on the individual. Trying to get to the essence of what is behind all this futility that forms us and makes us what we are.”

Vhils | Artists | P55.ART

From this transition and evolution, he decides to return to the walls, but this time to sculpt them. Faces of anonymous figures that you photograph in the streets and draw on public transport are sculpted on a large scale, with a pneumatic hammer, on walls, tunnels and buildings. It thus offers a face to the city and empowers ordinary people. It adds the cities, the streets, the buildings that serve as a stage for creative action in the process of sculpture and engraving obtained through the subtraction of layers, thinning, drilling and immersion. The walls are usually chosen by him, but he has also received invitations to produce site specific interventions in various places, always in urban areas and generally abandoned. Through his creativity, Vhils reveals the hidden lower layers and the fragility of urban space, reflecting current themes in the artistic scene, such as identity, representation, ephemerality and the individual's experience in consumer society. The influence of the artist Gordon Matta Clark is denoted in these murals, for experimenting and expressing himself through the practice of destruction as a creative form of artistic production. The social logics and ideas of public space are questioned, through interventions on the facades of abandoned or degraded buildings. It highlights the ambitious but temporary invasion and modification of the urban space, as the works disappeared over time, leaving only the documentary records for a posteriori.

Bordalo II
The Portuguese artist Artur Bordalo (1987), known as Bordalo II , famous for using street litter to create stunning animal sculptures, with the purpose of warning people about pollution and all kinds of endangered species. This was another artist who developed his practice from street art, but has evolved today, building what is considered «trash art».

In the painting course at the Academia de Belas Artes in Lisbon, he discovered sculpture, ceramics and began experimenting with the most diverse materials. His passion for painting dates back to his childhood, when he spent hours on end watching his grandfather paint in his atelier and also due to the underworld of the city of Lisbon. Deeply influenced by his grandfather, Artur Bordalo began spray-painting walls in the streets at the age of 11, with the stage name Bordalo II , in homage and highlighting the artistic legacy of his grandfather Artur Real Bordalo (1925-2017). Both Portuguese artists emphasize in their visual language the reflection on the identity and influence of the consumer society on the individual.

Bordalo II | P55 Magazine | P55.ART

Undoubtedly, these artists have a special power to bring the challenging style of street art into the home, whether through the destruction of the works themselves as happened with Banksy's famous work "Girl with balloon" (2006) or other forms. of simpler creative expression.From Jean-Michel Basquiat to Shepard Fairey , street artists are always known for their creative expressions of rebellion.

Find out more on this topic:
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The Representation of Animals in Art
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