What is Street Art? Why is It Around? Jax Street Art.

April 12, 2014 21 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Ok...... 'Street Art" is one of the most powerful art movements in the world today, and Jacksonville has spawned several truly great street artists. This however has not led to any real recognition of the art form, with the notable exception of the Five Points neighborhood, the underground studio scene in Springfield and the blog posts of Joey Marchy at UrbanJacksonville.info. The art form was allegedly banned from the Riverside Arts Market as well as the annual Festival for the same reasons that caused both Rock and Roll and Jazz music to be banned in 'tasteful' communities around the country in the last century. "Turn", Thursto, Tommy Armageddon (and some would include the Urbismo team) are probably some of the most exciting artists ever to come from our city and yet the art form that they practice makes their art 'unsuitable'. Maybe this is partially due to confusion about what Street Art is.

Street wheat pasting by Urbismus (photo by Joey Marchy, urbanjacksonville.info)

Street Art is any art developed in public spaces  including in the streets themselves.

It crosses a whole lot of mediums and genres and there are wholly different formats of street art with a completely different kind of person or groups that create them.

Thursto working on a peice

Thursto working on a peice

The term can include traditional graffiti, stencil work, stickers, wheatpasted poster art, projections, guerrilla art, flash mobbing and street installations.

Street Art Poster, Tommy Armageddon Visuals

Street Art is totally separate from vandalism, dirty little wall poems and traditional gang territory marking.  When you say 'street art' or 'post grafitti' you mean the Art as opposed to the vandalism.

Interior Walls by Tommy Armageddon

In a way its a form of High Art for regular and every day people.  It's meant to challenge the idea that only galleries, museums and expensive loft parties can have and show art.   Its presented every single day to as many people who walk through the streets and there aren't any commissions, schedules, marketing people or 'aesthetics committees' to deal with.  The artist's work can be seen, appreciated and judged by everyone.

The Tunnel Graphic of TSI, by Tommy Armageddon

Naturally, the environment of the city that it is produced in strongly influences the motivations of the artists.   In some cities the art is very political.  In some vary colorful and multi cultured.  Some cities have extremely challenging social causes and anti corporate themes in the street art.

Tommy Armageddon work.

But the universal theme in all street art, is creating artwork which utilizes public space, and allows artists who may otherwise be cut out of the uppity art game, to reach a much broader audience than traditional art and the gallery/museum system normally allows

International examples of Street Artists who have crossed over into mainstream fame are of course, Shepard Fairey who did the Obama Hope posters (they each run a few thousand dollars right now) Banksy, Keith Haring and Basquiat, but it is a medium that has spread across the globe into every country and language.

There are a few better recognized artists locally.

Tommy Armageddon, Shawn Thurston (Thursto) and Urbismus.

Tommy specializes in Wheatpaste street art posters and installations, Thursto in traditional street painting with spray and brushes, and urbismus in Wheatpaste characters.

by Thursto

Wheatpasting by Urbismus

Tommy Armageddon, RegretMan posters.

Despite its roots in the Graffiti movement, Street Art has evolved.   Its an international movement that  has become more than just a random curiosity show,  political messaging system or even simple populist art.

These days it has taken off into more sophisticated directions and has attained the status of high art---and it is still evolving.

Take a look at MUTO (the video has made the rounds, but it gets better every time you see it.
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/uuGaqLT-gO4" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/uuGaqLT-gO4</a>

I think this video is an indication of how fertile with possibilities the genre is.  Certainly the interactive nature of the art with the environment transcends animation.  And although it is technically a street art installation piece, its only understandable when seen in the context of the video, so it transcends mere graffiti as well.

Locally we have some really great artists working in the street art medium---and there have been street artists working in Jacksonville for the past 20 years.

The greatest graffiti artist in the traditional sense ever to come from Jacksonville was "Turn"-- whose work and technique and massive collection of specialty spray nibs informed an entire generation of spray artists and can still be seen in the old Yard and on the few canvasses that he created while here in town.

But nothing in the way of local recognition in the press or archives, and certainly no trace that he existed within the framework of the gallery or museum system here.

So why arent these talented artists in the galleries, the Art Market, the Riverside Arts Festival and in the pages of the art publications?

Later generations will ask this same question.

Stephen Dare.
Published June 23, 2009