Graffiti is more than decorative expression—it's a way to tell stories, share the history of a place, exchange information, and create elaborate images. Graffiti artists share a storied history encompassing as many different themes as it does style and technique, from illegal vandalism to municipal and community projects. Over the past 50 years of graffiti history, many different artists have become dominant in local spaces, international art scenes, and everything in between, and the Museum of Graffiti in Wynwood, Florida, is celebrating the stories of famous graffiti artists. Here are three—and you can visit the museum for countless more.
What Is Graffiti Art?
Graffiti art is visually expressive art made in public spaces, such as on the sides of buildings, on trains, and along bridges. There is a thin line between graffiti art (which organizations typically define as legally authorized graffiti) and graffiti or street art, which is often made without legal sanction.
Some of the types of graffiti art are:
- Tags or distinct signature elements that use lines
- Throw-ups, which are letters that can be quickly filled in with colors
- Pieces, letters that can be drawn to look three-dimensional through angles and overlap to create the illusion of depth.
While graffiti art shares many characteristics, many famous graffiti artists develop their own unique styles that are instantly recognizable. Three of the most iconic graffiti artists are below:
KAWS started gaining notoriety in the art world as a Jersey City and NYC graffiti artist. Throughout the 1990s, he developed a unique style, and his graffiti could be found across freight trains, phone booths, billboards, bus stops, and other public surfaces. At the time, he worked as an animator. In 1999, he made the shift to creating toys like his signature COMPANION toy that features a hunched figure with 'X's as eyes—but the eyes are on the figure's hands rather than its face. This became his iconic style: iconic characters across all genres, drawn in a powerless stance, with their eyes covered and with predominant 'X's featured. Kaws’ roots painting trains and billboards make him a true graffiti writer.
Doze Green began creating art on the street and on trains in NYC in the 1980s when Hip-Hop was in its heyday, and B-Boys (break dancers) ruled the streets. Green polished his craft, led by intuitive flow, and advanced from letterforms to character forms. He was the first of his peers to create a style of drawing that has been adopted by graffiti artists around the world. Breaking away from his old “mugsy” characters Green moved on the illustrate and paint biological entities of the metaphysical spirits. His work celebrates his Cubist influences and includes ascending and descending planes and repetitive, overlapping, and concentric lines in an otherwise undefined landscape.
Banksy is internationally famous for his iconic subversive art that features two-dimensional black-and-white characters with pops of color. The identity of Banksy is still a matter of speculation, and he created his art in public spaces across the world. Some of Banksy's most iconic works include The Flower Thrower, Balloon Girl, and One National Under CCTV. He also achieved worldwide notice after having a painting self-destruct after it was sold for $1.4 million at a Sotheby's auction. Banksy is as clever of a street artist as they come, and has roots in real graffiti writing as well having done pieces in his younger years.
See What Our Museum Has to Offer
Whether you recognize the names of famous graffiti artists or the iconic graffiti murals by appearance, exploring the world of graffiti is a fun way to learn about the craft, the culture, and the political movements that often surround the art. Come visit the Museum of Graffiti today or order your tickets to schedule your trip.
Image Credit: Doze Green