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8 Graffiti Artists Who Influenced Modern Street Art

Graffiti artists, often wielding cans of spray paint like brushes on an urban canvas, are often controversial creators of modern street art. Their work dances between rebellion and expression, adorning city walls with a kaleidoscope of colours, intricate designs, and thought-provoking messages. Emerging from the underground to challenge conventional notions of art and public space, graffiti artists inject life into concrete jungles, transforming mundane surfaces into platforms for social commentary, cultural reflection, and personal storytelling. Today, we’ll discuss some of our favourite graffiti artists of the past and present.

Banksy

Banksy is a graffiti artist based in England. You would be surprised to know that Banksy’s identity, to this day, is a subject to speculation. Due to his artwork’s photographic and realistic nature, it has been assumed that he used computer-generated imagery to draw his paintings. To him, the graffiti must be made quickly, as it is illegal. To achieve that, he uses stencils to paint over his images. Banksy’s artwork is often satirical and humorous, propagating the anti-capitalist, anti-war, and anti-establishment ideologies. Although most of his artworks are beloved, he is best known for ‘Well Hung Lover’ and ‘Love is in the Bin.’

Courtesy – Artsy

Keith Haring

Keith Haring (1958 – 1990) was an American graffiti artist who rose to fame through his pop art renditions in the 1980s. He was known for his spontaneous artworks at the New York subways, where he transitioned to commissioned large-scale murals. He was a vocal advocate for safe sex and AIDS awareness. A member of the LGBTQIA+ community, his artworks carried the gay agenda. Keith Haring’s later work included iconography about anti-drugs and anti-apartheid. Some of Harings’ popular works involve ‘Crack is Wack’ and ‘Tuttomundo.’

Courtesy – Contemporary Nomad

Jean Michel Basquiat

Jean Michel Basquiat (1960 – 1988) was a popular street artist associated with the Neo-Expressionist movement. His artworks can be seen as an amalgamation of the culture of the Lower East Side, including rap, punk, hip-hop, and street art. Jean Michel Basquiat marries image with popular texts. He appropriated poetry, drawings, and paintings to create a unique social commentary which reflects on the historical and political background of the world. Amongst famous Jean Michel Basquiat artworks, ‘Untitled (Skull)’ and ‘Irony of Negro Policeman’ stands out.

Courtesy – Art News

Shepard Fairey

Frank Shepard Fairey (1970) is an American activist, and cartoon graffiti artist. His artworks are extremely simple, but use bold colours, and graphic images; which are reminiscent of photographic copies, and satirical messages. Shepard Fairey makes his artwork with paper, glue, and spray paint. He is a jack of all trades, his oeuvre ranging from gun control, climate change, environmental awareness, and political criticism. He is best known for the ‘Barack Obama “Hope” Poster’ and the ‘Nelson Mandela mural.’

Courtesy – Obey Giant

Lady Pink

Lady Pink or Sandra Fabara (1964) is an Ecuadorian-American graffiti artist. She started graffiti as early as the 1980s, which was by then an industry dominated by men. This earned her the nickname, ‘first lady of graffiti.’ She is known for her use of fantasy and spirituality using indigenous and South American iconographic symbols to represent issues faced by women in urban spheres. Lady Pink is known for her ‘9/11 tribute’ mural and the train art ‘Welcome to Heaven.’

Courtesy – Lady Pink

Futura 2000

Futura 2000 (1955) was the former name of the American cartoon graffiti artist, Futura or Leonard Hilton McGurr. He stands out amongst his contemporaries due to the use of aerosol strokes to make his abstract art. Aerosol ensures thin lines, akin to airbrush. He paints bright colours – red, cadmium, and blue on off-white canvases. Futura 2000 hasn’t only produced graffiti, but also toys, collectables, prints, paper lanterns, Cognac bottles and more. Some of his popular artworks include ‘Break’ and the ‘Hennessy VS Bottle.’

Courtesy – Old Richmond Cellars

Dondi White

Dondi White (1961 – 1998) was an American graffiti artist who is recognised for his dynamic lettering and stick figures. His murals and graffiti showcased an explosion of colours. He gave prominence to form rather than meaning, which he achieved by juxtaposition of shapes and symbols. He remains an influential figure in the modern graffiti scene, earning the moniker ‘The Style Master General.’ Dondi White’s magnum opus remains the ‘Children of the Grave.’

Courtesy – Mutual Art

Os Gemeos

Os Gemeos (1974) is a duo of identical twin brothers and street graffiti artists Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo. Their graffiti is a testament to escapist fantasy, which mixes dream-like trance patterns with complex illustrations. The Brazilian artists play with the themes of Brazilian folklore, Sao Paulo’s political climate, and family portraits. They are also influenced by traditional and Brazilian hip-hop culture and music. Some of Os Gemeos famous graffiti art includes ‘The Foreigner’ and ‘Pavil.’

Courtesy – Osgemeos

Image Courtesy – Britannica

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