Parsing out the urban art grab bag

November 19th, 2013 | By | 7 Comments »
C215. Photo by Feral78.

C215. Photo by Feral78.

Note from RJ: A version of this essay by Christian Guémy aka C215 was recently published in French with Rue89, but we both felt it was important to publish a version in English as well. – RJ

For some time, and especially since the English artist Banksy has enjoyed worldwide success, hardly a week goes by without the media reporting an event involving the urban arts, whether it’s a gallery showing “street art,” or auctions of “graffiti,” or the setting up of an “open air museum,” or pure and simple repression of vandalism.

It’s clear that recognition by the public and the media of urban arts has arrived at its apogee, and achieved the summits of popularity. Even so, I am astonished by the absence of distinction among the various practices that make up urban art. Their reclassification into a gigantic ragbag conveniently called “street art” obscures more than it clarifies.

I’m 40 and I’ve been closely involved with urban art since 1984, which is when Sydney presented in France his cult television show “H.I.P. H.O.P.” I tried my hand at graffiti in 1989 and since then I have closely followed the progress of this kind of art. It seems that several “generations” have gone by since, each having very different ambitions and practices that deserve distinction.

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