Street Art Terms you Need to Know

Street Art

Street art terms you need to know. The term "street art," which was first used by Allan Schwartzman in 1985, refers to a wide variety of artistic expressions that are placed against urban settings and directly originate from the graffiti movement. It is commonly referred to as post-graffiti and comes in two- and three-dimensional forms. It is an embodiment of new aesthetic ideas, materials, and techniques that were absent from the New York City graffiti art movement of the 1970s and 1980s. The streets themselves have developed into vibrant venues where artists regularly share their individual visions, values, and points of view.


Conceptually, different artistic endeavours have always coexisted alongside graffiti art. The difference is that it is used as a means of self-expression using methods that are frequently viewed as illegal or out of the ordinary, as opposed to being authorised or ordered by authority. In the past, graffiti art has been seen as vandalism, an enigmatic riddle, and a danger to society. The graffiti movement, which originated in the framework of hip hop culture, was most active in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s. Urban youth painted walls, trains and tube cars extensively at this time, giving voice to oppressed, anti-authoritarian people who were looking for acceptance and a chance to express themselves. Even though it has changed and evolved, this graffiti-inspired style is still prevalent today, making it difficult to distinguish it from street art, another genre of art.


In order to create detailed artworks precisely within the walls of their studios and minimise the amount of time they have to spend on the streets while putting their artistic statements into place, street artists frequently turn to stencilling. Street artists mark their area by spraying paint through a stencil to produce visuals that resemble graffiti artist tags. Stencils are highly preferred by numerous artists since they create striking visuals with a lot of expressive potential.

Wild Style Tagged Print by Barrie J Davies 2021 - unframed Silkscreen print on paper (hand finished) edition of 1/1 - A2 size 42cm x 59.4cm.


Tags are frequently characterised as pervasive and mysterious. Despite clear distinctions in composition and style, the public often misinterprets tagging, a type of graffiti writing, as being connected to gangs. The quick and well-practiced signatures are frequently mysterious to non-graffiti enthusiasts, using codes, initials, and nicknames that make it difficult for the general public to understand their significance. According to Phillips, tagging is regarded by practitioners—including gang members—as the riskiest type of graffiti writing. The pursuit of visibility and frequency raises the possibility of running into law enforcement. Furthermore, taggers frequently expose themselves to danger by entering difficult-to-reach areas like tall buildings and highway signs.

Gang graffiti

Graffiti writing is not the same as gang graffiti since gang graffiti intentionally aims to threaten people and establish their rule over territory. Graffiti writing typically emphasises creative expression, while gang tags have a more practical use. Graffiti markers are used by local and national gangs to define their territory, establish control over other gangs, and indicate membership or allegiance. Graffiti from gangs can also serve as a symbol of support and representation, strengthening ties between members of the group. Graffiti overlap between opposing gangs is frequently associated with gang-related violence, suggesting a possible link between gang activity and graffiti installation. Graffiti featuring gang symbolism is frequently interpreted by non-gang members as warning signs to be avoided, which creates a bad impression of these areas in the community.


Throw-ups, sometimes referred to as 'throwies', fall somewhere in between a tag and a piece. Throw-ups are larger and more detailed than tags, but they don't require the same amount of work or intricacy. In a similar vein, a writer's standing and acknowledgment from bombing fall somewhere between piecing and tagging. Throw-ups are characterised by bubbling letters that are usually filled with a single colour or highlighted in a single colour, which is called a "hollow." Graffiti artists who call themselves "bombers" are frequently prolific writers in the throw-up style, while "bombing" can simply refer to a night of heavy tagging. Throw-ups can take a few seconds to many minutes to complete, depending on whether or not they are filled.


Although murals add a unique quality to many American communities, it is still unclear how much of an influence they have on improving metropolitan areas. Murals appear to be a surface-level fix for underlying problems in areas like Camden, where basic maintenance like street cleaning and building rehabilitation is absent. Regarding murals' ability to improve locals' opinions, there is, nevertheless, optimism. Murals have the power to change people's opinions about certain places, but if the surrounding region is ignored, their effectiveness decreases. Murals should be prominently shown apart from other structures to guarantee that people see them as unique elements of the surrounding region.

Disco Spray Can Sculpture by Barrie J Davies 2023 Mixed media sculpture.

Culture and Street Art

Culture is a source of wealth and a driving force behind economic growth. Street art and graffiti serve as visible communication tools that can be used for teaching and information sharing. Themes pertaining to national cultural identity and its intersection with the international cultural scene are frequently depicted in street art in Bucharest. This emphasis could have its roots in the subculture's comparatively recent history when measured against its global counterparts. Street art has two purposes: it modifies the urban environment directly and adds tangentially to a location's cultural identity. Contemporary murals need to be preserved and restored, just like traditional artwork. One way to think about street art is as a heritage experience that is entwined with everyday activities, affect, and embodiment. Traditional and innovative methods are used in conservation attempts to examine the artwork's potential as a historical artefact and its relationship to the community. Street art preservation requires active community involvement, including projects like digital mapping.

Similar to Gross and Gross's early copying phase, street art, which includes murals, stencils, stickers, and wheat pastes, is a resurgence of symbolic object representation. It might be argued that graffiti has entered a second phase of imitation with a quick and overlapping transition. The term "graffiti" evokes a variety of interpretations, depending more on the audience's perception than the creators' intentions, ranging from exalted art to a sign of urban degradation. Contemporary graffiti comprises a variety of subgenres, such as street art, gang graffiti, graffiti writing, and solitary vandalism such as political messages, expressions of love or hate, and what is popularly called toilet graffiti.

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