3 Artists Who Made Graffiti Art In Galleries Possible
Graffiti has been at odds with the art world since the birth of the culture. A lot of traditional artists didn’t respect street art and their feelings were shared from the other side. While artists like Zephyr preferred to keep their early work exclusively on the sides of subway cars, others bridged the gap. Here are three artists who made graffiti art in galleries possible.
From the earliest days of graffiti in New York, Phase 2 was on the scene. He pioneered bubble lettering and helped elevate it from the tagging it began as. He was also one of the founding fathers of deconstructionist lettering. Taking other imagery in place of letters is a standard part of graffiti now with Phase 2 to thank. In ‘74 Phase joined United Graffiti Artists, a group of professional graffiti artists who helped develop the culture.
While his work in street art remained his main focus, Phase branched out. In 1986 he became the Art Director of the first magazine about aerosol culture, International Get Hip Times. His work has featured in exhibits on graffiti art and he continues to impact the scene.
Basquiat began what ended up being a broad artistic career by working in street art in the mid-seventies. He tagged with Al Diaz under the name SAMO. Two years into working in graffiti, Unique Clothing founder Harvey Russack offered him a job. After parting ways with Diaz, Basquiat moved into working with salvaged materials. A typical street art technique now but not as common at the time.
Andy Warhol became a mentor to Basquiat after the two met in 1980. Working with Warhol brought him to the front of the Neo-Expressionist art movement in New York and by ‘82 his pieces were in demand.
Despite dying at 27, Basquiat’s legacy has remained as an inspiration both in street art and classic art. His credibility turned the art world on to street art and put graffiti art in galleries all over the world.
Raised in Pittsburg, Keith Haring followed the current of art running into New York in the seventies. He got there a bit later than some other artists having spent time honing his art at home in Pittsburg. By the time he got to New York, he’d already had his art displayed in galleries. He wasted no time repeating this in New York and had his first gallery show at Club 57 in 1980.
Arguably his most famous piece is his 1986 ‘Crack Is Wack’ mural. It’s Haring’s style at its clearest, combining his art school influences with what he’d learned in New York.
Most of his contemporaries were involved in social issues but none took it as far as Haring. He worked around the world to use his art as a platform to bring attention to issues like Apartheid and the AIDS epidemic.
He achieved his goal of breaking down the barrier between high and low art. Haring’s work has remained a draw in galleries since his death.