Street and graffiti artists have always been using the power of letters and written words to attract attention of distracted bystanders, hungry for meaning and significance. For graffiti lettering it all began with letters and symbols scrawled on public surfaces, and when one looks at the work created by ten creators featured on the following list, it becomes clear how those markings evolved in beautiful and unexpected ways over the years. Some of them explore the beauty of lettering itself by creating complex and almost mystical calligraphic images, while others strive with great passion to achieve more simple, yet deeply philosophical use of typography as a vehicle to convey their messages.
MAX RIPPON - SOCIAL COMMENTARY WITH A SPLASH OF HUMOR AND SARCASM
American multidisciplinary artist Max Rippon RIPO creates intelligent street art of typography which evokes America of the 1950’s juxtaposed with modern social commentary and all that with a splash of sarcasm and humor. During his early age and after graduating from art school he experimented with different forms of urban art trying to find his style and in recent years his work has become primarily text-based, communicating through the use of various hand-painted elements, calligraphy and typography. After moving to Barcelona several years ago RIPO began working on canvas, paper, found materials and with sculpture. Through his clever and highly stylized work RIPO injects imagery into wordplay, and words into visual landscapes.
L'ATLAS - RECTANGULAR SHAPED CALLIGRAPHY
French artist L’Atlas (Jules Dedet Grenel), former student of archaeology and calligraphy, is a master of rectangular shaped calligraphy and geometrical forms. Through his work, L’Atlas invents both languages of words and signs by combining influences from Arabic calligraphy and modern tags to create a pastiche of graffiti, ancient typography, eastern spiritualism and Greek mythology. He began by tagging his name on the streets of Paris in the early 1990’s and, particularly interested in Sufism and writing geometric codes which he then transposes into the calligraphic abstraction of Latin alphabet, he designed his own typography style and switched from using spraypaint to using scotch tape.
BEN EINE - PROLIFIC STREET ARTIST
Ben Flynn EINE is a prolific street artist from London, most notable for his originally designed alphabet letterings he stencils onto canvases, walls and shop shutters creating bold words and phrases of vibrant colors. Before becoming involved in commercial graffiti he was a famous and highly credible underground graffiti writer. Many years, several arrests and thousands of empty spray cans later, Eine first came to prominence in the commercial graffiti scene through his symbiotic partnership with London graffiti artist Banksy. In his commercial work he has produced various lettering styles including neon, vandalism, circus, shutter, elton, and wendy, often featured in promotional material and magazines.
RERO - MINIMALIST STATEMENTS, IRONIC AND DYSTOPIAN PHRASES
French conceptual artist Alexis Rero has established his work through his innovative approach to street art based around language. Introduced to the street through graffiti, he eventually felt limited by a spray can and began exploring imagery through the use of typography. Rero is most noted for his minimalist statements, ironic and dystopian phrases, with a signature stark black line crossing them out used to trigger contemplative reactions from viewers. Apart from exhibiting his work in galleries and abandoned and dilapidated spaces of urban landscapes Alexis Rero also erects his three-dimensional word sculptures made of wood in the natural environments of beautiful open fields and countryside.
Retna - Hypnotic Symbols Forming an Original Alphabet
Los Angeles based street artist Marquis Lewis RETNA has developed an original alphabet, a distinctive constructed script of hypnotic symbols which is derived from traditional types of street-based graffiti and Egyptian hieroglyphics, Native American traditional symbols and Arabic and Hebrew calligraphy, and which appears like an undiscovered, long lost ancient script, even though he maintains that he composes his works in English and Spanish language. Retna’s complex and abstract artworks, executed in brushstrokes and best viewed from a distance, are beautiful and captivating, each piece carries meaning, conveying an event or dialogue that he experienced but only he and his inner circle of friends know.
JonOne - Explosive Calligraphy and Vibrant Colors
John Andrew Perello, or JonOne, is an NY-born painter and graffiti artist, living and working in Paris and a key figure of its graffiti scene. He entered the world of graffiti by tagging his name on the walls and trains of his hometown and over the years he has developed his distinctive abstract style of unique, explosive calligraphy and vibrant colors, mostly executed in acrylic and oil paint on canvas. Reminiscent of Jackson Pollock or Jean Dubuffet, JonOne’s unique form of abstract expressionism, focused on the excitement and movement of color, seeks to redefine the limits of the street artist’s calligraphy.
Anthony Burrill - Simple, yet Complex Compositions
Internationally acclaimed British graphic designer, illustrator and print maker Anthony Burrill is one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary urban world. He works across a wide range of media, including moving images, interactive web-based projects and three-dimensional works but is perhaps best known for his trademark style of thought-provoking, typographic, text-based and traditionally printed posters that straddle the line of fine art and graphic design. Burrill’s seemingly simple, yet complexly produced compositions of geometric shapes and primary colors convey a witty message in a very direct way, making them strangely distinctive and instantly recognizable in this typography saturated world we live in.
Stephen Powers - Notorious and Witty
A love of graffiti has gained Stephen Powers notoriety on the streets, a long arrest sheet and fame in the artworld. This renowned Philadelphia-born and NY-based street artist and sign painter is known for his smart, chucklesome and touching artwork which is fusing painting and graffiti, word and image. Powers (aka ESPO) has spent much of the last decade creating large public projects, probably the most famous being “A Love Letter for You”, Philadelphia based monumental project during which he and his ICY crew of 40 artists (or “sign mechanics” as he calls them) painted more than fifty walls along the elevated train in Market Street in West Philly.
Mobstr - Word Play Provocateur
Mobstr‘s bold, satirical and highly entertaining artwork, found in industrial and urban areas, ranges from very simple to deeply meaningful. Much of it is preserved only for a short period of time as it is very often erased or painted over, but this British street artist considers removal to be part of the cycle of creation. Mobstr employs a combination of stencils and provocative, clever remarks to create funny typographic interventions across billboards and walls, challenging the way we view public space. After conquering the streets, this restless artist and word play provocateur has successfully taken his artwork to galleries and museums worldwide.
Cope2 - Bubble Trouble
New York street and graffiti artist Cope2 (Fernando Carlo) is one of the most famous bombers whose signature bubble throw-up tags can be found anywhere and everywhere around his hometown and beyond, and whose wildstyle graffiti brought him international recognition. Being a self-taught artist, Cope2 came a long way from hitting subway trains and painting burners in the streets in the late 1970’s to becoming one of the most prolific graffiti artist of today, exhibited in auctions and galleries around the globe and commissioned by some of the biggest brands around. Today, Cope2 continues to bring his raw energy that still captures the look of graffiti letters into abstract, bubble lettering canvas masterpieces.
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