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10 American Urban Artists You Should Know

July 8, 2015

America, the melting pot of different cultures has proved to be extremely fertile ground for all kinds of artistic expressions imaginable. Home of the brave, land of the free, this is even more true when it comes to urban art. The following list will present ten internationally acclaimed contemporary urban artist from the US. From self taught sprayers to those with more classic education in fine art painting. While some have evolved from illegal graffiti or tattoo art, others went the direct way from art studies to art creation for design studios or exhibitions. Despite their origins, all of them are now recognized artists that you should know about.

  • Urban Art

Tristan Eaton - From a troubled teen to one of the leading heads in advertising

Tristan Eaton was born in Los Angeles in 1978 and has since lived in London, Detroit and New York. It is clear that growing up on comics and around graffiti and skateboard culture had an important impact on his art. From a troubled teenager, a self-proclaimed skateboard punk, he grew up to be one of the highly influential creative minds of advertising, regularly consulting with the world’s leading brands such as Nike, Pepsi and Disney, to only name a few. After designing his first toy in 1996 Eaton has become one of the most prominent driving forces in the Urban Toy scene. Lately he has turned his focus on working more and more on his elaborate paintings and street murals.

Mark Jenkins - Often Drawing Attention of the Police

Mark Jenkins is widely known for his macabre and shocking street installations made of clear packing tape, which very often draw the attention of the police, as it happened in the 2008 Plight of the Polar Bears project he did in collaboration with Greenpeace. This awareness campaign that intended to draw public attention to the problem of melting Arctic ice caps resulted in bomb squads being deployed to destroy realistic figures of homeless people with polar bear heads. Jenkins uses street as a stage to make installations that interact with the surroundings and the people that pass by them. His work is both an art project and a social experiment. Apart from his art Mark Jenkins is increasingly involved in teaching, holding online student projects as well as extended master-classes worldwide.

Bäst - Elusive artist with a smug sense of humor

BÄST is a Brooklyn born urban artist with an impressive track time in the street art scene. Spreading across two decades, during which he managed to maintain his anonymity, occasionally sparking debates whether he really exist or may be the alter-ego of another major artist. The humorous but aggressive art of this elusive artist, incorporates a smug sense of humor and twisted story lines, often depicting well known but mutated, devilish cartoon characters with guns and grenades. The art of BÄST is a creative commentary of America and an eclectic satirical spin of the his countries  consumer and pop culture.

Antonio Brasko - Brandalism: Street Art and Luxury Brands

Portland based artist and graphic designer Antonio Brasko has worked with brands such as Intel, Nike, Adidas and Dr. Martens, delivering compelling brand experiences. This internationally renowned artist is most often recognized for his fusion style which incorporates spray paint, streetwear and luxury branding, and reintroduces the ideology of vandalism and fashion from an experimental perspective. Brasko’s latest project “Brandalism” redesigns classic Montana spray paint cans with a selection of various brands that represents a bridge between the worlds of street art and luxury brands.

Richard Colman - Sinister Gothic Style and Twisted Story Telling

Born in the suburbs of Washington D.C., Richard Colman grew up exploring the hidden, darker face of his home town, spraying graffiti and going to hardcore shows. Today he lives and works in San Francisco and his unique art seems to be rooted in artist’s appreciation of Renaissance-style portraiture, Indian miniature and Byzantine art. It is a vividly colorful combination of sinister Gothic style and twisted story telling which blends figurative abstract imagery with bold geometry and biomorphic shapes. Ranging from small to large scale painting, murals and installation it explores themes of life and death, sexuality and social hierarchies.

Mike Giant - Instantly Recognizable Symbols and Metaphors

The work of Mike Giant, the extremely influential Rebel 8 fashion designer, avid illustrator, tattooist and graffiti artist from San Francisco, always draws mass attention. Giant’s clean and crisp, monochromatic illustrations inspired by Mexican folk art and Japanese illustrations can be found on skin, walls and paper. Instantly recognizable, they very often consist of conflicting symbols and metaphors, resulting in an intensive and fascinating mix of Catholic imagery, like heavily inked praying Madonnas, and skateboard icons or brand images.

Wes Lang - From Pornography to Philosophy, Subtle References to Various Subjects

Wes Lang, a self-taught artist and genuine badass biker from New Jersey, retells the American history using familiar images and iconography from a personal perspective and in a unique and shocking way. Dizzying and extraordinary renderings of skulls, crosses, Native Americans, cowboys, pornography and philosophy all find their own place in his tattoo inspired paintings and abstract sketches. Wes Lang creates a striking mix of collage, painting and drawing. His work demonstrates a very subtle ability to reference historical narratives and utopian visions in his complicated arrangements but without explicit narrative in the work itself.

Cleon Peterson - A World of Cruelty, Suffering and Senseless Violence

Every time you take a look at Cleon Peterson’s nightmarish and chaotic paintings you find a new, never before seen detail of violent clashes portraying extreme tensions felt daily in the violent urban landscapes of his home town of Los Angeles. They are filled with rape and murder, crack addicts and corrupt authorities, and depict a world of cruelty, suffering and senseless violence. And all that is done by a minimalist approach yet resulting in an mind-boggling work of complicated structure and sophisticated composition.

Chad Hasegawa - Grizzly Bears in Majestically Executed Portrayals

Born and raised in Honolulu, Chad Hasegawa moved to San Francisco in 2000, where he started working for top advertising agencies after acquiring a degree in advertising at the Academy of Art University. After leaving the world of advertising he concentrated on creating street murals and paintings, and is widely recognized by his majestically executed portrayals of grizzly bears, the fearless and disobedient creatures that became California’s state animals. By utilizing techniques of the great expressionist artists he admires, he created a signature style of bold colors and strict outlines that create a larger picture when observed from a distance, a style that is quite unique and memorable.

  • Stencil art

Logan Hicks - Decay of the City with a Faint Glimmer of Hope

The New York based artists Logan Hicks is one of the greatest multi-faceted creatives in urban art. His repertoire encompasses stencils, photography, screen printing and curating. His signature works are photorealistic stencils that explore the dynamics of the urban environment. In combination with photography, Logan Hicks creates perfect reflections of the modern urban landscape. Hicks fuses his many talents to create a union between the dirty and gritty nature of the spray paint, showcasing the decay of the city while the muted shine of metallic paint mirrors the faint glimmer of hope and life within it. It is this symbiotic relationship with the city that fuels the work of Logan Hicks.

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