Marginalized at first, street art and graffiti first appeared on the American subway in the 1970s before reaching Europe in the 1980s alongside hip hop music. With the rise of the 21st century, street art and graffiti have taken the world by storm quickly evolving into a popular and desirable art movement. What started as a subversive and radical act of creative vandalism is now popularized and adorned in galleries and museums worldwide.
Street art came a long way since the first train graffiti. Through a range of innovative practices of street artists working today, the form is constantly evolving. In this article, we are tipping our hat to this new generation of artists, each of whom has developed a style like no other, instantly recognizable anywhere in the world. These individuals are masters of their own game, whether on the streets or in their studios, and their art is theirs alone, made for us to admire and enjoy.
Stay tuned as we update this article with even more names!
Featured image: Millo in Aveiro, via jaime.silva.
A Lisbon-born artist, Bordalo II is best known for his unique works in mixed media, created from garbage. Using various discarded objects, such as plastics, old tires, appliances, aluminum cans, and imperishable objects, he creates installations that depict animals that are possibly perishing to the effects of such waste existing in their natural habitat.
Impressive and vibrant, the artist's sculptures and reliefs are supposed to encouraging viewers to consider the true nature of humanity and other forms of life which are directly affected by our systemic waste production.
Featured image: Bordalo II in Lisbon, via jaime.silva.
Another artist from Portugal, Vhils is best known for his dramatic, oversized portraits carved directly into outdoor walls. This carving technique has been hailed as one of the most compelling approaches to art created on the streets in the last decade.
Penetrating the layers of urban surfaces, he creates poetic, complex and ambitious works that resonate with the human experience of living in a contemporary megalopolis. This striking visual poetry is an ongoing reflection on identity and everyday life in contemporary urban societies.
Featured image: Vhils in Beja, 2017, via Wikipedia.
A stencil artist and urban interventionist from Brussels, Belgium, Jaune bases his work on the paradox between the visible and the invisible. The main protagonists of his works are the sanitation workers wearing fluorescent vests placed in a range of humorous scenes.
After realizing these garbagemen exists in the background of our urban environment, becoming almost invisible to the average person, he decided to symbolically place them in absurd and whimsical scenarios in and around the city streets. Recognizable, funny and intriguing, his pieces give a viewer a second thought about these hard workers in general.
Featured image: Jaune in Oostende, via Ferdinand Feys.
The French artist Mademoiselle Maurice is best known for her colorful origami reminiscent of nature and man’s connection with it. Using a range of materials, such as recycled paper, lace, embroidery, or other mixed media, she creates mural-like installations that cover various locations throughout the world.
Through her practice, the artist has been offering a reflection not just on the relationship of humanity with the natural environment but on the sour relationships between groups of people as well. Mademoiselle Maurice's colorful and imaginative works seek to send a message of peace, harmony, and tolerance while splintering the grayness of the urban environment.
Featured image: Centre Psychothérapique de l'Ain transformed by Mademoiselle Maurice, via Wikipedia
One of the most praised calligraphers today, Retna invented a distinctive constructed script which he incorporates, in one way or another, in all of his paintings and murals.
Combining visual linguistics, urban poetics, and appropriated fashion imagery, he managed to transform the usual graffiti style into something that people who appreciate street art are not familiar with. Using an eclectic range of media and complex layering, he creates intricate composition resembles striking and fascinating hieroglyphs.
Featured image: RETNA in Miami, Wynwood, via Wally Gobetz.
An anonymous street artist, (Space) Invader puts up iconic installations in cities around the world based on popular 8-bit video games from the 1970s and 80s. These characters are presented in the form of mosaics, with each pixel being represented with a tile. Placing his works across the streets of the cities all around the world, he refers to these postings as “invasions”.
The artist takes imagery from popular culture and translates it into chunky, retro graphics, using tiles and cement. He explained that going into a city and invading it with his art is the most addictive game he has ever played.
Featured image: Invader in Paris, via biphop.
The Italian street artist Millo created a world populated by friendly inhabitants exploring their urban setting. Through his consistently simple, monochromatic style matched with bits of color, he attempts to portrait the purest part of humans, enjoyment and play.
Emotional and poetic, Millo's art deals with the fragility of human existence and the importance of each individual’s personal growth, especially in the context of their urban and social environment. Constantly investigating our surroundings and the world and time we live in, he creates works which act as portals into the human mind and heart.
Featured image: Millo in Milan, via Irene Grassi.
An icon of the contemporary art scene, the American artist Shepard Fairey has always been speaking his mind through his art. Emerging from the skateboarding scene, he has been inspiring generations of artists with his thought-provoking and often controversial pieces.
Profoundly committed to democracy and freedom of speech, Fairey creates art that is distinctly political, frequently supporting social causes and opposing corporate influences. He is most famous for his Obey Giant series and following Obey posters, as well as the HOPE campaign for Barack Obama.
Featured image: Shepard Fairey in Berlin, via Wikimedia Commons.
The British artist Stik is known for pieces depicting simple stick figures, wordlessly telling the story of his community. Meant to convey feelings of insecurity in an urban setting, the artist draws from his own experience of homelessness as a young man.
Seemingly simple and echoing the nave drawings of children the world over, Stik's stick people are subtly expressive. He has explained his pieces are about moving through the cityscape and feeling insecure, often imbued with melancholy.
Featured image: Stik in London, via aesthetics of crisis.
A Hamburg-based contemporary artist, 1010 is celebrated for his obscure street pieces underlined by amazing effects of optical illusion. Seemingly three-dimensional, these pieces trick the viewers into believing there is an actual hole before them.
1010 created urban confusions on walls that appear as portals to other dimensions. Colorful and alluring, these painted holes transcend reality and invite to discover new artistic dimensions, while breaking open the grey reality of urban concrete.
Featured image: 1010 in Mannheim, via Wikimedia Commons.
Through his intervention art project titled ±MaisMenos±, the Portuguese artist Miguel Januário offers a critical reflection on the model of political, social and economic organization that manages contemporary urban societies. Holding a mirror to the lucidity of our dysfunctions, he makes them readable, but also highlights the possibility of our emancipation from them. Through his clinical dissection of reality, he conceptually reduced it to its opposites - more/less, positive/negative, black/white. Seemingly simple and text-based, his thought-provoking and cutting-edge work delivers powerful messages that engage the public in contemplating our reality.
Featured image: Mais Menos Artwork, via vanessa lollipop.
The French artist L'Atlas is best known for his explorations of calligraphy and geometry that became main aspects of his art. All about lines and forms, his work is a combination of influences, ranging from Ancient Greek and Arabic calligraphy to modern tags. In his hypnotic works, there is always the dichotomy between black and white, making his graphic esthetic instantly identifiable. His original typography combines the optical, abstract, minimalist and geometric art movements with his research on writing and calligraphy. With his unique practice, he has successfully inscribed street art into the history of art.
Featured image: L'Atlas at Centre Pompidou, via YouTube.
An Argentinian-born artist, Felipe Pantone is best known for work characterized by the use of bold colors, geometrical patterns and Op Art elements. His ultra-modern aesthetic fuses bold elements of graphic design with highly evolved geometric shapes, straddling conventional graffiti, typography and abstraction. Evoking a spirit that feels like a collision between an analog past and a digitized future, his work deals with dynamism, transformation, digital revolution, and themes related to the present times. The repetition of contrasting color in his work give the impression of movement.
Featured image: Felipe Pantone, Mural Festival, Montreal, via Wikipedia.
A Parisian born artist, Ludo connects the world of plants and animals with our technological universe and “quest for modernism”. His order of biotechnological beings that merge with plants and animals are drawn with the precision of botanical illustrations. Executed in three primary colors – black, white and his trademark fluorescent green, these works draw attention to the influence that man-made machines have on our environment.
Featured image: Ludo, Paris, via Ferdinand Feys.
One of the best known Spanish street artists, Okuda San Miguel is known for his unique iconographic language of multicolored geometric structures and patterns. In these vibrant works, rainbow geometric architectures blends with organic shapes, bodies without identity, headless animals and symbols. Using distinctive qualities and contrasts, he deals with complex subjects such as existentialism, the universe, the infinite, the meaning of life, the false freedom of capitalism. He also produces work on canvas, incorporating elements of embroidery and collage, as well as sculpture, photography and video.
Featured image: Okuda San Miguel in Subiaco, via Bryce Walker.
An alias of a Belgian street artist, Roa is renowned for his monumental black and white paintings of wildlife. Ranging from rabbits, birds, rats, fish and other animals, his depictions often combine life, death, and life after death, directly reflecting Roa’s pessimistic opinions of society. His animals are painted to include skeleton and internal organs, making the sight even more realistic. As he explains himself, organs are the vital substances of our body, representing a lot of the symbolism.
Featured image: ROA in Berlin, via Wikipedia.
Another Belgian street artist, Dzia is best known for his animal murals composed of bold abstract and geometric lines. He handles the idea of the bestiary with delicacy and poetry, achieving balance with simple and abstract pictorial artifices. The artist works across a variety of media that ranges from stencils, painting, sculpture and taxidermy through to street art and graffiti, typically depicting wild animals. His unique style creates a mosaic of colors following the contours of the animal’s form, while the tonal shading within each defined area adds a sense of volume to the well-defined figures.
Featured image: Dzia in Belgium, via Ferdinand Feys.
One of the most famous stencil artists in the world, C215 is primarily known for his portraiture, as he believes that faces have a universal message that everybody will understand and be moved by. Ranging from local people and children to celebrities, all of his subjects are depicted as proud and dignified. Communicating on a universal level, his works draw attention to those that society has forgotten about. His unique moniker is derived from a prison cell in which he was once locked away.
Featured image: C215 in Paris, via flyintiger.
A German street artist, Evol employs multi-layered stencil techniques to transform electric enclosures, concrete planters and other familiar elements of the modern city into unique pieces of art, aiming to depict the urban lives of ordinary people. Turning East Berlin city fixtures into miniature apartment buildings and many other structures, he miniaturizes the low-income apartment buildings of the Post-Soviet-Bloc that remain iconic monuments of the Iron Curtain’s socialist failings. Through his practice, the artist seeks to inject poignant meaning into otherwise lifeless slabs of concrete and stone.
Featured image: Evol in Stavanger, via Ferdinand Feys.
A Polish contemporary artist, NeSpoon is on a mission to embroider the world. She is known for her unique brand of lace art could be found everywhere from Poland, Italy, Netherlands, Ireland and France to Russia, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand. She beautifies abandoned and unadorned spaces in unlikely urban jungles wit intricate dolly patterns, managing to take this humble domestic craft to new heights. Her beautiful works provide often harsh cityscapes with a new softness. By choosing an art form associated with women, she celebrates its femininity and harmony it creates
Featured image: NeSpoon, Belorado, Spain, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.