Work by C125 in Brooklyn, New York, image: Danysz gallery
As with any developing movement, there is debate about the simple fact of naming it, of reducing it to a single word. Graffiti, stencil art, street art, ... How to define the most important artistic movement of the beginning of this century?
风格涂写 / Style Writing
In the beginning, there were tags. Soon enough, some taggers started putting some style into their letters, and among those some showed an undeniable, yet often unconscious, artistic talent. Those putting this type of effort in their lettering became known as style writers.
—— PHASE 2
These are the facts... First of all it's not even called graffiti, it’s writing. Graffiti is some social term that was developed (for the culture) somewhere in the 70s. (…) Undoubtedly, from the very beginning and quite officially, writers referred to themselves as "writers" and what they did as "writing", for the simple fact that this is what they did.
—— PHASE 2
Works by PHASE 2 on NY subway
地铁艺术 / Subway Art
这种艺术现象以其非常特殊且独特的方式出现在地铁中。因此，一些人以它诞生的地点命名也就不足为奇了。然而，这些艺术家在深感压抑时，会转而在墙壁上创作；在他们觉得想要在画布上表达创作欲望时，也会转而在室内创作，比如艺术家工作室。地铁服务了很多人，但不是每位艺术家。对一些人来说，地铁是渠道也是目的，而另一些人则在别处找到了灵感。作为这场运动的见证，亨利·查尔凡特（Henry Chalfant）和玛莎·库珀（Martha Cooper）于1984年出版了《地铁艺术》（Subway Art）一书，此书仍然留在大家的脑海中。
The phenomenon started in its very particular and unique way, in the subway. It comes as no surprise that some named it after the place it was born from. Yet the very same artists switched to walls, when repression was getting too strong, and even to interior locations, such as artist studios when they felt the urge to express themselves on canvas, for instance. The subway served many, yet not every artist. While it came as the means and the end to some, others found inspiration elsewhere. The Subway Art book by Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper, published in 1984, remains in the collective mind as a testimony to what this movement has to offer.
JonOne's painting on subway, image: Danysz gallery
气溶胶艺术/气雾罐艺术 Aerosol Art/Spray Can Art
An easy distinction between the Movement and any other art form is its use of aerosol paint, hence the labeling according to the tool and technique. But soon enough, artists expanded their horizons and the term turned obsolete as they experimented, invented new concepts and techniques or even used traditional brushes to get the desired pictorial effects.
“再次澄清我们的主题的总范围是‘涂写’（签名、大幅墙绘 — 难懂的、复杂的或其他风格的字体和快速涂鸦）。气溶胶喷漆显然是字母喷漆的衍生物；但其发展和演变影响重大，超过了字母喷漆的有限区间。气雾罐的使用者无疑是文化的一个组成部分，他们必须得到承认。在涂写之外，文化已经自我扩展，现在由与之相关的其他形式组成，并从其原来的形式（涂写）中移除，这一点也必须得到承认。”
—— PHASE 2
Let us again clarify the total spectrum of our subject matter, "Writing" (signatures, pieces — complex, intricate and other style lettering and throw ups). Apparently aerosol writing is a derivative of the alphabet; but the instance of its evolution and transformation weighed in its entirety, exceeding the limited curriculum of the alphabet. Undoubtedly the user of the aerosol can is an integral part of the culture that must also be recognized. Outside of writing the culture has extended itself and now consists of other forms connected to, as well as removed from its original format (writing) and this too must be recognized.
—— PHASE 2
涂鸦 / Graffiti
Graffiti was the first attempt to label the movement in its entirety, aiming to embrace it beyond just a technique or a location. It is an accepted term for all artists who started creating murals or subway art based on letters, whether using aerosol or not. But because some artists eventually steered away from the traditional letters and walls, the label became somewhat reductive.
CRASH mural project, image: Danysz gallery
城市艺术 / Urban Art
Used for a while to embrace the variety of techniques and forms rising from Graffiti, "Urban Art" was a term meant to be large enough to describe all of the art originating in and from the streets, from stencil to stickers via writing. Yet not everyone uses this term, probably because it seems too large and because it embraces ways of working that are independent of the movement we are analyzing here. Mexican murals or architecture could be for instance considered as urban art yet they are only cousins of the Street Art movement.
Jef Aérosol's mural work in New York, image: Danysz gallery
街头艺术 / Street Art
Street Art and Urban Art are the most commonly used labels for the contemporary movement originated from writing, also often called Graffiti. Yet the term "Street Art" tends to actually incorporate more forms, techniques and forms of expression than the original words used to. The term "Street Art" covers, today, numerous forms of art carried out in the street or in public spaces, and includes various methods such as graffiti, stencils, stickers, posters, lighting installations, mosaics, etc.
VHILS' mural project in Shanghai, image: Danysz gallery