The Evolution of Stencil Art
Using public streets as a vehicle for dialogue is a tradition as old as cities themselves. I remember in Latin class translating scribbles on the wall they found in Pompeii. While many a city council and neighborhood community group has hemmed and hawed how graffiti leads to a decline in quality of life, I’m certainly of the opinion that street art is an essential component of any city (note: I don’t own any property, so maybe this is easy for me to say). While at its worst, graffiti is about vandalism and petty territorial divides, when it’s good, it’s humorous and clever takes on urban life. The best results are stunning, and can have a profound way of challenging us, jarring our everyday existence, and making us rethinking our place in the world.
The New York Times (login required) recently had an interesting take on how online forums are affecting street art:
Graffiti in its traditional form, involving aerosol cans of spray paint and an inviting flat surface, still dominates on the streets. But online things are evolving quickly. Techniques are debated in forums, and photos of tags, or signatures, are constantly uploaded and swapped on popular photo-sharing Web sites like flickr.com. Sites like Wooster Collective function as digital galleries and as clearinghouses for street art on an international level.
Now New York has its own center for the study of graffiti technology. The nascent Graffiti Research Lab is masterminded by two tech-minded artists, Evan Roth and James Powderly, and run from the Eyebeam gallery, a nonprofit arts and technology center where both men are fellows.
The purpose of the project is to rethink how people make and look at graffiti and street art, not by making the stuff but by developing tools that graffiti writers could potentially use.
“As more and more people learn to program at a younger age, and computers get cheaper, graffiti is eventually going to have these technological elements as a part of it,” Roth said.
“There’s a strong crackdown, and gentrification changes the streets,” said Marc Schiller, the founder of Wooster Collective. “But it’s a great time to be creative in general. Creativity is so accessible now. On the street and off, on the Web, the barriers to being creative have never been lower.”
These beautiful images are all from the Flickr Stencil group.
Update: Many of these images are by the British street artist Bansky