street art or art in the street can denominate quite different things. I thought to write a bit about this topic after reading that one of the creators of the "Obama visual myth" was arrested recently for tagging...and this is not surprising. A rather recent form of art, street art (including graffiti and the youngest, the stencil) has been recognized as such (as a form of art) by the consecration of its anonymous artists as mainstream artists. Shepard Fairey is one of these artists that gained world fame by making the red and blue Obama poster. He is also a street artist dedicated to the futile passing signs along with some of his most famous colleagues such as Banksy (frescoes and stencils) and the Poster Boy (rather close to French New Realism). Yet street art even though appreciated as a form of art remains in the same time assimilated to vandalism and thus, a nowadays artist who communicates through everyday signs which he intervenes is still considered a vandal and risks prison... Controversy, the indispensable artistic ingredient, passes no more through the exhibition and declamation of long hidden taboos but through colored or simple lines drawn i/on the street there where everyone can “participate”. As participation is a verb that characterizes this new form of art: it nurtures itself on the passersby. Street Art is of course at a certain level continuing the anti-institutional artistic discourse that most link back to Duchamp’s gesture. Democracy also punishes art in this way. If the Chilean Muralists of the 1970s were punished by the Pinochet regime for their colored drawings politically driven so is Fairey; in his case not by the implications of his artistic gesture but for the gesture itself: one does not draw on the walls.
For what happened to Shephard Fairey check this out