11 Guerrilla Street Art Greats

I’m a guerrilla geographer and an urban explorer. When I travel, I always keep my eyes peeled for unusual and unexpected works of art — work that creatively subverts culture, rules, and politics and forces us to see “places” in a new way.

An example of Slinkachu’s work in Antwerp, Belgium (Photograph by Jurjen van Enter, Flickr)

The work of guerrilla artists can be seen around the world. As I travel through cities, I have mixed feelings about the street art and graffiti I experience.

For me, the location, quality, and purpose of the work all have to come together beautifully if any collateral damage is to be “excused,” but I also accept and respect the truly subjective nature of guerrilla art: that it means different things to different people.

As a guerrilla geographer, I’m always on the look out for how artists use geography to make their point (if they have one).

Banksy popped up in New Orleans to comment on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (Photograph by Infrogmation, Flickr)

Tagging is mostly a physical mapping out of presence and territory. It’s about occupying a space to turn it into a place that has meaning to the tagger. Anyone who has walked the streets of a city or ridden a train through one has enjoyed, endured, and perhaps even recognized these symbolic marks.

But more complex (and often more accepted) street artists will intentionally disrupt geographies to communicate directly with their “audience.”

Their message may be playful and amusing, beautiful and amazing, or — what interests me most — political and refractory. It’s in my nature to enjoy art that amplifies a point of view, allowing it to be “heard” above the din of a loud and busy city.

Here are 11 of my favorite (well-known) street artists at work around the world. In an effort to avoid ranking them like some kind of Olympic event, I’ve listed them alphabetically:

Banksy (UK)
Darius and Downey (USA)
Evoltaste (Germany)
Haas & Hahn (The Netherlands)
Invader (France)
JR (France)
Know Hope (Israel)
Mentalgassi Collective (Germany)
Ricky Lee Gordon (South Africa)
Roadsworth (Canada)
Slinkachu (UK)

Daniel Raven-Ellison is a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who advocates for “guerrilla geography”–geography that challenges us to see places, people, and the world in more meaningful and surprising ways. Follow his story on Twitter @DanRavenEllison.

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Comments

  1. Charlie Richards
    Berlin
    December 14, 2012, 3:08 am

    I’ve got to be honest this article i think is completely off the point. I can understand whats trying to be said but, its very shallow with little evidence of research around the semantics of the street. Your belief on the purpose of tags is pretty off point, and theres no reference at all to why street art went in one direction and graf went the other, or where they both meet. And whilst though it is personal opinions how do street art legends like Blek Le Rat, Shepherd Fairey, Faile, Stephen Powers, Barry Mcgee, Swoon to name but a few (who all have/had strong roots in graf culture and tagging, and most importantly stickers and slaps) get missed? Does a well placed tag not warrant audience interaction as well? This article almost suggests that certain types of street art are the most accessible which is just not true, and if anything defeats the purpose of whole roots of the movement of working on trains, walls, freights, etc that of sharing work for a non art savvy audience; just making work for people who don’t quite know whats hip and happening in the art world; “blue collar worker” art if you will. I think a more in depth approach needs to be taken on this; good places to start are The Faith of Graffitti, The Art of Getting Over and New York Transit Art as a base. You can’t seperate the two, its just Impossible!

  2. Christian Rene Friborg
    Germany
    November 27, 2012, 11:59 pm

    Hmm, the images don’t really pack a “wow” power, but it’s nice enough.

  3. Paula
    Sydney
    September 25, 2012, 10:15 pm

    I loved the street art by Ernest Zacharevic – a Lithuania-born artist who is responsible for half a dozen or more great pieces in George Town, Penang.

    Some pieces incorporate props – a motorbike, a bicycle and a chair for example

    http://www.penang-traveltips.com/ernest-zacharevic-george-town-murals.htm

  4. brennan
    new york
    September 25, 2012, 2:23 pm

    this is a great thing to happen to the word

  5. Nikole Fairview - ExploringLifesMysteries.Com
    Washington, DC
    September 23, 2012, 9:04 pm

    I hate to say it, but there is just so much good graffiti out there. I mean, there is some stuff that is not artistic at all, mainly tagging and things like that and I get that, but there is some truly beautiful stuff. It’s a shame that it is destructive to the property owners though sometimes.

  6. Jesse
    BaliVillaHolidays.com
    September 21, 2012, 1:38 am

    Since I find those wall art illustrations too mainstream, Slinkachu’s work is quite intriguing concept for a street art.