The Birth of a new Urban Revolution

 Around the 60s, following the death of the great Charlie Parker (12 March 1955), a number of “Graffiti” on the urban walls in Philadelphia appeared: "Bird Lives" or simply "Yardbird". These were the nicknames given to the musician (because he often listened to other jazz bands from the courtyards, outside the clubs and also because he was considered "free as a bird").

Parker was a “virtuoso” who introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas into jazz.

He was an innovator, an icon for the Beat Generation as well as a ground-breaking counter-cultures for hipsters, rappers, hip-hoppers. His death fertilized a new Revolution: Street Art was born.

This language, which later became more articulated and is now seminal, reversed art ​​fruition (no longer limited to museum or sold to wealthy collectors, or serving the market and institutions). This new form of revolutionary art could be “seen” by everyone, becoming explosive, widespread and extensive in several cities. A new Urban Art was giving voice to those who had been  “silent” or  out of the ordinary art circuits through the “scratches” of Artists, among which Jean-Michel Baquiat, Keith Hering, Cornbread, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, JR, Banksy.  They express in a powerful, intense, rebellious and concise way, concepts and human situations that are difficult to illustrate otherwise. This way showing, a contemporary counter-cultural “music of dissent”.

Cities around the World, beginning with the American ones, Philadelphia first, and New York then (from the 70s, in Washington Heights, in Uptown Manhattan), and Detroit (especially after the car industry “crash”), became centers of this widespread and permanent artistic movement, despite the war waged by some mayors.

If the City talks to its Inhabitants, these in return talk to the City by means of the Street or the Urban Art. Graffiti represent their emerging “texts”.  Sometimes even though non-authorial, they mark and re-invent places, especially in marginal or abandoned areas (when ghost industry areas appear, empty walls increase); Urban Art gives these places a new life.

Walls are no longer only borders but are “aggregating” mediums, clean "sheets" where everyone can write and rewrite, changing the image and perception of the city, which is no longer monumental or cold, but vibrant, rhythmic and vital.

Street Art has a political value, it is a "scream" which manifests a counter-power: this way persons’ “screams” conquer the fragments of urban space.

Screams that invade freed spaces, making them even more free.  Artistic actions, through "Revolutionary" acts activate "agreements" among art, people, institutional power and the City, as well as a different balance of social conflicts. A new anti-monumental cityscape is created, in which the new landmarks change places and people, becoming more accessible to everyone and more connected.

May 14, 2020 — Riccardo Nicosia

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