Muralists across the U.S. are making art increasingly accessible and sharing their take on politics and identity with the world. Here are six artists whose work and vision are inspiring us to rethink what art means.
Ahol Sniffs Glue
Ahol Sniffs Glue is undeniably one of the most recognizable street artists in the world. His signature eye designs are so striking, in fact, that American Eagle utilized the design without permission, resulting in a settlement with the artist. But Ahol’s art isn’t limited to eyes on walls. His animated documentary Biscayne World, about his hometown of Miami, made Vimeo’s staff picks, and he pursues a number of projects both within and outside of the traditional art world. As Ahol told Mitú, “I don’t want to portray that I am living a crazy illegal life of graffiti when I’m having art shows, making digital works, cartoons, jewelry, animations, illustrations and other random stuff.”
At just 25 years old, Levi Ponce has become one of the premier West Coast street artists. He was commissioned by The Paradise Project to create a mural of famous pantheists, including Albert Einstein and Lao Tzu. “My big thing is getting murals [people] can relate to,” Ponce told L.A.’s KCET. “I try and find these things that unite us and get them on the walls. I don’t go into a neighborhood with my ideas. It reflects the neighborhood that raised me.”
Bonus: Ponce also paints Selena murals, so our heart is basically his:
In one of her most famous pieces, “Decolonize,” Kristy Sandoval depicts a young woman freeing trapped butterflies and parrots into a field of flowers. Sandoval lives in L.A. and founded a local, all-female collective called HOODsisters, which stands for “Honoring our Origins, Ourselves and our Dreams.” HOODsisters’ murals spotlight powerful Latinas throughout history, like Toypurina, a native Californian who battled Spanish missionaries and led a revolt in 1785.
"He had got, finally, to the forrest of motives…" -Amiri Baraka (from 'A Poem For Speculative Hipsters') The wall is titled "The Speed of Dreams (No Boni)" for Ras Baraka's #modelneighborhoodinitiative for the city of Newark. A portrait of a young man having an ancestral dream where he encounters a Kokobene Luck mask from central Ghana (designed by Rita Addo Zakour) speaking to him as he is interwoven with abstracted west african textiles. Above the figure's head is a sunset of the marshland landscape that surrounds Newark, New Jersey. All this contained within what Amiri Baraka referred to as "the forrest of motives". This piece was influenced by the work and narrative of the short film "No Boni" by Newark film maker and my hermano, Dubois Ashong. For more information check out @nobonifilm and @duboisashong and keep to keep up with Mayor Ras Baraka check out @rasjbaraka The mural is located at 544 Springfield Ave. Newark, New Jersey.
Mata Ruda is an artist, activist and archivist living in Phoenix, Arizona. Using imagery from Americas North, South and Central, his art intends to honor immigrant and overlooked communities. “I love creating a sacred space out of the everyday architecture that we are so accustomed to and surrounded by on a daily basis,” Mata told mitú. “Art, especially public art, can affect society in so many ways, but what is unique and special about public art is that it is not owned by any single individual, yet at the same time is owned by everybody.”
Mata reminds us that public paintings are no passing trend. “We’ve been painting on walls since we can remember, reflecting our realities and documenting our legacies, our attempt to share something deeper is an act of love, knowing that others will see it as a form of healing.”
Born in Ecuador and raised in NYC, many consider Lady Pink the first female street artist to break into the boys club, earning her the title, The First Lady of Graffiti. “When I first started, women were still trying to prove themselves, through the ’70s, that women could do everything guys could do,” she told the Brooklyn Museum. “The feminist movement was growing very strong and as a teenager I think it affected me without me realizing that I was a young feminist. The more guys said ‘you can’t do that’ the more I had to prove them wrong.” She started out painting NYC subway trains and now has art featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum.
Rolando Adrian Avila
Rolando Adrian Avila loves naked women. So much so they can be found in most of his art dominating galleries and walls all over Miami. The Cuban-born artist often uses black, white and just one other color to portray the female form, and finds his work is right at home in Miami. “I feel like people [here] really respond to figurative work. I do these girls, and in Miami the body is something that is celebrated,” Avila told Miami’s Rise News. Avila feels lucky to have had so much opportunity. “I got money to go to California from school, that was the only way,” he added. “I feel like that’s important for an artist, to be educated. Education is everything.”
Where is your favorite piece of street art? Tell us in the comments below and don’t forget to share on Facebook and Twitter!