7 Things You Need to Know: Street Art

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1. Rooted in Romance

Street Art in the contemporary sense is traced to 1960s Philadelphia when enamored teenager Daryl “Cornbread” McCray began tagging “Cornbread loves Cynthia” on buildings and walls throughout the city in an attempt to woo the object of his affection. As his fame as a vandal grew to disproportionate heights, McCray engaged in a number of increasingly public stunts, going so far as to tag the Jackson 5’s plane while they were on tour in the city. In a few short years, Cornbread singlehandedly reframed graffiti as a mode of individual expression rather than a marker of gang affiliation.

2. Runaway Trains and Dizzying Heights

During the early 1970s, graffiti art exploded across New York City with artists showcasing their daring by tagging both prominent intersections and inaccessible locations from watertowers to bridges as well as the city’s many subway trains. Certain destinations became legendary. 5 Pointz, a cluster of factory buildings in Long Island City, Queens, became a well-known hotspot for graffiti murals until its demolition in 2013, while the lower Manhattan street corner of Houston Street and Bowery has been home to murals by giants of Street Art including Keith Haring, Os Gêmeos, Swoon, JR and most recently Banksy, whose “Free Zehra Doğan” mural appeared at the location on 15 March.

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