Like many other things in this world, the internet has been great to street art. Between Google’s street art maps to sites dedicated to artists working around the globe, the internet has allowed artists and art enthusiasts to connect and build things together. It’s given a voice to people who would otherwise have none, and let many artists who would’ve been literally painted over and jettisoned into obscurity reach heights of fame and success that a pre-internet age would have never allowed. And that has been great not only for those artists, but for the people who cherish and value the work these artists do.
But perhaps even more significantly, the internet has also generated an entirely new group of people, individuals who are dedicated to not only the dissemination of hot and up-and-coming artists, but to the discussion and elevation of what street art is, can be, and represents to various groups of people. The explosion of critical work, interviews, and hype has helped the discussion around street art grow and grow. And one of the hottest places online that’s doing this is Animal.
Founded in 2003 by Bucky Turco, Animal is an online magazine that showcases street art projects around the world, from the twisting streets of Rio de Janeiro to the mega-metropolises of the United States. Turco founded the magazine on a simple premise: that street art is a legitimate form of artistic expression and people should be able to engage, write about, and think critically of street art in the same ways people think and write about other kinds of more “legitimate” art.
Animal has been responsible for making and breaking many the career of street artists and, in some cases, elevating art by mystery artists who have done amazing things in cities all over. Artists like New York’s COST, TRAP, Plasma Slugs, HAELER, and SABIO owe at least part of their popularity and name recognition to the site, and Animal’s continual engagement with these artists has let them showcase their evolution and changes. It’s been good to artists, but it’s also been so much more.
Animal has also been a place to engage with other issues through the lens of graffiti and artists, searching for meaning and hope in political and world events by looking at what people have scrawled on the walls in response. They looked at Egypt’s most recent unrest through this lens, and even thought about Occupy Wall Street through the many artists that performed and made pieces that opposed and protested the problems with America’s current economic crises. Through it all, Animal has used street art to show that things are connected, and the world’s events and people can find meaning by looking at how artists react on the streets.
Animal’s work is an example of street art criticism and engagement that’s only possible through the internet. It proves that graffiti is important, and that we can use it to think about the world around us in new and exciting ways. And that, in itself, is exciting indeed.