Daniel Feral’s diagram reassesses graffiti and street art.

Feral shows how 1960s graffiti and street art emerged from major mainstream movements, from Pop Art and the Situationists to 1940s Art Brut.

He also demonstrates how street art evolved alongside the likes of Gordon Matta-Clark and Jenny Holzer.

The terms graffiti and street art are divided into more finely grained movements, like Wildstyle and Otaku-tinged Childstyle, as well.

Infographic: Mapping The 70-Year Gestation Of Street Art

Theorist Daniel Feral rewrites art history, using the language of MoMA’s first director.

In the annals of "Fine Art History," graffiti is usually placed squarely outside of the mainstream dialogue. Usually, it’s relegated to a foggy category sometimes called Urban Art—or worse, Urban Contemporary. "Those are not terms that came from the graffiti or street communities," says writer and theorist Daniel Feral. "They may be a result of categories created by the auction houses. I usually hear the terms used when discussing sales of art."

Click to enlarge.

Feral is the creator of the eponymous Feral Diagram, a map that revises the role of graffiti and street art in the canon of modern art. From Feral’s perspective, graffiti and street art have been critical drivers of the art world for well nigh 40 years now. Framing them as "outsider art" is not only lazy, but incorrect. As an alternative, Feral has literally redrawn art history, showing how 1960s graffiti and street art emerged from major mainstream movements, from Pop Art and the Situationists to 1940s Art Brut. By way of looping arrows and signs, he also demonstrates how street art evolved, conceptually, alongside the likes of Gordon Matta-Clark and Jenny Holzer. And thankfully, Feral also parses out the boilerplate-in-their-own-right terms, "graffiti and street art," into specific groups and movements, like Wildstyle and Otaku-tinged Childstyle.

What’s clever about the Feral Diagram is that it utilizes the visual language of another very famous diagram, created by the first director of MoMA, Alfred H. Barr, in 1935. In his visualization, Barr used looping black arrows and Futura type to explain how Cubism and Abstract Art evolved from a mixture of high art and pop culture influences, ranging from Japanese prints to the Neo-Impressionists. "I wanted to honor Barr’s intellectual brilliance," Feral writes. "By utilizing his visual language to tell a story other than that sanctioned by the Fine Art establishment, it made me feel like I was subverting the system too. It made me feel like I was doing what my friends were doing: reclaiming public space."

MoMA director Alfred H. Barr’s 1935 original.

A special edition of Feral’s diagram was released this week in support of a new film and book, Futurism 2.0, documenting an emerging school of street artists known as Graffuturism, which began a few years ago as a secret Facebook group and has blossomed into a full-fledged movement. Now, Feral explains, it deserves its own mention on the diagram. A gallery show of Graffuturist art opened at London’s Blackhall Studios on September 28th.

You can buy a poster of the diagram here.

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4 Comments

  • Aaron Noble

    This seems very NY-centric. I was involved with the San Francisco scene in the 90's, sometimes called "Mission School" which produced original and influential work by TWIST, KR, META, Chris Johansen and many others. Likewise, though I'm less knowledgeable about it, it seems obvious to me that Os Gemeos and others were making Brazil a major center of invention in the nineties, so that's at least two distinct regional movements that are more important than "graffuturism," for example.

  • Alan Gunn

    Would anyone like to put the two fine infographics on a web page with links from each school or style to a gallery of example images?

  • Karl Mochel

    Not a graffiti historian...so...where does Banksy fit in. Seems like his work has a political bent during a time period that isn't represented.