The World Atlas of Street Art Graffiti

Yale University Press (September 3, 2013)

ISBN-13: 978-0300199420

Plot Summary

This beautiful book is a global walking tour through the streets of many of the biggest cities in the world and brings the amazing works of contemporary graffiti and street artists to light in a way new and vivid way. Arranged geographically, this book takes readers on a journey to places they may be familiar with and shows the beauty and art there that they may have simply walked past before. Incorporating both familiar and foreign artistic forms, this book illustrates the world we pass through daily in ways that many of us never consider.

Compiled by Rafael Schacter, works from 113 artists from 25 different countries are displayed in this large and formidable book of art (it weighs in at a hefty 4 pounds)! By tackling street art, Schacter has assembled a collection that is representative of graffiti artists creating works on today’s streets in dark shadows and brought them into the light. By identifying artists and their locations, such as Swoon who paints walls in North America (and hints at Klimt), Interesni Kazki who uses the sides of large buildings in Kiev (a little like Magritte with brighter colors), and Eltono from Madrid who uses geometric shapes to show random play in both simple contrasting colored paint and in a style similar to pointillism. There is art from places you expect to see: London, Paris, New York City. But also Beijing, Rio de Janiero, and Buenos Aires.

Street art and graffiti can be very beautiful and elegant; it can also be political, cultural or just plain shocking. In a genre of art not seen as mainstream, street and urban art is so much more than youth with spray paint cans or chalk in a backpack creating masterpieces in the dark of night. These often edgy artistic expressions on billboards, buildings, and train cars challenge us all to consider the definition of art.

Critical Evaluation

The appeal of this book is very strong. It is visually engaging and because so much of the art depicted in it is gritty and candid, the details in the photographs are consuming. Teens gravitate to it and are attracted to it for the art but also because of the subject: something illegal, frowned on by the “art establishment” has been showcased in a beautiful way and presented as art with value and relevance. The photography and choices of locations for this book are well-thought out and provide a real global perspective on art form. These “independent public” artists’ works are surprising and moving, sometimes confusing, sometimes simple and direct.

Reader’s Annotation

Vandalism or a work of art? With The World Atlas of Street Art Graffiti by Rafael Schacter you will have to be the judge. Art in our streets is nothing new but when you see the moving and vivid works on display you see immediately that many are worth more than a passing glance.

Information about the Author

Dr. Rafael Schacter is an anthropologist, curator, and author from London. He is currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow and he has conducted his research on graffiti and street-art for almost ten years. He earned a PhD in Anthropology at University College London in 2011.

Content Area: Art – Urban Art; Graffiti

Booktalk Ideas:

Open up discussion of definition of art and the difference between graffiti and a mural.

Create a student graffiti art project or literacy night to allow them to express their views or vision (using chalk instead of paint).

Use maps to identify the characteristics of the “atlas” journey of street art in the book and identify other locations where graffiti might be easy to find. Talk about why.

Genre: Nonfiction: Art

Awards: None known

Text Measures/Reading Level:

Quantitative: No Lexile Level or ATOS available.

Qualitative: Middle to Upper Grades (8-12) The language is suitable for middle grade students. The content and some art depicted in this book may not be appropriate for younger students as it contains some content that is sexual or violent in nature. With guidance, this book could be used as a reference item for students in grades 6-7 also.

Challenge/Defense: Some of the artwork depicted in this large volume are graphic in nature or express political views. Some images may evoke an emotional reaction or alarm some parents. This book is a valuable trove of cultural perspectives and artistic expressions, and when considered in the context of its contributions to understanding our global humanity and anthropological expressions, the value of the collected work is difficult to dispute.

Additional/Digital Resources:

Why This Book?

I feel this book is important because it is depicts art that is imperfect and often messy and undervalued. Many of the images are in locations that are obscure or easily overlooked. Often the works go unnoticed by passersby and are invisible to most of us – like many of the artists who created them. I think that teens can identify with that feeling of invisibility and with the rebellious nature of vandalism as art.



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