Armory Teaching Artist Sergio Hernandez is our resident expert on all things street art — murals, lettering, slap boards, stencils, and more. An accomplished artist and designer, Sergio teaches some of our most popular teen classes, including aerosol art and screen printing. We asked Sergio to share his favorite street artists of all time. From late '60s innovators to contemporary artists who walk the line between graffiti and fine art, this is a super informative survey of how an underground movement found its way into the museums. Be sure to check out Sergio's website for his line of custom apparel and must-have street art supplies. Be sure to also follow Sergio on Instagram at @ZombieMovement. Speaking of Instagram, click the artists' names below to visit their Instagrams, too.
Above: Armory Teaching Artist Sergio Hernandez (center) instructing a water-based aerosol mural class.
"You may know him by his government name, a common name in the contemporary art world. But in the early 90s the name “Barry McGee” would have meant nothing to me. In a pre-internet world, I grew up spending my money on graffiti magazines. Magazines filled with graffiti and street art that I would devour. It was in the pages of those magazines I found “Twist” his tag was clean and crisp and beautiful. His characters were strange, simple and yet so complex and full of life. The things he could do with a marker, or a couple of cheap spray cans was inspiring. He often went around painting screws. I’ve never seen a screw look so good. He remains a San Francisco legend. He’s dropping 90’s gems on his Instagram right now. I highly suggest checking it out. Also see the New Yorker article about his ghost love triangle."
"In 1983 the documentary Style Wars brought New York Subway graffiti to the whole world. It inspired millions of young people to do graffiti, and explore other aspects of Hip Hop. It was in this documentary where I first saw the work and life of Skeme. Skeme was just a teenager at the time. He was painting trains at 2 or 3 in the morning. In the documentary he is interviewed along with his mother... lets just say they didn’t see eye to eye. This interview has become an important part of graffiti history, and his mother, rest her soul, has become somewhat of an icon. If you ever get a chance to watch it, the line 'you do doodle' has stayed with me for life."
"Another San Francisco graffiti legend is Mike Giant. He came to fame around the same time as Twist. He is a master at lettering and creating very round and bulbous characters (and a lot of tongues sticking out). His graffiti was always clean and fresh. I often admired his color schemes, and was floored when I read in an interview that he was colorblind. These days his work has taken a different direction with more tattoo-inspired line work with ultra-fine line sharpies (my fave). "
"Retna is the bad boy of the art world. You can maybe own one of his paintings for several thousand dollars, but you might also just catch him intoxicated, kicking it on Skid Row, catching tags in DTLA, or cursing out some famous actor. His style is all is his own, some of it influenced by his mentor Chaz Bojorquez. His style looks archaic, and yet modern. You can almost read it, but not quite. It is a calligraphy style so distinct that many try to copy it but few succeed. It’s a style that screams Los Angeles. And quite honestly it’s a pleasure to look at."
Osgemeos (the twins)
"A pair of twins from Sao Paulo. They took to the streets early in life, first as break dancers and then as graffiti writers and street artists. They used small rollers and spray paint to paint distinct looking yellow characters throughout the city. Their knowledge of hiphop and graffiti outside of Brazil was very limited. A random encounter with Twist in Brazil opened up their world. Today you can catch their work in Galleries all around their world. It brings me great joy to travel to different countries and see huge buildings adorned with their beautiful murals."
"Miss Van also known as Vanessa Alice Bensimon is a French artist from Toulouse. Miss Van brought a much needed femininity and elegance to the culture. She painted in the streets to rebel against the traditional art world. She used brushes, acrylics and spray paint to create female characters that she called dolls. Miss Van inspired many female artists to take to the streets. A Miss Van painting is unmistakable, her work speaks volumes and is an integral part of street culture. "
"I’m taking it back to 1969! Way before any of this fancy colorful wild-style, way before I was born, way before graffiti specific markers and paints existed, there was just this Greek kid in New York with a black felt tip marker writing his graffiti name and the street he lived on. He was a cautious kid, he would cut holes in his pockets and stick the marker through the hole so he could write on things undetected. He was a delivery boy and used the packages to cover his hands while writing. The kid was slick. When graffiti became a worldwide sensation, he didn’t care. He was done with Graffiti, moved on, had a family and has worked on Volvos ever since. Cool dude. Check him out in Roger Gastman’s recent documentary Wall Writers: Graffiti in Its Innocence"
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