India Street Art

Street art in India is very different from the its relatives in the US. During my recent trip through the sub-continent I saw lots of murals especially in the city of Varanasi. Some were new and fresh while others were quite old and showed years worth of wear and tear.

The more I saw, the larger my questions grew about the lineage of the imagery. Some of the more recent works seemed to have been influenced by contemporary American artists like Shepard Fairey. (Someone please direct me to some reading on the interface between post-modernism and non western art.) However Fairey, like many American and European street artists employing the notion of “mash-up culture”, borrow heavily from many sources, including ancient religious art, especially Hindu works.

Radiating lines emanating from the subject’s head, vivid colors,  geometric shapes, animal imagery, halos and incorporated text all have strong roots in Hindu art and (by far) pre-date contemporary street art, and yet I still don’t think all of the imagery I saw in India was directly decedent from their ancient religious work. It seemed as if some of it had passed through a cultural (western) filter and came out on the other end slightly modified.

So, for any art history geeks out there I ask, is it fair to say that traditional Hindu art had a large influence on western street art, but through globalism, that western street art has come back around to influence the artists working in India today?

-Stay Tuned

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