- Drawing the line between crime and art
- Graffiti, the Purest form of Art
- What is Street art? Vandalism, Graffiti or Public art
- The Culture and Politics of Graffiti
Most people would be hesitant to call graffiti an art, because the current law treats anything painted on a wall or any surface, without the owner’s consent, as a form of vandalism. Nonetheless, while some people view graffiti as vandalism, members of the art community view it as an art of strange beauty on doors and walls scarred by spray paint and markers. In fact, some graffiti enthusiasts and curators, from different parts of the world, have devoted their efforts in exhibitions aimed at promoting graffiti as one of the purest forms of art. This is major source of encouragement to most of the students who take majors in Arts because exhibiting graffiti provides a platform that they can use to showcase their artistic prowess beyond the usual drawing and painting. Based on the numerous sources reviewed, it becomes apparent that people will view graffiti painted on the walls and streets as a form of vandalism, but they acknowledge it as one of the best form of art if they see it exhibited in a gallery.
Inspired by the article At the wall: Graffiti writers, urban territoriality, and the public domain, it is evident that all the stakeholders in the artistic world ought to make efforts and go beyond just exhibiting graffiti, but to also ensure that they also win over the public as well. This is because, graffiti is a prominent force in the urban world and any mention of it conjures up various images in the people’s minds like could it be a result of urban decay or basically an art product. This genre emerged in the late 70’s in New York City and was closely associated with the then popular Hip Hop industry as well formulated form of inscribing the urban environment. Indeed with a growing popularity confrontations began when numerous of citizens complained that their cars had been vandalized leaving the legal enforcers to outlaw the emerging trend. The vice was hard to curb despite numerous artists being arrested and the fact that the art was stagnating. It was during this time that the movement led by Fab 5 Freddie emerged with a new trend in the Bronx that contributed hugely to the acceptance of some citizens and the rap industry on graffiti use. These events led to the formation of Metropolitan Transportation Authority commonly referred to as the MTA that spearheaded the clean the city programs. They repaired fences and consistently removed the graffiti that led to frustration of the emerging artists who ended up quitting. The consistency and new tactics employed by the MTA appeared to succeed in scaring away graffiti artists, as there was a sharp decline in the culture. Several factors also brought the graffiti movement on its knees and included, the legislation to create penalties for the artists harsher was underway and increased patrols on available painting regions. A new kind of fence was encouraged to be erected, and a breed of car bodies made of stainless steel that could be cleaned easily grew popular to leave the old carbon-steel car bodies up for extinction. In turn, less violence and ‘bombing’ was reported leading the remaining graffiti artists who referred themselves as ‘die hard’ to be territorial and paint the commuter trains which were less patrolled.
In the late 80’s the die-hard artists would embrace the subway cars in the scrap yards and rooftops for the likes of Cope2, T Kid, and Zephyr et.al. The CTA created in 1989, and the MTA were winning the war and would later push further when they made an attempt to remove the remnants of the subway cars. However, controversy would come in defense of use of graffiti as a form of art when lots of documentaries and street galleries were created. During that time, artists had been forced to work only in the studios, and this would later alter the way most citizens viewed the so- called menace as a form of art. Images were put on album cover ups by most rap artists and every time a big artist died they would display their works by drawing them on storefront gates, a fete that would be highly appreciated even by the store owners themselves. They were used as better ways of commemorating the dead which was witnessed evidently in the passing of Big Pun, Tupac Shakur et.al
Despite graffiti being regarded as unsightly damage, it’s no brainier it has injected some freshness from the usual boring walls. A sense of joy to the eyes and source of inspiration graffiti has seven basic forms despite there being many different styles. Tags which were common in the past were meant to be signatures of a graffiti artist. They are easily understood by insiders of the culture as identification of a personal icon as a symbol of presenting the artistry self to the world. Throw ups are more of tags where two colors of bubble letters are used, one as an outline and the rest as part of a rough fill in. Pieces, another form of graffiti referred to as a masterpiece credited to Super Kool, who replaced the spray can cap with a fat cap. This enabled one to cover a large area smoothly. It exhibited eminence in the development of the now famed hip-hop graffiti. Top to Bottoms was common in the earlier 80’s where a subway car made of carbon Steele would be sprayed top to bottom without counting its length. The End to ends covered one end of the subway car to the other but not entirely the whole car. Whole Cars was a combined end to ends and top to bottoms, and much praise and appreciation were given to those artists who would accomplish this.
Evidently graffiti is not all about painting walls rather it’s an inspiration for self- expression and enlightening the moods brought about by the surroundings. Graffiti with time has been able to transform lives of many especially in nations where unemployment is still a main thorn for many. Zephyr, a known graffiti artist from the first wave of artists made the transition from street painters paint galleries and collections and has gone further to commercial work creating a platform for other artists. This has indeed tried to remove the myths associated with the use of graffiti as a tool for gangs rather it has shown that it is a way of life appreciating the different levels of creativity. Evidently it has changed the lives and perceptions of many well according to Style Wars, a film art directed by Zephyr and Charlie Ahearn.
Despite the brilliant milestones achieved in the artistic world of graffiti, it’s still considered a beautiful form of art. The miss-conception about graffiti is a broad subject among most people especially the older generation. In most cases where an artist invades somebody’s property and is caught painting is considered illegal and to the extent vandalism. Painting of government buildings, public areas, overpasses, substations and private property without consent has been outlawed. Different ways of expressing this art has been diversified evidently through printing of graffiti in t-shirts and graffiti on vehicles. Despite this, rogue artists have continued to express their arts in outlawed areas continuously giving graffiti a bad reputation. A common trait practiced by most rogue artists is the use of graffiti to complain about the government’s rule or unpopular decisions made against the people. Despite its being informative and quick way to capture the attention of the intended persons, it leaves less to be desired by a majority who still don’t appreciate the art and skill put all together.
Conclusively, the idea of exhibiting graffiti is one of the approaches that can be adopted so that the public can change its mindset about graffiti as form of vandalism. The exhibition should contain the exemplary works of former graffiti artists, probably since its beginning in the 70’s up to date. However, for many artists the beauty and power of graffiti is consequently directly related to graffiti as a form of ritual or artistic symbolic action of transgressions normally against the capitalist system of the controlled and alienated environment it builds. This quite explains the rebellion and the thin line between vandalism and art. The implementation of severe laws and unreasonable penalties for graffiti has initiated the opposite surge of the artistic energy and hence, the millions of dollars spent on cleaning graffiti. Graffiti has removed the boredom and brought out an appealing sight of the usual surroundings and some comic aspect too. Therefore, if graffiti is creatively done, with no intended offence or done to on public property, then it deserves appreciation.
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