Graffiti Is Art Essay Question

September 3, 2015

Angie Kordic

Studied Photography at IED in Milan, Italy. Passionate about art, frequent visitor of exhibitions, Widewalls photography specialist and Editor-in-Chief.

”Is it art?” A question sometimes said and heard in museums, galleries, movie theatres, concert arenas, any place of creation. One such place is also the street, where the spectators often seem to wonder: “Is graffiti art or vandalism ?” If we take into consideration that graffiti have been around since prehistoric times, it sounds as if this debate is all too hoary; however, we shall look at graffiti as the phenomenon of a much more recent period, and in that context, the debate is only about fifty years old. As a response to modernism and social segregation, graffiti became the means of communication and identity for young people in New York City in the 1970s. The famous story of the NYC subway graffiti culture and the almost two-decade long struggle of the authorities to eradicate tagging represent the starting point of the conversation, a hot topic of the art world even today.

Graffiti – The Art of the Outlaws

To understand graffiti, we shall observe it as a form of street art which usually involves tagging, but also the creation of more complex paintings. From its earliest days, it was done outside the law, with writers taking big risks when making their works, this sometimes leading to their arrests. The excitement of being a renegade and the fear of getting caught is what many artists consider the very core of graffiti culture, especially during the days of rough, growing competition and the willing to become as good at drawing as you possibly could. When caught in act, however, the writers get charged with vandalism, fined, and given community service hours during which they help clean up graffiti. By definition, it is “an action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property”, and while we can’t argue that graffiti (mostly tags, considered a reductive form of art within graffiti community itself) often end up on someone’s walls, we do have to wonder if it really is “destruction” and if, perhaps, we’ve been asking the wrong question the whole time.

Is Graffiti Still Vandalism If It’s… Legal?

Let’s put it like this – someone painted over your house and, of course, you’re not too happy about it. No one has the right to do that without your permission and, without even looking at it, you can pronounce it vandalism. But would you feel the same way if you saw a really breathtaking piece of graffiti art on an otherwise dull wall in the city? The authorities wouldn’t care if it was a drawing in the range of a Picasso – if it’s painted on an owned property, it’s an act of vandals. So, does that mean that graffiti is art if it’s done legally? Or on a property, but with permission? That would surely explain the immense success it had within museum and gallery walls worldwide, with artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey having important exhibitions and making serious money from making their artworks. If created on canvas and placed on a wall at, say, Tate Modern, graffiti becomes a respectable form of art. Street art, in general, is a highly polarising matter, where contradictions create and depend upon themselves, yet what’s sure is that it’s called “street” art for a reason, and its public existence is still crucial for its spirit.

Paint the Picture of the Future

If graffiti’s only problem is the location, why not think about a universal solution? What if its purpose of being the voice of the young and the vibrant ornament of grey urban architecture became all that matters? Today, there are many urban art festivals around the world, created to promote street art everywhere and to encourage young creatives to pursue their dreams. Many of them are city-funded as well, with a scope of beautifying the environment with some extraordinary artworks. Even big corporations such as Red Bull, Adidas or 55DSL engaged graffiti talents in their advertising campaigns, over and over again. In cities like Stockholm and neighborhoods as Brooklyn’s Bushwick, you can find the world’s most famous legal graffiti walls areas, where tagging, bombing and writing are actually required. And just think of South America and its versatile art scene, where street arts are so embedded in culture and tradition that it’s impossible to imagine them otherwise. With all this in mind, we encourage you to think of graffiti as art and a public good, with its nuanced social commentary, splendid artistry and rebellious spirit – just like art is supposed to be.

Editors’ Tip:The Popular History of Graffiti: From the Ancient World to the Present

The Popular History of Graffiti: From the Ancient World to the Present, written by artist Fiona McDonald, questions our culture’s urge to do graffiti since 30,000 BCE. From the band Black Flag, Lee Quinones to Fab 5 Freddy, Dandi, Zephyr, Blek le Rat, Nunca and Keith Haring, the book promises to be an important and dynamic addition to graffiti literature, illustrated with stunning full-color photos of graffiti throughout time. When did graffiti turn into graffiti art, and why do we now pay thousands of dollars for a Banksy print when just twenty years ago, seminal graffiti artists from the Bronx were thrown into jail for having the same idea? Graffiti has not always been imbued with a sense of aesthetic, but when and why did we suddenly “decide” that it is worthy of consideration and criticism? All images used for illustrative purposes only.

Los Angeles is the most densely inhabited city in the state of California, and stands in second place after New York City, as the most populous in America. Most people in the city socialize mostly through cultural traditions and arts that are mainly practiced in the area. These arts form the basis of communication and expressions whether political or social. That being a few of the forms of expression graffiti is being widely used in the city. This form of art is employed as a means of social and political expression. The reason as to why young people use this form of avenue is that it is quite public and will relay the message. The fact that they are not provided with platforms to express themselves is another key issue to be addressed. In this paper, discussion on ways through which this work of art expresses the social and political issues in relation to Los Angeles will follow suit.

The city holds a history rich of arts and culture that has attracted millions of tourists from all over the world many years ago. In fact, the city’s greater area represents the most important site for television and movie production in the whole of the U.S. Other works of art related to Los Angeles include literature, music, museums, architecture, paintings, and street art, just to mention a few. Wordings; Graffiti artists use certain terms like crews, bombing, taggers these form a characteristic of graffiti traditions, although significantly, this type of dialect is to the idea that the whole culture is associated to the wider American customs that we are a components. Culture and language cannot be separated; culture creates language and the language creates culture. This distinct language is a preserve for graffiti tradition members and can be learnt through participation or continuous exposure to tag culture. This tag language is one form that graffiti is used to express social issues. The present graffiti words are obtained from the daily social life, the comments, phallic symbols, the jokes. Such graffiti is written in a common language so that individuals can comprehend, in addition to, partake in its humor or react in kind (Phillips, 47). The second category is images; in the context of community-based graffiti; these graffiti look like vivacious characters and vibrant texts. They have an origin in hip-hop culture and were selected because of its ability to both isolate, and form an interconnected faction that replicate current social issues in Los Angeles. It reflects a culture that is emerging in the society; it is ingrained in clothes, music, and dialect. The style was a preferred method, and individuals who create these images were part of the society that is influenced by the occurrence of these descriptions. Graffiti carried out by Gang is the type that is emphasizes a lot of the communal identification that this expressive means may value. However, the power that this illustrations yield, is usually disregarded. Graffiti expressing political notions is founded in interior representation by which negative political thoughts are channeled. These types of graffiti are mostly employed through activism movements in times of political protests; they have the ability to induce an emotional response, whether good or bad from their targeted audience. Objects, images and social conducts that contain a common implication among communities stand to unite the people. Under graffiti, the art has stood as a representation of opposition and a common dissatisfaction with current social certainty.

Ancient graffiti expressed love affirmations, social opinions and simple terminology of the notion in comparison to current popular information of societal and political standards as seen in the streets of Los Angeles (Phillips, 46). This is the same as in today’s world. Graffiti has been commercialized and is gaining popularity while others are seeking its legitimization. In 2001, IBM a large computer firm instigated a movement in Chicago, and San Francisco, which was advertising peace the campaign primarily, involved the community spray work of art on pavements the given symbols to illustrate “Peace, Love, and Linux.” However, because of the law which states that graffiti art is illegal the act saw the artists detained and prosecuted with damage charges, in addition to the repair costs, and penalty measures, IBM Company was fined more than US$120,000. In Los Angeles, Sony instigated same advertising campaign in 2005 and other cities, but this time taking into consideration the legal challenges of the IBM campaign. Sony compensated proprietors for the privileges to paint on their properties; portraits of dizzy-eyed city kids gathering, who were imitating a skateboard, a paddle or a rocking horse using PSP gadget. The two campaigns are an expression of an application of graffiti as a means in passing information, which the society does not approve to some extent. The war is clearly illustrated in Los Angeles, where two people were shot dead by the graffiti artist when they tried to stop them from doing what they love best. . Another social aspect is the growth of computer gaming depicting the art largely. These is to the positive aspect of the art, for example, the jet set radio program (2000–2003) shows the story of an assembly of youths fighting the subjugation of an authoritarian police that seeks to hinder the graffiti artists’ liberty of expression. Frequently, graffiti is reputed as an element of a culture that seeks to rebel against authority and laws in general as seen in the state where a certain group brands themselves and seek to warn visitors of their presence. What in my perspective makes the art wrong is the fact that most vandals are young people, ranging from young school going to youths, who vandalize public spaces for invalid reasons such as boredom, anger or revenge. For successful artists, ideas that perform this art often diverge and can illustrate a wide array of approaches and perceptions.

Most artist use materials such as paints and sprays, these sprays have a negative effect on the surroundings because of the fact that it contains. Harmful chemical elements like chlorofluorocarbons or volatile hydrocarbon gases are contained in the paints used for graffiti in painting a surface. These are harmful to the environment, and will continue to worsen the global warming situation in the world. Alternatively, moss graffiti can be adopted which will use moss, which is more environmental friendly to create the images or the wordings. The mixture is prepared through gluing moss unto a plane by mixing beer milk or yoghurt to serve as an adhesive for the art. These efforts of making the situation more environment friendly does not justify the fact that each year, in the clean up exercise of graffiti, large amounts are accounted for.

The society can approve a policy less lenient for destruction and instead provide an avenue or a place designed specifically for these artists to express themselves. Arresting them will only make the condition worse and they will continue to spend cleaning up the streets. On the other hand, with the already tarnished streets, what the locals need to do is first; to identify objects and locations prone to graffiti, and educate property owners effective and efficient of cleaning the places. Participants in these forums will mostly include property owners affected by graffiti, recreational facilities public works, shopping malls, schools, government, businesses, and other institutions. This will resolve the crisis in the short period; in the end, they can construct their buildings with hard to write on bricks or plant shrubs and hedges. Improved lighting and cooperation of the community and the authority will solve their so-called problem.

Looking at an artist’s perspective bring us to understand why they are so passionate about the art. Certain anthropologists explain that the art is an expression of one’s ideas and ideals. It goes beyond just the images and is mostly a representation of political ideas, race and art. This passion goes beyond fear of being caught, which has made a blog that highlights these paintings as being top five most viewed sights. I must say that these pieces of art is quite eye-catching and has its own beauty. The artists also are said to have a distinction between street art and graffiti basing the difference in that the artist signs graffiti while the street art is simply a form of expression, which is often done randomly. These facts also lead us to asking the question is the form of art an unnecessary struggle. I believe when one wants to pursue something he should go for it. Being a true believer means one is not swayed by the changing world, but one should also consider doing it peacefully. Overall, the art can signify liberation, love or territory. What the artist need is to make the community understand from their point of view. Successful artists in this field have received awards to prove that the entire art is not a negative vice and can be displayed in museums. In other words, it can be a visual method of communication with these it would play as both an art and a mode of communication to the users. Being an old form of art goes to show it has its form of justification and is not all negative (Ganz, and Tristan, 98).

A closer insight to the teenagers responsible for this form of art these explain that graffiti delineates the effect neighborhood, politics, and culture that is the society in general have on the day today activities of these teenagers. Most outstanding thing of this insight being the spirit, pride and allegiance that are expressed through in the voices of the said teenagers. This is not a glorification or the justification of gang behavior, but we rather perceive it as an objective that focuses on a specific social group that is not readily featured in the mainstream media and is trying to reach out. Gangs are not prevalent in many communities; my hope is that concerned parties would be enlightened, through various channels to be able to communicate with this group of a generation that is in need of help.

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Feb 8, 2013

Filed under: Example Papers — Tags: art essay, essay on graffiti, essay on Los Angeles, research paper on graffiti — Joan Young @ 10:33 am


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