Wednesday, April 29, 2009

DAMAge Report: Graffiti Art

Alot of us tend to think of graffiti as the cool, cutting edge of art, but in actuality it has been around since man started scribbling on cave walls and chiseling his initials into the Colosseum walls. The question of graffiti's legitimacy as a form of art has been debated repeatedly, and is still open for discussion, as signified by the number of recent news articles on the topic.

The main questions seem to revolve around whether Graffiti is "ART" (insert lofty tones) or simply vandalism getting above itself, and what constitutes graffiti ART as opposed to graffiti vandalism if there is a distinction. Are wall murals now graffiti? What about the street art? Or are those different because they are planned out works of art? But if graffiti is a spontaneous form of artistic expression, is it still graffiti if it has been sanctioned and given a home?

"Graffiti spread to New York City from Philadelphia, where the markings of "Bobby Beck" first appeared all over the highways. As graffiti culture evolved in the Big Apple throughout the '60s, it became a vehicle for expression and personal messages. Writers began to use graffiti as an opportunity to have a public voice. Graffiti is the public application of an alias for the purpose of fame. The three forms of graffiti most often used:

Tags are the writer's signature

Throw-ups consist of a two-color outlined text

Pieces are multi-color mural masterpieces

By the 1980s New York City subway cars covered with colorful writing had become a defining characteristic of the city. But when the MTA ruled that trains with graffiti would no longer be allowed in service, this spurred another transition from the underground train to outdoor walls across the city."

Some cities are combating their graffiti problem by delegating authorized areas for graffiti artists to express themselves. In Chicago, this has radically reduced the number of "unapproved" taggings on businesses.

In San Francisco, Where Art Lives: A Graffiti Education Project is a school program for grades 4-6 starting this fall at six public schools in hard-hit graffiti areas. The program will bring an urban artist into the classroom to introduce students to concepts of public and personal space, the difference between art and vandalism, the treatment of public property and the value of caring for public spaces.

Clean up of graffiti can costs cities thousands of dollars per clean up (millions of dollars per year) and the penalties are reflecting that. In San Francisco graffiti vandals arrested tagging undesignated spaces are automatically sentenced with a minimum penalty of 96 hours of graffiti clean up and if they caused $400 or less in damages, the artist can expect a misdemeanor on their record and jail time of one year or less. More than $10,000 in damage and it’s considered a felony, and the criminal is looking at jail time and a hefty fine of $50,000.

There is no doubt that there are graffiti artists making a name for themselves and graffiti is making its way from the streets into the galleries. Graffiti is also visually impacting the design and commerical worlds of advertising.

So where is the line? When does graffiti become "art" instead of vandalism? And is it still graffiti if it is legit?


Paul said...

Drawing lines like that is tricky. You could ask backwards, when does art become graffiti? Why didn't you alert this poor forgetful old man that I had forgotten to put you on my new linky page, Lakota? Anyway I finally remememembered. Your new approach is fantastic, great work. Rage on, I say,

Anonymous said...

When I engage in UrbanArt I use a horse-hair brush and compose my verbiage using correct grammar and syntax - and the Queen's English.
Not Street but, that's just how I roll!

Anonymous said...

Your header says this place is:
"NC 17"?
What does the average IQ in North Carolina have to do with anyrhing?

I've counted many polysyllabic words with no apparent use of TxtSpk. Is this what you mean by NC 17?

Lakota said...

heyya GingaPaul my sweet! And you are correct and i do hate trying to box anything in, as you probably know. But picking it apart and examining it from all the angles and pieces helps me figure out where i stand (or might stand if i had to pick a side) on a topic like this. There were some outstanding comments to the article both on the air and on my FB page. As one friend pointed out, really it comes down to artistic intent. Good or bad art isn't relevant to the argument. :D

Cunny!!!! WHOOT! Dude! It has been forever since you graced one of my blogs! I feel all swooney with excitement. You know... i have this vision of you with a spray can at night inserting the letter "U" intou graffiti wourds with great stealth. heeheee.

Oh and sorry, NC17 means No Cuntrels in clone sets of 17. There is a limit to how much even I can handle at any given time. Shocking as that may be.

Creepy said...

While hoping not to come across as an old fuddy duddy, graphiti angers me. There's enough ugly in the world, no need to add to it. You wanna make "art" do it on your own property, don't shove it in everyone else's face.