“Graffiti is an art form” Or is it? There are many arguments for and against graffiti. In this essay, I will try to tackle the various aspects of these arguments, giving proof along the way. My interest in graffiti is purely artistic; I feel this essay may be more biased towards graffiti as an art form, as I think it is a beautiful and interesting branch of artistic talent and individualism.
Is graffiti an Art Form?. There is an anonymous man, who I will refer to as Dain, in Switzerland who is an ‘artist’, in the commonly known sense of the word. He does sculptures, oil paintings, prints, sketches and more. His art originates in his graffiti. He is a graffiti artist and what is thought of as an ‘artist’. He was commissioned to decorate a railway station in his ‘unique’ style. If you would like to see this, go to www.graffiti.org and find ‘Dain’. Graffiti artists from the suburbs of New York have suddenly arrived as cult figures in the modern Art world. This is the modern Art world, not the world of Modern Art. Graffiti is not seen as Modern Art, it is merely a creative art form using letters to form pictures. A calligrapher could be seen as an artist in this respect and a graffiti writer could be seen as a calligrapher.
Or is graffiti Vandalism?. I feel that tagging is vandalism, but throw ups and murals are not. Tagging is a way of showing that you have been there, marking your territory; this is often likened to a dog leaving its mark on a lamppost. A throw up is left as a proof of your talent as an artist, usually sprayed on trains and walls around train tracks. A throw up can be very complicated and the difference between a throw up and a mural is a very fine line. “Graffiti is seen as ‘vandalism’, an ugly and terrifying threat to social value, which not only frightens, but cost U.S. tax payers four billion dollars in 1995.” This quote is taken from the introduction to ‘Graffito’ by Michael Walsh; a book that tries to understand graffiti by tracing through its roots to its present form.
The beginning of this book describes how some graffiti writers feel about their work. One quote is a good argument for graffiti in its social sense; most people think that graffiti crews form a large portion of the violent gangs in American suburbs. This is Crayone’s point of view:
“Graffiti kept me out of trouble with gangs. That makes no sense to a person that has never lived in a ghetto, but what do you want, the kid to have a gun, or a spray can in his hand?”
George Rubin of the Traffic Sign Division of San Francisco said that,
“I actually like graffiti…where I’m from, the whole subway system was covered with graffiti art which was fantastic…[however], if graffiti covering a ‘stop’ sign isn’t seen by a driver and someone gets killed…what’s that mean to the person who put up the graffiti?”
A good point and one that does put graffiti in the ‘vandalism’ pile. One attitude of writers is that of The West Coast Poem; he says that he would bomb a federal owned building if he got a parking fine, so it would cost them twice as much to clean it off as he had paid for his fine.
Graffiti is not just spray paints and permanent markers though; politicians put up signs illegally, as do clubs. This is their form of advertising, as is graffiti for its respective artists. “how many people can walk through a city and prove they were there? It’s a sign I was here. My hand made this mark. I’m alive!”(Anonymous)
From the information above and other material that I have read, I have come to the conclusion that Graffiti is an art form. My decision is purely visual, ‘I like what I see’, but I do completely acknowledge the other side of the argument. I am sure that the readers of this essay have varied opinions, but, as I said before, I feel my writing is biased towards my own thoughts.