Discussion On Whether Graffiti Is Art

No matter if a person finds graffiti to be art or vandalism, there is no denying the fact that graffiti is everywhere these days. Graffiti dates back from the earliest Paleolithic cave paintings in France to more recent sculptures in Ancient Egypt. Some people see it a beautiful art form, whereas others just see vandalism. Street art is so much more than writing on a wall, there is feeling, ideas, and a lot of thought goes into it.

There is a very rough definition of Graffiti, one is the writing or spray painting of words and letterforms whether legally or illegally. Another way of Graffiti is murals, which is much more accepted by the population. The only difference between art on the streets and those in a museum is the fact that street art is not readily accepted as art in museums is due to its location and presentation. It is often said that graffiti is unimportant and a disgrace which is not true. For thousands of years, humans have made art in public spaces. From recent relief sculpture in Ancient Egypt to cave paintings in France and around the world. Whether or not the artist meant for their art to convey messages or not they all say the same thing, “We were here, we existed”. After World War II, housing projects were built outside of city centers and were designed mainly as utilitarian living quarters, often lacking in open spaces or playgrounds. These housing “projects” separated people, not only from city centers but also from economic opportunities that existed within them. As a form of protest, people began to fight back by spray painting houses and cars. They called themselves “writers” because the words the sprayed painted on the houses and walls made an impact and they said words have power.

For those who say, graffiti is not art it is vandalism. The location of Graffiti whether it be on a wall or on a building without permission only makes it unsolicited art. As such, it can be called vandalism and be illegal but this does not disqualify Graffiti as art. As long as there is no law that states that a specific portion of owner’s outdoor property should be dedicated to art, graffiti included, and if there were a law, it has been clear what portion was dedicated to that, everyone, including those who feel their expression is underexposed. To some Graffiti is the voice of those who cannot find any other way to publish their thoughts anonymously, if it is taken away it is like taking away their right to speak. Another topic that is often brought up is that graffiti affects everyone in the community. As a whole, Graffiti is generally viewed to have a negative impact on the communities around it. There is a feeling that tagged or graffiti filled neighborhoods are run over by gangs and are low income, which can lead to less business in commercial or retail areas. What most cities often do to cover up unwanted Graffiti is to send workers and volunteers out and cover it up with an off-color paint to the original surface. This makes the wall look worse than before, with a beautiful colorful piece of artwork. Just because certain people do not view the piece of art as appealing or beautiful, it has to be covered up. A common problem is that asked a lot is what makes certain things art. What if someone finds one thing beautiful but looks disgraceful to another person? One solution to this is to just keep an open mind and try to see what the artist tried to convey when they made it.

A popular reason why people dislike graffiti is that they think it is associated with gangs. It is understandable to be concerned about this, especially with our younger generation becoming interested and involved with this type of art. It is unwise to take away a median of which they can express themselves over a simple fear. This is a concern that Graffiti is a “gateway” crime to harder things like gangs or drugs, due to the fact that most Graffiti artist is in the ages between 15-23. However, only 20% of street art is gang related, so it seems silly to worry that just because young adults do graffiti it does not mean they will enter a gang. Graffiti has often thought that it is spontaneous and doesn’t require a lot of thought, which is highly mistaken. Graffiti involves a great deal of imagination, planning, and effort. Graffiti can also be analyzed by the seven elements of art texture, color, space, line, form, value, and shape. Art is something that carries significant human symbolic expression, which street art does perfectly. Plus, graffiti art has a function of not only communicating to others, but it also beautifies the community by appearing on areas that normally would be eyesores, such as a wall in a vacant lot or an abandoned building. To ask a professional graffiti artist why they do street art most of them say it has nothing to do with being famous or getting money. They say it has to do with art and just how they express themselves just like people create sculptures, they spray paints a wall as an artistic outlet. It’s the same thing and it’s amazing, but people who do not get art would not understand it.

Graffiti art is not new to our species. Its most current iteration could be considered a new form of Postmodern art, but nevertheless, it continues to be steeped in controversy. Yes, there are some negative sides to graffiti however, this should not stop people from doing what they love and help their community. Just because it is illegal do not disqualify it as art, art can be anything that the mind is drawn to, something that makes the audience feel something and street art is a perfect example of this.

10 October 2020
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