Monday, November 12, 2007

Graffiti: Vandal Art?

As I know that if I started a post asking people to decide what art is and isn't, good and bad art, etc. I know that it would just turn into a huge argument despite the assertion that art is completly personal and cant be defined fully.

So instead, is graffiti art?
I dont mean the randomly spray painted "Assassinate Bush to lower gas prices" (if anyone saw that train...) but real tag (try the link), not just vandalism for the sake of letting your opinion be known.
Please don't reiterate our class conversation so far (7th period, I dont know about the other classes).

Can art be harmful (like vandalism) and yet still art? Should it be preserved or not?


Dani said...

I'm sorry, I was just an awful IB student; all images courtesy of

katrina337 said...

:) Not citing your sources in your post with endnotes, a works cited, and a bibliography? Shame, Dani.

I think what you've posted is art. It's an actual visual representation, and it's not used just as slander. So I would say that it is art...Um, self-awareness. Is a wonderful justification.

And visual sense perception.

JuliaC. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JuliaC. said...

This post made me think of an artist that i really admire, Alain Ket. Alain is a pioneering graffiti artist who was arrested last spring on charges ranging from criminal mischief to a second degree felony. Before a plea deal was reached recently Alain faced a possible 20 years in prison in what his website calls "a politically motivated attempt to silence a writer, publisher, historian and artist whose work popularizes an art form criminalized by city government policy." This essentially is his story...courtesy of

"Alain MaridueƱa (better known as Alan Ket) grew up between Jackson Heights, Miami and Brooklyn. He is the first born to his parents, both immigrants from Latin America. Alain was raised by his mother and grandparents in the Latino enclave of Jackson Heights until the age of seven, when he moved to Miami. At 10 Alain returned to Brooklyn to live with his dad. Summers in Brooklyn meant playing sports, learning how to breakdance and copying Bruce Lee moves. Midwood High School was the backdrop to Alain's teen years in Brooklyn. His goal was to pursue his interest in science and leave the neighborhood that was exploding with crime, drugs and escalating violence. Working his way through high school, Alain forfeited baseball and lacrosse with the other kids to help with the household bills and his own expenses. It was during these years of taking the 5 train to school that Alain fell in love with graffiti art and the soundtrack of his Brooklyn neighborhood sparked his love for Hip Hop music. After high school, he moved out on his own to escape domestic abuse at home. It was during these years that Alain became known in the graffiti world as a serious artist and outspoken political activist.

He went on to study at Borough of Manhattan Community College, eventually earning a scholarship to both Vassar and New York University, where he completed his studies in graphic communication technology and management in 1996. While at New York University, he married, had a daughter and started his first business, Stress Magazine. With this venture, Alain combined his NYU education with his passion to communicate the urban experience of young people of color who participated in Hip Hop culture. During Stress' existence (1995-2000), Alain and the magazine became known as advocates for prisoner's rights, political prisoners, journalists of color and against police brutality. Above all, the magazine gave the Hip Hop movement an outlet for firsthand experiences by employing non-traditional writers and participants of the culture. Stress spawned the Hip Hop journal, Elementary, and Black August, an organization to support political prisoners in exile.

The years of working for a meager wage and the long work hours took a toll on Alain and his family. By the end of 1999, he and his wife separated. In 2000, Stress closed its doors forever and Alain went on to start a new magazine, Complex, for his friend Marc Ecko of Ecko Unlimited. He welcomed his son into the world in 2001. Alain lectured and painted around the world on the topics of graffiti history and Hip Hop entrepreneurism. He lectured at such prestigious universities as Princeton, Brown, Berkeley and Wesleyan. He also painted and exhibited work around the world in cities such as Munich, Zurich, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

By 2003, Alain started working with fashion brands Azzure Denim and Indigo Red as Vice President of MarAlaining and Advertising, helping the company become a leader in the urban fashion category.
In 2005, Alain branched off to work for himself again, founding From Here to Fame LLC, a book publishing, content development and art agency. Since then, he has worked with a diverse group of clients like MTV, Lugz, Atari, Vibe magazine and Mountain Dew. That year he also curated Marc Ecko's block party, an event that paid tribute to graffiti pioneers and the cause of much controversy when New York's Mayor Bloomberg decided to revoke the event's permit. After a heavily publicized court battle, the City was forced to reinstate the permit and the event was a huge success. This was the beginning of a strained relationship with local politicians because of Ecko and Alain's public pro-graffiti stance.

Today, he continues to promote Hip Hop and graffiti culture through the three book titles he has published thus far: Street Play, Hip Hop Files and The Nasty Terrible T-Kid 170. Alain continues to be active in preserving New York and urban art history by documenting the art scene in lectures, magazines like Mass Appeal and the upcoming book, The History of New York Subway Graffiti.

At the time of his arrest in October 2006, Alain was working on eight different books on graffiti and fashion. He suffered a major setback as a result of the police confiscating his archives and computers.

Alain is not only a parent, but also an uncle to two nieces and a nephew. He is an elder in his family and provides guidance and support to his parents, siblings and cousins. He volunteers his time in his community and to his friends. For many, he is a connector, a person with extensive contacts that is never unwilling to share resources and ideas. To others, he is just a busy and determined man, always looking to build on a new project or talk politics."

The question that I would pose is: Is it fair to call Alain a criminal because he did damage to city property or is he simply an artist trying to beautify his city? If you consider him an artist, does that mean that everyone who does graffiti is an artist? Are there standards that must be achieved in this highly unconventional artform?

Dani said...

Thank you! (not only for the example, but also for providing me with a artist refernce =) )
I think that thats a bunch of crap. Im sorry if that isnt the most dignified language, but confinscating his computers?!?!?!
I believe that many people who do real graffiti, not the "legalize murder" type, are artists. For those who have tried to do this in spray paint...its hard. Its a difficult medium to control.
As far as beautifying his city...I love watching trains for the sole reason of the graffiti. If youre going to wait for a 30 minute train, would you rather see the graffiti or blank, boring train cars?

SamE said...

When Logan and I were in Australia, at the University of Sydney, there was a tunnel that we often went through that was explicitly called the Graffiti Tunnel. Sure enough, it was filled with graffiti. None was as cool as the site you gave, but some of the messages were encouraging, if I remember right. Anyway, I thought the graffiti tunnel was a great idea and really changed the landscape of the campus in the same way that the mural we have in Poudre's basement does. Of course, that was legal graffiti. But the arguments might carry over.

katrina337 said...

Last year in AIM one of the ideas in my AIM class was to make a legal graffiti wall. There are a lot of regulations against it though, and I don't really understand why.

Dani said...

So should it
a) be removed and/or
b) be a felony to commit?

katrina337 said...

a. No, I don't think it should be removed. It's pleasant to look at, and I don't see how it would be demoralizing or anything negative. So it can just be...left there.

b. I don't know. I get that it is a vandalization of governmental property, but I don't think it should be illegal. So I guess not.

Rebecca said...

I hate to challenge everyone that's been commenting so far, but aren't there some reasons why graffiti should be considered a crime? The whole idea of graffiti is that someone is spray painting over property that doesn't belong to them without the owner's permission. It doesn't seem so bad when it's city property becuase there's no definite owner, but say someone just spray painted all over the front door to your house. Even if it looked really cool, wouldn't you feel kind stung by the fact that whoever did it didn't respect you enough to bother asking whether or not he/she could paint your front door? People have a right to their property and, by law, others need to respect that. I realize that this point is flawed because 90% of the time, it's city property, not personal property, that's being vandalized. I just don't want this to be a one-sided argument.

Spencer L said...

I, for one, am completely on the pro-graffiti side, although I hesitate to call it that. I do recognize traditional graffiti (well done graffiti writing, not scrawled tags) as art; it has all the traditional markings of such: intent, craft, etc. It just happens to be illegal. I would, however, add that many things have been illegal in our country in the past, such as womens' suffrage, alcohol, etc, and many things we now consider detrimental to society were once not only legal, but widespread, such as a number of illicit drugs, slavery, etc. I am, however, rather biased in this area, as I have been following the "street art" movement fairly closely over the last few years. In simple terms, much of it is vandalism, but it encompasses a variety of different mediums, including posters put on buildings with wheatpaste, packing tape sculpture, moss, stencils, and everything else you could think of, and has a loose focus on art interacting with its environment and the people in it. Many of the participating artists are even able to also show their work in galleries to support themselves, which I find interesting. In particular, if anyone has doubt about graffiti in the traditional sense being art, or even being "right," as it is illegal, I would highly recommend a visit to . (the most recent posts are not above average, but scroll to the bottom and look at some other recent ones, there's a lot of amazing art.) One of the aspects that I for one certainly failed to consider before visiting this site, as I have never been out of the county, is the varying degree of legality of this type of art in different areas of the world. In some places, huge fines are attached, in others, an artist may be simply asked to take down his posters and go home, or even be applauded for his efforts.
I know that this movement is art both because of rational thought and because of my emotions; there's just something beautiful about that type of free expression, not limited just to galleries and public plazas, not limited by the rules of art critics and city officials, but by the skill and creativity of the artist.

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