Graffiti art and vandalism, these two terms are almost interconnected from the very beginning. While a group of people finds it exceptionally creative and wonderful, for some, it is nothing but messed-up art. But is graffiti art truly vandalism ? If you want to know more about it, make sure to read this article till the end.
I) The surge of graffiti as an art form :
The human mind is the storage of creativity, imagination, thoughts, and art. Among them, graffiti art is a prominent and unique one. However, you are wrong if you think graffiti is nothing more than a sudden street art trend. Did you ever think of graffiti's long history ? What are the roots ? Why is it still considered a famous form of art after so many years of controversy ? Well, the still-controversial art form did not pop up one day suddenly. If you go back to the ancient ages, you can see the presence of this art from Roman to Mayan civilizations.
Graffiti mainly started becoming famous and recognized among people in the 20th century. In the middle of the 1960s, the art form started to pop up in different places of the world. There is a story behind it. In the mid-60s, the first writers, Cool Earl and Cornbread, started writing their names in all corners of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They wrote phrases like "Cornbread World's First Writer 1967." Soon they became famous, and later, they started showing expertise in graffiti.
This trend did not take much time to flourish. Soon after the emergence of Cornbread, another kid under the pseudonym TAKI 183 came into the limelight in 1971. TAKI 183 and his amazing graffiti works started showing on the streets of Manhattan, and he became famous. Some other significant graffiti writers of this age were FRANK 207, JULIO 204, etc. They started showing their expertise through different graffiti art forms and writing and soon received fame in their country.
1) Graffiti in Brooklyn :
Brooklyn is an inevitable place when it comes to the early rise of graffiti. In the 1970s, this place started to overflow with graffiti writers and artists. Writers from all over Brooklyn and other places started showing their mastery of graffiti in the city's subways, streets, and walls. They discovered graffiti on trains, other vehicles, lamps, and walls. The arts of that period were mainly self-oriented more than some information or social message. People used to draw or write whatever they wanted, whatever pleased them, their names, lyrics, poems, etc. The graffiti mainly showed different drawing styles, using unique fonts, calligraphic style, colors, etc. Artists were experimenting with unusual styles, and it was more like a fun thing to do for them. But, with time, artists started to insert their thoughts and creativity into their graffiti works. As a result, graffiti became one of the most significant sources of spreading information, messages, and more.
After a few years of experimenting with graffiti, artists got their hands on spray paint cans, bigger fonts, and unique decorations. They started using more enormous walls and other surfaces as their canvas so that their artworks would be stronger and more prominent. Some used eye-catching patterns, whereas some used wide and large places. Graffiti writers like SUPER KOOL 223, JAPAN 1, Lil Hawk, and Stacy High 149 became famous.
A fresh graffiti-style called "throw up" came into play around 1977. The size of graffiti art started to become higher and higher. With time, the bigger the size of the art pieces get, the more unique they become. Artists experimented with more unique, new, and fresh designs and styles in their arts. By the end of the 1970s, graffiti found its place in some renowned art galleries. From the early 1980s, several events and activities started revolving around graffiti, and people started to show more interest than ever before. Some films and documentaries started to pop up at that time, based on graffiti art. Furthermore, books were published, and films were released to encourage and inspire the new generation with this fantastic art.
Despite receiving so much fame, graffiti has always been a matter of dispute and controversy from the very beginning. At first, it took so many years to become a legal art form. Additionally, when graffiti art and artists started attacking society's stereotypes, some people and the authorities started to ban it by labeling it vandalism in some places. Nonetheless, being a strong message bearer, nothing could stop the growth of graffiti.
If you look at graffiti standing in the present time, you can see that it is still growing. With the world being digitized, it has become easier for people to look at the history of graffiti, the goal of this art, famous artists, and so on. However, this field is still not wholly dispute-free. People still talk about graffiti, some even show grudges against some arts. But, the power of art has always been stronger than people's opinions. As a result, graffiti art is still flying in the sky of creativity successfully, and the fly will never stop.
II) How is graffiti related to the modern world ?
The relationship between graffiti and the modern world is strong enough to prove the stereotypes wrong. It is a kind of street art that delivers positive and good messages to the community. It may indeed hurt the sentiments of some people, but, mostly it dissipates positivity if taken with a free and pure mind.
Yes, graffiti is related to public places when it comes to public places. But, it does not mean that public places, streets, and other properties get harmed by this art. Instead, it makes a dull-looking place or a simple brick wall attractive. Cities and towns that were never even famous before have become the hub of public attraction because of their famous graffiti works.
If you have a closer look, you can see two prominent types of graffiti works.
Graffiti that is only about art and creativity
Graffiti with inner meanings that implies social messages to the viewers
The first type of graffiti is about art and creative appeal, where artists draw, color, and portrays their expertise through a traditional painting. But, on the other hand, the second one works as a weapon against the rules of the stereotypical society, where artists take the initiative to portray their thoughts, judgments, and feelings about a sure thing. As a result, this one comes to be far more debatable.
But, whatever the back story is, you cannot ignore the connection between graffiti art and the modern world. So, now, let's look at how graffiti is related to the modern era.
1) Graffiti is a true passion :
The human mind stores emotions, imagination, and unique thoughts. These thoughts and emotions vary from person to person. While some find ways to express their thoughts through dancing and singing, some express their emotions through painting. Painting can be anything and of any form. Graffiti is their number one choice for people who are incredibly passionate about big arts and want to make their works remarkable and easily accessible.
Like other forms of art, graffiti art is also full of passion, affection, and creativity. Being a visual art, graffiti attracts more people than any other art form. It attracts people by making an empty place full of creativity.
2) Graffiti unites people :
When people participate in large and visible artwork in public places, their bond is more robust. For example, people look at the art, comment on something, and sometimes discuss the perspective when an artist draws. These, all together, make the whole process full of fun and unite people of different cultures. On the other hand, when a tourist comes to visit some famous graffiti works from a different country, the person learns a lot about the people of that place. Through discussing, both develop their knowledge about each other's places, lifestyles, and more.
3) Graffiti enhances the beauty of a place :
The main goal of graffiti is to fill a place with joy, beauty, and creativity. As a result, graffiti artists mainly select an abandoned wall or place and bring back liveliness to that place with their magical graffiti art. With different colors, brushes, spray painting, and other styles, artists enhance the beauty that attracts people.
4) Graffiti is a part of the culture :
Graffiti has a long history. Graffiti artists had to struggle and fight a lot for giving this art form a recognizable place in the world of art. Therefore, it is related to the emotion of people and their cultures. Rich in history, controversy, dispute, and love of people, graffiti will always remain an inevitable part of the culture of some countries.
5) Graffiti spreads social messages :
Art has always been a source of circulating social messages under a mindful layer of creativity. Like other art forms, graffiti art is no exception. Therefore, graffiti artists use this art to spread messages and caution against certain things, and show their creativity to the world. For example, the famous American pop art graffiti artist Keith Haring, who has AIDS, used graffiti art to spread the importance of safe sex and sex education among people. He successfully created a new meaning of art, and his foundation named the Keith Haring Foundation, is an unforgettable foundation related to the graffiti world. His Ignorance= Fear will always remain a powerful message to modern society about the significance of safe sex.
6) Graffiti releases emotion :
In this century, most people have nobody to listen to, understand, or give suggestions. As a result, they often go through heartbreaks and depression. Graffiti works as a great emotional release. For example, the globally known graffiti artist Sandra Fabara, who goes by Lady Pink, once had a breakup with his teen boyfriend. She then decided to release her anger by writing and cursing her boyfriend's name on the walls of New York City. She did so and surprisingly fell in love with graffiti and now has become one of the brightest stars of this art form.
Besides, some graffiti tells a lot about some artists' personal opinions on social affairs. While someone does not express his grudges against the matters of society, he expresses it through graffiti art.
III) Society and its view on graffiti :
Although graffiti is a celebrated form of art worldwide, some people still see it as an offensive expression and tag it as a source of vandalism. According to critics, graffiti art is none other than vandalism that disperses negativity among the community. Sometimes, people watch graffiti as an unlawful art form and even protest against it. The worst part is that graffiti art is still seen as an illegal and criminal offense in many countries.
Graffiti arts, especially those with deep inner meaning, frequently attack the unexplained deeds of the nation and the dominant power, which works as a threat to society. As a result, the authority often tries to minimize the power of their arts and tags them as "vandalism." For this reason, some famous graffiti artists such as Banksy almost got arrested by police while bashing walls with colors. Despite being caught, he continued his journey as a graffiti artist and gifted the world with his famous graffiti pieces like Balloon Girl, Hula Hoop Girl, ONE NATION UNDER CCTV, Kissing Coppers, etc.
But, the list of people, who still feel pretty skeptical about graffiti, is long. It is because of some widespread misconceptions about graffiti and thinking it is vandalism, which needs to burst as soon as possible.
Here, we share some common myths about graffiti art and explain each one of them so that graffiti quickly becomes "vandalism" tag-free.
1) Graffiti is related to gangs :
The idea of graffiti, often mixed with street art, gets thought of as gang work. People often see graffiti as the work of a group of anti-socialist. They think it is nothing but vandalism against society, threatening society and its people. When graffiti started to grow as an art form, several television channels and media covered it as a work of gangs and its artists as gang members.
But, we know that the concept is entirely unacceptable standing in the present day. Graffiti is pure art, encompassing a group of artists and their works. But, nothing is threatening about it. If you've ever been to a graffiti-art exhibition, you'll know why.
2) Graffiti ruins public places and is harmful to people :
Public places play a huge role in the world of graffiti art. It encompasses public places, like walls, buildings, malls, trains, subways, and other public places. Besides, this does not rule out the possibility of adverse effects on the ecosystem. Instead, the beautiful works of graffiti artists enhance the beauty of the empty places with a touch of creativity. On the other hand, graffiti art with social messages looks pleasant and delivers important messages.
3) Graffiti is a self-seeking art form :
Many people think that graffiti is only about earning fame and being under the spotlight. There is nothing called passion in it. But, the reality is entirely the opposite. Most famous graffiti artists follow their passion, so they are now flourishing.
4) It is chaotic :
A massive number of people do not like the idea of combining drawings, letters, alphabet, symbols, and colors. According to them, it looks confusing, damages nature's beauty, and insults art. Well, again, it depends on the viewer.
If you have proper knowledge of art, you may know that art varies from person to person, such as the presentation. The art piece, which is nothing but a combination of mess to your eyes, can be a masterpiece for someone else. Therefore, a widely famous graffiti artist, Basquiat, received mixed reviews for his graffiti works. The themes of his graffiti were a fine blend of abstraction, figuration, and the historical object he expressed his thoughts and emotions through his almost hard-to-understand arts. Hence, his works are still in discussion.
IV) Can art ever be vandalism ?
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is a well-known saying ." When it comes to graffiti, this saying comes to be 100% accurate. The truth is that an artistic expression, which does not seem nice to you, can convey a different meaning to others. However, to graffiti artists, this idea of graffiti art being vandalism is well accepted to some extent. This is because they understand not all people are the same; therefore, their art pieces may transmit different meanings to individuals.
Famous graffiti artist Pearse has confirmed that "Graffiti is 100% art". Graffiti art is all about inside thoughts and creatively giving those art forms. On the other hand, graffiti symbolizes rebellion. Giving opinions and ideas a touch of creativity and presenting them to people is the main intention of graffiti. As a result, it can portray various inner meanings to each individual. Something that soothes someone's eyes may seem like vandalism to others. But, graffiti artists should not cross the moral line between art and vandalism.
According to Kulman, public property is the best place to show creativity. Graffiti has no space boundary. So, people holding different statuses in society can witness this raw art form. Hence, graffiti artists mostly choose a public wall or some other place as their canvas, especially if they are trying to dissipate any social or political messages among familiar people. They always try to circulate their graffiti art's main intention and message through their artwork and aptitude.
Some countries and cities have marked graffiti illegal in public; cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, etc., embrace graffiti. Some famous places like Graffiti Brug Amsterdam, Street Art Museum Amsterdam, and Book a Street Artists (Berlin) are the main highlight and tourist attraction spots.
As most people often get confused between graffiti, tagging, and street art, there should be a clear distinction- says Kulman. But, he also added, "Councils or communities often commission the latter. Moreover, attitudes to graffiti have changed considerably over the last two decades, and cities like Bristol have capitalized on the fame and notoriety of Banksy. Finally, of course, his work commands respect from art critics."
So, can art ever be vandalism ? The question is valid, but the answer depends on the mindset of different people. As mentioned earlier, art always illustrates the actual color and emotion. So, if graffiti art is made against some social norms, it may be vandalizing for a particular group of people. But, for some, it can be beautiful, meaningful, and artistic at the same time.
V) Graffiti and Vandalism :
Any drawing or writing in a public place is seen as destroying public property. As a result, some think of graffiti as vandalism. A study done by the Australian Bureau shows that more than 20% of people feel unsafe while walking on the road where walls are full of graffiti art. According to them, graffiti is nothing more than a social and mental menace. Some also object to the money wasted on this vandalism and nuisance every year.
But, if graffiti looks attractive in your eyes, it is terrific. You do not have to justify your liking for graffiti to society or anybody. If you enjoy it, it is alright.
Art is an expression of the creative mind, which can differ from person to person. So, if graffiti art's messy patterns and colors distract you, it does not necessarily be vandalism. Maybe you don't understand it, or the artist has failed to express his thoughts through his art. Support graffiti artists, and you will surely improve your taste in graffiti art with time. Make time for art, and let the best form of it inspire you !