Contemporary Graffiti: Expressive Street Art or Vandalism?

Graffiti

Graffiti: Street art or vandalism?
Binkski / Shutterstock.com

Since it began to receive commercial attention in the early 1980s, graffiti has long since existed as a point of contention in artistic and social communities. Graffiti as we know it has endured an evolving history, its origins linked to both urban gangs as well as to pure artistic expression.

Smashing Magazine discusses this evolution, explaining that graffiti is “well-known for being provocative, appealing, bold and uncompromising. Originally used by gangs to mark their territory…graffitis have now become a rich medium for unrestricted expression of ideas and statements.”

In another historical examination, PBS says, “graffiti is, by definition, a defiant and public exhibition,” discussing the reputation that graffiti has earned, with respects to its rebellious nature.

Regardless of social perceptions of graffiti, these images and words have an incredible global presence. Today, you don’t even have to enter a gallery to find art; walk down any city street and you can be sure to locate at least one wall splattered with graffiti. Street art allows public spaces to become canvasses; sidewalks and the sides of buildings evoke the messages or politics of the artist who chose to create something there.

Though not all graffiti is political, John M. Eger explains that, “From the Berlin Wall…to the ‘democracy wall’ in Beijing, people have used street art to demonstrate some of their most poignant frustrations and concerns about the world,” in an article for the Huffington Post.

street art

Image: Shutterstock

A paradox in the world of street art is the fame that popular graffiti artists earn, despite trying to maintain a discreet profile. After all, the same artists that are creating beautiful, photorealistic or colorful abstract graffiti art are simultaneously breaking the law. Contemporary street-inspired art has been known to auction for millions of dollars; perhaps the art world is more forgiving of a medium that most of society still considers “vandalism.”

If you’ve never stumbled upon the wall of a building covered by the colors of a photorealistic painting, then perhaps you’ve only associated graffiti with vandalism, rather than “street art.” Art in any form is subjective, so why should graffiti be any different? Call it an artistic expression, or call it an act of criminal vandalism, either way, contemporary graffiti exists as an often visually stunning, always defiant, public display.

To learn more about contemporary street art and artists, visit Smashing Magazine’s Tribute To Graffiti: 50 Beautiful Graffiti Artworks.

, , , , , ,

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 5Pointz Artists to Feature Work In Upcoming Gallery Show - Cultivating Culture - January 14, 2014

    […] Graffiti culture has long been a part of New York City’s artistic identity, and the demise of the 5Pointz headquarters hasn’t stopped the artists that made the space so prominent in the public arts world. Murals have been popping up in areas like Long Island City and Astoria, and with the upcoming gallery show, it seems as though an uncertain future will still be a rewarding one for the artists of 5Pointz. […]

  2. Artist Morley Brings Wit and Kindness to Los Angeles - April 4, 2014

    […] you live in an urban area, chances are you see your fair share of graffiti on a daily basis. Perhaps there are posters adhered with wheat paste to the sides of buildings in […]

  3. Welling Court Mural Project Celebrates Community in Fifth Annual Event - June 27, 2014

    […] who have helped to transform the mostly working class, residential neighborhood into a vibrant graffiti and paint-covered […]

  4. Stations of the Elevated Returns to the Big Screen - July 22, 2014

    […] graffiti culture is decidedly subversive, and a genre of art that has been notoriously under documented throughout its history. This is […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: