Is grafitti really that bad?

I live in Brooklyn, and have grown to really dig some of the art-work these guys put up. There is some that sucks, but it’s like any art. Some are good at it and some are not. Alot of people just think it’s destruction of property and not a valid art form. I disagree. These people make some very cool pictures for me to check on my way to work.

Some have reccomended designated spots for grafitti, to validate it. That’s all good and well, but part of the whole culture of the grafitti artist is the danger. Danger of getting hurt hitting those high places and the danger of getting arrested.

I can see where it would be annoying if you had to paint over it the next day over and over again. But it makes me smile when I’m walking to the train at 7:30 in the morning to go to some dull job, to see the fresh tags and think about the folks out there last nite and the rush they must have gotten. And alot of it really is damn fine artwork.

DaLovin’ Dj

Sure it’s damn fine art work, but as soon as I catch anyone spay-painting on my damn property, they’re due for a second *sshole. Some of these guys are really talented, and I can definitely understand the adrenaline rush aspect of it, but vandalism is vandalism, you wanna make it art? Put it on a damn canvas.

I like the look of graffiti. This is true.

Come on though…

It is art, but why not go buy your own building?
Art shouldn’t have to be at the expense of others… then it’s called crime.

You should see this new “art form” I have been practing. I walk around and punch unsuspecting females in the face. The blood splatters on the sidewalk, and I sign it. It makes me happy that it makes someone smile when they are walking to the train at 7:30 in the morning to go to some dull job!

Agreed. It’s artwork in the sense that it’s beautiful and inventive, and when I see it on the L it usually makes me smile.

But if you’re going to produce artwork, don’t do it on other people’s property. Then it takes something which could be beautiful and turns it into vandalism.

I am torn on this one.

In my heart I consider grafitti as almost the purest of art. But it’s essence is to be destructive (in a sense - if you’re “ruining” someone else’s property).

I like it but I can’t, in good faith, condone it.

I know that makes no sense, but there you have it just the same.

Graffiti is undoubtedtly art. In many instances, it is breathtaking in both skill and style. But it’s illegal, and it should be, because it’s immoral.

I think a lot of people are distant from graffiti because they don’t own the buildings it’s on. But in a very real sense, we all pay for the removal of graffiti on public property. As to private property, imagine the following analogy:

Sometime in the future, there is a paradigm shift in the graffiti community, and the target moves from buildings to cars. Say you woke up one day, and your car had a gorgeous work of graffiti art all over the hood. It’s beautiful, it conforms to every standard that you set down for art. If that’s Monet, then dammit, it looks like a Monet.

Are you still pissed? Is it still wrong? Are you still entitled to compensation for it? I say yes.

Whether the grafitti “bothers” me or not depends on where it s put. If its on the front of someone’s store, then I’m not into it. But if someone makes a wonderful mosaic on an otherwise plain, gray wall or bridge pilon, then I’m all for it.


Singapore has the right idea. Cane the self-important punks.

What Marvel said.

The really good graffiti artists near where I live appear to be paid some nominal fee by building owners to do a really good piece of art on their fences and walls to, as far as I can figure out, discourage the ugly tagging.

If these artists have respect in their group, then it will be left untarnished for a goodly length of time.

I’d rather see the graffiti art be promoted to mural status to brighten up dull empty spaces, than see endless meaningless scrawls meant as some kind of childish status symbol.

I happen to like wide expanses of blank space. I prefer the minimalist look.
Let me tell you a graffiti story. I used to work at a prepress shop on Melrose Ave in Los Angeles, right across the street from Melrose High, one of the most gang-infested high schools in LA. I used to take my breaks out in the alley, and I often caught people painting on the wall of the building. I’d get my bucket of “chapparal brown” paint (thoughtfully provided by the city of LA) and paint it over right in front of them. Most of these blithering idiots used to protest that I was suppressing their right to free speech because they were an artist. I would challenge them, if they could name ONE artist who didn’t work in graffiti only that had influenced their work, I’d let them finish and leave it up. Nobody could ever come up with one single name. They all went down.
But that’s not the story I’m here to tell. One year, graffiti taggers discovered diamond tipped scribers (normally used as glass cutters) and started carving into every plate glass store window they could hit. There was an empty storefront next to my shop, it was right next to the bus stop where all the kids would depart after school. The window of that shop was so covered in scribes that it was positively cloudy.
One day, a customer of ours left the shop, carrying his prepress output, a bulky hard disk unit, and his car keys in his hands. As he approached the crowd waiting for the bus, the bus came to the curb, the crowd surged, and he was pushed into the plate glass window. It was so weak from all the scribing, it shattered into a million pieces, and crashed down on him, cutting him seriously. He came staggering back into the shop yelling for help, he was covered in blood. We tried to staunch the bleeding while someone called 911. He begged someone to go back out and pick up his car keys and hard drive, which he’d dropped. They were gone. Someone stole his car too. The ambulance arrived and he was carted off to the hospital, stat. He had major surgery and didn’t recover from his injuries for several months.

I’ll go ahead and say that it is art. But most of it is pretty damn bad. Granted you may see good examples once in a while but for the most part it makes buildings look like crap.


Two grafitti stories to relate…

  1. My high school got so fed up with grafitti, it installed blackboards in the bathrooms. Guess what? As soon as the school said “Okay, you wanna write? Here’s some chalk and a board to write on.” grafitti in the bathrooms became almost nonexistant.

  2. I used to be the Executive Editor for a newspaper I started in my hometown on Long Island. Every week, I’d write a staff editorial on current events and issues. As the influence of New York City crept out to Exit 68 off the Long Island Expressway, we had a handful of grafitti incidents involving both public and private buildings and objects. The incidents involved some local teenagers who fancied themselves “taggers” and would try to leave their mark all over town.

After the local florist had his delivery van tagged in four-foot-high letters, I wrote a staff editorial about the tagging. In it, I railed against grafitti and how the mainstream press granted it legitimacy by calling the perpetrators “artists.” Okay, I know that there are some people out there that are mighty talented with a spray paint can or one of those Sharpie pens. In general, though, if you take away the thrill of the possibility of getting caught scribbling crap all over someone else’s property, most of these “artists” abandon the practice and go off in search of other ways to get into trouble. I think that says a lot.

This is what gets me. The argument is made that grafitti is terrible because it “defaces” buildings, walls, etc., and makes things ugly.

But when it comes to avertisements, suddendly the “ugly” issue dissappears. Now, I totally understand why the owner of a building or space or whatever would be more amiable to having his building defaced if he were getting paid for it. But speaking only as the spectator- the one who has to walk though the uglyness every day- I would prefer more grafitti and less ads.

And I don’t mean just the art grafitti, I like the Vox Populus scrawls too. But if it has to come to art, I have a photo in a show opening next month of some grafitti on a blank wall in the park:

       Seek       187
                     Punk not dead

I don’t know what it means, but I like it. They’ve painted over it, but it lives on in my photo.
(dalovindj, don’t you miss the grafitti covered subway cars? I really liked to see them rolling in to my stop. Although I admit I was happy to find the new grafitti resistent cars were all air-conditioned.)


i agree with Marvel’s point. I like grafitti, but it matters to me very much where it is. First of all, I’m not terribly into “tagging.” I much prefer “bombing” or “piecing.” To define, tagging is generally the simple one-color spraypaint/marker-type grafitti that bears the writer’s moniker, while “bombing” and “piecing” are the more elaborate works, employing multiple colors, three-dimentional letter forms, extensive use of shading and other graphic elements (skylines, characters, etc…)
Bombing also sometimes refers to an intensive night of grafitti-ing in a concentrated area.

Anyhow, I do like grafitti that’s centered around industrial areas, visible from mass transportation lines or highways. Roofs of buildings are generally OK by me, since those are usually visible only from the El, and not from the average pedestrian. I do not like grafitti on the fronts of any houses, nor on garages in residential areas. And I certainly do not liked street-gang tagging (like waking up one morning to find “Insane Popes” scrawled on my father’s garage several years ago.) I’m not a fan of tagging within buses - scratches on windows, or Sharpie markered seat backs. To me, those are just plain ugly.

Knowing several grafitti artists who have since moved on, gone to art school and live “respectable” lives as graphic designers, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that many do know what they’re doing. The grafitti artists I know are very into technique, exploring their own letterforms and critiquing other’s style. So some, at least, do put a lot of thought into it, and definitely have a philosophy about it. To me, they are artists by every sense of the word.

But, as I said, I only really appreciate a certain type of grafitti and in certain areas, which, to some, is against the spirit of grafitti art. To each their own. (Please, no nitpicks about “each/their” agreement.)

I live in Budapest now, and it saddens me to see tags on the front of every other historical fin-de-siecle building and the beautiful bridges across the Danube. It’s pointless, ugly and totally lacking in style on top of it. The grafitti in tunnels, tram underpasses and industrial parks I find acceptable. It’s colorful, decently executed (though grafitti art here has a long, long way to go before it matches NY or Chicago…and I doubt it ever will) and does not hurt the beauty of the city.

That’s my take…hope it makes some sense.

I always liked the look of grafitti. Living in a pretty rural part of the world, we don’t get a lot down our way, and most of what I see is on trains. To me, the look is novel enough to be intriguing, but if it were attached to my house I might feel otherwise.

Grafitti as Art? I’m not sure, though I do see it as fundamentally expressing the concept of “I am”. Being identified as an individual is highly valued in western culture, and grafitti is an understandable outlet for expressing a sense of self for people without a lot of other opportunities for creative outlet and expression. Still, it’s not for me to say what’s art and what’s not, because I’m a poser, not an art critic.

I do agree that there should be some grafitti free zones around monuments and buildings of historical significance, and that store owners should use the better grafittiists (?) to discourage the lesser ones from defacing their property. Pay good ones to make something nice, like Guano Lad said.

Are grafitti (people seem to forget that it’s a plural word) artistic in nature? Sure. Are they also criminal in nature? Yes. I don’t understand why people feel the need to make this an “or” argument. Are art and crime always mutually exclusive?

I suppose a grafitti artist who asks permission from the owner of a building before covering its walls with his artwork would be the more “ethical” artist.

[slight hijack]
Actually, I just realized, it’s graffiti and as a mass noun “graffiti” is absolutely OK to take a singular verb. ie. “Graffiti is closely interconnected with hip-hop culture” is perfectly grammatical. Also, “graffiti” has gone much the same way “data” has, taking on a singular usage in English where the etymologically correct “graffito” should be used. Most people would find the use of the word “graffito” to be archaic and stilted, and I personally do not object to “graffiti” in its singular use.
See the usage note here for more info.

Ooops… you’re correct about the spelling. I had let myself be influenced by the OP.

However, when did it become acceptable to use “data” as a singular? I know many people do it, but does that make it correct?