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Aren’t graffiti, street art, and vandalism the same thing? The articles “Art Attack” and “Urban Warriors” beg to differ. Written about street artists, and street art itself these articles both suggest that graffiti and street art aren’t the same thing as vandalism. In fact, the concept of street art being vandalism is written off altogether in both of the articles, and they both focus on the art forms that both graffiti and street art are.
In galleries across America, street art is for sale. It’s considered an art form mainly in big cities but the fans of street artists are across America and even in different parts of the world. The first main point that I would like to address is that street art and graffiti are in fact art forms. Though many dislike street art, and consider it vandalism, one thing is for sure: it has a strong fan-base as any art form should. In the article “Art Attack” it speaks of a street artist known to many as Banksy. Banksy is very popular, and his artwork can sell upwards of $300,000: “Banksy’s Ruined Landscape, a pastoral scene with the slogan ‘This is not a photo opportunity’ pasted across it, sold for $385,000. A Vandalized Phone Box, an actual British phone booth bent nearly 90 degrees and bleeding red paint where a pickax had pierced it, commanded $605,000” (Ellsworth-Jones pg. 4). Banksy uses his art to speak to his viewers on a personal level and does a great job of it, he has acquired quite a large fan-base as a result.
As an art form, graffiti and vandalism are both very meaningful. Many pieces of art are made solely to reach an audience, whether it’s to talk about politics, poverty, or foreign affairs, graffiti and street art are both made with something in mind other than just creating something for fun. In the article Urban Warriors, it speaks about graffiti and the impact that it makes on us all: “If we view graffiti solely as a criminal act and ignore the homogeneity of urban design that fosters a visual culture of advertisements, property signs, and political propaganda we are missing out on the opportunity to reevaluate the space of public realm” (Loeffler pg. 73). Graffiti and street art challenges our views and gives us many things other than just something to look at, as all art should.
In fact the article “Art Attack” says something similar to that of what “Urban Warriors” just said: “All graffiti is a low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They’ve been used to start revolutions and stop wars” (Ellsworth-Jones pg. 2 ) in laymen’s terms, stencils also provide a huge impact and make us think. Many forms of art command us to change the world, whether it be through the act of actually writing “change the world” in bold letters in the piece itself, or by capturing the essence of something going on in the world that’s not right: which is exactly what graffiti and street artists do.
Another main point in the article is that street art and graffiti both have a bad reputation. In the article “Art Attack” one of the key points made is that not everyone is a street art and graffiti fan. There are people out there that associate street art and graffiti with bad things, and Banksy himself has had trouble with the authorities: “He [Banksy] was beginning to retreat into anonymity, evading the authorities was one explanation — Banksy ‘has issues with the cops’ but he also discovered that anonymity created its own invaluable buzz” (Ellsworth-Jones pg. 2). Banksy remains anonymous today, and his fans like it that way. However it’s a lot easier for people who aren’t fans to associate bad things with someone that they’ve never seen before.
Though Banksy remains anonymous because he and his fans both enjoy the anonymity of it, many street and graffiti artists remain anonymous because of how scared they are of being caught. In the beginning of the article, “Art Attack” Banksy talks about when he was first starting out and scared of being caught: “He [Banksy] was painting a train with a gang of mates when British Transport Police showed up and everyone ran … ‘I spent over an hour hidden under a dumper truck with engine oil leaking all over me’” (Ellsworth-Jones pg. 2). A starting out street artist might be frightened about how bad the reputation of street art and graffiti actually is. Though there are people who accept it as “the norm” it’s also considered taboo to many in today’s society.
Graffiti is associated with a negative reputation, even more so than street art. In the article “Urban Warriors” it talks about how graffiti doesn’t have a good reputation from the beginning: “Graffiti has often been associated with a negative aesthetic, a usually anonymous practice that is about a compulsion to express oneself in public where a suitable place can be found. The word evokes primitive-ness, darkness and pollution” (Loeffler pg. 71). Graffiti in many places is still considered vandalism, however that doesn’t make it only for people in gangs, or for already convicted criminals.
For something with a reputation as bad as graffiti has, you would think that it would be really free with it’s rules, that however is not the case. In fact, an Irish artist named Conor Harrington was quoted saying “I never really got dragged into the strict doctrine of graffiti. For something supposedly so free, its overpowering rules and codes of conduct are killing the spontaneity of the art form” (Loeffler pg. 74). For street art and graffiti, it’s a little hard to consider it as something terrible after finding that graffiti has specific guidelines every graffiti artist must follow, and street art shouldn’t have a bad reputation because it sells in galleries, something that only “society-approved” things should be doing.
In conclusion both articles are very strong about their main points, they both elaborate very well on both subjects and are very informative. Graffiti and street art are both forms of art that are unbeknownst to many because they seem to foster a bad reputation. Which is unfortunate considering that many of the pieces are very inspirational and also have meaning behind them. These articles have shown that street art and graffiti are both forms of art that should live on and should be accepted as the “norm” in today’s society because they both are meaningful to the artists that create them and also to the fans who follow the artists so closely.
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