Misunderstood I have seen all types of graffiti; Latin Kings gang tags on rain road electrical boxes, to planned and beautiful wall art at Oak Street beach in Chicago - Misunderstood introduction. I’ve met people that paint graffiti illegally; I live in Chicago where graffiti thrive, so I feel it’s safe to say I’m immersed in the art. I appreciate it because I don’t assume all of it is corrupt, I see the message they are trying to convey. Recently, graffiti artists have come under serious attack by the media and authority officials who claim that their work is vandalism. Graffiti is art no matter the message or the place it exists.
Points that I will argue in this paper include gangs ruining the image of the art, selfless artists, the message art can hold, and society not adapting to graffiti yet. Graffiti is a positive thing, but some have found a way to use in against the people that it is intended for. There is no doubt that gang graffiti brings pain and violence to neighborhoods. To justify it as art I must refer to one of Oxford English Dictionary’s definitions of art, “An acquired ability of any kind: a skill at doing a specified thing, typically acquired through study and practice; a knack,” (1).
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According to the definition gang graffiti falls under the category of art, because gang graffiti can be very complex and intricate; something I could not draw personally unless I was taught. And because of this it is a skill “acquired through study and practice. ” Art is not exclusively for the moral. Yes gang graffiti is art, but it should be taken down and not to be ever confused or associated with Graffiti that is trying to better our society and communities. To make this distinction there will be gray areas and thin lines no doubt, but I am almost certain anyone can differentiate a Latin Kings tag from a well done mural by Diego Rivera.
The gangs that write these tags are only thinking of themselves to spread their gang, but generous graffiti artists exist. I see graffiti artists to be selfless people taking time out of their days to beautify our urban environment as to educate and entertain us. However some artists are similar to the African American boy interviewed in the documentary Style Wars stated in response to his mother’s quarrel “It’s for me [Graffiti]; it’s not for nobody else to see, I don’t care about nobody else seeing it. ” These kinds of taggers are not using their artistic talent to its full potential.
That does not mean committed graffiti artists using their artistic ability for the others do not exist. These artists just want to spread the art for our benefit, so we can learn from it. A group of graffitist displayed this attribute when they painted a mural in Georgetown: “But for this wall, they volunteered their time and services while the shop provided meals and paint, it took over three months to organize and finish,” (Liu 1). Most people would not go three months spending hours a day volunteering to help a business with no paid, and without expecting anything in return.
The artists involved in the Georgetown mural are the selfless taggers that use their art form for others profit instead of their own. With all of the bad heat that graffiti receives it’s easy to forget there are do-gooders out there. Artist using their ability to share with others can deliver profound and important material to us as the public. The message graffiti can hold, could be anything from telling you to open your eyes and look what’s going on in the world, or be as simple as a picture of a heart to show love.
You are going to see graffiti whether you want to or not; so embrace it, soak up the message. In the mural from the article, Taggers Spray Over Vandal Image it has portraits of people who partook in the civil rights movement (Chiem 2). It’s there to remind us what African Americans went through to be where they are today. You may be walking down the street not expecting it, but when you see it, it may be an awe-inspiring experience. This is not the first thought when most people think of graffiti, but it should be.
Works of art all over the world are helping build communities like the South Bronx in New York: “Many of the works inspire joy and unity-and represent how a simple gesture with the right energy is capable of manifesting a measurable positive transformation,” (Kessler, and Connie 2). It is showing there are citizens that standby graffiti as art. This is also confirmation Graffiti is currently contributing in a constructive way by helping cities and neighborhoods form into communities. Graffiti is a tool we can use to better our society, but we have not deemed the tool conventional yet.
As a society we have not adjusted to this new and revolutionary type of art. Since we have not attuned to this type of art we haven’t learned enough about it and people start to make rash statements. One statement that the city of Chicago made was, “Graffiti is vandalism, it scars the community, hurts property values and diminishes our quality of life. ” (1) This was posted on the cities website. It is because of ignorant statements like this that people need to start being educated about graffiti. The city of Chicago only sees the gang graffiti; they need to understand there are works of art out there contributing to our society’s culture.
Graffiti use to be an important piece of our culture according to Nelson George “As humans grew more sophisticated and paper became the primary tool of communication, walls became sacrosanct and defiling them with words was viewed as a throwback to primitive times,” (11). Our mission should be to reeducate and show others that graffiti is not primitive; it’s new, innovative and state-of-the-art. Showing this to the world could help our society adapt faster and return graffiti to being accepted as a form of art and communication. Society has yet to evolve to embrace graffiti, however I have adapted and so can others.
As a citizen of Chicago I feel I can have an honest opinion on the subject since I deal with it every day. People will soon clasp the real idea of graffiti and stop all the attacks on the art form. Graffiti artists work is art no matter what the message is or where they place it. Most people forget gangs’ tarnish the foundation of the graffiti, selfless artists exist, the message art can communicate, and society not accepting graffiti as art yet. Graffiti will be here forever no matter what we do; it is a matter of time until we accept it for what it is: art.