Beautiful, striking, and thought-provoking, graffiti has long been a symbol of artistic expression as well as rebellion. Graffiti is much more than colorful symbols and pictures on walls and buildings. It can convey powerful messages of social justice and history that move all those who view it. However, there has long been a debate surrounding the very idea of graffiti.
While many accept the nature of graffiti as art, others have issues with its public nature. To get involved in the debate "Is graffiti art or vandalism?" the Museum of Graffiti is here to help you learn more about both and understand exactly what makes graffiti art.
What is Graffiti?
Graffiti is writing or drawing etched or sprayed on a wall or other public surface. It can range from simple words to elaborate art pieces that cover entire walls. Graffiti might seem modern, but it can be traced back to Pompeii and other ancient civilizations. Graffiti would endure over the generations that followed until, by the 1970s, it became closely associated with the social revolution happening in cities around the United States.
People saw graffiti as a symbol of rebellion, and graffiti artists like Darryl McCray became iconic. Artists developed signatures, known as tags, to distinguish their work and make it widely recognizable. Today, a graffiti artist's tag is how they make their mark in culture.
Vandalism vs Graffiti
Although there's no denying the beauty of graffiti in certain spaces, some critics have slammed the practice as vandalism. Some believe that drawing and tagging public property is in itself an act of vandalism that could lead to larger concerns like broken windows or damaged buildings throughout the street. Still, the lines separating vandalism from graffiti aren't so clear.
Graffiti isn't illegal unless it crosses limits, at which point it can become vandalism. Graffiti is an art form, especially when it is placed on public property, with consent, in a way that changes people's viewpoints and introduces them to new kinds of beauty and self-expression. If there's consent, there's art, which is the space where graffiti thrives.
Why Graffiti Is Art
Graffiti is all about self-expression, from the colors and shades an artist chooses to the images or words that the artist opts to share with the world. Graffiti is one of the most powerful forms of modern art, with eye-catching colors and images that can raise awareness of social issues and causes. It can also push boundaries. Graffiti isn't confined to just small surfaces or a single wall.
Some artists use graffiti to cover entire building blocks over several floors. This challenges conventional ideas of artistic expression and pushes people to think outside the box. Graffiti has undoubtedly infiltrated pop culture, with many comic book artists inspired by the work of graffiti pioneers.
See the Art of Graffiti in Person
Consent is central to the debate of graffiti as art or vandalism. When authorization is present, graffiti is not only a groundbreaking artistic style but a form of street art that is vital to American pop culture and history. If you want to learn more about the history and importance of graffiti, the Museum of Graffiti is here to educate and inspire you.
With exhibitions focusing on the past, present, and future of graffiti, you'll learn about the trending artists making waves around the world, as well as the many ways that graffiti has influenced pop culture and social movements. Our museum shop carries a selection of art supplies, so you can work on enhancing your skills after strolling through our exhibits. Contact us today to learn more about the Museum of Graffiti and to purchase your tickets.
Image credit: Mehaniq, Shutterstock