Graffiti: Art or Vandalism?

Interview

Friday, April 29, 2011

At MOCA’s graffiti survey exhibition, Art in the Streets, not even the restrooms are off-limits from the artists. At MOCA’s graffiti survey exhibition, Art in the Streets, not even the restrooms are off-limits from the artists. (Carolina Miranda)

At Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art (LA MOCA), a big new survey called Art in the Streets looks at the last forty years of graffiti. Not coincidentally, the LAPD arrested several graffiti artists the same week of the exhibit's opening — some of them, artists with work in the show. Arts writer Carolina Miranda tells Kurt Andersen she thinks the reaction by the authorities is overblown.

 

Should graffiti artists be arrested or given museum exhibits? Or both? Leave a comment and let us know.

 

 

Slideshow: Graffiti Art, Inside and Outside the Museum

Carolina Miranda

The museum as canvas: as part of the exhibition Art in the Streets at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, tagger Blade from New York created this commissioned work on the museum building's outside façade.  The exhibition, on view through August 8, 2011, is the first major museum survey of graffiti and street art.

Carolina Miranda

A billboard tagged by Los Angeles artist Augor is among the pieces featured in Art in the Streets.

Carolina Miranda

Not even the ladies' room was off-limits to graffiti artists – the museum's bathroom stalls were tagged by French artist André as part of the exhibition.

Carolina Miranda

Street art rolls into the museum: this car was tagged by the late Keith Haring.

Carolina Miranda

This installation, by the New York City-based Irak Crew, includes the work of prominent artist Dash Snow, who died in 2009.

Eric Brunetti's "Lost: Black Female" (1996/2011) was pieced together from found missing pet posters.

Carolina Miranda

"The Legacy of Decline" (2011) by Stelios Faitakis.

Carolina Miranda

 A musical installation by Os Gemeos, with playable drum set, titled "People Say What They Want."

Carolina Miranda

The exhibition also displays the tools of the trade: curator Roger Gastman included a wall of vintage spray cans, some dating back to the 1950s and ‘60s

Carolina Miranda

Cans of spray paint and special edition markers are available at the MOCA gift shop, but the materials are not allowed inside the exhibit, lest they be used on the walls.

Carolina Miranda

“Stained Window,” by the British artist Banksy, uses tags contributed by students from Los Angeles’s City of Angels School to create a stained glass effect.

Carolina Miranda

Despite the exhibition, graffiti artists still work in a contested medium, which may be establishment, fringe, or even illegal. The artist Revok, who contributed to this mural at the exhibition, was recently arrested for some of his previous (unsanctioned) work.

Carolina Miranda

A few blocks west of the museum, unsanctioned graffiti art is still a large presence in the urban landscape of Los Angeles. This wall remains a prominent street art spot, and the owners of the building keep it that way.

Carolina Miranda

An illegal installation by Brooklyn-based artist Swoon, located a few blocks away from the legal work on view at the MOCA. Arts writer Carolina Miranda found much of Swoon’s work scattered in the downtown L.A. area – but the artist is also known for projects like Miss Rockaway Armada, for which she and a number of collaborators built boats of found objects and sailed them down the Mississippi.

Carolina Miranda

Across the river in East L.A., and completely independent of the exhibit at the MOCA, graffiti continues as it has for years.

    Music Playlist
  • Graffiti
    Artist: Digable Planets
    Album: Blowout Comb
    Label: BMG DIRECT
    Purchase: Amazon

Guests:

Carolina A. Miranda

Comments [17]

fiuto

http://fiutoartv.tumblr.com/

Mar. 30 2012 07:31 AM
Austin

Museums display art, and if graffiti isn't art, then i dont know what is.

Mar. 11 2012 05:28 PM
Dang48 from Mason City, IA

Graffiti is the writers expression of their feelings put into the movement of a spray can. They do every thing a normal artist does. We draw many sketches and its not like we just hit up any spot. We take alot of consideration to where to bomb. And people who bitch about it is where I wanna hit up. Everyone who thinks its vandalism just can't handle the fact they don't have the ability to do what we can with a spray can.

WRITERS STAND UNITED.

Feb. 13 2012 09:28 AM
Dang48 from Mason City, IA

Graffiti is the writers expression of their feelings put into the movement of a spray can. They do every thing a normal artist does. We draw many sketches and its not like we just hit up any spot. We take alot of consideration to where to bomb. And people who bitch about it is where I wanna hit up. Everyone who thinks its vandalism just can't handle the fact they don't have the ability to do what we can with a spray can.

WRITERS STAND UNITED.

Feb. 13 2012 09:27 AM
oscar mendez from america

F the BS graffiti is a form of showing the world your art and what do cops do just take it away now that's BS F police

Oct. 13 2011 12:08 PM
J L

Vandelism is ephemeral art, graffiti is more about the action than the product, the moment not the halflife of novelty and notoriety--once it becomes collectible, sellable, programmable, it is no longer immutable.

May. 05 2011 12:26 PM
Osiris Munir

I believe that NASA is the first to create 3D sound.There is a box set by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson has been researching the effects of sound frequencies and music on the mind and body since 1981 The sounds are all in 3D its used in brain entrainment.

May. 04 2011 11:40 PM
J L

Speaking of horse paintings, my favorite work from 90s S.F. was a woman that went by Reminisce, who would deftly spray paint images of horses galloping and grazing in empty lots downtown: http://www.youtube.com/user/jgluzifer#p/u/27/Vykm_ng00qI

May. 04 2011 09:18 PM
Carolina A Miranda from In the vicinity of L.A.

@Bemused: You make a good point about distinguishing between gang graffiti and graffiti as art. And kudos to you for the programs you've started.

I think I also failed to make the point in my interview that we see lots of "illegal" imagery throughout the course of our day. Interestingly, a lot of it is corporate advertising — yet the authorities are far less likely to crack down on it than they are graffiti. Artist Steve Lambert and the other folks at the Anti-Advertising Agency have long tracked this:
http://antiadvertisingagency.com/tag/illegal-advertising/
http://antiadvertisingagency.com/vandal-task-force-is-dropping-the-ball/

Something to think about when we consider our public spaces.

May. 03 2011 11:52 PM
Bemused from GEORGIA USA

I was introduced to many graffiti artists while working with offenders. Most were 17-23, had ADD/ADHD and most, not all, were brilliantly talented. One was rearrested for stealing art supplies. The art was inside him and had to come out. I started a program called Justice Thru Art, where offenders could continue their art in a known environment, with the prison teacher. We provided all the supplies and helped them sell their products as an independence even wealth creator. We used sufficiently skilled graffiti artists to paint murals in youth centers as part of their community service. While the unauthorized changing of the exterior of some one else's property is a crime, and should be treated as such, we need to rethink our approach to assessing and punishing the artist. Gang graffiti used to mark 'territory' should receive different intervention to the displays in abandoned buildings, tunnels etc painted for the sake of the art.

May. 03 2011 11:50 AM
Rosa Lowinger from Los Angeles, CA

Graffiti and vandalism are as old as art itself. In fact, the oldest extant image of Christ on the Cross is a graffito now in the Palatine Antiquarian Museum in Rome. Known as the Alexamanos Graffito, the image dates from about the year 200 AD. It shows a crucified man with a donkey's head, to which a man prays on his knees. A Greek text nearby reads:

ALE
XAMENOS
SEBETE
THEON

which translates to, "Alexamenos worships his god."

May. 02 2011 10:19 PM
SHARON

The glorification of property damage is so wrong. Arrest and fine them all!
Check out the business and property owners in Atlanta's old 4th Ward mulit-million dollar anti-graffiti lawsuit. How would you like re-painting the place where you live and work every day for eighteen years?

May. 02 2011 04:22 PM
Scott Chamberlin from Seattle

I am always astounded and dismayed that anyone could regard graffiti as 'art'. If a tagger painted his initials on your new car would you still regard it as art? When a person stands on a street corner and shouts obscenities, do you call it street poetry? To compare graffiti to bad paintings in a gallery is ludicrous. The gallery chose to hang those paintings. When someone alters another's property with spray paint, whether some people regard it as an improvement or not, it is simply wrong; it is vandalism, pure and simple.

May. 01 2011 10:20 PM
mjbarr

I was a bit surprised and disappointed by your reaction to an LA Police Officer having an opinion about graffiti.

Why?

May. 01 2011 11:23 AM
Tom Stewart from Providence, RI

Arrested. I can choose to visit an art museum or watch a movie but graffiti is thrust upon me at the whim of the "artist". Unlike your commentator, I do not consider this chaotic vandalism to be worth the occasional inspired product. The article also ignores the use of graffiti to mark gang territory and underplays the fact that it appropriates other people's property with any concern for the owner. Perhaps the graffiti lovers would donate their own property (cars, houses) for use as canvass of random expression. If a purveyor of graffiti is a true artist that provides art of worth, then he/she can do what legitimate artists do, get permission to use the space, gain a benefactor, or spend their own money for an opportunity to show their work. Perhaps they don't because they aren't interested in whether others want to see their work but only in forcing it on the public. Or perhaps they don't because in most cases, it's not art worth seeing.

May. 01 2011 12:04 AM
roepat from kansas

Graffiti is nothing but vandalism to other peoples' property.

Apr. 30 2011 05:39 PM
Zak Smith from Los Angeles, CA

Cops should be allowed to arrest graffiti writers, but only if they're allowed to graffiti cops.

Apr. 29 2011 03:28 PM

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