From cave drawings to hieroglyphics to the streets of New York, graffiti and street art have made their marks as the most ancient form of resilient communication. Whether viewed through the lens of skeptics or supporters, the practice remains in the gray area of legality, despite it’s remarkable positive artistic and creative worth. Graffiti has many unsung beneficial traits, and encompasses an entire urban culture, as is highlighted in The New York Times article “Writings on the Wall (Art is too, for Now)” by Robin Finn.
Graffiti is portrayed as defacement and destruction of communities, however often times it acts as a positive influence to urban communities. The Australian Institution of Criminology defines the many dynamics and forms of graffiti. These include tagger graffiti, desk graffiti, gang related, political, and urban artistic graffiti (Louis). Often, all forms of graffiti are generalized into one category, and are all associated with tagger graffiti. Tagger graffiti is when the person forms his or her own “graffiti name”, usually a short nickname, and projects it into highly visible locations. This is done for recognition and notoriety, and is usually made up of condensed letters. Because the purpose of this form of graffiti is to be seen by many people, busy urban areas are prime location for tags. Billboards, shop fronts, trucks, and walls are all popular places for the tags, and thus tag graffiti is what is seen most often by society, leading them to automatically link it with all graffiti and urban displays of art in general (Louis).
Many city and state governments have passed strict legislation against the practice of art in public places. New York City government states “No person shall write, paint or draw any inscription, figure or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or any other real or personal property owned, operated or maintained by a public benefit corporation, the city of New York or any agency or instrumentality thereof or by any person, firm, or corporation, or any personal property maintained on a city street or other city-owned property.” (City and State Anti-Graffiti Legislation). Because of graffiti’s link to hip hop culture, and hip-hop culture’s association with low-income areas, tagger graffiti has also become a symbol for crime in urban neighborhoods. This association fuels modern day society into the destruction of all street art, no matter what form. The city of Sydney, Australia has established a graffiti management policy in which government and citizens remove graffiti quickly, but also offer avenues of space for those hoping to post bills and notices are allowed by law to do so (City of Sydney Graffiti Management Policy). California penal code 594 explains that based on the dollar amount it takes for a graffiti piece to be removed, the punishment for committing a crime of vandalism ranges from charges of misdemeanor to felony, and fines of four hundred to fifty thousand dollars (California Penal Code 594). Street artists and taggers alike suffer from the enforcement and consequences of these policies laws, but yet the art form seems to continuously muster more and more attention and fame.
However, not all graffiti follows the invasive and unattractive nature of tagger graffiti. Those enthusiasts looking to be set apart from the stereotype that tagger graffiti holds for modern urban artists have taken to the more refined skill and title of “street art”. George C. Stowers of graffiti.org explains that street art began developing in the late 60’s, when taggers were caught up in the world of tagging subway trains in New York City. Through an artist’s progression, the striving to be both neater and more skillful emerged an organized and dynamic world of street art. The rising hip-hop culture also contributed to the growth of street art, quickly adopting the act as one of its...
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