Graffiti art is an art form. The reasons, including aesthetic criteria, as to why it is an art form far outweigh the criticism of illegality, incoherence, and nonstandard presentation. The objective of this paper is to explain how graffiti art overcomes these concerns and thereby can be considered as an art form.
Suppose that Leonardo, Monet, Picasso, or any of the recognized artisans of Western European culture were alive in the present day. Then, suppose that one of these famous artists decided to paint a masterpiece on the side of your house or on your front door or on a wall in your neighborhood. Would Picasso or Monet's markings be graffiti or art or vandalism or graffiti art? The answer may vary across people, but I would claim that those markings are art in the form of graffiti. Their markings would qualify as vandalism only if they appeared on private or public property without permission. The same answer holds for the present day, genre of graffiti known as graffiti art.
Graffiti art originated in the late 1960's, and it has been developing ever since. However, it is not readily accepted as being art like those works that are found in a gallery or a museum. It is not strictly denied the status of genuine art because of a lack of form or other base aesthetic elements. Most of the opposition to graffiti art is due to its location and bold, unexpected, and unconventional presentation, but its presentation and often illegal location does not necessarily disqualify it as art. In this paper, I elucidate how some forms of graffiti can be accepted as art. This type of graffiti is known as graffiti art, subway art, or spraycan art. The arguments of vandalism and unconventional presentation as negating the ability of some graffiti to be art is usurped by an explanation of those properties apparent in some forms of graffiti that do qualify it, aesthetically, as art. To show this, I provide a historical context of graffiti, and then I provide persuasive evidence that graffiti art is art.
The origins of graffiti go back to the beginnings of human, societal living. Graffiti has been found on uncovered, ancient, Egyptian monuments, and graffiti even was preserved on walls in Pompeii. Graffiti is the plural form of the Italian word grafficar. In plural, grafficar signifies drawings, markings, patterns, scribbles, or messages that are painted, written, or carved on a wall or surface. Grafficar also signifies "to scratch" in reference to different wall writings ranging from "cave paintings", bathroom scribbles, or any message that is scratched on walls. In reference to present day graffiti, the definition is qualified by adding that graffiti is also any unsolicited marking on a private or public property that is usually considered to be vandalism.
There are various forms of graffiti. One of the simplest forms is that of individual markings such as slogans, slurs, or political statements. Examples of this type of graffiti commonly are found in bathrooms or on exterior surfaces, and this graffiti is usually handwritten. Another simple form is that of the tag which is a fancy, scribble-like writing of one's name or nick-name. That is, tag signifies one's name or nick-name.
Both the tag or individual mark have little or no aesthetic appeal. While they might suggest a flair or style of writing, these forms fail to qualify as example of superb graffiti art because of a lack of aesthetic qualities and inability to produce a maximal aesthetic feeling in the viewer. In fact, the tag or individual mark is not produced for artistic purposes. It is basically a means to indicate the writer's presence, i.e., the age old statement of "I was here." Gang markings of territory also fit the definition of graffiti, and they mainly consists of tags and messages that provide "news" of happenings in the neighborhood. Murals for community enhancement and beautification are also a form of graffiti even though they are not...
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