Monday, October 25, 2010

Grafitti


Master graphic designer Leslie Cabarga regards graffiti writers as the “scribes of our day” and says: “I see graffiti as symptomatic of a culture that, at the leadership level, has little use for art or artists and relegates those of us with the most meager means to virtual outlaw status.”

from Cabarga's book: Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible.

22 comments:

Richard J. Luschek II said...

When I think of the word "scribe", I think of someone that is highly educated and not someone into destroying property value through vandalism.
Don't you think more that our culture more has little use for the art of delinquents with no art training, who force their "art" on others by painting it illegally?
If the artist is highly trained and skilled, I have found most people regard that very highly.

jaylake said...

Have you been to Hosier Lane in Melbourne? Some of the most astonishing grafitti I have ever seen.

My recent visit there:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaylake/sets/72157624925833372/

My Pen Name said...

I agree with Richard- the New York Times is famous for for publishing this sort of banter in its arts columns - - a critic once quipped how odd it was then, how quickly grafitti was removed when someone vandalized- oops - decorated - the New York Times building.

and from a Edmund Burke like perspective, I might ask, if the vandals who do this claim it is 'art' how would they feel if i 'decorated' THEIR grafitti with my 'art'?

Don Cox said...

There is some good Iranian graffiti here.

Mario said...

I have the impression that most people are judging graffiti on an ideological basis, not on facts. It's simply not true that all graffiti writers have "no art training", some are quite talented and trained. Actually, I hate when writers vandalize some historical monument, and I understand not everyone likes graffiti on his house. However graffiti on ugly suburban walls can be quite beautiful and meaningful.
Also, I don't think good art is always easily appreciated, some art can be "difficult" or "unpleasant". I probably wouldn't hang a drawing by Schiele in my dining-room, but he was nevertheless both talented and skilled, and a remarkable artist too.

jeff jordan said...

KILROY WAS HERE

Jobot said...

On the subject of graffiti, I think it is important to make some distinctions. There is a difference between those whose sole intent is to vandalize property or place gang signs that mark turf boundaries, and artists who use graffiti as a consciously chosen venue to artistically address social or political issues. Two good examples are Bansky (www.banksy.co.uk) in Great Britain and Shepherd Fairey (obeygiant.com) in Southern California.

For these artists, the fact that their venue is illegal is the point. They aren't trying to be part of what is acceptable. They aren't making pretty pictures for a few well-to-do collectors and gallery patrons to enjoy. They are making statements, often targeting the current governmental, political and social forces in power with their chosen audience being the "common person" out in the street.

Of course, we can also find every shade of gray between these two extremes and the merits of each artist or tagger are debatable.

And to respond more directly to Mr. Gurney's post, the only thing I find enjoyable about a public restroom is reading the opinionated conversations of anonymous strangers; sentences separated by unknown periods of time, scrawled on the doors and walls of the otherwise horribly bland stalls. Like a page torn from the diary of the seedier side of our society or the seedier side of ourselves, free to say whatever we want, free from reprisal from those who disagree, protected by the anonymity of a private stall.

Alonso said...

Summary:
Graffiti is a new example of the instinctual creation of art. The historical and technical expertise required to create graffiti can be as opaque to outsiders as has many other genre's of art.


Driving through the city of San Diego you will notice how the shapes and colors of the urban environment are absorbed and echoed in the pieces of the graffiti artists, the same way that the colors of the soil and rolling hills in Tuscany are evidenced in Italian Renaissance art, or the pinkish northern light of Norway is well represented in Odd Nerdrum's work. It is a visual language as complicated and nuanced as cubism or impressionism, looking at it as an outsider without knowing the rules of the genre or the goals it is easy to come away with the thought "my kid could paint something better then that". The masters of the genre have developed skills in the handling of the craft as well as a highly developed sense of line, color, and composition, that like Arabic caligraphy may be undetectable by the uninitiated. Their work reflects the history of the genre as well as the modern culture in which they live. Graffiti is a more democratic genre then many others because there is no requirement of an "artistic temperament" or an mfa or even the ability to create wall text, if you feel moved to express yourself in your world - you do, if your peers judge your work as poor quality they feel free to cover it, it is a dialogue similar to jazz improvisation.

Since cave painting days it has been human nature to absorb, interpret, and leave your personal mark on your environment. In our modern world only those with money are allowed to pollute our visual experience with whatever crass advertising they want, which makes Graffiti artists like Robin Hood in that they are reclaiming their environment with their own image making that speaks to their own culture.

some video things for those afraid of wall of texts

http://www.otherthings.com/grafarc/ recording of the dialogue of a wall

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuGaqLT-gO4 graffiti brought to life, interacting with it's environment

James Gurney said...

Thanks to all of you for these thoughtful and unexpected comments. I haven't made my mind up about grafitti, perhaps because I have such a variety of reactions to it, based on where it appears, how it's done, and what it says. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I don't.

I would love to see a book that shows photos of grafitti around the world, maybe combined with photos of the surroundings, as Alonso suggests. Maybe such a book exists?

In fairness to Mr. Cabarga, he does say that he wouldn't appreciate grafitti as much if it were done on his own house.

Donna said...

I certainly don't want grafitti on MY house or bathroom wall or car or rock outcropping no matter who the "artist" is. I'm apalled when I see it on someone else's property being 99.9% certain that the other property owner didn't ask for it, want it or appreciate it either and now has to pay to have it cleaned up.

K_tigress said...

Unfortunately graffiti over here is equivalent to a bunch of animals marking their territory on mail boxes and other property which brings on blight est and that’s how most of those dudes act too. Animals unfortunately.

Chris said...

jaylake, thanks for the pics. One day I'll make to Melbourne for a look. In the right place, and with some artistic skill, these look great.

James, there are books, eg
'Graffiti Women' and 'Graffiti World', I've seen in my local library. There is some nice graffiti out there.

Artistic graffiti can be good, tags etc are usually rubbish. Like all styles of art, Sturgeon's Law seems to apply. Those with skill need to be encouraged and given a place to show off their artwork. Melbourne is an example of that being successful.

Art Ist said...

Check out my post today, Picture taken on last Sunday..Amazing..http://4oneaday.blogspot.com/

ULAND said...

I think we can all agree that— our ideas about vandalism aside— some graffiti is interesting. What I don't really buy is the idea that it's harder now for people to be involved in creating art, or that art is less valued now that it has been in the past. It seems to me like there are more professional and commercial opportunities nowadays, and, with the internet, it's easier to show your work than it's ever been. Heck, even decent art materials are cheaper, and better, than they used to be. A kid could do some drawings, scan them at Kinkos for next to nothing, and post the images to Flickr and develop a following.
So, no, I don't buy it. The draw of graffiti is the outlaw cache of it all. It's a kind of cheap posture that gives young people a sense of individuality and false import.

Roberto said...

I have a love/hate relationship going on with graffiti.
I hate the graffiti vandals. They’re a pack of little hoodlum/animals running around pissing on walls to mark their territory. I’m with Richard, MPN, Donna and K when it comes to taggers/vandals.
But when it comes to Graffiti Art, I’m with Mario, Jobot, and Alonso.
It’s usually done in neutral, marginal or blighted areas and has an attitude of reclaiming a neglected or abused urban site for art’s sake.
If you think it’s easy or anybody can do it, go try it and see. Artistically it’s an expressive graphic style of abstraction (similar to cubism as Alonso points out) that has a ‘temporary,’ urban installation/environmental art quality to it.
In addition to its aesthetics, Its hard work! It’s like painting in plein-air, but instead of a little 8”x10” piece, try painting an 8’x10’ mural in an urban environment. It’s really an extreme-sport of painting! Then add the deadline pressure, the turf pressure, police pressure, junkyard dog pressure… and you really have a young-man’s game goin’ on.
While I like working very-large outdoors and getting physical, I also like to get paid for my work, which is why I haven’t indulged in this painting genre.
So… just yesterday I’m painting a Mascot for an elementary school in L.A., a 12’ x 12’ mural on an exterior wall, when these two young vatos come up and are admiring my work and asking questions… “How much do you charge?” “Can we hire you to paint something for us?”
…sure, what do you want?
“We want something, really bad!”
… do you want it for your room at home?
“No, we want it outside. Like on the street”
… what? On your garage or the side of your house?
“No, not on our house.”
... well, you have to own the wall. I can’t paint on your neighbor’s wall, unless you get permission.
“No, not on our neighbors’ wall”
…where then?
“(in unison) Down on the River!!”
…OH! You want to hire me to paint something for you down on the River!? Why don’t you go paint it yourselves?
“We’re not good enough!”
Sorry, boyz, I can’t help you, but keep on practicing and one day you can do it!

I’m not worried about them becoming Graffiti Artists. They’ll probably become Art Directors for come big studio and farm-out all the backdrops to some factory in Thailand! -RQ

Roberto said...

I have a love/hate relationship going on with graffiti.
I hate the graffiti vandals. They’re a pack of little hoodlum/animals running around pissing on walls to mark their territory. I’m with Richard, MPN, Donna and K when it comes to taggers/vandals.
But when it comes to Graffiti Art, I’m with Mario, Jobot, and Alonso.
It’s usually done in neutral, marginal or blighted areas and has an attitude of reclaiming a neglected or abused urban site for art’s sake.
If you think it’s easy or anybody can do it, go try it and see. Artistically it’s an expressive graphic style of abstraction (similar to cubism as Alonso points out) that has a ‘temporary,’ urban installation/environmental art quality to it.
In addition to its aesthetics, Its hard work! It’s like painting in plein-air, but instead of a little 8”x10” piece, try painting an 8’x10’ mural in an urban environment. It’s really an extreme-sport of painting! Then add the deadline pressure, the turf pressure, police pressure, junkyard dog pressure… and you really have a young-man’s game goin’ on.
While I like working very-large outdoors and getting physical, I also like to get paid for my work, which is why I haven’t indulged in this painting genre.
So… just yesterday I’m painting a Mascot for an elementary school in L.A., a 12’ x 12’ mural on an exterior wall, when these two young vatos come up and are admiring my work and asking questions… “How much do you charge?” “Can we hire you to paint something for us?”
…sure, what do you want?
“We want something, really bad!”
… do you want it for your room at home?
“No, we want it outside. Like on the street”
… what? On your garage or the side of your house?
“No, not on our house.”
... well, you have to own the wall. I can’t paint on your neighbor’s wall, unless you get permission.
“No, not on our neighbors’ wall”
…where then?
“(in unison) Down on the River!!”
…OH! You want to hire me to paint something for you down on the River!? Why don’t you go paint it yourselves?
“We’re not good enough!”
Sorry, boyz, I can’t help you, but keep on practicing and one day you can do it!

I’m not worried about them becoming Graffiti Artists. They’ll probably become Art Directors for come big studio and farm-out all the backdrops to some factory in Thailand! -RQ

Roberto said...

I have a love/hate relationship going on with graffiti.
I hate the graffiti vandals. They’re a pack of little hoodlum/animals running around pissing on walls to mark their territory. I’m with Richard, MPN, Donna and K on taggers/vandals.
But when it comes to Graffiti Art, I’m with Mario, Jobot, and Alonso.
It’s usually done in marginal or blighted areas and has an attitude of reclaiming a neglected or abused site for art’s sake.
If you think it’s easy, go try it and see. Artistically it’s an expressive graphic style of abstraction.
In addition to its aesthetics, its hard work! It’s like painting in plein-air, but instead of a little 8”x10” piece, try painting an 8’x10’ mural in an urban environment. It’s really an extreme-sport of painting! Then add the deadline pressure, the turf pressure, police pressure, junkyard dog pressure… and you really have a young-man’s game goin’ on.

While I like working very-large outdoors and getting physical, I also like to get paid for my work, which is why I haven’t indulged in this painting genre.

So… just yesterday I’m painting a Mascot for an elementary school in L.A., a 12’ x 12’ mural on an exterior wall, when these two young vatos come up and are admiring my work and asking questions… “How much do you charge?” “Can we hire you to paint something for us?”
…sure, what do you want?
“We want something, really bad!”
… do you want it for your room at home?
“No, we want it outside. Like on the street”
… what? On your garage or the side of your house?
“No, not on our house.”
... well, you have to own the wall. I can’t paint on your neighbor’s wall, unless you get permission.
“No, not on our neighbors’ wall”
…where then?
“(in unison) Down on the River!!”
…OH! You want to hire me to paint something for you down on the River!? Why don’t you go paint it yourselves?
“We’re not good enough!”
Sorry, boyz, I can’t help you, but keep on practicing and one day you can do it!

I’m not worried about them becoming Graffiti Artists. They’ll probably become Art Directors for come big studio and farm-out all the backdrops to some factory in Thailand! -RQ

Roberto said...

I have a love/hate relationship going on with graffiti.
I hate the graffiti vandals. They’re a pack of little hoodlum/animals running around pissing on walls to mark their territory. I’m with Richard, MPN, Donna and K when it comes to taggers/vandals.
But when it comes to Graffiti Art, I’m with Mario, Jobot, and Alonso.
It’s usually done in neutral, marginal or blighted areas and has an attitude of reclaiming a neglected or abused urban site for art’s sake.
If you think it’s easy or anybody can do it, go try it and see. Artistically it’s an expressive graphic style of abstraction (similar to cubism as Alonso points out) that has a ‘temporary,’ urban installation/environmental art quality to it.
In addition to its aesthetics, Its hard work! It’s like painting in plein-air, but instead of a little 8”x10” piece, try painting an 8’x10’ mural in an urban environment. It’s really an extreme-sport of painting! Then add the deadline pressure, the turf pressure, police pressure, junkyard dog pressure… and you really have a young-man’s game goin’ on.
While I like working very-large outdoors and getting physical, I also like to get paid for my work, which is why I haven’t indulged in this painting genre.
So… just yesterday I’m painting a Mascot for an elementary school in L.A., a 12’ x 12’ mural on an exterior wall, when these two young vatos come up and are admiring my work and asking questions… “How much do you charge?” “Can we hire you to paint something for us?”
…sure, what do you want?
“We want something, really bad!”
… do you want it for your room at home?
“No, we want it outside. Like on the street”
… what? On your garage or the side of your house?
“No, not on our house.”
... well, you have to own the wall. I can’t paint on your neighbor’s wall, unless you get permission.
“No, not on our neighbors’ wall”
…where then?
“(in unison) Down on the River!!”
…OH! You want to hire me to paint something for you down on the River!? Why don’t you go paint it yourselves?
“We’re not good enough!”
Sorry, boyz, I can’t help you, but keep on practicing and one day you can do it!

I’m not worried about them becoming Graffiti Artists. They’ll probably become Art Directors for come big studio and farm-out all the backdrops to some factory in Thailand! -RQ

Roberto said...

I have a love/hate relationship going with graffiti.
I hate the graffiti vandals. They’re a pack of little hoodlum/animals running around pissing on walls to mark their territory. I’m with Richard, MPN, Donna and K when it comes to taggers/vandals.
But when it comes to Graffiti Art, I’m with Mario, Jobot, and Alonso.
It’s usually done in neutral, marginal or blighted areas and has an attitude of reclaiming a neglected or abused urban site for art’s sake.
If you think it’s easy or anybody can do it, go try it and see. Artistically it’s an expressive graphic style of abstraction (similar to cubism as Alonso points out) that has a ‘temporary,’ urban installation/environmental art quality to it.
In addition to its aesthetics, Its hard work! It’s like painting in plein-air, but instead of a little 8”x10” piece, try painting an 8’x10’ mural in an urban environment. It’s really an extreme-sport of painting! Then add the deadline pressure, the turf pressure, police pressure, junkyard dog pressure… and you really have a young-man’s game goin’ on.
While I like working very-large outdoors and getting physical, I also like to get paid for my work, which is why I haven’t indulged in this painting genre. -RQ

Roberto said...

So… just yesterday I’m painting a Mascot for an elementary school in L.A., a 12’ x 12’ mural on an exterior wall, when these two young vatos come up and are admiring my work and asking questions… “How much do you charge?” “Can we hire you to paint something for us?”
…sure, what do you want?
“We want something, really bad!”
… do you want it for your room at home?
“No, we want it outside. Like on the street”
… what? On your garage or the side of your house?
“No, not on our house.”
... well, you have to own the wall. I can’t paint on your neighbor’s wall, unless you get permission.
“No, not on our neighbors’ wall”
…where then?
“(in unison) Down on the River!!”
…OH! You want to hire me to paint something for you down on the River!? Why don’t you go paint it yourselves?
“We’re not good enough!”
Sorry, boyz, I can’t help you, but keep on practicing and one day you can do it!
I’m not worried about them becoming Graffiti Artists, They’ll probably become Art Directors for come big studio and farm-out all the backdrops to some factory in Thailand! -RQ

newleafcreative said...

I own the book you quoted and I'm glad you shared this on your blog. I, myself, am torn about grafitti, some of it is simply vandalism, but then again, some of it is amazing art and merits our appreciation.

As a kid, who grew up near a busy railroad track, I always found the grafitti on passing trains very intriguing. The colors and shapes appealed to me and gave more than a sense of vandalism, but rather forced the question of who did that and what dark train yard they trespassed to carry out their art. It's kind of sexy in a way...mysterious in it's lack of fame and fortune. The core desire of human beings is to communicate with each other. Grafitti could be called a modern descendant of ancient cave paintings.

I've been following the London street art scene for a while now, since I witnessed some in person on a recent trip to the UK. I think this photographer does an astounding job of cataloging some of the best work out there.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/romanywg/collections/72157603616829995/

Thought you might like to see.
Cheers!
TT

JZino said...

Thank you so much for posting this. :)