Is This Art?

So asks this week’s edition of I Heart Street Art. Link.

11 Responses to “Is This Art?”

  1. Plug1 says:

    1st: good article at SF Weekly. i share some of your same thoughts re: if i keep publishing Girafa’s am i contributing to society’s ills? probably not, and i dont think i will stop either way. i rather enjoy collecting the Long-Neckers and my readers seem to enjoy looking at them.

    2nd: PE? when i saw the 1st pic at SF Weekly, i thought “this is a shitty tag, meh.” but then after scrolling down and seeing it next to the sex shop, i thought “the image as a whole, is kind of arty.”

  2. zinzin says:

    it’s all vandalism.

    some people might say that some of it is art, too.

    the art part is grey and subjective.

    the vandalism part is black & white…quite clear.

    unfortunately, it’s hard to separate one from the other, particularly when you’re on the end of it that involves a scrub brush & solvent, a paint roller or your checkbook.

    PS good article Allan. definitely a subject worth digging into.

  3. Plug1 says:

    @zinzin: i agree that some graff (tag-banging) could be seen as vandalism. in general most things (including photos and blogs) that are poorly executed just add clutter to our dailyu visual experience. but riddle me this: if a business owner pays a graff artist to put a Bob Marley or Malcolm X mural on the side of his liquor store, is that vandalism? im not so sure about that. in the Mission alone, there are 100s of beautiful graff based murals that IMHO add to that areas collective fabric. especially since most seem to celebrate the heritage of a large part of its community.

    as for the ‘PE’ tag, is that any more offensive than the sex shop who’s property was tagged? again, im not so sure about that.

    personally, i dont want to live in a black and white (or beige) world. the color is what excites me and gives me a zest to further my exploration of The City.

    then again, my exploration is limited to photographing my experiences, not writing about it on the walls. that, in fact, is what Twitter is for!

  4. zinzin says:

    @plug1 – all i’m saying is, if someone puts paint, pictures or anything else – regardless of content or style – on someone else’s property without permission, it’s vandalism. the selfish dick is now requiring that property owner to spend time & money. bad, imho.

    that said, i dont think anyone would call any of the murals in our hood or city – regardless of content or style – vandalism, least of all me.

    one thing has NOTHING to do with the other…past perhaps medium or style, which are inconsequential in this thread far as i’m concerned.

    regarding you & your zest, don’t take it personal…this shit is gonna happen whether we like it or not, and some will & some won’t.

    let’s just call shit for what it is…is all i’m saying. calling it “graff” or “tag banging” or “bombing” don’t make it OK. my view, it’s vandalism, and it’s OK for folks to think it’s wrong.

    and all this, from someone who loves girafa as much as anyone else. PE, on the other hand, is a punk. both are vandals.

  5. ct says:

    Legally, it’s vandalism, and it probably always will be — I don’t know how you write a law that separates the good from the bad.

    The more interesting question is the one allan poses — is it also art, and in particular, when is it also art? I definitely think there is a lot of art out there, but there’s also a lot of awful, destructive stuff.

    For a long time, I distinguished the good from the bad in my mind using the “weak shit” standard: “Is this weak shit?” Eventually I came up with something better: “Does this improve or degrade the surface it’s applied to?”

    The ribity above the Mission Theater undoubtedly (in my mind) improves the surface it’s painted on. The ribity on the pickle sign is borderline; the red tag on the pickle sign basically destroys the sign. In general, simple tags degrade the surfaces they’re applied to more often than more complex figures. Of course, these are all subjective determinations, but disagreement on what is art is not a problem unique to graffiti.

    There are a few things that, for me, are never ok: etching storefront glass, which is mean-spirited (and looks terrible), tagging people’s homes, etc.

  6. sangroncito says:

    I want to be as inclusive as possible about what is considered art in public places because I want my urban environment to be a giant creative landscape. But…the kind of tag in the photo above is simply childish vandalism that adds nothing.

  7. ct says:

    Oh yeah, after all that I forgot to say — this one is not art.

  8. MJ says:

    It really changes the game when it’s your own property getting tagged. The houses on my street get tagged like mad, all the time. At least once a week, I see my neighbors out with their paint brushes, getting rid of it, only to find the new paint job recovered the next weekend with more tags….and the frustrating thing is, when you paint over, it never looks the same afterwards.

    Then, finally, I left the house one morning to see it on the wall of my own home. It just broke my heart. This is the house I break my back to pay the bills for, and I love it. Someone obviously didn’t give a shit about that. I feel the same sadness when I see the awnings of family owned businesses ruined, when you know they can’t afford a new awning. They just have to paint over it or leave it there.

    So whether it’s art or “weak shit”, it’s still thoughtless and selfish, in my opinion.

  9. P says:

    @ MJ – I couldn’t agree more. vandalism is vandalism. I also own in the Mish and often fantasize about seeing this happen first hand so I can grab the spray paint can from the thoughtless asshole tagging my house so I can turn it on him, spray it in his face and see how much he enjoys having his facade ruined.

  10. CuriousSort says:

    Clearly vandalism. zinzin hit the nail on the head. If you don’t own it or don’t have permission, don’t apply your art to it – regardless of what that art looks like. That’s why they invented canvases and other such media which one can purchase and/or make.

    Just because you believe something’s cool or an improvement doesn’t elevate it from vandalism to art. I’ve put a lot of back-breaking work into the color and appearance of my building, and I happen to think it looks cool and needs no artistic improvement. A “graff artist” has no right to trump that, because it’s not his/her property.

    If I want to paint my house or business with yellow giraffes all over it, I will. When your work appears in a gallery, coffee house, or other legal space, I’ll gladly come to see and enjoy it.

  11. guero says:

    My take is that the photo could be considered art but not the subject by itself. Maybe some people see art in scribble on old door just like some people see Jesus on a tortilla. It’s all in the eye, or faith, of the beholder. That said, zinzin has said everything that needs to be said.

    By the way, did any of you see this news article from the LA Times ( last January? I couldn’t believe it when I read it. The Army Corp of Engineers estimates that it will cost $3.7 million to remove this “piece” from the LA River!!!