One common objection is that graffiti is not art because it is vandalism and hence a criminal act. While it is true that it can be vandalism and a criminal act, these facts would not seem to have a bearing on its status of being art. The mere fact that something is illegal or classified as vandalism hardly seems sufficient to make something fall outside of the realm of art.
After all, imagine a state in which music was a criminal act and labeled as a vandalism of the public sound space. It would hardly follow that music would thus cease to be art. As such, this objection fails.
The reasons and values for why one might engage in graffiti art are as varied as the artists who produce it. A chief reason is the prospect of fame and recognition of one’s artistic talent. Graffiti is also a form of self expression. The art as “writing” is a creative method of communicating with other writers and the general public. What it communicates is the artist’s identity, expression, and ideas. Judgments are based solely on one’s artistic ability. This type of communication is of value because it links people regardless of cultural, lingual, or racial differences in way that nothing else can.
In addition, producing graffiti art with a crew builds team work in that the crew works together for the accomplishment of a common goal. The feeling of this achievement in league with others is of value to the artist In addition, graffiti art is not a spontaneous activity like tagging in the form of fancy scribble. The completion of a piece or a production involves a great deal of imagination, planning, and effort. The graffitist first does a sketch. Then he or she plans out characters and selects colors.
Next, the artist selects his or her “canvas” or surface and does a preliminary outline, followed by a filling in of colors and ornamentation, and then the final outline is completed. Graffiti can also be analyzed according to the elements of lines, color, and structures that are present in the work in order to produce a narrative about it. Another significant reason why graffiti art can be viewed as art is by considering the producer’s intention. Graffitists intend their work to be apprehended as art that can communicate feelings and ideas to the audience.
This is in line with Tolstoy’s mandate that art must allow people to express ideas and share in each other’s feelings via the artwork. Plus, graffiti art has a function of not only communicating to others, but it also beautifies the community by appearing on areas that normally would be eyesores, such as a wall in a vacant lot or an abandoned building. Furthermore, all of the aesthetic properties and criteria from the base element of color to the complex issue of artist intention which are ascribed to other works in order to characterize them as art can all be found in examples of spraycan art.
The only difference between those works in a gallery or museum and graffiti art in terms of how and why the latter is not readily accepted as art is due to its location and presentation. Indeed the issues of location and presentation are the most significant obstacles to a wholehearted acceptance of spraycan art as art. Graffiti art cannot be disregarded simply because it is not presented in the conventional location and manner, i. e. , framed and placed in a museum or gallery. The location of it on a wall or subway without permission only makes it unsolicited art.
As such, it can be called vandalism, but again, this does not disqualify it as art. Rather the categorization of graffiti art as unsolicited art that is vandalism only justifies a removal of it from the surface. On the other hand, the vandalism aspect of graffiti art can be considered as a uniqueness and not a detracting feature of the art form because as vandalism, graffiti art is very temporary. A piece which might be sixty feet long, twelve feet high, and take twenty to thirty cans of paint and at least eight hours to produce might be gone in a matter of minutes.
We are not used to art approaching us outside of conventional settings such as a museum. Instead of the audience going to view the art form, spraycan art reaches out to the viewer; sometimes in a startling manner. One can only imagine how shocking and surprising it might have been to see a colorful train moving swiftly through the dingy stations and drab boroughs of New York City. Spraycan art is an art form that is completely open to the public because it is not hemmed in by the confines or “laws” of the gallery system or the museum. Perhaps, this is its only crime.
In summary, some forms of graffiti become art according to four criteria. First, graffiti art is separated from everyday graffiti markings by the artist’s intention to produce a work of art. Second, graffiti art has an established history of development in style and technique. Third, graffiti art even has been recognized by the art world. A fourth criterion is that the public response to graffiti art indicates that it is art. Whether or not all of the public agrees that graffiti art is good, bad, or extremely valuable is a different discussion about evaluation and not whether or not graffiti art is art.
The evaluative concerns actually play more into where, when, and how graffiti art should be displayed. The above criteria are defensible in so much as they have been used to legitimize other artistic forms. However, what appears to be the most significant answer to describing how and why graffiti art is art is the notion of understanding where the artist and the audience synchronize in agreement about a particular work being an example of art. It is a matter of comprehending what makes a creation art for the artist and what makes this same creation art for the audience.
When and according to what criteria that these two viewpoints coincide is what thoroughly determines graffiti art as art. And like other art forms, graffiti art is definitively art when both the artist and the audience agree on the works ability to provide maximal aesthetic satisfaction. While it is almost impossible to formulate a theory of necessary conditions or rules specifying when graffiti art is art, I think it is sufficient to draw on already established aesthetic theories and criteria to point out that some forms of graffiti do qualify as art.
Therefore, graffiti in the form of spraycan art is art. It has form, color, and other base properties as well as an arrangement of these elements into structures that qualify it aesthetically as being art. Just doing something with spraypaint might make it graffiti, but it does not necessarily qualify it as art or graffiti art. In addition, when the spraycan art is analyzed according to the artist’s intention and value to audience, there is even more evidence to suggest that it is genuine art.
The only obstacle that has hindered the general acceptance of graffiti art is its location and presentation. However, the instances of acceptance of graffiti art by the art world shows that conventional methods of presentation are not all that matters in determining if something is art. And graffiti art is not to be disqualified as art simply because it might appear unsolicited. In short, graffiti in the form of spray can art is art like any other work that might be found in a gallery or a museum.